Division Memorials - France 2002

Trip to France 2002

The following article appears in the Summer 2002 issue of the Trailblazer, pg. 4. Written by Ed Lane.

Travel to Europe today is, of course, much different than in 1944 when Trailblazers first made the trip. Fifty tour participants, including 18 former soldiers, made the trip this year with Floyd Freeman, I/275. Floyd claims that this was his "last" as tour host. We've heard that before, haven't we?

Gathering at Philadelphia Airport International Terminal on May 6, the participants came in ones and twos. Single travelers and those traveling with a spouse or companions held mini-reunions as they greeted friends they hadn't seen for one, two or more years. The hours spent waiting for boarding were not wasted as old friends brought each other up to date since their last communications. The meetings were very much like the family gatherings that they are, full of genuine affection for old friends.

After an uneventful flight, the plane landed at the Frankfurt, Germany Airport. There tour participants were met by Dick Brown, D/275 and sons George, Raymond and Richard, AMs. Seasoned world travelers with many friends in Germany and France, the Browns had arrived before the main group. Again the greetings were more family reunions, with participants asking Dick and company for a health update on son Robert, AM who had suffered a back injury and thus missed the trip (Robert is on the mend from his painful ordeal).

At this point, I split from the group and caught a train to Bavaria where I spent several days with a German family traveling and learning much. Then, on Saturday, May 11, I caught another train to Saarbrucken where I was met by Thomas and Dorothee Kirsch, AMs who hosted me in their home in Spicheren for the remainder of the trip.

The other members of the tour group meanwhile caught their boat for a scenic cruise of the Rhine River. During that cruise a mysterious malady struck that group and, in turn, laid each low for about a day and a half through the remainder of the trip, as mentioned in President John Nothnagle's column. Many thought the illness was caused by water or food contamination on the boat. As I had lived and eaten with German and French families, I suffered no ill effects even though I came into close contact with tour participants who subsequently became sick.

The time I spent with the French while awaiting the arrival of the main group was time well spent. I had the opportunity to live with the French and observe French life at close quarters. The time spent was a unique experience and resulted in many acquaintances established last year becoming fast friendships that I am sure will last a lifetime.

Photo from France: L to R: Roland, Etienne, Bob HAYS, Jean Claude, Klauss, John T. NOTHNAGLE at the 70th Division monument at Wingen. Photo byJ.C. SCHOTT (courtesy of ASDVN, Jean-Claude Michel, Secretary)

One of the many activities that I took part in was the preparation for the arrival of the main group. Sites had to be checked and arrangements double checked and many questions, caused by lack of a common language, answered. All a once-in-a-lifetime experience, never to be forgotten.

The main benefit derived for members of the 70th Infantry Division Association is the introduction, elsewhere in this edition, of a new column which will introduce our French friends to the readers.

On May 15 the main body arrived in Saarbrucken, there to be joined by Daphne Pinion and her cousin Karen Gardner, AMs (more pictures). The ladies of course are the nieces of A. J. Hollingsworth, C/274 who was KIA on January 4, 1945 at Philippsbourg (see Summer 2001, page 5). Daphne and Karen are currently writing a book about their uncle (see "Writers Seek Help" elsewhere in this edition).

There followed a whirlwind tour of the old battlefields. In turn Spicheren, Grosbliederstroff, Oeting, Behren, Lixing, Wingen-sur-Moder, and Philippsbourg were visited by the former soldiers, their families and friends. The climax of this tour, as has been the case in many others, was a memorial service at the Lorraine American Cemetery at St. Avold.

After a quick layover in Wiesbaden, the group flew out of Frankfurt Airport on May 20 arriving at Philadelphia and thence connecting to home airports. The echo fading into the cacophony of the airport being "See you in Spokane!"

A visit to Lichtenberg. Gentleman on left, getting out of Jeep, is Fillmore Cannon, I/275. Photo by J.C. SCHOTT (courtesy of ASDVN, Jean-Claude Michel, Secretary)

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