Beyond the Band of Brothers Tour Day 13

Sunday, July 28th, 2019

Today began with a tour of the Dachau Concentration Camp.  It is located about 12 1/2 miles NW of Munich.  Dachau became the model for other camps that were built.  It is now a memorial site on the grounds of the former concentration camp.  This memorial site was established in 1965.

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The original entry gate.

The gate at the main entrance had the words “Arbeit Macht Frei” which translates as “Work Makes You Free”!

Dachau was also the training center for the SS where recruits were indoctrinated into a system that encouraged the torture, humiliation and killing of prisoners.

Dachau was built in 1933 as a concentration camp for political prisoners.  The camp had 32 barracks, one reserved for clergy and one reserved for the medical experiments.  Dachau was designed to hold 6,000 prisoners but by 1944 there were over 30,000 prisoners!  In the 12 years of its existence over 200,000 persons from all over Europe were imprisoned there.  After only imprisoning political prisoners, it then held criminals, homosexuals, gypsies, and Jehovah’s Witnesses.  It was later that Jews were added.  At Dachau some prisoners were used as slave labor to manufacture weapons and other items for Germany’s war effort.  Also some prisoners were subjected to brutal medical experiments by the Nazis!  Theodor Eicke ran the camp after Sebastian Nefzger.  When Eicke took over he enforced a rule that any prisoner deemed guilty of rule breaking would be brutally beaten.  And if you tried to escape or shared your political views you were immediately executed!  Eicke’s regulations served as a blueprint for all of the other concentration camps.

We saw the cells, barracks and gas chamber.  Dachau has rebuilt two of the barracks.  The other barracks are indicated by concrete foundations.

The perimeter defense that was in place at Dachau is shown below.  The camp was surrounded by 7 watch towers, an electrified barb-wire fence, a ditch, and a wall.

In 1942, construction began on Barrack X, a crematorium that when finished housed 4 sizable ovens used to incinerate corpses.

Just before the camp was liberated the SS ordered about 7,000 prisoners to embark on a 6 day long death march to Tegernsee, Germany to the south.

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This sculpture symbolizes the Death March.

On April 29th, 1945 the American military entered the camp where they found 1,000s of emaciated prisoners.  They also found several dozen train cars filled with rotting corpses.  It was horrific and beyond words.

There are 4 chapels on the Dachau memorial site.  One is the Catholic Church of the Mortal Agony of Christ Chapel which was the first to be built.IMG_6860The second is the Protestant Church of Reconciliation and is set into the ground.IMG_6865The third was the Jewish Memorial.IMG_6863

The fourth and the newest is the Russian Orthodox Chapel.IMG_6896

After the war and the camp had been liberated, it was used from 1945-1948 as a prison for accused war criminals and SS members. Then in 1948 Daschau was used as a refugee camp until the mid-sixties.

Our lunch was in the Dachau Visitor’s Center and when we were finished we took our bus into Munich for our afternoon walking tour of the Third Reich.  Our tour started at the Hofbrahaus.

It is a very famous pub and has been at its current location since 1607.  In 1920 the German Nationalist Party was founded in the Hofbrahaus.  Most famously Hitler delivered his 25-point program.

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The room where Hitler gave his speech at the Hofbrahaus.

He threatened to strip the Jews of their civic rights and to set up a dictatorship.  Thirteen years later these plans became a sad reality.

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Medieval clock tower in Munich.

Our walking tour continued on with our guide Kurt who also was our guide at Dachau.

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Our guide Kurt.

He was covering the history of Munich in relation to the birthplace of Nazism!

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Equestrian statue of Maximilian Churfuerst Von Bayern in Wittelsbacherplatz Square.

The square below is dedicated to those that died at the hands of the Nazis.  The eternal flame is in a block-like cage atop four T’s.

Königsplatz square was used for the Nazi party’s mass rallies. Below is the Propyläen, which is the city gate on the west side of the Königsplatz.

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Propyläen, Munich’s city gate
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A newer museum in Munich that is about the history of Nazism.

There are still signs of Nazism on some buildings.  The eagle is one of them.  We also saw some swastikas in ceiling patterns.

Below, the captions tell you about these photos from our walking tour.

The Feldherrnhalle was commissioned in 1841 by King Ludwig I of Bavaria and was modeled after the loggia in Florence, Italy.  In 1923 it was the site of Hitler’s Beer Hall Putsch which was a very brief battle.  When the Nazi’s were in power in Munich it was also a monument commemorating 16 Nazi party members that died because of this battle.

Just remember beer drinkers, Munich is the beer city of the world! We had dinner at the Weisses Brauhaus in the heart of Munich. Many of our group enjoyed trying the different beers!

A few more photos from our time in Munich!

It was another day of different emotions.  Spending the morning at Dachau and then the afternoon seeing Hitler’s haunts and the power the Nazi party held in Munich was entirely different set of emotions.

We returned to our hotel and several of us discussed the day and our experiences.

Beyond the Band of Brothers Tour Day 12

Saturday, July 27th, 2019

We were on the bus by 7:30 because we were heading to Munich, Germany.  Our first stop today was the Luxembourg American Cemetery located in the country of Luxembourg.

Over 5,000 are buried here and about 100 of these are unknown soldiers.  The only woman buried here is Nancy Leo, a nurse, her sister also served as a nurse during WWII.  Nancy was killed when her jeep overturned on her way to Paris to visit her sister!

Below are some pictures of the cemetery.

Also buried here is General Patton.  In the spring of 1947 his grave marker was moved from Plot EE to the front so to save the ground and those buried around him.IMG_6771

Before we left the cemetery the veterans in our group and another tour group did a wreath laying ceremony outside the memorial chapel.  Below are pictures from the chapel inside and out.

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Today’s weather is much cooler and rainy.  The first precipitation that we’ve had!  We certainly welcomed the cooler temperatures.

On to Munich we go!  Our tour director played an anti-Nazi propaganda cartoon made by Disney and was about Hitler!

Our arrival to the hotel, H4 Hotel Munich Messe, was around 6:30 PM and our dinner was at the hotel.  We were glad to have a room with air conditioning after three days of oppressive heat and no air at our hotel.

  • After dinner we had a great time at the bar with others from our group!  After riding on the bus all day it was nice to relax. The bar had these 4 projector screens that had 4 different band and/or singers playing music.  It entertained us all!IMG_7716

Beyond the Band of Brothers Tour Day 11

Friday, July 26th, 2019

We were on the bus to go spend the day in and around Bastogne.  Below are pictures from the main square in Bastogne which is also called McAuliffe Square.  This square honors General McAuliffe who commanded the 101st Airborne.  The tank on display is  an American Sherman tank and is next to a bust of McAuliffe.

We picked up our guide, Bruno, who is an active duty Belgium soldier.  IMG_4514Our first stop was the Bastogne Barracks.

We went into the Liberty Hall.  In the hall we sat and Bruno explained what was happening and where the German Line was and the US troops locations.  The Germans had surrounded Bastogne.  General McAuliffe was the acting commander of the 101st Airborne and he along with his division arrived in Bastogne on December 19th, 1944.  Gen. McAuliffe’s headquarters was here at the Bastogne Barracks.  He set up his headquarters in the 2nd Lieutenant barracks Heintz.

General McAuliffe became well known for his answer of  “NUTS” when the Germans asked him to surrender on December 22, 1944 because the Germans had the town surrounded.

The headquarters of the 101st Airborne was turned into a museum in 2010.  They have restored part of the barracks.  It is full of exhibits and a vast collection of materials/weapons etc… used in WWII.  The “NUTS” basement shows the office where the General spoke the now famous word “NUTS”!  After the Normandy invasion, the Germans made one last major offensive to conquer Antwerp.  There was a heavy attack by the Germans that pushed the Allied line back!  On December 21st the Germans had encircled Bastogne.  It was an American air raid that freed the surrounded Americans.

We saw the infamous Christmas letter and a copy of this letter was framed and given to the veterans in our group.IMG_4553

Our guide took us to their other display rooms.  We saw the Message Room, the Ops Room, Veterans Room, the Dining Room where the officers had their Christmas meal, and the “Sad Sack Grub” Room.

They also had quite a few authentic relics.  One was part of a glider.

And the highlight for some in our group was The Vehicle Restoration Center!  This is filled with military armoured vehicles.  Some weren’t in the building because they were being used for the 75th anniversary of the Battle of the Bulge and D-Day.

On our way to visit the foxholes left from the 101st Airborne or Easy Company, our bus stopped so we could visit the memorial to the 506th of the 101st Airborne Division.

You can find the 101st’s foxholes from Bizory to Foy.  Easy Company fought here from December, 1944 until January, 1945, against the German forces in Foy, Belgium.  The foxholes are well-preserved and accessible.  We visited some of these.  We were in the woods and looking out toward Foy.

After returning to the city center of Bastogne, we said goodbye to our guide Bruno and walked over to our restaurant, Léo, for a delicious lunch.  IMG_4673Many tried the Airborne Beer with their food.

The restaurant also sold bottles with a label that commemorates the 75th anniversary of the Battle of the Bulge.IMG_4675

We had free time until we were to visit the Bastogne War Museum.  We enjoyed our time walking around town and visited the Belgian Chocolate Shop.  The chocolate we tried was delicious! IMG_4685 We also did a lot of “window shopping” and walking around the town!

The picture below and on the left shows the original photo of General Bradley, General Eisenhower and General Patton surveying the destruction of Bastogne and the picture on the right shows the same spot today!

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WWII pictures in Bastogne’s City Hall.

The Bastogne War Museum explains the events that lead up to WWII and throughout.  You follow 4 ordinary people caught in this conflict and you get their stories from their perspective and see how their stories interconnect during the war. They are fictional characters but are based on facts! It was a Belgian boy, a young Belgian woman teacher, a German WWII officer, and an American paratrooper from the 101st.  It is an interactive museum with many WWII relics.  We had two hours to visit and could have used at least an other half hour to hour.  The museum has 3 immersive shows that help explain the story of Bastogne and its inhabitants during the winter.  The four characters tell their story throughout and they each have their own version of the war.

The Mardasson Memorial sits on a hill called Mardasson.  It was dedicated in July, 1950 with 10,000 attending including General McAuliffe.  This memorial was designed to honor 76,890 American soldiers killed, wounded or missing during the Battle of the Bulge.  It is a 5-pointed star shape and is a tribute to the American soldiers by the Belgians.  We didn’t have time to explore it or go to the top and look out over the area.

Dinner was at the same restaurant where we had lunch.  Our dinner was a hamburger, frites, salad and sorbet with fresh fruit.  Our tour director felt that a hamburger would be a good choice because Belgium has really good beef.

It was another full day of learning more about the Battle of the Bulge and exploring this historic area!

Beyond the Band of Brothers Tour Day 9

Wednesday, July 24th, 2009

We left this morning at 8:30 AM and are traveling to Belgium.  This was definitely a day of riding on the bus!

We stopped at 10:15 AM for a rest stop and are still in France.  On the bus, the movie The Longest Day was shown.

Around noon we stopped for lunch at a rest plaza then we were back on the road!

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My interesting Gluten free salad.

We left France and entered Belgium about 3:30 PM.  We had a couple of traffic slow downs due to construction.

Catelyn, our tour director, shared some interesting facts about Belgium.  A few that we remember were-

  • 1,100 different beers made in Belgium with an 8-10 % alcohol content
  • Belgium is known for its chocolate, Godiva is one of the makers in the country
  • There are different types of Belgian waffles
  • French fries can be traced back to Belgium.  The American soldiers during WWI thought they were in France when they called these frites French fries because they were in the French speaking area of Belgium
  • There are 3 official languages in Belgium: Flemish (Dutch), French, and German
  • You can also hear Luxembourgish spoken in the Belgian province called Luxembourg (which borders the country of Luxembourg)
  • Belgium is within the European Union so there is no border/passport control

Our first rest stop in Belgium and our first time to pay to use the toilet.  It cost 70¢.

We arrived at our hotel around 6 PM.  Our hotel is the Vayamundo Hotel and is located in the town of Houffalize, Belgium in the Ardennes forest.

We are staying here for 3 nights and our weather is to be even warmer tomorrow, a high of 105º.  Also, no air conditioning or any fans.  It was difficult to sleep.

The picture below is looking down on the town of Houffalize, Belgium.

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Houffalize has been rebuilt since all of the Allied bombing during the Battle of the Bulge.  It was important to the Allies to cut off the Germans getting supplies and fuel because the bridges here still remained.  The pictures after the bombings show that there wasn’t much left of the town.  189 civilians from Houffalize were killed during the Allied bombing!

REFLECTIONS– As we traveled and explored the Normandy area, it amazed me how the French in this area have embraced what happened here and fly not only their flags but those of the Allies that helped to liberate them.

With this year being the 75th anniversary of D-Day, new memorials and memorial gardens, banners, etc… have been added.

It was quite moving to walk on the beaches the WWII soldiers were on and all the lives that were lost during the invasion and throughout the war.

Band of Brothers Tour Day 8

Tuesday, July 23rd, 2019

Our first stop today was Sword Beach.  The British objective here was to capture the port city of Caen.

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some of the town of Caen in the background

 

We toured the beach with the flame memorial.  It was a good place to walk and reflect.

It’s incredible what relics that have been found from D-Day that the French and other countries and groups have preserved and kept as part of our WWII history!

The Pegasus Bridge and Museum was our next stop.

The original Pegasus Bridge is shown below!

We drove over the newer bridge that replaced the original bridge which is now in the museum that we are visiting.

The town people wanted the new bridge to be very much like the old bridge that existed in WWII.  The bridge crosses the Caen Canal.  During WWII the Allied troops wanted to get control of this bridge and it was a main objective of the British Airborne troops on D-day.  These paratroopers came in on gliders, same as our father with the 82nd Airborne.  The bridge was renamed in 1944, the Pegasus Bridge in honor of the Operation Pegasus.  The Pegasus was a shoulder emblem worn by the British Airborne forces, which is the flying horse, Pegasus!

Juno Beach was our stop after the Pegasus Bridge.

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It was originally called Jelly Beach but it has been told that Churchill thought that name was not appropriate for a beach on which many men might die.  He insisted that the code name be more dignified, hence Juno!

We saw an excellent movie about D-Day there.  The guide at the Juno Beach Center was named Vincent.  He is Canadian and this is the beach the Canadians stormed.  There were 1,200 casualties out of 21, 400 Canadians that landed at Juno that day.

Our guide Vincent took us on a tour through the remains of the Atlantic Wall, recounting the history of the D-Day landings.  We saw the command post of 1941, to the observation bunker built just before the D-Day invasion.  You can only tour the Observation bunker and the German Command Post if you are on the tour!

We finished our tour on the beach itself.

We then went to Gold Beach where we saw footage of the D-Day invasion on a 360° screen.  Arromanches 360 movie is shown on nine screens.  It shows archival footages collected from around the world that tell the story of the 100 days of the Battle of Normandy.

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one of the 9 screens in the cinema

Our lunch was overlooking Gold Beach and it was delicious.

We also had time to explore the town of Arromanches-les- Bains.

Gold Beach is one of the beaches that became a portable harbor called Mulberry Harbor.

This portable harbor was brought over from England to be put in place!  The port was to be temporary but ended up being used for five months!  The Arromanches Mulberry Harbor became known as Port Winston, after Winston Churchill.  We learned that 2.5 million men, 500,000 vehicles and 4 million tons of supplies arrived using Port Winston.

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More pictures of the beach with remnants of the Mulberry Harbor are below.

The D-Day 75 Garden was gifted by the UK veterans to the town of Arromanches, Normandy on June 6, 2019!  It was first on display at the Royal Hospital Chelsea during their flower show.  It celebrates the lives of its Normandy veterans.

Our last stop today was to visit part of the Atlantic Wall at Longues-Sur-Mer German Battery.  There were four casemates with the original German cannons still in place.  They were built between Gold and Omaha Beaches and shelled both of these beaches.  This battery was captured on the day after D-Day, June 7th, 1944.

From the German casemates you can walk a short distance toward the forward outpost.  This outpost gave the German commanders a perfect view of the Atlantic.  We were able to explore it.

Other views from the area around the casemates and the outpost.

This was another special exhibit that was placed for the 75th D-Day anniversary.  This display talked about the archeology of D-Day.

The temperature was over 100° and mostly sunny!  Another memorable day that was full of history!

12,565 steps, 4.96 miles and 4 flights

Band of Brothers Tour Day 7

Monday, July 22nd, 2019

Our first stop today was the WWII German soldier cemetery.  It was a stark contrast to the Normandy American cemetery that we visited yesterday.  The cemetery is called La Cambe German War Military Cemetery.  IMG_6230It is the largest German War Cemetery in Normandy.  It contains over 21,200 German Military personnel.

 

From there we went to visit Utah Beach.  Sean, our guide, took us out on the beach and explained the invasion that took place here.  Utah Beach is the westernmost of the landing areas on D-Day.  The 4th Infantry Division arrived for the assault at Utah Beach.  The 82nd and the 101st airborne divisions were air-dropped inland from the landing beach. IMG_4460

We then visited the Utah Beach Landing Museum.

It contains an original B26 Bomber (one of six remaining).  We watched the film “Victory in the Sand”- a documentary of the Utah Beach invasion.

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B-26 Notice the strips on the wings. The stripes signified that it was an Allied plane for the ground troops.

More pictures from inside the museum which chronicles the invasion and contains many relics from D-day.  We were very interested in the medical relics as our dad/father-in-law was with the 82nd airborne as part of the medical detachment.  He was a surgical tech.