| The 150th Engineer Combat Battalion trained at Fort Devens
in Massachusetts, and was primarily made up of New England area men. It
held a reunion at Wentworth-By-The-Sea in 1980, and will have its 39th
reunion next May here in Manchester, at the Center of New Hampshire. In
September 20 members of the group, and their wives revisited Europe after
40 years to retrace the battle scenes of World War Two. This is one of
the experiences as recounted by Bill Morrissey.
* * *
We found our moment in Fresnes, France. It was
just beyond Chateau Salins, where we found the site of an old roadblock
the 150th Engineer Combat Battalion had removed 40 years ago. It was marked
by the cemetery alongside, where the mortar shells had frumped down and
spread their shrapnel. We traveled beyond the scene and through the town
once again, and burst into the open countryside. Someone yelled, "There
it is." The bus rolled by the signpost, slowed, turned, and hesitantly
headed back. Everyone mispronounced the little town's name, Fresnes.
"The church has been rebuilt." "Shall we go in?"
"No, no, no,..." "We've seen enough churches." "Let's just stand on the
steps." "O.K., O.K., all right..." The church was at the end of what appeared
to be a small street through somebody's farmyard. To the left a road wandered
off into the countryside. A scene recalled, a scene once again familiar.
The mud underneath our feet, as we alighted, the overcast skies, the drizzle,
the chill. The small church, the graveyard in back. We huddled on the steps.
"Let's pause for a moment of silence in memory
of our comrades who fell and died in this area. Carl Fyrbeck, who died
in his foxhole, James Cassidy, killed by a mine,...." We bowed our heads.
I remember Carl. We called him "Big Stoop," lovingly. Big Stoop, from Terry
and The Pirates. Carl was six foot three or four. A big, smiling giant,
who could hold an eight pound sledge at the end of its three foot handle,
straight out from his body, with one hand. I saw him killed, on that ridge
at Chateau Salins, although I didn't realize it at the time. I saw Stacy
start to limp as he caught shrapnel from the same shell. It had landed
in Carl's hole. "May your soul, and the souls of the faithful departed
rest in peace Carl. Amen."
Members of the 150th Engineer Combat Battalion
had gone back to Europe, "To see again." We saw Normandy again, St. Lo,
Hoesdorf, Oppenheim, the scenes of war that changed so much to be hardly
recognized. But, we found our moment of meaning at Fresnes. We miss you
Carl and Jim, and all the rest. You are still young in our old hearts.