Friday, May 20, 2016
Five months before my next trip to Morristown, but back too late to write an original blog. Therefore I decided to continue my tale of the invasion of Germany east of the Rhine.
Even though it was spring, the large fields surrounding the farmhouse were filled with haystacks. For several days, we kept unexpectedly flushing out German soldiers who had hidden in those haystacks. They were hungry, scared, but happy to be alive, and wanted to surrender. A few had even hidden in the farmhouse attic which supposedly we had searched upon occupying the house. One day one of our men went to the attic with a comrade. He saw a German soldier's hat behind a trunk and thought he would scare his friend. He yelled "Achtung"; to his amazement, the hat began to rise and there was a German ready to give up. Needless to say, that for all of us, each episode was a shock and surprise.
In the afternoon of day one, there was an air re-supply mission. The planes were Liberators. They flew very low just above the tree tops. Unfettered, the crew pushed the supplies out of an opened door. As they flew over, unfortunately, one of the men fell out of his plane. Our re-supply included British plasma as well as dehydrated British tea with milk. We did not like the tea, and did not have the equipment to use their plasma. One cannot help but admire the men who flew such a hazardous mission.
Five or six days later, a British Commando unit relieved us. We had not touched the chickens that were running around but it took them about five minutes to “police (cleanup) the yard”. We mutually agreed to celebrate our Anglo-American unity with a drink. Their captain refused our offer of our medicinal Old Grand Dad bourbon. Instead, he insisted on their “Teachers” Scotch. “The real stuff that you Yanks don’t get in the States”. My colleague, Irby, suggested that I do the honors while he remained sober. All we could find in the house were water glasses. After repeated toasts with refilled glasses, I felt no pain. That was my other “bombed” episode in Europe. Unfortunately, I had to ride in the Jeep cross-country to where the regiment was repositioning.
In a period of little over a week, we had been part of the 3rd Army, the 1st Allied Airborne Army and the 9th Army. The next few days were spent chasing the German army across Westphalia. For about a week, the British 6th Guards Armored. Brigade was attached to us for tank support. The war stopped at 4 pm when the British paused to brew their tea, a daily ritual. At night, the British often lit small, even though it pinpointed a target for enemy fire. While the Americans would not even smoke a cigarette out doors at night unless hidden, the Brits had no reluctance to light a match and smoke.
Airborne divisions lacked sufficient vehicles. Therefore, we commandeered all available civilian vehicles including Volkswagens. I am sure we looked like a rag tag army.
There were also times when obviously we did not know where we were.
We split the medical section when we were in column. Irby usually was with HQ Company, while I had the majority of the detachment near the rear of the Battalion column. We were usually out of touch with the lead vehicles. I remember one time moving down a dirt road when we saw a column approaching us from the opposite direction. As the first Jeep passed, one of the officers from Headquarters Co. called out “Doc where are you going?" I replied, "I don't know but you seem to be going to where we were". Anyhow, we turned around and as one column continued until they bivouacked in the woods for the night.
That was the other time I dug a “hole”, a slit trench, to spend the night. The few German shells that were aimed at us exploded over the trees. I pulled the Jeep's trailer over my trench and slept under it. I think that was the same day that I can recall our column moving down another dirt road, At a cross road, parked by itself, was an ¾ ton Red Cross truck serving doughnuts and coffee.