Seventy-five years ago last month, American and Nazi military forces fought a fierce battle for control of the German city of Aachen.
The fight left thousands dead on each side and slowed the Allied advance into German territory, but the end result ultimately was the first foothold into Germany for American troops. U.S. Army Capt. James M. Burt (1917-2006) was awarded the Medal of Honor for his heroism during the battle.
Today, Arlington and Aachen have a formal Sister City relationship, and on Oct. 21 – the 75th anniversary of the conclusion of the battle – County Board Vice Chairman Libby Garvey represented the county at ceremonies in Aachen.
Garvey and a representative from the Arlington Sister City Association were “quite possibly the only Americans in the room,” said Garvey, who called the commemoration “quite an event.”
Located on the country’s western edge, Aachen was the first major target within Germany for American troops. The battle raged from Oct. 2-21. (Civilian casualties were relatively light, as most had wisely left the city before the onslaught began.)
The Nazi hierarchy had some degree of vengeance in the closing days of the war; Franz Oppenhoff, who had been appointed mayor by the occupying American forces, was murdered in late March 1945 on the orders of Heinrich Himmler.
Some of the young Aacheners liberated by Allied troops took up American pastimes during the subsequent occupation of Germany, which lasted until 1955. Aachen even today remains a hotbed of baseball on a continent that largely shows little interest in the sport.
Germans “still today are grateful for the help” in defeating the Nazi leadership, Garvey said.
Arlington and Aachen have been formal Sister Cities for more than two decades. Arlington’s other Sister City relationships include Reims, France – which also is a Sister City of Aachen – as well as Coyoacan, Mexico; San Miguel, El Salvador; and Ivano-Frankivsk, Ukraine.