Memorial Address by Arthur P. Mahler
Madam President of the Provincial Council,
Citizens of Belgium,
Veterans of Worl War II and War Orphans,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am Arthur P. Mahler, veteran of the 84th Infantry Division and a participant of the Battle in the Ardennes. It is an honor to be her ein the Ardennes of Belgium among a group of World War II Orphans who lost their fathers to regain a freedom which had had been taken from them a second time in two world wars.
My country of birth was Austria and I grew up in its capital Vienna, a peaceful city intensely proud of its culture and art. That peaceful time suddenly ended on March 13, 1938 by the invasion of German troops crossing the border into Austria. My father had uncovered and prevented a plot in 1933 where the Nazis tried to overthrow the Austrian government. Now, it became evident, due to my fathers's previous actions that the lives of our family were at risk. We had to leave our home to save our lives.
In 1935, my father made his summer home on the island of Korcula in the Adriatic Sea, then Yugoslavia, his permanent residence. On August 1, 1938 I left my mother's home in Austria joining my father in Yugoslavia who had become a citizen of that country. I applied for a visa to Yugoslavia and was told that since I was 16 years old under Yugoslav law I automatically had my father's nationality. The next day I was issued a Yugoslav passport written in Russian alphabet. I did not speak any of Yugoslavia's languages and my father arranged for me to attend a technical school in Switzerland.
My mother applied for an immigration visa for the family, including me, to go to Chile, South America. At Christmas 1938 they arrived in Zurich Switzeland en route to Chile. Each person was allowed taking 20 German Marks, a day's wage at the time. My visa to Chile was "sold" at the Chilean Consulate and I had to remain behind, I was told. My mother's family immigrated to Chile and I applied for a visa to U.S.A. and also to Chile. I would accept whichever came first.
France was overrun by May 1940 and the British Army was evacuated back to England at Dunkirk. Yugoslavia was being invaded by the German Army. My father had to leave his home in Yugoslavia in 1940 ahead of the German advance. He left all his possessions behind and came to New York.
I waited 21/2 years in Switzerland before I received a visa. I was the one to the United States. I had to be smuggled through Vichy France without German knowledge, naturally for a price. The ship that was to get me from Barcelona, Spain to New York was the "Villa de Madrid". There were German Gestapo agents on board disguised as refugees. On June 20, 1941 my trip started and it was also the day Germany and Russia, then the Soviet Union, entered into war against each other. Spain under General Franco was hesitant to send the ship to New York. If Spain would enter the war with Germany and Italy it would lose the ship. We zigzagged on the oceans and docked in Las Palmas, the Canary Islands, there we were informed that it was the end of the trip and all passengers will be interned for the duration of the war. After 5 days the ship sailed and on 13 July 1941 the Statue of Liberty came out of the fog into your our view. It was a memorable sight.
In New York I worked as a machinist three years in the machine shop of Frank Back the inventor of the optical Zoom-Lens. All my friends went into the military service and I volunteered for a good reason into the military service.
I had my military Infantry training in the State of Alabama the summer of 1944. I became good friend with Joseph T. Lippi. We had become best friends and one day he proudly told me he had become a father to a son. After our training we were sent on the Isle de France, converted into a troop ship, with 12,000 on board to Scotland. From there we traveled by railroad to Plymouth and across the channel to Le Havre France. I remember my first step on European soil and thinking;:"Hitler, I am back, this time with a rifle on my shoulder". Joe Lippi and I became "Casualty Replacements" in "E" company 334th Regiment of the 84th Infantry Division. We were attacking the Siegfried Line north of Aachen.
The 84th Infantry Division traveled south on 20 December, 1944 to stop the German surprise attack in Belgium and Luxembourg. I remember traveling through Liège on an open truck to Barvaux and it started to snow. The next day we arrived at night to defend the city of Marche. The battle of the Ardennes for our Division started there.
I had become the interpreter for the 334th Regiment in its S-2 section moving to many places to translate between our military, the Belgians and German prisoners. I remember the many places: Hotton, Bourdon, Hampteau, Menil, Marenne, Beffe, Marcouray, Devantave, La Roche, Samrée, Houffalize, Gouvy and Beho in deep snow and very cold temperatures.
When I came in contact with "E" company of the 334th Regiment, I contacted my friend Joe Lippi. It was on 18 January in Cielle near La Roche that I received the sad news that Joe had been killed in action that day. I lost my best friend.
The war continued, the Battle in the Ardennes came to an end about 25 January 1945. The 84th Division returned to its original position in the Siegfried Line. We crossed the Roed River then the Rheine River. At the Elbe River the war came to an end in Europe. We liberated a concentration camp. I spent a year in the occupation of Germany.
When I returned to America I had the opportunity to get an education to be paid by our gobernment. I graduated with a degree in mechanical engineering and worked in structural airplane design for the Boeing Company more than three decades.
As I was preparing for a minor surgery at a hospital a nurse casually asked me if I had been in World War II. I told her that I had been in the Battle of the Ardennes. She told me that she had a neighbor whose father was killed there. His name was Joseph Lippi. I told her: that was the son of my best friend who was killed near Cielle on 8 January, 1945. Sixty years ago the proud father told me about the birth of a son. A casual question became an amazing coincidence that brought us together. The nurse, Ernestine Allen, made our meeting possible. Our homes are located only minutes from each other. We are now best friend.
The people of Belgium, Luxembourg and Holland remember those who fought for their and our freedom sixty-five years ago. They honor and remember those who gave their lives by bringing flowers to their graves. Many dapot fraves at Henri-Chapelle and Margraten American cemeteries. It is heartwarming to meet the entire class and the teacher M Michel Lorquet who randomly adopted Joseph T. Lippi's grave from many thousand graves.
The author of the Website "In-Honored-Glory" Peter Heckmanns must be remembered for his great effort to honor the fallen soldiers and those who fought for our freedom in World War II.
It is my fortune to have returned from the war. I am honored to represent today one of the 600,000 American who fought sixty-five years ago to free your and my country from tyranny.
Thank You for letting me speak to you.
Arthur P. Mahler,
Belgium Povincial Palace Liège, May 2010