Food for thought in recreation WWII army camp

A friendship that was formed between American soldiers and Luxembourg residents 75 years ago was rekindled on Saturday, when volunteers lovingly recreated an original American army camp in the north of the country.

In addition to the tanks, jeeps and motorbikes driven around the village of Munshausen, volunteers dressed in costume prepared food, including a turkey, in real field kitchens, some staffed the infirmary, complete with original tools, while other “troops” rested in their tents, read and wrote letters or listened to records.

The display, which was three years in the making, formed part of Thanksgiving 1944, a living history exhibition organised by the Circle of Studies of the Battle of the Bulge (Ceba) and Gaul’s Legacy Tours to mark the seventy-fifth anniversary of Luxembourg’s liberation.

In the weeks prior to the Battle of the Bulge, which broke out on 16 December 1944, troops from C Company and Canon Company of the 110th infantry regiment were sent to the area for R and R after suffering serious losses in the forest of Hürtgen, close to Aachen.

“They had a very nice life here. Some were sons of farmers and so they gave a helping hand whenever they could, to help cut the firewood in November for the upcoming winter time and feeding the cattle,” Ceba president Erny Kohn explained. “Most were lucky because they were billeted in the houses so they shared their lives with the villagers. I think this was the first basis of friendship that was laid in these times.”

During WWII at each Thanksgiving, the US Army issued special rations to soldiers in the field so that everyone was able to enjoy a turkey dinner. In keeping with tradition, on Saturday turkey was served to guests at a dinner event to close the living history display.

Among Saturday’s guests were Grand Duke Henri, American ambassador to Luxembourg Randy Evans, and British ambassador to Luxembourg John Marshall, who were given a tour of the site by Roland Gaul.

Delano wasn't the only media reporting from Munshausen. A woman dressed as WWII reporter poses for a photo, 23 November 2019. Photo: Matic Zorman

The event attracted young and old, among them Bernadette Mutsch, the president of the Super Sixth, an organisation created by her late husband to remember the efforts of the Sixth Armoured Division and collect vehicles and memorabilia. The glamorous 80-year-old told Delano she came to Luxembourg as a refugee aged just three, having fled their family home in France, and sought refuge in Belgium before reaching Luxembourg in 1945. Today, a younger generation is helping to keep the memory alive. Edith, who recently joined Super Sixth said that the goal was to organise their own living history events in future.

Esther and Christian Wagner share a similar passion, though they are considerably younger. They took over the running of Quadriga, an association founded in 1984 to restore WWII military vehicles with the help of mechanic Christian. Several of his vehicles could be seen doing military exercises outside. “In the club we don’t just keep American military vehicles running, we also love to drive these cars to go out and eat with our wives and have a nice day,” he said. “My wife goes to the baker or supermarket with the Jeep. In our village they know Wagner and Wagner are crazy, so it’s normal for us.”

Esther baked a simple nut cake and served coffee using real field kitchen equipment, providing a welcome warm reception from the November cold.

Bringing the average age down a bit was Danielle Schaack, who brought two of her daughters, who were examining the soldiers’ quarters when I met them. “My grandparents told me stories from the war. As a child I was afraid that one day the soldiers would come back,” she said. “My parents tell them stories because this region was quite involved in the war.”

On 15 December, Ceba will organise its “Keystone in the way” event, a day during which several plaques and monuments will be unveiled as people tour the key sites of battle in Luxembourg. The tour starts at Ettelbruck. Further information can be found by contacting Ceba.