Remarks at Farsleben Monument Dedication

On behalf of the 30th Infantry Division Association, our World War II Veterans and the Citizen Soldiers of today’s 30th Armored Brigade, Old Hickory; we are so honored to be here today, to help remember and commemorate what happened on this piece of ground over 77 years ago.

So often we talk about the outstanding combat record of the 743rd Tank Battalion, 823rd Tank Destroyer Battalion and 30th Infantry Division and rightly so; as Old Hickory was the best in the European Theater as outlined in the famous letter by Eisenhower’s chief historian SLA Marshall. However, today we focus on this moment, this day of April 13, 1945, when Old Hickory Citizen Soldiers were reminded of what they were fighting for and were able to treat the survivors who were liberated here with human decency and kindness, something many of them had not felt since 1939 or earlier.

John Cronan, a veteran of the 743rd, with whom I was fortunate to be well acquainted, recalled how in the spring of 1945, as the fatigue of constant combat and personal witness to massive destruction of cities and villages weighed on these young soldiers. Some even questioned the reason for such a destructive war. That April day changed all that for John and his comrades, they were reminded in an instant of how important it was for them to finish the mission of the unconditional surrender of the Nazi regime.

It has also been so important for our other Old Hickory Veterans in their later years, as time and age has at times forced some of our veterans to focus on the death and destruction they participated in as soldiers. I have known veterans like Tony Demunda of the 30th Division Artillery- who kept three things in his wallet until the day he died, his dog tags, his 30th Division patch and photos of the camps at Buchenwald and Bergen Belsen- he did this to remind himself and share the story with younger generations of why his generation had gone to war. I have used the story of what happened here with veterans like Roger Casey of the 119th Infantry, to help him cope with guilt over the death and destruction he participated in. For those of you who were liberated or are descended from those liberated here, I want you to know that your families story and interaction with the Citizen Soldiers of Old Hickory here not only gave some of them purpose in April of 1945 but helped heal some of their unseen wounds over 75 years later.

We must never forget what happened here or how long it took for the world to respond to what the Nazi’s termed as the Final Solution. As historian Matt Rozell lays out in his superb book, A Train Near Magdeburg, our 30th Veterans prefer the term eyewitness to that of hero. The 743rd Tank Battalion lived up to its motto, We Keep the Faith, in World War II. Now, it is our turn to keep the faith, to preserve and retell these eyewitness accounts- and remember that they did something to help stop one of the “greatest crimes in the history of the world”. (Rozell, 451)

So today, know that those standing with you in uniform of the United States Army Soldier here today, have spent time, shook hands with and developed relationships with those who wore our same patch on this ground here in April of 1945- we humbly stand with you today and as we shake your hand, know that we, together, with those of you who are descended from those liberated, we will pass on the connection and memory of what happened here to new generations. What this monument will do here in the physical sense to preserve that memory, we must do in the spiritual sense. We must remember that connection that was made here so long ago, renewed by the efforts of historians, involved citizens here in Europe and the veterans and survivors themselves.

I thank you again for this opportunity on behalf of myself and my soldiers.

We must never forget, Old Hickory, Rock of Mortain!