(also see Restoration of the Tank in McAullife Square,
By Daniel W. O’Brien)
BARRACUDA RETURNS TO BASTOGNE
by J. Ted Hartman, President
11th Armored Division Association
Many of you will recall that Barracuda, the tank from Company B, 41st Tank Battalion, 11th Armored Division, had "stood guard" over MacAuliffe Place in Bastogne, Belgium, for more than fifty years. Weathering over the years had taken its toll on the tank's appearance, so the authorities of the City of Bastogne and the Belgian Army jointly arranged to have the tank refurbished. In November, 2006, Barracuda was lifted by crane, placed on a heavy tank carrier truck and moved to a Belgian Army armory for restoration
After six months of work, Barracuda was ready to return to its position of honor in MacAuliffe Place in Bastogne. A new foundation had been constructed on which to place Barracuda. The dedication of the refurbished tank was set for May 23, 2007. Ivan Goldstein, the only member of the original crew still living, was unable to return for the rededication ceremony. So, Joan Ardery, daughter of Ted Ardery, the late President of the 11th Armored Division Association, and Jean and Ted Hartman represented the 11th Armored Division Association at the ceremony.
We flew into Luxembourg City and drove up the beautiful, peaceful countryside of Luxembourg and Belgium on our way to Bastogne. We were fortunate to find rooms at Hotel Collin on MacAuliffe Place. A window in our room overlooked the Square where we could see lots of activity going on in constructing a new foundation for the tank.
At 6 A.M., on the morning of the ceremony, we were awakened by loud noises outside. Looking out the window facing MacAuliffe Place, we saw that Barracuda's hull had been placed on the new foundation and its turret had been placed to one side of the hull.
The ceremony began very dramatically as a huge crane lifted the tank turret and placed it on the hull. The assembled crowd began to clap loudly as the turret was set into position. The Mayor of Bastogne recognized the 11th Armored Division as one of the American divisions that played a major role in the defense of Bastogne. One of the mayor's associates described the process involved in refurbishing Barracuda.
Following the speeches, carrier pigeons symbolizing peace were released to fly back to their home at the armory. At the conclusion of the ceremony, the Star Spangled Banner was played followed by the playing of the Belgian national anthem.
All of those attending the ceremony were invited to a reception held in a huge tent in MacAuliffe Place. At the reception, many persons came up to us and expressed thanks to us for their freedom.
The restoration of the tank was very involved. Many of the interior parts of the tank, including the engine, were badly rusted, so were removed. Remembering that the children had always loved to climb on the tank and would undoubtedly do so again, the workers welded metal mesh in the interior from the sides of the metal floor up to the turret walls in order to prevent access to any areas where they might be injured.
General Patton recognized that the tracks for the Sherman tank were too narrow for the weight they carried, so he had a French company manufacture track extenders. On Christmas Day, 1944, the 11th Armored Division tank crews worked all day installing metal track extenders to widen the tracks and make the tank more maneuverable in snow, ice and mud. Over the years, Barracuda's extenders had become badly rusted. In the restoration process, new extenders were manufactured for both tracks. Some of the bogie wheels were also badly deteriorated so were replaced with bogies from other salvaged tanks.
Since members of the Cercle de Historie de Bastogne had found the true identity of the tank to be Barracuda from Company B, 41st Tank Battalion, 11th Armored division, the officials wanted the unit markings to be exactly those that were on the tank when it entered battle on December 30, 1944. Eleventh Armored Division Association honorary member, Roger Marquet, and Bastogne City Council member, Doctor Michel Staes, studied a number of sources to make certain that the markings were authentic.
The exterior of the tank was cleaned and painted a true Army olive drab color while the unit markings were stenciled in white to show the tank's proper identity. The name, Barracuda, and a star were stenciled in white on each side. Blue stripes were painted across the right lower point of each star to indicate that the tank was from Company B.
The Cercle d'Histoire de Bastogne had sponsored an exhibit on display in the Hotel DeVille (City Hall). On display were various memorabilia of the 11th Armored Division. Also on display were some of Barracuda's parts that had been cleaned of rust and painted black. Among the parts were the driver's steering levers and the locking mechanism. Pictures of Barracuda drawn by school children were on display. There was even a picture of Company B, 41st Tank Battalion, 11th Armored Division, taken at Camp Cooke in the summer of 1944. A mannequin dressed in the uniform of the commanding officer of Company B, Captain Robert L. Ameno, was also on display. The exhibit was well publicized and had a large number of visitors.
A final booklet was written by Roger Marquet, Robert Fergloutte and Jacques Degive. It was entitled
The "Sherman" of Bastogne, the Follow-up and Conclusions.
Barracuda had become a visible symbol to all Belgian citizens of the American units who fought for their freedom from Nazi tyranny. As it "stands guard" in MacAuliffe place, it is also a reminder that free nations must stand guard to prevent such tyranny from ever occurring again.
Memorial Day was commemorated at all American Cemeteries in Europe where American service men have been buried. On Saturday, May 26, 2007, we attended the service at Henri-Chapelle American Cemetery near Liege in northern Belgium. To enter the cemetery, we passed through handsome stone columns which opened out to the peaceful appearing Crosses and Stars of David arranged in gently curved rows. Small Belgian and American flags flew at each headstone. Over 8,000 men are buried there. It was a solemn service. I was honored to place a wreath in memory of the 11th Armored Division soldiers who are buried there.
It was a distinct honor to be able to represent the 11th Armored Division Association.