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In the Footsteps of the 82nd Airborne 2011.

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Post  Gina_Costina Mon Feb 28, 2011 8:05 pm

During the weekend of 26th and 27th February 2011, GI44-45 teamed up with other groups including the Living History association (LHA) and the Belgian Friendly 101st to participate in the Annual “In the footsteps of the 82nd Airborne” march that takes place in the Ardennes. This is one of my favourite events of the year because it always offers something a bit different, to walk in the footsteps of those who served in the area, wearing the uniforms and equipment of 66 years ago. With the absence of doing it every day and not having to worry about enemy lurking in the woods, these events still provide the chance to get a small understanding and deep respect for what soldiers in WW2 went through day in and day out. The march is 16 miles long through varied terrain and every year the changing weather provides a different perspective of the conditions that GI’s fought under. Marching in similar weather in the same location that those we pay homage to certainly gives participants the chance to pause for thought.

This year myself, Ian “Murph” Brophy, Dan “Bugle-boy” O’Dwyer, and our newest member Pat Alexandre travelled to the area, with friends from the LHA Tony Dudman, Keith Major, Val Czerny and Shaun Bradley. We left on Thursday night travelling on the overnight ferry to Calais and then drove through the early hours to some early morning shopping at Militaria stores and do some sightseeing. We arrived at our billet a hostel in Arbefontaine during the early evening and had the chance to have a meal before the march the next morning, joining with the rest of the LHA and Belgian, Dutch and other groups who were going to participate in the march.

On Saturday we went to Manhay where the march was going to start. The last two years we had marched in snow or ice, but this year with a brief period of milder weather we had the chance to march in the dry and with no risk of falling over on ice underfoot. We formed up in our squads and participated in a brief ceremony.

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D Rations courtesy of Costino Foods Corporations were given out to all the squads and HQ Company
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After we stated out in soon became apparent that the route would not have the problems with snow and ice, instead we had a new experience; marching in an extremely waterlogged and muddy trail. At least for any casualties of the march we had the benefit of back up through the support of two jeeps.
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We were not the only participants it included members of the US Military and shortly into the route “Bugle-Boy” O’Dywer had the chance to spot some “WACS” giving us the chance for a quick photo shoot, and trade for D Rations.
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As the march progressed, we started a few pit-stops, meeting up with jeep support.
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As the march progressed and the pit-stops being ever more appreciated Pat and I had the chance to break open the D Rations, others took advantage of the chance to take the weight off their feet.
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With distance and time, each new slope became a trial aggravated by the muddy and waterlogged track. After a while any attempt at avoiding getting muddy or water-soaked boots became futile and most just took the most direct route, accepting the inevitable. The pain was starting...
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At some points the trail became very narrow and it was getting hard to make progress.
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After a time, it just became a matter of focusing on the person in front of you, looking down at their boot heels and knowing each footstep taken was closer to the finish.
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With rain clouds approaching we decided to make the most of a chance of a group photo, whilst morale was still high.
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We then made our way to the half way point and the chance of a hot cup of Joe and something to eat. The thought of which lifted everybody’s spirits
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As soon as we arrived at the halfway point and the chance of a hot drink and food, the heavens opened and for the rest of the march it rained. This really made marching harder and more than once I kept thinking of the GI’s who had to fight in such awful conditions. Some of our group had raincoats, others just accepted the fact that they were going to get wet and just trudged on- the desire to get to the finish being the goal. At points the dense pine forests gave a chance to get some cover and rest out of the rain.
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Soon it became apparent that the 16 miles were nearly done, and we made our way back in Manhay, forming up in a column just outside of the small village, and marching in with Marc Almond calling Cadence. I have to say when this happened I felt quite emotional, whilst sensing some small achievement by marching in horrendous conditions. It also made me feel humbled that Citizen soldiers had no choice in such things 66 or so years earlier, living, eating, fighting and marching day in and day out. For me it was a one day experience but nevertheless I’m glad I participated, as it gives me the insight to explain things to others.

After being dismissed we then participated in a final ritual; a toast with a bottle of Victory beer!!
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That evening we then had a meal at Bra, which also gave a chance for a mail call, with each participant receiving some mail from home.
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I took the chance to speak to Ray Fary, a veteran of the 82nd Airborne and give him a 2oz D Ration Bar as a gesture of friendship.
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As the evening drew a to a conclusion we got news that one last participant of the march was arriving at Bra, he was a veteran of the Vietnam war who had lost both legs, he participated in the march in hour of the fallen of WW2 and other wars, and his mother. We went outside to pay our respects and listened to him as he spoke of the shame that he and other veterans felt. That he had survived, albeit disabled, whilst others had paid the ultimate sacrifice.
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The 82nd march offers many emotional highs and lows, but is definitely a life experience not to be missed; it’s probably the longest and hardest march of its type. However, I recommend that if any living historian gets a chance they should participate in at least one march in the footsteps of those who served, just so they can gain a very small understanding of how it must have felt to serve in a theatre of war.

My thanks to all who I met, marched and travelled with, it was a fantastic weekend, one I would not want to miss. If you want to see the whole album “tab” on any picture to take you to webshots.




Last edited by Johnny_Costino on Mon Feb 28, 2011 9:45 pm; edited 1 time in total

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Post  Pat Mon Feb 28, 2011 9:38 pm

Really nice write up Paul !! An outstanding event that was hard but gave an interesting and memorable taste of what it was in 1944. Thanks to Dan, Paul, Murph and the members of the LHA for all these good moments ! Special mention to Murph and Paul how drove us all around Belgium !!

Cheers

Pat "Frenchy" Wink
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Post  Guest Mon Feb 28, 2011 10:00 pm

Well done lads. Thanks for the report Paul.

Cheers
Chris

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Post  Dantheman Mon Feb 28, 2011 10:13 pm

Well what can i say?? Another fantastic in the footsteps trip!

A completely memorable experience with a great bunch of like minded guys. I had a truly superb time and have to say despite the rain, mud and seemingly never ending distance i wouldn't trade that expereince for anything in the world.

The emotions and thoughts that go through your mind particuarly after 10 plus miles and the continual rainfall really gave an insight into the mindset of what they must of had to endure along with of course a hell of a lot more back in the day... incredible.

Of course, many thanks to the Belgian Friendly 101st, LHA - Glen & the guys, Emile and in particular to our own two drivers Paul and Murph (Whoah, Whoah, Whoah... WRONG SIDE OF THE ROAD!!!!!!!! Ding Ding Ding!!! affraid ).

Indeed a another great wrote up Paul, really capture some of the highlights of the visit, where do i sign up for 2012? ...It's gonna be another good'n! Very Happy
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Post  Pat Mon Feb 28, 2011 10:29 pm

Dantheman wrote: (Whoah, Whoah, Whoah... WRONG SIDE OF THE ROAD!!!!!!!! Ding Ding Ding!!! affraid ).


Yep Dan one of the best moments of the trip lol !!! Hey Pat am I on the right side of the road ?? lol! lol!
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Post  murph Mon Feb 28, 2011 10:54 pm

Absolutely cracking write up and Pics. I finally made it home at 2320 hours last night. We covered 1200 miles over the course of the the three days and thanks to Paul and our resident guide aka 'Frenchy' Pat (yes, another new name in the pot!) we made it in one piece.

For me this was probably the toughest march yet, as Paul has said every man had to go through the pain barrier and make up his mind to just accept the conditions and keep going. If nothing else we have discovered the amazing ability of the M1943 jackets ability to soak up and store rainwater (just look at the last picture of the honor guard). As for the double buckle boots they are very comfortable, I had no blisters to speak of but despite liberal applications of Dubbin after a certain amount of time they give up the ghost and your feet end up soaked.

It's perhaps not for everyone but I know next year is the 20th anniversary of this event and the plans are being put in place already for a real taste of the GI experience with troopers being trucked to a jump off point and completing the march over two days. I am signed up for it (but I know it will be tough going).

To those who were there I am proud to say 'We did it!'

Murph.

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Post  Guest Tue Mar 01, 2011 9:26 am

Outstanding report and photographs! It sounds as though you all had a great time, even if the march was hard this year. It seems that these continue to get more gruelling, but glad that you all made it back safe and sound.

Let's hope I can make it next year!

Cheers,
Ben.

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Post  Gina_Costina Tue Mar 01, 2011 10:39 am

BenM wrote:Outstanding report and photographs! It sounds as though you all had a great time, even if the march was hard this year. It seems that these continue to get more gruelling, but glad that you all made it back safe and sound.

Let's hope I can make it next year!

Cheers,
Ben.

Ben , next year it seems that distance covered on foot will be shorter (each day) and we will be conveyed to start point(s) via GMC, apparently it really is going to be in areas where the 82nd served and possibly over a couple of days. Murph, Dan and I discussed things and to Make a bit of difference I was considering taking the Jeep.

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Post  Guest Tue Mar 01, 2011 4:20 pm

That sounds as though it has the potential to be amazing. Keep me informed, Paul.

Cheers,
Ben.

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Post  Shaun Br Tue Mar 01, 2011 5:52 pm

Thank you to all that I met.
It was a truely inspiring time and I think I'll be doing it next year!
I only got one blister so I'm very happy.
Unfortunately I had to get up Monday morning for work.
See you all soon.

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Post  Gina_Costina Tue Mar 01, 2011 6:15 pm

Glad to have you with us Shaun, see you at Trowbridge.

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Post  Camel1815 Tue Mar 01, 2011 7:42 pm

Excellent report Paul, and also some cracking photos! (Most of the ones of Murph look like he is really pissed off with something!!!) Shame couldn't have been there. One day I will love to do something like that. Will have to sort my holidays out sooner!
Cheers
Richard.
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Post  murph Wed Mar 02, 2011 9:28 am

Camel1815 wrote:Excellent report Paul, and also some cracking photos! (Most of the ones of Murph look like he is really pissed off with something!!!) Shame couldn't have been there. One day I will love to do something like that. Will have to sort my holidays out sooner!
Cheers
Richard.

Yeah, I noticed that too? I was actually just concentrating and intent on finishing, the later ones especially since I had strained my thigh muscle in my left leg and was really struggling especially on the hills. I was barely able to walk the next day as others will confirm.

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Post  murph Wed Mar 02, 2011 9:35 am

Johnny_Costino wrote:
BenM wrote:Outstanding report and photographs! It sounds as though you all had a great time, even if the march was hard this year. It seems that these continue to get more gruelling, but glad that you all made it back safe and sound.

Let's hope I can make it next year!

Cheers,
Ben.

Ben , next year it seems that distance covered on foot will be shorter (each day) and we will be conveyed to start point(s) via GMC, apparently it really is going to be in areas where the 82nd served and possibly over a couple of days. Murph, Dan and I discussed things and to Make a bit of difference I was considering taking the Jeep.

We need to start thinking and planning, how do we get the Jeep over there? I don't mind going halves with you. Like Val said it would actually add a new dimension to it. I've proved I can walk the walk, might be an idea to drive the walk next year Very Happy

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Post  Vic Wed Mar 02, 2011 2:23 pm

Top pics and report!
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Post  samharris45 Mon Mar 07, 2011 12:16 pm

Guys

Looks like a great time had by all. I must pull my finger out and get on one of these trips however they always fall at the wrong time!

The pictures speak for themselves for what a great event.

Who started to drive on the wrong side then?

Sam
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Post  Gina_Costina Mon Mar 07, 2011 6:19 pm

samharris45 wrote:Guys

Looks like a great time had by all. I must pull my finger out and get on one of these trips however they always fall at the wrong time!

The pictures speak for themselves for what a great event.

Who started to drive on the wrong side then?

Sam

Clue- they are a response driver, probably pursuit trained, they don't live far from you. They do a perfect impression of our traveller Freinds, and during WW2 worked as a cab driver in Boston.

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Post  murph Tue Mar 08, 2011 9:23 am

Well it was foggy!!!!

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Post  Gina_Costina Tue Mar 08, 2011 10:05 am

murph wrote:Well it was foggy!!!!
That was the second time, but I still havent said who it was!

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Post  murph Tue Mar 08, 2011 10:19 am

Well let's get it into some context shall we? 'I'm sure it's around here somwhere....' 'Turn left, no right...' 'Ooooh I think I recognize this place...' lol!

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Post  Camel1815 Tue Mar 08, 2011 10:38 am

Obviously the 'Fog of War' !!! (Or he hadn't the foggiest Twisted Evil )
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Post  Gina_Costina Tue Mar 08, 2011 10:40 am

I still havent said who it was....my lips are sealed!

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Post  murph Tue Mar 08, 2011 10:51 am

Southern Tike!

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Post  samharris45 Tue Mar 08, 2011 12:37 pm

Johnny_Costino wrote:
murph wrote:Well it was foggy!!!!
That was the second time, but I still havent said who it was!

There was 2 times!!!

Bloody heck Ian lets hope that you don't make that mistake on a 999 call up the M1 eh.......
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Post  Guest Tue Mar 08, 2011 3:59 pm

Easily done affraid
Been down the wrong side of the road in France, luckily only a contry lane. Turned into the wrong side of a junction in Belgium early morning, and was going down a country lane in Belgium a couple of years ago, after getting lost on the way to the Militaria Fair at Ciney, and said to Ben why is this guy not getting over, you can guess the rest.
So, I will say, "let he who is without sin cast the first stone" Wink

Cheers,
Chris.

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