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Canteen cup returned after 55 years years ago

Canteen cup returned after 55 years

     I came home July 23, 2000, from the 51st 99th convention in Philadelphia and received a phone call from Belgium. The caller said he found my "cup" with my name on it in a foxhole on Elsenborn Ridge.

     A week later I received a letter from Jean-Louis Seel and a photocopied picture of the cup with my name engraved. It is my writing but I don't remember doing the engraving.

     Seel explains how he found the cup:

     "On Monday, July 17, we searched again the Belgian army camp of Elsenborn, in the sector of the 3rd Bn. 394th Regiment. Last year while looking in the so-called 'red zone' area forbidden to anyone except members of the Belgian Army Engineers, I found many foxholes that had never been searched before. The red zone is the actual impact zone for the artillery training and hundreds of unexploded shells are still there, lying on the ground or buried a few inches deep. I took the 'calculated risk' and walked through the red zone that was occupied by many units of the 99th Infantry Division during the Bulge. I stayed in the sector held by Company I and Company K, 394th Regiment, at the extreme east flank of the red zone, on high ground overlooking the forest, eastern part of Camp Elsenborn (forest held by the Germans during the ridge).

     "That day I took many pictures of the pillbox right on top of the hill. It was a concrete pillbox used by Dick Byers who was an FO with the 371st FA Bn. and sharing that pillbox was 1st Lt. Sam Lombardo, platoon leader of I/394.

     "On my way back to my car I walked across many foxholes, some with a U-shape and dug-in on the reverse slope (southwestern flank of the hill). I had two big echoes in my metal detector to dig in deep. I proceeded to my car.

     "On the following Monday, with a big shovel and pick, I was ready to check and excavate these two foxholes. Camp Elsenborn was on vacation for one month. I checked the first one and found a lot of material, rations, shaving cream, full M-1 clips, two empty BAR magazines, plus a lot of other material. I was almost done with the hole when I found in the extreme flank a raincoat and inside the raincoat, the canteen cup. This one was totally black, burned by many cups of 'hot coffee' (I assume) and impossible to check if it had been engraved by its owner (it was). Anyway, I put it in my bag and checked the other hole 10 yards away. I found a lot of material including a complete stainless steel mess kit, a hand grenade, many clips, etc.

     "Back at home I cleaned the material and found your canteen well-engraved. I directly checked my databases of the 99th ID and bingo! Only one Trulac was listed. I then checked my Checkerboard roster and found your name under the Company K 394th Regiment. I had found the owner!"

     Seel sent me the canteen cup and added these comments:

     "Your canteen cup is in good shape after being buried 55 years in Belgian soil. This one was made by LF&C in 1918, probably the bigger manufacturer at that time. Most of the mess kits, canteens, and canteen cups were made by them in 1918 but found on WWII battlefields.

     "Sometimes you find them very damaged. The aluminum didn't support the ground acid of the Belgian forests. Sometimes you find them almost brand new. It just depends on the ground. The Elsenborn Camp dirt is not a good one for aluminum. The items are generally found damaged, but here your cup was found rolled in a raincoat at the bottom of your foxhole. It saves it, even if one of the sides is much more damaged than the other. Fortunately, it was not the engraved side!

     "Also, you should know your hole is now in the 'red zone' in Camp Elsenborn. This red zone is the actual impact zone for all kinds of ordnances, but mostly big shells (155mm). Many foxholes dug-in there were destroyed by direct hits. I found many pieces of shrapnel in yours and even a half 81mm mortar bomb (white phosphorus) planted right in the middle of the U-shape and fired a few years ago."

     Needless to say, my family and I all were excited upon receiving the cup. It was in good shape considering all the years it was buried. It's a little pitted and has a couple of holes in it but the handle still works!

Andrew A. Trulac K/394

1264 Ft. Washington Ave. #F8

Fort Washington PA 19034