Over 8 months had passed since the Allied invasion of German-occupied France when Schulz’s unit stepped onto dry land in Le Havre, France on February 19, 1945. The devastating effects of the war were evident from the moment the Twentieth Armored Division arrived on the continent. They traveled that day to Croisy-sur-Andelle, a small village located a short distance past Rouen. The unit was then billeted at the Château du Mal Voisin (House of the Bad Neighbor), near Croisy-sur-Andelle, for about six weeks.
Army Sketch by Charles Schulz, circa 1944.
Elmer Hagemeyer Papers, Charles M. Schulz Museum, Santa Rosa, CA.
On April 1, Easter Sunday, Schulz’s unit departed the château and trekked northeast through France to Belgium and Holland before entering Germany near Alsdorf. Once Schulz and his platoon entered Germany on April 3, they fine tuned their weapons and moved their convoy toward Bonn to cross the heavily fortified Rhine River at one of the few remaining bridges at Bad Godesberg. On April 11, the men crossed the Rhine and two days later were saddened to awaken to the shocking news that President Roosevelt had died.
Twentieth Armored Division in Munich, Germany, April 30, 1945.
By the end of April, the men of the Twentieth Armored Division were experienced veterans, having taken part in ground combat operations as well as spearheading the drive on the Bavarian capital of Munich and liberating American prisoners of war along the way. The Twentieth Armored Division also played a part in the liberation of the Dachau concentration camp on April 29 (the Twentieth Armored Division is officially recognized as a “Liberator Unit” by the Center for Military History and the United States Holocaust Museum). After a brief rest, the unit began moving toward their next objective of Salzburg, Austria. A week later, the Twentieth Armored Division had moved through a snow covered terrain into Salzburg, Austria, and was there on May 8 when the Germans finally surrendered. The Twentieth Armored Division had traveled some 1400 miles since their arrival in Le Havre, France.
The next two months were spent conducting counter-intelligence and setting up a military government. The men in Schulz’s unit also had time to enjoy some downtime near Laufen, Germany—playing baseball and cards, visiting local fishing holes, seeing movies, and collecting souvenirs. During this time, Schulz was awarded the Combat Infantryman Badge for fighting in active ground combat under hostile fire. On July 14, France celebrated their first Bastille Day since 1940 while Schulz’s unit was traveling on trains through France on their way to the ship that would soon return them home to the United States.
Twentieth Armored Division crossing the river into Salzburg, Austria on May 4, 1945.
Schulz would return to Croisy-sur-Andelle and the Château du Mal Voisin over 30 years later to shoot the PBS documentary Charles M. Schulz… To Remember and to research the World War II-based animated Peanuts full-length movie Bon Voyage, Charlie Brown (and Don’t Come Back!!). The Peabody Award-winning animated television special What Have We Learned, Charlie Brown? was produced as an epilogue to the film. In the television special, the Peanuts Gang travels to the site of the D-Day landing at Omaha Beach in a very moving scene incorporating historical filmed footage of the event with Peanuts animation.
Title or “throw away” panel from Peanuts Sunday comic strip originally published June 5, 1994.