424th Memorial Dedicated — Spineux, Belgium

Story by Bill Mueller, 424/M
Photos by Bill Dodge, 424/M (not included in this review)

September 16, 1989

A little village, Spineux near Stavelot, probably not remembered by any of the dog tired frozen troops that liberated it on a dreary cold snowy day in January 1945, became the site of a beautiful tribute to the men of the 424th Infantry Regiment and to the 106th Infantry Division.

Just four months short of the forty five years that have elapsed since combat actions cleared the territory south of Stavelot, Belgium, the 424th Regiment was honored and recognized for its part in that liberation by the unveiling of a wonderful Memorial in the town of Spineux.

The Memorial pays homage to those of the 424th Combat Infantry Regiment and 112th Combat Infantry Team (28th Div) who withstood the elements and German fire to free the area of the German army.

The Dedication Ceremonies took place on September 16, 1989. It was extremely impressive

Identified from the 424th were:

Don Armington (H‑Des Moines, IA) Howard Bagby (M‑Grand Island, FL) Frank Borbely (M‑Morristown,PA) Bill Butler (A‑Winchester, VA) Tiller Carter (424 HQ‑Lago Vista, TX) Bill Dodge (M‑Zanesville, OH) Leo Gregory (3BN HQ‑Nashville, TN) Walt Johannes (K‑Sacramento,CA) Bill Mueller (M‑Levittown, NY) Ed Prewett (B‑ Brentwood, CA) Bob Scranton (K‑Brighton, MI) Fred Vitale (B‑Philadelphia, PA)

Several tours of American veterans and their families traversing Europe took the opportunity to have itineraries rerouted to be present and participate. Upwards to fifty American veterans were on hand for the occasion. Many were there from units of the 106th Division.

The Belgians celebrating the event numbered in the hundreds.

The Dedication Program commenced with a motorcade of veterans into the town of Spineux. The veterans were greeted by several children of the village who presented each with a floral spray. The motorcade included a 1942 Ford “Jeep” which had survived the war.

The Dedication Ceremony commenced as the assemblage was greeted by the Master of Ceremony, Andre Hubert. Mr. Hubert (CRIBA) did a magnificent job during the entire proceedings. During the course of the dedication and at the reception later he provided all of the necessary translations to and from French and English as events moved along. A most difficult chore.

Jules Hurdebise, (CRIBA) the Belgian most responsible for bringing the Memorial to fruition (We learned later that it was the people of Spineux who were the driving force that implemented this memorial... CUB Review editor, 1991), gave a most inspiring discourse on the efforts of the 424th and attached units in the liberation of the area. He expressed the love, gratitude and affection the Belgian people have for the veterans of World War II especially those who fought in and brought freedom to the area.

His able colleague, Serge Fontaine, (CRIBA) provided a vivid day by day, hour by hour, detailed description of the actions of the units of the 424th during those cold miserable days in January,1945.

The Mayor and others members of the Government warmly welcomed not only the Americans but all the visitors. Prior to the unveiling Bill Mueller responded for the Americans Veterans in the name of the 424th and 106th.

In his emotional commentary he stated “ —‑For many of us time has stood still‑almost forty five years have gone by‑yet for many of us it seems like only yesterday‑ nonetheless things have changed‑we‑you‑have changed, your beautiful country has under gone change. In 1945 it was a bleak, cold, drab existence for everyone‑you and us. Today‑the world is green, vibrant, aglow with life‑yes‑the years have wrought change‑thank God for the better.

“Today you honor us‑the 424th Infantry Regiment‑for what little we accomplished at this place, in this area, in our lifetime, those many years ago. For all of us, and I speak not only for those here today, but for the many that could not be here to receive this honor‑we thank you. We especially thank you for remembering also our comrades who are no more. Those who gave their supreme effort here and those who have succumbed to the passing years.

“Although you honor and dedicate this Memorial to the 424th Infantry Regiment.‑ you in turn honor all members of the 106th Infantry Division‑ “The Golden Lions”. We came as young men to help bring peace and freedom to Europe‑we sought no glory, expected no rewards‑only to return to homes in peace and live our lives.

“That you remembered us‑we are extremely appreciative and we shall never forget the honor which you bestowed‑ we especially thank you for this Memorial ‑for whoever shall visit and see it will remember our fellow comrades‑as we remember them‑it will remind us all of what they gave for us‑Thank You.”

The beautiful Memorial, sculptured by Guy Winand of Grand Halleux, was then unveiled. It depicts the somber, environment of an alert wary infantry rifleman ready for action in the ruins of a destroyed farm structure, a setting so familiar to many of the 424th. Inscribed on the face of the monument are shown the various combat routes through the area of the units of the Regiment with identifying dates. As a Belgian soldier raised the Belgian Flag, the American Flag was slowly hoisted to its position by Tiller Carter (Major‑ Hq, 424th Regiment). A floral wreath in remembrance and honor of all those to whom the Memorial was dedicated was placed at the site by Frank Borbely.

Following the Benediction the Dedication Program continued with a reception at the Administration/Recreation Center in the town of Trois‑Ponts. Government officials, members of the Belgian Society, C.R.I.B.A. (Centre de recherche et d'informations sur la bataille des Ardennes),were present.

Serge Fontaine and Jules Hurdebise again paid homage to the 424th and 106th with complimentary commentary. In response to this Doug S. Coffey (Memorials Chairman ‑ 106th Div Association) addressed the assemblage in French. Doug was most warmly received.

Jules Hurdebise presented the original model of the Memorial (made of slate) to Bill Mueller as a remembrance of the occasion. Bill gave the model to Doug Coffey for inclusion in the archives of the Association, as a remembrance of all the 106th personnel who fought so valiantly in the Ardennes Campaign.

In response to the wonderful tribute and honor paid to the 106th and all Americans, Bill Mueller presented an American Flag to Jules Hurdebise and the Memorial Committee. The Flag had flown over the U.S. Capitol Building on July 4, 1989, Independence Day. Bill stated that as on Independence Day we celebrate our freedom, so should the Flag fly over a sacred place where Americans fell as Belgian independence was restored.

The conviviality, including good food and drink, mixed with friendship and just plain brotherhood went on for many hours. The Belgians have never forgotten what Americans did, and in like manner we should never forget them and the circumstances they survived, many times more miserable and dreary than those experienced by us. Above all let us never forget those that we left behind and those who returned home with broken, maimed minds and bodies.

Dedication: 424th Memorial, Spineux, Belgium
Dedication of the memorial to the 424th Regiment, 106th Infantry Division
SPINEUX, Belgium - September 16, 1989
The CUB Apr-May-Jun-1990

Within a few months, there will be 45 years that the soldiers of the 424th Infantry regiment of the U.S. Army were here in this same place.

It was on January 3, 1945.

Snow, cold, desolation and death were at the meeting.

The civilians of our villages had been evacuated. The men had run away before the German advance, their last offensive had soon been followed by the American counter‑attack.

Today, September 16, 1989, some veterans who could escape out of this hell have come back for a pilgrimage to the places where they lived what was and will remain a nightmare for them.

I express to them the hearty welcome of those who remember, the people of our small villages who are grateful for their liberation.

I also welcome all those who joined us for this dedication, people from here and everywhere else, who want to seize every opportunity to express their gratitude.

I welcome the representatives of the civilian, religious and military authorities.

I also welcome all our Belgian soldiers and I take this opportunity to thank them heartily, those fighters of the deadly “Blitzkrieg” of May 1940, the prisoners of war, the political prisoners, the underground fighters and those who silently fought and suffered.

Today, we dedicate this memorial to pay tribute to the 112th Infantry Regiment and especially to the 424th Infantry Regiment of the 106th Infantry Division.

But more than a memorial still, we have wanted this monument to represent the everyday life of the soldier fighting in the ruins of our villages, and all that, in a natural site chosen for its beauty.

It will be a message to those who have not known these events. When they will try to find the meaning of this monument, they will learn the history of what happened here: we mean the frightfulness of the war. They live in peace and we will that they fully appreciate it. In many places of this world the weapons are still chattering, generating death, sadness and ruins.

We are grateful to our gallant liberators for the peace they brought to us, and we say thank you. Dear veterans, we remember your sorrows and your sufferings and we want to show you our gratitude.

I will end by reading a message received in 1948, from the parents of Sergeant Wilson E. Tyrell, “K” Company, 424th regiment. He was killed a mile from here and his corpse was found several months after the battle, in the woods.

His parents had lived the separation and they kept on living in doubt after the end of the war.

They wrote this: “It's enough for us to know that he at last fell into good hands and that he must be with his God. He was 34 years old and a fine son and he died in a cause he felt just. Our loss can be nothing in comparison to what your people in Europe have suffered. Let us hope our boys have not died in vain.

The great obstacle to universal peace is the lack of a common language to understand each other. Let us hope that we are on the way to everlasting peace."

And they added, that in his last letter, Sergeant Tyrell expressed his admiration for the Belgian people. “The Belgians treat us like we were one of theirs.”

Today, dear American friends, I tell you that we would like to treat each of you as if he was one of us, not only today but forever.

(This speech was given by Jules HURDEBISE, CRIBA, translated by Andre HUBERT, CRIBA, at the dedication ceremony for the 424th Regiment monument. Pictures and the story of that memorial service are on pages 16‑21 of the JAN‑FEB‑MAR 1990 edition of The CUB... editor)