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Western New York represented at 'Battle of Bulge' Headquarters

By D. John Bray

Western New York and Buffalo are proudly represented at a new World War II historical site to open soon in Bastogne, Belgium, the focal point of the famed “Battle of the Bulge” in 1944 - 45. A Western New York artist's sketch of a memorable wartime event will greet visitors in a special room at the site.

The Battle of the Bulge took place December 16, 1944 to January 25, 1945 and was the largest land battle of WWII in which the U.S. participated. More than a million soldiers fought in the battle.

The Germans had a far larger force and had Bastogne and American troops surrounded. They sent a party of four men under a flag of truce demanding the Americans surrender. U.S. Army General Anthony McAuliffe of the 101st Airborne Division became famous for his single-word reply to the surrender ultimatum: “Nuts!”

The 101st then held off the Germans until the 4th Armored Division, led by General George Patton, arrived on December 26 to provide reinforcement.

The barracks and the room where McAuliffe uttered the famous word have been restored to its 1944 condition and will soon become a national historical site open to the many thousands of annual visitors to Bastogne.

My associate and I were recruiting at high schools on American military bases for D'Youville College, located in Buffalo, and while visiting in Bastogne were invited on a private tour of the former Belgium army barracks that housed the headquarters of McAuliffe during the battle.

While in the central room of the barracks, I noticed a sketch on a wall depicting many photos of wartime Bastogne, including one of General Patton pinning a medal on McAuliffe.  The sketch showed the German delegation and the Americans who are holding a document with the inscription “Nuts” on it.

What caught my eye was that the sketch had the name and address of the artist, Raymond Fisher of West Seneca, prominently displayed on the bottom of the sketch.  I live in West Seneca, a suburb of Buffalo, just a mile from where Mr. Fisher lives.

Fisher, now 89, graduated from Lafayette High School and attended the Art institute of Buffalo and the Albright Art School joining the Army in 1942. Because of his artistic ability he was sent to a military map-making school in Lexington, Kentucky and shipped off on the RMS Mauretania to the 668th Engineering Company (Topographical) of the First Army, in Scotland as a mapmaker.

“I was a member of the ‘Secret Six' as they called us, to make maps and models of Omaha Beach for the landing at Normandy in advance of the invasion,” Fisher said.  “It was top secret of course and I along with five other guys made these in a secret room.” 

Twelve days after the invasion at Normandy, Fisher and his team were on the beach following the troops and making maps from aerial photographs taken by Army reconnaissance planes.

“We traveled by truck as we had large cameras and photo mapping equipment.  We followed five to six miles behind General Patton from Paris through Bastogne.  “We even made maps from German maps that were captured.”

During the Battle of the Bulge, Fisher and his Company were in a small Belgium town, Eupen, outside of Bastogne making maps used during the Battle and after.

“I didn't know my sketch was in the display at Bastogne,” he said.  “I did it for the ‘Battle of Bastogne” veteran's magazine and someone must have sent it to Bastogne.”

He is a member of the Veterans of Bastogne organization and one of only five members out of 125 of the 668th alive today.

Fisher later worked for Sylvania as a technical illustrator and Arcadia Graphics, both in Buffalo, and retired in 1986.

Ray Fisher, another member of the Greatest Generation.
D. J. Bray is an Air Force veteran and lives in West Seneca, N.Y.

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