36th Infantry Division Association

It Doesn't Get Any Better Than This


The 1998 Battlefield Tour
- Page 6 -

Ray Wells
Company H
141st Infantry Regiment


Our next stop was Fraize where we presented the Mayor and the people of the town with a beautiful plaque in the name of the 36th Infantry Division Association. There we had a very nice lunch. During the ceremonies welcoming us to Fraize the Mayor presented everyone in our group, including the family members, with a certificate.
After lunch and ceremonies we boarded onto the bus and we were taken to the monument dedicated to the 442nd Infantry Regiment and the 36th Division.

Here is where the 442nd finally broke through to the 1st Battalion of the 141st Infantry Regiment that had been surrounded by the enemy. We have all heard of the so called "Lost Battalion" who knew where they were all the time, but I suppose the name was adopted because if the 442nd or some other unit had not broken through the enemy lines, the Battalion running out of ammunition and supplies would have been lost. The 442nd lost many lives, but like good soldiers did their job without thought of the sacrifices they had to give to get the job done and they certainly accomplished their mission. Three of the Veterans in our group laid a wreath at the foot of the monument and the Ladies of our group then placed their own wreath in the name of peace. Again, a beautiful and meaningful ceremony we were most fortunate to be a part of.

We boarded our bus to again return to Fraize and the Hotel di Centre for lunch which featured the specialty of the area which was some delicious ham. The lunch was hosted by the town officials. After this very fine meal and wonderful hospitality, as usual, back on the bus over the Vosges into the Rhine valley and the Colmar pocket.

Leonard Knear and Ray Wells during the ceremonies at the location of the monument honoring the 442nd Infantry Regiment (Niesi)

Group of 36th Division Vets and family members taking time out from the fast moving tour.
Arriving in Colmar we were booked into the Hotel Mccure. Then we had a day to relax and do whatever we wanted to do. It was Sunday so most of the stores were closed and most of us gathered at a side walk cafe which was located in the center of the old post of town and was surrounded by very picturesque buildings. Here we sampled the local wine and beer and had lunch, Some even tried escargot and said they were delicious.

Seemed like everyone retired early after a fine dinner at the hotel. After a nice rest and another great breakfast, we were off to Riquewihr. The old Vets began to loosen up and share their war time experience with the rest of us via the speaker on the bus. Atop Marie Pass, the cement bunkers which the Germans built to serve as roadblocks were still visible. Every one of them had to be destroyed before our troops could move on to the next objective.

American howitzers shell German forces retreating near Carentan, France. Still Pictures Branch. National Archives at College Park, Maryland.

On the way to Koenigsbourg Castle we passed a cafť high on the mountain. Harold Horning, of our group, related his experience during the battle at this locale. Harold was a forward observer for the Artillery and had established his observation post in the cafe which overlooked the whole valley. He could see for miles. The cafe was run by a married couple who employed three maids who were available to take care of Ks room. When after three weeks and it was time for him to be relieved of this strenuous and dangerous duty Harold the brave soldier that he was, volunteered for unlimited duty at this very post. We were so proud of one of our own that took on a duty such as this. When a General arrived for an inspection, Harold had just successfully directed fire on a target which turned out to be an enemy ammunition dump and Harold was in solid with this General and he could do no wrong.

While we were rewarded with this tale of bravery our bus continued to the top of the mountain where the medieval fortress of Haut-Koenigsbourg had been built several hundred years before. Here, I think I should tell you something about the castle and how the castle fit into the battle plans of the 36th. "After fighting through the remains of Hackelís Grenadiers cross-country from La Croix-aux-Mines, two companies of the 3rd Battalion, 142nd Infantry Regiment, outflanked and surprised the Germans, routing them and capturing 170 with a loss of only two Americans slightly wounded. Soldiers of the 3rd Battalion occupied the medieval fortress without resistance and beat back a 16th Volksgrenadier Division counterattack two days later.

One of our group, Cewrin Johnson, was one of the men who climbed the mountain and was admitted by the care-taker after applying rifle butts to the heavy door. He told us that to ward off the bitter cold and not having blankets the squad he was with pulled the ancient and very valuable drapes from the walls of the castle to cover themselves. How did they know, these fighting GIís, that those wall coverings were priceless. The fortress building itself covered, I imagine, at least an area of two city blocks and was very impressive in its size and architecture.

On to Kientzheim where Cewin Johnson and his good Buddy, Curtis Alley, who were in the same Company, wanted to find the place where Cewin as a forward scout found a German tank waiting to ambush his Company. The tank did fire on them but because Cewin had been able to warn his Company, there were no casualties. We found the exact spot where the German tank, and another plus was marked up for our tour guide Dennis Ross.

A Nazi soldier, heavily armed, carries ammunition boxes forward with companion in territory taken by their counter-offensive in this scene from captured German film. Belgium. December, 1944. Still Pictures Branch. National Archives at College Park, Maryland.

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To contact the 36th Division Association
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