​​​​​​​​​​Russell High School

September 13, 2021
The German City of Aachen.
Seventy-seven years ago today, I was on a Red Cross Train traveling into the heartland of war torn Germany. This was the 13th of September 1944;
I had been wounded on the 11th of the month in the vicinity of Aachen. I spent a night in an aid station behind the lines and another night in a huge hospital in Aachen on a mattress in the corridor. Crowded conditions necessitated this. I was a frightened lad of twenty facing the unknown. The only American on a train filled with wounded Germans, I communicated with a German Captain who spoke some French. We were both limited in the language department. I was on this train for a week, a month in a huge hospital in Geissen, and then across Germany to Stalag 9 C in Meiningen.I was there until liberation in late April of 1945.

Meanwhile, back in Aachen the battle was raging. The Battle lasted until the surrender of Aachen in late October of 1944. Aachen is a city today of 250 thousand persons. It was the capital of The Holy Roman Empire of ancient times. Strategically located at the crossroads of several countries, it was and is a rail hub of the highly important industrial and commerce center of the Ruhr Valley. Aachen developed from a spa and a Roman Settlement . It was the medieval residence of Charlemagne and was the place where 31 Holy Roman Emperors were crowned King of the Germans. A bit of false information came my way—-I do not know how—Charlemagne was not crowned in Aachen on Christmas Day 800 but by Pope Leo the Third at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome on Christmas Day in the year 800..Charlemagne’s birthplace is unknown. Some historians have suggested Liege and others Aachen. We do know that he selected Aachen as the capital of the Empire that included all of Southern Europe. Aachen was, also, occupied by Napoleon in 1794 and attached to France with a French name, Aix-la-Chapelle. Certain people of importance—rulers—have had visions of ruling a unified Europe . Charlemagne wanted to unite all the Germanic people and convert his subjects to Christianity. It does not appear that a unified Europe is going to happen.

This small amount of history was to tell you a little about Aachen, the first large German city to fall to the Allies on October the 20th 1944. It is astounding thinking of how long it took to capture the city. But, the German army was entrenched, protected by the Siegfried Line.
More War time musings soon.
Blessings to all.

William Leon


​​September 11, 2021

Today is September the Eleventh, 2021. This date is memory time for me. It is a day that will live in infamy. When I first heard this word, I was a seventeen year old Senior at Griffin High School. President Franklin D. Roosevelt used this word in his Declaration of War address to the Congress. He was referring to the suddenly and deliberate attack by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan on Pearl Harbor. This sent me to the dictionary for definition. It means: the quality of being famous for something considered bad. The word certainly fit the occasion. In my long life, there have been “other days of infamy.”

Twenty years ago, New York City and other parts of Eastern United States were attacked by terrorist, bringing down the World Trade Towers in Manhattan causing the loss of many lives trapped in the buildings. Nearly 3000 people were killed. Other lives were lost in other areas. It was a day that shall life in infamy.

Seventy-seven years ago today, September the Eleventh 1944, I was attached to the 745th Tank Battalion as a Scout. While on a mission near the German border in Belgium——we were on the vicinity of Aachen—-,our reconnaissance platoon ran int a hidden machine gun nest. Three of my comrades were killed. I was injured , picked up by the enemy, and became a Prisoner of War. It was a day that shall live in infamy.
Now a pleasant memory of this date, September the Eleventh.

Several years ago, I had the honor to serve Father Zachary Thompson as his acolyte at the Noon Mass at Our Saviour, Atlanta, on September Eleventh. On that day, rather than the Regular Prayers of The People, we used Fr. Zach’s special prayers remembering the fallen victims of the terrorists attack. We included my fallen comrades in the prayers. We recall those today who lost their lives in these attacks—civilian and military and ask:
Blessings to you.


August 25, 2021

Some musings and thoughts of yesteryear on this day in history.
I waked this morning with a heart that is so pleased to be able to relate to you events of this day seventy-seven years ago, August
the 25th, 1945. I was a young man of 20 having left my teens a few days earlier. I was a Private in the US Army attached to the 745th Tank Battalion, Reconnaissance Platoon. We were camped out on the banks of The River Seine some sixteen miles south of Paris at Ris-Orangis, a commune in the southern suburbs of the city. We were awaiting orders. After more than four years of Nazi occupation, Paris was liberated this day by The Second French Armored Division under General Phillipe Leclerc. I find it incredible being a part of history although a minor role. We were hoping to be a part of the conquering forces that day, but General Eisenhower and members of the Supreme Headquarters of the Allied Expeditionary Forces allowed that honor to go to The Free French Division. That was the fitting and proper thing to do. Hitler had ordered Dietrich von Choltitz, the Commander of the German Garrison and Military Governor of Paris, to inflict maximum damage to Paris and its monuments. Von Choltitz ignored the order and surrendered to the French at the Hotel Le Meurice. The hotel was the newly established French Headquarters, and General Charles de Gaulle of the French Army arrived to assume control of the city as Head of the Provisional Government of the French Republic. Alas, our visions of parading down The Champs-Élysées with thousands of Parisians cheering and waving magnums of Champagne were short lived; we did receive orders. We skirted Paris and headed north-east through the trench battlefields of World War 1. We traveled through the area of Chateau Thierry, Saint Quentin, Laon, Amiens, Compiègne and Soissons toward the Belgium border. I shall get back to the Battle of Aachen one day soon. Although, I missed out on The Liberation of Paris in August of 1944; I was there for VE Day in May of 1945.


Gatlin's Musings

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