Organized by the Lorraine Battle Memorial Commission and an active duty French Army Sargent Major, the city located and hosted American descendants of our victims of the fight in and around Luneville, including the Foret de Parroy, to attend the unveiling of plaques, wreath laying and other ceremonies.
We were also accompanied by close to 100 French "re-enactors" who have restored numerous jeeps, ambulances, artillery pieces, and armored cars to operating condition. The Americans were provided 2 large buses as part of a convoy that moved through Luneville, to the airfield at Chanteheux, to Embermenil, Valhey, Leintrey, and Arracourt.
In September 1944, the 79th Infantry Division initially liberated the city of Luneville, only to be met shortly thereafter with a German counterattack that massed 400 tanks. This was the largest Axis armored counterattack in France until the Battle of the Bulge according to a French Army historian and it drove the Americans out of the southern half of the city. General Patton sent the 4th Armored Division to assist in recapturing the town, which resulted in the Germans retreating into the Parroy Forest. The 79th Infantry and later the 44th Infantry fought steadily for 2 continuous weeks to drive the defenders out of the Forest. Casualties were very high.
These events are now distant for many in the US, but they are apparently still vivid for the French. Everywhere we went, friendly crowds turned out to watch the wreath laying, listen to the prayers and hear the speeches filled with remembrances and details about those days 65 years ago. Particularly touching were the large groups of elementary school children singing the Star Spangled Banner and waving our flag. The French told us that they feel it is very important for their youth to understand how much they benefited from our commitment to their freedom.
Some pictures from the events are posted and this link takes you to the biographical page of Col. Jimmie Leach, who was a young Captain commanding a company of tanks in the 4th Armored Division. Tanker Jimmie Leach; Patton's Last WWII Tank Commander Tells His Story of War and Service Colonel Leach attended all 3 days of the ceremonies and banquets and provided many details about the battles. Also posted is the schedule of events for the 3 days, as provided by the Lorraine Battle Memorial Commission.