Blue Ridge Smoke Break
77 Years Ago Today: Two riflemen from E Company, 1st Battalion, 317th Infantry Regiment, 80th Infantry Division, take a moment to roll their own cigarettes in Goesdorf (Luxembourg), 10 January 1945. Left is SSG Abraham Aranoff, Boston, Mass., right is Private Henry W. Beyer of Grand Rapids, Michigan. These men had been fighting for 27 days straight, most of it during the German counter-offensive in the Ardennes known today as the Battle of the Bulge. They’d just been pulled out of the lines for a short, well-deserved break.
Nicknamed the “Blue Ridge” division as, when it was originally formed in the Great War, a majority of its troops hailed from the Blue Ridge Mountains of Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Virginia, the 80th Infantry Division was reactivated in 1942 and arrived in Europe, where it landed on Utah Beach on 3 August 1944. It would then spend the next nine months pushing from France to the Ardennes and on through to Bavaria and into Austria.
The 80th ID helped liberate the Buchenwald concentration camp in April 1945 to provide relief to the 6th Armored Division, which had arrived the day before. Several weeks later, as the “Blue Ridge” Division pushed into Austria, it liberated Ebensee, a subcamp of the Mauthausen concentration camp, and is recognized as a Liberating Unit by the US Army’s Center of Military History and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.
The 80th suffered 17,087 battle casualties in WWII– however, both of the above GIs made it back home and lived long lives.
As noted by WW II Uncovered:
After the war, Abraham Aranoff returned to New York and he and his wife Bertha started a family. He retired in West Palm Beach Florida. Abraham passed away on August 15, 2008 at the age of 96.
Henry W. Beyer enlisted with the US Army on May 1, 1944 in Grand Rapids Michigan. He was 25 years old. Henry was discharged from the Army on January 14, 1946. Henry and his wife Frances relocated to Columbus Ohio where he worked in retail sales. Henry passed away on February 28, 1998 at the age of 79.