- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 11, 2008

In World War II, I enlisted in the Army Reserve while still in college. At the conclusion of my third year, I was called to active duty. … Fast forward; I was assigned to the 5th Medical Battalion, Company C, 5th Infantry Division, 3rd Army, commanded by Gen. George S. Patton. We landed on Omaha Beach, France, on D-Day plus 10.

We fought from hedgerow to hedgerow through Normandy. As our unit approached the city of Reims, I was assigned to a jeep driven by another medic to proceed to some destination - I knew not where or for what purpose. It was in October or November 1944.

Finally, we arrived at a small wooden bridge. Slowly, our vehicle climbed to the crest of the bridge and came to a halt. There in front of us was a square full of local people. When they saw the American jeep bearing red crosses and the two medics, also with red crosses on their uniforms, the population grabbed women who had collaborated with the Germans and chopped off their hair.

Germans seeing a jeep with medics abandoned the area, thinking the American Army was in front of us. Startled by all that we witnessed, my companion backed the jeep down the bridge, turned around and hastened back to our outfit.

Many years later, my wife and I joined our daughter and grandson in Paris, where our grandson was working as an intern at a bank. To celebrate our wedding anniversary, we hired a vehicle with a driver to take us to Reims, the capital of the Champagne industry, to visit the Moet & Chandon winery caves.

My grandson, who is fluent in French, kept asking me and the driver, “Where is this little bridge you crossed to enter Reims?” I did not know, nor did the driver.

As it happened, we arrived in Reims very early, too early for our appointment to visit Moet & Chandon. To pass the time, we visited the Cathedral of Reims, which contained Marc Chagall windows of the Old and New testaments.

My grandson espied an older woman who was preparing a welcome table for visitors. He engaged her in conversation, gesturing that I had been in France with the American forces, and asked her if she knew the location of the bridge where the Americans first entered Reims during the war.

She told my grandson that she knew where the bridge was, that she, at 10 years of age, with her mother at her side, had been looking out of their window on the third floor of their apartment, which faced the bridge. They witnessed the bedlam below and saw the American jeep, red crosses on its side and top, with two American soldiers bearing red crosses on their arms and helmets.

My grandson told her in French that I, his grandfather, was one of those two young soldiers.

We all started to cry and to embrace each other when we realized that there was a living witness to this occurrence in 1944.


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