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Ville au Val, France

By Terry D. Janes 

 

 

Situated East Of The Moselle River, Ville au Val Looks Idyllic

Photo Courtesy Of Oliver Fontaine

 

Ville au Val, France has a long history.  Nearby, are Celtic and Roman ruins.  Armies have marched through this area for centuries.  In the town, stands a castle or chateau, which undoubtedly once protected this area.  In late summer and early fall of 1944, Patton's Third U.S. Army made it's historic dash across France.  That dash stopped for a while at the Moselle.  This beautiful area was once again a battlefield as the German Army desperately attempted to halt the American advance.  East of the river, facing the American 80th Infantry Division and its attached units were an estimated 5,000 to 6,000 Germans.  The Germans knew the terrain, and used it to the utmost to further their defense.  The area would become scene to some of the bloodiest fighting of the war.

 

Recently, on Hill 351 just west of nearby Morey, human remains were discovered.  These 58 year-old remains were identified as Robert B. Horner.  Robert had been in Company H, 317th Infantry Regiment, 80th Infantry Division.  He was likely killed between the 17th and 19th of September 1944 when the 317th was fighting in that area.  His body has been returned to the U.S. and buried at Arlington National Cemetery.  His comrades from the 80th plan to lay a wreath in his honor.  Hopefully, there are no more Robert's out there still to be found.  This case emphasizes the enormity of the battles, which raged in the Moselle area during World War Two.

 

Caught in the eye of this storm, was the little town of Ville au Val and it's old chateau.  After the Americans had liberated it, Professor (Former Army Captain S-2) Carl Nordstrom remembered seeing General Patton there.  The area was certainly key to Patton's war plan.  Unlike much of Europe's old buildings, the chateau at Ville au Val survived World War Two.  Recently, Oliver Fontaine contacted me.  His wife's father and grandfather owned the chateau in World War Two.  Mr. Fontaine told me that the chateau still bears a souvenir of that time.  During its occupation by military forces, soldiers drew pictures on its walls.  These pictures still exist today.  Mr. Fontaine seemed to think Americans did them, and some were.  Once I got a look at the photos however, I became convinced that Americans, French and Germans had drawn the pictures.  It appears that all sides took an opportunity to leave graffiti behind. 

 

By chance, while discussing the subject of World War Two medics with former Red Devil Medic Adolph "Duffy" Facini, 702nd Tank Battalion Medical Detachment, I happened to mention Mr. Fontaine's chateau and it's artwork.  To my shock, "Duffy" said that he had drawn some pictures there.  He said that whenever he was staying in a house or building in the war, he tried not to tear things up like some soldiers did.  He knew that these houses or buildings belonged to someone, and he didn't think it was right to needlessly damage other people's property.  The chateau at Ville au Val was the best building in the town.  Therefore, it came to be used as a headquarters, and a place to collect wounded before they were transported to the hospital.  It was for that reason that Medic Facini was there.  During his seldom-idle moments, he said that he felt like drawing, and drew Lil Abner cartoon characters.  The French artist, I suspect may have been a member of the F.F.I. or one of the French Liaison O.S.S. officers attached to the 80th.  The German artist was likely also a bored soldier in the area before the Americans arrived.  On the following pages, you'll find photos of the "artwork".  You can judge for yourself.  It is a great old chateau, and I am glad it survives.  Hopefully, it has seen it's last battle, it's last bored soldier and it's last life lost in war.  My gratitude to Mr. Oliver Fontaine and his family for sharing their home with us.  I am told that the Fontaine's are expecting a new child.  Maybe this will herald better days ahead for Ville au Val!

 

 

Photo Courtesy Of Oliver Fontaine

 

Ken Aladeen remembers: "2nd Bn 318th (code name Hamper White) was indeed in that village.  It was a very warm day and we had moved some distance and I was very thirsty.  There was a spring feeding a horse-watering trough in the center of town.  The water was cool and crystal clear so several of us filled our canteens.  A big mistake - the next morning those of us who had used the water had classic cases of the "GIs".  Sadly, we had been warned over and over and issued a tablet (called atabrine, I think) that would help purify the water, but it gave a strange taste and smell to the water, so we hated to use it."

 

 

 

 

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