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Quarters - Found "Skull" Beer Stein in Cabinet.
Our officers were assigned quarters in a modern building across the street from the prison compound. I couldn't believe that I would have a room with bed and closet all to myself. When I examined the closet I found a beer stein that looked like a human skull. I now have this stein on a shelf above my bar.
Dinner We Laughed and Joked - Then I Remembered 1st Day.
The evening of the first day at Dachau I had dinner with other officers of my battalion in a dining hall built for SS officers. We had a good meal after which we smoked, joked and laughed.
Suddenly I stopped laughing. I thought of the people across the street from us and the horrors and tortures they had experienced. I wondered what kind of animals we had become, how we could have become so callused to the suffering of others that while in the midst of them we told off color stories and laughed. Then, I remembered my first exposure to combat, to seeing the body of the young German Lieutenant with blood dripping from his chin, and my vomiting until their was nothing left to vomit. I tried to make myself believe that we should not be judged too harshly for our behavior since we were still in a state of euphoria due to the trials of war being put behind us.
OSS and Army G-2 Interrogating Dachau Asst. Cmdt.
After dinner I started for my room when one of our officers beckoned to me. He said that if I wanted to see something interesting I should go down the street to a building which he described. Then he decided to go back with me.
When we entered the building, there were stairs to the second floor that we followed. When we got to the 2nd floor, we saw a German who was being interrogated by a team consisting of members of Army G-2 (Army Intelligence) and the O.S.S. (forerunners of the C.I.A.).
It turned out that the German they were interrogating was an officer who had been second in command at Dachau. When our troops entered the compound, he took off his uniform and tried to hide among the prisoners. Fortunately some of our soldiers got to him before the prisoners could kill him.
I was told that the German had been standing for over ten hours without being permitted to sit down or take a drink of water. There was a wall behind him that he leaned against occasionally, but when he did, his "interrogators" usually made him stand up straight and step away from the wall. He was sweating and moaning and when he moaned, one of the interrogators would ask, "What did you say?" If they didn't like his reply one of them would say "Hit him again, Arkie."
Arkie was a great big Arkansawyer who appeared to like his job. He had a piece of rubber hose in his hand and when he was told to hit the German again, he would whack him hard with the rubber hose. After a couple of minutes I was ready to leave.
I know that some branches of Germany's Armed Forces did terrible things, particularly the SS troops. However, I could not believe (until I saw it) that we used torture tactics similar to theirs to get information from prisoners. I wondered how often this happened.
to Battalion Surgeon Regarding Prisoners' Meals.
After we had been at Dachau for several days, ten to twenty of the prisoners continued to die of starvation each day. I noticed that they were still being fed exactly as they had been the day we arrived. In other words, they received only one cup of soup and a chunk of bread as their daily food ration. I couldn't believe what was happening; we had ample supplies of food available from our Quartermaster, and several Red Cross trucks had arrived with food.
I went to our Battalion Surgeon and asked him why we were continuing to let the prisoners die of starvation. He explained to me that the prisoners were not eating the same food as they had been when we arrived. He said that each day they were increasing the nutritional value of the prisoners' diet and that in a few days they would commence feeding the prisoners twice a day. The Battalion Surgeon told me that if they were to sit the prisoners down to a dinner like one of ours, at least half of the prisoners would be dead within 24 hours. He explained that fewer of the prisoners would die in the long run if we permitted their bodies' tolerance to food to increase gradually over a period of time.
Cremation of the prisoners' bodies stopped as soon as our troops captured the concentration camp. Since the storage room next to the gas chamber was filled with bodies and more prisoners continued to die each day, disposal of the bodies soon became a critical problem. A decision was made to bury the bodies in mass graves on the hillside overlooking the camp.
Each morning members of our group went into Munich to find people who would serve as members of a burial detail. The plan was to bring in as many as possible of Munich's prominent citizens, including the professional and highly educated town leaders.
Each morning the funeral procession would arrive. Several horse drawn farm wagons were obtained from local farmers. The people from Munich would load the prisoner's bodies into the long narrow farm wagons. The wagons would then start the funeral procession out the main gate and up to the mass graves that had been dug on the hillside with bulldozers.
After the wagons were filled with bodies, the prominent citizens from Munich in the burial detail would line up behind the wagons and follow them to the grave site. When they arrived at the grave site, the citizens would carefully unload the wagons, laying the bodies side by side.
Some of the Munich citizens were visibly upset; some even cried. They claimed they had no idea of what was happening at Dachau. I think this is why the Army brass decided to bring in a different group of prominent citizens each day; they wanted to be sure that everyone in Munich knew of the atrocities at Dachau.
Munich Boot Maker Make Holsters for Pistols.
While nosing around the camp I found an attic that apparently had been used as a leather workshop. There were sewing machines, hand tools, and stacks of high quality leather. I wanted shoulder holsters for my P-38 and Luger so I took my pistols and a roll of leather into Munich. I stopped at a boot and shoe maker's establishment and asked the proprietor what he would charge to make two holsters for me. He said he wouldn't charge me anything if I would let him have the remainder of the roll of leather. I agreed to this, of course.
I found the neatest little awl in Dachau's leather workshop. I used it to make a case out of black leather for my army compass. I still have my pistols in the holsters I had made for them, and my compass is in the black leather case. If I had been smart I would have saved the German Army holster that the P-38 came in; it may be as valuable as the pistol is.
And Best Day As An Officer In Combat
I look back on what I considered my worst and best days I always focus of the
Ingweiller Forest battle and the Battle for Bliesbruck.
for Ingweiller Early February, 1945.
When I think about Ingweiller, I have to concentrate on the entire first day we spent in the vicinity of Ingweiller. Early that morning, before sunup, all officers in the first battalion were summoned to the battalion commander's C.P. for a briefing. The C.P. was a little structure that was partially dug into the hillside.
We were asked to leave our weapons outside of the C.P. before entering. There were a lot of trees around the C.P. so most of us leaned our rifles against trees. I didn't want to stack my carbine with other rifles, so I leaned it against a small tree, a little further out from the C.P. than most of those used by others.
When the briefing was over, I went out to pick up my carbine. It was gone. I went back to the C.P. and waited until every one had come out and picked up his weapon. Only one was left, a dirty little carbine that must have belonged to the officer who took mine. I was mad but there was nothing I could do about it. I had lost (or had stolen) my little carbine with the adjustable rear peep sight.
As soon as I got back to my platoon I had a bite to eat and we then moved out. I would have liked to have field stripped my "new" carbine and cleaned it up but there just wasn't enough time. About noon we reached a spot south and west of the Ingwiler forest.
In order for what I am going to tell you to make sense, I need for you to visualize the terrain of the area we were in. We had stopped at a little farm house on the crest of an east/west ridge. This ridge extended about 3/4 of a mile to the east where it butted against a north/south ridge, forming a natural "T". The north arm of the T extended northward into the Ingweiller forest.
From our position at the base of the T there was open ground (no cover) to the east except for a small orchard on the north slope and a small thicket on the south slope. Each time any of us exposed ourselves, we drew small arms fire from the Ingweiller forest. There was a little road that ran from our position north-east into the woods. Our company commander decided that if we could get some tanks to lead the way across this road, we would follow closely behind the tanks until we reached the woods.
Our Company Commander called for tanks to help us. The response from the tank unit was that they would not lead us down this road unless the road was first swept by mine sweepers. We called for mine sweepers and they advised us that they would not sweep the road unless the Infantry went ahead of them. So, we were back to square "One".
Our Company Commander, John Rahill, then told me to take my platoon east on the east/west ridge to the point where it joined the north/south ridge, and then turn north along the north/south ridge, following it into the woods, getting a foothold if possible.
I took my platoon east along the northern slope of the east/west ridge. One reason I moved along the northern slope was because it was partially covered with fruit trees which I thought would make it difficult for the Germans to see us. It soon became obvious that they could see enough of us to understand what we were doing. They began shooting into the orchard with an 88 mm self-propelled cannon. It was the only time I ever saw them use an "88" for sniping. We quickly moved over the ridge to the southern slope of the east/west ridge, continuing in an easterly direction. After continuing east for two or three hundred yards, we heard some artillery rounds coming in. We hit the dirt but the impact area was quite a ways ahead of us, directly in our path. And the rounds were smoke; it was obvious that someone was zeroing in artillery directly in front of us.
I had no way of communicating with my C.O., so I returned to the company C.P. with my platoon to see if Rahill could determine whether it was our people or the Germans who were zeroing in ahead of us. He was unable to find out whose smoke it was. He told me that regardless of who might be zeroing in on the slope, we had to get into the forest if at all possible; he told me to move out with my platoon and follow the original orders.
We started in an easterly direction, proceeding on the south slope. I had my platoon deployed in a line. I always followed my platoon by about five or six yards, keeping to the side that was highest so I could see what was going on. Since we were on the south slope heading east, I took a position on the left flank.
We were approaching the right arm of the "T" when we saw a German walking toward us along the crest of the north/south ridge. He had a long gangly gait and a raincoat flowing behind him in the wind. From a distance he looked very much like Rahill; the German and American helmets looked very much alike from a distance. One of my kids saw the German and said, "There's Lt. Rahill. How did he get ahead of us? HI RAY!" The German immediately disappeared over the east side of the ridge.
When we approached the crest of the ridge, the Germans were waiting for us in position defilade (reverse slope position). When they saw us, they immediately opened fire. I believe if they had waited until we crossed the ridge, they could have killed everyone of us.
The instant they opened fire, we hit the ground and crawfished back down the slope eight or ten yards. We waited and in a couple of minutes (that seemed like hours) they came over the ridge in a line, firing madly. This time we had the advantage - we were in position defilade and they were silhouetted on the skyline.
I shot the man directly in front of me and lined up on the second man but my rifle would not fire; it was so dirty that the bolt would not slide a round into the chamber. As I watched I saw two or three other Germans go down. One of them may have been the man we thought was Rahill. A man with a flowing rain coat came over the ridge. I believe one of my men killed him instantly because he stopped running and then fell to the ground like a bag of wet laundry; it was an eerie sight.
When the Germans hit the ground, my platoon backed up several more yards. That is, all but one moved back. One of the recruits who had never been out before stayed where he was; he shouted "Comrade, Comrade" as loud as he could. I then made a cardinal error that could have cost me my life as well as the lives of some of the other men in my platoon.
I crawled forward to the man who was screaming and told him to back up and join our line. He was so frightened that he completely ignored me. I grabbed him by the right ankle and tried to pull him backward. When I did this, he rolled over on his side and tried to kick me. I gave up on him and crawled backward to join my line.
When I looked around, there was no line. I could see no one until I looked to the rear. While I was messing around with the recruit, my platoon got on its feet and quietly started to run back toward our company C.P. There was nothing I could do; I couldn't even protect myself because of the dirty weapon I had been given. So, I got up and started running after my platoon.
It was probably 3/4 of a mile back to company C.P. and there was no cover for the first half mile. About a half a mile back was a thicket consisting of stunted trees and various kinds of underbrush. My men were running for this thicket.
My platoon was jogging along in a line that would have made a perfect target for a marksman with any kind of a weapon. However, the Germans must have been as "chicken" as my platoon; they must have been afraid to look over the crest of the ridge to see what we were doing. Fortunately the German platoon did not get its act together until most of my platoon had reached the thicket.
I was jogging along, bringing up the rear, when the Germans opened fire on us. I was so tired and so disgusted with myself and my platoon that I really didn't care whether or not I was hit. Fortunately not a one of us were hurt in the run for the thicket.
Once we got in the thicket we had no protection; however, we were out of sight from the Germans. I didn't think I had lost a man other than the one who deserted. Then I heard the throaty voice of a Browning Automatic Rifle. My first thought was "Where's Wilson?" I looked around and he was nowhere to be seen. I never learned what happened to him. I hope that his wound was not serious and that the Germans took good care of him. After the war was over I received a book that listed casualties for our battalion and Wilson's name was not among those killed.
Small arms fire continued to rake the thicket and each of us made our selves as flat as we could on the ground. While we were waiting, I am sure many prayers were said; there were no atheists in combat Infantry units.
Suddenly another recruit went berserk. He started screaming as he jumped to his feet, trying to run to "God knows where." It took several men to hold him and calm him down until we could get out of the thicket.
When we rejoined our company I was disturbed that my men had turned tail and ran, and I was also disturbed that my rifle had malfunctioned. Without knowing it, I had trained for this situation ever since I was six years old; I was a rifleman by training. I believe that if I had not "lost" my little carbine that morning, I might have been able to shoot another two, three, or maybe four Germans. After all, I had shot rabbits and squirrels at twice the distance the Germans were from us (approximately 50 yards), and the Germans were a much bigger target and they moved more slowly. If I had gotten more of them, it is possible that I might have shot the man who was left free to shoot Wilson. Maybe if I had gotten several more of them, my platoon might have held its ground and the Germans might have surrendered. It appeared that their platoon was depleted to about half strength, like mine, and the loss of four or five men would have made a big difference. I think that if I could have found out who the officer was who took my carbine, I would have chewed him out regardless of his rank.
I don't want to leave the impression that my job was to shoot Germans; it wasn't. I was a First Lieutenant and the leader of a platoon. I very seldom fired my rifle. I tried to stay very close to my platoon and observe both the men in my platoon and those of the enemy when we were in a fire fight. My job was to pass along orders to my squad leaders, through my platoon sergeant when he was present and directly when he was absent. In the Ingwiller fight my platoon sergeant was not with me and when we and the enemy met, line against line, the best thing I could do for my platoon was to shoot as many Germans as possible.
Several days after our aborted attempt to enter the Ingwiller area from the south we moved around and got into the forest from the north. The Germans fired tremendous concentrations of 120 mm mortars and artillery rounds into the area.
I don't remember why, but I spent part of one afternoon at the company C.P. It must have been because my platoon was in reserve. About the time I came to the C.P., Lt. Rahill and an artillery F.O., another 1st Lieutenant, left to go down into the area where the 1st and 2nd platoons were. They had a radio man with them; I don't remember whether he was one of our men or an artillery man.
We kept a radio on full time in the C.P. to monitor signals from Rahill's radio. Suddenly we heard a tremendous barrage on our radio. One explosion was so loud that I thought it might break the speaker on our radio. Then we heard the radio man say "Lt. Rahill is dead." Apparently a 120 mm mortar round fell directly behind Lt. Rahill and the artillery F.O., killing them both instantly.
David Beard, who was a runner for both Lt. Rahill and Captain Robinson, has visited us several times in recent years. Fifteen or twenty years ago he and his wife and three other couples went to Europe where they tried to retrace the route followed by Baker company during the war.
They had learned, somehow, that one of the small villages in the area where Ray was killed had taken his body to their town square and buried it. David and his friends went to this little village to see Lt. Rahill's grave. I don't know how the town's people were able to get Ray's body because Graves Registration Service was responsible for the bodies of all American soldiers.
David Beard told me that the French people in the little village had buried Ray in the middle of their town square and had prepared a little shrine for him. Dave told me that Ray's mother and dad came to the village shortly after the war was over to take Ray's body home. When they saw what the villagers had done and how much the shrine meant to them, Ray's parents went home without him.
Rahill's Speech for Soldiers.
John Rahill was two or three years younger than I, but he had a maturity far beyond that of most men his age. He made a speech to our company that I wish I could have had a copy of. Our company was in reserve and he had the 1st Sergeant assemble the company in a small clearing just outside of a wooded area. The gist of his speech was, don't agonize by thinking of how things used to be and wishing you had these things now. The reality is, what you are doing right now is your life. Take pleasure in anything you can, but don't ponder on the past.
The granary was a probably the biggest building in town. It had a "drive-through" in the center of the building with a dump (hole in the floor). The dump was positioned so that grain wagons could drive over it and let their load be dumped into a pit. On either side of the drive-through there were storage areas and an office.
When we entered the granary, we saw no one. One of my men walked over to the dump, shouted, "Come out of there", and emptied his B.A.R., shooting down into the pit. Afterwards, we didn't hear a sound. I asked one of my men to throw a couple of hand grenades into the pit. Immediately we heard screaming that sounded something like "Comrade, nicht grenods, comrade, comrade." When we told them to come on out, seven men crawled out of the pit. I have often thought that I should have had someone throw a grenade into the pit after the seven came out. There may have been an S.S. sergeant who didn't want to surrender.
My platoon split up, checking out rooms on either side of the drive-through. I made a mad dash from one side of the drive-through to the other; I wanted to see if Hanlin's group had found anything. About half way across, I was knocked unconscious by the muzzle blast from one of our tank's cannon. I didn't know the tanks had moved into town.
I believe I was unconscious for only a short period of time. When I came to, I was lying on the concrete floor. My helmet was over by one of the side walls, completely stripped of its camouflage netting; it looked as slick as an onion. I heard people talking but I had a hard time understanding them; it sounded to me like I was in the bottom of a well. Later I learned that my right ear drum had been perforated and my left ear drum was left concave. My high and low frequency hearing was destroyed forever; never again would I hear a cricket chirp.
Actually, I was lucky that I was as close to the tank as I was. The blast from the muzzle spreads in a conical pattern with the small end of the cone being at the muzzle. I was close enough to the tank that the blast hit only the top of my head, the area that was protected by my steel helmet. Had I been several feet further from the tank, the muzzle blast could have killed me.
While we were in combat, we were told to never buckle our helmets because if the chin strap were in place, concussion from a nearby explosion might cause the helmet to break our neck. When I first heard this, I thought it was a ridiculous order. I changed my mind after my experience at Bliesbruck.
After I came to my senses, we moved into the first unit of the long row of houses. We knew there were Germans ahead of us but we didn't know how many or where.
Behind the row of houses there was a sidewalk, and about 15 feet behind each house there was a toilet made of stone or brick. I told Hanlin and the squad leaders what I thought was the best plan for moving from house to house. I knew we could move safely if we stayed very close to the backs of the houses as we moved. Since the row was almost as straight as a string, the Germans could not shoot at us without stepping out on the sidewalk and exposing themselves.
I asked for and was given two men. I told the first man that I wanted him to crawl on his knees until he was immediately below the first window of the next unit. I told him that on my signal, I wanted him to throw a grenade through the window above him. I cautioned him to hold the grenade for four seconds before throwing it (detonation time was 7 seconds).
I told the second man to run out behind the toilet where he would be protected from fire from down the street. I explained that I wanted him to be in a position where he could see the next unit and provide protective cover, if necessary, for the man with the grenade. I told both men that the rest of our platoon would move into the second unit immediately after the grenade exploded.
Something terrible went wrong. When I told the man who was to move out behind the toilet to take off, instead of running to a position behind the toilet, he took about three steps, stopped, and made a partial turn with his mouth open as though he was going to say something. At that instant I heard a sickening thud and heard a rifle shot. The man fell to the ground with his mouth still open but he never made a sound; I think he was dead before he hit the ground.
I had everyone move back into the first housing unit. We had no more than gotten into the house when someone said that one of our men had been wounded and was lying by the front door. The German block houses we were in were two story units with the first floor being about three feet below street level. To enter the front door of a unit, you first walked down three or four steps. Our wounded man was lying very close to the stairwell, which meant that if someone crawled up the steps, he could reach out and grab the wounded man's ankle and, with a minimum of exposure, pull him into the house.
I told Hanlin to pick someone to pull the man in. However, I first had my squad leaders place men in a modified semi-circle around each of the windows of the house we were in. That way, a single window would permit several men to cross fire and shoot through multiple windows down the street. I told everyone I would count "One, two, go" and that when I said "go", the riflemen were to open fire and the designated man was to pull our wounded man out of the street. When I said, "go", the riflemen opened fire but the man below shouted "It's no use, he's dead." He had been shot through the head while he was lying there.
I think I felt about every emotion possible but mostly, I was mad and I had a terrible headache. I told Hanlin to hold the men right where they were until I got back. I ran down the sidewalk, through the granary, through the cemetery, and down to the river. I knew Robby was going to move his C.P. down to the river if we got a foothold in the village.
I found the C.P. with very little trouble. When I got there, Robby was talking to another Captain who had tank corps insignia. I asked Robby if this (the Captain with him) was the tank coordinator. When Robby said yes, I asked the man why in the (you'll have to use your own adjectives here; if my grandchildren ever read this, I wouldn't want them to be embarrassed by what their Grandfather said) hell did your tank pull up to the opening of the drive-through and fire through the middle. He said the tank commander saw a haystack out in the field and thought there might be some Germans hiding in it. I told him what had happened to me, and then I did something crazy.
I told Robby and the tank coordinator that we hadn't been able to get out of the first unit and that I had a dead man by the front door and a dead man by the back door. I asked the tank coordinator to send one of his tanks up on the meadow, close to the timberline, to a position where he could see the unit where my platoon was bottled up. I asked him to have the tank fire three rounds of armor piercing ammunition through the unit next to the one we were in, and then traverse left to the end of the block with its 50 caliber machine guns. I told the tank coordinator that I would mark his target by standing outside, spread-eagled against the wall of the unit my platoon was in. I also told the tank coordinator to be damned sure that the tank commander understood that he was to traverse left and not right with his machine guns. Robby and the tank coordinator agreed to the operation I had described.
I ran back to my platoon and told them what had been planned. I told Hanlin I would take the position outside and immediately after the third A.P. round was fired, he should lead the platoon into the next unit.
I went outside and took my position next to the building. I will never forget standing against that building with my arms stretched out, watching that old tank lumber across the meadow and stop. The body of my dead soldier was lying on the ground just a few feet in front of me. As the tank's turret swung around, it looked to me like the muzzle of his 76 mm cannon was pointing right at me. Then, I saw a little puff of smoke and heard the projectile tear through the unit next to me; almost simultaneously, I heard the explosion of the cannon. This happened three times and then the 50 caliber machine guns opened up.
This broke the log jam for us. We moved into the second house and a few minutes later, the 1st and 2nd platoons moved in behind us. We systematically moved down the street, killing and capturing Germans as we moved along. Late in the afternoon, the surviving Germans surrendered. They told us their company commander had committed suicide by shooting himself in the head with his Luger. Some of the men in the 2nd platoon found his body with his Luger lying on the floor beside him. I never believed he killed himself; I think he had help from some of his men.
When I try to think about what happened late that afternoon and evening, I draw a complete void. When David Beard visited us a couple of years ago, he talked about an incident that happened that evening.
After dark, some of the men in the second platoon built a fire which they sat around while they talked about their experiences during the day. When the SS captain's suicide was mentioned, one of the soldiers pulled a Luger out of his belt and said this was the pistol the Captain had used. One of the sergeants asked to see the Luger and it was given to him. He pulled the trigger, not knowing it was loaded, and the pistol fired. The bullet went through the arm of a man next to the sergeant, and into the head of a second man. The second man died instantly. It was almost like a hand from the grave reaching out for revenge.
I learned of another Bliesbruck tragedy the day after our fight from Ted Leiken. Ted, at that time, was my platoon runner. He spoke excellent German and was frequently used as an interpreter. Ted came to me with tears in his eyes. He told me that the day before one of the Captains who was an alcoholic asked him to accompany him and two prisoners to a spot along the river. Ted said the two prisoners were teenagers who were frightened out of their wits. He said the drunken captain accused the two youngsters of killing Joe McMahnnon and told them he was going to kill them. He then took out his Colt 45 and shot both of them through the heart. Ted saw the boys cry and begged the Captain not to kill them.
I didn't know what to tell Ted; there was nothing I could do about it at that time. Later, before we left France, we were requested to fill out a form to certify whether or not we knew of any atrocities that had been committed. I pondered over what should be done and decided that I could not certify that the captain had executed the two young men because I was not an eye witness. I decided the best thing to do was to put this in the hands of a Man of God so I went to the Battalion Chaplain and told him what Ted had told me.
I never heard anything more about this. I had hoped that Ted would give details of the atrocity on the certification he signed. Apparently he didn't; I believe he was afraid to.
After several weeks at Dachau, we returned to Munich. My platoon was assigned quarters in a very modern and beautiful home that was inhabited by a young German woman and her two children, a little girl and boy, ages two and three, respectively.
While we were "guests" in the German home, the lady and her children lived on the first floor of the house; we lived on the second floor. Before our arrival, all furniture was removed from the second floor. There was nothing to be seen except a bathroom, oak floors, walls, and a fireplace. I know that after we left the lady had to have her floors sanded down and varnished; it was smart of her to remove the furniture because if she had not, my platoon would have probably destroyed it. We really didn't need furniture, not even beds. We were used to sleeping in any protected place available.
One day I was standing on the second floor balcony when the German lady took her two children out in the yard to play. They didn't have a stitch on and they were as cute as they could be. She saw me smiling at the children and said to me, "Do you have children?" When I told her no she asked me if I was married. When I told her yes, she said "The children will come, they will come."
I have always wished that I had made an attempt to become acquainted with this young lady. She appeared to be an intelligent person, well educated, and probably a member of some aristocratic societal group. After we left Munich I wondered who she and her husband were. I never even bothered to ask her if her husband had been captured or killed during the war. It probably would have been interesting to hear her story.
I went to Baker Company's C.P. to visit some of my friends. They had taken up residence in a beautiful home that had belonged to a German General. I found a 48 bass Hohner accordion in the German's house. I asked the guys there if anyone wanted it and when they said "No", I shipped it home. I still have it with me. We never felt like we were stealing when we took things from the Nazis; we knew they were responsible for many deaths, some of whom may have been those of our friends.
Across the alley from where my platoon was quartered lived a middle aged woman and her two daughters who were probably in their mid-twenties. Two or three of my friends, who were also officers, and I used to meet at the home of these women. We enjoyed being with them primarily because the mother, whom we called Momma, was a real comic.
One warm afternoon I came into Momma's home, hot and sweaty. She told me "Go upstairs (to the bathroom) and take a cold douche." I didn't follow her suggestion because I wasn't sure what she meant. Later on I found a dictionary and looked up the word douche. It said "a spiral of water". When I was hot and sweaty, Momma had wanted me to take a cold shower.
One day while we were talking, I told Momma about my Mother making hausen pfeiffer. Momma said that if I would get a rabbit, she would make hausen pfeiffer.
Several nights later another lieutenant and I were out joyriding in the countryside. I really don't remember the purpose of our trip. Suddenly a rabbit ran across the road into a field and, as he did, the lieutenant swung the jeep to the left, keeping the rabbit in the beam from our headlights. The rabbit stopped and so did we. The lieutenant pulled a small caliber semi-automatic pistol from one of his pockets, stood up so as to clear the windshield, and shot the rabbit through the head. I wouldn't have believed he could have done it if I hadn't have been with him; the rabbit must have been 60 or 70 feet from us. The only explanation for his fantastic shot was he was drunk at the time.
We took the rabbit back to Momma to make hausen pfeiffer. I skinned and dressed the rabbit for her. I don't know what kind of a rabbit it was. It was much larger than our cottontails; it was about the size of a jack rabbit.
Momma cut the rabbit up and put it in a pan that she filled with water. She then set the pan of rabbit out on the back porch where the sun would shine on it part of the day. The next day I checked the rabbit; it was beginning to smell. The next day it stunk and by the end of the third day I thought it must be rotten. Apparently this was the method Momma used to tenderize meat. On the evening of the third full day in the heat, she brought the rabbit in and cooked it.
The hausen pfeiffer Momma cooked was nothing like that my Mother prepared. Momma's peppered rabbit was more like rabbit and dumplings. She, her daughters, two of my friends, and I sat down to have dinner together. The main dish was, of course, hausen pfeiffer. When the serving plate was passed to me, I could still smell the rotten rabbit. I took a very small serving of which I ate very little. I wanted to be polite so I told them I wasn't hungry, which was the truth. One smell of the stuff on my plate made me lose my appetite immediately.
We had a sad thing happen while we were in Munich. One of the lieutenants in our battalion, one whom I did not know personally, returned to duty while we were in Munich. He had been in the hospital for several months recuperating from wounds he received when he opened the front door of a booby trapped house. His name was Lieutenant White and his home was Kansas City, Missouri.
Lieutenant White was Battalion Officer of the Day. Several of his guard posts were at the Munich railway station. The German trains, unlike American trains, were almost all electrically operated. Lieutenant White went to the railway station to check on the guard post that was there. When he got to the station, a long train was in his path. Instead of taking time to walk around the train, he decided to take a short cut by climbing over the train. Unfortunately, the electric lines were lower than he realized. When he tried to stand up on top of the rail car, his steel helmet touched one of the high voltage wires, immediately electrocuting him. It was a shame because the fighting was over for him and he would have been home in a few months had it not been for his unfortunate accident.
A short time after our return to Munich I became our battalion's I. & E. (Information and Education) officer. I had been trained for this duty so, lucky me, I was sent to Paris for one week to attend school.
Although the war had officially been over for several weeks before we went to Paris, we had heard stories of some diehards who were still armed and dangerous. So, I carried my P-38 in a shoulder holster on our trip to Paris. When we first arrived in Paris, I asked an M.P. if it was permissible to carry a weapon. He said, "Lieutenant, that little blue badge over your left pocket means you can do just about anything you want to in this town. Yes, you can carry a pistol if you wish."
My travelling companions on the Paris trip were another lieutenant who was of Spanish descent and our driver, who was of Italian descent. The Spanish lieutenant had been chosen to be the I. & E. officer of the second battalion.
Our trip from Munich to Paris was uneventful. We saw the ruins of many cities on the way to Paris but this was nothing new to us.
When we arrived in Paris late in the evening, we had trouble finding a hotel room because of the many American servicemen who were there. After checking at many hotels, we finally found one that had one room to rent. We quickly grabbed it. Unfortunately the room had only one bed, which meant the Spanish lieutenant and I had to sleep together. I was tired from our long ride so I went to sleep immediately after I hit the sack and I slept soundly all night long.
I was quite surprised the next morning when I awoke and found that I had the bed to myself. I looked over the side of the bed and there was the Spanish lieutenant doubled up with his pillow under his head and one blanket over him. When I saw he was awake, I asked him what he was doing on the floor. He answered with a string of profanities. He said that sometime during the night I doubled up, put both of my feet in the middle of his back, and kicked him halfway across the room. He told me that the first thing he planned to do after breakfast was to find a room for himself.
I apologized for having kicked him out of bed but I was not too concerned about it. My first thought was,when I get home will I kick Aretta out of bed and not even know I have done it? This concerned me.
I don't know how it happened, but somehow we became acquainted with a wealthy Frenchman whose profession was making wine cellars. This was a big business in Paris because the French take their wines very seriously.
The Frenchman invited my friend and me and our driver to have dinner with him and his wife. At the table he ordered for me and my companions, and we had a wonderful dinner. After dinner we visited for awhile. My companions, of Spanish and Italian descent, quickly picked up enough conversational French to get by because of the interrelationship of French, Spanish and Italian, all of which are Romance languages. The wine cellar contractor could not believe that I had never learned a language other than English. It was really a big deal with him. I tried to explain to him that people in Missouri can drive in any direction for several days and still be among English speaking people while, in Europe, one can only drive for a relatively few hours before crossing the boundary of another country that has a language of its own. He shook his head in disbelief.
Several Evenings with Ned, Cousin from Muskogee.
Mother or Dad had sent me the military address of my cousin, Ned Wilkinson, who was stationed in Paris. So, one of the first things I did after arriving in Paris was to go see Ned. We had not seen each other since we were children; it was a good experience for me. I wish I had kept in contact with him after the war but, unfortunately, I didn't.
My evenings were free so I spent most of them with Ned. He took me to many places of interest in Paris; one of which I especially enjoyed was the Follies Bergere. Being a small town boy with little big town experience, I was amazed at the follies. I had never before seen so many pretty young women in one place in all of my life.
Ned lived in a hotel on the Champs Elysees, a short distance from the Arc de Triomphe. In my files you will find a picture Ned took of me standing on the balcony just outside of his room. In the background you can see the Arc de Triomphe.
by Prostitute - Did G. R. Snappin' Turtle Jump.
One evening as I was walking down the boulevard on my way to Ned's hotel the darndest thing happened to me. As I was walking along the wide sidewalk, I saw a pretty girl in the lane adjacent to mine walking toward me. She looked up and when she saw me, she crossed lanes and walked straight toward me. My two options were to either stop or push her out of the way. I stopped. She was a good looking gal who was really well built. She looked me in the eye as she reached down, taking my hands in hers. She made a quick 90 degree turn to her left, pressing my right hand against her right breast and my left hand against her rump. She said, "Feel me, I'm nice." I didn't take time to think; I instinctively jumped sideways six or eight feet, just as I had when I stepped on the Grand River snapping turtle. Someone once said, "Hell hath no fury like that of a woman scorned." I really made the cute little prostitute mad, she was furious. She said, "Go to Pigalle. Get syphilis, gonorrhea. See if I care." She then turned around and walked briskly down the Champs Elysees.
Sometime early in the summer of 1945 a decision was made to send the older, more experienced men home and keep the younger, less experienced men in the Army to fight the Japanese. Because of the reputation of the 45th Division Thunderbirds, it was decided that, if only in name, the Thunderbirds would go to the Orient. Each soldier was awarded points for length of service, number of months overseas, campaigns he had participated in, and decorations for bravery. After it was determined how many men were to be retained in the Army, a computation was made to determine the minimum number of points a man must have to be eligible for discharge.
All 45th Infantry Division high point men (those eligible for discharge) were transferred to the 103rd Infantry Division, a division that was not sent overseas until late in the war. The low point men in the 103rd were transferred to the Thunderbirds.
Those of us who were transferred to the 103rd Infantry Division knew that the fighting was over for us and that we were going home. It was a wonderful feeling. We were anxious to get home, but the important thing to us was we knew we were going home even though the war in the Pacific might continue for months or even years.
of Regimental Commander - Carried Two Rubbers.
The regimental commander of the 103rd Infantry Division was a real sour puss. He had served with General Eisenhower and when the war started both he and Eisenhower were Colonels. He was still a Colonel and he greatly resented the fact that he had not been promoted at least once during the period that Eisenhower went all the way to the top.
Our 103th regimental commander had many petty ideas. For example, one of his standing orders was that all soldiers, both officers and enlisted men, must carry two condoms in his left shirt pocket at all times. He had instructed M.P.'s to search his men and report violations to him. This meant that the men who went to town in search of women had to carry extras with them.
Immediately after our transfer to the 103rd, we left Munich for Innsbruck. On our trip to Innsbruck we went through some of the most beautiful country in the world. We first went through the low lands where meadows were intersected from place to place by small crystal clear streams, loaded with trout. We then got into the Bavarian Alps, which are every bit as beautiful as the Swiss Alps.
After arriving at Innsbruck we had quite a bit of spare time to mosey around the place. I made several trips up into the mountains where the skiers congregate. There are lifts that take you almost to the top of a mountain that overlooks Innsbruck. These lifts are large, carrying 15 to 18 people.
The place near the top of the mountain looked like someone had chiseled a flat area out of stone. At the back of the carved out area there was a small store where one could buy supplies and souvenirs. Bordering the front of the carved out area was a four foot stone wall. One could stand behind the stone wall and see the town below and the Alps extending for miles ahead. It was a beautiful panoramic view. All visitors were greeted by a very large Saint Bernard who had no fear of heights; he would climb up on top of the stone wall to lie down and take a nap.
While we were in Innsbruck I was scheduled to take command of a train load of Italian prisoners of war who were being returned to Italy. As you know, Innsbruck is the northern terminal of the Brenner Pass which runs down into Italy. I had never been in Italy and I was really looking forward to this trip. I was scheduled to leave Innsbruck at 5:00 a.m. but at 6:00 p.m. the day before I was to leave, our regiment received orders that we were moving to Landsberg the following day. Consequently my name was scrubbed for the trip and another officer was assigned in my place. I have always regretted that I missed the opportunity to see Italy.
After being in Innsbruck a couple of weeks we were transferred north to Landsberg where Hitler wrote Mein Kampf while he was in prison. After Hitler had taken control of the country, the Nazis made Hitler's cell into a shrine. I visited the prison but found no shrine; our G.I.'s had practically destroyed the place. All of the memorabilia of Hitler's heyday had either been destroyed or carried away.
One afternoon while I was walking around in the business district of Landsberg I saw a soldier waving a pistol. When I approached the soldier it was obvious he had been drinking. I asked him if I could see his pistol and he handed it to me. It was a Walther 6.75 mm semiautomatic which I later learned was issued only to high ranking German officers. It was the most beautiful little pistol I had ever seen. I told the soldier that he might get into trouble if he carried a weapon while drinking. I asked him if it would be all right if I gave his pistol to his company commander for safekeeping and he said yes. After I learned the name of his C.O. and the identity of his unit and its location, I hailed a jeep and took the pistol to his captain. I told him the kid was just having fun but, as a precautionary measure, I took the pistol from him.
I have kicked myself in the rear end many times for not asking the soldier what he would take for his pistol. I'll bet he would have sold it to me $20 or $25.
We were moved around to several small cities before we were sent to a processing center where the preliminary work was done to get us ready to return home.
In one little village four other officers and I moved into an abandoned two and one-half story house. The first day we were there a young German woman came to us and asked if she could take care of the house we were in. She said she would keep the house clean and would do our laundry. She said nothing about what she would charge us. We told her we would be glad to have her help.
She arrived at our house early the next morning with a bucket, broom, mop, and other cleaning tools and supplies. She started upstairs, washing windows and cleaning floors, and then progressed downward to the second and first floors. She asked us to lay out our dirty laundry, which she washed and dried for us.
Each day it was the same routine. She worked from 7:00 a.m. until 7:00 p.m. If she finished cleaning the house before 7:00 p.m., she got out her scrub bucket and mop, and started all over again.
The young German woman had a problem with one of the characters in our group, a Lieutenant named Lake Mundy. He claimed he was an Okie who was half white and half blanket ass. When I asked him what he meant he said that everyone from Oklahoma was part Indian.
Lake did not change his shirts often enough and, as a result, there was a greasy ring around his collar. This infuriated the young German woman. She would walk up to him, grabbing his collar between her left thumb and forefinger, and she would shake her right index finger under his nose. While she was doing this, she was talking German about a mile a minute; none of us understood what she was saying but we knew what she meant. Lake would finally say "O.K." and put on a fresh shirt.
I had never seen a person work the way she did. However, this is characteristic of the German people. Regardless of what else they may be, they are hard working, very clean, people.
At the end of the first week (seven 12 hour days), we asked the young German woman what we owed her. She replied "12 marks." At that time the exchange rate was ten marks per dollar. In other words, she wanted $1.20 for 84 hours of work. As I recall, each of the five of us gave her a 20 mark note and she was so happy she cried. Actually, we gave her more than this may sound like to you. Our exchange rate was $.10 per mark but each mark would buy about $.25 in merchandise so the 120 marks we gave her was about $30.00 to her. Although the exchange rate for marks was very generous, the exchange rate for French francs was exactly the opposite.
When I wonder who the most courageous man was among the many combat infantrymen I served with, my thoughts center around two men who were as different as night and day. These two men were
Charlie Feigles was one of the nicest youngsters I met while I was in the Service. He was small (I doubt that he was more than 5'1" tall) but he was one of the best soldiers I have ever known. He did anything asked of him and he never complained. He had a cute smile when you talked to him. Charlie was the type of kid each of us would like to have, but only a few of us have that privilege. Our Gordon reminds me of Charlie.
I don't believe Charlie attended school beyond the 6th grade. Every day when he could he wrote a letter to his Mother. His handwriting was poor (probably better than mine) but his messages to his Mother were beautiful. He had seen many of the horrors of war but he didn't want his Mother to know this and worry about him. He stretched the truth a little bit when he wrote to her. His descriptions of things, although based on truth, was often quite different than reality. For example, when he wrote to her about Thanksgiving he told her what a wonderful meal we were served. He told her about turkey, dressing, potatoes and gravy, and pumpkin pie.
Charlie neglected to tell his Mother that at about 10:00 p.m. the night before Thanksgiving we were loaded on trucks and hauled up into the mountains where we took refuge in a bombed out Catholic church for the remainder of the night. It rained all night long but we managed to get some sleep on the wet floor. The floor of the church sloped downward toward the pulpit which meant that the drainage was continuous; some of us were able to find dry spots while others spent a miserable five hours soaking up water as it ran across the floor.
At 6:30 a.m. we were served a candlelight turkey dinner in the back of the church while the priest conducted mass for his parishioners in the front part of the church. By mid-afternoon we were in our assigned position, plugging up a hole in our line so as to prevent the Germans from making a breakthrough.
I remember Charlie's letter to his Mother when we were issued Sno-Pacs in exchange for our combat boots. I had worn these in the Aleutian Islands and didn't like them at all. The Sno-Pacs had leather uppers and the shoe part was made of rubber. In the bottom were removable pads that soaked up perspiration. Since the rubber part of the shoe could not breathe, our feet would sweat and the pads would become soggy. I guess they prevented frost bite for some of us but they weren't very comfortable. The day Charlie got his Sno-Pacs he wrote to his Mother telling her about the neat new shoes we were issued, and how great they were.
I don't believe Charlie's Mother knew he was with a combat unit until the day she was notified he had been killed in action. I don't believe any of us can realize how great her grief must have been. I do know this; as sure as there is a God in Heaven, Charlie is with him.
I didn't want to be too close to my men but since I had to censor and certify censorship on each letter they wrote, I couldn't put some of them out of my mind. Thousands of times during the past 50 year there have been periods when I could not go to sleep at night and my mind would wander back to the War. Hundreds of times I have thought about Charlie and, when I do, tears drip off of my face onto my pillow. I cannot forget him, nor am I sure I would want to.
When I rejoined my platoon after my stay in the hospital during early January, Dennis Mitchell (my Platoon Sergeant) briefed me on what had happened during my absence. I learned that George Poschner, my friend from Fort Benning, was no longer with us. He was not dead but he might have been better off if he was.
Part of the story that follows was told to me by my Platoon Sergeant, and the balance was told to me when I visited George Poschner at his home almost fifty years later.
Sometime during the first week in January, 1945 Baker Company was ordered to take a position defended by the Germans. Our company commander requested a section of heavy machine guns for assistance during the attack. This meant the heavy weapons machine gun platoon would be split. George Poschner, platoon leader, elected to accompany the section assisting Baker Company and leave his platoon sergeant, Delbert Easton, with the other section.
During the battle that ensued, Baker Company was repelled and forced to withdraw. During the withdrawal, Poschner lost one of his heavy machine guns. The next day Baker Company was again ordered to take the position that had been so fiercely defended by the Germans the day before, and Poschner was again requested to assist Baker Company with a section of his machine guns.
Before I go any further, let me remind you that George Poschner was a former All-American football player who had played in the Rose Bowl two years earlier. He, like all other good athletes I met in the service, would sometimes hurt themselves making a play where you and I would say, "It just isn't worth trying."
When Baker Company entered the wooded area, everything was about the same as it had been the day before. There was one big exception and that was, George had only one of his heavy machine guns; the Germans had captured the other. Somewhere George had scrounged up a light (air-cooled) machine gun. When the attack began, Baker Company spread out on either side of a small road, moving forward toward the German defense line that was dug into the hill side. Mitchell told me that as the fighting intensified, Baker Company slowed down and finally came to a halt. He told me that straight ahead of them the road forked right and left and in the middle of the fork was George's heavy machine gun; the Germans had dug the gun in to protect its gunners.
While Baker Company was moving forward, George picked up his light machine gun, threw the belt of ammunition over his shoulder, and then walked down the road toward the gun he had lost. He was completely oblivious to everything that was going on around him. Mitchell said that when Baker Company stopped, George continued his march forward. Once again he was his team's halfback, going in for a touchdown. Although the firing had stopped, his ears must have been still ringing from the cheers of the crowd. It's a wonder to me that our men didn't jump up and follow him in. But they didn't. George was firing one short burst after another as he continued forward. He got within 100 feet of the Germans' dug-in gun emplacement before they shot him. The bullet went in over his right eye and came out over his right ear. George fell to the ground lying on his right side. He laid in this position for over 48 hours in sub-freezing temperatures before he was rescued.
George was taken to the hospital where it was necessary to amputate both legs at the knee and to cut the fingers and thumb from his right hand at the knuckle joints. The extremely cold weather that had frozen his legs and right hand stopped the flow of blood from his head injury. It was ironic that because his left arm was under his body it did not freeze and no amputations were necessary. However, because the bullet went through the right side of his brain, he was paralyzed on his left side and had no use of the arm.
After the war was over and I had returned home, I was listening to Bill Stern's sports program one night. I heard Bill say that he had a war hero with him who was a quadriplegic. He went on to say that this man, George G. Poschner, wanted to be a sports announcer and that he would be given a chance sometime during the current program to make some announcements. Later George came on and his speech was slow and slurred. It was obvious he would never make it.
One time when Aretta and I visited Patti at North Olmstead, I paid George a visit at his home in Youngstown, Ohio. It was sad to see him. He didn't complain about his condition but he told me something I had not really thought about. He said, "Do you remember when we were at Ft. Benning and you guys got up every morning for formations while we who were football players stayed in bed? We (football players) did not train other than on the football field. We thought it was great. Then, they sent us to Europe. I envied you guys when we got over there because you knew what to do and we didn't. When I look back at what happened, I don't think it was fair." I believe he was right; however, if I would have had a chance to trade positions with him at Ft. Benning, I am sure I would have done so.
After the war in Europe was over, most of us had but one thing on our minds and that was "going home". We were moved around southwestern Germany and Bavaria like checkers on a checker board.
The day we were sent to Camp Lucky Strike, we knew that we were getting closer to the end of our waiting period. The camps where American soldiers were sent for final processing before embarking for the United States were named after cigarettes that were popular at that time. These camps were tent cities and the only furniture in the tents we were assigned to was Army cots. There were separate facilities where we could bathe and shave, have our meals, buy necessary supplies, and take care of nature.
Our stay at Camp Lucky Strike was probably about three weeks but it seemed more like three months. While we were there we read, played games, wrote letters and got material in our duffel bags ready for the trip home. Before the fighting was over, I stumbled upon a cache of German ammunition. I picked up a bag of 9 mm ammunition that I carried to Camp Lucky Strike. When I saw that carrying ammunition aboard the ship was a court martial offense, I dumped my 9 mm ammunition in a toilet. I didn't want to do anything that might jeopardize my chance to return home as soon as possible.
Gus and Lake Mundy.
Lake Mundy, whom I mentioned earlier, and Gus, a professional wrestler, were in my tent. They were both characters who helped us pass the time away. Gus entertained us with his stories about wrestling. He confirmed our suspicions about professional wrestlers - after putting on a good show in the ring, they usually went out together after a fight and had steak dinners together.
Gus had some unusual theories about seducing women. He said he could learn about everything he wanted to know about a woman by looking at her shoes and her purse. He also said he had greater luck in picking up women at the riding stables than any where else. I took his word for it.
Before I left Munich, Aretta wrote to me asking me to bring home a bottle of good French champagne. Consequently, I bought two bottles of the best champagne I could find. One afternoon while we were at Camp Lucky Strike, the group of officers I was with decided to have a champagne party. It seemed that almost everyone had bought champagne to take home. I decided to donate one of my two bottles for what appeared to be a worthy cause.
Out in Company Street.
In addition to champagne, some of the officers had schnapps and cognac and before we knew it, we had a rip roaring party going. Captain Bill Langren (who had been Poschner's company commander) decided we would set up two teams in the company street to have a shooting contest. The object of the contest was to see who would be first to hit the metal canopy on top of the tent across the street. The projectiles were the corks from champagne bottles.
Each team had one officer sit down in the middle of the street, spread his legs, and hold a fresh (unopened) bottle of champagne between his legs. He was the gunner who popped the cork on instructions from his team. The hot champagne had enough power that sometimes the cork went over the tent.
I wish someone could have had a camcorder to record the shenanigans that took place. While the gunner was loosening a cork, his team was giving him all kinds of conflicting fire orders like "Two hundred mills left", and "Don't listen to him. I outrank him by more than 30 days. It should be three hundred mills right" and "Increase elevation ten feet", "No, reduce elevation fifteen feet." Our team got lucky and hit a canopy, so we declared ourselves winners even though the canopy wasn't on the tent we were shooting at. We claimed that our opponents hadn't properly designated our target but they, being poor sports, threatened to file a protest. We convinced them that it would be better if they would "bury the hatchet" so we could get started drinking from the row of opened bottles sitting in the street before the champagne got hot. Actually, the champagne was hot to start with; it was a hot afternoon and we had no means of refrigerating it.
After what seemed like an eternity, we received orders to board our ship. Before we left Camp Lucky Strike we received orders to inspect the gear of our men. Each man was to be permitted to return home with only one souvenir handgun. This did not set well with us because the troops that left ahead of us were permitted to take home as many handguns as they wished. And, our men had been previously advised that they could do the same.
The group of officers I was with decided we would circumvent the order. We talked to our men, telling them of the new order and how we planned to get around it. We told them the exact time we would be coming through for inspection. We told them if they had more than one pistol to make their bed and lay only one pistol on it. We told them to put their extra pistols in a barracks bag and to place these barracks bags under their cots. We made our inspection and then told the men to line up in the company streets, awaiting for trucks that would take us to the docks at LeHavre.
The exchange rate for German marks had been five per dollar but their purchasing power was far greater than their $.20 equivalent. During the entire time we were in France we received 50 French francs for each dollar exchanged. Even at 50 per dollar, we were gypped; each franc was worth about $.01 when purchasing merchandise.
The French were well aware that Americans were getting the short end of the stick so, as we boarded our ship to return to the U.S.A. a representative of the French government handed each American serviceman a $20.00 bill. We appreciated this, but not very much. Our regard for the French government and Army was lower than the fuzz on a duck's belly.
AP 74 USS LeJeune
It is hard to imagine the feelings of an American serviceman, especially one who has served in a combat role, when he boards a ship in a foreign port and stands by the railings as the ship sets out to sea, homeward bound.
While on the field of combat, a person had little time to think about anything other than carrying out his mission and protecting himself as much as possible. After the fighting was over and stark realism settled in you started counting the men who were no longer with you and what their situations were. Usually, some were dead, some were maimed for life, and a lucky few had received a Million Dollar wound. You then wondered, "Is tomorrow my day?" You frequently thought, "Will I ever see my loved ones and, if so, will my body be in one piece?" You didn't dare dwell on these thoughts because, if you did, you might become so depressed that self preservation might be of little consequence to you and your worse nightmare might become a reality.