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One Veteran's Story - Revisiting the Past

Posted in [Military Memorabilia] By Lauren Miller
He was sitting at an outdoor café in Europe with his tour group, wearing a cap that said, "World War II Veteran, Served with Pride," and a customer in the restaurant leaned down and put his hand on his shoulder and simply said, "Thank you."


"You know what they're referring to," recalled Herbert Rosenberg of Trumbull, CT. "It really got to you.  It touched me."

Herb, and his grandson, Jordan, who recently graduated from Skidmore University and has a great interest in history, went together on an 11-day tour of World War II Battlefields this past August.  They arrived in Paris, France, and from there went to many locations that Herb had either fought at, was assigned to work at after the war, or had just passed through at the time.  Places they traveled to included the Normandy Beaches, Reims, Battle of the Bulge area, Bastogne, Luxembourg City, Colmar, Munich, Germany, and Berchtesgaden/Eagle’s Nest.

Herb (right) and his grandson Jordan


Herb (3rd from the right) with other Veterans

There were a total of seven World War II veterans on the trip, but also several veterans of the Vietnam and Korean War, and others were not veterans at all, and included wives, history buffs, and two grandsons.

Why did Herb go on this tour?  He went to “see what it’s like today.” Even though some of the places “bring bitter memories.”

He found that places changed a lot in the intervening 60 years since he had been in Europe during the 2nd World War.  One that stood out to him is Omaha Beach.  The first time he was at Omaha Beach was August 1944.  The main battle (on June 6, 1944 – D-Day) had taken place a couple of months before.  When Herb’s company “dropped anchor,” boats were still bringing in people and supplies as they had during that battle. From the beach, his company “took the trail to the top” with “mud half way up their legs” which was “slippery like oil.”

Herb recalls the first thing he saw at the top was “a military cemetery already getting prepped.”  This temporary cemetery had thousands of wooden crosses there.  It was “a very sobering site.” Today, the “grounds are like you’d find in the best golf courses” with “pristine conditions.”  Plus, the grave sites now “have permanent markers” of “granite stone.” As in the past, seeing the cemetery “still got to you though.”

Belgium was another place that Herb saw “big changes.” During the War, he had been there “a good portion of four months.” 

Herb had fought with troops at the villages in Belgium.  One battle, they held out four or five days.  “The Germans thought they would whip right through.” 

He recollected how empty the villages were. “The strange thing was that most civilians, if possible left to visit relatives” or go to “safe places.”  One time, he remembers that they were surprised to find a woman in her cellar.  She was 81 years old and she would not leave.  She stayed even though “the village went down around her.”

St. Vith was a town Herb fought at that “was pretty well beat up”.  Now it’s “a nice modern community, all rebuilt, with a few cathedrals that survived.”  Herb noticed that the stone work still has pockmarks where bullets had hit.  They “don’t try to hide them.  It’s part of their history.”

During the War, Herb had ridden through St. Lo, a city a few miles away from the beach, and it “was debris; a pile of rubble,” but “now it’s all new.”  The travel group Herb was with stayed at a hotel in the town and they all stopped by a new information center.

Herb in Belgium
November 1945

 

Basic training began for Herb in June 1943 when he was 20 years old.  After basic training, he decided he wanted to take the test to become an aviation cadet, and he was among a select group which passed a written test.  His first outfit was the 841st Anti Aircraft Automatic Weapons Battalion. Herb traveled by train in December 1943 with other cadets to the University of Minnesota to take classes to be instructed in a variety of subjects including geography, math, meteorology and physical training. Later, “word came down that they were disbanding the program.” They said “they already had too many pilots.”  The group was put in the infantry.  He went into the 76th Division.  In retrospect, Herb sees that the aviation group was most likely disbanded in anticipation of the invasion.  The most important part was that upon arrival overseas, during the actual fighting when he was being shot at, Herb was with L Company 424th Infantry Regiment 106th Infantry Division.

 

After the War, Herb worked on a four-man team protecting shipments on freight trains in Paris.  Their responsibility was to keep the trains from getting looted.

 

When he lived in Paris after the war, he was a couple of blocks from the Eiffel Tower, which he saw again on this recent trip.  He remembers going to theatres which are still there, and he got to revisit sites such as the Arc de Triomphe and Champs-Elysées.

Herb has many more vivid recollections of his time in Europe during and after the War.  Now he has new memories of his recent trip to add to them.

The tour was organized by Rupiper Travel and Tours of Yankton, South Dakota, which specializes in escorted tours, cultural and historical, around the world. The particular tour that Herb went on was led by WWII Veteran Dr. Brooks Ranney and his wife, Vi.  The owners of Rupiper Travel, established in 1996, are Larry and Jane Rupiper.    http://www.rupipertravel.com/   

Learn more about:

World War II, which was fought from 1939-1945

History of Veteran’s Day

All the Benefits of Service - from Military.com

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