Transatlantic move planned for WWII ‘housing’
For some of the men who died in Normandy on June 6, 1944, the final home they ever knew was a wooden building 80 feet long and 20 feet high that previously had been a home for horses.
Now, the stables in Aldbourne, England, are the focus of a fund-raising effort to save them from demolition and move them to Toccoa, Ga., where the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment trained for battle before shipping out to England.
“The stables have a real special place in the hearts of the men who stayed there,” said Rich Riley, one of the leaders of the effort to raise $75,000 needed to move the stables.
The plan is to move the stables to Stephens County in northeastern Georgia where the county historical society will take charge of them as a tourist attraction.
“This is a physical reminder of these men,” said Chris Anderson, editor of World War II Magazine and a leader of the effort. “For many of them, it was the last place they called home.”
The 506th PIR, part of the 101st Airborne Division, was involved in the major battles of World War II in Europe, from the D-Day landings to Operation Market Garden in Holland, to the Battle of the Bulge and the crossing of the Rhine River. It ended the war in southern Germany after helping liberate concentration camps.
The exploits of one company from the regiment, Company E, was the subject of a book and television series, both called “Band of Brothers.”
Paul Rogers, 85, of Overland Park, Kan., a Company E veteran, said the stables were his home for a short time after D-Day.
“We hid food in there that we stole off the officers,” he said in a telephone interview. He remembered the stables fondly and visited them a few years ago.
But it was Company A that first lived in the stables, said Donald Burgett, 78, who has written four books about his wartime experiences. His company lived there for nearly a year before it jumped into Normandy to spearhead the invasion.
Burgett, from Howell, Mich., was not pleased that the planned fund-raising project originally used the “Band of Brothers” as a selling point for the effort.
“That was our stables, period,” he said in a telephone interview. “A Company found them when they were still stables. A Company cleaned them up. A Company moved back into them after D-Day.”
Soon after its return to England, the company was moved out of Aldbourne and Company E moved into the stables, providing the “Band of Brothers” connection.
Burgett, who joined the company as a replacement soldier in January 1944, said the stables had bunk beds on either side of the Dutch-style stable door and were spacious.
“They were very comfortable, not overcrowded,” he said. “And you had a sense of privacy you don’t get much of in the military. I think we had the best barracks in England.”
The project is now billing the stables as the former home of the 506th PIR, forgoing any mention of particular companies.
Anderson, who leads tours of “Band of Brothers” sites from England to Bavaria, said he learned of the plan to demolish the stables while visiting Aldbourne.
The owner understands the historical significance of them and has delayed his plans while the money is raised to dismantle and move the building, he said.
Keith Sowerby, a local furniture maker, hopes to soon begin dismantling the stables, piece by piece.
“We’ve got to take this thing down with a great deal of care, otherwise we end up with a load of matchwood,” he said.
The hope is that the U.S. Air Force will transport the dismantled stable to America, where Sowerby and his crew will re-construct it in Toccoa for the historical society.
Anderson said the fund raising is just getting under way, but he hopes the stables can be in place by October for a reunion of the 506th PIR.
The address for contributions is: Save The Stables, Stephens County Historical Society, PO Box 125, Toccoa, GA 30577. The Web site for the effort is: www.savethestables.com.