My dad, granddad and I went to Europe for a WWII History trip, but the reason was to go to Germany where my great-granddad was killed in the Huertgen Forest. My granddad went in 2000 with my grandmother. Since my dad was going to be 40, my granddad decided to take us over there for my dad’s birthday.
June 2nd, Normandy France
Today I went on a tour about D-Day, mainly about Omaha and Utah beach. The first thing we did today was look at some German bunkers 1 ¾ miles away from the beach. They were tremendously big, and very cool. There was four of them, 2 were destroyed by naval guns. One was badly damaged. We got to go inside of one. There was a huge window where a huge German cannon was.
The only question I had was “what was
the tunnel for”? If you look in the
picture you will see on the right-center
a tunnel. They don’t know why that’s there.
There was a lookout tower on a cliff above the Omaha beach that sent wired messages to tell the Germans where to fire. We got to go in the lookout tower.
After that, we went down to Omaha Beach and several places along the beach. We saw an American Cemetery where 9,387 men who were killed in action are buried. Each soldier has a cross and they are in straight rows.
We also visited a museum. It had many interesting and cool antiques.
After lunch, we went to Pointe Du Hoc where Colonel James Rudder led the Rangers.
There were also many German machine guns and five cannon platforms. There was a ton of ammo, but no cannons. Naval ships shot ammunition and created 12 feet across by 10 deep holes (there was 600 plus). Rudder and the Rangers found the ammo but no cannons, so they blew it up.
There was so much that it broke the 15
ton concrete platforms and sent it
flying everywhere (as you can see in
We then went to Utah beach and I learned that it was much easier for the Americans to land because the planes hit their targets (unlike Omaha beach) and there were fewer Germans.
Our last stop was a German cemetery where 21,300 Germans are buried.
June 3rd, Normandy France
Today we went on another tour about D-Day, but this time it was mainly about paratroopers in the airborne divisions 82nd and 101st.
Our first stop was at the Saint-Mere-Eglise church. A paratrooper named John Steele got stuck on the church steeple, where he got shot and killed by a German, but our guide said it wasn’t true.
Across the street was an awesome airborne museum that we got to go in.
Everywhere we went they were setting up for reenactments, most likely for the 64th D-Day anniversary.
Our next stop was the la Fiere Bridge. It was a neat spot because there was a memorial and it was the site where a non-officer named PFC Charles DeGlopper won a medal of honor because of his actions against many German machine gunners.
Next we went to Brecourt Manor where Major Dick Winters and his men took out four German cannons and one machine gunner.
What we saw next was a glider crash where the first U.S. General was killed. His name was Don F. Pratt. He now has a memorial there.
Throughout our trip we saw many, many old farms, buildings, and cities that we had wartime pictures of. They had not changed much if any.
Our guide took us to the Angoville au Plain church where it served as a hospital to 70 American soldiers, 10 German soldiers, and one child who got injured by bombings.
During the time that the two medics were nursing
them without medical supplies, a mortar shell
came through the roof, hit the ground (as you can
see in the picture), but never exploded.
The two medics names that now have a memorial
are Robert E. Wright and Kenneth J Moore.
Our final stop was dead man’s corner where we saw some of the best reenactment equipment.
June 4th, France/Germany
We traveled the autobahn road (no speed limit)
June 5th, Huertgen Forest
We met Klaus Schulz in Vossenack. Mr. Schulz would be our guide in the Huertgen Forest.
After breakfast we saw a very educational video on the Huertgen Forest and its history.
Next we got to see a fraction of
the west wall which runs from
the Netherlands to Belgium.
Its concrete blocks that range in
size and were designed to stop
Our next stop was the Huertgen Forest where we saw a German bunker. There was also a trench and many foxholes around it.
We saw another spot in the forest where an American soldier’s remains were found eight years ago. There was also a small memorial. We explored around the area and my granddad found the bottom half of a tube from WWII. We could tell by the type of metal it was.
We next visited a German cemetery.
After lunch we went to where my great- granddad’s
remains were found (in a foxhole). You can see the
foxhole in the picture in which we were standing.
Then we explored for about 45 minutes. I got the chance to find something, and my granddad found another thing. I found a piece of metal that probably was used like a hitch in WWII. My granddad found something and once again by what it was made of we could tell it was from WWII. The most special thing though, was that it was within 200 yards of where my great-granddad was killed.
We then went to the other German cemetery where I heard two great stories. One was about a tank getting stuck and the other one was about a German officer giving his life for a wounded American soldier in a mine field.
Our next stop was a museum where I got an American canteen from the owner.
Our last two stops were in the town of Vossenack where we saw the church which played an important role in the battles for the town. We also saw a hill which also played an important role in the town’s battles. Recently the remains of three American soldiers were found. One was amazingly still standing upright in his foxhole.
June 6th, Huertgen Battle Area
We first went to Hill 400 (means 400 meters). It’s one of the highest points in the region. Both sides wanted it. It changed hands many times. Col. Rudder led the second rangers. There was a medal of honor given to Francis X. McGraw.
There was a huge tower that we climbed up and could see
the beautiful countryside.
At the top of the hill they had a communication and lookout bunker and at the bottom there was a housing bunker.
I heard a great story about a German family. There was a husband who was away at war. He had recently moved his wife and boy into a hunting shed deep in the woods. On Christmas Eve three Americans who were lost found this shed and were invited in for dinner and shelter. The wife told them there would be no shooting so lay your guns on the porch. She was committing a crime by taking care of American soldiers and could be sentenced to death. Later four Germans came and she said the same thing she said to the Americans and they set their guns down. They were also invited in. The lady gave them almost all of her food kindly. The next morning they were fed and a German officer told the Americans how to get back to their units. They shook hands and went separate ways. One of the American soldiers 50 years later came to the anniversary of the battle and had a German compass that one of them had given him and confirmed the story.
We next drove to the Kall trail. The Kall trail
is a steep and narrow cliff as you can see in
the picture. Both sides used it for men and vehicles
(mainly tanks) to get from Vossennack to Schmidt.
We got to see the spot where during a battle, many
on both sides lay wounded in the middle. They
agreed to hold their fire and medics from both sides
helped both sides. After it was clear the battle
There is a famous painting of this called “A Time for
Our next stop on the Kall trail was where Sgt. Fleigs tank hit a mine and was disabled. The other tanks had to work around it by hooking chains to the tank and pulled themselves by.
Our next two stops were in the small town of Schmidt. We first saw a guys private little museum where he had a bunch of stuff he collected over years and stuff people have given him. He also found the remains of an American soldier in his backyard.
One of his neighbors found an Aggie class ring after some remains had been removed from his land. He gave the ring back to the soldiers’ family in Houston.
Our last stop was also the battle that ended the Huertgen Forest fighting. It was the taking of the dam near Schmidt.
June 6th, Belgium
In Belgium we decided to go to the Henri-Chapelle American Cemetery. We got a great tour and I learned a lot and was very surprised I could learn as much as I did from a cemetery.
Some facts I learned are it is the only American Cemetery with three brothers buried there.
There were no girls buried there.
It had three Medal of Honor winners buried there, and unlike most American Cemeteries, the cross rows created curves not straight lines. This was done on purpose and had a very cool affect.
At the end of the tour we got to take down and
fold the flag from the flag pole.
June 7th, Ardennes American Cemetery to downtown Paris
Our first stop was the Ardennes American cemetery where my great-granddad is buried, along with 5328 other American soldiers. 60 percent were airmen. 462 are unknown graves.
After we met our tour guide we went to my great-grandfather’s grave. His name, unit and date of death are on the front of the head stone and his dog tag number is on the back of the head stone, and that is the reason I titled this journal with a number - 38696310.
After that we looked around a little bit. They have two Medal of Honor winners and one who is still missing.
After that we went back to the visitor’s center where I got a very cool book and my granddad got some information on a Belgium family that had adopted my great-grandfathers grave. My granddad had been looking for that information and was glad he got it. He said he was going to write to them as soon as we got home.
After that we drove to Paris. As for driving in Paris, I can only describe it by one word “bazaar”. There were motorcycles zipping at high speeds between cars. My granddad did not like them one bit. He drove the whole time and absolutely hated every bit of the Charles De Gaulle round about (Arc De Triomphe) because there were hundreds of cars going in hundreds of directions and they all seemed to be coming at him. He was trying to get to the side and cars kept cutting him off.
When we exited it and parked to see the Eiffel Tower he had to pry his fingers off the steering wheel. The main problem was that 12 different streets were coming together, in addition to that there was no stop signs, stop lights, or any lanes.
The Eiffel Tower was amazing!
It was an awesome trip and it can probably never be matched. I cannot wait to see my family and friends and can’t wait to sleep in my own bed.
The first night we were in Normandy we were visiting with a woman who was with her dad for the D-Day anniversary, and it was her suggestion that I keep a journal that inspired me to write this. I am glad I did.