It started as a simple Facebook post, but after some research, it became one of the best Veterans Day moments I’ve ever had.
My wife’s family knew their grandfather as “Poppy” but during World War II he was known as Technical Sgt. Raymond Snapkoski. He served in the 100th Infantry and the history of his division is nothing short of epic.
In a neatly packed box, my father-in-law John “Snap” Snapkoski (USMC vet, hooyah!) and I spent hours admiring the maps, medals and memorabilia Poppy brought home from the war, including Nazi uniform items and a .22 cal rifle with a German insignia branded on the stock. How Poppy came to own them is unknown, but according to his membership cards he was a real “Son of Bitche.”
In October-November of 1944, his division arrived in France and began a push into German-held positions. They conducted operations that would break German strongholds, held off counter-offensives for days and eventually helped Allied Forces achieve victory amidst hellish conditions.
From a booklet he had packed inside an old cigar box, their story came alive.
“The division began the relief of the 45th Infantry at Baccarat on 5 November. The attack jumped off on 12 November, and the division drove against the German Winter Line in the Vosges Mountains. The 100th took Bertrichamps and Clairupt, pierced the German line, and seized Raon-l'Étape and Saint-Blaise-Moyenmoutier.”
History books revealed even more details about how incredible these men were.
“In December 1944, the division went on the offensive in the vicinity of Bitche, France. The division then advanced to Reyersviller, which fell after fighting on 11–13 December …
Fort Freundenburg was captured on 17 December and Fort Schiesseck fell after three more days of heavy assault by the 100th on 20 December …
The division was ordered to halt its attack and to hold defensive positions south of Bitche as part of the Seventh Army during the Battle of the Bulge. Thanks to a stout defense, the men of the 100th later became known as the "Sons of Bitche.”
The German counter attacks of 1 and 8–10 January 1945 were repulsed, after heavy fighting at Bitche.
After further attacks stalled and the Germans began to withdraw, the sector was generally quiet, and the division prepared to resume its offensive east.”
A feeling of awe comes over you when holding WWII and Germany campaign medals. Touching items taken from the fallen enemy filled us with pride and left us wondering what sacrifices were made for us to hold them today.
Though Poppy never spoke about the war to my father-in-law, knowing our family tree is rooted in a great man like Poppy, makes me especially proud to be an American … and another generation of United States military veterans.
Thank you TSgt Raymond “Poppy” Snapkoski. I hope my generation’s military service honors your memory, and the way our families are raising your great-grandchildren would make you proud.
Reach CBS Eye on Veterans host Phil Briggs at firstname.lastname@example.org.