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Individual battlefield tours:

MuseumslinkGAUL's LEGACY TOURS Sarl

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Diekirch

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  • 29 Apr 2017

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  • 30 Apr 2017

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The museum is pleased to announce the launch of a new section of our website - TREASURE TROVE -. We believe you will be excited to see some of our recent acquisitions. These relics of World War II contribute to our understanding of the war and its impact on the world. Treasure awaits discovery!
Please visit the museum to see other discoveries of great historical value. Thank you for continued support and please check back frequently for recent postings. If you would like to donate memorabilia, please contact the museum's curator, Roland GAUL at:  info@mnhm.lu.
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German "Enigma" and U.S. "M-209" machines
 
The National Museum of Military History in Diekirch/Luxembourg, features a display of two extremely rare and hard to see historical pieces of the "encrypted communications warfare", as used during the Battle of the Bulge, 1944/45 - the legendary German ENIGMA ciphering machine and its American counterpart, the M-209.
 

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 Both world-class artifacts were received as a long-term loan by the National Cryptologic Museum to document a little-known aspect of the "Bulge" - the communications war. Both special communications equipments were actually used on the "Ardennes" battlefront in December 1944 - January 1945.
The two artifacts were received on August 28, 2004 and as of September 30, 2004 have been integrated into the museums communications equipment exhibit. Together they really represent a balanced chapter of history - perhaps decisive on the battlefield - that is often neglected in many history books. Special thanks to the National Crypotologic Cryptologic Museum and its staff for this outstanding exhibit.
The following extensive descriptive narrative of both "Enigma" and "M-209" is excerpted from the National Cryptologic Museum s website .
 
 
 
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Coca-Cola  

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Recently, the museum found a Coca-Cola crate at a local flea market.  Recognizing the significance of Coca-Cola during World War II, the museum purchased the crate for its collection.  The crate indicates the contents were for export to the Armed Forces in 1945. 
Established in 1886, Coca-Cola has become one of the most universally recognized brands.  In fact, Coca-Cola has become an iconic symbol of America just as baseball and apple pie symbolize the American way of life.  At the outbreak of World War II, Coca-Cola was bottled in 44 countries outside of the United States.  However, by the end of the war, an additional 64 bottling plants were built in order to meet the demands and requests of the US military.  Coca-Cola was extremely popular on military bases and the company provided soda to troops prior to the war.  However, to further promote the company and product as a symbol of patriotism, democracy and freedom, Robert Woodruff, then president of Coca-Cola, declared that Coca-Cola would see to it that every man in uniform gets a bottle of Coca-Cola for five cents wherever he is and whatever it costs the company.   This directive coincided with General Eisenhower s request in 1943 for 10 additional bottling plants for troops overseas.  More than 5 billion bottles of Coca-Cola were consumed by military personnel during World War II.  Coca-Cola continues to have a long history of refreshing American soldiers stationed throughout the world with an ice cold coke waiting for them as they return from the front lines.  

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January 1945: American GI s in Luxembourg enjoying a Coke with a snowlady
Websites of Interest The Coca Cola Company http://www.thecoca-colacompany.com 
The World of Coke http://www.woccatlanta.com The Coca-Cola Collector s Club http://www.cocacolaclub.org
 
by Lara L. Center, NMMH volunteer  
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A Moment in Time The year: 1945
The location: the Café Johan Goedert (country inn) Herborn, Luxembourg

The story: Two American GI s, members of the 76th Infantry Division, returned to the inn after their assignment.  Don Ringham and Jim Littlejohn, lifelong friends from Minnesota, sat around and recounted their travels in Luxembourg. The GI s spoke fondly of the Luxembourg countryside and castles they had seen on their tour. Ringham and Littlejohn decided to record their presence in Luxembourg by carving their names and the date into wooden chairs at the inn. Their intention was to return to Luxembourg in the future and find their chairs as proof of their presence in Luxembourg.

Fast forward to 1999. Preparing the inn for sale, the owners, Odette and Liette Goedert, started cleaning the building with the assistance of their friend Ernie Kirpach.  In the attic a wooden chair with a name, date and initials carved in the seat was found.  The chair read "Don Ringham MPLS 2/11/45".  The chair sparked interest among friends and family. Those involved recognized the significance of the date; February 11, 1945.  The Battle of the Bulge was over, and the American Army was situated at the German border. Local historian, Fred Karen, founding member of the Diekirch National Museum of Military History, was contacted for assistance. Mr. Karen immediately assumed Don Ringham was a member of the 76th Infantry Division, which arrived in Luxembourg January 1945. The American Army battled the German Siegfried Line from the town of Echternach beginning February 6, 1945. In addition, the initials "MPLS" were determined to be the US postal code for Minneapolis, Minnesota. Mr. Karen remained friends with many American GIs and used his connections to locate Don Ringham, who still resided in Minnesota.

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Mr. Ringham was contacted by telephone on Christmas Eve 1999. He recounted the story of him and his friend Jim Littlejohn. Mr. Ringham was nostalgic after hearing the story of the found chair and the attempts to track down the person who made the carvings.  Unfortunately, the chair carved by Jim Littlejohn was nowhere to be found. It was assumed the chair was thrown out at some point in time. Upon learning that a friend and former 76th Infantry Division member was traveling to Luxembourg, Mr. Ringham who was unable to travel, asked the friend to meet with Fred Karen and Ernie Kirpach to see the chair. It was decided that the chair, a unique memento from a specific moment in time, would be donated to the National Museum of Military History in Diekirch. The presentation of the chair coincided with the 56th Anniversary of the liberation of Luxembourg on September 21, 2000. Today, the chair is part of the museum s collection highlights.
by Lara L. Center, NMMH volunteer.
 
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Guten Appetit !
 
The museum aims to present the daily life of German and American soldiers in the field The last Treasure Trove entry highlighted US military mess kits, so it only seems logical to present the German "Kochgeschirr" or "Essgeschirr" also known as mess kit.  
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The German mess kit consists of three pieces; a large pot, a small frying pan and a small bowl. The three pieces rested together, allowing space to store salt and pepper, matches or dish soap. The German soldier could use the pot and pan to form a container capable of transporting prepared food from the fire to the eating area. Meals were eaten with tinned steel utensils or "Essbesteck".  The utensils were hinged together and folded together as one item which was usually tucked away in the breadbag. The general issue mess kit also came with a butterdish or fat dish ("Fettdose" in German). This dish consisted of a two part resin or plastic container in various colors to store lard for cooking purposes.
 

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The German soldiers were issued an "Esbit" stove, which was a small, portable, foldable stove used in the field to cook meals. The stove was fueled with a tablet made of hexamine fuel, which was invented in Murrhardt, Germany in 1932. The tablet heated quickly allowing soldiers to make meals in a short period of time. The German soldiers did not have small compact meals or C-rations like the American soldiers. The German soldiers were accustomed to meals better described as home-cooked such as stew, which explains the need for the Esbit stove. Today, Esbit stoves are still sold to the general public for camping trips.
 

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The Feldflasche, or canteen, was made of aluminum (later models were of painted steel) and were made in a standard 1 liter size. There was also a "tropical"-use canteen, sometimes referred to as the "coconut".  The canteen came with a choice of drinking cups (aluminum, steel, or plastic) that fit over the top of the canteen. The German Army re-used WWI cups made of enameled steel which attached to the canteen. The canteen was stored in a felt or wool cover.

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The breadbag, or "Brotbeutel", served as an all purpose sack for the mess kit, canteen, rifle-cleaning kit and food.  The mess kit and canteen were affixed to the breadbag with leather straps and snap fasteners on the outside of the bag.
 

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by Lara L. Center, NMMH volunteer.
 
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Chow Time!
 
The museum has a collection of mess kits, eating utensils and canteens that were donated over the years by local Luxembourg families.  Following the end of WWII, American GIs left behind some personal belongings such as these.  Some of the mess kits were personally engraved by the soldiers with their name and serial number.  Other mess kits were engraved with trench art and say things that may not be appropriate for the family friendly museum website!  Local Luxembourg families found a use for these items which became a part of everyday life in the WWII aftermath.  One of our volunteers still has a collection of mess kit utensils used by her family for daily meals.
 

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The mess kit or meat can, consisted of the basics necessary for a soldier in the field to feed himself.  The mess kit was used to prepare, cook and eat food.  The U.S. GI mess kit consisted of a two-part pan with hinged handle, which also closed the device when the two halves were not in use.  The pans were not deep because C-rations only required re-heating not cooking from scratch.  The mess kit also contained a knife, fork and spoon.  The WWI version was made of aluminum, but the metal would stain.  Later versions were made of stainless steel or other rust-resistant metals.  The mess kit and utensils were stored in a pouch, which also provided space for C-rations.
 

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The canteen was made in a standard 1 quart size.  The canteen could be heated over the fire with the overlying canteen cup.  The handle of the cup was produced with a slot, allowing for a fork to slip through avoiding burns.
 
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An extra utensil which was deemed indispensable was the US Army Pocket Can Opener, better known as the P-38.  This item was compact, collapsible, and versatile.  The P-38 can opener was developed during WWII by the Subsistence Research Lab to aid soldiers in opening the metal cans of C-rations.  However, soldiers quickly found lots of uses for the P-38 can opener such as seam ripper, fingernail cleaner, digging tool, stripping wire and chiseling.  No one knows for certain where the name P-38 came from, but one could speculate that it took 38 punctures to open a C-ration can.  The P-38 was also called the John Wayne by the Navy and Marines because John Wayne was shown in a WWII training film opening a C-ration can with the device.
 

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by Lara L. Center, NMMH volunteer.
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Just add Water .
And Voilà! A cup of coffee or a glass of orange juice. These ration wrappers were discovered on a recent excursion in the woods around Diekirch. The detail and information still readable after more than 60 years prompted the museum to do additional digging on these items. This is what we learned
 

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 The daily combat food ration of Allied Troops was called K rations. K rations were first introduced in World War II. The purpose was to provide soldiers with three square meals a day, focusing first on front line troops. The non-perishable, ready to eat meals were designed with energy and portability in mind. The K ration provided soldiers with 3,000 calories daily in a designed package that fit in a soldier s pocket. K rations consisted of canned meat products, fruit bars, powdered coffee and fruit drinks, biscuits or crackers, chewing gum, salt, sugar, candy, cigarettes, can opener and wooden spoon.
 just add water orange juice ration side 1
just add water orange juice ration side 2
Regarding the ration wrappers found recently, Baker and Company produced a soluble coffee labeled as Barrington Hall. During World War II, the United States government took over Baker and Company to produce K rations for Allied Troops. Miles Laboratories packaged powdered coffee and fruit drink mix for K rations during the war. Miles Laboratories, now a subsidiary of Bayer, is best known for producing Alka Seltzer.
by Lara L. Center, NMMH volunteer.
 
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Play Ball!
Baseball, America s National Pastime, gained popularity in Europe during World War II. Baseball provided a common recreational interest for kids and adults alike. The game can be played as an organized sport or a just a fun game of pick up with several players, a ball, and a bat. Recently, the museum acquired a Hillerich and Bradsby US Army issued baseball bat. The donor of the baseball bat was a young child in Luxembourg during WWII and an American GI gave him the bat. Also tucked away in the museum s archives was a picture of American soldiers from the 8th Infantry Division in Consthum, Luxembourg playing baseball in their leisure time. The gift and photo prompted the museum to dig a little into the subject matter of baseball during World War II.
  

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Prior to the 1942 baseball season in the United States, it was uncertain if baseball would continue due to the massive war effort ongoing in the United States. However, the president of the United States, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, stated I honestly think it would be best for the country to keep baseball going. This statement was part of the green light letter written to the Commissioner of Baseball. The President viewed baseball as a morale booster for Americans at home and abroad. It is important to note that the president, while encouraging baseball to continue, also recognized the need for young and fit ball players to help America fight the war. More than 500 major league players and over 4,000 minor league players either enlisted or were drafted to assist in the war effort. Of the 500 major league players who fought in World War II, the most recognizable names include Ted Williams, Joe DiMaggio, Bob Feller, Johnny Pesky, Stan Musial, Morrie Martin and Warren Spahn. In addition to these men, Ralph Houk (9th Armored Division), Clarence Maddern (76th Infantry Division), Steve Souchock (691st Tank Destroyer Battalion attached to the 87th Infantry Division), Cecil Travis (76th Infantry Division), Ken Trinkle (9th Armored Division) and Elmer Wachtler (35th Infantry Division) are of particular interest to the museum because of their role in the Battle of the Bulge in Luxembourg.
 

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On the home front in the United States, baseball was used to help raise funds for the war efforts. In 1943, an Armed Forces All Stars game, managed by Babe Ruth, played against the Boston Braves. The All Star line up included Joe DiMaggio and Ted Williams. In addition, Hillerich and Bradsby, the manufacturer of the Louisville Slugger, produced wooden rifle stocks, billy clubs, tank pins and baseball bats for the US Army. In Europe, soldiers followed the baseball season through scores and standings printed in the Stars and Stripes newspaper. Soldiers also formed teams among various Army companies and formed clubs and leagues for ball games. Following German surrender in 1945, a formal baseball administration was created to form a baseball athletic program for the soldiers in Europe.
 

play ball baseball at consthum lxbg oct1. 19

While the game of baseball did not catch on with the local Luxembourgers as a national pastime, one recreational baseball team in Luxembourg exists: the Hedgehogs.
Links of interest: National Baseball Hall of Fame http://baseballhalloffame.org Smithsonian American History Museum http://americanhistory.si.edu
Baseball in Wartime by Gary Bedingfield http://www.baseballinwartime.co.uk Louisville Slugger Museum http://www.sluggermuseum.org
Ken Burns documentary Baseball http://www.pbs.org/kenburns/baseball
by Lara L. Center, NMMH volunteer.
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Memories of Yesteryear
As time passes, the memories of WWII veterans and Luxembourg citizens directly impacted by the war are rapidly fading. Thanks to the interest of children and grandchildren of these individuals all members of the GREATEST GENERATION --, these memories are kept alive. Memories range from specifics of battles to everyday life in the Army and soldiers encounters with locals.
Photos GIs 8th Inf Div, George DUCAN + Harry McBride Breidfeld, NOV 1944
 

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Verso Photo Anne Dhur, BREIDFELD
Recently, an American contacted the museum with several photos from his father s memorabilia. His father, a US soldier of A Company, 12th Engineers supporting the 8th Infantry Division, spent time in Luxembourg in late fall of 1944. During this time in Luxembourg, his father became friends with one Luxembourg couple in particular and held fond memories of their kindness. Through the research efforts of the museum, the daughter of the Luxembourg couple was found living in the same home in the small village of Breidfeld in the Luxembourg Ardennes. These long-forgotten memories came full circle over 60 years later. The son was relieved to hear of the couple s survival during the war, which was of concern to his now deceased father. 
 

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Breidfeld DHUR House No.13
 
Without fail, over 60 years later there is still a strong bond between the United States and Luxembourg. The liberation from German occupation cemented a long lasting friendship between the two countries.
by Lara L. Center, NMMH volunteer.
 
 
 

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