Heroes: the Army
"...there appeared a german officer, who stood up tall. He walked over to me and my men kept him covered. He had come out of a bunker. He spoke perfect English AND WANTED TO KNOW HOW MANY MEN I HAD WITH ME? TOLD HIM IT WAS NONE OF HIS DAMMED BUSINESS AND THEN HE SAID HE WANTED TO SURRENDER HIS MEN..."
James L. "Jim" Hansen
- Branch of Service: Army
- Unit: Co. F., 405th Regiment,
102nd Infantry Division
- Dates: 1942 - 1945
- Location: European Theater
- Rank: PFC., Sgt., 2nd Lt., Distinguished Service Cross, BMC, Bronze Star Medal,Purple Heart, PUC
- Birth Year: 1925
- Entered Service: Paris, TX
Jim Hansen: Background Information:
Jim Hansen enlisted in the army from a small town in western Iowa and was sent to the early 102nd outfit in 1942. He is one of a very few that made a battlefield promotion to 2nd Lt. He won the Distinguished Service Cross, The British Military Cross, Bronze Star, Purple Heart and Presidential Unit Citation. Speculation is that Jim Hansen wrote his story from notes that he kept but didn't record the full story until after his discharge from the army about 1950.
The following story is part of a collection of stories entitled the "Kitchen History Collection" which is a history preservation project of Mr. Edward L. Sauder -- the subject of another of our stories of men who served in Co. F., 405th Regiment, 102nd Division (2nd Battalion).
Jim Hansen Background Information:
Jim Hansen served in the army from 1942 to Mar. 1946. He began his military career at Camp Maxey, Tx., Camp Swift, Tx., Ft. Dix, N.J., Camp Kilmer, N.J. and then the European Continent. He started out as a recruit in 2nd platoon, Co. F. He was promoted to PFC, Cpl and then to Platoon Sgt. The Platoon Sgt went AWOL and he was promoted to his job. He was replaced as Platoon Sgt for a period of time. He was made platoon Sgt 1st platoon over seas. He received a battle field commission as 2nd Lt. He was promoted to 1st Lt. He received the Distinguisted Service Cross, British Military Cross, Bronze Star, Purple Heart and various other medals such as victory in Europe etc.
Jim Hansen Remembers:
[57-1] On the 20th of October, 1944 I walked, crawled, marched and swam the 14 miles thru a severe rain storm to Valognes, France. There we were loaded into the 40 and 8ts box cars for a journey to Tongres, Belgium. The trip produced these memories.
We could walk about as fast as the train moved. When body functions called, we would walk on the top of the train to the engine, drop off, and attend to the needs of the minute, and catch the train as it went on up the track, as the caboose came by. Bathing was rather simple. Just climb on top of the cars when it was raining, strip off, and lather up. It made no difference if we went thru a town while bathing. The French and for that matter all of Europe was not amazed at the sight of a naked body as most Americans are.
After assuming the 40 and 8 crouch for 3 days, we unloaded at Tongres and then loaded on trucks and rode to an area inside germany, near Waurbach, Holland. On the afternoon of the 23rd, Capt. Peterson assembled our company for a little pep -- talk to reasure us. Everyone kept the 5 yard interval as we had been tought in the States for about 2 years. I recall feeling an empty feeling of sorts. It was a combination of fear, anxiety, and about 14 other emotions. About 1/2 way thru the briefing a lone german plane came over and dropped some bombs, it was the first we had ever heard. Confusion ran amock. I had selected a place to sit that was near a small depression in the ground. When I heard the bomb, I just rolled over into the depression, all the time thinking I was generous for choosing that spot. All of a sudden I was crushed by a mass of other bodies flying in on top of me. The top most one was a good 4 feet above ground level. Back to the bomb, I think it lit about 2 miles from the ditch I was in, in the bottom. As sanity returned, to us, the company of people crawled out of the garbage pit, the latrine, and other places dug for such purposes. Everyone felt quite foolish.
That night we moved up and relieved the infantry of the 2nd Armored division. Again my emotions ran amok. The 2nd and 3rd platoons went into prepared foxholes while the 1st platoon was to dig support fox holes in the rear. At this time, Lt. Rabinowitz was the 1st Platoon leader. He told Sgt. Matusiefsky to have his fox hole dug, while he reported to the CO. Sgt. Tom told him to dig his own damn fox hole, as we were in combat. This sorta started his long decline down the ladder of command success for Sgt. Tom.
I don't recall all the events right after we were committed but we wound up in a small town surrounded by beet fields and cabbages. We ran patrols thru these fields day and night to try and intercept any german patrols that might have slipped thru our lines. One particular night we were between the beet fields when I stumbled upon my first dead german. I fell over his feet. I could see something glowing in the dark, on the ground. It was his teeth. Naturally I was nosey and, went to investigate. Upon closer investigation I discovered it was a mans mouth wide open and it was his teeth I had seen glowing in the moonlight. Then [58-2]I discovered the rest of him. Due to the poor condition of the beet fields, I ran in place at least 10 minutes before getting away. When I finally got a grip on myself, I evacuated the area in a hurry. This was one of my worst moments so far in the early days of the war.
One night the 3rd platoon was out on patrol and I was not sleeping very well so I got up and started outside. As I past our outpost, I spotted our 3rd platoon returning. They spotted me at the same time and all hell broke loose. They started shooting and yelling, " There's a damn kraut now." I jumped back in a doorway and started cussing Sgt. Reardon, calling his name. The shooting stopped and the cussing began. Reardon said, "What the hell did you jump back for?" I said, "With all those trigger happy men (bastards), shooting -- what do you suspect me to do?" My parting words were, "You're the best damn soldiers the germans have got."
As I remember, the first platoon was moved to a position in front of the Chateau Briel. Our hqtrs was in a small basement in a barn in the courtyard, and we remained there for some time. Lt. Rabinowitz was in Co. Hqtrs now. He was the Exec. Officer. Sgt. Tom Brown was in charge. Each night the germans rained down artillery and we expected an attack. Each night a german with a burp gun would open up from a house about 200 yards to our front. One day Lt. Weigand brought up a bazooka to me. I don't recall being an expert with a bazooka but that day I could do no wrong. There were 4 windows facing the brick wall we were dug in behind, and I put a round into each window. We knew that we got anyone who might have been in there. There wasn't any more shooting from then on. Then the burp gunner came back. The next night the engineers came out and blew the house down with explosives. That ended the burp gunners for good.
A few nights later the artillery came again, but it was different. It started as usual and then it started to fall 200 -- 300 yards behind us. The men poped up to see what was happening from their fox holes to be met by a german patrol. The patrol managed to get behind our lines, but as they came back we pinned them down and their own artillery came in on them. Most were killed or were captured. A part of this was as follows: Lt. Grene was the 1st pltoon officer. He yelled at me to go back to the Co. Hqtrs and tell them that we were under attack. Now I thought that anyone in ten miles would know we were under attack. Anyone who tried to call us on the phone would know we were under attack. The telephone lines were all out, or we would have answered. I said, "Oh what the hell -- and took off."
I grabbed the phone line in my hand and thought I might as well fix it as I went back. Artillery was falling all over the place. I finally ran out of wire, and I couldn't find the other end. So I started off to find the Co. CP. I soon met the Co. Communications man, following the line from the other end. We were not much scared but a HELL of a lot scared out there. The artillery was terrific. That wire man was Ed. Souder. This was his job, rain or shine, Artillery or mortar. I'll bet it was one "hell" of a lonesome job. [59-3] I went on and found the CP -- delivered my message and was really moving going back to the Platoon CP. Somewhere along the line I missed Ed. I spent the rest of the night, going from hole to hole listening to the other men tell of their experiences and versions of what happened and what they had done out there -- all alone in the terrible artillery barrage. One hole said that they had had other germans jump into their hole trying to escape the artillery fire, and they threw them back out into their own fire. I wish I could remember all the tales that they told now. But 40 years is a long time to recall.
Now -- more about the mission of that german patrol. A few nights later, Capt. Pete, told me that a patrol consisting of 5 men from a Brittish outfit on our left and 5 engineers from the 84th would leave and return thru our positioons on a recon mission. A joint attack was planned on Geilenkirchen shortly and that night the patrol arrived. They woud leave at a certain time and return at a set time. If they were late in returning, they would wait until first light and then come thru our lines. They wanted to know what the germans had in front of our lines regarding mines, anti tank and anti personel mines. Everything went off as scheduled leaving on time and returning on time. One anti tank mine was all that they found. The only incident of the patrol was one engineer was dragging his carbine by the barrell as he probed for mines. It discharged and the bullet entered his helmet on the right side and curved around the top of it and exited on the other side. It cut his helmet liner in two, but missed him completely. He couldn't hear anything for a while.
Upon the patrols return, The officers came down Into the CP of our platoon and called their respective higher commands from our phone. I wondered what it could be like to go on a patrol like that, and how I would react? Both officers were proud of the action of their men. It was the first time that men of the 84th were on the front lines. At about 0600 the next morning the 84th attacked thru our lines. The shooting really started and now we, the 405th were in the rear lines for a while. We were sent out later in the day to evacuate their wounded and dead. It was not a nice job. One of the men from the 84th and I rushed into an aid station with a man on a litter. The medic took one look at the man and said, "If you will bring me one man I can fix I will -- but this one is dead. We were more selective after that.
Artillery still hit us with effective fire. We finally heard someone speaking german and after a search in the woods next to the Chateau we spotted our problem, and someone shot the german. He was a strapped to a tree branch up high and there was the answer to a lot of our artillery fire. He had come thru our lines with the first enemy patrol and climbd the tree, and was reporting our movements on his radio back to his own officers. Pretty cute.
We had gotten a new officer right after the 84th attacked thru our lines, and now Sgt. Tom had a problem with him. We went right into a night attack close to Prummerin. With the new Lt. Greene leading the first platoon. When Tom came to a fox hole he would jump into it and holler as loud as he could, " Greene, where the hell are you going." Of course this would draw german fire. But Tom was in a hole and safe. When the firing stopped we started forward again. So Tom shouted again. [60-4] Again we were pinned down with rifle and machine gun fire from the germans. Again we started forward. Again it happened. After a short distance Tom jumped in a hole and a man from the platoon put a rifle muzzel against the back of Tom's helmet and said, "You make one sound and you' re a dead man." "You SOB."
Tom was VERY QUIET. Lt. Greene was wounded in this action and because of Tom's action, Capt. Pete transfered him out of the outfit for his own safety. Sgt. Tom should have been courtmarshalled!!! But Capt. PETE wouldn't press charges.
We now moved into the trenches the germans had abandoned. It was so dark we actually fell into them before we knew where we were. Lt. Greene sent me and 6 more men forward to see what we could see. We moved about 300 yards forward and laid down to look and listen. The man lying next to me could speak some german so I told him to command in german who ever was there to halt. The figure of a man was only 20 feet from us. When challanged this german turned and ran for his life. We all opened fire on him but he didn't even slow down. I have often laughed at that situation -- and wondered how many expert riflemen's badges were in that group at that one time. We returned to our positions and the Co. Hqtrs had moved right up to us. Capt. Evanson had told Sgt. Pitman to take some men and find the 3rd platoon. He asked me to go along with him and I did. We came to a pill box that the 3rd platoon was supposed to be in. No sentries halted us so we kinds called out to Sgt. Reardon, hoping he would answer. A hand grenade went off close to us and I said to Pittman, "That's the 3rd platoon, if they cant shoot us, they throw grenades at us." It was a joke. The grenade was a german one. So we withdrew pronto. That night we withdrew back to a small village about 500 -- 600 yards to our rear. After a short nap, we jumped off and attacked the pill boxes. A tiger tank sat on the top of a slight rise on a distant hill. The Capt. asked for tank support. Soon about 8 American tanks roared to life back in town and they came to help us. The german tank calmly knocked out 4 of our tanks and the other withdrew. One shot a smoke round out and that was the end of our tank support. We proceeded on and our own artillery started landing on us. Now you recall how we were tought to creep and crawl with our buts down in the mud? Well a man next to me forgot about that and a piece of artillery sliced a chunk off his backside, about 1/3rd of it. Not knwing how to put a compress on that kind of a wound, I called the medics to take over. Lt. Greene had already been evacuated and and Sgt. Tom was with the Co. Hqtrs, so I was once again in command of the 1st platoon.
We reached the pill boxes and the fun began. The germans were inside with the hatches closed. We tried to drop grenades down the air vents but it was no good. Finally the engineers brought up plole charges. We kept the firing ports buttoned up with rifle fire while the engineers planted the pole charges against the doors. When they went off we came around to cover the doorways with rifle fire. No such luck. The door was just blackened a little bit. The engineers muttered, "This time there will be no doors left." The charges went off again and the ground really jumped. This time we went around and the doors were open the wrong way. Smoke was boiling out of the insides and soon about 21 dazed germans walded out and were captured. They were SS troops and we sent [61-5] them back to the rear. Then other SS men opened up with machine guns and they saved us a lot of manpower to guard them. They were all dead. The rest of the pill boxes were now cleared and we again went into the attack that night.
Our next objective was BEECK. F. Co. was to make a frontal attack. G. Co. was on the right and a Brittish unit was on the left. As we came out of a small valley we were about 300 yards from a little town. Then all hell broke looses and we dove into fox holes the germans had dug. We couldn't go forward a foot -- the fire was that intense. I raised my head a little for a look see -- and the germans fired an 88 at me and the tank behind me. The shell passed directly over my head and the muzzle blast was so severe it tore my helmet off my head and deposited it beside my fox hole. I was in fairy land, for a few minutes. As Lt. Greene and Sqt. Tom were both gone, The Capt. again put me in charge of the platoon. I called the platoon leaders back for a short meeting. I crawled about 50 yards before I was below the crest of a small hill.
After the meeting we had to get back to our platoon and get ready for a move out about 5 PM. As I reached the crest of the hill I rested for a minute before I made a dash for my fox hole. I took off as fast as I could. Almost immediately I was aware of a terrific explosion and I just sort a faded away.
I had been hit in the head. The force of the bullet and the steel helmet, being ripped from my head put me to sleep for a while. When I came too, every few seconds I would feel something tugging at the back of my pack on my back. I became aware of the crack of a bullet everytime I felt the tugging. Actually, it was the bullets going thru my mess kit in my pack. As I raised my head to look around I saw faces I recognized. They were watching me and they were smiling. My men thought I had bought it and that I was dead. I told them to open fire and I would make a run for my fox hole. This they did, and I made the hole. I was bleeding, but it was nice to be in a hole now. There was a small haystack directly to our front. A few tracer bullets finally set it afire. A sniper jumped out of the haystack, and both platoons opened fire on that SOB.
It was time to attack again. It was almost dark now. Again the german resistance was terriffic. The germans were not ready to move out of Beeck. The British tanks had moved up to our rear and were firing their 75's and heavy machine guns at the town. They had not pulled far enough up the hill and were firing thru our troops and hitting our own men. I jumped up on a tank and yelled for them to cease fire -- as they were killing Americans. I was as mad as a hornet. I told The tank commanders, "Iif that's the best you can do, get the hell out of here." And so, they did.
The 3rd platoon had an officer fresh out of the air force. He had made it up into an apple orchard but could not get further. Birdman was his code name. He was hollering at Sgt. Reardon, "Help me --I'm wounded. " Reardon shouted, "How bad are you hit?" Birdman shouted he was pinned by an apple tree that was hit by an tree blast from an 88. It had fallen on him. We could see him sitting on a branch, eating an apple, and not pinned by a branch at all.
An order came for us to withdraw and we did so in the dusk. Birdman threw the tree branch off him and beat every one else in retreat. [62-6]
We never did see him again.
The medic patched me up and sent me back to the aid station. All I wanted was a shot of tetanus and to go back up to the platoon, but they had other ideas. I wound up in the Div. Hospital. There I was examined bandaged and carried to a hospital tent. I slept like a baby all night. The next morning I felt fine. I got up off my stretcher and looked around. All over were other wounded men. I thought to myself, this is no place for me and walked out of the tent. A 405th truck was standing close by with the motor running. I ripped off the bandages and walked over to the driver and asked when he was going back to the regiment? He said, "Right now." I crawled in an away we went. At regiment I got clean clothes and a new helmet liner. I kept the steel pot for a souvenir, (My son still has it).
When I reached the platoon it was quite a home coming. Beeck had been taken and a few bottles had been liberated. I was carried as AWOL for a week from the hospital. The next day we moved out to make another attack. Capt. Pete was called back to Bn. just as we started the last drive to the Roer River. Lt. Rabinowitz ran out in front of the company and made this announcement as loud as he could yell, "The Capt. has been called to Bn. I am in charge and you will take your orders from me." This was all the krauts needed. Some one in charge. They opened up on him with rifle and MG fire. He dived for a shell hole and we continued on.
The war at this time had taken an odd twist. At 5 PM all shooting stopped and everyone started to prepare for a nights sleep. The germans included. About 9 PM a sentry of mine haulted someone coming up from the rear. It was Lt. Rabinowitz. He was mud from head to foot. I said, "Lt. What happened to you?" He said, "The germans were after me. I've been pinned down for hours in the mud." I said, "HELL, there hasn't been a shot fired the past 4 hours." I told him where the Co. Hqtrs was and he took off.
I think he got a silver star for this action. One thing you don't do, is to announce to the germans that you are in charge.
We now went into defensive positions on the banks of the Roer River. Baths were in order. Replacements were brought in. Wepons were cleaned -- ammo was distributed and we even got hot chow. The weather soon started to take a turn for the worse. We got cold weather and snow. No more balmy tempertures. Pockets of germans still remained on our side of the River.
The Battle of the Bulge cranked up. Whole divisions were pulled out of the lines and shipped to the rear to get in front of the germans. Great gaps existed all along our front. We settled into a defensive mode. We began the job of making fox holes livable. Empty artillery shell cases were driven down in the ground at an angle to support a solid roof. The fox holes were dug so both men could lie down and sleep. Little pot bellied stoves were located and installed with complete chimneys. Coal was plentiful and hauled to each hole at night. It was really quite warm when the opening was closed. Guard rosters were made up so a minimum of men were needed to do guard duty. The BAR's were in [63-7] each fox hole. Barbed wire was placed about in front of our positions. The BAR's were fired quite often to keep them from freezing and to discourage any germans from sneaking in. Everyone said that the first platoon was trigger happy but no patrols got in on us. We got a new Capt. as an observer at this time. He had been relieved from his company and sent back for a retread job. He came to my CP one morning which was in the basement of a wrecked house. He was all excited and wanted to know if I knew that smoke was coming out of every fox hole in the 1st platoon? I said, "Yes Sir., and from the 2nd, 3rd, 4th and all the weapons platoon positions as well." He said, "Don't you know that you are giving away their locations to the enemy?" I said, "Capt., the germans know where we are and we know where they are. We don't them and they don't bother us."
He got the same answer from Capt. Pete. The next night he was returning to the Co. CP, after harassing everyone all day long and a guard shot a brick out of a wall next to his ear. He left the Company that night for the rear area. I was to meet him at a later time in the war.
The germans continued to send patrols against us and we continued to capture them. A sniper would fire at us from the side of a hill and we got some MG fire from there too. Lt. Weigard located him one day. He then set up a 50 Cal. MG in the attic of a house and sand bagged it down. Then they zeroed in on the hill. That night the MG opened up and our weapons platoon had a belt of ammo in the 50 cal gun. Lt. Weigard held the trigger back and when he let up there was no more MG fire from the germans. I thought that was kinda tricky.
Each morning the men were brought back to the rear, to prepare more defensive positions. We dug fox holes, machine gun and mortar positions, just in case a major attack was launched against us. One day as we worked, a german fighter plane flew over us to see what we were doing. We all opened fire on him and got a confirmed "Kill". He crashed about 2 miles behind our lines. Now we were expert anti-aircraft batteries. An AA battery confired our kill.
When the Battle of the Bulge was turning in our favor, we began cleaning out the last pockets of resistance on the west bank of the river. We captured most of a Bn. of germans and finally got the BN. Commander, too. His job was to keep us busy so we couldn't go help the men fighting the bulge. SS troops were assigned to his unit to see that his orders were carried out and also to see that none of the men crossed over to our side. This didn't help any as we captured the SS men too.
Now we started to plan for our crossing of the Roer River. First on the agenda was more baths. If my memory serves me rightly, we were trucked to either Heerleen or Maastrict, Holland. There the facilities were GREAT. Supplies were trucked in and placed under cammoflege. This was the cold wet time of the year. Mud was over ankle deep and our feet were never dry. We had a good view of the german side of the river from our side. So sections were assigned to each platoon and company. Along about this time a new Lt. was assigned to Co. F. The 1st platoon had been without a Lt. for so long that we just had to [64-8] have him. At that time he was a young, clean -- cut young man. His name was Lt. Herrick. As I remarked to the CO, "MY God -- they are getting them right out of grade school now." The Capt. let me know that he was 2 years older than I was. Oh well -- a little mud and time between shaves would soon correct all that. I did nick name him JUNIOR -- and he remains by that same name to this day. He was fondly called that by all the men and was terrific.
He and I went to observe the river. We had an AP reported assigned to us at that time. He then took all the squad leaders up to view the river, and most of the men. also got to see the crossing point. The river was real swift and fast, but gradually it slowed down We spent most of the day looking at the river and the 4 buildings we were supposed to capture on the other side. This was our objective. The night before the crossing we were supposed to be real calm and quiet. But we talked, sang, and slept very little. The combat engineers were assembling on the river where we were to cross. They were to get a cable across and later in the day to build a heavy equipment bridge as soon as possible after we got on the other side. As I recall, we were to move out about 0230 or so. We assembled as a company unit and Capt. Evenson moved us into a line behind the Co. ahead of us. It was some distance from the river bank. This allowed us to see all the artillery lined up, hub to hub to support our crossing. We stumbled along inthe ankle dep mud and the tankers and artillery men would call out to us. At a pre arranged time they all opened up and caused us to jump out of our shoes. The noise was deafening. What a fire works display. Star shells burst high in the air over german territory. We reached the town of Roersdorf, where we were to cross the river, and each squad grabbed a boat and headed down the rather steep road to the river bank. By this time the germans were laying down their own barrage on our side of the river. During the winter they had zeroed in on every possible crossing site too. We were in one of those spots.
I have great admiration for those Combat engineers as they had to work in spite of the shelling. Many were already lying along the road, in the mud, as we passed by. Hundreds were dead.
The Allies Drive for the Rhine
On March 12, 1945, LIFE magazine ran an article on the crossing of the Roer River. This article was by LIFE photographer, Geroge Silk who took some dramatic photographs of just one small part of the crossing. If you wish to read this article and see the haunting images, click on the link below. This article offers an insight into what the men of Co. F experienced.
I don't recall which squad I was supposed to cross with. We reached the edge of the water and slid the nose of the boat into the water, jumped in and did just as we were tought in the training sessions. To help our crossing, the artillery loaded smoke-shells and we couldn't see the other river bank. The river was very swift and the boats were impossible to guide. We whirled around and around and what seemed like 15 minutes we hit the shore, an we jumped out to hold the boat while the rest scrambled out. I said, "Lets get away from this Da--- river," and we really got a move on. As I ran I spotted some building that looked like the objective of the 1st platoon. We fanned out in a fighting formation and started to move out. One of the men called out, "Hey Sgt., we better get back to the river. I think the rest are retreating." The smoke cleared a little and we saw more GIs carrying boats down to the river. I replyed, "HELL, were on the same side of the river we started out from." Back to the Roer we ran , grabbed a boat and jumped in. The current grabbed the boat and tore it out of the grasp of the men. Not wanting to be an admiral without a crew I bailed out. Luckily as the boat hit the shore again, I jumped, and we went back to get another [65-9] boat. As the smoke cleared we paddled like hell and got to the other shore. By this time the engineers had a cable on the other side. It almost swamped us, but we were across this time.
As we moved away from the river I found another of the 1st platoon squads and a squad of the 2nd Platoon. There was no sign of Junior or the other squads. We headed for the 1st platoon objective hoping to ftnd Jr. on the way. The smoke cleared and all we could see were german land mines. I halted everyone and got them in a single file and told them to step only in my shoe tracks. I was not that brave, but got caught in front and it would have been hard to order out scouts at that time. After what seemed like hours, we passed thru the mine field. I held my breath as the last man cleared the field. I now turned my attention to the buildings which I could see more clearly. I saw two germans looking at us from a clump of trees I again spread the men out in fighting formation and laid down fire on the woods and we moved on at a run. We had quite a fire fight. The BARs jammed and a german was only 20 feet from me. His rifle was on the other side of the tree and couldn't fire on me. As he started to raise his rifle, Sgt. Smith baksted him. I owe him my life. The shooting stopped and there was not one live german in sight. I was amazed that they could disapear so fast. I ordered my men to hit the dirt and lie quiet for a while. Soon a white flag came up from a hole. Then the head of a german soldier.
Now there appeared a german officer, who stood up tall. He walked over to me and my men kept him covered. He had come out of a bunker. He spoke perfect English AND WANTED TO KNOW HOW MANY MEN I HAD WITH ME? TOLD HIM IT WAS NONE OF HIS DAMMED BUSINESS AND THEN HE SAID HE WANTED TO SURRENDER HIS MEN. He wanted 5 minutes to contact the other men he had in the other bunkers. So he left the man with the white flag standing there. Then he disappeared into the bunker. He did this about 4 times as he went from bunker to bunker. Soon, out of the ground there were germans all over the place. They threw their weapons in a pile and we lined then up in columns of four. I believe we captured 76 of them. My Lord, they could have captured us without any weapons.
Now the Fun Really Started:
[66-10] Now the fun really started.
It all seemed so quiet and I didn't know where the rest of the company was nor where the Bn. Hqtrs was either. I told the german officer to march his men to Tetz. As soon as he started them I regretted telling him where to march them. german soldiers had marching down to a science.Not a single head was bobbing. As we walked on their left and right, I was thinking that actually we might be going to be the real prisoners when we reached Tetz. I had no idea who held it. It was only a little farming community and had one street &. As we went into the town, a door opened and out of the door stepped Col. Bryant, our Bn. CO. He almost fainted. He jumped back thru the door and then looked out again and said, "Where the hell did you find all those?" I told him they were manning the 1st platoon position objective and if he had some spare people to take then from us, we'd like to get back to our company and rejoin the action. Col. Bryant assigned some MP's to the job and told me that F. Co. was pinned down just out of town on a hill. I told him we were low on ammo, and that we would have to wait before going on for the supply Sgt. to come with more.
I dozed for a few minutes and then headed up the hill. When we got to the crest, not a man was to be seen. Then I spotted Capt. Evenson' s head and crawled to him. The most pleasant surprise of my life. Who in the world was with him? None other than Jr. The boat he was in when crossing the Roer River sank and he and his squad went for a swim.
Capt. Evenson said that extreme fire was hitting them from the flank. I crawled back down the hill and got my people and plenty of ammo and headed up a draw between Co. F. and the germans. They did not see us until we were right on top of then. Then all hell broke loose again. There is nothing more confusing than to have a lot of rifles going off all at once. You lose control of your sense of direction, time and your bladder. The firing soon stopped and they hid in the bottom of their holes. A german appeared. He was carrying a Red Cross Flag and a medic patch on his uniform. Other members of his unit followed him. They were carrying a stretcher to evacuate the wounded. Now they were known to shoot our medics when they tried this before. We didn't know whether they were carrying a wounded man or one that was supposedly wounded. So we shot the ones on the stretcher. We were right as a man jumped off the stretcher and out ran the medics over the hill. Not a single bullet found him. I was going to send the 1st platoon back to the rifle ranges but I was doing some shooting at that time too -- and so decided against it.
By that time a Division moved up on our right flank and wiped out the german units. At darkness we moved back up the hill and rejoined Jr. and the rest of the platoon. Everyone found his correct platoon and we were a company once again. It sure was good to see Jr. again. That night the usual counter attack came. We could handle the infantry but had only a few bazooka rounds to handle the tanks with. I was never sold on our tank fighting equipment when compared with what the germans had. I Co.really took the brunt of the tank attack but they did come thru the situation in pretty good shape. Tank crews don't like darkness. Our artillery, back across the river laid fire on them pretty [67-11] good and we laid it on the infantry and ak1 in all, we did alright.
Jr. will chew me out for this next paragraph but here goes. The next day we jumped off to continue our attack and we started to draw artillery fire after a few minutes. Jr. hollered at me and I saw that he was down. I rushed over to where he was lying. He pointed to his left hip and I could see what looked like a burned spot on his pants and a small hole was ripped close to his right pocket. I got our his sissors and cut into his pants. I found a large red spot on his right hip and an inhaler in his pocket, broken in a million pieces. I always get in trouble, finding humor in such situations. and started to laugh. He said, "What the hell are you laughing at?? -- Am I hurt bad??" This was due to his leg being numb after a flat piece of artillery shell slapped his broadside. I know how it can hurt because a day before a piece had hit me on the hand. I thought I had a famous million dollar wound. To answer his question, I told him if he was to depend on his inhaler to breathe with, he would die from lack of oxygen. The feeling finally came back to his leg and he cussed me the rest of the day for cutting so big a hole in his pants. Some people just don't appreciate good medics.
We started to encounter our first german civilians in some of the villages now. They would be hiding the basements to escape the rifle fire. This caused us to search every hiding place and to take prisoners of any that were of military age to make sure we didn't leave any soldiers behind. Of course we did pay attention to the supplies of connac, wine and schnaps that they hid in the basements. We went strictly by the book. No drinking on duty was the rule.
As we moved along the road that was our route of withdrawal for the german army we had some more fire fights. The pattern was the same each day. There was very little warfare in open country now. We fought from village to village. About 4 PM the germans withdrew. Then we could move into the towns and occupy the best houses that had a bed or two in them. Not knowing when the germans would attack or counter attack we slept fully dressed. I had a feather bed all reserved for my comfort but Jr. and a couple of other characters crawled in also. They all had muddy feet -- no respect at all.
Next morning we jumped off again in the attack. We came to a small village with 4 brick walls on all sides. There was one opening in each side. As we moved into the town a huge german came running out and jumped on a bicycle and headed out of town in the direction we had come from. He soon realized his mistake, turned around and came back. As he passed us his fat legs were really pumping the pedals. You could hear him panting like a dog. I told the platoon not to shoot him and I knew he would die soon as he passed us. Sure enough 200 yards along he fell off the bicycle and didn't move again. As we passed him a platoon medic gave him a whiff of Ammonia. He sat up waved his arms and then just sat there as we marched along. We had our fire fight with the germans, and not with the civilians. Again we spent the night in a comfortable bed.
Again Jr crawled in with muddy feet. I guess, having been a farmer [68-12] that he wasn't at home without mud on his feet. In another town Jr. and I spotted two high ranking officers. We tried to catch them and soon we had them cornered in a basement and captured them. We proudly marched them down the street, then we found out they were only bar tenders. Everyone that had a job wore a uniform it seemed. We were really fooled. We found the house they tended bar at and they took us there and opened the bar for us. A good time was had by all.
The next morning we were tired of walking. The 1st platoon liberated enough bicycles for everyone. As Jr. gave the order for us to move out, Capt. Pete saw us and the air really turned blue. Jr. wanted to die as we pedaled down the road. We were now mechanized -- and Capt. Pete raised so much unnecessary hell that Jr. wanted to have a heart attack. We finally gave up our new form of transportation.
Jr. now had me prompted to Shavetail so he could enjoy the rest of the war. I moved to 2nd Platoon and the war went on. In the next battle, Jr. was wounded and I lost a good friend and buddy for the duration. He was hit in the elbow of his right arm.
Now, many years later, we have discussed the nature of his wound. The bullet entered the back of his elbow. We couldn't figure out how that could be since he was attacking. But to be fair, we didn't decide which way his backside was facing when he was hit and he's not talking either.
I again assumed command of the 1st platoons. Jr. didn't have enough time with them, and they were still the same route step outfit, but the best in the army. We again took up the march to the Elbe River. In due time we made it and there we waited for the Russians to come up. That was as far as the politicians would let us go. As time passed we were to see the last battle between the germans and the Russians. The germans and the civilians retreated ahead of the Russians to the Elbe. A lot of the german women threw their children into the river and jumped in after them. They were deadly afraid of the Russians. We tried to save as many as we could, but many drowned. Thousands of german soldiers surrendered to us.
After the Shooting Stopped -- Paris:
After the shooting stopped, the Russians held a party for us on both sides of the river. One night we were invited over the river for a big party. We crossed over on the rails of the bombed out railroad bridges. We all stood around and looked at each other for a while. Soon the vodka started to flow. Music, dancing and all that good stuff. A Russian soldier came up to me and greeted me in the customary manner. A huge slap between the sholder blades. Down I went with the wind knocked out of me. I got a good look at the grinning Hyena, and when I got up I hit him with a good kidney punch and put him to sleep for a while too. Next a big blonde Russian gal grabbed me and we danced. Well -- she did -- my feet weren't touching the ground. I thought she had broken my back when we stopped and she dropped me like a sack of potatoes. Three [69-13] of us started for home and we got to the bridge. We couldn't walk, crawl or slide over the bridge. We kept falling in the water. The cold water helped a little bit and we found a small rubber boat. I don't recall who laid me in the bottom but the other two ended sitting on top of me. A good time was had by all.
My next assignment was to go back to a small town 30 miles from Paris, France to attend OCS school. I begged and pleaded not to be sent to that school but anyway, I went. About 30 of us from different divisions were loaded in box cars and we headed for Paris. The train slowed down to about 15 MPH. I looked at a new friend from the 407th Reg. and said, "Do you think this town has been liberated??" We grabbed our suit cases and when the train came to a likely looking part of town, we dropped off. We thought that we had an original idea, but looking back, it seemed that most of the train did the same thing we did. We went up the street until we came to a fine looking hotel. We found a Red Cross office in the hotel and put up a sad story on them that we were in a small town south of then with jangled nerves. The wheels really started spinning. They got us each a room. Told us to take a shower and shave
and come back down and see them again. When we got cleaned up they took us by jeep to the finance office to draw some pay, then to the officers club to get new uniforms and two casual uniforms. All we had to do was just sign for them. Dress shoes and all incidentals were included. We even chose a bunch of ribbons we didn't even know what they were for. We were taken back to the hotel and were told our new uniforms would be delivered to the hotel the next day.
We enjoyed a real good meal that night and went to bed. It had been a real hard long train ride -- , right?
It seemed that I had just closed my eyes when I heard a knock on the door. I looked at my watch and it was 1030 in the morning. I slipped my pants on and went to the door, there standing was the red cross lady with all my uniform in her arms. She came right in and hung them up and put the rest on the dresser. She said, "Model time" -- and handed me a pair of pants. I went into the bathroom to put them on. When I came out she checked me to see that they fit perfectly. Next came the shirts, coats, shoes and she checked to see everythig was perfect. She then said, "Young man, what are your plans?" This kinda rocked me back on my heels a bit. What does a young red blooded man do in the streets of Paris? She said -- tone word of advise -- "Don't settle for anything less than the best. There are a lot of beautiful and socially prominent young ladies that come to us to be introduced to young men back from combat. It will cost you a trip to the opera or the theatre or even both. Night clubs and supper clubs are all around here. Now if you prefer Dives -- Pigalle is the place to go. Its about 2 miles from here. Taxis are available." She then left us.
I looked up Tony and he had gotten the same treatment. I asked him, "Supper clubs or Honkey tonks." He said supper clubs of course. We hustled down the stairs and asked the lady how we went about meeting these beautiful ladies. We were drooling all over her desk. She leaned back and said, "I hope my idea of beauty is the same as yours. Be back [70-14] here at 5 PM this evening. In the mean while, do some sight seeing, nothing else, mind you." WE WENT OUTSIDE AND TOOK A CAB down to the Arc de Triumph. It was the tallest antennae I ever had seen. It still was not open to go to the top. (Here Hansen means the Eifel Tower). We went into a lounge to enjoy a drink and relax. We finally had to leave. Every lounge had ladies on the payroll to entertain the guests. We were still minding what the hotel lady had told us. We went back to the hotel. At least we had hopes for a wonderful evening. The Red Cross lady tought us how to count in Francs, and how much to pay for tickets and meals. She said the ladies would have the tickets for what ever we wanted to see and do. Then at exactly 5 PM we marched down to the lobby. We were leaning a little to the left with all those ribbons on our chests. [71-15]
I guess it looked like we had won the war all alone. In about 5 minutes, two ladies walked in. The Red Cross lady jumped up and got between them and led them over to us. Man, was our idea of beauty the same? She introduced them to us, and they said in perfect English, "How do you do?" Then they kissed us on one cheek and walked around us and pecked us on the other cheek. This is a custom they should adopt all over the world. Tony's tounge had fell out of his mouth, it was hanging open that far. Me, being an old farm boy, looked for a clod of dirt to kick off my shoe. Not finding any, I stepped on my left foot with my right foot. One of the girls took me by the arm and the other took Tony's arm, They had made their choice and we were both winners.
The Red Cross lady held a short conversation with the two girls while Tony and I pinched each other. The girls went to the powder room. The lady told us tonight it would be the theatre and how many Francs apiece for the tickets. She made us count out the money for practice. She took the money to the powder room and soon brought the tickets back. She said, "The schedule is lounge first, then the theatre and then the supper club." I don't think she had much confidence in our memories, seeing how excited we were. The girls returned and we walked out of the hotel.
They flagged down a taxi and gave the driver instructions in French. After about 5 minutes he pulled in to the curb and the ladies told me what the fare was. I gave the driver that much and a tip. She said, "No, the tip is included in the fare and was always quoted in the fare." I dont know how many GIs got this kind of an education that fast. We walked into the lounge and it was beautiful. We had about two hours to kill before the theatre and we enjoyed the conversation and finding out what the different customs were. They taught us to sip hour drinks. We were used to just gulp them down. They changed this format. We spent two hours over the drinks. When it was time to go to the theatre we again stopped a taxi and piled in. Tony's lady counted his money and paid the fare for us. Now Tony and I thought we were going to a French movie. This was not the case. It was a stage theatre show. An usher escorted us to our seats. Some of the best ones in the house. There were a sprinkling of other GIs in the audience. We were truly walking in high French Society.
Everyone was in evening clothes. Tony and I were pretty sharp ourselves. My seat was on an aisle and a lady who we took to be about 20 came and looked at me and stomped her foot and said, "oui", and took off again. Everyone laughed around us. The lady I was with saw that I was embarassed and she said, "Don't be embarrased, Oui means " oh Yes". She was approving of our date. It was an enjoyable evening. We didn't understand anything but the girls kept explaining the show as it went along.
After the show was over, we again hopped a cab and headed for the supper club. Again it was a beautiful place. The girls has reserved a table and we were seated immediately. As I passed to our table I saw a number of the other men who had jumped the train with us. They were waving frantically, trying to get us to come back and be with them in the waiting line. They said, "here the hell did you get those [72-16] uniforms?" I said, "We bought them at the black market." They said, "I suppose the ladies are from the black market too." I told them that they were catching on fast. Next they wanted to know where we were staying. I said, "Go past the Acr de Triumph about 20 blocks. There is a small hotel on the left." Now that was in the opposite direction from where we were staying but, I didn't want to overload an area real fast and didn't tell them more. Besides, I didnt want to run into them again.
We spent about two hours eating and drinking and talking. It was a real pleasure not to have to worry about bullets or incoming mail. As the evening progressed I found that my lady was 18 years old and Tony's was only 19. I guess I felt oiled. When I got this all straight in my mind, I was OK again. We finished our drinks and went back to the hotel. It was quite a night.
Once again I was awakened by a tap on the door. I slipped on my pants and standing at the door was my lady. She came into the room and I saw it was 1230 noon. She looked as fresh as a daisy and I looked like the last rose of summer. She had tickets for the opera for that night. I said, "Get the money off the dresser and I would collect from Tony." She said, "Don't worry, Ginger is waking him up now too." She said, " Were you a mean officer?? " I said, "I was the meanest." She said, "I don't believe you." I just grinned and knew that she was teasing me. Again she kissed me on both cheeks and said she would return at 4 PM. I walked down to Tony's room as they were leaving. As Tony closed the door, he banged his head against the door frame and said, "I can't believe this is happening to me." I said. "Hell -- I can't believe it either." We parted and then went and showered dressed and went sight seeing for a while. I guess we ran into 30 men who had jumped the train with us. Solemly told each one to report to their respective schools as failure to do so might jepordize their future in the Army. They said that they would catch the next train out of town. We didn't run into the three we saw at the supper club.
Paris is a city of beautiful buildings. Even as young as I was then, I could appreciate a beautiful building. It was also a city of odd customs. The latrines were right on the curbs. They did have a small enclosure around them. The mens were separate from the womens -- but barely. A french man would go in one and then hold the hand of a lady in the next one while he was doing his business. Maybe the same was true for a lady -- but she might have both hands full.
We wandered around some more and got back to th e hotel by 4 PM. We talked to the Red Cross lady and thanked her a 1000 times for her good advise and went up to our rooms. As I unlocked my door, I saw an evening dress hanging on the rack. I started to back out thinking I was in the wrong room but I heard a familiar voice, "Come on in -- Mon Sherrie -- I need someone to button me up." I stood there a full minute and thought I must have gotten a direct shell hit. I was in a fantasy world. I heard the water splash and I said to myself. "Jim -- get ahold of yourself. You went all thru the war without getting battle fatigue, but civilian fatigue may get you." I sat down and got myself [73-17] under control. I then laid out my dress uniform and all the ribbons on it. She came out with a bath towel wrapped around her. She said, "You're next and headed for the bath room." I grabbed my uniform and headed for the bath. She took my uniform and hung it back up. She said it would get all wrinkled in the bath. Oh well -- Saila Gair .
We left our room and met Tony and his lady in the lobby. The Red Cross lady was there and she was grinning like the chessire cat that ate the canary. I walked over to her and whispered, "You old hussie -- You knew what we were walking into and didn't warn us." She laughed, hugged my neck and said, "Get going." We went to a different lounge this time It was real plush. It had soft comfortable chairs and low tables. Everyone who came in were in evening clothes. It seems the French have a lounge for every occasion. Theatre, opera, whatever. The women far outnumbered the men. This was because the germans who occupied the counrty rounded up all the men that were able bodied and shipped them off to work in the german factories. This freed a lot of germans to fight in the army.
We spent 2 1/2 hours sipping our cocktails. We left at 7:30 for the opera. You talk about a work of art -- this surely was. The French had declared Paris an open city when the germans came. The French had nothing of military value in the city. This saved the archetectural art. When we got to the opera it kinda took our breath away. Our seats were on the second Balcony in a little room that held 8 people, 4 in front and 4 in back. It was customary for the ladies to sit in front and the men behind them. I heard a russle behind me and in walks a Lt. Col. and a Major and their ladies. We introduced ourselves and they did the same. I could see by the patches on their uniforms that they were both from the quartermasters.
They kinda eyed our ribbons and asked what division we were from. I said, "The 84th." They said they didn't know that outfit was in the area. We said we were there for R&R and they said that R&R surely was a good thing. It was curtain time and the house lights went down. That likely saved us from further questions. After the show -- opera everybody stood up to applaud. The performers took a couple of bows and we grabbed our ladies and got the heck out of there. WE HAD NO ORDERS TO SHOW THAT WE WERE THERE FOR R&R, AND THE OFFlCERS KNEW IT TOO.
We went to a different supper club this time and the word was plush. We got back to the hotel about 2 AM. We had passed some of the men from the train as we went to our table. We had to laugh at the looks we got. We walked for about an hour and then went into the hotel. What a night!!!!!!
I awoke about 3 PM all by myself. I showered, dressed in a regular uniform and walked down stairs. I shot the bull with some other GIs that were hanging around. Most were stationed around Paris and were in town on a week end pass. I went back up to Tony's room He was all ready to go, with all the ribbons and badges on. I said, "Tony -- unless you want to be able to explain all those ribbons, you better take them off. [74-18] All the officers around will be in town this weekend. Tonight we want to look like all the other officers." We did and then opened the door to find Ginger standing in the hall. We got kissed on both cheeks. Darn -- I like that custom. Tonight we would go down to the Siene River and see some shops and walkways. There were sidewalk artist and pigeons all over the place. The girls tried to get us to buy things that would remind us of Paris. We explained that we had no way of keeping anything because of the way we travelled. We walked some more and then they said, "Tonight we show you what most people think Paris is all about." We hopped a cab and wound up in the Pigale -- the Bourbon street of Paris. I've never seen so many GIs and civilians milling around in all my life. Every door was a bar or a lounge. We must have spent two hours watching the night life of Paris ply their trade. The ladies of the NIGHT. At that time that was the highest level of the society. They were protected and carried health cards and were welcome at any social event. Any woman going into a hotel had to show her health card before she could leave the lobby. These two little girls surely gave us a briefing on French life that night. I wondered if they carried the same cards too. I talked myself out of asking. We caught a taxi and left the fast lane going to a different supper club on the main drag. The food was better. We spent the next two hours eating and drinking. One thing about the French -- they serve the food when they feel like it -- and you never do over eat. The first you eat is digested before the second course arrives. I don't recall ever seeing a fat frenchman.
After three weeks in Paris, we started to think about the Fountanbleau Officers School. We were thinking that we needed what the school had to offer. It was REST. We explained to the ladies and they offered to drive us there if we would get them the petrol. They planned one more rather large night for us. Our luck was still running hot. We met a soldier who was in another party and he knew a girl there too. He was in an MP Police unit. I told him we were headed for the OCS but had missed our train connection and we would drive there if the girls we were with could get some gasoline. He said, "Come to my girls house before noon tomorrow, and there will be 10 gallons there waiting for you." I thanked him and said I would not forget the favor. I'd be happy to repay him if I ever found him again. [75-19]
A Nice Way to See Europe -- and Beyond:
The next day the girls got Singers dad's car and we went to the girl friends house and got the gasolene. Then we went back to the hotel, said goodbye to the Red Cross lady and took off for the school. The old car wouldn't do much more than 20 miles per hour. It was 35 miles outside of Paris where the school was. The 2 girls must have gotten around because they drove right up to the front door of the school. We unloaded the bags, they pecked us on both cheeks and then drove off. I still like that pecking custom.
We turned around to survey the situation and came face to face with a Lt. Col. We snapped to and saluted and reported name rank, and serial number. He looked at us for about 5 minutes before he returned our salute so we could order arms. He said, "I suppose you got lost in Paris too." Tony replyed."Yes -- sir". He asked if any of the others planned to check in too. Tony replied that we didn't see any others that we knew. The Col. turned to one of the Sgts. that walked up. He was to take us to our bunks and then report back to his office. When we reported to him, he really wound up. After 5 minutes of chewing, I wanted to tell him I had been chewed out by experts and he wasn't even in the league. He ended up saying that we were fined $90.00 payable right now but I wasn't going to give it to him. I said I would have to sign a pay slip for that amount. He didn't go for that so he said he would have our companies collect it next pay day. We said, "Ok, fine with us".
We finally got a chance to look around. We were staying in' a large castle with a moat around it. The castle had to be hundreds of years old. We gave it a thorough going over and it was in perfect shape. It had a huge ballroom on the 3rd floor, with 10 chandeliers in it. As we were making our inspection tour, a well dressed man came to us. He was Ginger's Dad. That is why they drove us right up to the front door. He worked for the French Govt. and was the overseer of the historic places around Paris. They had leased the castle to the US Govt. temporarily.
That night at chow call we followed the rest of the people into the mess hall. Some had mess kits and some had plates and a cup. Tony and I had nothing. The Col. saw we were empty handed and came over to us. He said, "Lts. the orders say that you are to bring mess kits with you. Where are yours?" I said, "Col. The last time I had a mess kit was back in Beeck, germany. It had 4 bullet holes in it. The Supply Sgt. wouldn't replace it because it was not fair wear and tear. I have been eating out of cans ever since." He said, "Oh Hell." He told the mess Sgt. to get us some plates and cups and silverwear. The Mess Sgt. got everything we needed and brought it to us. He grinned and said, "That was the best mess kit story he had heard". I said, "Ya know, I kinds liked it myself. I may stick with it".
After chow we went up to our bunks and laid down. I said Tony, "I need about 15 hours of sleep". He agreed and we undressed and laid down in bed. It was a rather large room and about 20 other people slept [76-20] there also. They came wandering in a few at a time. I noticed there were Capts and 1st Lts. Some had air force patches, quartermaster and ordinance patches. I sat up in bed and asked a Capt. what he was doing there. He said, "All branches of the service have a surplus from Capt. down to Lts., and the infantry is way short. So they are giving us 4 weeks of infantry training and we got to go to the Pacific." He asked why we were so short of company grade officers. I said, "Well -- the life span of a platoon leader in combat averages out to be a little less than 30 seconds." Tony and I finally began to doze off when some of the guys that had been on the train with us came in. They shook us and tickled our feet until we sat up. I said, "What the devil do you guys want?" One of them said, "What did the Col. say to you." I replied, "He shook our hands and congratulated us on serving 3 weeks in Paris." Tony said, "We spent the 3 weeks in the library." They said the past 3 weeks had been one of total boredom. They finally let us go to sleep when we wouldn't change our story about the library.
We were rudely awakened in the morning by a buggler. I was so suprised. I said, "What the Hell is that?" One of the men said, "We cussed him and threw everything we could at him so now he stands on the other side of the bridge, blows his bugle, gives us the finger and away he goes." I finally got up, got dressed and went to chow. The Mess Sgt. was still grinning, about my mess kit story and gave me extra helpings of everything he had. The only trouble is that the army doesn't serve things in courses. The cooks just pile everything on top of everything else. As Tony said, "Kinda crude their way of serving an Officer".
At 0800 we were loaded on trucks and headed for the training area. The Col. was waiting for Tony and me. He put us in charge of about a company of men each. I appointed 3 platoon leaders and divided the men between them. After we got our companies lined up, I said, "Col. Now what"? "Now I want you two to show these other men from other branches of the service how the infantry would attack a hill". Rifle, MG, Bazooka and tank fire. I turned to the company and said, "Men -- we're going to retreat for 1/2 a mile and level that hill with 155's. I cancelled that order and named the lst plattoon on the right, 2nd on the left, and the 3rd in reserve. Tony was getting ready to go too. We charged that hill like it was the real thing. We used up all our blank ammo. We reached the top of the hill and Tony saw me sacked out under a tree. He came over and laid down beside me. He said, "So you think we could find our way back to Paris?" I thought about that for a while. I finally said, Tony, "Getting lost is one thing -- Reporting in and then going AWOL is not good. Best we not do that."
We heard a bull horn blowing so we walked back down the hill and the Col. said the exercise was a good one. He asked for other officers to comment on it for the benefit of new infantry people. Boy -- did they rip us good. All agreed with the original plan. Pull back and use artillery. It was suicide to do as we had done. I jumped up to defend Tony and Me. I said, "Men -- you're looking at two company commanders who had no choice. It was either take that hill or go to the brig." The [77-21] Col. thought he had better get on with other training. He called other officers to lecture on other things. The bull horn sounded and we went back to the barracks.
Back at the castle we had a retreat formation. The Col. said we would be leaving on Friday morning. A formation would be held at 0700 for the purpose of handing out diplomas. He added, those not getting diplomas would get repramands to be included in our personel records. A little over 1/2 of the infantry officers did not get diplomas. Tuesday and Wednesday was more of the same BS. Tony and I walked over and sat down on the wall overlooking the moat. I said, "One more day and this will be all over with." He replied that he was about to go crazy. I looked down the road and couldn't believe my eyes. I said Tony, "Do you see what I see??" It was that little car from Paris. They pulled up and stopped and sat there. Singer said, "Mon Sherries -- Can you accompany us to the party tonight." I said, "What's the uniform??" She wrinkled up her nose and said, "Dress uniform". I said, "Dress uniform and back in' 10 minutes". We ran to the castle and up to our room. Our uniforms looked pretty good considering all things. We returned to the car and there must HAVE BEEN 50 MEN AROUND IT. ALL JABBERING ABOUT THEIR HAVING SISTERS, COUSINS, EVEN Mothers and aunts. Now 50 sisters are hard to come with in short time. So Tony and I whistled and motioned for Ginger to drive us out. Here they came and Elizabeth got in the back seat and away we went. The party was in a big chateau some 10 miles from there. This building was a work of art. There were 3 stories and a huge ball room on the top floor. Chandeliers hung all over the place. The stairways going up looked like the ones in the movies. Wide and curving. We were early so we got a grand tour of the place. Even down to the wine cellar. Row after row of bottles and the French had buried them to keep the germans from finding them. The Butler, I guess he was, talked to the girls in French, and he went along the rows. Finally he took a bottle out, wiped it off and gave it to the girls. They read the label and still jibbering, came back to us. Ginger explained that he had picked out a real vintage wine for us to drink at the party. Other people were now arriving and there were a sprinkling of other military men there too. Tony and I stayed away from the other with lots of badges and ribbons. So we were the only ones not wearing many. A few got curious about what branch of the service we were in and we told them -- Infantry. They offered us a drink. We refused saying we only drank a little wine on occasion This was no time to get Gotch eyed. A band started to play and everyone got up to dance. It was modern music, played in those days by the big bands. I never did find out if it was a special occasion party or not. What ever it was -- we didn't miss many dances.[78-22]
Well -- on our way back to the castle that morning we asked if they could pick us up at 0800 the next morning and give us a ride back to Paris. Ginger said she had enough petrol to do that. When we were driving in to the castle, the convoy was just leaving. I said to Tony, "It looks like we go to war in a dress uniform". The girls pecked us on both cheeks and we grabbed a tailgate of a truck as it came by. I really do like the kissin game you know.
We had an easy day. The Col. didn't accompany the troops so lectures were all we had planned. Tony and I found our favorites tree and slept most of the morning. The mess Sgt. knew where we slept and came and got us for chow. I asked what was on the menu -- Steak sandwiches and lemonade. We went thru the line and got the sandwiches and drink. The steak was baloney and we ate and sat around for an hour or so, and then went back to the trucks and back to pack. What a relief -- the war was over again. We were ready to go back to germany. The reason Tony and I were going alone was that we didn't want to go back thru the repo depot. That could take 2 weeks. I wasn't about to go that route. At 0630 a whistle blew for chow. The buggler had quit blowing after a shot was fired into the moat by " someone". They never did find out who did it as all officers from germans were armed with pistols. For all suspicious minds, mine stayed in my suitcase.
At 0730 the formation was held and the diplomas passed out, also the reprimands as well. At 0800 the trucks were lined up for loading and down the road came the little car. We loaded up and were off for Paris again. I looked in my envelope to sees what was in it. My travel orders, a repramand, and a messages to deduct the $90.00 from my pay. I kept the travel orders but the rest of the papers were confetti along the road -- scattered to the four winds.
In Paris we really enjoyed the supper club. You know, our luck was still holding. Tony spotted a jeep from the 406th Reg. Ginger pulled up along side of him and I asked him to park that rig. The driver pulled over to the curb and we pulled in behind him. I recognized the officer and we were in luck. They were in Paris to pick up the liquor ration for the Bn. I said, "When you heading back?" We'll have four days to get back and its just one long days drive. I asked where they were staying and they didn't have any place yet. I said, "Follow us and well get you a room." They did and then parked the Jeep in the military garage just up the street. Pigalle was their choice and they grabbed a cab and headed out. We sat down and ate another good meal.
The next morning we went down to the lobby and the other Lt. came in and looked as if he had been partying for a week. He said, "Boy oh boy -- what a place, when can you leave?"I said, "Ready when you are." I wasn't going to find out why so soon. I went up and got my bags and collected Tony. In a little while here comes the Lt. and his driver. We went to the garage and then to pick up the trailer and headed out. We got out of town and then had to stop as the Lt. had had too much partying. The driver arranged the load so he could lay down there. The Lt. laid out across the back of the jeep as best he could. Tony drove, and we were germany bound. The other two slept most of the way. Later [79-23] that day I was driving and Tony was studying the map showing where all the other regiments were. Tony said, "The 407th is just off this road to the right a little ways." About 15 -- 20 miles further we spotted a 407th jeep ahead of us. We pulled up along side him and he grinned. Tony stopped and he loaded his stuff onto the other jeep. Away -- good friend drove. By this time the Lt. and the driver decided they were going to live and started to stir. I wanted to get them orientated a little and behind us a MP jeep pulled up. On the bumper was Hqtrs, 405th Inf. I asked if he could give me a lift to the 405th. They said, "Hop in". I grabbed my bags and away we went. They asked what Co. I was with. I said, "Co. F." They may not want me back. I explained where I had been and what I had been doing. The driver asked if I had been to Paris, and I said twice. I didnt say the first time was for 3 weeks and the second time was for 2 days. He said ,"Is Pigalle ALL THEY SAY IT IS?" I replied it was all and maybe much more. He said, "Boy -- I've just got to get there soon."
The Sgt. said they would pass the 2nd Bn. Hqtrs soon and if they weren't to far away, they could run me back to the company. It was in the next little town right down the road.
In about 20 minutes I was back home. I unloaded in front of Co. Hqtrs., thanked the MPs for the ride and they left. Then I turned and went into the building. An orderly snapped to attention and I said, "Where is everybody?" He said, "In their rooms I guess." I introduced myself and asked where the 1st platoon was. We went outside and he pointed out the right buildings. I asked where the Co. Cmdr's house was. He said, "Those buildings at the end of the street".
I took my suitcase and walked down the street. I guess fraternization laws were cancelled. The first soldier I spotted was Corp. Johnson with a fraulien hanging on his arm. He hollered and came running and said, "Lt., its fine to have you back". I said, "Johnson, has the 1st platoon been behaving themselves?" He said, "Yes sir, but we have no one to speak up for us. We get all the S---t details." Details is army talk for crews to do the odd jobs. I said that we would have to check into that. He grabbed the suitcase and introduced the little gal to me and headed for the quarters. As we walked, everyone jumped up and we had a real reunion. It was like old times -- seeing familar faces. The Capt. said, "I didn't expect you for another 2 weeks. Did you comes straight from school?" I replied, "Not exactly -- I came direct from school to Paris but there I was unavoidable detained for a short time. When the Paris problem was solved, I came directly here." He said, " You DOG -- how many days did you stay in Paris"? This kinda put me on the spot, and I said, "Just a few."
The whole 1st platoon came barging in just in time to save me from further questioning. Thank God. Another happy reunion took place. The Capt. showed me my room and I put the suitcase on the bed and left with the 1st platoon. We reached their houses and it was something to see. They had liberated some fine furniture and they said, "Lt. we have a special room all fixed up for you, if you decide to stay with us." I thanked him and saidI would likely spend some time there too. In came a real shy young soldier with an equaly shy young girl on his arm. He swallowed his adams apple three times and spoke her name. [80-24] She kinda hid behind him, and said real weak -- like Hello. I patted him on the arm and said she's real pretty. He smiled and led her out. I turned to Smitty and said, "What ever happened to this fraternization?" He said well, "When the armistice was signed we were no longer at war, so the law was abolished". We talked for some more and he finally said, "Lt. did you ever get to that school." I looked shocked and said, "I certainly did! I got lost in Paris for 3 weeks, but I got to the school." He let out a yell and danced around the room and said, "Sir -- youve just earned me $300.00". I said, "How the hell did I do that?" He said, "I bet 3 other guys a hundred apiece that you wouldn't attend the school or you would be way late getting there." Away he went to collect his money. Three men came back with him for proof. I shook their hands real seriously and said, "Thanks fellows -- Ill try to live up to your faith in me in the future." I had no idea why anything like that would ever enter their minds.
I went over to the officers quarters and talked to them for a while. I was pretty tired and tried to get to bed by midnight. They kept after me about Paris. The places to go, the things to do, to see -- and of course they had all heard about the Pigalle. So I recommended it highly. I didnt have the heart to tell them I'd just walked thru the place once. They finally let me go and I fell asleep. I was rudely awakened next morning at 0600. Not for any particular reason except the army was finally trying to get back to garrison life again. The war was over and idle time was not good for the men. Now I thought that was a good idea for everyone but me. But I fell in line and we carried out something like a training plan. One of the things we talked about was the reaction that took place during the excitement and fear in a hot fire fight with the germans. The failure of 2 -- 3 men not to fire a single round. It happened to different ones at different times. In their minds they were shooting up the country side, but in reality, they would end up with full ammo belts and their rifle cold. When this happened it would blow their minds. They could not explain it. It happened to a squad leader of mine, and he like to went crazy. He said, "Hell Lt. I must have been running around with my rifle and shouting BANG".
I had been back with the company about a week when one night a couple of fellows from the 2nd platoon walked in and they had a little girl with them and they were grinning like babbons. They tried to introduce her to me but had trouble with her name. She spokes English and finished the introduction for them. I jumped up and offered her my hand. Quite different from the French custom. I asked them, "What's this all about," and they said. "You got kinda a late start in this town and I seemed to just be sitting in my room at night to read". They thought I might be a little bashful about meeting the local girls. So they were just helping me out. Then they left before I could object. I was kinda dumbfounded but finally offered her a chair. I had not really taken a good look at the except to see she was real pretty. I asked her, "How old are you?" She said, "Almost 17". I said, "You look closer to 16, am I right?" I finally said, "Kathrina -- I'm going to take you home." She said, "Call me Kate -- and I have no home." I finally suggested we go for a walk. We walked about a 1/2 mile and I asked her to tell me about herself, start from the beginning. Tears came to her eyes and I put my arm around her as we walked. In 10 minutes she finally got started. She was born in [81-25] Dusseldorf. Her father was german and her mother was Polish. She didn't have to go any further as I knew the rest. Her Father was drafted into the army four years ago. Three years ago the gestopo came to their house and took her Mother away in the middle of the night. He did not know where they took her mother and she was then picked up and sent to this town to work in the fields. She had not heard from her Father since this happened. We walked a couple of more hours while she talked. She had her life pretty well planned for a 16 year old. She wanted to be a nurse but had no money. There were no jobs and she had no way of earning money to go to school. The german money system had been abolished and she had nothing saved. At midnight she was talked out and I was walked out. I took her to the house she was living in and said good night. She asked if she could walk with me the next evening, too. I said, "I'd like that". I didn't sleep much that night. I had hanged around the country since I was 16 but I always knew where my mom and dad were I know how lonely it can get. I couldn't figure out how a 16 year old girl that had no home since she was 13 could have lived that long. This was not an isolated case either. It was very common all over Europe. The countries the germans captured, they sent the parents off to war or to work in the factories. The children were left to shift for themselves. Anyone of foreign nationality were treated the same. Hitler's plan was to do away with other nationalities and create the super race. He was well on the route too. He wanted to wipe out all mixed blood. I didn't see any super race during the time I was fighting the war. All I saw was a bunch of nuts that thought they were a super race.
Well the time had come for the leaders of the nazi party to answer some questions. The military Govt. issued order for all party members to be rounded up and questioned. We seemed to be living in a whole nest of them in this little town. I had six to pick up. The following morning start ing at 0200 hrs. we started early to catch them at their homes. I had five men and a 2 1/2 ton truck. Interpreters accompained each truck. He also acted as a guide. We made the first pickup about 10 miles from our town. I beat on the door and finally heard gruff voices inside. The interpreter asked if he was Herr -- . The voices said yes. He was directed to open the door, but refused, so I kicked the door open. We took him just as he was, nightgown and all. I got all six and was back in town by 0700. This roundup lasted all week. Some were released immediately and others wore held on what ever charges they were guilty of. Many non-member party members furnished informati on actual party members. All elected officials had to be party members before they could serve. The mayor of our little town was one of these but the whole town came to his defense He said he had joined the party so he could get elected. This way he could do something to help the town. He had helped Kattie. Because of her Polish background the nazi officers gave her the hardest work. She also spoke in his defense.
In our sector and I suppose it wast true over much of germany there were displaced persons camps to handle the people brought there by the nazi . The American Govt. had a tough time sorting them all out by countries They were given food, clothing and bedding. Whenever possible they used the displaced persons to do this if they could type, translate or do something to speed up the process. Trainloads were shipped to different countries every day. None wanted to go to a land where the Russians were to occupy and some wanted to go someplace other than whence they had come from before the nazi rounded them up -- Some place where they might still have some family.
[81a-25a] None wanted return to a land that the Russians controlled, they would be sent off to Russia be slave labors again. Polish, Hungarians and Czecks were in the same situations. One day we would have them in camp, the next day they would be gone. They had been prisoners so long that they didn't want to be in a place that was surrounded by fence. All these camps had the original fences but the gates were taken down. So they wandered around the country and would finally come back to get something too eat and a good meal. If they didn't want to go back to their native country, they would just walk away until that particular train would leave.
The military started another project. They wanted all Germans , particularly children that had lost contact with their parents to register a list could be made and circulated through out Germany. Katie was one of the first to sign up. She knew her last home address and the approximate date she was taken from her home. I sat and watched her thru out this ordeal and if anyone had hope, she did. She even got ajob in one camp so she could check each list that came in to see if her brother, father or mother was on it. She used to say "big brother, maybe today". She called me her big brother and she was my little sister.
One afternoon, when I returned from a duty assignment, the captain called me in. He showed me a typewritten order from Regiment. I read it and was shocked again. On the next Saturday morning there was to be a parade at the small airport at headquarters. I was to be presented with the Distinguished Service Cross by the division commander. This was the second highest award in the Army. I just stood there in amazement. He said "well what do you think of that"? For the first time in my life, I was speechless. Then he handed me the second letter. It was from the British Eight Army. I was to be awarded the British Military Cross at a later date. It got to be a little hard to handle. Then the captain said. I'm not thru yet. You are to get the Purple Heart for wounds received in the battle for Beeck. Man oh man, it was tough to act like a 2nd Lt. Everyone in the company knew about this but me. Little sister came in and flew into a rage. She thought I was being mistreated by the CO. He had to hold her hands while I explained what it was all about. About this time everyone was trying to get into the house. The Capt moved everyone outside. We stood on the steps and they all wanted a speech. I started off by saying "that the load had gotten very light today. For a long time I had stood by and watched everyone else get medals, but none came my way. I know that the good conduct medal is presented after the first year of service, but it took me two years to get that. So I had given up hope of ever getting anything. This had bothered me a great deal. But this is unbelievable. A medal like this is not earned by an individual, it is earned by an organization. I know that company F and the first platoon is that organization".
I had a dry run with the honor guard to be positioned in front of the reviewing stand after the medal was presented. Came the big day and everything was set. A jeep came and picked me up and took me to Regimental Hdqs. Everything was gone over with me again. Man was I nervous. In a few hours it would all be over. I don't think any battle shook me as much as this did. The troops had assemble and we were ready to go.
The Adjutant gave the signal and I marched the honor guard to spot in front of the reviewing stand. I then took my position three paces in front of them. The adjutant read the citation:
"Lt James L. Hansen 02012004 then Tech Sgt, 37464729, while serving with the Army of the United States, distinguished himself by extraordinary heroism in connection with the military operation in Germany on 23 Feb. 1945. After crossing the Roar River, Lt Hansen reorganized scattered elements of his platoon and led them towards their objective. When their advance was threatened by concealed enemy fire he moved courageously over fire swept terrain to direct fire on harassing emplacements. After killing one gunner, he crawled forward and dispatched three more and then led his platoon forward in another attack. Through his courage and exemplary leadership, Lt Hansen was largely responsible for the success of his platoon in reaching its objective. The extraordinary heroism and courageous action of Lt Hansen is in keeping with the highest tradition of the Military Service."
By the time he finished reading this my legs were about to buckle on me. The General then approached followed by his aide who was carrying the medal. The General pinned it on my shirt lapel. He said a few words and asked me to join him on the reviewing stand with him to review the troops. I thanked him and marched the honor guard directly in front of the stand, about faced them and parade rest and mounted the stand. The band started to play and they would be the first to pass the stand. They took up position about 100 feet from the stand.
[82-26] As the colors approached he turned and saluted as did everyone as the colors were passing. Next the band passed and he took the salute from the leader. By the time the band had finished their movements to be in position, the first troops had started to pass. As I stood and watched, a familiar thought ran thru my head. I had played baseball and basketball for four years in high school and only one member of my family ever saw me play a game. I remember the loneliness I felt then. That same feeling hit me now. Only this time I knew it had to be this way. As I stood there, I thought to myself, "You've come a long way and many a mile since you walked out of Larchwood High School, Iowa. Packed you bag at the farm on the state line between Iowa and South Dakota, and left for California. More miles than I can count and more friends than you can count."
I was bolted back to reality when I saw F. Co. banner approach. I took a quick look to see if I could see a short soldier marching in the 1st platoon. Sure enough, I spotted that soldier. I almost panicked until I got a good look at the shirt front. Nothing there to indicate "Little Sister" was in the parade. I couldn't get a good facial look due to the helmet.
After the parade a reception was held at the regimental officers mess. We had a few snorts and some snacks. My arm was sore from all the hand shaking I had to do, that went with the medal.
We finally got bck to the company area and a chance to relax. The troops made me run the belt line so my backside was kinda sore. They weren't too hard on me though. Little sister came runing up the street so I was satisfied that she had not been in the parade. She hugged me around the waist and admired my medal. No new list today -- maybe tomorrow. She still had all the hope in the world that her folks would appar on the new lists. She was positive that one day her Dad would come for her.
As we stood there the company commander came walking up. He said, "Lt. Hansen, effective immediately, you are now an officer in Co. H." This kinda surprised me but after thinking about all the jeeps they had, I really didn't mind. I was tired of walking. In fact, he said a jeep would be there shortly and pick me up in an hour. Little sister helped me pack. She said, "Big brother -- will you come and see me soon?" I said, "I would be checking on her every day." The jeep arrived and I said my goodbyes got in a few jabs and insults with the 1st platoon gave little sister a hug, and threatened to whip her if I found her walking with anyone else and left.
H Co. was just down the road four miles. I knew most everyone in the company anyway. So there was no big change. I had known the Capt. from the days of basic training, not on a personal basis but he was the type of an officer that everyone knew. H. Co. was a heavy weapons company. Machine guns up to 50 caliber, Mortars up to 90mm and boy -- they rode everywhere they went. They had jeeps coming out of their ears. The Capt. and I talked for a while and he took me down to the platoon hgtrs of the machine gun outfit and told the men I was the new platoon leader. The Capt. left and the Sgt. Swirka gave me the low down on the platoon. Finally he said, "Your jeep is #3." Being an ex-ground pounder (foot [83-27] soldier). I was much interested in what jeep I could call my own. He sent for my driver so I could meet him.
I got settled in real good and was kinda taking things easy when the Capt. came next morning and said, "Hansen, If you had a choice for a two weeks furlough, where would you like to go?" I said, "beats me." He said, "Well make up your mind so I can cut the travel orders. You can take anyone you like with you." I said, "Let me get back to you."
I sent for my jeep -- get that MY JEEP and headed for regiment. I went to communications and asked them to put me thru to the 407th Infantry. They patched me thru to his company. In a few minutes they had him on the line. I said "Tony, this is Jim -- and I've got a problem. Can you help me?" After a short silence, he said, "Well if I can, I will. What is it?" I said, "Well I have a two week furlough and I can take one person with me and I don't know where to go." He screamed at me -- "You crazy nut, I'll go with you." I said, "Well that's solved, now where to go." He shouted, "The Riviera, nut, The Riviera." I said, "Well you sure know how to solve problems alright." "I'm now in H. Co. and I'll go back and submit your name and get our orders cut and head out for the seaside." I went past little sister and told her where I was going and two days later I picked Tony up in my jep and headed 60 milessouth to the airport to catch a C-47 to Nice, France. I thought that my driver was going to try and smuggle aboard the flight too.
We finally landed at the Riviera after dodging some mountains for a while. It was the most beautiful place I had ever seen. We were taken to a beautiful hotel the army had leased. Both Tony and I had rooms overlooking the beach but we had forgotten our field glasses. It was the worst thing we could have done. We sat and told each other what we had done since we parted after coming back from Paris. He had read about my medal in the Stars and Stripes, but too late to make the ceremony. He asked what this furlough was all about. I said. "I guess it something."
We ate in the hotel dining room that night. The food was good but lacked the Paris touch. We went to bed and woke early the next day. We ate a good breakfast. The Red Cross lady came and asked if we had signed up for the bus tour. Tony asked, "Where does it go?" She said it went thru the mountains and stopped at many interesting points and would last 7 1/2 hours. We signed up and went. It was a beautiful drive. We stopped at vineyards, olive orchards, and other scenic places. Neither of us had a camera so we went back to the PX and bought one and that remidied that situation.
Next day we sorta loafed around. We spent most of the day sitting on the beach wall. The French girls would come to the beach all dressed, but carrying their swim suit and a towel. They would sit down and pretty soon would be in a suit, and the dresses off. This was sort of miserable, but there were so many GI's there and the girls weren't as all friendly. I guess we couldn't blame them much. There were thousands of GIs there.
The WAC R&R was about 2 miles down the beach. Tony suggested we go there one evening. they were having a big dance so we were in luck. The only problem was that everyone had a date except the big fat ones. So Tony said, "Well that's that, we might as well go home." I replyed that my Mother had told me that any time I thought I was to good to dance with someone, I would be the sorriest guy in the world. I just can't disobey [84-28] my mother. So in we went and had one of the best times Ive ever had in the aarmy. We became quite popular because we danced with anyone. Any girl that looked like a wall flower, we took for a spin on the floor. The oldest was not over 30. The fattest were not over 150 pounds. They all wanted us back the next week. We said we would come and took the bus back to the hotel.
The way the Riviera was set up -- each branch of the service had a definate area. We rode the bus from one area to another. The air force had the most plush areas. Then the WAAF's and the old army settled for the rest. But it was all beautiful. We began to get bored -- so Tony said, "Do you think there might be any planes to Paris"?? Theres only one way to find out I said. We went back to the hotel and packed our bags and headed for the airport. There just happened to be a flight leaving the next morning. We asked to hitch a ride and the officer said be here at 0630 in the morning. We slept at the airport because we didn't know how we would get back tha early the next day.
Next morning we were ready at 0630 to help load the plane and that didn't take long and off we went. Once again the C-47 dodged mountains but it was a reliable plane. Slow as a wounded goose but we made it. We took a taxi to the same hotel and met the Red Cross Lady and she hugged us and said Pigalle or the theatre? I said, "Oh the theatre of course". She made the call and everything was set for 4 PM. Now we were not surrounded by GI's and could relax again. At 4 PM we met Ginger and Beth in the lobby. Neither wanted to got to the theatre so we went to a nice lounge and a club afterwards. Paris had a lot to see in a short time. Monday morning we were back at the airport and caught a ride back to the Riviera. We played tag with the mountains again. We got back in time for another dance with the WAACs. We danced until the wee small hours and headed back to the hotel. I slept until noon. Tony sat waiting for me in the lobby. I sat down and said, "Ready to head back". He said, "Sure am."
We caught a plane that was leaving immediately for the german airport and I finally got a call thru to the Hqtrs of Co. H. They sent my jeep. It was there in about two hours. We dropped off Tony and I unloaded my bags and took the jeep over to Co. F. Little Sister was still working but I sat around and soon she came up the road. She just about ran over me. I asked, "Any news??" She said. "No -- nothing". I thought her hope was sorta fading. It may turn up tomorrow. We talked for a while and she finally said, "Big Brother, can you find me a job where you live and a place to stay?" I asked her about her job and she said it was ending in a few days anyway. So I said, "I thought so". I couldn't refuse her request. [85-29] Next morning I took the company interpreter and started looking for a room for her. I checked with the acting Mayor and he said if she would do housework he had an older couple that needed someone to cook and keep house for them. That night I went back to Co. F., and picked her up. I told her what I had found and she was real happy about it all. She still wasn't the little girl I had first met. She finally broke down and told me what was bothering her. She still wanted to go to nursing school, she still needed money and she didn't have any hope of doing it. Then I said, "Where is that little girl who had so much energy? The one who fought so hard 'to exist?" She said that she had had too much time to sit and think while I was gone. "You won't go off again soon, will you?" I said, "No, I think my traveling days are pretty much over for a while. I kinda missed you too, you know?" She hugged my neck and said, " Prima". which means good. She moved into her new home and seemed very happy. The old couple were very good to her.
Co. H. stayed in this location for about a month and then the time came for us to move on. This time we were heading for the Bavarian Mts. close to the Checz border. This time I did dress Little Sister like a GI and she sat in the back of my jeep like a little trooper. Everything went fine until we had to make a bathroom stop. If she didn't have a problem she would just duck down in the back seat and shut her eyes. If she was the one that needed to go, she would hop across the road real quick like. We reached our destination and the quartering party had houses already. This was a rather large town and it had been bombed heavily as there were many factories in it. Away from the factories the houses had been spared.
My Platoon Sgt. and I got to looking around in some of the factories one day. There were signs all around in german and we pretended we couldn't read german. Actually these were signs forbidding entrance to the buildings. In one, Shrimp found what looked like a corner safe. We started clearing off the bricks that were around it and sure enough, it was a safe. We covered it up and went back to the motor pool. We borrowed a torch, jumped in the jeep and went back to our safe. The Sgt. had to see if he could get the welding trailer into the safe.
Next day we were back at the crack of dawn. The less people around, the better. The Sgt. got his trailer in place and we started to remove the bricks. It took a long time but he finally got thru the door. He opened the door and to our surprise, it was fill of german currency. We raked it out and found 100's and 500's in US dollars, the big sized bills. There was also some bottles of schnaups in the safe. We divided up the American money and Sgt. Shrimp took the hootch.
It suddenly dawned on me that here was the answer to Little Sisters problems. I jumped in the jeep, ran back to the supply room and grabbed 2 duffel bags and came back to the safe. We filled one and a part of another.
Kate was again working at a displaced persons office so she could check the lists every day. She had not found anything of her parents names yet. [86-30] When she came in from work, Sgt. Shrimp took her into a room and we opened the sacks of money and dumped them on the floor in front of her. It scared her to death and I thought she was going to faint. She would look at us and then at the money. One minute she didn't have a cent -- next she was a millionaire. I told her that it was all hers and someday it might be worth a lot of money. We found some suitcases for her to put it in and when we came back she was busy counting it. She told me how much it was in german marks but I didn't figure it in dollars. She had made her decision, that she would go to a town that had a nursing school in it and would ask when they would resume classes. She took some of the money and left the rest with me. Then she got on a bus and left. The buses in those days were powered by steam engines that burned coal, wood or what have you.
One evening the Co. Cmdr. asked me to sit at his table with him. He had a young shavetail sitting there with him and he asked me if I had a cousin named Williams? I replyed that I did and that he used to live across the road from where I lived. The new Lt. then told me his name and that his family had moved to California but I had not seen him since that.
The time came for us to go home. The 406th and the 407th were to go first. Those with the highest points were transfered to the 407th. The low points went to the 405th. and would stay in germany. The 407th boarded the train at Coberg and Lichenfeld on the 17th of February, 1946. After a 60 hour ride we came to Le Harve, France. We billited at Campo Philip Morris. We loaded on the John Erickson once again. l went to the lounge and sat in a real soft chair. Quite different from the trip over.
As I sat there, I recalled, all the 102nd had seen and done. We had seen history in the making and had made some of it as well. I recalled the hard training years. The wet days in the fields of Normandy, The red ball express, the Holanders and those nice clean bath houses. The crossing of the Roer, the push to the Rhine, and on to the Elbe. I recalled the names of the men who we lost in combat. The published reports of over 4000 enemy killed in action and of the more than 147,000 captured by the 102nd. I recalled the miseries and the ruins of a once proud people now living in squaller. There will be other wars and America will be drawn into them but let us pick the battleground. This will not happen in America.
In closing I want to pay my respects to the men who prepared me for what ever I may have done right during the war. Life was miserable and hard during our training period. We were in excellent physical shape after the first 2 -- 3 months of training. Mentally, we were in terrible shape. Quitting was first and formost in our minds. After many months of training, we didn't know how to quit. Now we were ready, willing, and able to do anything that was put in our path. Those that didn't reach that point suffered a terrible fate. They had reduced us to l step above an animal. The men I refer to are the cadre of the 102 Inf. Div.
1st Sgt. Pittman, T/Sgt. Keene, 1st platoon, Wolfe, 2nd Pt., Brown, 3rd p1atoon, Pollack, 4th platoon, Tedford, 4th platoon, T. Sgt. Lira, Contino, Kusek, Co. clerk, supply and mess Sgts at the time, resp...
-------- Jim Hansen
You can now read the story as viewed through the eyes of Jim Hansen entitled The Attack on Gardelegen as found in the section of this web site dedicated to the 405th Regiment where you will many additional stories of the men in the 102d Infantry Division.
Mr. James L. "Jim" Hansen
4 February 2006
Entered Service: Paris, Texas
405th Infantry Regiment, 102nd Infantry Division
World War II Veteran
United States Army
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
Information and photographs were generously provided to World War II Stories -- In Their Own Words by Mr. Edward L. Souder of Minneapolis, Minnesota. The subject, as well as author of this essay is Mr. James "Jim" Hansen of Longview, Texas.
Original Story submitted on 7 September 2002.
Story added to website on 10 September 2002.
September 5, 2002.
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