Military History/World War 2 Infantry France/Belgium
QUESTION: Hi, there,
I am writing a novel set in World War II, and I would like to "follow" my grandfather's path as a member of the US Army. His letters from the war are vague, of course, but from what I can tell he was in France in autumn 1944 and then in Belgium. We know he was in the Battle of the Bulge. His service ends in Liege. Could you help me create a plausible track for his unit? (When would they have arrived in France, which way would they have traveled to end up in Liege, etc.)
I know this is a complicated question, but I appreciate any help you could give me.
Thank you so much for your kindness!
ANSWER: Dear Ms.,
Thank you for your question. I know exactly what it is that you are trying to do, I have helped in the past authors who were also writing a Historic Novel.
Now then, your grandfather was in France during Autumn, 1944, then Belgium & fought in the Battle of the Bulge. When you type that your grandfather's service ends at Liege, is that because he was W.I.A., of that he was there on May 8, 1945?
Now then, did the unit end up at Liege because after its arrival at Liege, that was where it was based until May 8, 1945? OR, was the unit located at Liege during the Battle of the Bulge, then move east in late January 1945.
I am not trying to be difficult, but as I read this, you are asking about two different entities (grandfather or unit) when your novel will reach the Ardennes on December 16, 1944. Please clarify. Once you have, it will be my pleasure to assist you. I think it is great that you pay tribute to your grandfather by him being the central character in your novel.
Richard V. Horrell
WW 2 Connections
---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------
QUESTION: Thank you so much for your help! It really means the world to me. I've read a hundred books on the war, but still feel like my understanding of the events is shaky at best.
Unfortunately, I have some unanswered questions in my grandfather's history and I only have his letters as a resource. But this is what I know:
He was part of Batt. C, 788th AAA (AW) Bn. The last letter we have from him is dated March 21, 1945. It was common knowledge in our family that he participated in the Battle of the Bulge. There are a few letters from my grandma to my grandfather that are dated April/May of that year, and they are sent to an address in New York.
I don't know why my grandpa came home so soon. However, my mom recalls him having some anxiety issues when she was a kid and I found an appointment card for a "Mental Hygeine" appointment with Veterans Affairs.
In addition, I think he was in Liege because in one of his last letters he said he had pictures to give my grandmother, but he couldn't send them at that time because they "would tell you where we are." There were a half-dozen pictures of Leige (among other places) tucked in with the letters.
The only other info. I know is that he was a cook in the Army (and a baker throughout his life).
He really wasn't in the service for very long (although he was in training for two years prior to active duty).
While I know I won't ever know his exact path in the war, I'd like to have a reasonable facsimile of it for my book.
I thank you again for your continued help!
Thank you for your follow-up. Now that you have provided me with the unit your grandfather was assigned/assigned to, it is far easier to place him in specific locations during WW 2. The following is a brief history of the 788th AAA Auto-Weapons Battalion:
Activated at Camp Hulen (Palacios) Texas, April 20, 1943
Departed New York Port of Embarkation August 11, 1944
Arrived at Liverpool, England, August 22, 1944
(hopefully those dates are the same set of dates in Box #36 on page two of your grandfather's Discharge Documents)
Arrived in France, September 23, 1944
Northern France July 26-September 14, 1944
Rhineland September 15, 1944-March 21, 1945
Ardennes-Alsace December 16, 1944-January 15, 1945
Central Europe March 22-May 8, 1945
Assigned to the Anti-Aircraft Defense of Antwerp, Belgium, mid-October-December 18, 1944
Battle of the Bulge began, Saturday, December 16, 1944
Re-assigned to the 49th AAA Brigade, First Army at Herbesthal, Belgium, December 19, 1944-January 21, 1945
Re-assigned to the 76th Infantry Division, January 21-May 8, 1945
The following were the locations of HQ, 76th Infantry Division, with the date the HQ became opperational at said location. The 788th could not have been too far away from HQ
1/20/1945 Champlon, Belgium
1/26/1945 Junglinster, Luxembourg
2/4/1945 Rodenbourg, "
2/6/1945 Beck, "
2/24/1945 Weilerbach, "
2/28/1945 Holsthum, Germany
3/1/1945 Niederweis, "
3/5/1945 Sulm, "
3/8/1945 Speicher, "
3/10/1945 Neiderkail, "
3/12/1945 Wittlich, "
3/20/1945 Pfalzfeld, "
3/28/1945 Nastatten, "
3/30/1945 Idstein, "
4/3/1945 Homberg, "
4/4/1945 Rohrenfurth, "
4/6/1945 Laudenbach, "
4/8/1945 Eschwege, "
4/9/1945 Langensalza, "
4/10/1945 Dollstadt, "
4/12/1945 Buttelstedt, "
4/13/1945 Hollsteitz, "
4/15/1945 Gorma, "
4/16/1945 Wiederau, "
4/18/1945 Burgstadt, "
4/24/1945 Limbach, "
V-E Day, May 8, 1945
In your follow-up you typed "I don't know why my grandpa came home so soon." What are the second set of dates, horizontally, in Box #36 on page two of your grandfather's Discharge Documents?
In your follow-up you typed "I think he was in Liege". Do you mean your grandfather was stationed in Liege, or that he visited Liege while on Leave?
In your follow-up you typed "He really wasn't in the.......years prior to active duty." Would you please provide me with the dates in Box #7, 22 & 24 on page two of your grandfather's Discharge Documents?
Good Luck with your quest.
Richard V. Horrell
WW 2 Connections