Heroes: the Army
"...Our crime was "fraternizing with enemy aliens". Our names were duly recorded by the MPs. I do not know what happened to the other ones (including the major), but I was sent back to my outfit to be court martialled..."
- Branch of Service: Army
- Unit: Hdq. Co., 1st Btn., 407th Regiment, 102nd Infantry Division
- Dates: 1942 - 1945
- Location: European Theater
- Rank: PVT
- Birth Year: 1925
- Entered Service: New York, NY
The Court Martial
by Hector Goldman, 407 HQ.1stBtn.
I was in an anti-tank platoon and shared a foxhole with Vernon Foss from Minnesota. He was 38 and I was 20 at the time. Before we crossed the Roer I remember witnessing what at that time I thought was the largest artillery barrage ever. My buddies and I crossed the Roer and apparently we were lucky because there were few hitches. Some time later I was called out of my foxhole and to Ed to report to the captain (Capt. Gesell). I couldn't fathom why the captain would want me, a lowly private. I soon found out.
Word had come out that the General wanted an interpreter, and looking through the files, they had found out that I speak German. (I also speak French and Spanish.) However the TO of a division does not call for the CO to have an interpreter, but I could act as a body guard of similar duty.
I accepted of course so I became the General's bodyguard in addition to his unofficial interpreter. I was sent to the General's headquarters in Krefeld and I must say that General Keating was one of the nicest people I had met in the Army. He always made sure we were well taken care of.
I was with the General when our Division met the Russians at the Elbe. The General and most of the officers crossed the Elbe. I stayed on our side of the river with Sgt. Teague, the General's driver. When the officers returned, the chief of staff was brought over on a stretcher, apparently the result of too much vodka. As Sgt. Teague drove the General back to headquarters, I was in the command car and heard the General threaten his driver with court martial if he did not drive straight. Apparently the General had had one too many, too.
After Gardelegen, where I met General Simpson -- Commander of the 9th Army, when the remnants of the German armies surrendered to our division, Gen. Keating received their surrender. I was next to the General, helping with the languages. I had to salute the German officers, since it is Army protocol, but if it had been left up to me, I would have behaved differently.
Shortly thereafter, we discovered some Jewish concentration camp refugees barracked in a school building. At night, when I was off duty six or seven of us visited them, among us an Army major. I tried to help by contacting relatives of theirs in the States. I gave them food from the packages my mother used to send me, and tried to make their lives easier.
One evening, as we were leaving the school, we were stopped by MPs with lights flashing in our faces. Our crime was "fraternizing with enemy aliens". Our names were duly recorded by the MPs. I do not know what happened to the other ones (including the major), but I was sent back to my outfit to be court martialled. The presiding officer was the Regimental Commander, Colonel Philip Dwyer. I was assigned a first lieutenant to defend me.
To make a long story short, I was found guilty, reduced to Private (from Pfc.), fined, and restricted to quarters. I wrote to my mother, who then contacted our local congressman. The story appeared on the front page of a New York newspaper (since defunct). The gist of the story was that an American soldier was court martialled for trying to help Jewish concentration camp refugees.
In the end, I was promoted to buck sergeant, which leads me to believe that the Army did not think highly of this court martial.
I subsequently met General Keating at a reunion in New York. He used to call me Captain Goldman, I always held him in high esteem. I also had the honor years later to meet General Simpson in San Antonio, Texas.
----- Hector Goldman
(Editor's note: Attempts were made throughout the text of the following story to place full names to the men listed in the story. For the most part, this is an educated guess and some names may very well be mistaken in their identy. The names were all taken from the division history book: With The 102d Infantry Division Through Germany, edited by Major Allen H. Mick. Using the text as a guide, associations with specific units were the basis for the name identifications. We are not attempting in any to rewrite the story. Any corrections are gladly welcomed.)
Interested in some background information?
Check out the related links below...
United States Army, 102nd Infantry Division
102 Infantry Division
History of the 102nd Infantry Division
Attack on Linnich, Flossdorf, Rurdorf - 29 Nov -- 4 Dec 1944
Gardelegen War Crime
Gardelegen: April 13, 1945:
Massacre at the Isenschnibbe Barn
American Battle Monuments Commission: WWII Honor Roll
National World War II Memorial
The above story, "The Court Martial", by Hector Goldman, Hqs. Co. 1st Btn., 407th, was originally published in the 102d Division "Ozark Notes", Vol. 53, No. 3, Jan/Mar., 2001, pp. 16-17.
The story is re-printed here on World War II Stories -- In Their Own Words with the kind permission of the 102d Infantry Division Association, Ms. Hope Emerich, Historian. Our sincerest THANKS for the 102d Infantry Division Association allowing us to share some of their stories.
We would also like to extend our sincere THANKS to Mr. Edward L. Souder, former historian of Co. F., 405th Regiment. His collection of stories of the "Kitchen Histories Project" series entitled, Those Damn Doggies in F, were responsible for bringing the stories of the men of the 102nd Division to the forefront.
Original Story submitted on 25 March 2005.
Story added to website on 26 March 2005.
September 5, 2002.
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