There is so much happening on this trip to Europe that I’m struggling a bit to keep up and document it all. As I write this, we just returned from 10 days in England. It was my first time there and so much happened. More on that in a future post. For now, let’s return to Friday, 26 May 2017, when we drove from Amsterdam to Thirimont, Belgium to be in the town where a client’s brother was Killed In Action (KIA) on 13 January 1945.
We had a lovely drive down, passing through the Dutch countryside to the Belgian border. Once we reached Maastricht, Netherlands, the landscape changed from all flat to slightly rolling hills. From there we made our way southeast to Thirimont, where the 30th Division had a massive battle for this and two other towns nearby between 13-15 January 1945.
The town is located on a hill, with a good view all around. This is probably why the Germans took the town. Strategic location and there are crossroads here. Today, the town is all new. Nothing, it seems, remains from WWII, though by all accounts, the battle wiped out whatever was there before. G Company of the 30th Division was almost completely wiped out here on 13 January 1945. This was the day William E. Jones, Jr. was KIA.
William’s IDPF stated he was killed in Waimes. If you think about how the U.S. sets up cities, counties, states, Waimes is more like the county, though there is a town named Waimes just 8 km up the road. By the unit records, it appears Thirimont was William’s death site. I took a video for my client as we drove the main road through town. Thankfully it was a beautiful sunny day with hardly a cloud in the sky. Almost no traffic meant a relatively quiet video. After our drive through town, we made our way to Waimes to see what that was like. Again, it is all new. We saw almost no trace of the past. In both places, I felt nothing. Just dead energy which I thought was unusual since so many died in these areas.
From Waimes we headed back to the Netherlands to Margraten, where we planned to spend a couple of days and attend the Memorial Day service at the cemetery. Interestingly, we chose to make our way to Malmedy to see the site of the massacre. I had not yet been there.
The soldiers in the area had other plans for us and sent us back the way we came into Thirimont and Waimes, through Ligneuville. The road to Malmedy was blocked so we detoured to see if Waze would take us where we wanted to go. It did not, but instead took us through forests near Malmedy where the soldiers were out and waiting to be heard. I couldn’t believe all the auras in the photos I took as we drove through there.
Had there been a place to stop and walk around that area, I would have loved that. I think many stories would have emerged onto my journal pages from soldiers lining up to talk. Sadly, there was nowhere to stop.
We kept driving and later stopped in Aubel, Belgium to photograph the 30th Division Monument there. It is a tall monument with flags on either side. This is not far from Henri-Chapelle cemetery.
Our day ended with our return to Hotel Groot Welsden in Margraten. We had a relaxing drink in the garden before dinner. We discussed our plans for Saturday and Sunday and it was off to bed.
Have you been to these places with your research? What did you experience? Were you in other places nearby? For what Divisions? What did you experience there? I’d love to hear your stories.
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