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75th Anniversary of World War II (part 2) Events remembering and honoring those who gave their lives

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 second album features photos and stories of World War II observances throughout our footprint from July to October 2019.

U.S. Army photo by Marie-Lise Baneton

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.

U.S. Army photos by Marie-Lise Baneton

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.

U.S. Army photos by Marie-Lise Baneton

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.

U.S. Army photo by Marie-Lise Baneton

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.

U.S. Army photos by Marie-Lise Baneton

All vehicles participating in Tanks in Mons and those of the War Heritage Institute gathered on the Grand Place Sept. 1 at 5 p.m.

U.S. Army photo by Christophe Morel

The Sherman tank "In the Mood" on display in Mons

Since Aug. 30, the Sherman tank, named “In the Mood,” has been on display at Esplanade Dolez, opposite the Mons Memorial Museum. After calling Chièvres Air Base home since 2006, it will remain at its new location for the long term, as a symbol of the sacrifices of World War II.

U.S. Army photo by Marie-Lise Baneton

The “In the Mood” tank replicates the third of three tanks assigned to the U.S. Army 32nd Armored Regiment, 3rd Armored Division and commanded by Staff Sgt. Lafayette G. Pool. In September 1944, this tank and crew participated in the liberation of the area around Mons, tank battles around Namur, and the capture of Liège.

Boxing gloves tell war, friendship story in Mons

Photo credit: Bérangère Fally

A pair of boxing gloves came to complete the collections of the Mons Memorial Museum Aug. 30 during the commemorations marking the 75th anniversary of the town's liberation. More than historic artifacts, they represent how fortunes of war can cross paths of individuals in the most unexpected manner.

The gloves belonged to Tech. Sgt. Daniel Lau, an American Soldier assigned to the U.S. Army's 28th Infantry (Lightning) Division, who met the Bauwens family in their home in December 1944. A new friendship was born and both families are still in touch to this day. It is no coincidence that Bauwens named their daughter Danielle after the young Soldier.

The veteran, who just celebrated his 100th birthday this past summer, was not able to travel to Belgium. His son Jeff, who now serves as a Honorary Consul of Belgium in Hawaii, made the trip to Mons to tell the story of the Chinese Americans during World War II and, in particular, his father's accounts in the war.

U.S. Army photo by Christophe Morel

Sept. 1, 2019: Honoring AMerican Airmen In Saint-Remy

U.S. Army photos by Christophe Morel

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.

Susan Vonessen and her cousin Janusz Gemborski honor the memory of Staff Sgt. John Gemborski in front of the memorial (a huge pink marble stone) erected in 1994 to remember those who sacrificed their lives for freedom. (U.S. Army photo by Christophe Morel)

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.

U.S. Army photos by Christophe Morel

“The friendships that were forged here during the war continue to be nurtured by caring individuals like you. Our fallen would be extremely proud of you today. There is no better way to honor them” - Lt. Col. Steven Schnoebelen, commander, 424th Air Base Squadron, Chièvres Air Base

U.S. Army photo by Christophe Morel

Sept. 1, 2019: honoring the pilot and crew of the B-17 bomber named "Susan Ruth" in Macquenoise

U.S. Army photos by Christophe Morel

On Feb. 8, 1944, the B-17 Bomber Susan Ruth crashed. During the air battle, two men were killed. Three other crew members were killed in Saint-Rémy. The others Snyder, Musial, Daniels, Slenker and Holbert, who were either made prisoners or were able to escape, survived the war and went back to their country.

U.S. Army photo by Marie-Lise Baneton

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.

U.S. Army photos by Marie-Lise Baneton

A first ceremony began at 9:15 a.m. at the monument in Monceau-Imbrechies, where 12 white headstones bear the names of the first 12 American Soldiers who were killed on Belgian soil on Sept. 2, 1944. A second ceremony started at 11:30 a.m. at the monument in Cendron, near the Belgian-French border, marking the spot where the U.S. 9th Infantry Division entered Belgium on Sept. 2, 1944.

U.S. Army photo by Christophe Morel

Sept.2, 2019: Rumes honors its liberators

U.S. Army photos by Christophe Morel

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.

U.S. Army photo by Christophe Morel

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.

U.S. Army photos by Christophe Morel
U.S. Army photo by Julie Piron

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.

U.S. Army photos by Julie Piron

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