We're not lost, Sergeant, We're in … France


Veterans announced for 6th Army Group

I met with Tim & Monika to review things in preparation for the 70th Anniversary Commemoration of the 6th Army Group in France, which will be held 30 July to 3 August, 2014. As part of the review, I’m able to announce the 14 expected veteran attendees. Yes, FOURTEEN World War II veterans expected.

6th Army Group veterans in attendance will be:

28th Infantry Division: Sam Ieronimo and Robert Phillips
45th Infantry Division: Robert Jackson
517th PRCT: LTG David Grange
36th Infantry Division: Donald Judd and Boyd Lewis (both 142nd Infantry Regiment)
3rd Infantry Division: MG Lloyd Ramsey, Michael Halik, Charles Phallen, Charles Condron, John Keller, John Miller II

We’ll also have two other WWII veterans who’ve attended a number of our prior events: COL John Kormann and COL Frank Cohn.

Our attendance numbers are looking very good, with perhaps 80-90 people participating.

We have confirmed that COL Paul Guajac, a retired French Army Colonel and historian of WWII, is coming from France to speak at the conference. His two best known works are Dragoon, August 15, 1944: The Other Invasion of France and Special Forces in the Invasion of France (Special Operations Series). I will be bringing my copies for signatures.



Dragoon-Colmar Commemoration 2014

In a big step, we’ve combined the Operation Dragoon and Colmar Pocket Commemorations for 2014 into one event, to be held at the Sheraton Pentagon City, 30 July to 3 August, 2014.

In another big step, it has it’s own website – 6thArmyGroup.com

All scheduling information, contact info and updates will be posted there, with supportive posts here.



Program for 2013 Colmar Pocket Commemoration and Seminar

69 years after the vicious fighting in eastern France, Outpost Europe of the Society of the Third Infantry Division and the Embassy of France will again host a Battle of the Colmar Pocket Commemoration and Seminar, on 5-8 December 2013 at the Sheraton National Hotel in Arlington Virginia. This event honors the divisions and veterans of the Battle of the Colmar Pocket, in which Audie Murphy, Charles P. Murray, Ellis Weicht, Bernard Bell, Keith L. Ware, Gus Kefort, Eli Whiteley, Russell Dunham, Forrest Peden, and Jose Valdez received the Medal of Honor. Also among the goals is to educate the public about this little remembered front known as the second Battle of the Bulge.

The Battle of the Colmar Pocket, Alsace, France – The “Other” Battle of the Bulge
December 1944 – February 1945

Outpost Europe, Society of the 3rd Infantry Division
The Embassy of France to the United States

When: 5-8 December 2013 (Thursday-Sunday)

5 December: 2 to 4 PM – Registration ($35); 5 to 8 PM – Reception and Seminar Session I
6 December: 8 AM to 5 pM – Seminar Session II and a historical visit (breaks for lunch & dinner on your own); 6 PM to 8 PM Seminar Session III & Documentary Film Presentation
7 December: 10:15 AM to 12 AM – ceremonies at Arlington National Cemetery: wreath laying at Tomb of the Unknowns, 3ID Monument, Audie Murphy gravesite; 12 AM to 4 PM Open time; 4 PM to 5 PM Cocktail Hour (no host); 6 PM Banquet ($40)
8 December: 9 AM to 11:30 AM – Seminar Session IV

Where: Sheraton Pentagon City Hotel, 900 South Orme Street, Arlington, VA 22204

Who: Veterans of the 3rd, 28th, 36th, and 75th Infantry Divisions; 12th Armored Division; XXIst US Corps; French Army Veterans; and their friends and families.

Why: To honor the veterans of the Colmar Pocket, to preserve history, to educate the public, and to pass on the torch of their proud legacy.

Room Reservations: Price – $95 per night, two days prior to event and one day after. Reservations: 1-888-627-8210
Reservation Group Name: Colmar Pocket, Cutoff date 26 November
Shuttle to/from airport provided by hotel, so no rental car required.

Point of Contact: Monika Stoy, President, Outpost Europe, Society of the 3rd Infantry Division, timmoni15@yahoo.com

Note that there is no limit on number of attendees, so even if you do not get an immediate confirmation, there WILL be space for you at the event. Make your travel plans and we will ensure everything works out.

REGISTRATION: Event registration – $35. Banquet – $40. (Free for Colmar Pocket Vets)

Sponsors: If you are interested in sponsoring an event at the conference (the banquet, opening reception on Thursday or the cocktail hour on Saturday, for example) or advertising in the event brochure, contact Monika Stoy, timmoni15@yahoo.com



Reunion Report: Anzio 69th Anniversary

8 WWII veterans, seatedAs I’d mentioned, I was able to attend the reunion of the Anzio Beachhead Veterans over the past few days, and it was a wonderful experience. Having helped with the Operation Dragoon and Colmar Pocket events, I was already familiar with the logistics of wreath-laying at the Tomb of the Unknown, so I was able to be more helpful than I’d expected.

One of the first things we did on arriving at the Amphitheatre was to visit Audie Murphy’s gravesite, which is right across the street. We were able to get the four veterans who would be in the wreath-laying grouped around Murphy’s headstone for photos. There were a dozen or so other visitors who happened along at the same time and our veterans got a wonderful experience of being “rock stars” with gratitude from everyone and requests for photos. It was a wonderfully heart-warming experience for me, seeing these men thanked and seeing the tourists get such a treat – to meet men who served with Murphy when visiting his gravesite.

I was able to bring along my own M1 Garand to the banquet and in this photo, you can see George holding what they all remembered as having been a far lighter weapon 69 years ago. George had enlisted in the Army and been assigned to the 9th Cavalry Regiment. Yes, George was a Buffalo Soldier, but when the Regiment reached North Africa, it wasn’t long before the Army decided to break up the unit. George ended up as a Sergeant in the 401st Port Company, unloading ships at the Anzio beachhead among many other places. He ended up making a career of the Army, retiring in 1967 as a Major, having served 24 years.

To George’s right is Billie Stone of the 39th Combat Engineers. Billie’s unit was, like George’s, not organically part of a specific larger unit, so they moved wherever the engineering work, or at times, the need for riflemen, was found.

Louis Kinofsky, C Company, 133rd Regiment, 34th Infantry Division, asked at the banquet when I handed him the M1 if he was going to get to take it home. Fortunately, he has one of his own there, so I get to keep mine. He had a lot of interesting stories, suggesting that when I read certain veteran memoirs, I take things with a very large grain of salt.

I sat with Frank and his wife at dinner and he related that despite this being the 34th reunion held by the Anzio veterans, it was the first he’d attended. Shortly after the war, He’d been to a few reunions of his unit, but since they’d always been held in the same location, after a few years, numbers dwindled as people hadn’t wanted to always visit the same place.

Ralph Joe Reid also served in the 34th Infantry Division, having arrived as a replacement before the Battle of Monte Cassino. When I sat talking to Joe on Thursday night, we talked about the aftermath of that battle. When his company was relieved by an Indian unit (I guessed Gurhkas, but am not sure), Joe, 13 other men and Captain Garfield were all that were left of his company. He also heaped praise on the 3rd Infantry Division, as the 34th replaced the 3rd and enjoyed their well-constructed foxholes in the Anzio perimeter. Joe said it was like living in the Sheraton after having only piles of rocks as protection at Cassino.

Current President of the organization, Ed Benezech, was a field artilleryman in the 141st Field Artillery Battalion, but when I had him pose with the M1 for photos in front of the organization, he went through an impromptu manual of arms. He’d drilled men with the rifle enough times that he felt completely comfortable with it.

John Boller, second from the left, is a former President of the group and it was through John’s notices in the Society of the 3rd Infantry Division newsletter, Watch on the Rhine, that I’d learned about the reunion. Without John, I’d have never known about it. His service with the 3rd ID during the war has continued in these decades since, and, as I said, seeing John explain to those tourists that he’d served with Murphy (though not known him personally) is a memory I’m sure they will treasure, as I know I will.

Among the issues discussed over the weekend was the continuing existence of the organization. With so few veterans still living, these organizations are turning to the children and grandchildren of the veterans. The organization’s modern website was designed by Bob Rickmeyer and we were joined by Barb Bossi and her brother, who have started work on a Anzio Families website that everyone will work to integrate into the existing setup. Hopefully, the energy of everyone can be harnessed for a grand reunion down in Orlando to celebrate the 70th anniversary next year.

At the far left of the photo is Louis Amato, who’d served as a medic in the 45th Infantry Division and then continued serving as a medic in POW camps after he’d been captured. Like most of these men, he’s quite a spark plug, the energy and humor bursting from him.

As I attend these reunions and meet these men, I am always struck by the obvious bonds they have for each other. While none of them knew each other during the war and some hadn’t met the others even before this event, they’d all been the same places and seen the same dangers. In the years since, those experienced shaped them, but when they have the chance to be around others who understand, it’s always good. Sitting with them and talking, knowing some of the context or being able to let them handle their weapons or uniforms from the war brings them to a comfort level where, as Joe said to me Thursday night, they can talk about things they’ve not spoken of for 69 years. Sometimes, their eyes light up and they speak with great animation about their comrades and the good times, or they pause, remembering those who never came home.

At a dinner party once, a woman asked me how I could devote so much study to something so terrible as war. For me, it’s the stories about people. While I enjoy studying the campaigns and knowing which units went where, the truly compelling thing is the people. War brings out extremes of the human condition – men doing terrible things and men doing completely selfless things.

“It is well that war is so terrible — lest we should grow too fond of it.”



Anzio beachhead veterans reunion
3 April 2013, 23:29
Filed under: 36th, 3rd, 45th, Veterans | Tags:

Tonight, I sat down for dinner with a handful of veterans of the Anzio beachhead. I’ll be spending a few days with them and hearing, then passing on their stories. Meeting them is almost beyond words. Some of their stories have been bottled up for 69 years and it is a true honor to sit with them. Details to follow….



Program for 2013 Operation Dragoon Event

For information on the 2014 event, see our 6th Army Group website.

For the last few years, the Society of the 3rd Infantry Division, Outpost Europe, has hosted an Operation Dragoon commemoration and seminar. It’s always a fantastic event. We are honored that many veterans attend and provide their insights and remembrances. There will be a few veterans I’ve never met as well as others I will be overjoyed to see again. It’s truly an event not to be missed.

THIS EVENT IS OPEN TO THE PUBLIC

Operation Dragoon – The “Forgotten D-Day”
The Allied Landings in Southern France and the Southern France Campaign
15 August 1944-14 September 1944

Outpost Europe, Society of the 3rd Infantry Division
The Army Historical Foundation
The Embassy of France to the United States

When: 8-11 August 2013 (Thursday-Sunday)

8 August: 1 to 3 PM – registration; 5 to 8 PM – historical seminar
9 August: 9 AM to 5 PM – historical seminars and veterans’ remembrances
10 August: 8:30 to 1200 AM – ceremonies at Arlington National Cemetery; 5 to 9:30 PM – Banquet
11 August: 8:30 to 11 AM – historical seminars

Where: Sheraton National Hotel, 900 South Orme Street, Arlington, VA 22204

Who: Veterans of the 6th Army Group; 7th Army; 6th Corps; 3rd, 36th, and 45th Infantry Divisions; 1st Allied Airborne Task Force – 517th Parachute Infantry Regimental Combat Team (including Anti-Tank Company/442nd Infantry Regiment, 509th Parachute Infantry Battalion, 4463rd Parachute Field Artillery Battalion, 550th Airborne Infantry Battalion, 551st Parachute Infantry Battalion, and the 2nd Independent Parachute Brigade (UK)); 1st Special Service Force; US Army Air Corps; US Navy, Coast Guard and Merchant Marine; the OSS; and veterans from the participant allied nations of France, Poland, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Greece, and Canada who served in the supporting Air Forces and Navy; and their friends and families, as well as anyone interested in World War II history.

Why: To honor the veterans of the Forgotten D-Day, to preserve history, to educate the public, and to pass on the torch of their proud legacy.

Room Reservations: Price – $95 per night, one day prior to event and one day after. Reservations: 1-888-627-8210
Reservation Group Name: Operation Dragoon
Cut off date for reservations: Friday, 21 July 2013

Point of Contact: Monika Stoy, President, Outpost Europe, Society of the 3rd Infantry Division, timmoni15@yahoo.com, RSVP by 30 June 2013

REGISTRATION: Event registration – $30. Banquet – $40. (Free for Dragoon Vets)

Shuttle to/from airport provided by hotel, so no rental car required.

THIS EVENT IS OPEN TO THE PUBLIC



68 years ago
15 August 2012, 08:00
Filed under: 36th, 3rd, 45th, 509th, 517th, 551st, Operation Dragoon | Tags: , ,

On a foggy August morning, paratroopers dropped literally through the clouds and into France. The liberation of southern France had begun and the rapid back-pedaling of German forces was just days away. With bold and heroic efforts, American and British soldiers teamed up with not only French and colonial soldiers, but also ordinary French men and women to set about the freeing of their country from Fascism.

Operation Dragoon is often derided as some sort of ‘Champagne Campaign’, in which the only threat was of being hung over in the morning. Audie Murphy stormed well-defended beaches and never understood the impression. In some places and at some times, the Germans were in such a hurry to save their own hides that it was more of a chase than a battle, but all too often, the deeply hardened old veterans stood and fought. They knew how to use the terrain and how to make the Allies pay for every inch of ground. The veterans of the 3rd, 36th and 45th Infantry Divisions and among the paratroopers knew to expect nothing less.

It was a hard fight and one for which the French are grateful. Let us pause this morning and give thanks for what they did so long ago.




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