THE END NEARS FOR ME
We went through a place called Ixhiem and other nameless places till we came to a big town called ZWIEBRUCKEN. The streets were all messed up with debris from fallen walls and other parts of the buildings. All this was from shelling. I didn’t think the air force was involved. I hadn’t seen one air craft for a long time. Even artillery observers. Maybe I was too busy watching elsewhere.
It was always fun to pick up stuff from the rubble. One of the first things I noticed was Sudell wearing a silk top hat he found in the rubble. I have a mental picture of him strutting with it on. I wish I would have had a VCR in those days. It seems there were a few small bergs along the way after the dragons’ teeth.
A jeep caught up with us. Its engine was missing. Several of us had monkeyed with motors before and we could take out a plug and give it a quick cleaning. It was number two plug. The spark plug hole was open. There was always had someone advising you what to do. Nick Garritano was a station attendant in Campo Bello California. He should know how to clean a spark plug. In the darkness, the cap of the plug fell into the cylinder! The jeep driver began to cuss. We just stuck the plug back in and made a temporary connection and it purred off into the night. The little thing that fell in side was made of brass and got smashed down to nothing in the first piston stroke. I never saw that jeep driver again.
We always looked for a low spot to stay in whenever possible. We went down stairs into a basement of a shelled house. In the basement was a wood burning cook stove with no flue. Nick wanted to warm up some rations, and take the chill off. I wasn’t needing warmth myself. Nick surmised that the smoke would naturally go out a window or the hole the pipe used to be in. The fire choked us out. I was getting a bit sick for some reason. I didn’t yet want to blame the big baloney and bread which I determined was made out of saw dust. As the night progressed I became more and more ill for some danged reason. I don’t know who called the Medics and I can’t remember anything much about the war after that point. The medics might have given me a huge sedative. I zonked out. The shootin’ war ended for me then and there I guess. I was on the way to a hospital somewhere. I just don’t remember anything until I awakened on a cot. A Doctor was near me. He was asking goofy questions to get a few vital signs. He asked, “have you had a discharge lately?” I didn’t know what he was driving at. I answered, that yes, I had crapped in the last 24 hours someplace. What he was asking but to my innocence I didn’t know he was referring to VD for criminy’s sake. Hey I was on a Novena! And just went to confession! I thought he was alluding to maybe a constipation problem. Hah!
Then he probed around and found a very tender spot under my rib cage. My Liver! I had hepatitis–Jaundice! Hepatitis for criminy sake! How do you get that? Hmmm now that I think of it, it was from either the sausage or the skillet with the bacon grease. The Doctor said it was contagious and I would be shipped out to another hospital.
Sure enough! I was placed in a ward with several other contaminated GIs. The only treatment for Hepatitis is a low fat diet, I guess because I was fed like a king. Milk even! A piece of meat and potatoes! In the same ward in the bed next to me was a medic from an evac hospital. He was a smart alec. He made a very irritating comment to me once saying that his job was just as important as a front line GI. I can’t argue the importance but I can argue the degrees of dangers. He said, “Oh yah, what would the GI on the table do if it wasn’t for the medical team”?—“Good question”, I said, “but the GI on the table is almost dead. He’s got almost three strikes against him”! I think I won the argument from the applause given–as feeble as it was.
In my ward I met a guy named Bruce Adams. He was in the bed farthest from me opposite sides. I don’t know where he was from. He said he disliked me at first, but he said, “You’re better than I thought”. We became close buddies the rest of the time. He could play the piano and we’d ambulate down to where there was a piano. On the piano was a sheet of music I had never heard before. He could read music and plunked it off while I got used to the words. Finally I learned all of it by rote. I can sing it right now. “What a difference a day makes, twenty four little hours”. It’s still a favorite tune of mine.
I watched the news in Stars and stripes. My Division was leaping through Germany. You know, even though I wished to be out of the war, going through German was the part I wanted to see the most! Soon we were declared healed. I had a last minute upper GI because of my acid stomach and I thought I had ulcers. Some of the rations fed on the front line were cans of PORK and EGG YOLK!! Greasy! I always had a bad burning stomach after eating that! The tests came out okay. So Bruce Adams and I were shipped back to our units on a truck.
At one stop for a night or two we were entertained by a USO troupe. It was in a regular Opera house. The male singer was really good. He looked like an old actor named Slim Sommerville–It couldn’t be him but he was gangly like him. I loved his rendition of “MAKIN’ WHOOPEE”. There was a female singer there who was number one also.
We were processed at another replacement depot at WORMS on the Rhine. I met P.I. Thome there on his way back to our platoon. I think he might have gotten his third purple heart.
I wish I would have known and kept more information about Adams. He went one way and Thome and I went to our unit.
My route was through AUGSBURG Germany. There I heard of a large prisoner of war and refugee camp. Now being known as DPs – (displaced persons). I wanted to see the refugees in there. I heard there were a lot of Slovaks and Czechs there. The prison was behind huge brick walls with glass on top and metal prongs. I’ll tell you how I learned about that.
The GI I went with was a Czech speaking American. He was handsome and he was interested in a bit of romance. We were not allowed in there but we got in any way. We saw the conditions as are shown in the pictures you’ve seen. The double triple or higher bunks crowded like a chicken house roost. All sexes were in the same room. The Czech buddy was ‘making out’ and I left. I met a few guys who took me to their other room about three stories up. I was looking out the window to see the large area court yard. An MP was walking to and fro. He spotted the stripes on my shirt and blew the whistle to initiate a search. The prisoners were wise as to how to hide someone and they hid me.
After the ruckus was over I sneaked down the three flights of stairs undetected. I didn’t dare to go out the gate past the guards so I went to the corner of the brick walls and in that corner were some shrubs. I escaped over the walls over the glass and prongs and leapt to the ground ten feet below or so. I made it out of a prison which was supposed to be secure.
Somewhere in this town I found a trombone. It had a trumpet mouth piece which was a small problem. I was able to tootle a bit and I kept it with me. Where I stayed, I found several really ancient muzzle loader rifles. They were too long and impossible to fit the regulations about shipping boxes. I had to leave them there. I also found a pile of 16mm film so I rolled up about 100ft on a spool and I have it in my souvenirs. It is a film showing Paratroopers invading Crete.
During my short stay there I met a few Polish refugee prisoners of war. They were in an army uniform. I don’t know if it was a Polish uniform or German. It was known that the German army conscripted a big number of Poles into their army.
I could converse ever so slightly with one more talkative Pole about the war. He said nearly the same as the German ward boy told me when I was in a hospital. He said,” Yes America won this big war and has one more war yet to finish it” I was stunned by that and asked. “WHO”? And he said “RUSKI”. I poopooed his statement but we went through a long cold war didn’t we? At that time the Pole didn’t know as I didn’t, about the ATOMIC Bomb.
CATCH UP TO A&P- in MAY
I left Augsburg on a truck with my trombone. In that group was one black soldier. He stayed all by himself. I felt a pity for him. We dropped off the black soldier somewhere. My truck took me through where my division fought. Nuremburg, then Munich until we came to Salzburg. I was on top of a loaded 6×6 driving by our command post. I blew the trombone out of shape. Ta Ta Ta Ta! I was back with my old Platoon again! I am foggy about the date at this time and whether hostilities had ceased for certain.
Our A&P Platoon ready for clearing out OberSalzburg and to capture 10,000 SS troops at near Hitler’s Hideout and Eagle’s Nest
I can’t recall the exact date I returned to my unit. It was very near the end of the war for us. I remember that mostly all of a sudden the order came down to be in battle readiness and to assemble ready for combat. This was a slight shock to all of us because we all worried that the end seemed to be so near, none of us wanted to be the last casualty or KIA. Our mission was to collect and to capture 10,000 SS troopers which were yet garrisoned up in the area of Hitler’s hideout. We heard the word Bertchesgaden mentioned and the Eagle’s Nest and often heard the term Hitler’s Hideout.
The newly commissioned Lt Rudolph Smith (Smitty before the Lt. Commission) hadn’t yet returned to our platoon.
Our A&P boarded our 6×6 weapons carrier with our battle gear and met at the assembly point. It was a picturesque country side we drove through and mostly unspoiled. We saw Alpine Bavarian homes perched on the hillsides along the steep winding narrow roads which climbed hills so steep the trucks were in the lowest gears most of the time. There were civilians along the roadsides waving and cheering as if for certain they were happy to see us even though we were the conquerors. The war seemed over for them also. I doubt if anyone of us had heard of an official declaration that hostilities had ceased. I surely did not.
Along the roadsides near the end of our trail there were German soldiers with “Stacked arms” and equipment awaiting us. I couldn’t count to see if there would actually the number quoted—10,000. The area is a large area and our Battalion covered a small part. I noticed a German medic who was wearing a pistol holster. That was odd because I understood that either side’s medics were noncombatant. Someone remarked that he knew now how they treated the bad cases of wounded.
Tiger tanks were parked but we worried about them as we approached. One round shot now would not make this a happy ending. The first memorable scenes were the horses slowing ambling in a line along the road as we entered the OberSalzburg compound. I took a snapshot of the horse as I passed them.
The British were there first so to say. They used blockbuster bombs which destroyed every building I could see. The area was in total waste. I took several pictures.
We were given the opportunity to make sure every German trooper was in our hands. I didn’t have the desire nor did I speak with any of them or have anything to do with the ‘roundup’ as a guard or other. The nearest to a greeting was just a small wave of my hand as we passed them Then we milled about to ‘drink’ in the beauty and wonders of the complex. To look into the valley below. The Alps are as beautiful as mountains can get.
I wandered down stairs into the latrine which was used by the German Troops. I saw a row of lavatories, urinals and mirrors which seemed to go forever. The mirrors were so very perfect. I had to have one, so with my trusty US issue knife I was able to unscrew the fasteners and loot a mirror. I took it back to the bivouac in Salzburg. I made a wooden crate which I thought could withstand a tank’s weight. I wrapped the mirror in a couple GI towels and shipped it home. It came home in shards. I just have pieces of it for a souvenir. I still intend to have a glass smith make a few hand mirrors