Other Mohars in the world
Some packages came to me from complete strangers. From SHEBOYGAN WISCONSIN. I met another MOHAR person through a contact who worked in the Dental ward in the 300th General Hospital in Italy when I had my teeth fixed just before I loaded up on the LCI for ANZIO. I was waiting for my turn at the foot operated drill for some fillings (yes, FOOTOPERATED) and for the dentist to pull a lodged wisdom tooth. All of a sudden an orderly dressed in white medical garb burst into the room and hollered MOHAR who is MOHAR?! I stood up and said, “here sir”. I thought I was ready to go to meet the agony of dental work. He then shot the question, “Are you related to the Mohar’s in Wisconsin? I married a Mohar girl”. This is the very first time I ever knew there were other Mohar’s in the world. It was the start of my genealogical search for Mohar’s. I asked for the address and I began to write to EMMA MOHAR who was the loyal wife of CARL MOHAR. From then on she was very loyal in sending packages. With Salami in them even!! Of course I have always kept track of her over the years to thank her for sending packages to a stranger. Me.
A package to ABRUZZI from his family was a really fancy gift. It was a cigarette case and lighter combination. You press a button and a lighted cigarette popped out.
I made my tea bags last and last. I made a whole canteen cup of tea from one bag. I think I still might have had the blow torch at this time to heat water because I remember making a soup in a German canteen. I used a can of Meat and Beans and also the vegetable stew. Some of us scrounged around in the attics of the houses and found a string of onions drying there. A perfect thing to loot! Onions added to the stew which made a nice belly filling soup. The German mess kit was perfect for making the stew. Part of the kit had an aluminum quart sized or bigger, bucket with a bail.
Once I was forced to take refuge from incoming shell fire under a house. I found some HITLER YOUTH paraphernalia hidden there. I glommed onto a Hitler youth shirt and a nickel plated bayonet and a helmet and some other stuff. I figured that if I took the stuff it would spare the owners an explanation of how and why did they had Hitler Youth stuff in their possession. I sent the stuff home during a lull.
At times the cooks would set up an oven and make bread just like Mamma used to make, in round loaves. The jeep would come to the house and drop off our ration. The only one who was allowed to slice the bread was the Sergeant. He’d hug the loaf under his arm and saw off a sliver with his fairly sharp bayonet. Somehow he was able to make the pieces exactly even. I haven’t got words to describe how tasty a treat that was! I’d take little bites to make it last just like a little kid with a candy bar. Once I actually swiped a can of tomatoes off the cook’s trailer. That’s a firing squad offense! I hid it for a later purpose. I opened that can and soaked my bread ration in it so as not to waste any of the succulent tomato juices. I had to hurry gulping that down to get rid of the can (evidence) which would have ‘hung’ me! Another time there was a lonely can of peas just sitting there on the cooks’ trailer. Same story!
During this time around Christmas a nostalgia gripped us. In the cold room we were body to body. It was one of the only times we had to talk about things we missed the most. None of us would be able to go to MASS or any other service. We just had each other to lean on. I remember when the discussion began to erode into a heat about Catholics and Confession. Sudell was a Catholic. At that time it was the only thing I liked about him, he didn’t like me ever since he first saw me on the Casino front. The Catholic faith was a bond. I wondered how he could find it in himself to ever dislike such a nice guy like me as he seemed to. We hardly ever talked.
Some in the platoon poopooed the sacrament of confession. “How can you, and why, tell a priest about your sins? What can he do for you? Why not cut out the middle man and go straight to god?” another added.
Sudell said it all when he said, “When you dirty your hands you wash ’em dontcha?” he answered nose to nose, with the guy who asked. “Well, a confession washes my soul”. He needed more confessions I thought ironically, and I had yet to have my first one! What a load I had to spill! It’s not right to die at this time with my uncleansed soul. I actually worried like that.
Corbett was a Catholic as I remember, and Thomas OCHS, too if he was with us at that time, Joe Bachuzs and John Yusko. Mc Lean was raised in the faith he said. Louis Abruzzi and Garritano and Ciavaglia. Maybe more. I can’t recall.
Hymen Cohen was our only Jewish guy at that time. Rothman came later I think. I can’t remember him here at this time. Hymen was a short squatty guy with a kinda Santa Claus shape already in his young age. Let’s blame the clothes. His pants hung on him differently and he seemed never to have learned to blouse his pants into his combat boots regulation style. Who really cared about blousing pants at this point of life? We were all quite ragged most of the time anyway. But Cohen cared for us at this point in his way. Hymen Cohen said,” I know all about the Catholic Mass. I studied it school to learn about our differences. I know what a priest does. I know the entire rite”, he said. I liked that. I can remember him tuggin’ up on the belt lifting up his pants as he offered his ‘service’. Of course he might have been able to know the rites but we as Catholics would be desecrating the Mass. We kinda said, “Thanks but no thanks”. Christ was a Jew though.
The exchange of conversation drifted to food. Someone asked, “What would you like to have right now to eat if you could get it?” Some other guy started to describe a big meal of chicken or steak with the trimmings, It was too hard to take for someone, maybe Sudell, who said, “shut up youse guys, that’s enough already!” The conversation about food ended abruptly. It was too tantalizing.
Stalemates are toughest on a platoon like ours. We were in ANZIO type war again. Dug in on the whole front, Held down, Pinned. Not moving. This is when Barbed wire booby traps and mines becomes necessary. Artillery duels were a constant activity on both sides. Patrols clashed often. The cold winter weather didn’t help us.
I recall, being asked to go on one of special demolition duties. There was a rock wall through which a Sherman tank wanted to fire rounds at the enemy positions. We did that all right with shaped charges to make a hole large enough.
. We were called upon to sand bag a church steeple. I thought we weren’t supposed to use a church steeple, but judging from the steeple steps all shot to hell which made them dangerous and really rickety, the Germans used it when we were coming in to town. We carried bags of sand one at a time up to the top where we could peer through the slatted opening at the German Positions. A mortar crew or an artillery observer would be perched up here until the Germans would find out that the only way they could get hit is by being seen from that steeple. We made a couple of ‘fox holes’ for the observers. It was a cold and breezy nest.
The next town was called SIGOLSHEIM. It wasn’t much in the way of towns but it was strategic. All towns had to eventually fall into our hands. Our platoon got a frantic call from the Company which just took the town. The officer reported that there were some anti-tank mines to be disabled. So “do it pronto! We need the Sherman tanks!’
This time it was P.I. Thome’s responsibility to pick someone. He picked me to go on this duty. We took a roll of telephone wire and of course the tool of choice, a bayonet for probing. It was broad daylight as we walked out to the area because no jeep driver would dare to take us anywhere in the day light. Night time was the time for jeeps and sneaking.
Sure enough on the road you could see the obvious disturbance of the dirt. The terrain was kinda frozen now and the German who buried these mines had my gratitude for being inept. But if you read my story about uncovering piles of German shit, you will know that I hated to be the laughing stock of the outfit again. I got down on my belly and probed ever so carefully, AHA! I hit something solid–it wasn’t shit this time! It was for real! It was about 16 inches around. I probed to learn more about it and I found a handle which had two finger holes in it. I carefully threaded the wire through a finger hole and tied a secure knot but not a real close knot in the wire. I didn’t dare to move the mine even an iota. The German mines have been known to have a booby trap under them that would blow it up if moved out of place. I got up and unrolled the wire to where THOME awaited, behind a rock wall. I let him tug the thing out so he could ‘get into the act’. The mine came out with no problem. The mines were armed but it takes a few pounds of weight on the top plate to detonate them. The unique thing about this mine is that it was made entirely out of paper-mache! It would have been undetectable with a mine sweeper. I laid the mine aside so it would be obvious to anyone that it is yet dangerous. To disarm this type of mine might be impossible. It would have to be destroyed by deliberate detonation. Most civilians and GIs, except kids, wouldn’t touch a mine.
There were six mines. I did the same to each of the next four. Then we must have been spotted by an artillery observer because we were drawing mortars or artillery. There was one last mine. After the other mines, I decided to probe quick and deliberate. I reached under and with my fingers in the holes provide, I lifted the mine out, taking a chance on a booby trap being underneath it. It came out and I was on the run carrying the mine. I wanted to show everyone the type of mines the Gerries were using. The mine was heavy and cutting my fingers. I got tired of carrying it. Another distance more we were passing Battalion headquarters. There was a stump in front which the Germans had shoved in the road way for an obstacle. The top of the stump had been sawed, but on a steep angle. I decided to not carry the mine further and that headquarters could determine what to do with it.
In the night Tanks and other vehicles rumbled by headquarters and the stump. The vibration evidently caused the mine to slide off the inclined saw cut and it rolled into the street!! There was an excitement and an alert! The Germans have infiltrated and placed a mine in front of the Command post! The telephone rang at our platoon and I heard them discussing mines in front of the CP. I quickly caught on but neither THOME nor I mentioned a word to the Sergeant who had to select someone of our platoon to go to disable the mine. I sunk deeper into my home made fart sack.
More booby traps
Oh Boy! One night Smitty and I was called upon to go between the lines and lay booby traps. During the day we made up a satchel full of booby traps using regular hand grenades. We unscrewed the 6 second fuses, the one with the handle and safety pin. All these are attached with a fast thread. Into the grenade we inserted an instantaneous fuse. This one would cause the grenade to explode instantly. The engineers in the past instructed us about the use of this type of detonators. They said and I listened intently, that if the second safety pin had any resistance what so ever that the detonator was contaminated and dangerous. It’s a good thing I listened. He demonstrated. He said, “Be careful! These are not fool proof. If some fool pulled on this ring like this”, he showed us by yanking on the ring, “it will trip but the hammer will lay against the second pin. When you pull that pin out, BANG!” He told us to be ever so careful about how to arm a mine with this type detonator. “If there is the slightest resistance on the second pin, it will detonate if you pull that pin”.
When darkness fell we went by jeep as close to an outpost as the jeep driver dared to go. The machine gunner there looked down the rows of the grape vine yard. The French use the same method of growing grapes on posts and wire as we do. We went up to the Machine gunner as quietly as possible so as not to scare him. We told him, “Hey, we’re gonna be out there in the grape posts tying some booby traps to the posts. For Christ sake, don’t shoot!” We walked down the grape rows and wondered how far was enough. We knew the Germans were laying booby traps out there on their side. How far was enough?
I remember that I was scared out of my damned wits when a great big BLACK rabbit ran out from nowhere and across our path. It scared me silly and Smitty too! Damned rabbit! Black as hell against the snow.
We selected the first post in good range of the machine gun .I tied a grenade to a post and a trip wire to the ring. Smitty went to the next post and tied on a grenade while I held the wire taught. The wire had to be taught enough yet close to the ground so any sneaking soldier would trip the wire. We had about three grenades tied so far. The next thing is to follow up with arming the grenades in a one-step operation. It was planned that when we had the last grenade tied and armed we would get the hell out of there.
I pulled the pin on the first grenade and tried the second safety pin. It had the resistance about which we were warned!! I whispered to Smitty, “Hey this one doesn’t feel right” and Smitty said in GI language to “F–it”, so I began to arm the second one! And it felt the same! Smitty told me to forget that one too, BUT we were out here to lay BOOBY TRAPS that worked! I did what a dutiful GI should do. I unscrewed the detonator, and unscrewed the cap, and then I pulled the second pin to see if I was correct as the engineers told us. OUT flew the hammer!! If I would have pulled both the pins on the first grenade I wouldn’t be writing this story. AND if I hadn’t listened to the engineers it would have been the same on the second one. I did this to assure myself that our time out here was not for naught. To think that two grenades in succession would be faulty is bucking the odds. It was strange too that of the 30 to 50 grenades we worked on, not one of the others was faulty! Just those two first ones. Remember at the beginning of my story I spoke about FATE taking its course? I have to believe it.
The job was done and we got out of the grape field and checked in with the machine gunner outpost. WE kinda joked with him, “Hey if a grenade goes off out there start shootin like crazy”!
I have always wondered about what the heck happened in that grape field and the grenades. How about the French farmers or even the German soldiers or our own. Did they ever trip one? We left a lot of them out there! No man’s land? Have I been there? Wait.