A&P WITH SCARFS
left front to right Cohen, Brese, Anderson ,Mohar, Abruzzi, McLean, Thome, Smith, Shank Sudell, Yusko, Bachuzs truck driver, McPherson, Horton. Mullins. Bacchus took the picture
R&R in England
At about this time we were given the privilege of sending one of our members on R&R to England. It was difficult to choose just who would be that person to enjoy a respite from the war. There was no criteria to follow in the selection process other than drawing straws or rolling dice. Somehow we decided to allow Mc Phereson to have this R&R leave. The reason he begged for the leave was that he had relatives in Scotland, he said, where he would like to go visit as a once in a life time visit. Everyone agreed that McPhereson would go. I had another motive to help select him to go to England. I had a brother John (the MP in Fort Lewis) who was sent to England as cadre in England in a replacement depot. I asked McPhereson if he’d take time out to deliver a package to John. He agreed readily. I wanted to send John my Luger and the small .22 revolver I was carrying. The order to get rid of them still hung over me. No foreign weapons were allowed. I made a nice package with an address so that he’d be certain not to misdirect it.
The sad story is that his self-preservation instincts overcame his senses. He stayed AWOL in England till the end of the war. Then he was brought back to the 3rd division under MP guard for whatever punishment he deserved for desertion.
When I learned he came back, I inquired the location of the stockade where he was kept. I went there one day. There in the middle of the small area he stood gossiping with other prisoners. I yelled out his name through the block wire enclosure, “Hey MacPhereson!” “Come here”. Under my breath I said, “You SOB”. He came half running to the block wire and when he got up close I reached through the wire and grabbed his collar. I said in anger,” What did you do with my goddam guns?” I knew my brother John had not received them because I wrote regularly to John hoping he’d finally write happily that he did in fact receive them. MacPhereson said “The goddam MP’s took ’em away from me, “No lie, no lie!”. I knew damned well he sold them to finance his desertion. The Luger was a real war prize to the airmen in England. They paid big money for souvenirs such as a Luger. I couldn’t do anything more to the little bugger and I let him go. I didn’t believe his story. I sure wish I would have kept that Luger. I took it from the German officer when we went on the patrol in the raid in South France.
The terrain changed from mountainous to nice farm land. I always wondered where and when will we cross the line where the language would change from French to German. I knew that we were entering Alsace Lorraine which was a territory in and out of German and French hands in conflicts even before WW1. I wondered if the language would be a sort of mixture like the “Chinook Jargon” Then it happened! Just like that! The civilians were speaking German!
I remember one other difference which only was explained after the war. There was a ‘smell’ in the air. I couldn’t describe the odor. You could more accurately describe it as a “stench”. We saw this tall fence made of barbed wire. There were towers in strategic corners. Hey! They were guard towers! We ran into one of Hitler’s extermination camps. One of his” final solutions”. I would guess then that the stench was from the cremations, but I can’t verify that at all. I do know that there was a camp in this area and that I smelled something strange. If we all would have known about the Holocaust and the horrors later exposed, all of us would have had a better attitude for fighting this miserable war. Heck if this war was just about economics and politics and simple differences in Governments, that’s one thing but to be serving a cause as was later discovered! That would have made a big difference in my own attitude if not others. We just could not even fathom what later was discovered about the terrors of the Hitler regime.
You know what? I can’t remember seeing a soul at the prison fences. I wonder where the prisoners were. Probably evacuated or exterminated. We didn’t go investigate. Not our business.
SHIRMECK was the first town we captured in which German was spoken. The time had to have been near “THANKSGIVING DAY”, because the cooks set up their stoves and prepared a chicken dinner. Yep! Chicken! It was the only chicken dinner I remember the cooks ever serving. I remember though that the portions were scant but very tasty. I needed more than I was served but there just wasn’t any seconds of chicken. I remember yelling out to the other guys; “HEY SAVE THE BONES “E” company gets the chicken next”! This wasn’t much in the way of great thanks but I tossed out a bit of sarcastic humor. There were chuckles. I knew the cooks weren’t happy at my remarks, but given the circumstances –oh well! I should have remembered how scarce chickens were. I wonder if the chicken came in USDA cans or did they buy the chickens from some French chicken farmer. I didn’t know or care.
Our Battalion was now in the town of Shirmeck. It was Smitty’s (Rudolph Smith) chance now to enjoy the population. He was in his element He could speak German fluently. He adapted readily to the civilian surroundings. He became acquainted with a butcher named “METZGAR”–I think in German the word does mean meat cutter or butcher. Metzgar was being the perfect happy host and fixed us some sausage, Bread, and Cheese. He was celebrating his liberation right along with us. He was reacting the way that Chicken shit French farmer should have reacted to our efforts in liberating him. He really appreciated us. He also filled a big bowl full of some sort of liquor–most likely SCHNAPS–and he lit it on fire! For crying out loud! I never saw such a thing in my Farm boy innocence. I heard someone call it a “Flambe”. He doled out some of this buzz bomb juice and we all became sorta ‘loose’ and merry. It doesn’t take much for my senses to ‘feel’ funny. Some call it a ‘buzz’.
Here is where I got one of the most precious tools that a GI could get. It was a “BLOW TORCH”. It was the handiest tool to heat a helmet of water for a whore’s bath or for a hot cup of coffee. It would have to remain on the truck however or the jeep and had to become ‘community property’. I got the torch “brand new” from a German ambulance which was knocked out by one of our BAR men. There were bullet holes in the windshield about 5 inches apart. Inside were German soldiers. As I remember it they were Medics. The BAR man came out from beside a building and leveled his BAR at the ambulance which wouldn’t stop. He fired a burst and killed the occupants. I opened the driver side door, and the German soldier partly fell out. He was hit in the head which was kinda split open. I thought that the goopy stuff was smashed up brains. Blood leaked down under the seat where they usually kept a blow torch. The torch had a little funnel attached by a small chain. In the funnel was clotted blood–maybe brains. How can I remember such grizzly stuff?? I needed that torch. Still undaunted I pushed the dead German aside as far as necessary to remove the torch. I just dumped the clotted blood on the ground and took the torch with me to gloat over my treasure. The other of the three German soldiers were hit in the head also. The BAR man and the GIs who shot up the German ambulance said that the ambulance was loaded with American Prisoners and trying to make a ‘run’ for it. I’ll buy that.
I don’t know where the torch went after I cleaned it up. I fear there was a second ‘liberation’.