Chaumont Journal

Updates on Important Events

Author : Ivan Steenkiste

Updated : 2012/05/08 Breaking News:

Introduction - The Historic Importance of Chaumont - 1944


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.


JOURNAL starting in September 2009 - most recent on top

June 7, 2011

MOH Paul Wiedorfer Sr BURIED TODAY: The "Hero of Chaumont" was buried with full Military Honors. This picture was shared by the Wiedorfer Family. The Village of Chaumont, Ardennes has lost a great friend, hero and liberator !

Feb 24 - 2011

We live in a small world today: I received today this message "Ivan, Your website is wonderful! My father was a private in CO A, 10th Armored Infantry Battalion and was seriously wounded on 23 December 1944 in the assault (at Chaumont) - I hope to visit Chaumont one day. Regards, Joe Jencik (son of Private Andrew A. Jencik, Co A, 10th Armored Infantry Battalion, 4th Armored Division) - THANK YOU JOE and THANK YOU ANDREW JENCIK !

Feb 22 - 2011

After almost 6 years of research, I eventually came into contact with a family member of the late 1st Lt Charles GNIOT who was killed in Chaumont on Dec 23, 1944 though his grave indicates Dec 27. A nephew, Don Cody, sent me today a message after visiting my Facebook page. So, maybe we can learn more about Charles C Gniot who is burried in Hamm, GDL.

http://militarytimes.com/citations-medals-awards/recipient.php?recipientid=22166

Feb 3 - 2011

I found this video about General Albin F. IRZYK, once as a Major the Commanding Officer of the 8th Tank Battalion, 4th Armored Division. He is explaining what did happen after the battle at Singling on Dec 6, 1944 and the move back to Domnom-mès-Dieuze where he got the visit of General George S. Patton. A wonderful historic document.

 

January 25, 1945: 66 years ago, the "Battle of the Bulge" ended today, but the war wasn't over yet. It would last until May 8th '45 before Germany would surrender. Thousands of young men (and women), Americans, British, Germans, Luxembourgers, French, and Belgians died in a battle that would last 52 days. The US lost on average 365 men per day of the battle, killed in action !

Attached picture shows the US Military Cemetery at Hamm (GDL) and the German Mil. Cem. at Recogne (B). Most of the graves show men aged between 18 to 30. This is a salute to ALL soldiers, of both sides, who gave their life. Though the reasons for fighting were different, they all obeyed to orders and fulfilled their mission.

Today, we see their graves in a quiet, serene and peaceful environment. Behind each cross, there is a lot of tragedy and human suffering. Behind each cross, there is a whole family that is linked to this tragedy and loss of a Son, a Father, an Uncle, a Brother. Each visitor asks one question: "Why ?" The answer is : "Now we live in democracy and freedom" - We May Never Forget !

December 27 - 2010

1944: yesterday, the German encirclement of Bastogne was ended by the 37 Tank Battalion, CCR, 4AD in the late afternoon and contacts were made with the 101st AB. The only road to liberty of the still enclosed city Bastogne was the narrow road from Bastogne via Assenois to Neufchateau. This road was at some points so narrow that it will be remembered as the "Assenois Corridor". In the video you see a historic drive from Clochimont towards Assenois in a Dodge 6x6 (with an open cockpit) on this icy road. This was exactly the same section that became historic through Pvt. Don Ornitz' pictures of US ambulances that came from Bastogne around noon, Dec 27 1944.

Buddy Bryan wrote: While watching the video on the corridor I had to put my heavy coat back on. One has never had a tour of the Battle of the Bulge until you do it in an open truck with no heater and freezing temperatures. The men who lived and fought in ...those conditions are truly heroes.

Roger Nelson wrote: Another great ride following this time the CCR route led byLt Boggess in CobraKing - Col Abrams own tank. The only thing to make this videoi better would have been to photograph Don Ornitz Ambulance photo as you came over the rise by the tree cluster - the location of many iconic photos of bastogne liberation.

 

December 26

1944: After the capturing of Chaumont on Christmas Day by Combat Command B / 4th Armored Div., Grandru was captured today in the early hours. Col. Cohen's 10th AIB, Gen. Irzyk's 8th TB and Col. Gardner's 80th ID were moving ahead to clean up Hompré and the nearby woods. In the meantime, Gen. Patton had ordered Combat Command R(eserve) to leave Bigonville on Christmas at once and drive in a hurry towards Nives, Remoiville and Clochimont where in the afternoon of the 26th, the 37th Tank Battalion of the legendarious Col. Abrams took the decision to steam up towards Bastogne rather than to Sibret as originally planned. After heroic fights at Assenois where Pvt. J. Hendrickx earned a Medal of Honor, the 37th TB reached the outskirts of Bastogne when the leading Sherman tank of Lt. Boggess breached the German encirclement at the Assenois Pillbox around 16:50 hours. Bastogne was on the point to be liberated. Attached is the Sherman of Boggess, the "Cobra King".


Sherman tank of the National Museum

 

December 25

Christmas 1944. With the unexpected reinforcement from the 318th Reg/80th Infantry Div, Combat Command B starts a new assault to recapture Chaumont in the early hours of the day. After very tough fights with tanks, infantry and under heavy bombardments from the Air Force, Chaumont is eventually liberated by 18:00 hours on Christmas Day ! For most of the GIs, this Christmas Day was a day like the others. It must have been the worst Christmas Day in their life. Several GIs distinguished themselves by heroic actions like Pvt Paul J Wiedorfer who eliminated two German machine gun posts for which he received the highest award, the "Medal of Honor".

In this short video, you see General Irzyk saluting the military of the famous 4th Armored Division who were killed, wounded or missed in action in the liberation of Chaumont. This ceremony took place on September 12, 2009 during which the "General Irzyk Park" and the "Colonel H. Cohen Street" were also inaugurated. In the video, you can also see the son, Mr. Marty Cohen (yellowish jacket). We wish all US Veterans and their family a very Merry Christmas !

 

December 24

1944: Yesterday, Dec 23rd, was a terrible and highly dramatic day for Combat Command B at Chaumont further to the sudden counter attack from the enemy. CCB lost many men, either killed, wounded or missed in action. The 8th Tank Battalion lost at least 11 Sherman tanks ! Now, on the 24th, the entire CCB is 'leaking its wounds' and is trying to recover in the snowy fields between Chaumont and Burnon (see picture) with the large Lambaichenet woods on the left. There are still Germans in these woods. Capt. Fred Sklar (25th Recon. Cavalry) being irritated by the continuous shooting decides to attack with a platoon. He is killed and his body will never be found. The troops are very busy reorganizing.

In the evening, good news reaches CCB. The 318th Regiment of the 80th Infantry Division arrives as a reinforcement. Gen. Irzyk organizes a staff meeting at 23:00 hours for preparing a new assault on Chaumont the following day, ...Christmas Day !

Loraine Light Koski wrote: Remembering our local soldier, PFC Elden Gjers, B/8TB/4AD, who was probably killed on this night in 1944. (War Dept's official DOD is 12/26/44...)


Area between Chaumont and Burnon with the Lambaichenet Forest on the left

 

December 23

After the rapid move from Nives through the Forest of Anlier (see previous video), General Irzyk's 8thTB arrived in Burnon but the bridge over the Sure was destroyed. After an urgent repair by the Engineers, CCB was able to continue overnight. General Patton had ordered CCB to move forward because he had promised General Mc Auliffe to liberate his troops in Bastogne before or on Christmas. Later, Gen. Patton excused himself for having given the order to drive forward at night. CCB and the 8thTB in particular arrived at Chaumont in the early hours of Dec 23rd. That was the moment when a Jeep and Stuart tank were hit right in front of the Beech tree killing over 4 GIs. After heavy fights, CCB took the control over the village. However, around 15:30 hours, the German troops launched a terrible counter attack coming from the NE and many US military were killed, wounded or missed in action. General Irzyk's Sherman tank was hit in the vicinity of the little park that is now named after him (Sep 12, 2009) and he was wounded. The 10th Armored Infantry Battalion lost many men as well, most of them in the little street that is now named after Colonel Cohen. The only surviving officer, 1stLt Ch. Gniot was killed after he had covered his men. He received a DSC posthumously and is buried in Hamm, GDL. The 8TB and 10AIB had to withdraw back to the fields between Chaumont and Burnon where they "leaked their wounds" on the 24th. But the 24th brought some good news late in the evening.

I propose to take ONE MINUTE of SILENCE while viewing this short video that I deliberately produced without music, so that we all can think in full serenity about all these brave and courageous men who fought in and around Chaumont.

Roger Nelson wrote: Great Tribute to the gallant men of CCB, 4th Armored Div, and 2nd Bn 318th Inf, 80th Div US Third Army

 

December 22

1944: right after the return of the Ezell Task Force from Bastogne and the news that Bastogne was totally surrounded by the enemy, Combat Command B (CCB) was ordered to leave Nives in the early morning of the 22nd and make a whole detour towards Bastogne via Léglise, Beheme, the Anlier Forest, Fauvillers, Menufontaine, Burnon to Chaumont where they will arrive on the 23rd. The Anlier Forest is one of the most dense, dark forests in the Ardennes as you can see on the attached video that I took recently aboard of the Dodge 6x6. The 23rd of December was to become hell for the men of the CCB, among them the 8th TB and the 10th AIB.

Buddy Bryan replies : This was a great ride, never been so cold in my life. Ivan is a walking talking history book

 

December 21

1944: Battalions of the 4th Armored Division arrive after a long, icecold and exhausting drive in a bivouac area around Vaux-sur-Sûre. Gen. Irzyk's 8th Tank Battalion will stay overnight in the fields around Nives, the 10th Armored Infantry Bat. of Col. Cohen will go to the NW of Vaux. It is from Nives that the Ezell Task Force will be sent to Bastogne. Gen. Patton ordered Col. Ezell to return immediately to Nives. On their way back, the Ezell TF crossed wide (German) tank tracks in the snow. Evidence that Bastogne was surrounded ! On this picture, last week's drive in the Dodge on the road near Nives - icecold, mist, snow, and darkness in the woods ...


Side window of the Dodge, fully open because no doors ! Ice cold !

 

December 20

Today in 1944, the 4th Armored Division had left Lorraine in France in the early hours of the morning on their way to Bastogne. It was a hell of a ride, 161 miles, on roads covered with snow and hidden by mist. Ice on the tanks and vehicles. General Irzyk's 8th Tank Battalion was riding up front. ...One tank followed the cats eyes of the previous tank. Numerous stops were organized for refueling and finding the exact routes in the complete darkness with total radio silence. This picture was taken last week when we had a drive in Philippe's Dodge 6x6. The weather conditions were almost the same as in 1944. The windscreen was full of ice, the freezing wind blew via the open doors through the whole truck... we could very well feel what a nightmare it must have been for the men of the 4th AD.


Front window of the Dodge, full of ice

 

December 19

Dec 19, 1944: 66 years ago, and 3 days after the outbreak of the 'Battle of the Bulge', General G. Patton informed at an urgently called Chief of Staff meeting in Verdun, that his Third Army could make a turn of 90 degrees north and move towards Bastogne to free the surrounded 101st AB. On Dec 19th, battalions of the 4th Armored Division were located at Domnom-les-Dieuze and Mittersheim in Lorraine, France (after the battle at Singling on Dec 6/7.  It was the start of a heroic drive north of 161 miles, one day, two nights.

 

December 18

Around this time in 1944, German Paratroopers (in US uniforms) had landed behind the American lines at a place called "Mont Rigi". The Germans had turned the road signs at that crossroad to mislead the US troops who were on their way to stop the invaders. As a result, the US troops lost a lot of time and in the meanwhi...le, the invaders were advancing further. Buddy Bryan (from Georgia, USA) is showing this crosspoint, last week.


Buddy Bryan pointing to the road signs at Mont Rigi

 

December 17

Today, we remember General Jimmie LEACH who passed away, exactly one year ago on Dec 17, 2009. General Leach was a Tank Commander of the 37th Tank Battalion (CCR) that became famous for its battle near Bigonville on Dec 24 1944 where he got wounded (Purple Heart), and the final breakthrough at Assenois of the German en...circlement on Dec 26, 1944. We shall never forget him and we think about his wife Marion and his son Jamie.

 

December 16

Today, Dec 16th, it is exactly 66 years ago that the "Battle of the Bulge" started in 1944, at 05:30 hours. While the people of Belgium and France had started to prepare the celebrations of the upcoming Christmas season, they were fully enjoying freedom and liberty after almost 5 years of a hostile occupation. But all ...of the sudden, their joy and happiness ended abruptly when the news came in that German troops had again penetrated on Belgian and Luxembourg soil. That battle would last 52 days, and cause over 19,000 US killed soldiers, with much more wounded and missed GIs. The price that the Germans paid was even much higher. Over 2,300 civilians were killed in the Ardennes and over 33,000 houses were damaged or were totally destroyed. A huge price paid for a totally insane and desperate German plan...

 

December 12

Yesterday, Dec 11 was a day of official ceremonies at Bastogne to remember the Battle of the Bulge. It was a great opportunity for shaking hands with His Excellency Mr. H. Gutman, the US Ambassador to Belgium. Also, I had the honor and privelege to meet again Mrs. Helen PATTON, Granddaughter of the great General George S. Patton.


Helen Patton and Ivan Steenkiste

 

December 11

Taking a moment in front of the Beech tree makes so much sense. In the past, it was the theatre of war, drama and fights. Today, the Beech tree brings people together independent of their origin, religion, skin color or nationality. It is a place to remember the many sacrifices, and salute those who lost their live. Philippe Mordant is saluting the fallen military of the 4th Armored Division.


Philippe Mordant saluting the men of the 4th Armored Division

 

December 10

Today, Buddy Bryan and I had the opportunity to drive in Ph. Mordant's beautiful Dodge 6x6 in the Ardennes around Bastogne. In this short video, you will see the drive from the bivouac area around Burnon (Dec 24, 1944) towards the historic Beech Tree in Chaumont. At the end, you will see Philippe Mordant at the steering wheel, Buddy Bryan in a blue coat and myself in a green coat. It was a great ride, in the cold, heavy snow and in an open cabin, with ice on the front window, without heating... Sure, we remembered those brave soldiers in winter 1944 !


Philippe Mordant's Dodge 6x6 in the Anlier Forest

 

December 9

Today Dec 9, we had a lot of snow in the Ardennes which makes the comparison with Winter 1944 very realistic. It is cold, misty and the snow keeps on falling down. The woods are dark, the snow gets up to about 1 foot or more (+ 30 cm), ... it remembers us those cold days in 1944. One big difference. Our car is nicely warm inside. The trucks, Jeeps, Half-tracks, Sherman tanks were ice cold... Here is a picture taken this afternoon near Mont Rigi where the Germans had changed the direction signs prior to Dec 16 1944. Tomorrow, we shall make a ride in Philippe Mordant's wonderful Dodge 6x6, from Forêt d'Anlier towards Chaumont - the ride that was made by the Fourth Armored Division on Dec 22 - 23, 1944 !

 

December 8

Here is a picture taken this afternoon, Dec 8, at the Beech tree of Chaumont. You see Buddy Bryan from Tifton, Georgia, revisiting these hallow grounds at Chaumont, on this cold day, with lots of snow and mist - almost like in 1944 ! We just had a call to General Irzyk in Florida to send our warm regards from this historic location.


Buddy Bryan (Tifton,Georgia, USA) in front of the Beech Tree

 

December 1, 2010

In the weekend of December 10-12 2010, a lot of activities will be organized in and around Bastogne to remember the "Battle of the Bulge" that started 66 years ago on December 16th, 1944. Here is an announcement. These days, a lot of snow fell on the Ardennes and later this week, it will become very cold with freezing ...temperatures down to minus 10 / 15 degrees Celsius ! Almost like in 1944

 

 

November 26, 2010

Another month to go from today, Nov 26, and it will be 66 years ago that the small villages Chaumont and Grandru were liberated by the Fourth Armored Division. In the attached video, you can see the drive from Burnon towards Chaumont.

17 seconds after the start of the video, you will see on the right the Lambaichenet Forest where the Germans were waiting for the US Troops. Then at 50 seconds, you can see the area where the US troops bivouaced on Dec 23 - 25 1944. At 01:35 secs the road turns to the right directly towards Chaumont. At 02:00 secs, you can see the first houses of Chaumont on the left. At 02:15 secs, the road goes down and all of the sudden the historic Beech Tree becomes visible on the right at 02:32 secs. At 02:38 secs, we drive into Chaumont and that was the place where General Irzyk's tank was hit. The video stops with the "General Irzyk Park" right in front of us.

November 25, 2010

Janet Tamburro sent a message and picture regarding her visit to General and Mrs. Irzyk on November 6th:

My father was General Irzyk's radio and communications operator and part of Company B of the 8th Tank Battalion. He was awarded the Purple Heart after Chaumont & Bastogne.

I grew up reading General Irzyk's annual holiday letters which ... he sent faithfully to all his men. 65 years after Chaumont, I reconnected with him and this photo shows me and my brother, Jack at our first face to face meeting with General Irzyk. He and Mrs. Irzyk are magnificent Americans and we are so thankful for them and all they have done !

 

November 11, 2010 



On this day, November 11 at this 11th hour, we remember all the Allied soldiers who gave their life in order to restore freedom, liberty, democracy and human dignity.

This picture shows the grave of 1st Lt Charles C. GNIOT. He was killed in the only street of Chaumont during the dark days around Christmas 1944. After he had ordered his men to retreat following a sudden, serious German counterattack, he was the last officer to retreat as well. At that moment he was shot and deadly wounded. He received the Distinghuised Service Cross (DSC) posthumously. He is buried at the Hamm Military Cemetery in Luxembourg. His Commander was Colonel H. Cohen and served in the 10th Armored Infantry Battalion

 

October 2010

Janet Tamburro : Mon père, John Muha, était sous la commande du Général Irzyk pendant la 2eme Guerre Mondiale. Ils ont traversé la France et il m'a raconté ses histoires de cette bataille et la libération de Bastogne.

 

September 2010 - MOH Paul J. Wiedorfer autographed a picture for me (via Roger Nelson)

 

Sgt Paul J. Wiedorfer was the only US Soldier who received the highest decoration in the Battle for Chaumont. It is called the MEDAL of HONOR.


Congressional Medal of Honor
The Congressional Medal of Honor, the highest decoration in the US Army
Second in importance is the DSC, the Distinguished Service Cross

His name is now captured on the large information board that is located near the famous Beech Tree. I am indicating the paragraph about Pvt Wiedorfer on this board. This picture was kindly sent by Roger Nelson to Mr. Paul Wiedorfer who autographed it. Mr Wiedorfer is now the only surviving recipient of a MOH in the 80th Infantry Division. He is seen as the greatest hero of Chaumont. However, all US Soldiers who fought in Chaumont may be regarded as heroes whatever their discipline was. All together, they returned liberty, freedom and human dignity back to our Country and this Region

A wartime picture of MOH Paul Wiedorfer and an illustration of the Medal of Honor. Mr. Paul Wiedorfer is currently the only surviving MOH recipient of the 80th Infantry Division. A great man of a great generation !

PAUL J. WIEDORFER

Rank and organization: Staff Sergeant (then Private), U.S. Army, Company G, 318th Infantry, 80th Infantry Division. Place and date: Near, Chaumont, Belgium, 25 December 1944. Entered service at: Baltimore, Md. Birth: Balt...imore, Md. G.O. No.: 45, 12 June 1945.

Citation:
He alone made it possible for his company to advance until its objective was seized. Company G had cleared a wooded area of snipers, and one platoon was advancing across an open clearing toward another wood when it was met by heavy machinegun fire from two German positions dug in at the edge of the second wood. These positions were flanked by enemy riflemen. The platoon took cover behind a small ridge approximately 40 yards from the enemy position. There was no other available protection and the entire platoon was pinned down by the German fire. It was about noon and the day was clear, but the terrain extremely difficult due to a three-inch snowfall the night before over ice-covered ground.

Pvt. Wiedorfer, realizing that the platoon advance could not continue until the two enemy machinegun nests were destroyed, voluntarily charged alone across the slippery open ground with no protecting cover of any kind. Running in a crouched position, under a hail of enemy fire, he slipped and fell in the snow, but quickly rose and continued forward with the enemy concentrating automatic and small-arms fire on him as he advanced. Miraculously escaping injury, Pvt. Wiedorfer reached a point some 10 yards from the first machinegun emplacement and hurled a hand grenade into it. With his rifle he killed the remaining Germans, and, without hesitation, wheeled to the right and attacked the second emplacement. One of the enemy was wounded by his fire and the other six immediately surrendered. This heroic action by one man enabled the platoon to advance from behind its protecting ridge and continue successfully to reach its objective. A few minutes later, when both the platoon leader and the platoon sergeant were wounded, Pvt. Wiedorfer assumed command of the platoon, leading it forward with inspired energy until the mission was accomplished.

 

June 2010 - Historic Woods of the North Ridge are being cut

The bulk of the German counter attack came out of these woods as they had a good view on the village of Chaumont. The Germans had their HQ in Hompré which is at the other side of this hill. These woods had to be cleared by the American troops before they could continue their advance towards Hompré, Clochimont and Assenois. On the left is Hotel Grandru.

 

June 2010 - Irzyk Park is getting a Fence

The Commune has installed the first parts of a fence around the "Place du General Irzyk" to keep out cars and other vehicles. Six new trees have been planted and soon, a wire will connect the wooden pillars. The habitants of Chaumont really like this park now as it has become a clean little space that has a strong historic value remembering the tankers of the 8th Tank Battalion. In winter 1944 (Dec 23 - 25), this location was the scenery of a serious tank and infantry battle, now it is a serene space where people can enjoy the fresh air and the peace of this area.

 

June 2010 - Roger and Martha H. Nelson visit Chaumont on June 24, 2010


Roger Nelson in front of the famous Beech Tree

Roger and Martha Nelson, who live in Ohio (USA) came to Chaumont to honor the men of the 4th Armored Division as well as the 80th Infantry Division, 318th Regiment. Pvt. Paul J. Wiedorfer was serving in the 318th and received the highest award, the Medal of Honor for his courageous and exemplar deeds at Chaumont. Roger's Father served in the 80th ID during WW One !


An emotional moment - Roger and Martha in a serene environment in front of the Tree
and the hallow grounds - many US veterans or family members are visiting this site each year

 

June 2010 - Karl Heinz Krehan from Austria died on June 29th, 2010


From left to right : Karl Heinz and Sylvia Krehan, Rose and Ivan Steenkiste
picture taken in Hotel Grandru in front of the "Wall of Remembrance"

We met Karl Heinz and Sylvia from Austria on September 11th, the day before the ceremonies at Chaumont. Karl Heinz and myself were corresponding since about 1 year. One day, Karl Heinz visited my webpage on Chaumont and wrote me an e-mail. He informed me that he stayed many months in Chaumont in 1953 as a young 10-year old boy with the mutual sick fund. He met then members of the Materne and Pacquay families. On September 11th, 2009 there was a reunion with Karl Heinz and Sylvia and many friends of the 1950s.

Late October 2009 Karl Heinz informed me that he wasn't feeling well. We continued corresponding through video session with Skype. It was with great sadness that we received an announcement that he had passed away on June 29th, 2010. We sent our sincere condolences to the family in Austria.

 

February 2010 - Heavy Snowfall hits Chaumont and the Region

Winter has been serious this year. A lot of snow fell on the region with up to 1 meter of snow at some places. A good moment to remember the severe weather conditions in which the 4th Armored Division had to fight. A wonderful opportunity for Historic Vehicle Associations to bring a visit to Chaumont; here below, pictures taken by Philippe Mordant showing his 6x6 Dodge.


Philippe's Dodge 6x6 in front of the Beech Tree

 


The Dodge at the General Irzyk Park

 


Philippe's Dodge 6x6 in front of the Beech Tree


Dodge in the snow

 


another Dodge and a GMC


The Dodge at the General Irzyk Park
paying a visit to the snow covered park

 

September 2009 - Inauguration of Three Projects in Chaumont - September 12th

More information on this big event can be read by clicking on this picture below. Lot's of pictures, a historic overview - a wonderful day !


Click on the picture to open this page

 

 

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