Lou Baczewski returns from Europe, where he traced his grandfather’s WWII service by bicycle | St. Louis Public Radio

Lou Baczewski returns from Europe, where he traced his grandfather’s WWII service by bicycle

Jan 27, 2016

Lou Baczewski joined “St. Louis on the Air” last year to discuss his plans to document his grandfather’s World War II service to benefit veterans’ organizations. Now, he’s returned from a bicycle tour in Europe, where he retraced the route of his grandfather’s division during the war. He biked over 400 miles and raised $5000 for veterans’ organizations during the process.

“There were so many people that came out of the woodwork, so to speak, that helped me with the project,” Baczewski said. “So many people wanted to be interviewed. Especially about the third armored division and how that impacted their town.”

Money raised from the project went to H.E.R.O.E.S. Care, Fischer House Foundation and Paralyzed Veterans of America

You can check out his Facebook page and his book, “Louch: A Simple Man's True Story of War, Survival, Life and Legacy.” The book chronicles his grandfather’s time growing up impoverished in rural Illinois, fighting several major battles in World War II and then returning to civilian life.

His grandfather, who served with the Third Armored Division during World War II, was one of 18 soldiers out of 152 in his company who survived the five major campaigns, including the Battle of the Bulge.

On Wednesday’s “St. Louis on the Air,” host Don Marsh interviewed Baczewski about the trip and what’s to come with the historian’s project. 

Baczewski is also working on a documentary about the project with local filmmaker Shawn Loftin. He said the two are working on a trailer for it right now, with hopes to shop it to a larger production company because there is so much footage and artifacts to comb through for a feature-length documentary.

Many villagers and local historians in areas where the Third Armored Division came through approached Baczewski with their own findings and memories.

"The biggest lesson I learned on the trip is that World War II is this ancient story in the U.S., it is far-removed from everybody's reality. But not there. They're not removed from the wasteland of World War II."

“For example, one woman … survived a massacre that my grandfather was witness to the aftermath of,” Baczewski said. “We have footage of her discussing her experience. She was three years old and her family was lined up and shot by the first SS panzer division as they were pushed out of the town. She was low to the ground and they missed her but they shot her brother and mother right in front of her. Even though she was three years old, she remembered it quite distinctly.”

Stories and interviews like these will be interwoven with footage of Baczewski biking the route. Jordan Heath, an UMSL student, shot the footage.

“The biggest lesson I learned on the trip is that World War II is this ancient story in the U.S., it is far-removed from everybody’s reality,” said Baczewski. “But not there. They’re not removed from the wasteland of World War II. They saw through their own eyes or their families experienced it in a different way than we could comprehend. I think they live it in a way and history is alive in a way that we don’t understand.”

You can also follow Baczewski's chronicle of the similarities between the 2014 movie "Fury" and his book here

St. Louis on the Air brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh and producers Mary Edwards, Alex Heuer and Kelly Moffitt give you the information you need to make informed decisions and stay in touch with our diverse and vibrant St. Louis region.