MY CAMERA STOLEN
I laid my 127 Kodak on my cot midst the looms in the factory for just a few moments while I went to the Latrine. When I got back the camera was GONE! Gone! Some SOB stole it!! The camera was sent to me by my brother in law from the States. It wasn’t a war souvenir at all! Some bastard stole it! I asked the persons around me if they saw anyone unusual but they resented my asking because they thought I was implicating them. It was chow time and I went upstairs to have my chow. Behind the kettles from which the cooks and KPs were dishing out the food, I saw my camera on the belt of the Top Sergeant. I made a cut in the leather so I could wear the camera on my belt. I used it taking pictures crossing the Seigfreid line. The film was more available for my use.
I stopped the chow line and hollered over to the Sergeant, “Hey you! Where the hell did you get that camera? That’s MY camera, it’s no goddam war souvenir, my brother in law sent it to me from the states, and how the hell did you get it? It was on my cot just a couple hours ago”.
Wow, he got mad! But I was mad too, Sergeant to sergeant now–that’s okay! He told me that he just bought it for 5 dollars. I asked, “Who from?” and he told me “from the political prisoner we have helping to clean up”. “Point him out” I demanded. The Political prisoner’s name was Rienhold Seiber I found out. I ate hastily and went gunning for him. I got a jeep and began to go from police station to police station. Boy did they have records!! And any other place to trace him down.
I came to an address given to me by the police. I knocked on a door which was made sort of from rough sawed boards. From behind the door, a dark complexioned lady peeked through a small slit, then she made a gasp and said, “Oh I thought you were the Gestapo”. She told me that she was a Jewish person who had escaped the roundup of Jews. She knew Reinhold who was possibly a brother or husband. She told me that Reinhold was at the building where I just came from, so I went back and there in a door way on the lowest floor was the culprit. I remember he had on a white shirt with a loose unbuttoned collar. When I asked if he was for certain Reinhold Seiber, he indicated he was. I lost my cool and grabbed him by the shirt collar and started to twist the shirt, that’s my favorite hold. I had my fist cocked ready to smack him. I accused him of stealing my camera. He just wouldn’t admit it! Even if I would have choked him he was not going to admit it. I thought, “Maybe he didn’t”. I didn’t think the camera was worth killing him for it and sought other means of getting my camera back. I begged the Cook sergeant to sell it back, but he too wouldn’t budge. I figured that bugger might have stolen it himself, and shifted blame to Seiber.
Anyway that cook took a camera home and is likely bragging about getting it from a Nazi SS storm trooper!
I’m foggy on exact dates when we were shipped out of Wetzlar. I am fairly certain we were sent to Kassel. The town was in a mess. Totally demolished. We billeted in a home of a few elderly women named Ulrich. They were Piano teachers. They begged me to send a letter for them to relatives in California. I wish now that I had. My wife’s Grandma and Mother were Ulriches. They might have been related.
From Kassel, I sent home matching set of German field phones. I think they are now priceless.
I recall that I almost lost my rank. My stripes– in Kassel. I was pulling Sgt. of the guard when a Guard called out for the Sgt. of the guard to his post. I went as I was supposed to. The man on guard was in tears. I wondered why and asked. He said he found out he was ‘dripping’. It was the first sign of VD. He wanted to see the medics right away. He didn’t want to miss going home. So instead of following the protocol, I stood at his post till the next guard came. I was supposed NOT have stood the post myself, but to have the relief guard stand his post. The top Sergeant ate my ass out for that infraction and said, “Mohar, I can have your stripes for that”. In my heart I know it wasn’t that wrong what I did to help the guy who was so distraught he was crying, because he knew he was a VD victim and would miss going home. I thought to myself, that the Top kick could shove these stripes—but I ate shit (that’s army terminology) and didn’t want to miss the shipment going home. I would have lost a few points of priority. He let it go after he had the satisfaction of being my superior. The VD guy’s name is on the tip of my tongue but its best I not mention it anyway.We dressed one morning in our best and packed. We stood by the trucks which would start the journey home. I took a snapshot.
I remember boarding freight cars. We rode the rails stopping only at places to get some chow. Usually the food was sloppy elbow cut macaroni with a thin tomato sauce. Bathroom facilities were almost nonexistent. I can’t remember when I ever had the chance to relieve myself .You can imagine the run on an outhouse if the train stopped just for that purpose. Some of the time spent on the trains was playing cards. Some of us bartered for each other’s souvenirs as the train clicked on the rails.
The train was going through a housing complex very closely situated to the rails. Three women were in an upper story. One of them deliberately allowed her breasts to be exposed to tantalize the troops. The other two were fondling them. She was a lallapalooza lou just like Mac used sing about, Lou Lou lallapalooza lou!!
The trains terminated at three large camps in France named for different brands of cigarettes. Except mine. I think I was at Camp St. Louis. We stayed in long tents sleeping on cots. Some entertainments such as movies for the most part was provided .Our anxieties ran high.
A package from home caught up to me. Guess what it was. I begged for a few chemicals to develop film and a little kit. It was too late so I gave it to the RED CROSS. I recall having asked for the chemicals and kit even when I was still in Italy.
Passes were issued for one day to visit PARIS. I went on one such trip. We boarded a 6×6 truck dressed in our best uniform. I hated riding in a 6×6 because I had a motion sickness syndrome. I was determined to not get sick so I took frequent looks out the back and around the side of the truck to see how the terrain appeared. I did it once too frequently. The wind took off my GI cap. That made me ‘out of uniform’. When we got to a Red Cross station in Paris, I had to stay inside because an MP would nail your butt if he caught you out of uniform. That’s a fact! You won’t believe me unless you were in the military at that era. It might be different in today’s army. I thought there would be some compassion shown for a battle weary vet. Not so! I asked an MP if he could help me get a GI cap and he said “NO” “and if I catch you outside without one I’ll bring you in!” It’s a fact. They were that chickin shit.
There wasn’t a place to buy a cap and by jimminy I was going to go on that tour which was offered. With a cap! I did what any red blooded combat Vet would do. Someone else had the problem of finding a Cap. I figured the guy who was missing his cap knew where there was a PX. He was probably a rear echelon commando anyway. I had just this one moment in life to live.
I took a bus tour of PARIS. We went to see the Eiffel tower and NAPOLEAN’S Tomb. There were other sights to see like the giant several storied Mall. I also strayed away and found myself on Rue De Pigalle where there were some sleazy places. I went to a Burlesque and had my eyes opened .What made me really peeohed was the usherettes who demanded a tip to help you find a seat. All I heard them say was “Tip Tip Tip”. Hell I didn’t have much money at all. You’ll be surprised to know that I left the theater at half time? That’s a fact. Y’see one y’see ’em all.
I was amazed at how well I was able to find my way around Paris using their Metro system. I was back too early at the place where the truck driver was supposed to meet us as I was told to be. I took advantage to visit the largest department store I ever saw. I bought some perfume for my sisters and I don’t remember what else. Not a lot.
One day in Paris is nothing. The tour gives you the best bargain and quick view.
The truck driver was nowhere to be found. The Officer asked if there was anyone who could drive a 6×6 truck. I didn’t offer my ability. I had never driven a 6×6. Someone volunteered. He certainly was not experienced because he ground the gears trying to shift and jerked starting and shifting. We were off on the way back to Camp St.Louis.
I kinda tried to make myself numb to fight motion sickness. The truck went along for a couple hours then came to halt. Usually a GI gets the chance for Piss call every hour on the hour. I happened to come to life enough to gaze at a brightly lit bulletin board. It had a large LOGO on it which the address seemed familiar. Hey! That was the address I’ve written countless letters to my brother John. He was a replacement depot commando in England the last I knew. I asked the Lieutenant in charge of our tour how long would we be at this stop. He indicated there was time for me to run in and out of the office of this replacement depot actually the truck needed gas.
Gasoline was being poured in the tank a can at a time. A slow process. I went in the office and asked the orderly if a John Mohar was on duty. His answer was, “No he’s off duty”. I told the orderly the circumstances and he called John on the telephone. John asked for the address of where I’d be the next day. He somehow got a jeep and came to see me at Camp St Louis the very next day. We spent the day eating candy bars which he was able to bring. We talked about old times and times to come.
John went into the Army 2 years ahead of me and was made an MP because of his trick knees. He stayed In Germany in the occupation for a time after I made it home. He married a German war bride. She had a daughter named Christa. All have passed on at this writing.
We were shipped to the last camp near Le Harve. The time spent there is unknown to me now. While in this camp there weren’t many things to do. There was a German Prisoner of war who was an artist ( cartoonist) The thing to do was to pose for an artist to make a few sketches of myself for a small fee.
We were taken to the docks where I boarded a small craft named “THE SEA WOLF”. It took us across the channel in about 12 hours. We ate on board. It was a slimy mess hall down side in the hold. More than one GI had urped up on this ship. I was hoping I could with stand this short trip. By golly I did survive it.
We docked in England at a dock I can’t identify. We were taken inland to another replacement camp near SALISBURY. There was a Museum in the area.
Good food and rest was highly appreciated. We were able to go sightseeing. I even went to a Mass in progress at a giant cathedral I thought it was Catholic. Everything appeared to be Catholic, but it was an Episcopalian Church. That made me wonder some more about the many different churches. I asked Father Hanley about the others. He said, “All Catholics aren’t going to heaven and all Protestants won’t go to hell”. I didn’t care to go to London on a pass. I feared I might get lost and I’d miss my trip home.
The time finally arrived when we were taken to the docks where I boarded the Queen Elizabeth. One of the fastest and largest ships on the sea. I have the boarding passes and other instructions in my souvenirs.
I had greater confidence in going home on this ship. It was so large I thought it would plow through the waves and it would be smooth sailing no matter what the weather might be. That was true for three days, and then we hit a storm. I was up on top side. I tried the trick of looking at the horizon. It didn’t work. I had to get to my bunk. I didn’t make it. I stopped at someone else’s room and urped in the bathroom.