After the mission was accomplished at Hitler’s hide out, our 2nd Battalion was driven to another town further up into the Alps. We rested at a village which name I cannot recall. As usual we rousted some civilians and took their homes for our temporary occupation.
The house in which we stayed was occupied in part by a Swiss type family. The parents had a small boy who brought out his little accordion and played for us. I was enthralled with the little tyke. I was better than a good boy because I didn’t loot the accordion!
The whole town was ordered to surrender all sorts of weapons. There was a heap of different fire arms too good to pass up. I found a strange looking fire arm. I shipped it home later. It’s a worthless trap door weapon about 32 caliber. It must have been home made. The bore has riflings but they do not give the bullet a twist for stability. I have never fired it. There is no ammo available. I suppose the previous owner shot a deer with it a time or two if he was near enough to the deer. I also took a .22 for which there was ammo available. At least I had a box. For an experiment and to satisfy my wonder if whether a German helmet or an American helmet could repel a bullet the best. I placed a German helmet as a target in a creek bank. I placed an American Helmet with liner in it. Paul Thome was watching my experiment looking over the gun stock as I aimed for the center of the German helmet. I fired a round. The bullet hit squarely on the German helmet. The lead mashed and bounced on the same path as it was fired. Proving a point in Physics, The bullet was flung right back over the barrel missing me, but it hit Paul Thome over his right eye!!! It was some experiment! Some helmet! Some fantastic luck! I know you’ll say ‘such stupidity’. I fired another round at the GI helmet. The bullet penetrated the metal but lodged in the fiber lining. That was enough to save a GI. I think it could be determined that the German helmet was made of better steel than ours. Our helmets of today resemble German helmets. We copied a lot of German war equipment.
Another nice memory of the ALPS was to see on the porch of a house in the distance but within earshot, a girl playing a bigger accordion. For the life of me, I can’t think of the reason I didn’t go there to visit face to face. It must have been the power of the Novena working! More likely the Non fraternization order. You were fined for fraternizing with a German.
We had time to really goof around amongst us. I was visiting Bacchus bivouac also in a house a bit distance from mine. There were a few of my platoon in a frisky mood. One of them sneaked up on me and squirted a tube of Barbasol Shaving cream all over my face and head. Then they had a big laugh out of it. Imagine squirting a tube of shaving cream on their Sergeant!! So I took on the culprit. He was a wiry young bugger bigger than me. I had a hell of a time ‘rassling’ him down. We were laughing all the while. I finally pinned him and had him surrender! I was lucky I had my stripes on because that sorta made it easier for me to win. After the fracas, I asked Bacchus for a sheet of writing paper and I hastily wrote out an unconditional surrender. He was to polish my shoes at my bidding and a few other terms which were goofy. He signed it and Bacchus witnessed it. I have that document which I wrapped in a cellophane tape to preserve it.
SMITTY COMES BACK
Our platoon had evacuated some civilians from an apartment house for our billet. It was from now on, spit and polish as much as we could with our worn out uniforms. Some of the Company were now being sent home on points. Smitty was asking to come back as commander of our platoon.
Permission was granted. The new Lt. Smith was “snitzied up” in his uniform with shiny brass bars. He timed it just right to go to Officers candidate school. I called the platoon to order in formation as usual and my speech to them before Smitty came back was that he will be given the same courtesies that any other officer gets. That was a bit hard for me because we were so danged close. Now I had to address him as LT. SMITH. Not Smitty
Smitty was now assigned ‘foraging officer’. He had the ability to speak the German language he grew up with knowing it fluently. He invited me to go on buying trips in the country to buy meat and other produce. I was pleased to see the Austrian countryside where fields of Barley and other grains were about to be harvested. Actually my father was an Austrian when he was born. All of that territory was the Austro Hungarian Empire
On one occasion the bunch wanted some alcohol to celebrate with. I donated a sizable sum to the other donations and didn’t take any of the wine. Smitty went down to the Swiss border somewhere and brought home several part kegs of wine, Reds and white. There was a big stink about who had gotten the better deal. That story is a whole new sit com in itself. The rumor was that the wine was doled out unevenly. Someone blamed me. The result was that when it was learned that I didn’t get any of the wine and donated the most, SUDELL came to my room and apologized to me for all the indecent remarks he had made against me. He gave me a few words of praise and asked me to accept his apology. He said this with tears in his eyes so we shook hands. Sudell went through some bitter combat right along with us. All the way from the Casino front. We had ‘words’ once or twice, I have nothing against him. He did as much as the rest of us. He was an unforgettable character in our platoon. P.I.THOME gave him the nickname of BUZZ BOMB. He could detect an incoming shell before anyone!!
I was able to attend a folk music show or two at MOZART’S theater once or twice. I sat in awe as the group played some songs that my Father played on the accordion. I heard a zither played for the first time. I was enthralled. I went to another opera house where I heard to best music in the world. I was so content I fell asleep in one of the front rows–for a while that is.
SOLDIER’S MEDAL CEREMONY
There was a Division parade held not far from Salzburg during which I was awarded the Soldiers Medal. I was very nervous as the General pinned the Medal on me. He was making small talk while he fumbled around to pin on the medal, trying to keep the ceremony at pace. He asked what I did and I told him I saved a fellow GI from drowning in the Moselle River crossing training.
Somehow I don’t remember the ceremony when I received the Bronze star. Maybe they handed that out in the chow line.
While occupying Salzburg we were ordered to spit and Polish again. That meant your shoes would be shined, and your uniform clean and pressed properly. In the first day or two of ‘spit and polish’ we heard a shot–one lone single shot–soon the word came to us that a GI was cleaning hi rifle which discharged and hit the GI next to him in the head. We all worried about being the last GI killed after the war was over. This concern “bugged” us when just days near when the war was declared over, our outfit was ordered to get in to combat readiness. The regiment went up to clear out Hitler’s Hideout and other compounds where there were said to be 10000 SS troopers there. A GI shot near the last day was worse than getting killed the first day.