In the Tracks of the Tiger Division

By Howard Liddic
(10th Armored Division Historian)

August 2002

"I never thought I would ever be standing in Germany" --CWO Howard S. Liddic, Service Company, 21st Tank Battalion, 10th Armored Division in a March, 1945 letter

Dad's statement could just have easily applied to me 57 years later as my wife and I stepped off the plane at the Frankfurt airport. I have studied World War II history, and the 10th Armored in particular, for nearly 30 years, but never seriously considered a trip to Europe until earlier this year. But now here we were, off on a two week vacation through Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany, and Austria following the tracks of the 10th Armored.

After arriving in Frankfurt, we rented a car and began the four hour drive to Bastogne. We made good time on the autobahn all the way to Luxembourg, where we picked up a series of back roads that roughly paralleled the advance of the 47th Panzer Corps toward Bastogne on December 16 and 17, 1944. We made one stop along the way at the Diekirch Historical Museum. The museum is housed in an old warehouse and contains a wonderful collection of military artifacts, vehicles, uniforms, etc. Looking at the Sherman tank in front of the museum, it occurred to me that I had not been on a Sherman for almost 25 years, since Dad and I used to climb on one at the local VFW. Without another thought, I was up on the tank, inside the turret, and then climbing down into the driver's compartment. I'm sure the museum didn't want people climbing on their tank, but it seemed like the right thing to do at the time.

It was getting dark as we arrived in Bastogne and checked into our hotel on the Place McAuliffe square. We found Col. Roberts' headquarters, the Hotel LeBrun, right around the corner from where we were staying. It's now called the White House Restaurant and Hotel. There's an Internet Cafe in the front of the building, while the back houses the restaurant and the hotel rooms are upstairs. They have a picture of General McAuliffe in the lobby, along with some pictures of the town during the siege. No mention of the 10th, nor did anyone at the desk know about the history of the building during the battle. While having a nightcap at the bar, we speculated about what may have occurred in this very room. Troop assignments, orders, counter orders, etc. If only the walls could talk!

The next day, we found the location of the 20th AIB aid station that was destroyed by a bomb on Christmas Eve. There is now an electronics store on the site, a plaque on the side of the building being the only reminder of what happened there. Across the street from the aid station is the original Bastogne Museum. Their brochure is the only advertisement we found that carried the 10th Armored insignia. We walked across to the museum and struck up a conversation with the owner. He noticed that we had been reading the plaque and proceeded to tell us that the aid station bombing was shown incorrectly in "Band of Brothers" and that in fact, it was a 10th Armored, not a 101st Airborne aid station. He was quite surprised that we even knew of the 10th, let alone the detail of the aid station bombing.

When CCB arrived in Bastogne, they deployed three combat teams to block the main roads east of town. We visited each of these roadblock towns: Longvilly and Margaret (Team Cherry), Noville (Team Desobry), and Wardin and Marvie (Team O'Hara). There is a tank turret on the road to each of these towns; the one on the Longvilly road has the 10th Armored insignia on the side. While taking pictures of the road signs at each town, we received more than a few strange looks from some of the residents. They probably don't get many tourists in their little crossroad towns, some of which are only 10 - 15 houses. At Longvilly, we parked at the grotto of St. Michael where Team Cherry engaged Panzer Lehr on December 18. Across the road from the grotto is a hiking trail that we followed off into the woods. While walking along, my thoughts again turned back to the events of December 1944 that occurred on this very spot. It is one thing to read about Bastogne, but it is quite another to actually walk the ground where the battle was fought. Only then do you gain a better understanding of the geography, the troop movements, and the magnitude of what happened here.

The Bastogne Historical Center on the Longvilly road has an excellent film about the battle that covers the action of the 10th in detail. Other than that, however, I only saw one manikin out of about 50 or 60 with a 10th Armored patch, but nothing else related to the division. The gift shop, however, had several copies of Les Nichols' book "Impact" and the tank in front of the museum carries 3rd Tank Battalion markings. Across from the Historical Center is the Mardasson Monument, the official US Battle of the Bulge monument. It is shaped like a star, with the history of the battle and the insignia of all participating divisions engraved on the inside and outside walls. From the top of the monument, there is a beautiful view back into Bastogne and of the surrounding Ardennes countryside.

From the Historical Center, we went back into Bastogne to the Maison Mathelin Museum at the end of the main street. On the second floor, we found some 10th Armored items donated by Stan Davis, Pat Corcoran, and Lucky Loicaino. We also visited museums at Clervaux, and La Gleize. The La Gleize museum bills itself as one of the most important military collections in Europe, and with good reason. Their collection is truly amazing and contains some of the rarest uniforms, headgear, medals, etc. that I've ever seen. The museum at the Clervaux castle was also very impressive. They have a display of shoulder patches for all divisions in the Bulge, along with the names of the divisional commanders, including General Morris. On the 3rd Floor, there is a 10th Armored winter shirt on display.

After 3 days in Bastogne, we headed east toward Germany, stopping at the American Cemetery in Hamm, Luxembourg on our way to Trier. Near the entrance to the cemetery are several large monuments chronicling the war in Europe, complete with maps showing the movements of most of the divisions. Unfortunately, the 10th is not listed. We paid our respects at General Patton's grave, which stands alone at the front of the cemetery, the other crosses lined up as if on parade in front of him. We then walked around the cemetery and found the graves of many men from the 21st TNK, 54th AIB, 20th AIB, and 609th TDB. All of the graves are immaculately maintained, with an air of quiet dignity and respect.

We then continued on to Trier, staying at a hotel right across the street from the Porta Nigra. Trier is the oldest city in Germany and was captured by the 10th in March, 1945 during the Saar-Moselle Triangle campaign. We walked all over the old town and saw the Roman amphitheater and baths. Unfortunately, we missed the Roman Bridge over the Moselle that was captured intact by Team Riley. We also took a day trip to Koblenz on the Rhine, then followed the Moselle wine road back to Trier. Along the way, we stopped at some of the small towns, sampled the Moselle wines, and had an excellent bratwurst dinner at a riverside inn.

The next town on our itinerary was Heidelburg, where we spent a day walking around the downtown area. After that, we took a day trip up the Neckar River valley to visit some of the ruined castles along the river. One stop was the town of Mosbach, where the 10th crossed the Neckar in March, 1945. Near the end of the day, we arrived at Crailsheim, "the second Bastogne." In April, 1945 the 10th had a tough battle at Crailsheim with the 17th SS Panzer Grenadier Division. Dad was slightly wounded during this action. We then took a back road from Crailshiem to Schwabisch Hall, a beautiful town built into the side of a large hill with a river running right through the town at the base of the hill. Elements of the 10th withdrew here after the Crailsheim operation.

The next day, we made the drive to Munich. Again, we walked around the city and saw the usual tourist sites - the Glockenspiel, the Feldhernnhalle Memorial, the Frauenkirche, and the old town. Had a great dinner at the famous Hofbrauhaus one night. I located a couple of military antique dealers adjacent to the Food Market, but unfortunately they were closed. We also took a day trip to the Dachau concentration camp memorial outside of Munich. Our guidebook said to allow 2 hours to see the place, but I don't know how they came up with that. We spent 3 1/2 hours at a pretty brisk pace and without stopping to read each and every display. It's a very moving, almost surreal, spot.

From Munich, we continued on to Garmisch-Partenkirchen where we spent a week. Garmisch is a beautiful little town nestled right in the Alps. Dad always said how fortunate the 10th was to end up on occupation duty in Garmisch. One look around and I knew exactly what he meant. We stayed at a Bed & Breakfast on the road to the Zugspitz. I had to smile when the owner directed us up the stairs to our home for the next week -- room number 10. We used Garmisch as a base for day trips to Schloss Linderhoff, Schloss Neuchwanstein, Murnau, Oberammergau, and Innsbruck. Another day, we went to Obersalzburg to see Hitler's Eagle's Nest on top of the mountain. We had lunch one day at the Hotel Eibsee. I had a picture of the Tigers Lair at Eibsee, but no one at the hotel recognized it or knew anything about it. We were unable to find the Division Headquarters building, but we did locate the house where Dad stayed during the occupation. The owner of the B& B recognized my picture of the house and the mountain background and directed us right to it. We didn't make the trip up the Zugspitz, as there was fog on the mountain almost every day obscuring the view.

Another stop in Garmisch was the 1936 Olympic ice stadium that was used for USO shows during the occupation. We also found the Partenkirchen town hall building, which looks the same today as it does in the wartime pictures published in "Impact".

Just as Garmisch was the end of the line for the 10th Armored, it was the end of our European journey as well. Unlike the Tigers, however, we wanted to stay longer, as there was so much more to see and do. We covered a lot of ground in two weeks, saw some beautiful scenery, had excellent food, and perfect weather. In almost every way, this was the perfect trip. Even our flights were on time! We hope to return again in the near future, perhaps in the winter to spend Christmas in Bastogne or to Garmisch to see snow on the Alps. In the meantime, we have some great vacation memories, and a new understanding and appreciation for the accomplishments of the 10th Armored during the Second World War.