Kindness in war, a Christmas story

Seeking clues to her father’s WWII experiences for a book she was writing, Louise Endres Moore found the story of how he helped a bereft French family as the Battle of the Bulge raged on Christmas Eve 1944
Ozaukee Press staff

Louise Endres Moore of Cedarburg never set out to write a book, but the more she learned about her late father’s service in World War II, the more she realized his story had to be told.

“Alfred: The Quiet History of a World War II Infantryman” includes a heartwarming episode on Christmas Eve, 1944.

Alfred Endres and his fellow members of the U.S. Army’s 35th Division stopped at Metz, France, in between fighting in the Battle of Bulge. It was the first chance they had to bathe in two months and sleep in a cot rather than a foxhole.

Gen. George Patton’s personal order allowed the division to stay one day longer for Christmas dinner since they had been
continuously fighting on the front lines the past 162 days.

A manager of a bathhouse in Metz told the soldiers he had nothing to give his children for Christmas.

Endres and fellow soldier Ben Lane quietly delivered Army rations of fruit and chocolate to the manager’s home on Christmas Eve. They left quickly so as not to be seen by the children.

“The manager started to cry and said he would see us when we came back from the fighting,” Lane said.

Both soldiers survived the battle and returned to Metz. Charles DeWald, the bathhouse manager, gave Lane several coins and a medallion and Endres a ring.

Louise Endres Moore still has that ring, and she was able to find Lane, who lived in Hustontown, Penn. With a reunion of Lane and her father no longer  possible, she came up with a different idea. She would search for the family her father helped on a long ago Christmas in France.

She remembers her father telling her the manager of the bathhouse had traveled to the United States to swim.

“I wondered how many international swimmers could there be in 1944?” she said.

Endres Moore contacted the International Swimming Hall of Fame in Florida, but it didn’t have records from that year. She was, however, given an email address for the French Swimming Federation.

Eight days after making that contact, Endres Moore received an email saying, “I think I have found our man.”

That was in 2002. She exchanged letters with DeWald’s son, Roland, who had been a professional swimmer like his father and served in the French army in Vietnam from 1954 to 1956.

He remembered the ring his father gave Endres Moore’s father, and the fruit and chocolate.

“I truly thank your dad and Ben for their kindness,” he wrote.

In talking about the story with her father, snippets of World War II memories began to emerge after his wife died and he broke a hip, forcing a move to a nursing home in Lodi

The family didn’t know much of Endres’ World War II  experience. The government had sent letters to mothers and wives telling them to avoid asking questions, and Endres’ wife Louise followed the advice. But during five and a half years of his daughter’s weekly visits, her father began to open up.

Endres died in 2007, eight months after he received the French Legion of Honor for his service. A gathering of about 100 people was held at the nursing home. Endres Moore said she served Calvados, a French apple brandy her father said was so strong it could fuel jeeps.

Soon after that, Endres spoke of “dead bodies floating in the water,” his daughter said. She assumed it was a river crossing.

It turns out it probably was the beaches of Normandy, the site of D-Day. Endres said he arrived on June 7, known as D-Day Plus One.

Fort Bragg disputes that, saying since Endres arrived in Wales on June 2 he wouldn’t have had time to get there that fast. Endres Moore said she remembers her father talking about taking a train ride at night — dangerous back then since the train’s lights would have been a bombing target for Germans — and she found documentation that proves his arrival on that day was possible.

A family’s old letter said Endres arrived in France on “a Higgins boat.” When Endres Moore showed a photo of the boat to her father, he had a flashback.

She never asked another question.

But she already had uncovered enough to get her started, and she kept going, piecing together information from a document here or conversation there from across the world. What she thought would be 10 to 20 pages of information for her family turned into a 360-page book.

Research and writing didn’t come easy. Endres Moore is a retired psychology and math teacher. It helped, she said, that her parents never threw anything away.

Endres entered the Army when he was 22 after someone in the military visited the family farm. Either Endres or his brother, one year younger, would have to join. His father said he couldn’t make that decision. Endres ended up volunteering.

Endres’ family initially knew he did three things during the war. He was a barber — telling the Army he cut horses’ manes on the farm was qualification enough — a chauffeur and a translator. But he didn’t let anyone know he could speak German until later in the war for fear he’d be put in dangerous situations.
It turns out that didn’t matter since his life was always at risk on the front lines.
Endres worked with heavy weapons and was an expert shooter with a water-cooled .30-caliber machine gun.
He was once in the same room as Patton, but he told his daughter, “He wasn’t talking to me.”
Through her research, Endres Moore met Sara Rosenberry, an employee at the American embassy in Luxembourg, who came to visit her mother at the same nursing home as Endres. Rosenberry talked to Endres about the Luxembourgers’ appreciation for the American forces liberating their county.

“Dey remember?” she asked. Endres Moore said her father grew up speaking German at home and couldn’t pronounce “th.” She said that made a great impression on her father.

Endres Moore later traveled to Luxembourg and also visited Villers-La-Bonne-Eau in Belgium, where Endres’ unit replaced the one in which Joe Demler of Port Washington served. The Germans captured the unit, and

Demler, who died in February, was to become well known for appearing in a photo on the cover of Life magazine as a starved prisoner of war. The Port Washington post office is in the process of being named after

Demler, a mail carrier for many years after the war.

Endres Moore said she got to meet Demler but her father never did.

Endres’ discharge papers listed five campaigns: Normandy, Northern France, Rhineland, Ardennes and Central Europe.

After the war, Endres barely touched a gun. He once shot a bird off of a neighbor’s roof and was told, “No wonder we won the war.”

Endres had three sons join the military in the 1960s. One ended up going to Vietnam. His father told him not to be a hero because it wasn’t worth it.

Endres Moore said her father told her, “I wish those who get to decide could fight their own bitchin’ wars.” After 17 years of work, Endres Moore got her book published in 2019.

The Christmas story is one of which she is especially fond. “I was trying to find something good about the war,” she said.

When she got the letter from Roland, her mission was partly accomplished.

“I was teary eyed because it had worked,” she said.

Then, she had another idea. Send chocolate and fruit to her father and Lane.

The week her father got the fruit and chocolate, it was Endres Moore’s out-of-state siblings turn to visit. They said he didn’t say anything about it, but Endres Moore said she knows he felt something.

“I think he did. I think here,” she said, pointing to her heart.

For more information or to order the book, visit



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