Thannenkirch, FRANCE -- Seven Soldiers with 5th Battalion, 7th Air Defense Artillery Regiment's color guard participated in the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Thannenkirch, France December 1. The commemoration included a wreath laying ceremony at the town church, an unveiling of a commemorative plaque honoring the men of the 4th Battalion of the 142nd Infantry Regiment of the 36th Division of the 7th U.S. Army who liberated Thannenkirch, and the inauguration of a commemorative plaque at the birthplace of Armand Schiber, a French resistance member and deported Soldier who died at Buchenwald.
The Mayor of Thannenkirch, Dominique-Ernest Carette, spoke at each of the three separate sites spread around the village to a crowd of more than 200 people. The opening ceremony started in front of the town church on Place Francis Gassmann Square and included the U.S. Soldiers with 5-7 ADA's color guard, French soldiers, a platoon of French engineers, a live band, French military
veterans, friends and family.
After the wreath-laying ceremony, Carette spoke about the first combat between American tanks and German anti-tank canons and how the fight lasted two days under artillery fire, first on Thannenkirch, then on German positions on the plain which eventually pushed out German troops and liberated the city.
"To the American people, the people of Thannenkirch today demonstrate their appreciation and eternal remembrance, symbolized by this monument which we have inaugurated," Carette said. "Long live the French-American friendship."
The unveiling of a commemorative plaque honoring the men of the 4th Battalion of the 142nd Infantry Regiment of the 36th Division of the 7th U.S. Army took place at the village entrance. Translated from French, the plaque reads: "To the Soldiers of the 2nd Battalion of the 142nd Infantry Regiment of the U.S. 7th Army, who liberated Thannenkirch from the Nazi occupation and annexation. We remember - 01/12/1944 - 01/12/2019."
"The men we honor with this monument are those of the 36th Division of the U.S. 7th Army, who are not unknown to the French," Carette said. "The 142nd Infantry Regiment,which included the 2nd Battalion, would go on to take part in the Italy campaign, where it showed its brilliance on varied battlefields, incurring heavy losses, most notably at Mont Cassino. On August 15, 1944, during Operation Dragoon (the invasion of southern France, after D-Day]) at Saint- Raphael and Frejus. These units took part in the landing at Frejus, at the naval air station and Dramont, from the beach of Antheor. After a rapid advance across the Rhone valley, the division was attached to the French 1st Army, under the command of General de Lattre de Tassigny," Carette said. "By September 30, 1944, these units found themselves near Remiremont in the Vosges Mountains."
The last commemorative plaque was unveiled on the outside wall of the Hotel du Haut-Koenigsbourg, in honor of 2nd Lt. Armand Schiber, a French resistance member, who was born there. The hotel was also used shortly in the war as a U.S. Army headquarters, according to the current owners of the hotel, Steve and Regine John.
Staff Sgt. Kevin Outlaw, a Patriot section chief, and the color guard's non-commissioned officer in charge, assigned to Delta, 5-7 ADA, said that it was a privilege representing the U.S. Army in the commemoration of the liberation of Thannenkirch.
"I've personally never done anything like this before, so it was nice to unite with other countries and actually learn something from the French veterans," Outlaw said. "I was able to talk to previous mayors from here and learn what the Americans did here. I also enjoyed talking with the French Soldiers and learning about what their day-to-day life is like, which is very similar to ours."
Outlaw said people he met in the village were extremely friendly and he felt like the Americans were welcome there.
"It has been a really great experience to come all the way from Germany to be here and join them in their celebration," Outlaw said.
Second Lt. Nancy Chan (OIC), Staff Sgt. Kevin Outlaw (NCOIC), Sgt. Tristan Barrington, Sgt. Emily Priselac, Sgt. Jeremy Smith, Spc. Miguel Mederos and Pvt. 2 Shaunequez Martin from 5-7 ADA, 10th Army Air and Missile Defense Command, stationed in Baumholder, participated in the event.
Thannenkirch is located less than 70 km south of Strasbourg, France.