75th Infantry Division (WWII)

Speech Atlanta

Speech at the convention 75th Inf. Div. Veterans Association

by Rolf G. Wilmink, Germany

30 June 1995, Atlanta, USA

"Mr. President of the 75th Division, Mr. Secretary, members of the 75th Division Veterans Association and spouses, officers of the 75th Division Exercise:

Please don´t be afraid; this is not the uniform of the 75th Division model year 2000, it is my uniform as an officer of a traditional rifle association founded 1836 in Germany.

My name is Rolf Wilmink, I came from Plettenberg, Germany, to this convention to meet members of the 75th Division.

It is an honour for me to be here and I´m bringing you the greetings from my city director and from the chairman of the rifle association.

Let me explain the connection between Plettenberg, the rifle association and the 75th Division:

In 1945, the 75th Division came (list of command posts) through England, France, Netherlands and Belgium. Than the 75th Div. came to germany. The last military government command post of the 75th was in our town Plettenberg in Westphalia.

In two years, Plettenberg will be 600 years old and the rifle association is already starting to write a town history-book. My job is the time around 1945, but only a few documents from that time exist in our archives. It was very difficult even to find out, what american units were in our town.

The 75th Division came into our town at about April 20 1945 and left it around June 6th 1945.

They 75th did the military government work and gave out identification papers to the citizens. I have here one of that now 50 years old registration cards. The son of the owner gave it to me, to bring it to you and to hand it out to Mr. Reid for your museum in Houston. On a little piece of paper is written: "Identification screened, 75th Division," a rubber stamp and the signature of an officer. Years later, the local newspaper brought a story about one incident.

By this you can see, that the people were a little bit afraid of the americans, on the other side, they were glad that the americans came to the town with chocolate and chewing gum for the kids and not the russians with other ideas in mind. All people that I talked with told me, that the americans were very polite and friendly.

I started my search for documents in 1993 and since then, I found some fotos of the 75th. One photo you maybe never have seen, it was made by a german photographer Wilhelm Wengenroth (photo city hall = 17 kb).

On this photo the men around headquarter commandant Major Robert M. Miller are standing in front of the city hall for a flag parade. I brought some copies of this photo with me for your newsletter "Bulge Buster" and the 75th Div. museum in Houston.

What I showed you were some of the documents that I found of a history, that this year lays 50 years behind us. Times and borders have changed, germany and the United States became partners in business and in NATO to defend peace.

Because I have a security and research company in germany, from time to time some american veterans call me to find out the adresses of people that they met during their time in germany and that they didn´t forget the last 50 years. I could help them in all the cases and a lot of good contacts and visits were the result.

My search for informations would have ended here with that few results, if I didn´t get in contact with your president, Mr. Hobart M. Plank, who allowed me to come here and to meet you. I also have to thank Sgt. Maj. Bill Burke of the 75th Division Exercise, who in long phone calls encouraged me to come here. Mr. Thomas Reid, curator of the 75th Div. museum, was so nice and already sended me copies of After Action reports, in which Plettenberg is mentioned.

I found in old documents some names of soldiers, which have been in our town, and I would be glad to meet them and hear from them about their time in our town.

And the names are:

Major Robert M. Miller, headquarter commandant
Major Bach, town-commander
Major Baker
Lt. Williams,
Lt. Murphy,
Capt. Sears,
S/Sgt R.E. Rosenthal 2204-107th St. N.Y.C., 75th Div., Military Intelligence Section
Sergant Hans Bauer from Philadelphia, Military Intelligence Section
Sergant Tipke
Mr. Harry M. James, attorney from Chicago
Mr. "Goldi" Goldberg
Mr. Rosi
Mr. Loring
Mr. Hustenford
Mr. Ingersoll
Mr. Fenster
Mr. Ried
Mr. Fellows, military doctor

If somebody knows this men and the adresses, it would be nice to give them to me so I can call or write to them. It would be fantastic if they might have or know about photos taken in Plettenberg at that time.

Maybe somebody knows about Corporal Joseph D. Karr of the 167th Signal Photo Corps, who was travelling with the 75th Division and made this photos:

  • POW-camp in Plettenberg, guarded by soldiers of the 75th
  • Sergant Hans Bauer from Philadelphia, Military Intelligence Section, checks rank of a NAZI
  • Soldier found in civilian clothes - An elderly NAZI soldier repacks his belongings after being searched.
  • May 8 1945, a german priest holds catholic services for german prisoners of war at the 75th Inf. Div. POW cage in Plettenberg, Germany. This mass is in honour of VE Day and as a memorial for the germans fallen comrades.
  • S/Sgt Rosenthal, New York City, Military Intelligence Section, questions in Plettenberg german Lt. Gen. Fritz Büchs, captured near Iserlohn in civilian clothes.
  • German civilians load their belongings on carts an waggons, before moving out of their homes in Plettenberg. They have been told to leave to provide billets for troops of the 75th Division, 9th US Army).
  • Some of this photos are in the well known german book "The decision at Rhein and Ruhr".

    The mentioned persons also can perhaps contribute some information about things, that got lost in that crazy times:

    Two flags, one from 1843 and one from 1866, that had nothing to do with the nazis. The flags were donations from the german queen Elizabeth of Prussia, wife of King Friedrich Wilhelm the forth, to my rifle association and only of value to them. 1843, when the rifle association received the first flag, there was a glorious celebration in the town. Maybe somebody knows if they were burnt in a fire or what else happend to them. If they, however, found their way to the States, I have an offer for the person, that owns them now: We would buy the flags or, and I think this is more interesting, we would invite this person as a guest of honour to Plettenberg for a vaction, all expenses paid. He would also have a chance to present the flag in a glorious celebration before the thousand members of the association. The US military attache´ from the embassy in Bonn promised me to send a US military band for that event.

    Also the old mayor´s chain (photo chain = 9 kb) got lost in that times, nobody could tell me about the whereabouts.

    I hope my little review brought some memories back, maybe we can meet and talk in the next room, I will be there and present all this photos and the documents. I have prepared a flyer with all the informations and my adress, so please take one and give it to other people that might could help.

    After this convention, there is only one right place for what I brought you here: The museum of the 75th Infantry Division in Houston.

    Thank you very much for your time".


    75th Inf.Div.