Next German town
Our outfit went on to the second German speaking town called Grendlebruch, where I took refuge in a home of a little old couple. The town was mostly one storied ‘row houses’. The old couple were in their 60’s or more. The husband had suffered a stroke and was ‘out of it’. The little old lady could speak English. She had never ever had the opportunity to use her knowledge of the English language ’till now. She said she had learned English after the First World War in PARIS. She was elated to have this first opportunity to use the language. She was an Artist. A Painter. I have her name and address and will enter it in this story. Her name was Emile Prevot–something like that. I promised I would write to her when I got home, and she answered. “You’ll forget me, I know soldiers”. I didn’t forget her but I never did write. I am sure sorry now that I got caught up in life so much as to not write. She would be dead now. She was old then. The following picture is a copy of their letter head
In this house of Emile Prevot, there was a peacefulness. The platoon members needed to write letters to their loved ones. On the truck which finally caught up to us, we had our personal stuff stashed in empty German mine cases. Mine made a very good sturdy metal satchel. Anything of any value, like my pen and ink and my writing kit with addresses and razor plus some prize souvenirs were stashed in the metal mine case. In this peaceful surrounding at the table, we had candle light only. One guy who was missing at the table, whose first objective was to find something alcoholic to get soaked on. It was this way in nearly every place we conquered. He had to have something to ‘swab’ down. He was a terror when he found some rot gut and as usual he found some schnapps which is buzz bomb juice for sure. It’ll knock you on your butt. In his drunken state he wanted to enter our house. If he did succeed in entering we knew he’d be hell to deal with and the letter writing would be in jeopardy. The front door had a lock and it was locked. In drunken hate he kicked and yelled and cussed. Finally he pulled out his Beretta pistol which he got on Anzio. He only had five rounds .We knew that. Italian ammo is available only back in Italy. He fired four rounds on the wrong side of the door. The bullets came zinging and ricocheting down the hallway. P.I. THOME ran out the back door and around the building. When thru his cloudy drunken vision he finally saw that his aim did no good. He fired his last round into the lock and busted it. The door opened, but not before Thome caught him by the nape of his neck and soundly thrashed him to submission. I refer you to the cartoon that’d picture the Sarge beating Beetle Bailey into the cobble stones on the front doorstep of that house. I can understand my old buddy to the point that he needed companionship and we were holding him at a distance. But we knew he could be violent as hell! We knew him well by now and had to watch him. Drunk guys are the toughest persons to handle. I hate it. When he was normal, he was the best soldier you could ever ask for. We sang “Mountain Dew together. When I’d make my “Hee Haw” sounds, and talk ‘Hill Billy’, he’d bust out laughing and asked me to do it again. He and I were damn good buddies, but I worried when he drank—even then he never bothered me.
Not long after Grendlebruch, which was still elevated above the terrain we would soon enter, we took town after town. I can’t name them. I remember that I saw some excellent farm acreage here. One very historic sight to loom up was the old French MAGINOT LINE pill boxes and defenses. I saw fortresses which had as much a 100 yards of barbed wire in front of them. The pill boxes had turrets on them with rotating cannons. The cannons could be hidden and then raised. The Maginot line was built as a defense in the days after WW1. The German army was now using it to hold us at bay, with some effect.
In one case, Company E was held up by one of these Forts. This one was called the “MUTZIG” fort. The Germans inside would not surrender. They were in radio contact with their commanders who might have promised a counter attack. We were prepared to ward off German paratroopers. Starvation wasn’t working as fast as our commanders would like. This was one fort where my 18 pounds of TNT wouldn’t work. They had snipers in enclosed portals to prevent a day time raid and I’m sure that our officers realized that they were no longer a threat being cooped up in their cement fort. The command brought in dive bombers. I saw them come in and drop napalm on it producing no effect. There was still no surrender. Big artillery too didn’t faze it and regular aerial bombs just shook them up a little. The fort was quite impenetrable. There was a sort of MOAT around it about 15 to 20 feet deep and that wide before you could get to the main wall. The highest points also had rotating turrets with cannon. There was a large steel door to an entrance which withstood tank fire.
It is said that a GI suggested that the engineers get a German half-track and load it down with tons of various explosives. Send it driverless crawling over to the moat, then topple it over into the moat and set off the TNT by a fused line. It was done as suggested. When the German half-track toppled over the fuse or wire separated somehow and the TNT charge wouldn’t detonate. To set off the charge then, a mortar crew sent in a mortar round. The TNT went off with a huge blast and caved the wall of the fort in, I saw it. You could drive any kind on tank through the wall. I imagined that the German in command became educated in the same manner the Japanese did after the A BOMB.
In a short time about 80 German prisoners were taken. They came out in the usual fashion with their hands up and clasped behind their heads. Now it was time for souvenirs. I went in but those buggers threw all their arms and other good stuff into a big well which provided them water. Also there was at least one horse whose skeleton was now bare of flesh. The horse meat sustained them during the siege. I don’t have a single souvenir from that Fort.
FIRST JET AIRPLANE
I saw the first German Jet propelled airplane in this area barely visible in the stratosphere. I doubt if artillery (ack Ack) could reach that high. It didn’t harm us. It might have been taking aerial photos of us. It also might have been in radio contact with the Soldiers in the MUTZIG fort. I also think that the Germans sent a few V2 rockets into our territory. None did us any damage.
Somewhere along this route we were stopped for some reason. In the meantime the cooks set up a kitchen. As we waited in line for chow there was a fracas between one of our platoon members and a jeep driver. I don’t have an idea how it started. I think it was one of those chow line incidents where someone bucks the line. A serious situation in the army. I saw a jeep driver whose name I can’t recall; strike Bernard Rothman in the face with a bare fist. It was a hard blow. The jeep driver called Rothman a ‘kike’ and Rothman called the Jeep driver a son of a bitch. OOOH! The jeep driver hit Rothman again and Rothman called him the same name again. Back to the beginning, the jeep driver hit him again. Rothman’s face now was blue and puffed. I don’t know who gave up but Rothman just took those blows without scuffling back. Later as I ate chow beside him in pity for him, suggesting that he visit the medics, he just said, “It happens in the best of families”. The jeep driver was a snaughty southern boy with a real hill billy accent. If Rothman had wanted to, and he should have, he could possibly have come out best. Rothman wasn’t the fighting kind. He did use inflammatory language though. SOB is fightin’ words .I had a few nasty words with Rothman myself. I might write about it. It was after the war in Salzburg. It was a small misunderstanding.
We came to a town where there was time enough to goof around. I went into a little school house about the size of our old fashioned little red school houses. I snooped around. I took two of the books which were plainly Hitler propaganda. The two booklet magazines or whatever is appropriate to term them are full of photos taken by Hitler’s private Photographer, Heinrich Hoffman. I sent the magazines home and I have them in my souvenirs. I couldn’t tell the folks back home in what town I was in on the note in the package but I was able to date them. I was surprised and got goose bumps when I realized that the date I sent them was exactly the same date as the date I was writing this manuscript 50 plus years after. A day before my mother’s birthday DEC 2nd 1944 (I am rewriting that script at the moment it is 56 years ago.) I wrote nasty captions beside some pictures of Hitler. I guess that spoils the books but I didn’t send them to capitalize on souvenir value. The dates helped me in my Chronology.