|Some 'Bits and
Pieces' about my research, comments to the homepage, etc.
Since I went online I had several enthusiastic reactions to my initiative. Some of the reactions:
Very good and appreciated. RWLaycock >
you have a great home page going. Good work. It will be
interesting to see it grow. I have one suggestion. Change the color of
fonts on the first page - I can't read them. Yellow is a bad color for
fonts. John Kline (rem. Hans. In the meantime we have changed the
colours, and with the new homepage online, this 'problem' is now past)
Hans, We really enjoy your homepage. My
father sat here just now and
thecontents and they brought back many memories. Is there a picture of
anywhere in your pictures? My father's 86th birthday is May 23 of this
year. My father said he really appreciates all the information he has
you and to keep it coming.
Hans, Was really surprised today when I turned on my computer, and
message, and all the writings that you have on the Battle of the Bulge,
I see why you were so interested in all the details. I wish to
congratulate you on such a fine job.
I wanted to tell you that I think your website is really magnificent. I saw it as soon as you told everyone about it. Ralph Hersko
Hans, Just wanted to express my great satisfaction with your trips
to the area of the Northern shoulder of the Battle of the Bulge. The
photographs are really beautiful. Wish that you could have photographed
the Buchholz area and Elsenborn with the snow. You are doing a very
good job. Keep it up.
Sir, I wish to compliment you on your web page. I found it of great
Sir I received your name from Mr. Dick Byers of the 99th Inf. Div. I
have a great
interest in this unit as it was my mother's first husband's unit. He
the 393 Regiment, 99th Inf. Div. Company A. He was killed on March 14,
1945 His place of death is listed as Ronigerhof, Germany. He is buried
Henri-Chapelle American Cemetery. His burial information is Grave
134, Row7, Plot number F-4. He was killed by a shell blast with
penetration wounds to the chest, neck and head area. He was identified
his waist web belt and name in a pocket book. His Army Serial Number is
helped by Ohio veteran Saturday, July 24, 1999 By
Steven Cook Dispatch Staff Reporter.
As Bill Douglas and his regiment defended the tiny town of Butgenbach, Belgium, the soldiers had few comforts. Some had military-issue coffee and cigarettes, others had souvenirs from previous skirmishes. Everyone had helmets, dog tags and as much ammunition as they could carry. But in the heat of battle and the cold of a driving snowstorm, many of those items were lost. Almost 55 later, Douglas of Ironton, Ohio, and some 50 other veterans of the Battle of the Bulge are helping a Dutch researcher identify some of the items left behind in the last great battle of World War II.
In five years of searching, Mr Weijers has recovered ammunition boxes, soldiers' overcoats, dog tags and a still- sealed package of coffee. The veterans communicate with Weijers via e-mail, with many never having met him or even spoken with him on the telephone. "It's a strange situation. You wonder what he's going to find next,'' Douglas, 79, said. "You wonder why all these things are still there.'' Douglas has drawn maps of where he believes his regiment was and helped identify objects found, such as the coffee. Douglas also has sent Weijers several videotapes of himself recounting his experiences in the battle. "They give very important information,'' Weijers said. "Most can't come over anymore . . . I help them find a little bit of their history back.''
More than a half-million German soldiers were thrown at Allied lines in Belgium and Luxembourg from Dec. 16, 1944, to Jan. 25, 1945, as a last-ditch effort to beat back advancing American and British troops. Almost 200,000 casualties were suffered. About 81,000 of those were Americans. The 41-day offensive forced a small bulge in Allied defenses. Less than four months later, the Nazis surrendered. Douglas volunteered in 1944 for duty in Europe. After four years in the National Guard, he found himself on Thanksgiving on a boat bound for France. The day after the German offensive began, Douglas arrived in Bütgenbach and joined C company of the 18th Infantry Regiment, defending the tiny town approximately 100 miles southeast of Antwerp. Douglas and 250 other soldiers were sent shortly after New Year's Day to retake the town of St. Vith, about 10 miles south of Butgenbach. Fighting the Germans and temperatures that dropped to 20 below zero, the group was turned back. Only 50 returned safely. As many soldiers were wounded by the severe cold as by German gunfire. Douglas returned to Bütgenbach with frozen feet, which were saved after visits to several hospitals. He was then given other duties until finally spending a second Thanksgiving on the Atlantic, this time on his way home. The battlefields near Bütgenbach and St. Vith are still littered with ammunition. Foxholes dug by soldiers still exist "as if they had just stepped out for coffee,'' Weijers said. Weijers leaves many of the objects he finds on the battlefields, he said. Instead, he photographs them and documents their location for a book he's writing on the Butgenbach phase of the battle. In town, Weijers said, he often strikes up conversations with locals, who have war items at home. "When you get to know the local people, they come up with things,'' he said. "People like to get rid of trash, as they call it.''
Douglas applauds Weijers and other researchers. "It's good that someone is preserving history. It's part of our country and part of us,'' he said. Some of what Weijers finds on the battlefields was intentionally discarded, like weapons shells. Other items, such as dog tags, were easily lost in the falling snow.
Weijers found one pair of tags earlier this year, and Douglas, with the help of a granddaughter, Emily Douglas, 17, of Powell, located the tags' owner in Michigan. Emily Douglas used an Internet telephone directory to find a man who matched the information on the tags, then Bill Douglas contacted the man in Detroit. Douglas said the man confirmed he fought in Belgium and that the tags were likely his, but he didn't remember losing them. "You don't remember when you lose little things like that,'' Douglas said. Weijers sent a letter to the man but has yet to get a reply.Emily Douglas said she is amazed that she and her grandfather could be helping someone so far away find items from so long ago. "I sit and read books about this in history class,'' she said.
Copyright © 1999, The Columbus Dispatch