36th Infantry Division Association

It Doesn't Get Any Better Than This

The 1998 Battlefield Tour
- Page 4 -

Ray Wells
Company H
141st Infantry Regiment

Wake up call this morning at 4:30 AM and a very early breakfast and a ride to the station where we boarded the train for a scenic eight hour ride to Dejon. The trains here travel in excess of one hundred miles per hour through very scenic country. A dining car was added to the train at Marseilles and we were able to enjoy sandwiches and drinks. After arriving in Dejon, we had lunch before boarding our bus and meeting our driver, Maurice, who would be with us all the way to the Munich airport at the conclusion of the tour. Physical needs met, we were on our way to Sauvagney where I knew there would be a very warm reception, not knowing that the reception would be far more than I could imagine.

The citizens of this very small and beautiful village had been planning for our visit for many months and the result of their months of planning showed that they had. My contact in the village was Henri Ducret whom I had been in contact for over two years had written to me saying that he would be at the edge of the village and would escort us to meet the Mayor. As we rounded the bend in the road and were spotted by the reception group we could see people running to inform the rest of the towns people. They were very excited, we could tell, and of course we all became excited not really knowing what to expect.

The church bells began ringing as the excitement built up. Henri ran to the edge of the road and asked us to follow him as he led us to the church where a monument had been built and dedicated a few years ago to the men who died for the freedom of their village. When we approached the church we could see a huge crowed of people, men women and children, dressed in their finest. We thought, is this all for us? The towns population was 175 souls and 150 of them were there to greet us. What a wonderful reception this was. We were all tired from our long trip but all of perked up immediately. I am sure that there were many in the French Group who were shedding tears and in our group as well the reception was such a heart warming experience.

After the first greeting we were escorted to the church where the monument stood and introduced to the young Mayor of Sauvagney. There were the usual speeches, a wreath was laid by three members of our group, a prayer was said by Tom Dunne who had accepted the position as our Chaplain. This was a very solemn ceremony for those who died during the battle for Sauvagney and had actually been buried in the church yard before the Graves Registration had come to retrieve their bodies.

For those who haven't read the story of Sauvagney, two men from "E Company, 141st Infantry Regiment were killed while fighting for the liberation of the Village. With the permission of the Commanding Office of the Regiment the residents of the village built coffins for the "T Patchers" and buried them with Christian Ceremony in the Church cemetery. As far as I know these two men were the only bodies recovered by the Graves Registration whose bodies had been buried in coffins. We met some of the people who actually recovered the bodies, built the coffins, the man who dug the graves and Henri's two sisters who at the time of the battle were little girls took flowers to the place where these young soldiers laid and put flowers on their bodies. The two soldiers were Edwin J. Morgan and John Kremer.

When the beautiful and meaningful ceremonies at the monument and the church were completed we were escorted to the town hall, some of us rode in WWII military jeeps, where a reception was waiting for us. Following the usual Champagne and food we presented the city of Sauvagney a plaque in the name of the 36th Infantry Division Association in appreciation for their continued loyalty to the 36th Division. The people who were directly involved in the recovery and burial of the two soldiers bodies, and the building and dedication of the monument were presented with individual certificates. The presentation of the certificates was very emotional especially when the two ladies who as young girls had placed flowers on the bodies of the two men as they laid in the field where they had been killed were presented with certificates. The tears really began to flow not just among our French friends but the tough old ex-soldiers as well.

This small village truly represented the feelings of the French people all along the route of our tour. They thanked us time and time again for the freedom we died and fought for. Following was extracted in part from the After Battle Report of the 141st: "At 1325 hours the Reconnaissance Company of the 636th Tank Destroyer Battalion reported that it had covered the area along the river in the regimental sector. All Bridges were blown except one at CUSSEY SUR L'OGNON where a fire fight was going on. By 1330 hours Companies "E" and "I"' were engaged with enemy forces at SAUVAGNEY. Company "G" moved into MONLEY but the bridge there was blown up."

It was very hard for us to finally say goodbye but the time had come for us to continue with our journey. We left this beautiful little village of Sauvagney knowing that each one of us had the friendship of the entire population.

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Sauvagney France. 36th Division Vets with Mayor on left. The lady was the interpreter.

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Village Officers of Savagney receiving Certificates from Ray Wells who represented the President of the 36th Infantry Division Association, Virgil Duffy.

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Ray Wells standing between the two French Ladies with Howard Clements on the right. These two ladies had been presented with Certificates to honor them who as young girls placed flowers on the bodies of the men from E Company, 141st Infantry Regiment, who died while freeing their village of the enemy.

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More US Military Vehicles, Suavagney, France. Re-enactment groups have formed in most of the countries of Europe. They wear authentic uniforms of WWII era and the vehicles have been recovered from the battlefields and rebuilt. Every item they wear or display must be authentic.

Return to Sauvagney

Reuben D. Parker
Company E, 141st Inf.

A few years ago an article in the T-PATCHER indicated that the village of Sauvagney (near Bescancon) had erected a monument to two soldiers killed in the liberation of their village. At the same time there were requests that anyone remembering the two soldiers or the battle at Sauvagney, contact Mr. Ducret, former mayor of the village. The soldiers were identified as privates Morgan and Kriener of Co. E, 141st Inf.

My memories of fighting around Bescanson were vague as were those of Col. Critchfield. I remember crossing a river on a narrow dam, the top of which was ten inches below the water level. Eventually, someone gave Mr. Ducret my name as commander of E Company during the period and we exchanged several letters--one containing material obtained from the U.S. National Archives in Baltimore which indicated that E-Company had been directed to proceed to several villages, one of which was Sauvagney.

I indicated to Mr. Ducret that to him Sauvagney was the most important village in the world, but to us it was one of hundreds we liberated during the war.

When he discovered my wife was originally French, he encouraged me to stop by Sauvagney on the next trip to France hoping seeing Sauvagney would jog my memory So this January when we decided to visit France again, I informed Mr. Ducret that if the traffic allowed we would arrive at noon on the 27th of January at 11:50 a.m.

I was within 10 km of our destination and missed the route and by the time I relocated myself I arrived at Sauvagney at 1300 hours. (French lunch time). They had prepared lunch for us - a typical French lunch when you are having guests. The first two courses were accompanied by two different white wines from Alsace. Before the main course, Mr. Ducret brought out a 1952 wine from Algeria. With the main course we drank a 1988 Bordeaux, aged about right for good wine.

At 4:00 Mr. Ducret and I visited his father's farm where the two soldiers were killed. He showed me where my soldiers were, where the machine guns were located and the 60mm mortars. This did nothing for my memory - in fact his location for the mortars seemed unsound tactically. After returning by way of the monument, we returned to the table for dessert and champagne.

As we took our leave, I told Mr. Ducret that I didn't remember my first visit to Sauvagney, but I would not forget my last. What was especially gratifying to me was to find a Frenchman whose appreciation for the American effort was so genuine. For this reason I have submitted his name to be an Associate member of the 36th Division Association.

My reception was as warm as Sauvagney's welcome for Ray Wells' group last Spring.


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