Monthly Archives: April 2016

Austria-Europe Trip – Friday, April 15, 2016

Bonjour! I am sorry to report to you that this will be our last post from our trip to Austria and Europe. As you may know, when I was serving at Haus Edelweiss in Austria I came down with bronchitis and had to see a doctor and get some medications for it. Well, it has been over a week and all my medicine is gone and I’m still not totally over this. The biggest issue is my shortness of breath which keeps me from getting a good nights sleep. 

After not sleeping well again last evening, I did some praying about it and believe that the best thing for us to do is to return home as quickly as we can and for me to go see my doctor first thing on Monday morning. Michelle agreed with this decision. So, I got on the phone this morning and rescheduled our flights and cancelled our remaining hotel reservations. We will be departing Paris tomorrow morning (Saturday) at 9:40 am and will be arriving back in Lexington at 5:27 pm.

So, instead of heading to Brussels this evening, we are now in Paris and checked into our hotel. Our our way to Paris, we did visit the Luxembourg American Military Cemetery and Patton’s grave and stopped by to visit the Ardennes American Military Cemetery.

Well, that’s our report for this evening. This time tomorrow we should be back in Lexington. Thanks for tagging along with us our our European Adventure. I’ve posted a few pictures below of our visits to Luxembourg yesterday and the cemeteries today.

Blessings!

Au revoir!

Fred

 
 The Statute of the Consoler of the Afflicted. It is a memorial to Luxembourg’s World War I dead.
  
A picture of the Neumunster Abbey located in Old Town Luxembourg city.

 Luxembourg’s Cathedral of Notre Dame.

 The front gate to the Luxembourg American Military Cemetery.

  

The Chapel.

  
General George Patton’s grave.

  
The headstones of Vance and Arthur Morgan, two brothers from Kentucky who were killed twelve days apart. They are two of the 5,076 servicemen and women buried here in Luxembourg. 

  
The entrance to the Chapel at the Ardennes American Military Cemetery.

  
Inside the Chapel.

  
Here are a few of the 5,323 service men and women buried here at the Ardennes Military Cemetery. 

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Austria-Europe trip – Thursday, April 14, 2016

Bonjour! Greetings from Luxembourg!! We’ve had a very good day in Bastogne, Belgium visiting the sites there and have now checked into our hotel in Luxembourg City.

This morning was really cold. It was 36 degrees and very, very foggy when we left our hotel at about 8:45 am. However, as been the case on most days, it really warmed up in the afternoon to a very comfortable 65 sunny degrees.

Today was our day to visit the sites in one of the most famous cities in all of World War II -Bastogne. It was here that one of the key battles of the war occurred during what is called the “Battle of the Bulge.”

Here is what we visited today: (1) The McAuliffe Memorial; (2) Patton’s Memorial; (3) the Bastogne War Museum; (4) the Mardasson Belgium-American Memorial; (5) the 101 Airborne Division Memorial; (6) the Bastogne Barracks – where the 101st had it’s division headquarters during the battle; and, (7) the Eglise-St. Pierre cathedral.

Two things really stand out from today’s visits. The first one is the Bastogne War Museum. This was one of the finest museums that I’ve ever seen anywhere. Its exhibit was laid out in a way that described World War II, and the Battle of the Bulge, from its beginnings to the ultimate surrender of Germany in 1945, and it does so from the eyes of four people (an American soldier, a German soldier, a Belgium woman who was a school teacher, and a young boy who lived in Bastogne). Each person that went through the museum was issued a radio and earphones that would play comments from these four people as you walked through the museum and viewed the displays. It was really great!

The second thing that stood out for me today was our visit to the Bastogne Barracks. It is there that they have a museum that depicts what the 101st Airborne Division headquarters might have looked like when it was set up here in December of 1944. Today, the Bastogne Barracks complex is home to the 1st Field Artillery Regiment of the Belgium army. Our tour guide was a staff sergeant in the unit. At one time they had M109a2 howitzers but I believe that they either have been or will be reorganized and may no longer be a field artillery unit. The exhibit that they had was very nice and the sergeant did an excellent job in talking about each display they had in the museum and giving us the history of the 101st’s fight in Bastogne. What really struck me though, was that the buildings, barracks, maintenance buildings, etc., are virtually falling down. They are in terrible shape. I think that it is just an example of how poorly trained and equipped NATO units are and how their politicians are making the same mistakes as they did in the 1930’s when they were totally unprepared to face the German army. The best and “only” way to prevent war, is to be prepared for it. Because of their “naive” belief that the first world war was “the war to end all wars” they were unwilling to keep their military forces at high readiness levels. Their mistakes and miscalculations resulted in the deaths of over 60 million people! Very sad!

Well, that’s our report for today. Tomorrow, we will be visiting the American Cemetery here in Luxembourg. Enroute we will visit the Ardennes American Cemetery and then head for Brussels, Belgium where we will spend the night.

More to follow tomorrow. Below, I’ve posted a few pictures for you. Blessings!

Au revoir!

Fred

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General McAuliffe Memorial – located in the center of the city.

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A memorial to General George Patton

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The entrance to the Bastogne War Museum

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The Mardasson Belgium-American Memorial

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One of the displays from the Bastogne War Museum

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Sign at the Bastogne Barracks

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Our tour guide at the Bastogne Barracks

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The Cathedral in Bastogne. It was heavily damaged in the battle but has been completely restored. One of the stain glass windows has an American flag.

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The ceiling in the Elise-St. Pierre’s cathedral.

Austria-Europe Trip pictures – Thursday, April 14, 2016

Here are a few more pictures of our trip. I’ve included a few that we took earlier in the week.

  
Our hotel (B&B) where we stayed at in St. Mere-Eglise.

  
Our dinner in St. Mere-Eglise. Look at Michelle’s crepe!

  
The hotel owner’s cat, Pacotine, comes out to greet me upon our arrival.

  
Michelle’s breakfast at the hotel in St. Mere-Eglise.

  
Here is a historical marker that talks about the seizure of the Pegasus Bridge on D-Day. The bridge was officially renamed “Pegasus” after the war was over. It’s new name is a tribute based on the emblem of the British Airborne Forces.

Austria-Europe trip – Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Bonjour! Good evening from Bastogne, Belgium. It has been a long day and we’ve driven a lot of miles traveling from Caen, France to here. But, all in all, it has been a very enjoyable day. It was rather cold when we started the day. It then warmed up to be sunny and about 60 degrees. But later, it clouded up, turned cold and then rained on us a few times while we were driving.

When we left our hotel in Caen this morning we drove a short distance across the city to visit the Pegasus Bridge. This is the bridge over the Orne Canal that British paratrooper Major John Howard and his men seized just after midnight on June 6, 1944. It was a key objective on the first day. After looking at the ground where he and 40+ men landed in glider planes, I think it was a miracle that they were able to accomplish their mission at all. Their glider plane landed just 50 yards from the bridge, and about 30 -40 feet from the Orne Canal on their left and a lake that was about 20-30 yards on their right. After we took a few pictures of the Pegasus Bridge, we headed out for Amiens, France and to visit the cathedral there and then to drive a short distance to visit the Somme World War I Battlefield and the American Cemetery there.

We arrived in Amiens a few minutes after noon and after an extensive search for a parking place, spent about an hour looking at one of the most beautiful gothic churches in France. It was built in 1220 and is currently going under some major renovations. The front of the church is not part of the renovation, so we got a few great pictures. We then drove through Albert, France and Michelle asked me to stop so she could get a picture of the Basillica at Albert, a beautiful old church that we later found out suffered some serious damage in World War 1.

Our next stop was to visit the Thievpal Visitor’s Center and Memorial. This site is actually on the ground where the Battle of the Somme was fought. The exhibit here takes you through each phase of the various battles that were fought here from 1916 to 1918, and contains some great photographs, personal stories, battle plans, and other great information. Over 1 million men lost their lives here. 

We finally drove to the Somme American Cemetery. It took us a little while to find it. It is not marked on most maps and there are no road signs that would give you directions like there were for the cemetery in Normandy. After some effort and a few errors, we found it and parked out front of the visitor’s center. We were met by a nice young man, who is the American caretaker. He is a former military serviceman who had been stationed at our French embassy and when the job came open at this cemetery, he applied and got it. He told us all about the cemetery, how it got started, etc. It has 1,844 servicemen who are laid to rest there. Of those, 138 are unknown. Most of men buried here were assigned to the 27th Infantry Division from New York and the 30th Infantry Division whose soldiers came from North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee. Again, we took some pictures and walked around a few minutes and then head for our final stop – Bastogne, Belgium.

We arrived in Bastogne at about 8:20 pm, checked into our hotel and are now getting ready to call it a night. It has definitely been a long day. Tomorrow (April 14), we will visit the sites from the Battle of the Bulge that was fought here and then travel to spend the night in Luxembourg where we will visit General Patton’s grave the following day.

Well, that’s our report for today. I posted a few pictures for you below. Thanks for letting us share our “adventure” with you. Blessings!

Au revoir!

Fred

  
The Pegasus Bridge. It was attacked and seized at 0016 hours on June 6, 1944 by British Paratroopers.

  
The Amiens Cathedral. Notice all of the many carved figures that are on the front.

  
This is the Basillica at Albert.

  
‘Old Glory’ flying over the Somme American Cemetery

  
The back of the Chapel at the Cemetery. Notice the cannon on the upper right side of the building.

Austria-Europe trip pictures – April 12, 2016

Here are a few photos from today’s visit to Omaha Beach:

  
Looking over the bluff at Pointe du Hoc. 

  
The gun emplacements and bunkers ar Pointe du Hoc. 

  
One of the destroyed gun emplacements on Pointe du Hoc. 

  
National Guard Memorial at Grandcamp-Maisy, France. 

  
29th Infantry Division Memorial on Omaha Beach. 

  
The National Guard D-Day Memorial at Omaha Beach. 

  
1st Infantry Divsion Memorial. 

 
White headstones perfectly aligned at the Normandy American Cemetery. 

  
Brigadier General Teddy Roosevelt’s headstone. 

  
The Bayeux D-Day Museum

  

A picture that will let you see what the Bayeux Tapestry looks like. 

  

Our last stop of the day – the Notre Dame Cathedral in Bayeux. 
  

Austria-Europe Trip – Tuesday, April 21, 2016

Bonjour! Hello from Normany, France. Great day today! Sunny and about 65 degrees for the high. We did get a little sprinkle at about 6:30 pm but it didn’t last long.

Today we visited sites on Omaha Beach. This is where the 29th Infantry Division (Virginia and Maryland National Guard) and the 1st Infantry Division (The Big Red One) came ashore on D-Day. Here is what we saw today: (1) National Guard Memorial at Grandcamp-Maisy,  France; (2) Pointe du Hoc and Ranger Memorial – it is here that Army Rangers scaled the cliffs to knockout a German artillery battery; (3) National Guard D-Day Memorial and memorial to the 29th Infantry Division on Omaha Beach; (4) Infantry Division Memorial on Omaha Beach; (5) The Normandy American Cemetery – where US servicemen and women who were killed on D-Day and in the ongoing fight in Normandy are buried; (6) Bayeux Memorial WWII Museum; (7) The Bayeux Tapestry – it depicts the story of William the Conquor’s 1066 victory at the Battle of Hastings; and (8) The Bayeux Notre Dame Cathedral.

Everything we saw today was absolutely awesome but a couple of things really stood out for me personally. First, there was Pointe du Hoc where the Rangers climbed up the cliff under constant enemy fire to destroy a German artillery battery that had been relocated several days before hand. Of the 225 Rangers that started the climb, only 150 made it up the hill and another 55 were killed defending the position from German counterattack. To do what they did took great courage and determination and I am in awe of what they did there.

The second thing that as a retired National Guardsman had some very special meaning for me were the National Guard Memorial and the 29th Infantry Division Memorial. The 29th (“Let’s Go”) Infantry Division had probably the toughest fight of any unit on D-Day. In the initial wave of troops they suffered significant casualties so severe they were virtually combat ineffective. Company A, 116 Infantry Regiment, from Bedford, Virginia, had 90 percent casualties within the first 10 minutes of the battle and no city in America suffered more casualties on a single day in WWII than Bedford did. As I looked across the beach today it was as if I could hear the crack of rifle fire, the rat-tat-tat of machine guns, the explosions of mortars and artillery, and the screams of the wounded and dying. I couldn’t help but shed a few tears and get choked up. It was a very moving experience.

The third thing, and probably the most significant of the things we visited today, was the Normandy American Cemetery. It is located only several hundred yards behind Omaha Beach. There are 9,387 of America’s finest buried there. Their white headstones are laid out in precisely aligned rows just as if they were standing in formation. The Memorial Garden at the front of the cemetery also lists the names of 1,557 who are missing in action. Three (3) Medal of Honor recipients are buried here, including Brigadier General Teddy Roosevelt Jr. (President Teddy Roosevelt’s son) who went ashore with the 4th Infantry Division on Utah Beach. He was one of two general officers that landed with their troops in the initial assault on D-Day. The other General was Brigadier General Cota from the 29th Infantry Division. I think the thing that impressed me the most was the beauty, the peacefulness, and how clean and well kept it was. It looked as if they mow the grass and pick up the leaves on a daily basis.

I did get choked up a few times as we walked through the cemetery. One time in particular was when Michelle and I were looking at a few of the headstones just to see what unit they had served in and what state they were from, when we saw a headstone labeled “Here rests in Honored Glory a Comrade in Arms Known But to God.” Another time was when Michelle found General Roosevelt’s headstone. On the left of his headstone is the headstone of his brother who had died in World War I, but on the right was a Private. It just shows that when it comes to life and death, we are all equals and that rank, stature, privilege, and wealth doesn’t matter. On the walk back to the car we walked past the Memorial and just as we did they started to play The Star Spangled Banner over the loudspeakers and just as they finished it, they began playing Taps. What a moving moment! (I’m not sure why they did this, but we did see a large group of people in front of the memorial and it looked like they may have had a wreath laying ceremony.) Every American should visit one of our national cemeteries like this one. It truly reminds you that “freedom is never free” and is paid for in blood by those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice. May we never forget!

Well, that is our report for today. Tomorrow (April 13), we will start out the day by visiting the Pegasus bridge in Caen. This is where British paratroopers jumped in just before the D-Day landing to seize this important bridge over the Orne canal. After that, we head out for Amiens and Albert, France to visit the Somme (World War I) battlefield and the American Cemetery located there. Finally, we will end up tomorrow evening in Bastogne, Belgium.

I’ll post a few pictures for you in the morning before we head out. Blessings!

Au revoir!

Fred

More pictures from Normandy – April 11, 2016

Here are a few pictures from Mont St. Michel’s, the Notre Dame Cathedral in Coutances, and the Memorial Chapel:

 

Mont St. Michel’s fortress. 

  
A picture from the Abby chapel in Mont St. Michel.

  
The Notre Dame Cathedral at Coutances, France.

  
Inside the Notre Dame Cathedral.

  
The Memorial Chapel at St. Lo that is dedicated to the soldiers of the 29th and 35th (National Guard) Divisions that lost their lives in Normandy.