WOLFEBORO — The Wright Museum of World War II reopened for the season May 1, and its new lobby exhibit features “The Chow Line,” a U.S. Signal Corps photograph.
“The Chow Line photo was originally given to the museum by Cyma Rubin, who curated our previous American Soldier exhibit,” said Mike Culver, executive director of the museum. “It serves as the backdrop for our new lobby exhibit, which commemorates the 75th anniversary of the Battle of The Bulge.”
The exhibit is enhanced by a photocopy of the image with the name of the men written on it, which was submitted by Battle of the Bulge veteran John E. McAuliffe of Worcester, Mass. Having served with the 87th Infantry Division during the Battle of the Bulge and being able to recall many of the men in the photo, McAuliffe said he obtained it years ago when he was overseas.
“I gave a copy to the museum and told them I know all about it because I was in that division,” he said.
Taken on Jan. 13, 1945, in Saint-Hubert, Belgium, the photograph shows men from Company I, 4th Platoon, Machine Gun section, of the 347th Infantry Regiment, 87th Infantry Division, lined up in the snow waiting for food.
“The third or fourth one down the line in the photo died soon after the war, but his son still comes to our reunions,” McAuliffe said. “I look at this photo and think of the memories and friendships we had over there. You never forget those days. Those days were not easy.”
When the battle began, he said, their division was faced with “very fierce action.”
“Our division was diverted to that area where the picture was taken some 100 miles from where we were,” he explained. “That was an awful tough ride with 100 miles in open trucks with snow coming down and sleet. We were really under the weather, you might say.”
McAuliffe recalled other memories from the time of the Bulge, including help received from Belgium.
“The Belgians helped out in various ways, such as building roadblocks,” he said.
He cited another memory in which a Belgian officer made a gesture of striking a match and pointed to himself. “He was telling me that he set a fire to the tanks of gasoline so the Germans couldn’t get them,” he said. “That man saved us. If the Germans did get the gasoline, we don’t know how far in Belgium they would have come.”
In thinking back, McAuliffe said he hopes the battle is forever remembered. He expressed thanks that the Wright Museum has chosen to honor it for the new lobby exhibit. “I think it is wonderful,” he said. “The Battle of the Bulge was one of the hardest battles of the war. ... In the matter of three weeks or so, there were 20,000 boys killed and 1,800 or more wounded. It is important we don’t forget that.”
Culver agreed and said he believes the new lobby exhibit, including the story behind it, will have an impact on visitors this year.
“The two images of The Chow Line next to one another work wonderfully together,” he said. “The images and the exhibit tell an important story.”The Wright Museum features more than 14,000 items in its collection that are representative of both the homefront and battlefield. More info is available at wrightmuseum.org.