Christian Kraft

Speech made by Mr Christian Kraft, Chairman of CRIBA, during the Baraque-de-Fraiture ceremony November 18, 2000

Sir, The Military Attache,
Mr. The Mayor,
Mr. The Deputy Mayor,
Representatives of Patriotic Societies;
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Dear Friends of CRIBA,

     On behalf of CRIBA, we have today the honor to welcome among us the Colonel William ZEKAS, Military Attache near the Ambassador of the United States of America and Mr. Lo CREEMERS from the Office of this Embassy, who wanted to be with us during this ceremony of homage paid to the tribute of one of the most glorious division of the American Army.

     We want to welcome Mr.Jacques GENNEN, Mayor of the Commune of Vielsalm, Mr. Raymond LEMAIRE, Deputy Mayor in charge of the public works and the Lieutenant Colonel Walter DEWULF, inhabitant of this commune.
     We want to take the opportunity to specially thank the Commune of Vielsalm for all what is done and for all is going on to be done for this beautiful monument dedicated to the heroes of the Battle of the Bulge. Of course, our thanks are also dedicated to Mrs Maria LEHAIRE who lived here the moments of the battle and to her daughter Bernadette for the care they heartily bring to this monument.
     And finally, I wish also say thank you to our member and friend Guy BLOCKMANS, of the Tourism Promotion Office for the precious and conversant help that he continually bring to the success of these ceremonies of remembrance.

     Some weeks ago, The President of the 3rd Armored Division Association gave to our Secretary, Henri ROGISTER, a commemorative plaque of the 3rd Armored Division "Spearhead". Then, the CRIBA decided to fix that plaque on the Baraque de Fraiture monument, dedicated to the heroes of the Battle of the Bulge and located on the highest point of the battlefield. That is the reason why we are meeting together today to specially render honor to our heroic American liberators of the 3rd Armored Division.
     This glorious division twice liberated the Belgian soil.First of all, on September 2, 1944, this "Spearhead" division coming from France crossed through the Belgian border and took part in the Battle for Mons wherein some 30.000 Germans were defeated. Right after, the 3rd Armored Division successively liberated Charleroi, Namur, Huy, Liège and Verviers. The population's heart was brimming over with gratitude and the American liberators were everywhere acclaimed. It was a true happiness to regain freedom. But for this heroic division and for the Ardennes civilians, the worse was yet to come.

     The 3rd Armored Division was recalled in the Belgian Ardennes to stop the powerful German counter offensive, on December 16, 1944. Its Combat Command B was sent to Stavelot and La Gleize where it would contribute to the failure of PEIPER 's task force who tried, as a vanguard of the 6th Panzer SS Army to reach its final target, the Antwerp harbor. The Combat Command R was sent to Grandmesnil and the 3rd Division took part in the liberation of Manhay, Erezée, Sadzot, Dochamps, Amonines, Hotton, Soy and the Baraque-de-Fraiture crossroads. In a moment, our Honorary President, André HUBERT, will longer tell you about the hard fights which happened here in this remarkable site of the Battle of the Bulge.

     After January the 3rd, 1945, during the Allied counter offensive, the "Spearhead" Division liberated other villages in this area like Lierneux, Regné, Hébronval, Langlire, Cherain, Sterpigny and others. Once again, in the Ardennes, the glorious "Spearhead" fought as a champion of the American Forces and paid tribute to the final victory and to the peace.
     The name of the 3rd Armored Division will remain associated to the name of much cities and villages in the Ardennes et will take an important place in the Second World war history. It wasn't easy at all; more than 2300 of these heroes lay down for ever under white crosses in the military cemeteries.

     Today, the CRIBA wants to specially pay their tribute to those heroes of the 3rd Armored Division who liberated this part of our country in particularly severe weather conditions. They fought and suffered in the icy climax of that bloody winter 1944-45. They saw besides them, their comrades killed and wounded in the terrible combats for our liberty. Might this plaque, set out on a monument located in such a remarkable point of the Battle of the Bulge, be an endless testimony of their sacrifices.
     Might God, in His leniency, bless all the 3rd Armored Division heroes and their friends and family as well.
     God Bless America.