Bill and Babe Tour 2006 - Rendezvous
at Bastogne !
On September 15th and 16th, 2006, we had the tremendous
honor to receive our good friends William 'Wild Bill' Guarnere and
Edward 'Babe' Heffron again.
I was informed early 2006 about their itinerary and their stay at
Bastogne, which made it possible to think about an appropriate welcome. I
immediately contacted Reg to participate in the project, and a bit later
we asked Roby and Dominique to join our team. Brainstorming about what
to do for them whilst here in Belgium brought many ideas and proposals
on the table, some were good, other were excellent, but none at all were
This is the team:
So far for the
idea's, then came the time to make some contacts and decisions. At the
start we were putting out our feelers to see and hear what WW2Tour
leaders Cristy and Ray would find interesting, and what could fit or not
fit into their schedule.
There was of course a lot of e-mailing, and a lot of phone calls were
made, but little by little the whole operation got into its final shape.
Change of plans were little, and what changed became even better. One
example is a proposal made by Reg. He suggested to have some F16 fighter
planes doing a 'missing man' formation.
We never thought, or maybe I should be honest : I didn't think it would
ever be approved. However, Reg's friend Erik came with a counter proposal : a
flight with the vets in an Agusta A109 chopper. Wow, not bad, we
thought. Only problem : there was a lot of work to do : an official request had to be made,
thus a very very detailed file with all needed information about the vets,
the reason for the flight, etcetera. Reg did a fabulous job here with
help from Erik, Reg made the file all by himself and sent it to the
right bureau at the DOD for approval, and Erik did the follow-up after
Then, we could only wait, until that special phone call came, it was Reg
: "We got a YES!" Unbelievable, wow, that was fantastic news.
Ray and Cristy and the other members of our team were speechless and
happy at the same time, it sounded like a fairy tale.
Other contacts had already been made to help in organizing this
marvelous event, for instance : with Dominique, to help us with the
visit to the Nuts Cave inside the Military Base plus granting access,
also to the Heli Port for the flight with the A109. He also helped us
providing the Mortars for the 21 gun salute we were to perform (thanks
to his colleagues of the 285th FA Obsn Bn Reenacting Group), he
scheduled the whole itinerary - from the Base to the Monument for the
Ceremony, and the trip to the Mardasson after that. He also made
contacts with the ABC of Bastogne asking to provide ancient military
vehicles for a ride to the monument with Bill and Babe, and he made
contacts with the 'Duty First' who were willing to deliver an Honor
A bit further in town was Roby, he was organizing things with the City
Administration and the Local Police Forces. That way we would get
Security and most important : sound ! Makes life more comfortable when
one has a microphone and of course a CD player for the Taps and National
Anthems... Roby was also very friendly in placing the order for a wreath
that Reg and I were going to buy. Finally I wrote a letter to the Mayor
to invite him to the Ceremony.
Later in August I went to Bastogne and had a final meeting with
Dominique and Roby at the Base, I was introduced to and thanked the EXO
of the 1st Artillery Regiment for all they did for us.
Everything OK, we were on schedule. OK !
These were our partners in the event :
The City of Bastogne
1st Regiment of Artillery
based at Bastogne
based at Bierset
285th Field Artillery
Observation Battalion Reenactors
The Amicale des Bastognards Collectionneurs
(ABC - Bastogne)
The 'Duty First'
We also would like to thank :
Ray and Cristy from Historic Tours
to allow us to organize the event
and for their friendship and trust.
the Amicale Nationale Para-Commando Vriendenkring
for celebrating with us.
The final itinerary looked like this
On Friday :
- meeting Bill & Babe, Ray & Cristy plus Sue, family and Tour Members at
the 4th AD Monument in Chaumont,
- keeping them company whilst making a stop in Assenois at the 'Fortin
Devèze', where Lt Boggess broke trough the encirclement on December
- picking up our wreath,
- checking in at the hotels,
- a last meeting with Ray and Cristy
- and a meal and a drink (...) with our friends in town.
On Saturday :
- at the Base : visit to the Nuts Cave and the Heli flight over the
- a ride in ancient vehicles for our 2 friends from the Base to the
Monument, through Luzery and Foy,
- Ceremony at the Easy Co Monument,
- a ride to the Mardasson Monument, time to take pictures and sign
- back to the town center for a sandwich
- end of the 'Rendezvous', Tour continues in direction of Holland.
2 maps made by Dominique showing the itinerary :
- Parking bus
- Honor Guard 'Duty First'
- Personal vehicles Honor Guard
- Parking WW2 vehicles ABC
yellow : itinerary towards E Co Monument
blue : itinerary towards the Mardasson Monument
Welcome at Chaumont
We meet up with our friends in front of the 4th Armored Division
Babe is glad to see me again
View of the bus and the tree behind the Monument
The Monument + tree
Our heroes and the visitors listening to the explanations
Stop at Assenois
We make a stop at what is called 'Le fortin Devèze', a
kind of pillbox named after the Secretary of War in the 30's. At this
spot Lt Boggess made contact with the 326th Engineers of the 101st
Airborne, on 26th December 1944, thus breaking the encirclement.
Babe pointing to the Remembrance Plate on the pillbox
Ray Pfeiffer (WW2Tours) showing us pictures
and drawings of that timeframe
Ray next to the pillbox
'Free' evening in the city
First we headed to the shop to collect our wreath for
the next day. Then we checked in at our hotels and we had a meeting with
Ray and Cristy to make a last update, and then off to McAuliffe Square
to fill the bellies...
Bjorn Granvang, came all the way from Norway to salute his heroes.
We had quite a few laughs seeing him passing the terrace not daring to
approach Bill and Babe, for about 7-8 times,
then grabbing all his courage together, coming in and introducing
himself. Nice fellow !
Some 'wild bunch': Bill, Reg, Babe, Filip and Frederic.
Visiting the NUTS Cave at the Base and the Heli Flight.
After a night with not much sleep, worrying over what
would come, asking myself if I hadn't forgotten anything, how would the
weather be, etc., I woke up and had breakfast. At 10:00 AM we entered
the Base and visited the Nuts Cave and helped our friends to get onto
the helicopter for their flight. Everything was perfect, the weather
couldn't have been better.
On the bus towards the Base
Meeting an 'old' friend, Brandon, from Texas.
(I guess you already noticed that...by the hat!)
Babe having a ball whilst driving him to the LZ.
Fasten seat-belts please....
I hear you, loud and clear !
Everybody is comfortable ?
Ready to go Airborne, first time above Bastogne !
Almost ready !!
A109's take-off !
View from the inside...
With the A109 crew. Thanks for the flight !!
Visit to the NUTS CAVE in the Base.
On our way to the Ceremony
Ceremony at the Monument
THE CEREMONY AT THE EASY CO MONUMENT consisted in
Welcome and Expressions of Gratitude (Filip)
Speech (Bastogne Alderman Mr. J.C. Cremer)
Laying of the Wreaths
21 Gun Salute with Mortars
The Star Spangled Banner
Act Of Remembrance
End of the Ceremony
The HONOR GUARD 'Duty First'
Leading the Ceremony
Babe and Bill listening...
My welcome word:
Mr. Guarnere and Mr. Heffron, dear Veterans, dear family members and
friends, Monsieur le Député Bourgmèstre, dear Tour Members and Tour
Organizers, fellow Americans; ladies and gentlemen, mesdames et
messieurs : it is a high honor for me to speak to our American
liberators and the American people here at Bastogne today, Saturday 16th
We stand here on historical ground, in a place engraved forever in our
memories for the role it has played in our history against the dark
night of evil. We are gathered here today to pay homage, to pay tribute
to the soldiers of freedom, to the legendary heroes of Bastogne and the
Battle of the Bulge.
We will never forget. We will never forget that hard winter of 1944/45.
We will never forget those men who made the ultimate sacrifice to
liberate our soil, our native land, our continent from the yolk of Nazi
barbarity and its murderous folly. Our hearts are indeed heavy as we
behold their courage, their self-sacrifice, their generosity.
And our spirit is indeed uplifted by the absolute ideals of these
youngsters who offered up their last breath to save the world. I salute
the memory and the sacrifice of all these fighters.
Overcoming their fear, all fears, and by the morality of their struggle
and the strength of their ideals, they raised the human conscience onto
a higher plane.
Today, we honor Mr. Guarnere and Mr. Heffron,
today, we honor all the veterans of Bastogne and the Battle of the
today, we honor all their comrades who never left.
Before starting the ceremony I wish to express my gratitude to everyone
who helped in organizing this event :
I want to say THANK YOU to the Mayor of the City, to the Bastogne
Administration and local Police Force for their support, I wish to say
THANK YOU to the Belgian Military Forces for providing the helicopter
flight and granting us access to the Military Base to visit the famous
Nuts Cave. A special thanks to Roby Clam, local guide, to the Commander
and members of the 1st Artillery Regiment here at Bastogne, and to Reg
Jans, to all of you who have helped organize the Ceremony and the Heli
I am so grateful to everyone joining us to make this a successful event
: the members of the Honor Guard 'Duty First' whose members have
traveled great distance to be here with us today, to the local WW2
reenacters of the association Amicale des Bastognards Collectionneurs,
who were so gracious to be here with us with their ancient military
vehicles and provide a ride for our 2 heroes and to the 285th Field
Artillery Observation Battalion Reenactors, for providing us with a
mortar and performing the 21 gun salute during the Ceremony. Last but
not least I wish to thank Ray and Cristy Pfeiffer for allowing us to
perform this event.
We will now start the Ceremony with Reg who wants to say a few words.
This was Reg's speech :
To all gathered here at the monument for Easy-Company:
I shall try to keep this short because the last time I spoke here the
veterans started to call for air support and mortar fire. One of them
even yelled that my speech was more lethal than an 88 mm Howitzer! Well
it wasn’t that bad… ha-ha!
I’d like to tell a little story.
There once was a person I really admired. I say, “was” because he passed
away about 10 years ago.
I was only a boy, and every evening he told me bedtime stories; stories
about fairies, knights, goblins, mothers-in-law, and dragons.
When I was 15 years old he suddenly began telling different kinds of
stories, stories about teenagers signing in for duty, and how they were
trained. About youngsters who fought for our freedom, about heroism, and
about people like you and me who went into combat to liberate a
continent they’d never been to or sometimes never heard of.
These weren’t fairytales anymore. These were actual stories that
occurred 62 years ago.
I don’t know why but his words touched me so deeply, they went right
into my heart and that’s where they still remain. He always ended the
same way by saying, “Sweet dreams Reggie!” I always replied, “Thank you,
All the great men who fought during the war, every soldier and every
citizen in every city and on every battlefield were brave and did what
they were supposed to do; what they had to do.
Now it’s time for all of us to play our part and do what we are supposed
to do, by keeping the memories alive, and teaching our children,
grandchildren and great grand children about what happened over six
decades ago. They need to know. They deserve to know. We owe them. Now
it’s up to all of us to pass on our stories, our memories and our
knowledge to each successive generation.
WE SHALL NOT WITHDRAW!
Cristy and Ray, I truly admire your work, because what both of you are
doing is so much more than just making a living. It’s a passion and it
comes from the heart. Your contribution to keep the memories alive takes
my breath away. I have one word for that; RESPECT.
I would like to thank all of you for coming here and for caring.
To end this speech; what, no air support yet?
To end this speech I say,
Thank you, Babe
Thank you, Bill
Thank you, Grandpa
God bless all of you,
While Reg was doing his speech the pilots came to salute with the helicopter...
Air support for Bill and Babe ?
... as well as the Alderman - Mr. J.C. Cremer
Laying of the wreaths...
21 GUN SALUTE, TAPS and NATIONAL ANTHEMS...
Honor Guard saluting...
End of the Ceremony - Taking a closer
look at the E Co Monument
At the Mardasson
After the Ceremony we drove to the Mardasson, so the
Tour Members could take a picture with the ancient vehicles or Honor
Guard, and they had then also an opportunity to have a picture with
With 'Duty First'
With the troopers of the ANPCV - Luxemburg Province Section.
The story ends for us in the town center. A last chat
and a lot of goodbyes...
We'll meet again, don't know where, don't know when, but I know we'll
meet again some sunny day !
Good friends, thus quite an honor...
Reg with Robert "Bob" Saxvik,
brother of Oscar Saxvik - G/506 !
Mission accomplished, more than a success.
Reg, Erik and Filip with
John "Jack" Cianfrani, son of Oscar Cianfrani - 508 PIR, 82nd Airborne