C.R.I.B.A. ‑ Our Belgian Friends
CRIBA Honored by 106th Division Association
Centre de recherche et d'informations sur la bataille des ardennes
by John Kline, editor
The letters “CRIBA” stand for Center for the research and information on the Battle of the Bulge.
As editor of The CUB I have on several occasions written stories of our men returning to Belgium, who were helped or guided by various members of the organization CRIBA.
My tour of duty as your editor started at the Mobile reunion in 1987, where as a naive recruit I did an unlikely thing, for an ex‑soldier, and that is I volunteered to be the editor of The CUB. Among other things that I was not aware of was the number of friends that the 106th Infantry Division had in Belgium.
My first publication was Volume 44, No.1 dated Nov‑Dec‑Jan 1987‑88. This issue was sad in content, for it had to report the death of General Leo T. McMahon, Commander, of the 106th Infantry Division Artillery.
The next issue Vol 44, No. 2 Apr‑May‑Jun 1988, sadly reported the death of Dr. Maurice DELAVAL, Vielsalm, Belgium. A true friend of the 106th Infantry Division. Dr. DELAVAL had over the years become known for his knowledge of the Battle of the Bulge.
Edward A. Prewett 424/B first met Dr. DELAVAL in 1964. This meeting developed into a true friendship, with the DELAVAL's coming stateside and each time Ed and Reddie Prewett traveled to Europe they visited Dr. and Jany DELAVAL. It was through Ed Prewett, that I began to learn more of the organization name “CRIBA”
DR. DELAVAL was, according to Pierre GOSSET, secretary of CRIBA, an honor member of the organization, a comrade of the organization's Honor President and Belgian Historian, Lucien CAILLOUX, as well as a friend of his.
Dr. DELAVAL was also a holder of the 106th Infantry Division Association's highest award “The Order of the Golden Lion.”
In his correspondence to me, Pierre GOSSET told me that Dr. DELAVAL left to CRIBA many documents, correspondence and books that he had collected on the history of the Battle of the Bulge.
He also said in his words, “In the last of his life, my friend Maurice gave me the medal of “the head of the Golden Lion” with ribbon, given to him (DELAVAL) in a meeting‑convention of the 106th Infantry Division Association in the U.S.A. in the year of 1960. A marvelous remember going from a lost friend.”
So you see, my point is, the roots that tie us in friendship to CRIBA are deep and long lasting. This has been demonstrated over and over again.
In Vol 44, No.3 the story Revisit the Battle of Coulee by Edward Prewett, 424/B brings up the name of Andre HUBERT, vice‑president of CRIBA and another member, Serge FONTAINE. Prewett told us that FONTAINE had a map which spelled out exactly where every unit had been, and he had an explanation about the movement of our troops around WANNE and SPINEUX, the areas he was interested in. Once again CRIBA is in the lime‑light.
The next CUB that mentions CRIBA was Vol 45, NO.1 Oct‑Nov‑Dec 1988. In my editor's column on page six I announced the forth‑coming issue (Feb 1989) in which Don Beseler, 424/A discusses his re‑visit to the battlefield area of SPINEAUX and LAVAUX. He also used Serge FONTAINE of CRIBA who introduced him to another member Jules HURDEBISE of Trois Ponts.
Jules was working to establish a monument for the 424th Infantry Regiment. The culmination of this effort was written in the last CUB Vol 46, No.2 Jan‑Feb‑Mar 1990. Lt. Don Beseler gave high compliments to FONTAINE and HURDEBISE for their help and efforts on the part of the 106th. So you see, the organization CRIBA has been performing services for us all along.
Actually, my first contact with CRIBA came from a May 1987 letter to them where I was making some personal inquires about the area around Schoenberg. Pierre GOSSET, had forwarded my letters to Henri ROGISTER, Liege, Belgium who answered me in September, with detailed maps of the Schoenberg action (like you see in St. Vith, Lion in the Way.
I was so convinced over the last three years that CRIBA should be recognized that I felt something should be done about it. I also have been prompted by other members, Ed Prewett, 424/B; Doug Coffey, 590/C; John Gatens, 589/A; John Thurlow, 589/590 FAB; Bill Mueller and Bill Dodge, 424/M and others whom I ask forgiveness in not mentioning your names, to recognize through The CUB, the great effort that this organization, CRIBA has put forth for members of the 106th Infantry Division.
My efforts towards gaining recognition for CRIBA started when I proposed to the Board, at the Schaumburg Reunion, that I be allowed to mail copies of The CUB to various members of CRIBA. They unanimously approved my request. I have a list of correspondents from CRIBA of nine members, including the officers of the organization.
I requested, through the Association Executive Committee, that an Honorary Membership be given to the CRIBA organization and that in the future if we could give the organization any assistance that we should do so.
The Executive Committee approved the HONORARY MEMBERSHIP. I have established a routine mailing of The CUB to our new HONORARY MEMBER organization. Five CUBs per issue, to be mailed to the office of CRIBA, one for their history archive the rest to be disbursed as the president and secretary choose.
I want to thank the Executive Committee for their understanding and willingness to demonstrate to the CRIBA organization how much we appreciate the work they have done for us.
The following articles, relating to CRIBA will explain their organization, the purpose in life to which they are dedicated, and in two other instances, other than that mentioned above, demonstrate the type of service that they are willing to perform.
One was help they gave BILL MOSOLF in locating a family that befriended him in 1945, and another in the story of The Knife that was Returned after 45 years, which came as a result of the dedication ceremony of the 424th Monument at SPINEUX.
As I have been preparing this CUB, our president, Orfeo “Gus” Agostini, has received a letter from CRIBA president Marcel JEHOLET accepting our Honorary Membership and announcing that the CRIBA Committee have responded with an HONORARY MEMBERSHIP for the 106th Infantry Division Association.
ivent les Americains
Vivent les Belges
Vive le CRIBA
John Kline, editor
A Letter to Pres. Agostini from CRIBA's Pres JEHOLET
Monsieur Orfeo E. AGOSTINI, “A” Company 81st Combat Engineers President 106th Infantry Division Association le 18 mars 1990
It has been with deep feelings of proudness and gratitude that I have received your letter giving us notice that CRIBA was approved as an “Honorary Member” of the 106th Infantry Division Association by your Board.
For our tenth birthday it is a very nice present. It is the first time we have been so officially distinguished by a great U.S. unit of the Battle of the Bulge.
And as your wonderful publication shows, forty five years after, the Golden Lion is still alive in his CUB. I have at this same time written John Kline, your editor to thank him for the part he played in recommending CRIBA for the honor.
Our gratitude is going to you, the living, and also to the missing who gave the finest hours of their young lives to gain for us freedom and peace.
As for all the nice qualities you are so good to attribute to us... your generous hospitality, friendship and love have reached our hearts, the reason is they are coming from the deepest of ours and I am happy to inform that our committee unanimously is honored to have the Golden Lions 106th Infantry Division as “Honorary Members” of the Belgian CRIBA.
May God bless the “Golden Lions.”
God Bless America!
Le President — C.R.I.B.A.
Marcel G. JEHOLET
4620 FLERON BELGIQUE
CRIBA — from Andre' HUBERT, vice‑president
My name is Andre HUBERT. I am vice‑president of CRIBA since 1985. Your most welcome letter of November 1989 addressed to the people of CRIBA was given to me by our secretary Pierre GOSSET.
I believe he sent you details on the organization, but I shall briefly recall them.
To associate all those who are interested by the events of the winter of 1944‑1945 in the Ardennes.
To collect documents, pictures, books, testimonies from soldiers and civilians to establish a detailed documentation on the Battle of the Bulge.
To inform our fellow citizens and perpetuate the memory of the sacrifices of the soldiers and civilians.
To help preserve historical data and sites.
To organize contacts with war veterans and express our sympathy and gratefulness to the Allied Veterans of the Battle. We attest to the spirit, the unselfishness, the devotion to duty and valor of those that lived the battle.
We happily have the chance that in our membership and even in our committee we have young people who share our objectives.
CRIBA was created in 1980 by two men, Fernand ALBERT, past president and honorary president of our association, and Pierre GOSSET, secretary, who are interested in the history of that battle.
They were also disgusted about the way the battle was presented to the people around the world (inaccurate films like the film of Ken Annakin with marvelous actors like Henri Fonda and Telly Savalas ‑ predominance given to the battle of Bastogne ignorant of the rest of the battle, and many other facts)
CRIBA grew slowly until 1984 and now has over 200 members. We do not plan to be big, we only want to gather people who share our objectives.
For myself, at the time I was living in Les Tailles, three miles from Baraque de Fraiture, known in history as “The Parker's Crossroads.”
This is the place where Major Parker and about 100 men of the 106th and some reinforcements of different units, held the Germans from December 20 to 23, closing the road to Liege and to the Meuse River. Of course, at that time I was not aware of their heroism.
In the last few years I have been able to meet several members of the 106th and have been corresponding with them. When the 106th group came last September at Baraque de Fraiture they were welcomed by the “Lion's Club Haute Ardenne” who dedicated a plaque to the memory of their men in 1984. CRIBA was also there.
In October, the president of the Lion's Club ask me to attend their monthly meeting of November to explain:
the aims of CRIBA,
the history of the 106th and their fighting in the Schnee Eifel,
the battle at Parker's Crossroads.
It was a great honor for me, for two reasons:
to speak about the 106th, to be the guest of that brilliant organization.
I hope that they were satisfied, but there is one question I could not answer: “Why is the Lion, the emblem of your division?”
Maybe a reader of The CUB can answer that question.
Enclosed are: a copy of the news article on the meeting at Baraque de Fraiture last September, two pictures of Baraque de Fraiture at the time of the battle, and the speech of my friend Jules Hurdebise at the dedication in Spineux.
I personally thank you for the great idea of favoring us with “The CUB” and I am sure it will reinforce the links between out two organizations.
CRIBA and myself are at the disposal of the members of the 106th to help them re‑visit the battle sites. But, as most of our members are still in professional life, we would like to know in advance the visit of your members in order to choose “the right man for the right place, at the right time.”
This is an opportunity for me to express my gratefulness to the veterans of the 106th for what they did for our freedom 45 years ago. Please, at one of your meetings, tell them that our gratefulness will never fail.
vice president, CRIBA
Who was Dr. Maurice DELAVAL?
By Edward A. Prewett B/424, Rte 2 Box 730, Brentwood CA 94513.
I first read about Dr. Delaval in our CUB. The article stated that he was interested in gathering material about the 106th Infantry Division in regards to the Battle of the Bulge. It went on to say that he lived in the village of Vielsalm near St. Vith and that if you traveled that way be sure to look him up.
In 1964, I was operated on for cancer and went through the cobalt treatments—the works. In those days this meant the end for me. My father suggested that he and I go on a trip together before I returned to my work. I am sure he was not prepared for what I suggested. In the spring of 1965 Pappy and I left on an extended trip back to the battle area. Our families kept the ranch operating and kept a light in the window for those two wandering curmudgeons.
We met Maurice and Jany and, although perfect strangers to them, they went out of their way to make us welcome. Maurice's father was still living in 1965 and he and my father hit it off well. Language barriers seemed no problem; they both would light up their pipes and were very comfortable with each other. Simone, Maurice's sister, and Bernard, his son, also made our visit very memorable. Maurice and Jany took time from their busy schedule to drive us around the area and help us find familiar ground.
Reddie and I returned to Europe twice with the 106th tours, in 1971 and again in 1974. In 1978, we returned during the December battle dates with a group from all units who were engaged in the Battle of the Bulge. In 1971 Dr. DeLaval was invited to the 7th Armored Division to be their guest speaker at a convention in Chicago. After the convention, he and Jany flew to Las Vegas where Reddie and I met them. Together we toured the Southwest—Zion, Bryce, Grand canyon and much of California's best. Needless to say, we became good friends.
Dr DeLaval practiced dentistry and Jany was his nurse assistant in the French speaking village of Vielsalm. Unfortunately, Vielsalm is smack dab in the middle of the Ardennes, a favorite path for people making war. This was the path taken by Germany in World War I and again in World War II. In 1939, when Belgium and the continent were overrun, Maurice was in the Belgian Army and was captured. As he told me his experiences, the Germans really didn't have time for prisoners so made it easy for him to escape, to return to Vielsalm and dentistry.
In the fall of 1944, Vielsalm was liberated by the Americans. In December, the Germans retook the area and in January, we took it back again. He said that he pulled German teeth, then American teeth, then German, then American Teeth. When reading our history books, the military aspects of the Battle are mainly related—we give very little thought to what the civilians endured. Things were moving so fast that they had no place to go and had to hole up and pray while the battle passed through their area. Some sought safety in the basement of the school house. Others went down into some old whet‑stone mines. He said that a couple of restless youths climbed out of the mine, curious to see what was happening, never to be heard of again.
When I suggested to my wife that we plan on attending the 106th Reunion in Mobile, Alabama, she suggested that we go via Europe. We kept tabs on Maurice and knew he was under treatment for cancer. So if we were going to visit him it we should do it now. Thus her suggestion to go to Mobile by way of Vielsalm was adopted. Correspondence flew between us and schedules were firmed up.
Dr. DeLaval wrote us that he might need another operation, and therefore may not be able to meet us as planned. He suggested that we telephone before coming to Vielsalm from a scheduled stop in Switzerland. We telephoned for three days to no avail.
We felt great concern when we embarked for Belgium. We were determined to go to Vielsalm regardless. We felt we could contact neighbors or find out from someone where Dr. DeLaval might be.<R>As we arrived a gaggle of children were noisily embarking on the train. Out of this confusion emerged a most friendly person, who inquired if we might be the Americans coming to see Dr. Maurice DELAVAL. What a great and welcome surprise to be met by an English‑speaking friend. Thus, Andre Hubert entered and soon won our hearts.
Andre quickly brought us up to date on Maurice. Maurice indeed was back in the hospital. Before going to the hospital, he had arranged to have Andre meet us and he would now take us to see Maurice and Jany and would be at our disposal during our visit. Accommodations had been reserved for us and we became immediate celebrities.
Vielsalm is a small town with very few able to speak English. Good old sign language needed to be put in service. That evening after a delightful dinner at our little hotel, we took a walk up to the square (General Bruce Clark Square). A local band was playing music—Friday night (TGIF all over the world). After listening to the music, we retired to the small Lido Bar for a drink. We were swamped with offers of free drinks. I didn't think we looked different, but somehow everyone seemed to know who we were or at least that we were—as they expressed it—the valiant American veterans who helped liberate them during the great Battle of the Ardennes. I think they were disappointed that I was infantry rather than tanks.
Saturday, Andre took us to Leige to visit Maurice. Jany has a cot in his room and never left his side. Bernard, their only son, was also there. Maurice looked done in by a recent operation, but cheery and had the spark familiar to those that knew him. He was extremely happy to see us and insisted on Reddie singing “Summer Time,” which brought tears to all who remembered happier times. We had a short visit because he tired easily. Bernard, Andre, Reddie and I went to lunch. Jany would not leave Maurice's side even for a short break. Bernard enlightened us that this was his father's twenty‑second operation, since the cancer had been detected.
Bernard works for the World bank supervising loans in African countries. He lives in Washington D.C. It was providential that he was sent over on business and was able to be there. Bernard had to return to Washington D.C. the next day. He had already delayed his return quite some time.
We returned after lunch for still a shorter visit, then left with the promise that we would return to see them again on Tuesday before leaving for England. Tuesday morning, when Andre came, he informed us that Jany had called him at home and left word that Maurice had gone through a bad night and shouldn't have any visitors, so we didn't get to see them again. However, as requested by Maurice, Andre had obtained a tape recorder and Reddie sang and recorded a medley of songs for Maurice and Jany.
We went on to England for a two week visit. We called the DeLaval home before flying on to Alabama and the convention. Bernard answered the phone. He was back in Vielsalm. Maurice was home with nursing help. He was heavily drugged to hold down the pain. He was sleeping most of the time, but when awake asked to hear Reddie's tape.
In Maurice's War Room, he had a wall‑sized map. He tracked all the movements of the 106th and other divisions engaged in the Battle of the Ardennes. Letters and memorabilia from the famous and not so famous adorned the room. He was the author of at least two books on the subject. unfortunately they were in French, which I cannot read.<R>Wherever we traveled on our journey through the Southwest U.S.A. in 1971, he knew people or was known by them.
Peace finally came to Maurice DELAVAL on 18 November 1987. The veterans of the 106th lost a very dear friend.
Edward A. Prewett
(editors note — I probably should explain that Douglas S. Coffey, our Memorial Chairman for many years, was closely acquainted with Dr DELAVAL. I am sure that he will understand that it was not my intention to overlook that fact. It is just the fact that Ed Prewett gave me the information that you have just read, at the time that I became knowledgeable of the great help that CRIBA and DR. DELAVAL had given to the men of the 106th. There are more men of the 106th who have had the privilege to meet Dr. DELAVAL. I am sure that they miss him and think of him often. He was a great man... John Kline, CUB Review editor 1991)
Excerpt from Dr. DELAVAL's book...
The following excerpt is from Dr. Maurice DELAVAL's book Saint Vith au cours de l'Ultime Blitzkreig de Hitler. Editions Jac ‑ Vielsalm ‑ Belgium. Only French edition. (translated from French)
IN the “SCHNEE EIFFEL,” Dec. 16, 1944
On the evening of December 15, 1944, the unfortunate men standing on the battle‑line were getting ready to spend yet another miserable night, desperately trying to fight off the cold with blankets and tarpaulins sneaked away from the artillery; Yearning ‑ impossible dream ‑ for a nice warm bed.
The mist was slowly drifting over the area, getting through the frost capped fir‑trees, insidiously settling everywhere. A heavy artillery fire woke them up.
Hundreds of shells flashed through the night. Cannon and mortars were in full action. The uproar echoed from hill to hill, growing into a continuous rumbling.
As suddenly as it began, the cannon uproar held up. So did the phone calls in the American posts. Moreover, only deafening and thundering military music could be heard on all radio wavelengths.
General Hasso von MANTEUFFEL, commander of the 5th PANZERARMEE, explained the plans he followed in this area:
“At half past five, the battery commanders, their eyes tired from having followed the monotonous and regular circling of their watches' center‑seconds hands, yelled 'FEUR!.' It became an astounding operation in G Major. An orchestration in full force of all the cannon that had been silent for many days. The 'Volkgrenadiers' from the 294th and 295th Regiments advanced a good deal, but the passing of the fight conveyances (about 40 assault cannons and a battalion backed by tank destroyers) and of the artillery through the dragon's teeth was heavily slowed down.
“At sunrise, the assault forces, which had been getting through between Weckerath and Rodt during the night, were on the point of reaching the AUW crossway, under cover of a fine drizzle which ensured them impunity. At dusk the 294th Regiment was surrounding AUW, as for the 295th Volksgrenadiers Regiment, they were gathering in the area of Roth‑Kobscheid.
“Both reckoned upon the arrival of armor to break through to Andler the following morning.
“The 1st SS Panzer Division and the 3rd Paratroops Division were to break through the same gap. Both were happily anticipating the occurrence, convinced they would easily overrun the weak American positions and in a tremendous charge, reach the Maas and go ahead to Antwerp.”
According to Lt. Col. Joseph C. Matthews's testimony:
“The 422d Infantry Regiment was not the immediate aim, as he came to know soon thereafter. Thus, there was no frontal attack, neither before dawn (on December 16, the sun rose at 8:38 a.m.), nor during the day. Only a few sporadic onrushes, apparently aimed at settling the battalions.
“Only exception: at the far northern end of the regiment, where a G Company squad was attacked by an assault patrol. It managed to stand fast till reinforcements arrived. But in order to achieve this aim Sergeant Arnold W. ALMOND, a mortar company observer, directed shooting towards his position. Miraculously he got out of it alive.
“The Germans withdrew but came back in greater numbers (around 200 men) at 11:00 a.m. Five km behind our left flank, in the neighborhood of AUW stood ”A" Company of the 81st Combat Engineer Battalion, the 589th Field Artillery Battalion (105mm) quartered in Laudesfeld and the 592nd Field Artillery Battalion, with their 155mm cannons."
Colonel Thomas J. RIGGS, Commander of the 81st Combat Engineer battalion wrote:
“My battalion's ”A" Company was quartered in AUW. At half past five, when my men were awakened by the bombardment, they hurriedly ran down to the cellars, and there, astonishingly enough, the found fully clothed civilians. They recalled that the evening before, a young woman had gone from door to door."
The assailants forced “A” Company to evacuate AUW, but had large numbers of losses.
Francis J. MALONEY wrote;
“The firing by the 592d Field Artillery Battalion, quartered west of AUW, was partly directed by Lt. A.V. SICKIERSKY, C Battery's observer. The German artillery's counterstroke was so violent that around 4:30 p.m., the servants of this battery had to take shelter for two hours.”
At 7:00 p.m. came the withdrawal order. Another one, more peremptory, followed at 9:00 p.m.
Only around 11:00 p.m. did the batteries withdraw. General Leo T. MCMAHON (Division Artillery Commander, 106th Infantry Division) concludes:
“Two artillery battalions without infantry to shield them managed a great achievement; they pushed back the first German attack then severely disturbed all traffic on the road used by the Germans coming out of AUW towards the 422nd Regiment's (106th Inf. Div.) back. Of course they did not succeed in neutralizing the attack, but they caused a delay of several hours at a time when a single minute could sometimes change a lot of things.”
One after the other of the batteries of the three artillery battalions quartered in the area of AUW had become silent. As they were no longer pounded with shells, the Germans took advantage of the night to regroup thoroughly and bring up new forces. On the other hand, General Hasso von MANTEUFFEL spent the night in the 18th Volksgrenadier's Division Headquarters, which explains this masterly conducted rupture attack. After having raised the troop's spirits, as he alone knew how to do, he sent them towards Schönberg in three converging columns.
Two of the 106th Infantry Division regiments were irremediably encircled.
(end of excerpt from DELAVAL's book.)
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