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75th Anniversary of World War II Events remembering and honoring those who gave their lives in World War ii

By U.S. Army Garrison Benelux Public Affairs

More than 500,000 members of the U.S. Armed Forces lost their lives during World Wars I and II. More than 14,000 are buried in Belgium and 8,000 in The Netherlands.

U.S. Army Garrison Benelux service members and host nation partners commemorated those who made the ultimate sacrifice in World War II. This album features photos and stories of World War II observances throughout our footprint from January to June 2019.

FEBRUARY 24, 2019: remembering the "SUSAN RUTH" B-17 CRASH

Photo Credit: Julie Piron

On February 8, 1944, in the heart of World War II, the U.S. B-17 flying fortress long-range bomber, nicknamed "Susan Ruth," crashed in Macquenoise near Chimay, Belgium. While two members were killed on impact and three others were captured and sent to prison camps, the pilot, copilot and navigator managed to evade capture thanks to the help of local people. Unfortunately, the copilot and navigator were caught by the Nazis and executed in April 1944. The pilot, Howard Snyder, spent seven months fighting with Belgian and French resistance units. He survived the war and later passed away in 2007.

Air Force Lt. Col. Craig Lindstrom, then commander of the 424th Air Base Squadron, joined the members of the Duty of Memory association to pay tribute to World War II heroes February 24, 2019, in Macquenoise, Belgium. "Caring individuals like you have replaced the destruction sites two world wars generated by hollowed grounds proudly telling the story of the service members, resistance fighters and civilians who gave their all in those difficult times," said Lindstrom. "What has not changed is the gratitude people like you express every day so their sacrifices are never forgotten. You know and respect everything they have done contributing to the fight for freedom, you know it’s thanks to them we can enjoy peace today."

APRIL 12, 2019: HONORING THE "ROYAL FLUSH" VICTIMS

“Over time, the term ‘duty of memory’ has become an official expression in both English and French. It is actually more than an expression: it is a way of life, a way to pass on lessons of the past to the generations to come,” - Air Force Lt. Col. Craig Lindstrom, then 424th Air Base Squadron commander

Photo Credit: Christophe Morel

Seventy five years ago, on April 13, 1944, a B-17 flying fortress, called the "Royal Flush," was coming back from a successful raid over the ball bearing industries in Schweinfurt, Germany when it was hit by the German flak based in Chièvres, Belgium. The plane crashed in a nearby field in Fouleng, Belgium, killing six out of the 10 crew members. Each year, the city of Silly, Belgium, organizes a wreath-laying ceremony at the exact place of the crash in nearby Fouleng to remember and honor those who lost their lives there.

During the ceremony on April 12, 2019, community leaders and family members spoke about the service members who died while fighting for freedom. Air Force Lt. Col. Craig D. Lindstrom, then commander of the 424th Air Base Squadron, paid his respect by laying a wreath at the monument that lists the crew members of the B-17 Royal Flush. “Over time, the term ‘duty of memory’ has become an official expression in both English and French. It is actually more than an expression: it is a way of life, a way to pass on lessons of the past to the generations to come,” said Lindstrom. “Just as important is for Belgians and Americans to stand here united together to honor those who gave their all 75 years ago. We were partners and allies then. We are partners and allies today.”

april 12, 2019: listening to the first-hand accounts of a holocaust survivor

“There is good and bad in each country and nothing is all black or all white. What matters is striving to live without making those irreversible mistakes” - Paul Sobol, Holocaust survivor

Photo Credit: Pierre-Etienne Courtejoie

In observance of Holocaust Remembrance Day, U.S. Army Garrison Benelux leaders brought a special guest speaker to share the story of his life. Paul Sobol, who survived months of confinement at the Auschwitz concentration camp at the end of World War II, provided a message of forgiveness and hope to a large audience April 12, 2019, at SHAPE, Belgium. For 40 years, Sobol never made any mention of his time in Auschwitz but after he went back there for the first time in 1987, he realized telling his story was a duty so the lessons from history would never be forgotten.

Sobol clearly remembers his teenage years in Brussels, the living conditions in Auschwitz, Poland and the return to Belgium after the war. He described the years of hiding from the Nazis in Brussels, his family’s arrest in June 1944, the long train ride to Auschwitz, the harsh living and working conditions at the concentration camp, surrounded by death and torture, his multi-digit “name” tattooed on his wrist, and the return to Belgium in June 1945.

Sobol survived slave work and starvation through January 17, 1945. It was extremely cold that winter, and snow covered the camp. The Allies’ progress through Europe was going fast. As Russia’s Red Army approached, the SS dragged thousands of prisoners out on what was to be referred to later as a ‘death march’. Day after day, the prisoners had to walk for miles and miles in the cold, with no proper clothes and nothing suitable for marching in the snow. If anyone sat down out of exhaustion or tripped in the snow, they were shot on the spot. Then the prisoners were packed on cattle wagons. They had no water, no food, and no hygiene. On the sixth day, the doors opened and the crowd was hurdled to barracks. They were in Dachau, a German city located north of Munich where the V1 and V2 factories were located. Only 20 percent of the passengers survived the trip. On April 25, 1945, Sobol was able to escape during bombings over the city. He found shelter with French prisoners of war until they were liberated by U.S. Soldiers on May 1, 1945. It took another week, on May 8 and Victory in Europe Day, for him to be completely free.

He tells his story with no sign of hatred and has German friends he visits on a regular basis. “I have no hatred for the German people, they actually were the first casualties of the Nazi regime,” he said adding that Germany lost 50,000 citizens in 1933 alone. More people died at Auschwitz than at any other Nazi concentration camp. Precise numbers are not available but according to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, the SS systematically killed at least 960,000 of the 1.1. to 1.3 million Jews deported to the camp. “There is good and bad in each country and nothing is all black or all white,” said Sobol. “What matters is striving to live without making those irreversible mistakes.”

MAY 8, 2019: OBSERVING VICTORY IN Europe day

Photo Credit: Marie-Lise Baneton and Julie Piron

On May 8, 1945, at 3 p.m., the bells rang to mark the end of World War II in Europe. Since that day, and until now, Victory in Europe Day, or V-E Day, commemorates the day the Germans officially surrendered, making an end to the European phase of World War II.

Failure to defeat the Soviets and the entry of the U.S. into World War II, forced the Nazis to become defensive and they soon suffered a series of escalating defeats. As a result, Adolf Hitler committed suicide on April 30, 1945, to avoid being captured by the Red Army. A couple of days later, the act of military surrender was signed in Reims, France on May 7 and in Berlin, Germany on May 8. With the end of the war came the end of long years of suffering. Individuals reacted in different ways to the end of the conflict. Some celebrated. Massive celebrations erupted throughout the world. In the U.S., the victory happened on President Harry Truman’s 61st birthday. Others spent the day in quiet reflection, and many started plans for the future.

The people of Belgium have not forgotten the sacrifices made by the Allies as cities in Belgium held special commemorations on May 8. U.S. Army Garrison leaders and Soldiers attended events Chièvres and Brugelette to pay their respects for those who made the ultimate sacrifice in the war.

may and june 2019: remembering the fallen during memorial day weekend

Photo Credit: Marie-Lise Baneton, Christophe Morel and Julie Piron

Words incised into the façade of the memorial in Ardennes American Cemetery sum up Memorial Day and the comrades in arms it honors. U.S. Army Garrison Benelux leaders and Soldiers paid their respects to the fallen during Memorial Day weekend as they attended commemorative events in Belgium and The Netherlands. The ceremonies took place at the Ardennes American Cemetery in Neupré, Belgium, Henri-Chapelle American Cemetery near Welkenraedt, Belgium, and the Flanders Field American Cemetery in Waregem, Belgium, The Netherlands American Cemetery and Memorial in Margraten, The Netherlands, and the Mardasson Memorial in Bastogne, Belgium.

In Bastogne, 2019 was special for the city, because it was also the 25th anniversary of the “Bois de la Paix,” also known as the Peace Woods. The woods are a miniature, natural forest. People planted trees during the 50th anniversary of the Battle of the Bulge in 1994. Of the 4,000 trees that make up the woods, 400 of them bear the names of American veterans who fought in the Battle of the Bugle during the winter of 1944 to 1945.

june 1-9, 2019: HONORING THE PAST DURING THE D-day COMMEMORATIONS

“The 75th anniversary of D-Day is a historic reminder of the strong and unremitting relationship between the U.S. and our European allies and partners. Forged in battle on the beaches of Normandy, France in 1944, we continue to build on these relationships to this day,” - Lt. Gen. Christopher Cavoli, commanding general for U.S. Army Europe

Photo Credit: Julie Piron

More than 1,300 U.S. service members from units in Europe and the U.S. participated in approximately 80 events and ceremonies June 1 to 9, to commemorate the 75th anniversary of D-Day in the Normandy region of France. “The 75th anniversary of D-Day is a historic reminder of the strong and unremitting relationship between the U.S. and our European allies and partners. Forged in battle on the beaches of Normandy, France in 1944, we continue to build on these relationships to this day,” said Lt. Gen. Christopher Cavoli, commanding general for U.S. Army Europe. U.S. and European military and civilian dignitaries joined the troops in paying a tribute to those who made the ultimate sacrifice on the Normandy beaches and in honoring the veterans who returned to the battlefield. With the theme “Honoring the Past, Securing the Future,” the U.S. Army Europe public affairs team coordinated media relations at the Joint Information Center in Carentan and at the Media Operations Center in Colleville-sur-Mer, near the American Military Cemetery. Two U.S. Army Garrison Benelux public affairs specialists supported the team with French speaking media relations.

June 10, 2019: celebrating a world war ii veteran's 95th birthday

Photo Credit: Christophe Morel

Four days after the 75th anniversary of D-Day, Isaac Curtis Phillips' family and friends in addition to U.S. Army Garrison Benelux Soldiers and leaders celebrated the 95th birthday of one of the oldest living American veterans from World War II. During the World War II, Phillips served with Company D of the 22nd Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Division. He arrived in Great Britain on May 16, 1944. After the Utah Beach landing, he went to Cherbourg and volunteered to lead a recon team. Then he was surrounded by the enemy. Phillips hid in a cellar for four days and was reported missing. His family thought that he died. After the war, he married and settled down in Belgium where he and his wife currently live. Soldiers and leaders joined the Phillips family in Binche, Belgium, to celebrate his birthday and hear his stories about the war.

This is a quarterly series featuring World War II 75th Anniversary events. The next edition of this series will be published in October 2019. The following editions will be published in January and June 2020.

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