Chapter 7

 

Chapter 7

 

We were having a good stay in Bamberg. I was doing what I wanted to do and driving all over Germany at least where I hadn’t been before and was seeing some of the country. When you got out of the Cities the country side was beautiful. Only when you entered some of the cities could you see  the ravenges of war. The people was trying to clean up the areas but they had limited resources. There were DP camps as we called them, They were displaced persons from the war and had no place to go and there was a local camp where they would go and have shelter and food. Even though the food supply was low at least they had a place to stay. They  at least had shelter and the American Army had a great task of trying to help the camps with the food that was stored behind the lines in many German cities.

The Quartermaster Corps had fields of rations stored and it was a matter of allocating the food to the camps. I was doing my work and having my evenings with Frau. Schmidt. We would go to the lounge and drink beer and listen to the music and talk.  On Sunday we would go to a small park by the river and lay on a blanket and watch the other couples.

There a lot of other GIs and their girl friends in the park and this reminded me of home in the States. I had been getting letters from home and I had been writing a lot. So the Army of Occupation  Germany wasn’t so bad after all. The Army had a point system for returning GIs to the States. You recieved points for every month of service in a foreign country and length of service. I had a Combat Infantry Badge and that was good for 5 points  Battle Stars good for 5 points each and I had two, But I was still short of the 36 points needed to muster out to the States.

I would remember one of our buddies that had been transferred to the Corp. of Engineers before we had taken the city on Essen. His name was Henry Bertrand, He was from Louisana and lived in the swamplands and trapped and  fished for a living. Henry was a quite sort of a guy and very soft spoken and a nice fellow to be around. He had been with the 79th when they landed in Normandy and in the  Battle of the Bulge. Because of his experience around water he was selected to go with the Engineers and work on bridges across the Rhine River. He was killed in action and we never saw him again. When he transferred back to the engineers he left his souviner with me and said he would get it when he came back. This was a German P38 pistol he had taken off a German Officer that was captured. The German Officers carried  the P38 and Luger pistol as their side arm just as our Officers carried the famous .45  cal. pistol for their side arm.  It was a beautiful pistol and a guy from Orange, Texas ended up with it and I’m not going to tell how he screwed me out of it. We never did find out what happened to Henry, But we suspected he was working on the Bridge at Remagen when it fell into the Rhine River after being shelled and bombed by the Germans.

The bridge at Remagen  stood after many attemps to blow it up by the Germans. Many tanks and troops moved over the bridge and after days of bombing and artillery fire the bridge was weakened and and fruitless effort by the American army to strengthen it failed and it fell into the Rhine River. We, His buddies always thought he may have been one of the many GIs that lost their lives working on that bridge when it collapsed into the Rhine River.

They never gave us a straight answer but said he was killed in action. Killed in action covers a multitude of sins. He was sadly missed by all of his Comrades and I had worked and bunked with Henry for a long time and to think we would never see him again kind of put the hurt on you.

After the war, We had a Memorial Service for all of the fellows that was lost in action during the war in the 79th Division. They gave us a invitation that we could send home and Ma kept that for me until after I was married. I will tell you later what I did with that invitation later. The Military Government Agency was moving in to help the Cities set up Local Government. There were Civilians that were experienced  in Government and worked as U.S.Citizens for the Army to set up local Government in all of the cities of Germany. They wore a patch that Identified their rank and there was some women as well.

They would move into a city and  a local Mayor would be selected and officials and when they were set up self sufficient they would move on to the next city. Probably the former mayor unless he was Collaborating with the Germans.  But the American Soldier with his MP helmet carried the big stick and sometimes I thought that  was power over people and I really never liked that. They were not allowed to carry weapons and soon we began to take a lower profile as the cities would want to do a good job and please the American army.

We stayed in Bamberg until March of 1945. Our outfit would move to Landschut, Germany about 45 kilometers South East of Munich. This meant I wouldn’t be seeing Frau.Schmidt anymore. Oh well I would have to look for another Lady Friend.

She was established in Bamberg and couldn’t go with me. We said our goodbyes and I was off to Landschut and new adventures. We would billet in a German  Artillery Casern. This was a German Artillery Barracks during the war and we were moving into that The barracks was about 2 kilometers South of the city of Landschut. There were a lot of displaced persons that had travelled with us and they would work in the kitchen and the dining room just for food and a place to sleep. Some of these people would do landscaping for us and really clean the place up. They would clean the barracks and keep the place polished. Most of them were Polish and they would give the German civilians that worked on the base a bad time for all the pain the Germans had put them through during the war. It was nice to see the shoe on the other foot.

I was still  in message center and my travels were taking me further away on my journeys. We were in the South East of Germany and sometimes I would drive to Frankfort with messages and mail.  It was an over night trip to Frankfort and I would stop and stay with an outfit along the way. I would pull in to a outfit and go to the orderly room and tell them my business and they would fix me up with a bunk for the night and food. I would go to the mess hall in the morning and eat breakfast and I would be on my way. If I needed gas I went to the motor pool and filled my tank and a couple of extra cans of gas just in case. All I needed was a trip ticket that was provided when I left and signed by Sargeant Henry Clayton of Hqt. Co. 16th Inf. Regt. and I  was in business. After the war all jeep drivers had to have a trip ticket. The ticket was a form that said you was going from Landschut to Frankfort and return and you was all set. If the MPs stopped you and trip ticket said it was Official business and signed by the motor pool sargeant  you could go on your way. Woe be unto the driver that didn’t have a trip ticket and you were stopped.

I was having fun for a change. The mess hall was serving eggs and bacon for breakfast and I would go to the mess hall  after the company had been fed and eat four to six eggs for breakfast. The guys used to laugh at me for eating so many eggs, But I was hungry.  One time I drove an American lady back to Bamberg to get some papers filled out as some of the career soldiers were bringing their wives over to live in Germany while they were on duty.They had offered me at Bamberg, before we moved to Landschut a Staff Sargeant rating, $600.00 inlistment fee and 30 days furlough in the States if I would re-join the army in Europe.  I declined.

I wanted to go home as soon as I could. The Army hadn’t been so bad since I had escaped the war with my skin. I was one of the lucky guys and a lot of the fellows would not make it back to the States and I wanted to be one that did.

Pete and I went to Garmish Partenkircken a winter Sking resort near the Alps for a weeks vacation. We boarded a train in Munich and rode to Garmish. We checked into our hotel and looked foreward to a week of fun and sking. I had never skied before but Pete lived in Utica N.Y and had been sking for a long time. he showed me how to snow plow with the skis and that was about all I could do. We would go up on the ski lift and I would try to ski down. He was pretty good and he went down the hill fine but I was wearing out the seat of my pants getting down that hill. We went up on the cog train to the top of the Zugspitts Mountain.

The railroad was up the side of a mountain and the train would go as far as it could and then engage a cog wheel that was in the middle of the engine into a cog rail and we would go up the mountain. When we got to the top we got off the train and got on a ski lift that took us on to the top of the mountain. We got on the lift and there was a center support in the middle and you would go on to the top in a cable car.

Man, looking down hundreds of feet I was really scared. We went to the top and you could see the Swiss Alps. The people would ride the cable car up to the top and ski down. I wasn’t about to do that so we boarded the cable car and came back down. We had a good time as there was a restaurant and goodies there. We came down to the bottom and I had the worst headache I have ever had in my life from the altitude. We stayed our week in Garmish and headed back for Landschut. There was a nice lake in front of the lodge and it was frozen over and people were skating on it. I suppose I was not a very good winter sportsman.

There was lot of displaced persons in Landschut. There was a large German Army Camp there and the American Army was using those buildings to house these people. Each day we had a guy that would go out to the DP camp and bring back people to work at our facilities. Some would work in the kitchen and whereaver. We didn’t have to do KP as long as we had willing people to do the work. They would work for a small fee and would get all they wanted to eat. Getting food was a big feature of their work. The fellow that was in charge of securing the people was a black marketeer. We now had a ration card and could only purchase things from the PX every two weeks. They would punch your card and after two weeks you would be elgible for rations again. You could only buy two cartons of cigarettes for a two week period and toilet articles one per time. I was only smoking a carton every two weeks so I had an extra carton.

I would sell that extra carton for $65.00 and every toilet item like tooth paste and soap etc. for $.50 per item. We only paid $.5 cents an item for it and that was a handsome profit. $5.00 for a carton of cigarettes and a $55.00 profit. That was the black market. We would have some extra money for other things.

We had a night club where the GIs could go and take a Lady friend and have a beer. There was an orchestra for dancing and the musicans were civilians from the local city. So we had a place to go and enjoy ourselves. The musicans would play American pop music so we had a little of home away from home. Some of the Non. Coms. would would live off of the base in town with their girlfriends and in the morning I would go into town early and pick them up in a weapons carrier and get back to the base in time to stand reville. We were getting back to basics again and was assembling for reville and retreat. This wasn’t so bad as the remainder of the day was spent doing our various jobs and doing very little drilling or marching. I was now driving Liuetenants and Captains around on their business and was enjoying that.

One day one of the Lieutenants asked me to drive him to an area. He said he would show me where to go. We drove out in the country to a farm and drove into the farmyard. He got out and went to the door and the farmer came out with a package and put it in the jeep. As we drove back he pulled out a bottle of schnaps and said, Forget you ever seen this place and I did. He was a nice Guy and we always got along real well. The schnaps was like moonshine was in the States. The farmers espically would make schnaps out of potato peels and whole potatoes. They would furnish a few bottles  to the service men on the QT as it was illegal for them to make it or even have it in their possesion. There were restrictions about the population having alcohol but as an Officer the lieutenant had some influence on the subject.

Easter was approaching and on Easter Sunday Sgt. Clayton, John Bibbs, Elton Fox and I  went to Munich for the day. Bibbs was from Mississippi and Fox was from Columbus, Ind. We had heard you could get a hamburger at the Haufbrau Keller in Munich so we were on our way. I had been to Munich before and as you entered the city there were two large bronze lions mounted up about 30 feet high on large columns. The US Army had them removed as they represented the strength of Duetsland and were removed to show that there was someone stronger and they could not conquor other nations. We were showing strength and that they were a conquored people but we were doing this in a low profile way.

We went to the Haufbrau Keller and ordered a hamburger and we drank some German beer also. The hamburger wasn’t as good as I had in the states but it had been a long time since either of us had a hamburger so we didn’t complain. It was a beautiful day and the drive over the countryside was nice as things were starting to green up. The point system had been lowered to 32 points now and I was still a few short, But I knew it wouldn’t be long  and I would be going back to the states.

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