My name is Clément Derbaudrenghien. I was born in Charleroi, 1990. Since I can remember so far, I’ve always been interested in military history, from Ancient times to nowadays conflicts. I started an interest in the World War 2 when I first saw Saving Private Ryan, I was around 9 or 10 years old. This impressive movie brought an essential questioning that still lives in my mind : How comes people from so far away died on my continent?
Soon after, I started questioning my grandmother, last known relative I knew who lived the war, and I found out that the American Army went in my region to liberate our people. Battles were not my first preoccupation since I was told stories of occupation, how my family lived and survived the War, and how pleased my Grandmother was when an American soldier came up to give her sweets and breads during the harsh winter 1944-45.
To me, the Second World War is a human story before being « just » a war. Of course, horrible things happened. But in front of adversity, people from everywhere stood against tyranny and oppression. This brought ordinary people to d extraordinary thing, like the famous quote says. This war created also a formidable meeting opportunities, and the American soldier that met my Grandmother stayed our family unique friend, and came back every Christmas within us… He soon became part of our family.
T/Sgt George N. Willsey (HQ/771st Tank Destroyer Battalion) met my Grandmother in 1944 when she was 8 years old, and then her family. As from the end of the War, he came back as much as possible to spend Christmas in my family. He passed away in 2004 in Dallas, Texas.
As a son of my region, member of a family whose history was made out of European history, and fascinated by these young men who fought for my freedom, it became soon clear that I was to devote my life to honor them. I started my researches around the age of 14, and focused on the 9th Infantry Division, which was the American unit that liberated my living area. I live in the so-called region « Entre-Sambre-et-Meuse », where the 9th Infantry Division enjoyed the liberation parties, as well as it suffered the Waffen-SS units delaying actions and sometimes, harsh battles when they crossed the Meuse river, in early September 1944.
I started History studies, first to become historian, then to become teacher. Then my passion raised so much that I decided to enlist my country’s Armed Forces. My military skills and training help me everyday in my work to study the military history of the 9th Infantry Division. My history formation then, helps me to analyse the history from a professional point of view. And finally, my personal and family history get me more involved into the human face of this War, which becomes more and more the most important part of my studies.
I’ve been visiting all the battlefield area from North Africa to Germany, where those gallant men fought, where they earned the title of « Avenging Ghosts of the Ninth ». I’ve met veterans and families, civilian that met these brave soldiers, descendants who still remembers their relatives speaking how great these American were with them. I’ve read, print, written, bought, ordered, scanned tons of historical documents, from maps to reports, from personal memoirs to historical analysis, only about the 9th Infantry Division’s actions. On this website, I’ll try to share the researches I made, the stories I learnt, and the discovers I felt on… So that this Greatest Generation will never be forgotten.