Aug. 31 and Sept. 1, 2019: Mons commemorates the 75th anniversary of its liberation
In September 1944, American troops entered Belgian territory. Mons was one of the first cities in Belgium to be liberated. Seventy-five years later, Mons commemorated its liberation and the heroic actions made by the 83rd Reconnaissance Battalion of the 3rd U.S. Armored Division “Spearhead” who liberated the city after years of occupation. From Aug. 31 to Sept. 1, 2019, the city hosted a series of events to commemorate this powerful moment in history.
A special commemoration took place on Sunday, Sept. 1, on the Grand Place. The ceremony was a time for contemplation and recollection, as the city remembered the liberation, the feats of the American troops, the courage of the resistance movement and the men and women lost during this time.
Tanks in Mons: A Living Museum of WWII Armored Vehicles
From Aug. 31 to Sept. 1, 2019, dozens of tanks including those from the War Heritage Institute were on display as the city center became a living museum of World War II armored vehicles.
The first tank to roam into Mons on Sept. 2, 1944 was a Stuart tank, under the command of U.S. Army Maj. John Randolph Tucker. City officials gave the troops a warm welcome and Tucker signed the city’s golden book. After the war, Mons officials sent a letter to the 3rd Armored Division with the hope of getting the tank returned to the city. Their dream came true in 1946. Tucker returned to Mons in 1989 and paraded through town on the same tank, driving the same route as he had in 1944.
Sept. 1, 2019: Honoring AMerican Airmen In Saint-Remy
Starting at 8 a.m., a ceremony was held in Saint-Remy to honor American airmen who died on April 22, 1944. Eight U.S. airmen and two members of the Belgian resistance were executed by the Germans.
On April 22nd, 1944, further to a denunciation, Feldengendarme Markus launched a huge operation, with more than a thousand men joined by collaborators and Russian mercenaries of General Vlassow, in order to find these eight American airmen, hidden in a hut in the middle of the woods. At 8 a.m., they went through the woods with a fine tooth comb and they found the hut which was hidden so well. The eight young airmen and the young man from Chimay, Henri Fontaine, who were all present, were arrested the day before they were supposed to leave for England. The eight airmen were questioned in a local school and taken back to the woods, not far from their hiding place, at around 2:30 p.m. where they were executed.
Relatives of the victims made a long travel to pay homage to their father, grand-father, uncle, grand-uncle, or friend. Susan Vonessen was one of those. She spent two days in Belgium with her cousin Janusz Gemborski to honor the memory of Staff Sgt. John Gemborski, one of the eight young airmen. "We drove from Poland during two days," Vonessen said. "The father of Janusz and John were brothers. I didn't know there was a ceremony here. It's very interesting and very touching to see the support of the community," Vonessen added.
Sept. 1, 2019: honoring the pilot and crew of the B-17 bomber named "Susan Ruth" in Macquenoise
Sept. 2, 2019: Remembering the American infantrymen who died on Belgian soil
After landing on Normandy beaches and having liberated on their way villages and cities in France, the American troops crossed the French-Belgian border in Cendron on Sept. 2, 1944, at around 9.30 am. While heading to Chimay, a violent fight against the Germans took place on the Imbrechies ridge. At the end of the fight, 12 GI’s were found killed in action.
Each year, Monceau-Imbrechies pays a deep homage of respect and gratitude for their sacrifices at the memorial created by Paul Delahaye and his team of the Belgian-American Foundation - now called the Association for the Duty of Memory - which is now continued by his children.
Sept.2, 2019: Rumes honors its liberators
On Sept. 2, at 6 p.m., Rumes honored its liberators at the Liberation Bridge. 75 years ago, a 2nd Armored Division pathfinder crossed the border on his motorbike using the little bridge (known today as the Liberation Bridge) spanning the Elon River. Since he did not receive the order to cross the border, he turned back when he realized he was in Belgium. He returned a few moments later, around 9:30 a.m., accompanied by a military convoy coming to liberate the village.
After the commemoration at the Liberation Bridge, the ceremony continued at the Liberation Memorial, where there is a statue representing the pathfinder who crossed the bridge, before another homage at the Secret Army's Plaque.
Sept. 15, 2019: Silly remembers its liberation
Known as a hotbed of the Resistance during World War II, Silly proudly commemorated the 75th anniversary of its liberation on Sept. 15, 2019.
The Maquis de Saint-Marcoult in Silly was an important airdrop zone for weapons during World War II, where the local population, engaged in the Resistance movement, ventured to collect the packages dropped by the Americans. Around 40 tons of material (ammo, weapons, explosive) were dropped to the Secret Army, the largest group within the Belgian Resistance active during the German occupation of Belgium during WWII. Almost every house in Silly welcomed and cared for someone from the Secret Army.
Next to the city officials, the representatives of the Brigade Piron, a Belgian military unit in the Free Belgian forces during WWII, and of the Secret Army, took part in the wreath laying commemoration on the town square with the USAG Benelux Color Guard and Commander.