We were up about 7:30, but it was not a full
night’s sleep for any of us. The disruption of our normal routine is
telling and neither of us slept the night through. This morning we
were greeted with the usual (for this time of year) fog and drizzle.
We had a nice (Continental) breakfast at the hotel and discussed our
proposed activities for the day. In the morning we drove to Eddy
Monfort’s house at Malempre’and visited with his Mom and Dad and his
new family. We were all anxious to meet one another. Eddy has taken
on considerable responsibility for two little girls and their
mother, Carine. By the time we will see them again there will be
still another mouth to feed.
We then drove to the village
of Manhay. During the battle every building was totally destroyed or
nearly so. The area here was bitterly fought for by the 517th
PIR and the 424th
Infantry Regiment as the ‘bulge’ was being reduced in January 1945.
FA may have helped by laying a few 155 rounds in support of the
attack. Those were the days when I was employed by the 592nd,
just don’t ask where I was at the time. While there I made photos of
several monuments but was unable to find the one dedicated to the
PIR. I finally found it in the building housing the Community
Center. It seems that it had been removed from its outside location
for safekeeping while the building it was on was being renovated.
This was important to me as I have a close friend at home who is a
veteran of the 517th
PIR and fought here.
From Manhay we drove a
short way to the village of Sadzot. Here again, this village was
engaged in a bloody battle between the 509th
PIR, the 87th
Mortar Battalion, the 289th
Reg./75th ID and the German 2nd
Panzer Divisions. It was a night time event on 27 - 28 January that
occurred when the advancing German troops came upon the village
occupied by the Americans. Most of the American troops were asleep
and were taken by surprise. A fierce battle ensued with many
casualties on both sides. (Read
Bloody Clash at Sadzot by Wm. B. Breuer)
In year 2004 when we visited with the folks of the
WW II Society in Germany, a mostly military group of Americans
living in Europe, we met and have kept in touch with, Bob Huffaker.
Bob is retired and living currently in Holland. He was anxious to
meet with us so we had set a time to have lunch with him at Baraque
de Fraiture. We were together around the crossroads, talked about
the battle and made some photos. Then about 3:00 in the afternoon
Bob had to leave for home. About this same time we spotted
Bernadette Lejeune-Lengler outside of the Auberge du Carrefour
across the road and went over to speak with her. She invited us to
make our lodging at the Auberge for the time we were to spend there.
Of course we accepted. The place was officially closed, but
Bernadette gave us the key to the back door so we could come and go
at our convenience. We immediately went back to Hebronval, checked
out and moved our things to the Baraque for the rest of our stay.
Every morning Bernadette was there to provide breakfast for us. In
the evening we were again at the restaurant for supper and were
joined by our good friend, Andre’ Hubert, and Bernadette.
Bernadette’s daughter, Esmeralda, who is gradually taking over the
operation of the businesses was our waitress for the evening. It was
another delightful day but again we were just a little anxious to
get to our rooms and relax. Sleeping on this night was better. We
were catching up.
--Dinner at Parker’s
Crossroads with Bernadette Lejuene-Lengler, John Gatens 589/A, John
Schaffner 589/A, & Andre’ Hubert, CRIBA
Thursday 27 September 2007
On this morning Bernadette had arranged for us to
visit with her mother, Maria, former proprietor of the business at
Baraque de Fraiture. Maria has been residing in a local nursing
facility now for some time. Unfortunately, she has become totally
dependent on advanced nursing care and spends her days in a
wheelchair. This is a condition that we are hearing more of these
When we arrived we found that Andre' Hubert (Past President of
CRIBA) was already there to join with us and act as our translator.
Besides us, there was a group of the residents sitting at the table
all ready for us. It was a large table and had been set up for our
little party, decorated with flowers and a display of the American
and Belgian flags. There was several dishes of snacks and wine
glasses, and bottles of sparkling wine for us and soft drinks for
the ladies. Maria was brought in her wheel chair. One of the ladies
told us that she had been awake all night anticipating the visit by
the American soldiers. There was much lively conversation, all in
French, and then one of the ladies read a statement that she had
prepared. Andre' made the translation for us:
"Dear American friends,
We are happy to receive you in our country for which you did so
much. Mr. & Mrs. Lengler-Lehaire, their children and grandchildren
told me of your kindness and of your great heart for their family.
That is why we thank you from the bottom of our heart.
Welcome in our home. Thank you. Enjoy your visit at the Maison de
Repos et de Soins - Vielsalm.
(Signed) Madam PIRSOUL Marie and the residents. Marie Hanzen,
Marie-Therese, Pascal, Mariette, Ambre, Demazy-Lebecque Laure et
Pierre, Mme Reynaud, Veronique, Monique, the nurses and the persons
John, Dave and I wish to thank those who made this visit possible;
Doctor Deleuze, Responsible of the Home, the nurses and Sister
Marie-Madeleine. Also, thanks go to Bernadette and Andre' for
-Typical morning fog
096, 098 with Maria Lehaire 1926-2007 -----
Bernadette was our guide on this day and had arranged for us to
visit a new WW II Museum at the village of Ennal. A local man,
Bernard Michel, totally renovated a huge stone barn to accommodate a
vast collection of materiel retrieved from the battlefields of the
Ardennes. Of course much was donated also by veterans of the battle,
and their histories are depicted with dioramas and displays. This
may be a smaller museum than some, but it is a very interesting
place for a veteran, or anyone interested in the history of WW II to
visit. One can spend a lot of time there. It has been a personal
project for Bernard Michel and he has obviously spent much time and
energy with it. Our compliments to Bernard.
-typical Ardennes house-----
That evening we had made a date with our good friend, Henri Rogister.
Henri met us at Baraque de Fraiture and drove us to his home in
Liege to meet with his wife, Renee', and 20 month old granddaughter,
who he refers to as the "Tornado." She is a beautiful little girl,
the kind we 'thank heaven' for.
After our visit with the Rogisters, Henri drove us to the home of
Albert and Annie Fosty for a wonderful dinner. Annie is a great cook
and always makes sure nobody goes away hungry. That time we had a
fish soup and an entree of pork loin, and of course a nice dessert.
I must say that these ladies who host us are all great cooks and we
are served nothing but the best. When we departed the Fosty's Henri
led us back to the ramp to the highway so we had no problem getting
back to the Baraque that evening. We let ourselves in through the
-Gatens, Schaffner and our
hostess Annie Fosty-----
Friday 28 September 2007
On this day we drove to Poteau, a village not too far away and
located directly in the path of the advancing German Army in 1944.
Today it is very peaceful and one driving through would never
suspect there had been bitter fighting here. The purpose of our
going there was to visit the Museum established and maintained by
Rob and Jacqueline de Ruyter. Their museum was not officially open
but a knock at their door was all that it took to gain admission. We
have known these folks from prior visits so they were happy to be
able to entertain us. We spent a lot of time inside the museum and
then were invited into the house where we had a small refreshment
and friendly conversation. It was a very nice visit with this
gracious couple. They have worked hard on their place and it shows.
Rob has restored several German, Russian, and American vehicles to
running condition. He will treat groups to rides around the patch
when ordered. They also maintain a website under Poteau Museum for
you PC users.
-Jacqueline de Ruyter acquaints Dave Ford with the museum at
Leaving Poteau we drove to Gouvy and visited for a too short time
with old friends, Adda and Willi Rikken. This couple has been a true
friend of American veterans visiting the Ardennes. Their home is
always open and their services as guides always available. We
consider ourselves lucky to include them among our many Belgian
The various villages along our route brought to life the places of
the battles we have only read about. Although the physical damage
has been repaired, sometimes stone for stone, the inhabitants will
never forget (or forgive) the atrocities suffered during the
occupation and consequent battles that occurred in these villages.
To pass through these places one would find it hard to believe that
many of the houses and other buildings are new since the war. The
stye of architecture has remained the same.
We drove on to Malempre' to Eddy Monfort's home. Eddy had arranged a
party at his house for Peter Schreiber and his mother, Chuck and
Mary Lowrey, Christian Kraft (CRIBA Pres.), Dave, John and me, his
mother and father, and his family. He had a houseful, including the
three kids running around. It was a very festive time and we sat at
the table to a real nice dinner. We became better acquainted with
Chuck and Mary Lowery, Peter and his Mom, Mary, and the other
guests. Sure, there is something of a language barrier at times, but
a smile and a nod usually overcomes that. Seems like we never have
to go to bed hungry (or dry.) It was late when we returned "home" to
Rosemary Schreiber and son, Peter
Schreiber with vets at home of Eddy Monfort
Dinner at Monfort's, Mary & Chuck Lowery (424/I) in foreground,-----
Saturday 29 Sept 2007
This was the day that we were anticipating, Dedication Day. As I
mentioned above, the dedication of the new memorial was to take
place on this day. By 08:30 we were up and had breakfast, and
dressed for the event. While still inside at the table I looked out
and spotted Carl Wouters arriving with his family, his girlfriend,
Sofie, and her family from the town of Boom, Belgium (near Antwerp).
Carl is a young man who I have been corresponding with for quite
some time now. His interest lies in the Battle of the Bulge and the
106th Division in particular. He has established an excellent
website dedicated to our division. They all came in to the dining
room and we had a grand time becoming acquainted. Carl had made two
589/A Battery guidons and presented them to John Gatens and me. Mine
spent time that evening on the wall of the dining room during the
banquet. It now hangs in my "war room." This was a very thoughtful
gift. We thank you again Carl.
--Carl Wouters in GI jacket,
Gatens says, "There I was
--Rosemary and Pete Schreiber with Bernadette at the new
Wouters is deeply involved in the history of WW II in Belgium and
has established a website honoring the 106th Infantry Division.
By 10:30 the crowd had begun to assemble so we went outside and were
immediately drawing attention. There were many people we knew and
some we had corresponded with, but not met. Of course this was Peter
Schreiber's event so even though John and I had honored positions we
tried to stay in the background. It didn't work very well as
somebody was always pushing us forward.
There was a group of Belgian re-enactors there with several WW II
vehicles. We posed with them and, except for the language barrier,
got along real well. These folks keep the memories of WW II alive.
There was media people there making photos and videos of the event
and that evening we found ourselves on the website of the Ardennes
Gazette. The next day it was all in print when the magazine and
newspapers were published.
When the ceremony ended with the unveiling of the monument and
attendant speeches, we were treated to a reception in a very large
tented structure set up by the Commune of Vielsalm. Hors d'oeuvres
and drinks were provided and the tent was packed with people, elbow
to elbow. Both John and I went hungry as we were occupied with
signing programs, one after the other. Somebody put a glass of wine
in our hands and we had to have somebody else hold it while we
autographed their programs. (Later Dave told us that we looked like
a couple of Rock Stars.)
At 4PM the invited guests were brought into the Auberge dining room
for sit-down event. A delightful dinner was served honoring the
veterans. There was the usual introduction of honored guests, short
speeches by Christian Kraft, and Andre' Hubert. Peter Schreiber was
introduced and delivered an exceptionally nice tribute to the
veterans who fought the battle of the crossroads and he related the
experience of his father who had been wounded and made a prisoner by
the Germans at the time.
Also arriving at the Auberge was a couple from The Netherlands, Eddy
and Coletta Reidek. We had only corresponded up until this time.
This couple has adopted the grave of Lt. Francis O'Toole, 589/A
Battery, in Margraten Military Cemetery, and they decorate it with
flowers regularly. This not an unusual thing to happen in Holland,
Belgium, Luxembourg, and France. The graves of American Soldiers
fallen in battle are adopted by local civilians and honored,
especially on holidays, with ceremonies and speeches of remembrance
for their sacrifice.
Also visiting with us that evening was our Belgian friends Nathalie
and Pascal Hanout who are avidly interested in the Battle of the
Bulge. It was a very busy day, to say the least.
Sunday 30 Sept 2007
In the morning we decided to travel to the American Military
Margraten, The Netherlands. Distances in the area known as Benelux
are not that great when compared to the U. S. A. so it did not take
us long to get there. The area is very flat, as in most of Holland.
They say that if you stand on a chair at one border you can see all
the way over to the other side. The fact that one of our 589/A
Battery officers, Lt. Francis O'Toole, is buried there gave us the
initiative to make the trip. On arrival we entered the office of the
Superintendent and acquired the location of the grave. Of course,
after a bit of conversation with him we found that we knew some of
the same people. It is a small world indeed. We first went to the
grave of O'Toole and found that flowers were there, left the day
before by Eddy and Coletta Reidek, Netherlanders who have adopted
this grave. While walking the cemetery we had the opportunity to
talk with several local people (who were English speaking.) They all
wanted to know about our connection to WW II and if we had comrades
who were buried there. Yes, even after all of the years past, people
are interested in the Americans who restored their freedom and drove
out the hated Nazis. They have not forgotten.
at the grave of Lt. Francis J.
O'Toole in Margraten Cemetery
On leaving the cemetery we drove south again to visit with our
Germany, Josef "Jupp" Reusch at the village of Grosslangenfeld. The
three Americans were welcomed into the Reusch's home with warm hugs
and handshakes. Our first order of business was to inspect the
monument that had been installed in the village, dedicated to the
men of the 106th Infantry Division and the German unit fighting for
possession of the ground during the Battle of the Bulge. Jupp was
instrumental in bring this monument to being. (See The Cub vol 61 #2
Monument in Grosslangenfeld, Germany dedicated to 106th and German
These monuments placed in the area of the battle are tended
regularly with cleaning and care and almost always with flowers
present. We inspected the monument along with Doug Mitchell, Jupp's
son-in-law, and made several 'international' photos with the
American and German veterans. Jupp's wife, Mia, had prepared a table
of fancy German pastry for us that we certainly did appreciate. The
Reusch's daughter, Anita, and Doug were also there to entertain us
and see that we got to sample all of the great food and drink. It
was a very nice time of friendship. That evening on the way back to
the Baraque we stopped for supper at, get this, a Greek restaurant
in a little village miles from nowhere.
This was our last night at the Auberge so we packed our bags for
traveling and made it to bed fairly early.
Monday 1 Oct. 2007
Bernadette provided the breakfast for us as usual. We were packed
and ready to go. The ladies climbed the stairs, grabbed our heavy
baggage from our hands, and brought it down those tight stairs for
us before we could stop them. (The fact that we are old and weak is
starting to sink in.) Bernadette and Esmeralda were there to see us
off with parting gifts and that is always the same. We have never
departed empty-handed. One might think that we were heading for the
gallows. All of us were fighting back the tears. So, before we had
to use the Kleenex we loaded the car, said our good-byes, and took
off for Luxembourg.
Frank Kieffer in courtyard of
castle with a British visitor
and two Gis,
Statue of The GI in Clervaux, Luxembourg
(Designed by Frank Kieffer) ----
On arrival at Clervaux we met with Frank Kieffer, Camille Kohn, Jean
Mielmeister, and a representative of the American Embassy and his
Marine Guard at The Statue of The GI. They were there as a welcoming
committee and to conduct a ceremony for us, all the while being
photographed by the local media. One would think that we were VIPs.
After the ceremony we all proceeded to the old castle, where the WW
II Museum is, and assembled in the conference room for the "Vin
D'honor." Camille Kohn, President of CEBA delivered a very nice
speech expressing Luxembourg's appreciation to the Americans for
deliverance from the oppression under Nazi rule. When Camille was
finished I presented him with a book given to him by our own 106th
Division veteran, Alfred Vitali. It was a National Geographic
publication devoted to Arlington Military Cemetery.
When the party broke up Frank (the curator) conducted us to his
museum for a short visit. The museum is a 'must' for anyone visiting
Clervaux. It is housed in a medieval castle, once reduced to ruins
during the Battle of the Bulge, but painstakingly restored to its
original glory after the end of the war. Frank Kieffer is the
consummate collector and has filled it with an unimaginable variety
of items concerning the Battle of the Bulge and WW II in general.
Frank Kieffer at display of some the items I have provided for the
On leaving the old castle we checked into the Hotel Koerner with our
baggage and then, along with Frank, drove to his home at Asselborn,
about 10km away through the picturesque farmland.
On arrival at Frank's home we were warmly greeted by his wife,
Maria, who had already set the table for us. Too much wine and good
food simply can't be bad for one. (I always say.)
The Kieffer home is also a repository for some of Frank's personal
collections. It is not like the castle of course, but only because
there is not as much room. We were treated to the hands-on
examination of the items he has stored away in the house. There is
loads of neat stuff too numerous to mention here. We left Asselborn
about 8:30PM and returned to the hotel in Clervaux for a relatively
Tuesday 2 Oct 2007
After a nice buffet breakfast we checked out of the hotel and hit
the road once more. We wanted to check on our trees in the Bois de
la Paix (Woods of Peace) in Bizory so that was our first stop.
Gatens and I had no trouble finding our trees. They had grown a bit
but had not moved from that spot since the last visit. (ha)
Schaffner and Gatens at the trees
planted in their honor in
the Bois de la Paix, Bizory-----
in that area, just north-east of Bastogne city, we stopped at a new
monument dedicated to the 506th PIR (82nd AB Div.) and got to talk
with a couple of other visitors from England who were being guided
around the battlefield. I think that they were impressed to find
some of us old veterans of the battle still on our feet.
We had made arrangements with our good Belgian friend Vince Gerard
to visit with him on this day before our departure. Vince maintains
a "cabin -in-the-woods" at Carfountain and had invited us to join
with him and his mother for a time of R & R and partake of a dinner
from his outdoor grill.. Needless to say that we accepted and met
him in the village to be guided to the cabin. (I doubt we could have
found it on our own.) We spent a most pleasant afternoon there and
Vince expertly cooked a variety of items from fish to beef.
Vince Gerard and mother, Anne,
with Dave Ford at the "Cabin in the Woods" ----
When the sun neared the horizon we decided that we would have to
make our way to the hotel at the Brussels Airport. Vince very
graciously volunteered to guide us in his car, and since rain was
developing and we were not familiar with the route, it was an easy
decision to accept. Upon arrival at the hotel we checked in, dropped
our baggage, and went to the lounge to chat with Vince. It was not
long before Nick Jonckheere arrived from Oostende to spend some time
with us. Nick has also been a part of our Belgian "family" for about
ten years. We have known him from his teen age years when he visited
the states and stayed with Lil and me. That came about through our
mutual interest in aviation. Since then we have stayed in close
touch and have seen him transformed into a career in the aviation
industry, a home owner, and father of two beautiful little girls.
Nick brought along his laptop to show us photos of his family and
from his job with a company using helicopters as air-commuters. Both
Vince and Nick have become good friends.
We were into bed a bit late that night but the next day was
traveling home and that would involve a long time sitting in one
Vince Gerard, John Gatens, John
Schaffner, Nick Jonckheere, last night at the hotel at Brussels
Wednesday 3 Oct 2007
We were up early, had a quick, easy breakfast at the hotel, boarded
the shuttle bus and were off to the airport to catch our flight
home. We were air-bourn at 10:30 AM (local time) and on course for a
3,674 mile ride to Newark, NJ. Our arrival and touch down was 15
minutes early at 11:40 AM. We split at the airport with Gatens going
to Fair Lawn, and Dave and I boarded the mono-rail shuttle to
connect with Amtrak for the train ride to Baltimore. Arline Ford was
at the station to meet us on our arrival there and is was just a
hop, skip and jump and we were home once again (with all of our
dirty laundry and Belgian chocolate.) After every trip I tell myself
that it was the last time. If that is the case then I can say that
it is regretful, since it means that we will probably not be seeing
those wonderful friends again. But time marches on and everything
has its day. There are no regrets except that I wish that we could
have started it all sooner.
We can never forget our wonderful friends in Belgium, Holland,
Luxembourg, and Germany. They treat us most graciously. While the
three of us collaborated on this trip concerning when and where,
Gatens and Schaffner have to thank Ford for allowing us to tap him
for his travel in Europe experience. He has helped us immeasurably
with acquiring the transportation, doing the driving, and setting up
reservations where we needed them. He knew the ropes. Thanks, Dave.
While composing this article I was informed of sad news from Baraque
de Fraiture, Maria Lahaire had passed on Dec 24, 2007 and the
funeral was Friday 28 Dec. 2007 from Hebronval, Belgium. Her last
public appearance was at the memorial dedication ceremony at the
Parker's Crossroads on September 29, 2007. Although very ill at the
time, her family made sure that she was present. She attended the
ceremony and reception in a wheelchair. She had been gravely ill for
a long time with Alsheimers and the complications that go with it.
We were privileged to have spent some time with her (and her family
and friends) in the nursing home where she was residing while we
were visiting in September. Maria, her daughter, Bernadette, and
granddaughter, Esmeralda, have treated us as VIPs on each visit. We
will miss her. The Auberge has been in the same family since 1880.
May it continue for many more generations. The 106th Infantry
Division Association was represented at the funeral by a floral
arrangement provided by John Gatens 589/A, John Schaffner 589/A, and
David Ford, Associate Member.
Received later from Henri Rogister:
"Just few words concerning the funeral service: More of 200 peoples
were present for the ceremony. Unfortunately for many of them the
church at Fraiture was too little and we stay outside where the
weather was with the fog and rain and cold.