Thanks to my friend Jim Hennessey, I was able to get to know John during the winter of 2005 through email correspondence. Jim and John have been friends for a long time and met through the Divisions Association and website.
John is a retired dentist who practiced for 37 years and resides in Worcester, Massachusetts. He is also a member of the 87th Infantry Division Association and served as Commander from 1998-1999. On November 11, 2000, he was awarded the Veteran of the Year Award by the Worcester Veterans Council, and has served as their Commander as well. He is President and founder of the local chapter of the Massachusetts Veterans of the Battle of the Bulge Association and recently attended the 60th Anniversary of the Battle of the Bulge activities in Europe in December of 2004, where he had the honor along with Guadlupe Flores of the 101st Airborne Division, of laying the wreath at Mardasson Memorial in Bastogne.
He was awarded the Combat Infantryman's Badge, the Bronze Star Medal, and participated in the Ardennes, Rhineland, and Central Europe Campaigns in World War II.
During the Korean War period, he served as a 1st Lieutenant in the Dental Corps, US Army, and his assignment was at Ft. Lesley J. McNair in Washington, DC.
Thanks for answering....I am very impressed with your web-site and what you
are doing to keep the memories of your father's outfit alive, and his buddies in contact with one another. My association with Jim Hennessey is through the 87th Inf. Div Assoc. I am M-347 and he E-345...We've met at our Assoc reunions and through our 87th Div Web-Site...We both have stories and poems on that., Your new Music venue is just fantastic....I couldn't get away from it, listening to all those old familiar hits..of the '40s and Bob Hope shows. Keep up the good work. "Thanks for the Memories" and Happy New Year.
John McAuliffe 87th Inf. Div Cent. Mass. Chap. -22: VBOB Pres.
"Oh Danny Boy", Italian Style
Marion's note 05-22-05:
It is with deep sorrow that I announce the passing of Donato "Danny" Marini, John's dear, dear friend, on May 19th, 2005. He will be truly missed by many. Danny we salute you for your service to our country. Rest in peace. I've included his obituary below.
This is not the usual war story that one is most likely to read in this column of "As I Remember It". More often than not those stories relate to the soldier's participation in the harsh realities of battle, telling of his experiences entwined with those of his fellow squad members. The stories speak of battle, hardships, pain and at times, the pangs of loneliness one endures in the front line of duty. This is a story of two boys of diversified backgrounds, one born American of Irish heritage, the other a naturalized citizen of Italian parents; both caught up in the throes of war, from which they became good friends. They hailed from the state of Massachusetts, one from Worcester the other from Malden, some 45 miles east; were inducted into the army on the same day and after being outfitted in army olive drab at Ft. Devans were quickly railed to Macon, Georgia and Camp Wheeler to undergo basic training in infantry tactics.
John McAuliffe was born in Brooklyn, New York with his brothers and sisters, the son of a sculptor, in the employ of an even more prominent sculptress, Mrs. Gertrude Whitney, daughter of the millionaire Vanderbilt of the railroad dynasty. He returned to Worcester, the home of his father, after his parent's deaths at his early age, and became a student at Holy Cross College there, when the war was declared against Japan in 1941.
Donato Marini was born in the little town of San Donato val di Camino just outside Rome. The town's heritage goes back many centuries to the days of the emperor Caesar and the formation of the Roman Empire. Donato indeed was named after the ancient town's patron saint. He was the son of Gaetano, a stone cutter in Italy, now faced with entering the equivalent of our high school at the age of 14. Rather than undergo the forced military indoctrination under the Fascist system of Il Duce, Benito Mussolini, his caring father wisely took him from school and directed him to live with some relatives in America. This was in 1935 during the buildup of the Fascist Party and Mussolini's left wing army.
John McAuliffe attended the boarding schools of the Catholic sisters and brothers after his parent's deaths, and now was pursuing a premed course at Holy Cross College, while living with his school teacher aunt and uncle. The nature of the course allowed him a deferment from being drafted into the selective service and one by one he watched many of his classmates enter the military service, and being envious of them. He wanted so much to be in uniform with his friends but it was his folks' wishes that he continue with his studies as long as possible. The day came when he graduated but was immediately drafted into the Army in June of 1944 to fill vacancies in the long line of infantrymen. This was about the time that the ASTP folded and the boys in that program went in to the Infantry also.
On the other hand, Danny, as he was now called in America, was attending night school and learning the English language while working days at the Fore River shipyard in Quincy, Massachusetts as a welder. He was helping to build the new carrier Lexington after the former was sunk in the Battle of Midway, and also was helping to build the battleship, Massachusetts. The nature of Danny's work also provided him with a deferment from the draft into the military, as his work was classified as essential to the war effort. Like in the case of John, the day came when his job was superseded by the need for infantrymen over that of new warships and he also was called into active service with the army.
The two draftees with the surnames beginning with the letter "M", were assigned to the same company in training and bunked in the same aisle, one at each end of the row of beds. The seventeen weeks of training together brought them even closer and they found themselves on January 1, 1945 on the converted luxury liner, Queen Mary, on the way to Europe and the Battle of the Bulge. The trip over was uneventful as the big ship laden with troops zigged and zagged alone, without convoy across the cold Atlantic. The three days across France in unheated boxcars, herded like cattle in freezing temperatures was a foreteller of conditions that were to face us. All amenities and comforts were left behind at the Port of La Havre. We now were faced with the life of soldiering at its worst. As the numbers would have it, the two "M" boys were assigned to "M" company of the 347th Infantry in the 87th Division, in the same mortar section but in different squads. This was in the city of Echternach just after the battles of Moircy, Tillet, and Bonnerue were fought.
This is not a story of soldiering, as I mentioned earlier, but being soldiers in combat in the Ardennes we were subjected to the frigid temperatures, the hardships, the shelling and the machine gun fire and struggles of every day hazards in the life of an infantryman.
This story begins in Springtime April, about a month after we crossed the Rhine River. I do not recall where it all started nor is it important. Many are the times that we didn't know where we were, as the drive across Germany was at such a rapid pace. Our squads were approaching a small hamlet in typical infantry fashion, at spaced intervals on both sides of the road. Suddenly we came upon foxholes that were dug in along the roadsides at some thirty feet apart. They were not the usual type holes, but more like graves, deep and with neat square cuts and equal sides. They were dug with precision and meticulous care as if ordered and watched over in the process. We became suspicious of their uniqueness and our attention was quickly diverted to the movement and assembly of people up ahead in the road. They posed no threat as we knew they were not enemy troops.
As we approached they came forward as if to greet us, and on closer look we found that they were displaced men in civilian clothes. In greeting them, we learned that they were Italians. Immediately Danny came to the fore and engaged them in his native Italian tongue. Their happiness in making contact with American soldiers was exceeded only by being able to talk with one of us in the Italian language. Danny jabbered with them for a half hour and I was completely left out of it.
One of them asked why I was so quiet and I poked Danny and said, "You Italians sure do talk a lot." At one point there was lots of arm waving, shouting and laughing. Danny detected a familiarity in the man's dialect, and we learned that he was from San Donato val di Camino, Provincia Frocinone, Danny's birthplace. They were ecstatic to say the least! The man's name was Antonio Massa, a first lieutenant in the Italian army of his majesty the King. Not in Mussolini's army. These men were a pan of those troops that were captured and disarmed and made to fight with the Germans against the Russians. They were also pressed into the German work force and were the ones that were forced to dig the grave-like foxholes we saw in the road. They were left behind by the retreating Germans as the American troops approached the town.
Danny's letter home mentioned all this and his girlfriend began to get more worried about his being on German soil. It was during a break in the fighting when we had our tents pitched in a field that Danny asked me to write to his girlfriend in an attempt to allay her fears, saying that he was OKAY AND NOT TO WORRY, that the war would soon be over. I didn't know Josephine but Danny had shown me pictures of her and had mentioned me to her in his letters home.
Let me take you ahead in time about 44 years. In 1989 on a visit to the Marini's, now living in Newtonville, Massachusetts, Josephine took out her box of letters that she had saved during the war. Among them was my letter that I had hand written, along with all of Danny's. The letter read:
Somewhere in Germany, April 1, 1945.
You've never heard from me before, nor have you ever seen me, but I'm from that dear old state of Massachusetts, the city of Worcester. Dante and I were at Devans and Wheeler together and here we are again in the same outfit chasing the Huns. He was just writing to you over at my tent so he asked me to drop a line. We've talked over old times a great deal and what we'd like to be doing back home in old Mass. He has shown me your picture many times and you sure do make a nice couple... (that is, if I don't break it up.) Dante just ran after his rifle so I guess I better take it easy. Anyway, I'll be at the wedding with a pound of rice or two. We just got back from a movie this afternoon and had a pretty good time. You see we're taking a rest now and can enjoy life a little, as best we can with what we have. This country is pretty - too bad the inhabitants aren't peaceful people. But we hope to make it peaceful soon. Well it's getting dark now so I think I'd better close. Hope you don't mind me writing to you but we Massachusetts people have to stick together.
One of the boys,
I don't know how much my letter helped but I hoped it would have helped put her at ease. Also among the letters was the wallet that Danny had carried through the War with the picture of Josephine and a lock of her hair. She had saved these mementos through the years.
I didn't know until this time, or else I had forgotten, that Josephine was also from the town of San Donato. Both she and Danny attended the primary school in the village and both had the last name of Marini but were not directly related. Danny had taken a liking towards her.
In 1940 when Danny was working at the shipyard, his father told him one day that a Marini family had just arrived from the old country and was residing in nearby Newton. Would he like to drive out there with him to meet them? To his great surprise, he was met at the door by Josephine, her mother, aunt and grandmother. Josephine was now twenty years old and had developed into "a very nice young lady." The relationship that was broken off five years earlier, by their separation, was now taken up again but in a much different dimension. This very nice young lady who worried so much about a young soldier in Germany and to whom his buddy wrote to, was to become his wife forever.
Back with the 87th Division of Patton's Third Army in their pursuit across Germany.
It was now the middle of April and the armies were on a roll along the Autobahns deeper and deeper into the Deutschland. It was springtime and the soldiers had shed their winter overcoats. You would see them along the roadsides, here and there as the warmth of the day wore on the men. Getting rid of them made one less item to bear with. It was a long way from Oberhof (the sports center), to Oelsnitz near the Czechoslovakian border. We passed through Bad Blakenburg Salfeld, Schliez and the railroad and industrial center of Plauen, the largest of cities and now completely leveled. It was in the small city of Theuma that the war ended for us on May 8, 1945 just outside of Oelsnitz.
Our company pitched tents on a hillside along a road into the town. From here we watched the endless parade of defeated and surrendered German troops file by to set up their camp not far away and across from a small pond that separated the two camps. It was a warm Spring day, the water was inviting and we were off and down to the pond to the strains of Lily Marlene, that famous song of the war. A handful of German soldiers were already there on their side of the pond, singing, soaping up and I suppose, celebrating the end of the long war for them.
We quickly jumped in and splashed and swam around reveling in the sun. It was a great day, the war was over, it was V-E Day and the water was fine. Someone got hold of a bottle of cognac, we had a campfire that night and did some celebrating of our own. A few weeks before this, Danny had picked up a camera someplace and came back to the squad area with his shirt stuffed with rolls of film. He went about snapping pictures of everybody. Now that hostilities had ceased, he was off into town on a picture shoot. If it moved, he shot it! And much more. He was fortunate to be able to bring the rolls of exposed film back to the States and when I visited him shortly after the war, I was surprised to see all the pictures he had taken. Included was one of General Culin posing with his foot up on his jeep, "Arizona". He had others of German officers surrendering, pictures of the German camp and troops and also many of his buddies in the field. Today they provide a wonderful album of memories.
With time on his hands, Danny remembered the note from our newfound friend, the Italian Lieutenant. He now had a scheme to get our commanding officer, Captain Pierceall's permission to visit the camp where the Italian was and look him up. He not only found him but also he got his picture, which he has to this day.
Lieutenant Massa had been away from home for a long time and had not heard from his family back in San Donato, where Danny's mother still lived. Massa had no way of reaching his parents to let them know he was alright, still alive and just liberated by the American soldiers. If he could only write a note to his father and have Danny insert the message in his letter to his mother in San Donato. The captain gave Danny permission to write the letter and approved the letter with his signature of censorship. Of course, there was no way that Massa would know that the message got to his father and very improbable that a return letter would be forthcoming. Danny said "good-bye" to Massa, wished him the best and returned to our camp.
We were kept busy doing ten mile hikes, and performing simulated firing orders with the 81 mm mortar, as well as performing close order drill. At one recreation period, Danny and I put on boxing gloves and went at it for a good half hour. It was the format of the future Jake LaMotta Sugar Ray Robinson matches. Danny, big boned and heavily muscled, somewhat awkward and sluggish versus the slightly built, wiry John, with quicker reflexes. Starting at the company headquarters tent, we sparred, pushed and shoved, slugged and groaned our way along the line of tents to the end of the row, to the cheers and jeers of our resting buddies. It was a draw! We returned to our tents a bit roughed up but arm in arm and still the best of friends.
From then on the order of events passed quickly. The boxcar trip back across France to Camp Lucky Strike, St. Valery on the coast to board the West Point and the five day voyage across the Atlantic. From Fort Meade to Fort Devans and home on a 30 day furlough. I did not return to Fort Benning for the deactivation of the division. I was sent to Deshon General Hospital in Butler, Pennsylvania for treatment of a service connected disability. It was here that I got the invitation to Danny and Josephine's wedding. I was not able to attend and sent my regrets. Soon we were both discharged from the army and sought separate ways. Danny went to work as a welder building bridges over the rivers in and around Boston and John went back to school in pursuit of a career in dentistry.
In 1947, Danny's two brothers came to the States to live in Malden, Massachusetts. They were now able to tell Danny of how Massa's note to San Donato was received. Danny's mother was quite ill and without much hope of getting well. She gave the note in Danny's letter to her aged father who in turn took it to Massa's father, Goffredo Massa. It had finally reached its destination. He was an old man himself now, a former officer with the rank of general in the medical corps in WWI. The old soldier wept on opening the note and recognizing his son's handwriting. The tears of sadness and then of joy rolled down his cheeks. His son who was taken by the Germans to work at slave labor for three years was alive and well. In a way of showing thanks, he visited Mother Marini to see if he could help her get well. Using his professional skills and making changes in her medicine, Danny's mother gradually responded and got better. She lived for several years after that. However, no one knew what ever happened to Lieutenant Massa, if he had come home after the war was over or had he met some other fate.
It was not unusual for the Italian people to leave San Donato and come to live in Malden and Newtonville. Now that there were many living there, relatives could come as long as there was someone to sponsor them and insure that there was a job for them. Many were skilled masons, stone cutters, carpenters, cabinet makers, and construction workers. Through the years since the war, Danny and Josephine got to know the new arrivals just as they were met and welcomed to the new land of opportunity. When John visits Danny as he has often in the past few years, he kids him about the red, white and green stripes painted on local fire hydrants, the colors of the Italian flag. The whole town has an Italian flavor.
In 1950, John graduated from Georgetown University Dental School and became associated with another dentist in practice for two years. It was during the Korean War there was a military need for dentists and John found himself going through Ft. Devans once again being outfitted in army khaki. His assignment at Fort McNair in Washington, DC was a picnic compared to winter of '44-'45 in the ETO.
There were many generals living on the post and John got to meet the "other McAuliffe", the famous Bastogne general who gave the "NUTS" answer to the German ultimatum to surrender. There was also the famous General Lawton J. Collins, "Lightening Joe", who commanded the VII Corps in the Battle of Bulge, and General Mark Clark, commander of the Fifth Army in Italy.
During this time Danny had bought a piece of reclaimed land and went about building his own house with the help of his brother-in-law. It was here that he and his wife brought up two daughters while he worked as a welder and later for the postal service. He and Josephine still live there in their retirement. John returned to Worcester after his Korean tour of service and opened his own practice of dentistry where he was active for 37 years. He married late in years in 1973 and moved to a nearby town where he lived with his wife until she passed away.
One evening in 1981, John received a long distance telephone call. It was his old buddy, Danny calling, whom he had not seen nor heard from in 25 years. There was a reunion being held by the 87th Division Association, and he and Josephine were going. "Could you possibly come?" My heart was all for it, and yearned to be with them to meet again some of the "boys" of M-Company. However, I knew my wife was not keen nor interested in such affairs and I made some kind of excuse in refusing. How I wanted to go!
After John's wife died, he moved back to Worcester. He was retired from practice now and with time on his hands. One of the first things he did was to contact Danny in Newtonville. It was an emotion filled visit all over again as they got out the album of pictures and talked about the war, about Lieutenant Massa and their experiences in M-Company. John asked Danny about the time he had called and the reunion Danny attended in Scottsdale, Arizona. He said, "I knew there was something wrong", as it wasn't like me to not want to go.
Danny met another buddy at that reunion who lived in nearby Phoenix. They hadn't seen one another since the war and it was a tearful meeting for the two. Les Zimmerman asked him, "Do you hear from Mac?" (John) "How I wish I could meet old Mac again." The three of us were very close buddies. Zim was picked for the Tiger Patrol in the early stages of the Ardennes battle. On one patrol, he got caught up in an 88mm explosion, knocking him unconscious and killing the two men near him. He woke up in Manchester, England and after several days of recuperation, rejoined the squad. It was here that I met and made friends with my new buddy from Cheyenne, Wyoming.
Danny introduced John to the Golden Acorn Association and the VBOB organization. It was now 1990 and time for the Charleston, West Virginia reunion. Danny and his wife Josephine and Zim and his wife Maxine and John all planned to be there. What a reunion of the three it was! Words cannot express the emotions felt. Our former company commander Green Keltner and platoon leader Lieutenant Ray Erickson and several others attended also. Charlie Miller, also of M-347 was the host and chairman of the reunion. We had a wonderful time reminiscing.
John and Zim have exchanged many letters since the meeting. They are ongoing correspondents. John also keeps in touch with Danny and manages to visit him and Josephine when he goes into Boston.
The three former buddies of M-Company have resumed their friendship and have made many new friends among the Association.
Danny thinks that John's going into Boston to talk over the old days, but really it's to indulge in Josephine's wonderful homemade Italian sausages. She makes such delicious dishes.
In the summer of 1992, Danny and Josephine heard the "old country calling" them and together they went back there to spend four delightful weeks in the centuries old village of their birthplace, San Donato val di Camino Provincia Frocinone, where they visited with relatives. On a similar visit many years ago, they inquired of the villagers if Antonio Massa had returned to his roots. No one had heard. A war can make so many changes in one's place of home and one's life. It made for some fond memories in John's.
With his incitement formed by joining the Golden Acorn Association and the Veterans of the Battle of the Bulge Association in 1992, John founded and became president of the Central Massachusetts Chapter of the VBOB. Starting with 17 veterans, it now numbers about 200, as was the 22nd chapter formed of the present 50.
It seems that Danny's encouragement wore on John and they both attend the functions of both organizations; have been back to Europe and the battle sites together and John attends the VBOB reenactment in January at Fort Indiantown Gap with ACORNS, Mike Petrick, Earle Hart, John Long, Milan Rolik and others.
In the Spring of '95 Danny invited John to a dinner at his Nonantum American Legion Post in Newton, Mass. It was given for all the 250 arrivees from San Donato who came to this country over the years since the war.
He was given a surprise tribute from his fellow countrymen, especially for his service to his new country, the U.S.A., and his service with the 87th Infantry Division. To John's surprise, he was also called forward and honored by the group. They paid him tribute for his service and what he has done with the veterans in the state, in forming the Battle of the Bulge organization and the war the two fought as young men in the cold winter of 1944-45. John was honored by the surprise gesture of the group and considered himself an honorary townsman of the little village of San Donato val di Camino. Danny, who learned the English language the hard way, building ships and bridges over the city of Boston and in the Army, often reminds John, "You are a college boy, you are educated" but really, it's Danny who is the educated of the two; he knows more about life, values and the importance of friendships than anyone I know. Two hundred and fifty people can't be wrong.
In 1995 we learned that Lt. Massa was living in Florence, Italy. It was wonderful to know that he also survived the war.
Donato Marini and John McAuliffe at the 2003 reunion of the
87th Infantry Division Association, in Charlotte, NC.
The Poems of John E McAuliffe - updated 05-16-05
John created a small booklet titled The Ardennes Campaign Winter of 1944-'45. It contains poems that John has written over the years and photos too. I have scanned the booklet into Adobe PDF format for your viewing pleasure. Please note that the file may take a bit longer to download if you have a dial-up connection.
I have a great admiration for those soldiers who were separated from their units and scattered about.... but then united under the leadership of Parker and carried on the 'fight'...I have written some verse, a little poem in memory of that great stand at Baraque de Fraiture...
Ghosts of Alamo raise your herald voices
Thine heroic stand within battered fortress walls
Gives life and hope to embattled men at new crossroads
Where your battle cry sings out.
The brave '300', entrenched before the rushing tide
Of PANZER might
Relive the spirit of THERMOPYLAE, and like that of
Houston's men allows time for friendly units
To fight another day.
Brave men of PARKER,
Now subdued and captive taken
Lift your heads akin,
Your noble efforts are not forsaken
For of such deeds battles are won
And Ghosts rise up, shaken.
Donato "Danny" Marini
From John McAuliffe on the death of my good friend and Buddy of M-347;87th Inf. Div. WW-II.
"May he march eternally in the Army of God's Saints,,,with the Legions of the Lord....Farewell Good and Faithful Friend.....R.I.P."
Of Newton, May 19, 2005, after a long illness. Beloved Husband of Josephine (Marini). Devoted Father of Donna Brooks and her Husband Ronald of Burlington and Paula Marini and her fiance Al Stewart of Norwood. Loving Grandfather of four: Christopher Brooks of NJ, Jason Brooks of NH, Jennifer Brooks of NY and Jeremy Brooks, Sgt. USAF. Brother of Pasquale Marini of Brighton, Lucia Cardarelli of Italy, and the late Lucio Marini. Also survived by many nieces and nephews. Funeral from the Andrew J. Magni & Son, Funeral Home, 365 Watertown St., Rte 16, NEWTON, Tuesday at 10:30AM. Followed by a Funeral Mass in Our Lady Help of Christians Church, Newton, at 11:30 AM. Visiting hours Sunday 6-8pm, and Monday 2-4, 7-9pm. Relatives and friends are kindly invited. Interment Calvary Cemetery, Waltham. Decorated Veteran of US Army in WWII Veteran of Battle of the Bulge and proud to serve under General Patton. Awarded the Bronze Star with Combat "V", Purple Heart and the Combat Infantry Badge, among other awards. In lieu of flowers, donations in Donato's name would be appreciated and may be made to: St. Jude Children's Research Hosp, 501 St. Jude Place, Memphis, TN 38105 or Our Lady Help of Christians Sanctuary Fund, 573 Washington St., Newton, 02458.
Published in the Boston Globe on 5/21/2005.
Just recently received this photo among others of the 60th VBOB Anniversary Tour of the Battle of the Bulge to Belgium and Luxembourg last December. I am in the back row extreme right ....we had a great bunch of vets and a wonderful time.....this is at the hotel bar room in Houffalize.
At the dedication of the 87th Div plaques in Moircy, Pironpre and Tillet Belgium, June 1996.Stan Bellens of Liege, John McAuliffe 87th Div. and the late Pierre Mawet also of Liege.....Pierre a great friend of the Veterans, was responsible for obtaining the 105mm cannon for the Parker's Crossroads Memorial..at Baraque De Fraiture.
This article originally appeared in the May 1999 issue of The Bulge Bugle , a publication of the Veterans of the Battle of the Bulge. It is reproduced here with permission.
It was a hot and steamy evening in Boston, Massachusetts when I met her flight from Luxembourg at Logan Airport. The hour and a half ride to the cool shores of Cape Cod at Hyannis by car was a delightful respite as we arrived to meet and join for another reception with Tilly 's Boyfriends at the annual reunion of the Bulge Veterans in September of 1996. I was delighted with the thought that for a little while 1 was the best and only Boyfriend of Tilly Kimmes-Hansen.
John E. McAuliffe
Men of the 80th Division Association have honored Tilly with a portrait painting with the fleur de lis, and "Surrounded by Her Boyfriends," the insignia of the 19 divisions and the 1st and 3rd Army patches which served in Luxembourg. Over 500 photos were printed. The original painting is 20 inches in length.
On September 10, 1944, the tanks of the 5th Armored Division crossed into Luxembourg from the region of Sedan, France and liberated the town of Petange. The two Combat Commands, CCA and CCB were destined for Luxembourg City and Mersch respectively. The people of Petange, aware that the Americans were approaching, were not surprised to see German soldiers herding cattle, horses, and pigs along the Rue d'Althus; the young Americans themselves were not aware that they were restoring liberty to a nation that had suffered greatly under a reign of terror for four long years. It was on May 10. 1940, that the Nazis invaded neutral Luxembourg, and tried to adjust the borders of the Grand Duchy and introduced the notorious nationality survey, followed by the conscription into the German army of all Luxembourg men born in the years 1920-1924. Protest demonstrations and widespread strikes were called throughout the whole country with the Nazis on the verge of despair. Imprisonment, deportation, and concentration camps were in order for Luxembourghers, who walked off their jobs in devotion to the homeland. Others were executed following barbarity and torture.
In the town of Steinsel, just north of Luxembourg City, a 27 year old teacher. Tilly Hansen, was lucky to be home from her teaching job in a German school in a relativity quiet area. She had been one of the teachers deported. Her future husband-to-be was also deported and conscripted into the German army against his wishes. Among the priests and seminarians taken to Germany was Tilly's younger brother Joseph, who was imprisoned at Trier. But on that glorious day of September 10, she joined with thousands as "unbridled joy and frenetic jubilation" broke out among a people who had been oppressed for years. They hugged, shouted, sang, laughed, and wept with joyful excitement.
It was Sunday, and as Tilly and the congregation left church, they could hear the bells on the Luxembourg City Cathedral in the distance announcing that the Americans had come. The townspeople ran home and brought baskets of fruit, flowers, cakes, bisquits, and other offerings to greet the Americans entering the town of Steinsel. With the church bells ringing and the people cheering and throwing flowers, Tilly was lifted up on the lead tank to read her prepared speech in English to the liberators. They hugged the tankmen who quickly drove on across the river, as more tanks were coming behind them.
Born on November 3, 1916, in a farmhouse in Steinsel, Tilly was the eighth of eleven children. She never met her first three siblings, since they died during World War 1, as medicines and doctors were scarce in those days. But all the children did well in school. Two married farmers in nearby towns; one sister went off to Paris to become a nursery-maid to a wealthy family. Tilly attended the strict Catholic Sister's boarding school in Luxembourg City, where home visits were allowed on the church feast days. But the discipline paid off as she mastered three languages: French, German, and English, graduating at the age of 15. Upon graduation from college, she took special courses at night school and received her certificate for proficiency in the English language.
Erected by CEBA War Museum Sept 11, 1983.
At the invitation of her uncle, her father's brother who had immigrated to America, she had the promise of a teacher's job. But that was quickly thwarted when the Nazis came. During her teaching days in Germany, she had to wear a pin, "Heim ins Reich." No French was spoken and no prayers were allowed. In a short time hundreds of Luxembourg citizens sat in prison for "crimes against Nazis." Anticipating the arrival of the Nazis in 1940, both Prince Jean and Prince Felix fled the country and remained in England during the occupation. On liberation day, Prince Jean, who later became the Grand Duchy, appeared among the jubilant crowd in the uniform of a lieutenant in the Irish Guards. Life in Luxembourg returned to normal. A provisional police force was formed. American officers worked together with the administration of the capital city. Tilly Hansen was home for good and soon her two brothers arrived-one in a US Army jeep-each with a long story to tell. Like so many of their countrymen, their tales of hardship and suffering were meshed with stories of heroism. Tilly was soon appointed to teach in Rumelange, a town on the French border in the south.
One morning, Tilly was awakened by a neighbor in the same house, telling her the Germans were back. It was December 17, the day after the big German breakthrough into the Ardennes area, which extended from Monchau to Echternach. She hurried home to Steinsel. When she learned that the attack was confined to Luxembourg north of Ettlebruk, she returned to Rumelange. She was in contact with American officers at the restaurant where she ate, and was asked by the officers of the advanced special service to accompany them to Bad Tonistein, Germany, where they set up a German government.
As an interpreter, she and other Luxembourgers staffed the office in the castle where General von Rundstedt once had had his headquarters. It was while working here with the new provisional German government that she met and visited with Konrad Adenauer, who later became the first German prime minister, or president, of West Germany. As Tilly relates, "he loved Luxembourg and tried to excuse the Nazi-idiots." On V-E Day, May 8, she joined many GIs at a huge casino at Bad Neuenahr, where they were introduced to General Patton. "He hugged all us Luxembourgers and we thanked him for our liberation."
Shortly after, Tilly received word from home that there were nine teacher's positions available in Luxembourg. She left the CIC group and in September 1946, began teaching in Goetzange. It was here at a carnival ball she met a "good-looking" gendarm, Roger Kimmes, whom she would marry in 1950.
Roger had been forced into the German army in 1940, and was wounded on the Russian front. He had finally found his way back to Luxembourg at the end of the war by train, on foot, and by wearing his uniform, evading the retreating Germans. As a gendarm, or state policeman, he was obliged to change his jurisdiction after 10 years.
After 14 years, Tilly and Roger moved to the Northern Ardennes area of Heiderscheld, where Tilly taught American children in the government school. The children were the dependents of employees of Goodyear and DuPont de Nemours companies located in Luxembourg. She also began teaching English courses at a nun's boarding school for girls in Ettlebruck. During the next 14 years of teaching, she and her husband Roger moved to Mersch and eventually built a new house in her native town of Steinsel.
She loved teaching English. It was during these years that she met a young gendarm who was a friend of Camille Kohn, who were all influential in founding CEBA, the Center for the Study of the Battle of the Ardennes. Thus began a new chapter in the life of Tilly Kimmes-Hansen. It would lead to her fulfillment years after she had retired from the teaching profession. As her husband Roger told her before he died from cancer in 1988, "You must stay in CEBA otherwise you will always feel dull." He knew of her love for the veterans and how she liked to form receptions for their return to Luxembourg where they fought during the war.
With her job as secretary for CEBA she got to know all the mayors of the Ardennes. It wasn't long before they had erected 24 memorials to the veterans, divisions, and units that had fought in Luxembourg, as well as the CEBA museum at Clervaux Castle, one of the best and most complete museums in Europe.
Because of her fluency in speaking and writing English, Tilly was approached to write to the Pentagon in Washington, DC to get the names of the units involved in the great battle. This led to her meeting with the military historian, Charles B. MacDonald, author of A Time for Trumpets, and Hal Ryder, a former officer who now owned the Galaxy Tour Agency in Pennsylvania.
The author and Tilly
Now began the influx of the GIs making what the Belgians and Luxembourgers affectionately referred to as "the comeback" visits. They came alone or with their wives, in groups, with the division associations, or the Veterans of the Battle of the Bulge. Whether alone or in groups, everyone was treated the same. They were greeted by President Camille Kohn, by Tilly, or with Jean Milmeister, the researcher-historian of CEBA. They were received in the towns where they fought with honor and tribute, and at the Clervaux statue and castle where they were presented with the medal of the Liberation of Luxembourg, and a certificate of appreciation by Jean Milmeister.
Getting to know the many GIs, Tilly would now be invited to the US to attend the many division association reunions. She first came to the US in 1968, when she and Roger visited his brother's family in Indiana, and all 32 of his cousins in the midwest. It was a wonderful reunion after visiting Washington, DC, Niagara Falls, Greenfield Village, and Ford Village in Detroit, Michigan. In all, Tilly made 17 trips to the US, mostly combined with CEBA as the guest of the division associations.
For example, seven times she was the guest of the 80th Division which liberated 30 villages in Luxembourg, five times with the 6th Armored Division in Louisville, her favorite, which liberated many villages in cooperation with other units; the 5th, 90th, 35th, 28th Divisions, the 707th TK BN, and also the 26th Division which liberated 30 towns and villages, including Wiltz and Clervaux on January 25, 1945.
In all, there were 19 divisions which served in Luxembourg between September 1944, and February 1945, including the 4th, 87th, 67th, 8th, 83rd, 94th Divisions, and the 4th, 5th, 9th, 10th, 11th Armored Divisions, and the 17th Airborne Division, as well as those mentioned above. If Tilly did not visit these divisions in the US, she was there with the members of CEBA to greet them at the Clervaux Castle.
The men of the 80th Division Association have honored Tilly with a portrait painting outlined with the fleur de lis, and "Surrounded by Her Boyfriends," the insignia of the 19 divisions and the 1st and 3rd Army patches which served in Luxembourg. Over 500 photos were printed. The original painting, 20 inches in length and under glass, hangs in her personal home museum.
In Orlando, she was presented with the Key to the City. Many framed certificates and pictures grace her walls, including one of the Four Chaplains, one with Major General Robert W Grow, Commander of the 6th Armored Division, a citation from Ambassador Constantinou, medals from generals, and an Eisenhower jacket, which was a gift from the 26th Yankee Division. Another honor was from the Elmwood, Pennsylvania Rotary Club.
Tilly Kimmes-Hansen was well known in her town of Steinsel from before the liberation and that Sunday she climbed atop the first tank to read her welcome speech of thanks to the American soldiers. Her smiling face and cheerful countenance at future receptions for the returning GIs soon became as prominent as the Clervaux GI, which is the most photographed statue in Luxembourg. Her warm, hearty laugh could be heard across the ocean to the American shores and beyond. Little Luxembourg, a country no larger than the state of Rhode Island, not only had produced a gracious hostess and a friend of the GI soldier, but one with a heart as big as the state of Texas. The little farm girl who played with her older sister Agnes, in the lovely green valley and meadows in peacetime before the arrival of the Nazis, had lived through five years of occupation and terror. In her middle adult years she had undergone several operations which would deny her the possibility of raising a family. Now, in her twilight years she still lives in her native Steinsel, but with memories of the new family of GIs she has adopted. She is "Surrounded by Her Boyfriends," the Liberators of Luxembourg.
The Sweetheart of the
Liberators of Luxembourg
Little Luxembourg, a country no larger than the state of Rhode island produced a gracious hostess and a friend of the GI soldier with a heart as big as the state of Texas.
We're sad to report that Tilly Kimmes-Hansen passed away on April 23, 2005.
1. The Liberty Road in the Grand-Duchy of Luxembourg
Copyright by Comite Luxembourgeois de la Voie de la Liberte
Imprimerie Saint-Paul S.A., Luxembourg, 1994.
2. Tilly Kimmes-Hansen personal memories as told to John McAuliffe, February 14, 1999.
Dr. John E. McAuliffe, WW-II Veteran, Worcester, MA recently attended the annual Luxembourg-American Friendship week in Gonderange, Duchy of Luxembourg, where he received the MEDAL OF HONOR at the PRESCATORE, Gen. Patton's former Headquarters, awarded "in recognition of his selfless Services and brave Achievements during World War II". At a special ceremony at the Cultural Center in Oetrange, followed by a dinner ,he was among those entered into The Legion of Honor of the Chapel of Four Chaplains., June 21 2006.The award is in recognition of service to all people regardless of race or faith. The award symbolizes for all Americans and for all time the unity of this Nation, founded upon the Fatherhood of One God.
The week included attendance at the Cathedral in Luxembourg City at the "Te Deum" in the presence of the grand-ducal family, held on the observance of the Duke's birthday; a National Holiday. Other receptions included a commemoration at Hamm Cemetery and a Mass at the parish church in Dahl in remembrance of all the American soldiers who gave their live during the Battle of the Bulge and WW-II; a visit to the largest WW-II Museum in Diekirch; organ concerts in Contern and a great barbecue at Michie's tavern at the site of the marker that honors Sgt. Robert Turner of the 80th Inf. Div, a CMH awardee.
Dr. McAuliffe, who served as an infantryman with the 87th Inf. Div., spent a second week visiting friends in St. Hubert and at the Remember Museum 1939-45 in Thimister-Clermont, also visitng several Battle of the Bulge sites in various towns.
For more information:
425 Pleasant St. #1410
Worcester. MA 01609
508 754 7183
Jack, 35th Div. BAR-Man and "Mac", 87th Div. 81mm mortar. We had some Fun !!!
BATTLE OF THE BULGE DEDICATION August 20, 2006
For those of you who could not attend the Dedication of the Memorial erected in the new State Cemetery in Winchendon, MA, by the Central Massachusetts Survivors of the Battle of the Bulge, it was a great, well-organized event.
Many members of the Combat Infantrymen's Association were in attendance either as members of the Bulge Association or as speakers, organizers, or guests. Attendance was somewhere in the one-hundred range and chairs where provided by the Boy Scouts which made it very comfortable for all who attended the hour plus dedication of the two Memorial Stones.
The Memorials were very well done and a fitting tribute to all of the troops who participated during Hitler's last attempt to break through our lines in the Ardennes region of Eastern Belgium and Northern Luxembourg. This conflict cost Americans almost 20,000 KIA and another 60,000 wounded. Many of our troops suffered from frostbite due to one of the coldest winters ever reported in that area during December 16, 1944 to January 25, 1945.
As many of you know the Malmedy massacre occurred during this time frame and was responsible for 80 American troops being mowed down after their surrender. Recent de-classified reports indicated that there was a similar massacre a day earlier in the same area that involved 11 Afro-American troops. Very few people realized this event even occurred until re-search by Christian de Marken, the historian for the Central Massachusetts Chapter of the Survivors to the Battle of the Bulge, brought this to light.
John McAuliffe and Christian de Marken have spent many hours on this event and decided to combine the Memorials as a tribute to all. Chester Wenc, as Monument Chairman for the Central MA Survivors of the Battle of the Bulge and out did himself with the coordination of the two Monuments.
Christian de Marken was master of ceremonies and John McAuliffe delivered the opening remarks. The guest speaker, Mr. Stanley Wojtusik National Commander of the Survivors of the Bulge, was up next and wanted all to know what a great job Central Mass. Chapter had accomplished with these truly fitting Memorials.
Belgium is ever thankful for the sacrifices, by our troops, needed to save their people during that battle and showed their appreciation by sending General Dany Van de Ven from the Belgium Embassy in Washington, DC to offer their thanks. He gave a truly moving presentation and told us that one of the course requirements in the Belgian school system is to have the children visit the cemeteries were there are American troops buried. The government have set up buildings specifically to teach them of the great sacrifices made by the American troops. He states that, “If you ever come to my Country you will see how much we appreciate what you Americans have done for us, so please come”.
Chester Wenc was wearing the official G.I. issued uniform of that era and unveiled the Memorial dedicated to the Battle of the Bulge. WOW! It's beautiful and the wording inscribed is very moving.
In attendance, due to the diligence of Christian de Marken, were Miss Pritchett and Mr. M. Pritchett, both relatives of Tec 4 William Pritchett who lost his life in the recently uncovered massacre that occurred during the Battle of the Bulge. They unveiled the second Memorial which is also a very moving tribute to all who gave their lives in one of the largest land battles in American history.
The weather was beautiful, the event very well organized with color guards, drummers, bugler, vocalist, and guest speakers. But the best part of a ceremony like this is getting to mix and mingle with other soldiers and their families who never want the sacrifices of the American serviceman to be forgotten.
John, Thank you again for your invitation,
This is my good Friend and former 87th Div. (M-346 )veteran, George L. Watson of Rego Park, NY. We have been going to VBOB and 87th Div. reunions and events for the past 15 years together. This photo was taken at the WW-II Memorial in Wash. DC when on the Annual Commemorative VBOB Historical Society event last December 2007. We placed the wreath at the Battle of the Bulge engraved site. Thanks, John