Chaumont 65 Years Later

Ceremonies of September 12th 2009

Author : Ivan Steenkiste


Key Words
: Harold Cohen, Albin Irzyk, Battle of the Bulge, Chaumont, Bastogne, Fourth Armored Division, 8th Tank Battalion, 10th Armored Infantry Battalion, 80th Infantry Division 318th Regiment

Facebook : 'Chaumont Ardennes Belgium'

Introduction

On December 16th 1944, the Battle of the Bulge started in the early hours of the morning. One week later, the theatre of war had changed profoundly - the City of Bastogne was totally encircled by German troops closing in the local population and around 18,000 US military, most of them belonging to the 101st Airborne Division.

On December 19, General George Patton informed, during an urgent staff meeting in Verdun, that his Third Army could make a turn of 90 degrees north in order to move to Bastogne, break the encirclement, and liberate the City. So said, so done. The famous 4th Armored Division reached Arlon after one day and two nights traveling in the worst weather conditions. From there, three Combat Commands continued, each forming a different spearhead. Combat Command A (CCA) moved north on the N4 road Arlon - Bastogne, Combat Command B (CCB) moved first to Neufchateau and Nives. CCB then moved from Nives to Léglise, the Anlier forest, Fauvillers, Menufontaine, Burnon.

On December 23rd, the 4th Armored Division /CCB reached Chaumont and occupied the town. In the afternoon however, the German troops launched a counter attack and all the US forces such as the 8th Tank Battalion (CO Major Al Irzyk), 10th Armored Infantry Battalion (CO Major Harold Cohen) had to retrieve after heavy personnel and material losses. On December 24th, the forces 'leaked their wounds' and had to prepare a new attack to capture Chaumont and Grandru. Later that day, the Task Force under Major Irzyk received help from the 318th Regiment, 80th Infantry Division. At 08:30 hours on Christmas Day, the US forces re-attacked, supported by the US Air Force. In the evening of December 25th, Chaumont was liberated and Grandru followed early Dec 26th.

The Battle for Chaumont was a serious battle. It involved all elements of the US Army Forces: Reconnaissance, Infantry, Artillery, Tanks and Air Support . This battle is recognized by historians as one of the larger tank battles during the Battle of the Bulge. Recently, the Discovery Channel is airing a series on the Greatest Tank Battles, one of them entitled "The Battle of the Bulge - A Race to Bastogne".

Three Projects

In order to remember this important battle for the next generations, I thought that it would be meaningful to add some historic evidence in the village of Chaumont to highlight the huge efforts done by the 4th Armored Division for liberating the area and making an opening to the encircled City of Bastogne.

Late December 2007, I visited the Mayor of Vaux-sur-Sūre, Mr. Yves Besseling to whom I presented my three projects. They were:

  1. Create an Information Board with historic information (text, photos, maps) and install near the historic Beech Tree monument;
  2. Name the only street in Chaumont after the late Colonel Harold Cohen, DSC - Rue du Colonel H. Cohen;
  3. Name the square in the center of Chaumont after General Albin F. Irzyk, DSC - Parc du General Irzyk.

My three projects were enthousiastically accepted by the Mayor and some weeks later, the City Counsel had accepted and approved these projects. The Mayor gave me full authority for developing the projects and it was agreed that they would be officially inaugurated on September 12th, 2009 in the presence of General and Mrs. Irzyk and members of their Family, and by the son and daughter of Colonel Cohen and their spouses. This date would also fit with the 65th Anniversary of the Battle of Chaumont.

I started at once with all the work and by the end of August 2009, the three projects were almost put in place. The 'Echevin' Mr. Collard gave valuable technical assistance, the Mayor sent out many invitations and the Commune of Vaux-sur-Sūre offered the logistic support.

Ivan Steenkiste


left to right : Ivan Steenkiste (Project Initiator) and Yves Besseling (Mayor of Vaux-sur-Sūre), Dec 2007

 

September 12th Inaugurations and Ceremonies - for pictures, see below please

All participants who stayed in hotels in Bastogne, moved in a long column towards Chaumont, taking the same route that was followed by the 4th Armored Division. We left at 10:00 hours. Leading the column were two historic vehicles, a Jeep and a Dodge 6x6 kindly offered by Philippe and Claudine Mordant. General Irzyk was aboard the Jeep when we arrived in Chaumont at 10:30. Weather was sunny and a lot of civilians, Belgian Military and members of Veteran Associations were waiting for us. There were also several American visitors from Tifton, Georgia and Columbus, Ohio.

The ceremonies started at 11:00 hours near the first project, the Information Board near the Beech Tree. Mayor Yves Besseling started the inauguration with a wonderful speach thanking the US forces for having liberated the many villages of the region, in particular Chaumont and Grandru. He spoke about the importance of that battle in the past, and said what these inaugurations mean for keeping the remembrance into the future. Ivan Steenkiste then explained what had happened in front of this Beech Tree on December 23rd, 1944. He also explained who really found this tree and honored Pierre Eicher, from Marnach, GD of Luxembourg who found this tree in 1974 and saved it from being cut in 1984.

Then, we all moved to the second part of the program, the inauguration of the "Rue du Colonel Cohen". Harold Cohen was Commanding Officer of the 10th AIB - on December 23rd, his men suffered heavy losses in that very little street. Over 65 men were killed, including all of his officers. The last officer was 1st Lt Charles Gniot. When he had covered his men for a retreat, he was deadly wounded by German fire when he was also on the point to retreat. Lt. Gniot received a DSC award posthumously and is buried at Hamm Military Cemetery, GDL. Speaches were held by Mr. Y. BesselingMr. R. Fergloutte, a local historian, and the Son of Harold Cohen, Mr. Martin Cohen.

Finally, we moved to the third part, the inauguration of the "Parc du General Irzyk". General Irzyk was the Commanding Officer of the 8th Tank Battalion and head of the Task Force. In his book "He Rode Up front for Patton", he explains the actions of the Fourth Armored Division in detail. A speach was given by Mr. Y. Besseling and by General A. Irzyk. At the end, the Mayor gave a certificate to General Irzyk, the "Diplōme de Citoyen d'Honneur" de Vaux-sur-Sūre.

The ceremonies were followed by a reception offered by the City Counsel on the grounds of the Materne Farm.

 

Picture Gallery

Leaving Bastogne

 


General Irzyk speaking with Marty Cohen


L to R: Claudine and Philippe Mordant, Gen. Irzyk, Marty Cohen, Mrs. E. Irzyk, Mrs. Peggy Bernstein-Cohen

 


Jeep with Markings of the 8th Tank Battalion
The markings were kindly offered by Buddy Bryan, Georgia, USA


Dodge 6x6 with Markings of the 10th Armored Infantry Battalion
The Dodge belongs to Philippe Mordant

 

Information Board near the Beech Tree Monument

 


Mr Yves Besseling, Mayor

 


Ivan Steenkiste and Yves Besseling (Mayor)

 


Unveiling of the Information Board

 


National Anthems

 


Board at the Beech Tree


Beech Tree and Board

 

"Rue du Colonel H. Cohen"

 


 


Mr Y. Besseling speaks about Col. Cohen and his Battalion

 


Mr R. Fergloutte speaks about the Civilians during the Battle


Mr. Pacquay explaining the fate of the civilians during the battle

 


The Cohen - Bernstein Family


Peggy and Marty Cohen

 



Debbie and Rick Bernstein-Cohen

 


 


 

 

Place du General Irzyk

 

 


Mr Besseling speaks to the crowd

 


General and Mrs. Irzyk


Gen. Irzyk's Grandchildren unveil the Sign

 


Flowers are placed by the Son and Mrs. Irzyk


Greeting the Monument and Flag

 


Greeting the Monument and Flag


General Irzyk speaks about his battle in Chaumont


Mrs. Irzyk and her son Al Jr.


Irzyk Family and Ivan Steenkiste

 


General Irzyk Park


General Irzyk Park

 


General Irzyk and Son Al Jr.

 

Reception

 


Rose Steenkiste and Buddy Bryan (USA)

 


Debbie Cohen, Ivan Steenkiste and Peggy Bernstein-Cohen


Mrs. & General Irzyk and Pierre Eicher (Luxembourg)

 


Gen. Irzyk and Materne Family


Cohen and Materne Families

 


David Graham (USA) and Rose Steenkiste


Richard Steenkiste and David Graham (USA)

 


Reception at the Historic Materne Farm

Additional Comments

This webpage has no commercial interests.
Its only objective and mission is to thank for and remember the incredible efforts that the Fourth Armored Division,
Third US Army has undertaken
in order to restore liberty, democracy, freedom and human dignity in our Country
during this last battle on Belgian territory

We Shall Never Forget

 


The Fourth Armored Division
"They will be known by their deeds alone"

 

  Chaumont now on 'Facebook'

From now on, there is a special page in Facebook entitled 'Chaumont Ardennes Belgium' - please have a look and become a free member of this group in Facebook. Nice pictures and comments already available !

FRIENDS of CHAUMONT - the Objective of this page is to gather and publish information on this little village in the context of its important role in the dark Winter days of the Battle of the Bulge, December 22 - 26, 1944. Historians, Veterans and Visitors are welcome to submit information, pictures, stories etc.

 

 

Free counter and web stats