82nd Airborne Division Blog

A Belgium man’s quest for family history leads to a memorial honoring American paratroopers

Michel Bara wanted to dig into and uncover more about his family history. He started on his quest after retiring from chief of police of the town of Mons in Northern Belgium. This Belgian patriot found that through his Italian roots, he had four cousins that died in World War II.

Two served in the French military. One was killed on-board ship when a mine exploded during an exercise (this was just before war broken out). The second received a minor wound while cleaning a weapon, but with no penicillin available at that time, it became infected and proved fatal.

A third cousin was an Italian soldier. After Italy capitulated he was taken as a prisoner of war by the German army. While being transferred by boat to Rhodos, he went down with the ship when it sunk in a terrible storm.

Arbrefontaine, Belgium

January 7, 1945. This is believed to be Dave Berardi's jeep.

The fourth cousin was an American paratrooper named Dave Berardi. As part of A Company 505th Parachute Infantry Division, he fought in the cold and miserable conditions of the Battle of the Bulge. Berardi drove a jeep and was killed on January 6, 1945 when it took a direct hit by German Tiger tank near Arbrefontaine, Belgium.

Paratrooper Dave Berardi

Paratrooper Dave Berardi and friends

Paratrooper friend

Another paratrooper, Bob Murphy, who served with Berardi, told Michel of a time earlier in the war when his cousin saved the day. The regiment was involved in very bloody fighting after jumping on and around the city of Nijmegen, Holland in late September 1944. German forces counter attacked and thrust into the nearby town of Mook. Murphy and several others attempting to hold ground exhausted their ammo and were trapped in a cellar. It was clear they would either have to surrender or die. Moments before waving the white flag, Dave Berardi arrived. He jumped down into the cellar loaded with ammunition. They continued to fight and played their part in stopping the enemy advance.

Bob Murphy and Michel Bara

Bob Murphy and Michel Bara 2008

Monument

Several years ago Michel made contact with Bob and through his research was able to find the spot where his cousin died near Arbrefontaine. He met Pierre Toubon, who lived nearby. Pierre thought that a monument to the 505 should be erected where the jeep was struck all those years ago. He spoke to various people in town and city officials and succeeded in obtaining permission. However, the location was on private property, but a gentleman by the name of Foguenne generously donated some of his land to the endeavor.

Mr Foguenne donated land for the 505 Monument

Mr. Foguenne generously donated the land for the 505 Monument.

Paratrooper Dave Berardi must have looked down from heaven and was pleased with what he saw. His American family, sweetheart from England, and old friend Bob Murphy were all present at the monument’s inauguration.

505 Monument at Arbrefontaine

505 Monument at Arbrefontaine

Dave Berardi's English sweetheart

Dave Berardi's English sweetheart

Michel Bara’s cousins that died during World War II:

French soldier Gilbert Bardey: Born 01/23/24 at Lille France, 43 regt Inf Died 11/22/44

French soldier Rene Vandevyvere: Born 01/13/20, died on board the ship Pluton during a mining exercise just before war broke out, 09/13/39

Italian soldier Luigi Valli: Born 05/01/1923 at Piennes Italy, ASN N15092 with the 47 Regt Fataria te bat, died on the ship Orion when it sunk on 02/11/44.

American soldier Dave Berardi: Born 02/06/22, from Nemacolin Pennsylvania. Michel Bara spoke with four paratroopers who remembered Dave; Bob Murphy, Chris Christensen, Ed Sayre and Leslie D. Fries.

Dave Berardi

505 Paratrooper Dave Berardi

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One Response to “A Belgium man’s quest for family history leads to a memorial honoring American paratroopers”

  1. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Remember WWII, Jump Commander. Jump Commander said: Belgian man learns 4 cousins die during WWII. Leads to memorial for 505th Parachute Regiment 82nd AB http://jumpcommander.com/airborne/?p=79 [...]

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