May 12, 1945 CONFIRMATION
The bunch, Father Hanley, Tom Ochs
One very important event which occurred to me was my confirmation by the Arch Bishop Rohrbacher of Salzburg Austria.
I was sent a message from Father Hanley to gather in a group the GIs who were taking Catechism lessens, (me from Anzio on) finally to receive the sacrament of Confirmation
I needed to find a sponsor .I chose THOMAS VINCENT OCHS. He accepted. We dressed up in the best of our uniforms and assembled at the 2nd Battalion Headquarters where we were loaded aboard a weapons carrier. We were taken to the Catholic Church in Salzburg. It is situated beneath a castle on a hill.
Catholic Church in Salzburg
If you’ve seen the “SOUND OF MUSIC” movie, it is the same complex which is zoomed in on at the beginning of the movie from the high hills overlooking Salzburg. Right in the middle
I think he was the Arch bishop of Austria. I was amazed at the ornate rooms. I can see how some Protestants think that the Church is all gilt and glitter and rich as sin. My answer is, “you can’t eat that stuff”.
Ornate room in Salzburg Church where I was confirmed
If you’ve ever been anointed then you will know how the Confirmation rite is performed. If not, then it’s too much for me to explain except that he anoints your forehead with oil and there are prayers and answers renouncing the devil and all his works etc. It is as serious a ceremony as it gets. It’s a life’s commitment. If you adhere to the commitment then you will have been a good person. A person others will be happy to know and associate with. I hope I have been that kind of person in my life.
The hills were alive with the sound of music. I made it this far now it’s confirmation!!
While in Salzburg I found a woodworker busy at his business as if the war wasn’t over or even had been going on. I liked some of his work. I asked if he would make for me a small Jewel box I designed. I wanted a top made of different woods to form a third division insignia. The whole box was about 10x 12 inches and about four inches high. He made a very beautiful box which I sent home to my mother. I inscribed a message on the back. My mother kept it on her dresser until she died. I have it in my souvenirs.
HUNTING NAZI SS
While in Salzburg almost immediately after clearing out the Berchtesgaden hideout; we were ordered to get in combat ready dress for a detail which was to be a surprise operation. We were loaded on trucks and taken to the outskirts of Salzburg in the country side and small villages. I recall going by an airport and I took snaps of airplanes in various conditions of disrepair. There were some of our own transports C47 on the landing strip. I wondered if we would have some sort of duty requiring jumping for crying out loud! But no! We traveled on in the very early light of morning and then was told to disembark for instructions. We were to hunt for Nazi SS troopers. That meant we were to kick in doors of homes to catch anyone who could be bearing the tattoo of the SS trooper. This was a hairy operation! I recall kicking in many doors and entering bedrooms where people were still asleep and in Bed clothes. We made the quick inspection which would identify an SS trooper. Actually I didn’t really know what the hell I was doing waking up people in this fashion. We did exactly what the Nazis did from time to time. The same as the Gestapo raiding a household of a suspected type. I didn’t find any particular person who made the list of suspects. This operation was possibly to look for Holocaust personnel and other Nazi collaborators. Several Nazi big wigs escaped the net and fled to Brazil and Argentina.
This was an OSS now CIA concern. I don’t know any more about this operation.
Civilians surrendering weapon
Also while in Salzburg all of the citizens were to bring any weapon to a central location and dump them on a heap. I might say it was a nice pile to look over. I would liked to have sent home the whole pile—I am a gun nut. I got a couple of prize weapons from that pile and I shipped them home. I was really jealous of LENZY HARMON from Mississippi who ‘captured’ a target rifle. It had a very heavy barrel and large rear peep sights with a specially carved stock made especially for target shooting. There was no way I could bargain Lenzy out of that weapon! I wanted it with a passion.
Our GIs are a little cruel at times or humorous whichever way you will look at this incident. I was Sergeant of the guard at a building across the street from the Headquarters office. I was sitting on a coal bin outside of the doorway strumming a guitar I had. I watched civilians walking and bicycling by on the cobble stones. A couple of those of the guard detail tossed out a large cigarette butt attached to a very thin fishing line type string. A man on a bicycle was scooting up the street and he slammed on his brakes skidding to a stop. He stooped to pick up the cigarette butt. Just then the GIs hidden in a door way yanked the string to the embarrassment of the German who craved even a cigarette butt. The GIs hee hawed over that in a cruel yet humorous way. They did that with used tea bags too. A civilian would do almost anything for a used tea bag.