| The 150th Engineer Combat
Battalion is holding its 39th reunion the weekend of May 17, at the Center
of New Hampshire in Manchester. In September of 1984, 20 of its members,
with their wives revisited European battle scenes. They were invited to
share in the dedication of a memorial monument in Diekirch along with other
troops that participated in the liberation of Luxembourg. Here is an account
of that by Bill Morrissey.
Diekirch is a little city in the Duchy of Luxembourg.
Luxembourg is a wonderful land of villages and fields and people who remember.
A long time ago, in the time of the Great Oppression, the little country
was put into Hitler's grab bag. Its sons were conscripted, and most refused
to serve in the armies of the mad man. There were executions and banishment's.
The people were angry and terrified. There was great sadness. Luxembourg
There was some hope.
The hope of liberation.
The light of freedom was difficult to perceive
even as it flickered faintly on the beaches of France in June of 1944.
Normandy was so far away, and there were so many obstacles to overcome.
But, the light grew bigger and brighter, and more
discernible, as its promise moved swiftly and determinedly across the continent.
Then, on Dec. 16, 1944, the light flickered, dimmed, and disappeared. The
sound and fury of the German counterattack frightened everyone. There was
great confusion, until American soldiers blunted the final enemy offensive,
in the Battle of the Bulge. Freedom's light rekindled.
And liberation moved closer.
Cities captured, rivers crossed, pillboxes destroyed,
hills climbed, boy-men dying, excitement mounting.
And Luxembourg was free.
And the people remember.
Forty years after the invasion Europe, on Sept.
23, 1984, the little city in the Duchy of Luxembourg, Diekirch called as
many old soldiers that could make it, together, to show it remembered.
On that day, a memorial was dedicated to the American troops who had freed
The 150th Engineer Combat Battalion had built
18 bridges in that area, and a contingent was there to take part in the
It was a dreary Sunday morning as the bus pulled
up to the front of the church. A young man who spoke English greeted us,
and identified himself as our guide while we were in Diekirch. We entered
the church, several minutes late for the 9:30 Mass. It was crowded. There
were many veterans and their wives there, so we squeezed in where we could,
taking the few remaining seats, and standing in the aisles along the walls.
The church was old, built in 1100 A.D., and opened
only once a year for services. The ancient columns had nicks and scars,
the graceful arches, bearing ceilings, whose reverential paintings had
faded with time, and were barely discernible. On one side the mortar of
the outside wall could be seen, and on the other, the one on which we were
leaning, the plaster finish was crumbling.
There was emotion in the church.
On the altar behind the priest was a choir of
Diekirch youngsters assembled for this special occasion. The members had
learned the hymns they sang in English, and their Luxembourg accents added
to the drama and sanctity. Two flutes and a guitar provided accompaniment,
and added to the poignancy, with haunting sounds that provoked memories.
The priest said Mass in English. It was beautiful, thoughtful, inspiring.
After the final blessing, as we turned to leave,
and introduced ourselves to others, we found there were members of the
5th Infantry Division here for the dedication, too. They had preceded us,
and had enjoyed the attention of the city for several days.
The surprise came as we stepped outside, and there,
ready to lead us in parade through the city streets, was a local band.
At rout step we followed, with emotions on display. There were lumps in
throats, tears in eyes, and friendly waves from Diekirchers who came to
their windows and doors.
The marchers stopped in front of City Hall to
be greeted by the mayor, and the United States Ambassador to Luxembourg.
We were directed to a small park in the rear of the building. A crowd had
already gathered. We mixed with them. A squad of young Luxembourg soldiers
was at parade rest grasping their rifles, and an honor guard of U.S. servicemen,
holding the Colors. The monument to be dedicated was draped.
The mayor of Diekirch, a woman, addressed the
gathering warmly in her native tongue and in English. She expressed the
gratitude of her people for the sacrifices made so long ago by young American
men to free the people of her city and country. She spoke of love, a love
that has been maintained for all these years. She spoke of liberation and
what it meant after four years of German occupation. She spoke of never
After the ambassador spoke movingly in the two
languages about the occasion, and its meaning to both countries, a silence
fell on the crowd as the monument was unveiled. It was simple. It bore,
at its base, the insignia of the units that had fought in the area, with
commemorative words on the monument. The squad of Luxembourg soldiers was
called to attention, and on command, fired three volleys to salute the
fallen. The honor guard of American servicemen bearing the Colors stood
rigid as Taps was sounded.
In the bush that followed, each of the veterans
who had been in Diekirch the day before to be counted, approached a pile
of long stemmed roses that had been laid out for them, picked up a flower,
and placed it on the monument, pausing a moment to pay homage with their
thoughts. There were feelings of sadness, pride, and love.
With the solemnity over we crowded into the City
Hall where officials greeted us enthusiastically, and we mingled with citizens
of Diekirch. On the long conference table were glasses of champagne, and
after everyone had warmed themselves with reminiscences, there was a toast
of thanks given by the mayor, and a general from the 5th Infantry Division
spoke on our behalf, of our gratitude for being honored and remembered.
With smiles and warm feelings, we left the City
Hall of Diekirch, and continued on our way. The young men of yesterday
who had served their country, the United States of America, had also served
the little country of Luxembourg, and its people had not forgotten.