Many of you are probably already familiar with the name Morneweck on our site. Art Morneweck is the brother of Robert and a regular contributor to our forum. If you've read Art's page, then you've seen references to his younger brother. Recently I asked Art if he would be willing to give me all the info he had acquired so we could share it with all of you.
Robert was the youngest of three boys and three girls born in Detroit, MI, to Westen and Agusta. Robert took an early interest in the service and joined the ROTC in high school. The following is a tribute to his all-too-short life. Sadly, Robert never returned to Detroit but lost his life at the precious young age of 19 while crossing the Rhine.
Photos thanks to Stevin Oudshoorn
101st Airborne, 506th Infantry Regiment, Company A
European-African-Middle Eastern Theatre with 3 Bronze Service Stars for participation in the Ardennes, Rhineland and Central European Campaigns
Distinguished Unit Badge with 1 Oak Leaf Cluster
Combat Infantryman Badge
Sharpshooter Badge with Rifle Bar
Purple Heart with Oakleaf Cluster
Good Conduct Medal
American Campaign Medal
Here are two letters, one written to Robert's father from a family that had lost their son Don during the war. Don parents first met Robert when he was at Camp Wheeler. The other is a precious memory when Robert was quite young; a letter that he wrote to his mother on Mother's Day in 1938.
The following contains photos and two newspaper clippings. One of the clippings tells of Robert receiving his Purple Heart which was received in Bastogne. The other article is regarding the woman in Holland who adopted Robert's grave.
Robert loved to draw and this certainly didn't stop when he went abroad to Europe. This link contains two of his drawings that he sent home.
This next link contains a very young Robert when he belonged to the Safety Patrol while still in elementary school. The clipping was taken from the Detroit Times. It also contains the telegram that every household who had a son or daughter in the war, dreaded to get.
Here are three photos of Robert, one with a very good friend and also a photo taken of his decorated grave in Holland. The link also contains a letter from a friend. The original is here along with a typewritten copy to make it easier to read. It is very touching to say the least.
This link shows a newspaper clipping of a photo taken in downtown Detroit in spring of 1940 before the terror of war gripped our great nation. It also shows Robert when he was very young. Later photos show him with his girlfriend. The other with his brother-in-law, a marine. A Christmas card showing the fever of the country during the war and his service record.
A heartwarming look at the woman and her family who lovingly adopted Robert's grave and still tends to it to this very day. There is also an email dated October 2002 addressed to Art from Emmy, saying how surprised she was that someone was still looking for her after all these years.
Marion's note 05-02-05:
I regretfully report that Emma has passed away, but Reg "Lennon" has taken her place as the loving guardian of Robert's grave site. Here are the two letters that I received this week.
I want to keep you informed.
I got a reply from Margraten and from this day I officially adopted Robert Morneweck's grave at Margraten. I already told Art. He has all info about me.
The adoption has my name on it and I will take good care! I adopted on behalf of the majorwinters forum.
Is it ok with you to share info from your site with our members? I'll put your link up as resource and support...
Please let me know what you think.
Then today I received this forwarded email from Art:
Dear Art and family,
We are very sad that we must inform you that our mother, Emma Fransen Heynens died last wednesday dated 27.04.2005 in the morning after a sickbed of 6 weeks. She was very sick and her health was very badly. The doctors in the hospital couldn´t make her better, because her condition was so bad that it was not possible to perform an operation. The last two weeks she had a lot of pain and how terrible it is for all of us, for our mother was this the best solution. She had no more power to fight against this sickness. Art, we hope that we can soften your pain for the death of my mother by telling you that we have printed out your card and last E-mail with all the digital pictures. She has read the complete website incl digital pictures and showed this to a lot of people who were visiting her in the hospital, she was very proud of it. Art, we can tell you she was a very pride, good and lovely mother for us, and we hope you can understand that it was a very busy week for us so we haven´t had the possibility to inform you earlier. As soon as we have some more time we will go to the cemetery in Margraten and we will look if we can find the grave of Robert and send you some digital pictures of it. To your info. President Bush of the United States will visit this cemetery next week, may be you can see it on television. Art we have to end this E-mail and we hope that our mother will always lives further in your hart.
If possible, please send us your home address and we will send you the death announcement and a digital pictures of my mother by post and we hope that we will stay in contact by E-mail in the future.
Emmy en Ludo Fransen.
Art recently copied a section from a book entitled Rendezvous with Destiny. This particular excerpt contains the pages from history relating to Robert's unit and the time and place where he lost his life. Of course any loss of life is hard to take, but what makes this even more difficult is the fact that four weeks later the war in Europe had come to an end. Oh how close he came to going home.
Art sent me these photos and some text regarding his brother's grave site. It is the only American Military Cemetery in the Netherlands.
I am adding some history regarding Robert that fills in some of the blanks. This is in thanks to Don Burgett and Don Straith of the 101st, 506th PIR, Company A. The following is taken from email sent to Art recently.
Joe Beyrle forwarded your email concerning your brother to me, as I was in Company A at the time of your brother's death, although I didn't actually know him.
As you know, Bob died on our Rhine crossing the night of April 11-12, 1945, but he wasn't killed by enemy fire. On our return crossing of the river, we came under fire from a German 88mm cannon sending air bursts above the river. Whether due to this or overcrowding, I can't say, but two of our boats overturned and seven men were lost, one of whom was your brother. Those men were originally listed as "Missing in action", but that was changed a week later to "Killed in action". I have copies of the report listing their names and would be happy to send you one or drop one off when I am on that side of town, if you wish (I live... address left off for privacy). If you would like a copy of my account of the raid from my memoir, I'll be happy to provide that, also. In addition, in my company photo album, I have one group picture that I believe includes Bob. If you would like to meet for coffee sometime and I make that a positive identification, I will then have a print made for you.
There is one thing I'd like to know from you. Although the drownings occurred early on the morning of April 12, I have heard that some of the deaths are listed as April 18, the day the report was changed from MIA to KIA. What date was given to your family?
I look forward to hearing from you....
Marion's note: Here is a photo of Don during the war.
I received your question from Joe Beyrle this PM. I was in A Co. 506 since Feb., 1944, that is before Normandy, through every battle to the last day the division was active. We did receive several replacement paratroopers into A Company after the 4th Armored broke through to us in Bastogne. Most of these men did not get onto our roster because of our combat situation and we older men did not get to know most of them by name. At least not well enough to retain their names throughout these many past years.
Company A did make a night crossing attack of the Rhine into the German town of Himmelgiest the same night that President Roosevelt died. Four of our men were killed outright on the other side, their bodies were recovered two nights later by one of our patrols led by Sgt. Jack Bram, now deceased. None of these men was your brother. On our return trip from the attack in assault boats we were shelled by German tanks that approached the edge of the Rhine. Several boats were overturned and several of our troopers were drowned, one of them from my squad named Alfred Corgan. Two other new replacement men in my squad were also drowned that night, their bodies were recovered several days later on the shore two miles downstream. I do not recall their names for they were among the new men that came to us as replacements when the 4th Armored broke into Bastogne.
However, I did find your brother's name listed in the KIA section of the 101st book, 'Rendezvous With Destiny', by Rapport and Northwood. I am very sorry that evidently one of the men that died that night was your brother and that due to circumstances of the battles that we were engaged in I did not get to know him better and that I cannot tell you more about him. Robert did conduct himself as a paratrooper and with bravery that is well associated with all paratroopers. All my best to you and yours.
Donald R. Burgett, Sgt. A Co. 506
Marion's note: Here is a photo of Don during the war.
Art shared this letter that he received in February 2005, from Robert's old WWII buddy, Ray.
Photo on left was Ray and Robert (Bob) in France on March 18th, 1945.
Photo on right is Dean Kemmerer and was taken on March 5, 1946. He sent this to the Morneweck family and said,
"To Mr. Morneweck- I wish you would keep this sir- This is what Bob's uniform would look like."
Top left: "Fall out for drill back in France near Rheims at our base camp. At Mourmelon again at the beginning of our drill period. Bob is in center, one showing his left profile."
Top right: "I am not in this picture. I took it. However the one next to Bob with the shaving cream and the one in the last row and the one to the left were the other survivors."
Photo bottom standing: Denkowicz (KIA), Weckesser, (?), Parrish, Washburn, Morneweck (KIA), Barnes. Kneeling: Hanzalik, Thaler, Caivano (KIA).
Photo left: Art and Robert in spring of 1944 before Robert had signed up with the paratroopers. Robert and their sister Evelyn were visiting Art at Gettysburg College and it was the last time the brothers would ever see each other.
Photo right: Best friend, paratrooper Fred Coons and Art Morneweck in 1942. Fred was wounded at Normandy on DDay and spent months in recovery at Battle Creek Hospital in Michigan.
Art writes: Fred and his older brother Chuck and I were best of friends. Chuck was in the tank destroyer unit. Their younger brother was Merle Coons and he enlisted in the Marines, then the youngest brother was Babe Coons who was Robert's friend. They had a older sister too.
Please visit Robert's page and Nick Denkowicz's page on Freedom's Not Free's site by Stevin Oudshoorn, for a dedication to Robert and Nick. You will also find other wonderful information on the men buried in Margraten.
Roster for the 506th Company A
Here is the document sent to me my the new caretaker of Robert's gravesite. Thank you Reg Jans!