Heroes: the Army
"...Suddenly a shell hit between myself "Tag" and Sheldon who were on both sides of me. All of us were thrown up in the air. Within a hot smell, with my head and helmet stuck in a mud. I was afraid to look. I was stunned and felt as if my feet were blown off!..."
John M. Lengyel
- Branch of Service: Army
- Unit: Co. C., 405th Regiment,
102nd Infantry Division
- Dates: 1944 - 1946
- Location: European Theater
- Rank: PFC
- Birth Year: 1925
- Entered Service: Canton, OH
Memories from My 1946 Diary
by John M. Lengyel, 405-C Co.
I had recently re-discovered diaries written in 1946, making my memories more vivid.
I was drafted into the army on August 14, 1944. The first destination was Fort Benjamin Harrison in Indiana.
Several of my buddies from high school were with me, so we grouped together and made the best of the situation.
I was glad to be "in" , and yet not worried. I didn't particularly want to be a dead war Hero. But at the time, the war was only a report that I read in the newspaper. We spent several days processing and were finally ordered to Fort McClellan Alabama. On my arrival, fair weather met with foul play. It was raining hard. We were lined up between a row of huts, as three stripes of authority took roll call, leaving us high and wet for 15 minutes until the huts were assigned to us.
The 17 weeks that followed were uneventful except for hopping and jumping at the slightest command, running to here and there, marching out, double timing back. I was a first-class infantrymen to be a replacement with a confused young mind, ready for overseas shipment. It was customary to get 10 days Delay en route before going overseas. But the Belgium Bulge cut it short to five days. At least I got home on Christmas night. I went to the train station alone when I left for Fort Meade Maryland.
We transferred to Camp Miles Sandish and loaded on a ship shortly afterward. I was made a "saltwater" sergeant which gave me a break on the details aboard ship. The boat was French, the Ile de France, converted for troop transport, with an English crew. Since it was the first of January, the ocean was too rough for my tender stomach, sharing seasickness with many others, with the acrid aroma from sea-sickness and bunkered men was tolerated by playing cards or dice. A Colonel came by and since I was supposedly in charge as a "saltwater" sergeant, I was assigned to clean the latrine.
Sickening food, boat rail sickness, candy bars, and gambling took their place each day. After seven days we docked at Scotland. Time was one thing that was not wasted. Since the blackout was observed in England, we were unable to see any of the countryside. By early morning we came to South Hampton England. We debarked from the train, and huddled in a huge open warehouse. After a delightful dinner of K- rations, we boarded another ship to cross the channel, the Sobieski, a Polish ship. A short while, Le Havre poked its bombed-raised head. We loaded onto LST's because the docks were full of rubble, making it unsuitable for large ships. As we landed onshore, the French practically ignored us, with the exception of a small army of children begging for cigarettes and candy.
We organized into platoons, and marched through the town. Houses were more like shacks, and buildings resemble deserted warehouses. On top a winding road, we moved into a city of tents. At least I was on firm ground and in France. Six of us share a tent, which had no heating facilities but an excellent ventilation system, a survivor from a moth convention. We were given PX rations, which compensated us somewhat. The next day greeted us with snow and cold.
We boarded trucks and rode through town, assembling by the rail station, apparently to board the famous 40 et 8's. (40 men and 8 horse capacity). The Red Cross served us coffee and doughnuts while we waited, and finally we crowded ourselves into the rail cars. 30 men and 30 duffel bags took the place of the French version of 40 men and eight horses. If a person did not move at all, he would be able to keep his place, but unfortunately we had no washroom facilities, which caused some to lose their original position. There simply wasn't any room for just one more.
Someone conceived the idea of building a fire while en route. At the next stop, we somehow gathered brick, scrap wood and coal. Somehow we built a "fireplace" base and had a fire going. No one thought that we might set the boxcar on fire. To eliminate the smoke we had to crack the door, which defeated the warmth of the fire. Hard to believe, but several us tried gas masks, which was unwieldy and a wrong choice. We finally preferred the cold.
The route we traveled was north of Paris and into Belgium. It was difficult to notice much of the countryside from the train with mostly closed doors. The 4000 mi. that I had traveled were almost a blind affair. Aside from the very cold 2000 miles of ocean, and the darkness of the Blackouts. Six days later, we shed ourselves of the cramped French coaches and alighted upon Belgium soil. We marched to a beautiful Chateau, that is, from the outside. After a speech, clothing check, money change, we were excited to use our quarters. The floors were marble forming an aisle for impressive mahogany doors. The second-floor was a duplication the first but we are ushered on up to the third-floor. Finally we were provided the attic floor so as not to trash the chateau. This attic floor was only a bit more comfortable as the French rail cars, but it was warm. The memorable event was in hanging up our clothing and arranging a place to lie down. I had belatedly discovered that a GI had placed his rifle on a nail up above my head. Someone in the night had moved and dislodged the rifle, hitting me in the back of the neck, accompanied by explosive language. My neck was stiff and sore but I had no chance to go to sick call even though I asked about this, with the answer, "We don't have sick call!"
In a few days we are sent to another "repple depple", that is, a Replacement Depot. Here we were quartered in regular Belgium military barracks. Straw mattresses were the best comforts available. This barracks area was a complex of six - 4 story buildings arranged somewhat like a college campus, with a central lawn dissected with crosswalks. I had my first contact with veterans who are returning from hospitals. None of these vets were shy about relating their combat experiences, a bit overbearing to we new green replacements.
Unexpectedly, we were given a three day pass to Tongres Belgium. I have not met many veterans in upper Germany, France who had not known of "Maggie's". This was a little bistro which had a spicy reputation. Maggie herself greeted me with a squeeze, and used her practiced pig-English and American French to the delight of the G.I. customers. I was taken back a bit but that set the tone for the evening. Sensing my embarrassment, she sang ribald lyrics, and teased me much of the night. I recovered, it was quite an experience as anybody who has been to Maggie's, a great highlight.
We left Tongres for Aachen, Germany where I saw my first German people for the first time. The town was supposed to be well booby-trapped so we walked about gingerly. I was placed as a guard on a street corner facing a silhouetted poster with a man and a question mark on his chest. with it? I spent most of my time trying to figure that out, watching the people scurrying about. We were to remind the Germans that we were in charge, our first occupation.
It was startling to see the storied Buzz Bombs being launched at a launch site not far from our position, just eas of Aachen. It looked like a large bloated cigar. And very noisy. I was in awe again!
We reorganized into smaller groups and rode trucks north into Holland. Here at last I was assigned to Company C, 405th Regiment infantry division, Ninth Army. There was much snow on the ground, about the end of January, 1945. There were no visible roads, only telephone lines of communication wires. The village had about 20 houses and barns. The truck finally stopped at a larger house and I jumped out with my duffel bag. A couple and GI's were genuinely glad to see the few of us.
A Red Cross truck was down the street serving coffee and doughnuts and playing records through a loudspeaker. The two GI's grabbed our gear, ushered us to this large house, of the Company Commander.
The town was called Baseweiler. Most growth the houses had been bombed or shelled. The windows were boarded up except for vent holes for makeshift chimneys which protruded from all angles. We entered the house and waited.
A G.I. in a black T-shirt came from an adjoining room. He was a master sergeant who welcomed us briefly and disappeared temporarily into another room, returned and told us that the C.O. would see us. Formality was forgotten, so with away with a hand, Captain Pancho (Harold) Lozano, the stocky, swarthy company commander and Lt. Miller, a rather athletic type greeted us. Both men had just shaved and appeared fresh. Within the greetings, he explained quickly that we had come for us, at an inopportune time for getting acquainted with the company, since "C" company was due very shortly to spearhead a drive across the Roer River in an effort to steam-roll over the German defenses. Our objective was Berlin! The effects of the "Bulge" was nearly overcome, so the major offensive with all U.S. Army's participating was near. He hurriedly explained that our company would lead the division to make the attack, in assault boats across the river simultaneously ahead of other armies and the British. Assault boats were to be used as pontoons for the later Tanks and equipment support to follow. A hard lump jumped into my mouth.
Fred, my companion and I were assigned to the third platoon. Fred went to the third squad, I to the second. Zack was a squad leader, and the other members were Byrd, Taglioboski [John W.], Phillips [John W., Jr.], Smith [Darrel or William C,], Butts [Donald C.], Singleton [James R.], and Sheldon [Shelton, Raystell M.]. Someone help me to scrapes and straw for a bed and I made a feeble attempt to get acquainted. We were mostly ignored since we were just two, but the Division had been pulled off the line to be fully staffed for the Spearhead effort.
The very next day, we were loaded onto trucks to practice the landing assault at a shallow creek. assault. We were given stations and assigned certain duties. My assignment was bewildering with confusion, probably identical to that of the next man. Assembly was made of assault boat crews. We were to carry all of ammunition, grenades, and rifles over one shoulder, in event the boat was overturned, we would not be entrapped by our equipment. Two men were to carry a plank for crossing another stream beyond the river bed. Another was to carry a grapple hook to grasp for stick mines supposedly in our path after assault, according to the intelligence from patrols.
As we assembled in the practice area by the small stream, it began to rain. The snow would have been better. In early February the rain is extremely cold. I had no protective trousers or shoe packs as most of the others had since I was new. In a short time I was half-frozen, soaked, and painfully miserable. We waited for a few hours for something to happen. In the meantime an enthusiastic game of mumbly peg was initiated in our third platoon.
The loser of this game was to pick up the peg with his teeth after the winners had a tap at the peg. As the loser bent over, a boot by another would throw one off-balance, into a mud puddle. This was a strange game, but it did help relieve the misery until practice began. At least I didn't lose.
We approached the stream according to plan, following the one man assigned to the plank. He was the loser in the peg game, now all muddied up. In one instant a slip, this peg player tossed the plank and both men to momentarily fly in the air, then back into a larger ditch. This temporarily delayed the operation to the consternation and cussing of an officer. However we began again, reached the stream and placed the assault platoon boats in the water. The stream was but only a few lengths of the boat. Two or three strokes, a scramble up the bank, a regrouping and milling around,...end of the practice. We boarded the trucks and returned to the village.
A few days later another practice session was called. This time we were sent back into Holland to the Maas river.
It was a pleasant site to get to Holland. There was no bombing evidence in Holland. A tavern was nearby where beer was available for the venturesome. We all ventured. I think the brass intended this. Nobody seemed to mind. It was like home! This however, was short-lived. The river was wide and swift. The boats, this time, really had to be paddled. The current took us a considerable distance downstream beyond our targets, and in all probability helped again to disorganize the practice. Again we regrouped, rode the trucks in darkness back. Then we waited for The day.
The scheduled day approached. We marched toward the river on a road so muddy our combat boots disappeared from the surface. The town we arrived in and was twice as muddy. But there was a large supply of straw on hand. The straw was spread in our room. We found a stove, got our light from a bottle filled with gas, with a rag wick.
On the eve of the proposed attack the Germans flooded the river and we were forced to withdraw back to base.
There we retrained exercised an even repaired roads this was for several days. It was a bit exciting when a German plane came by and dropped a bombed close by. Somehow an electric power plant was partially operating, with electricity. We were allowed to take a shower there. I enjoyed taking a shower so much, that I realized I was the last person out. I was alarmed however that it was densely foggy outside. And I did not see anyone in front of me. But it was just a couple miles across the field, and I figured I would use the telephone pole lines as my guide. However as I walked more than the short distances I planned on, and then heard some occasional machine gun bursts. I realized I was in trouble. I was lost. I scrambled away from the sound of the gunfire, and then the fog started clearing up, and I heard GI's talking, mess kits clanking. I burst in and explained my circumstance. Nobody gave me a hard time, gave me a mess kit, somebody got a Jeep, knew where my company was, delivered me, and nobody noticed. I was spared embarrassment. I didn't tell anybody where I had been.
Once again then we were back into Ederen. This was well described by Howard K. Smith, CBS correspondent who joined us in Lt. Harold Millers explanation of what was going to happen. (This account is in our Division book). Placing a flashlight on a map he indicated that where our crossing site was at Rurhdorf, We had to move fast, follow him in his footsteps as we crawled, to look out for the trip wires as we practiced. We slept a awhile, then ate a breakfast about midnight. We assembled in a road and began to march up in the mud to the Roer River single file. I know now that our barrage opened up with over 1000 tracer machine guns shooting over us giving us a line of direction to follow, This was the most spectacular sight I had experienced, raising my heart beat. It didn't take time for the Germans to respond with mortars and the first whistle of an incoming fire almost as if over my head making me dive into a ditch on the side the road. I got entangled in barbed wire. I checked out my grenades. Each of us was given additional ammunition for use when we got across the river. I reached in my grenades sack which was full of about 15 grenades. I became horrified when I pulled out the first grenades and the safety pin had not been bent back. I hurriedly checked a few more. These were the same way. I got panicky. I thought that if I hit a bump, the grenades would explode.
I got up quickly follow down a hill and try to find someone with authority to find out what to do. Then I realize that I was jeopardizing everybody. I reached an officer and he said to get rid of them, "for Gods sakes!" I went to the side of a road and somehow dug a hole in place for grenades is deeply as I could into the mud.
I lost sight of my column in front of me. I ran towards a group of engineers who led me to the boat. I have no idea but I thanked God I just made my right group. Again nobody seemed to notice my absence. How I re-found my group, I don't know. I was in the second boat to go across, and we were the first for the entire ninth army to cross the Roer River. The river was wide, swollen and swift. We were detected and some boats were overturned in the water , mortar fire reaching the bank.
I remember paddling across the Roer. All of us had our cartridge belts, ammunition bags, rifles, bazookas, layered diagonally across our shoulder. This was as prearranged and planned in the event that the boat capsized the weight would be easily disposed of to prevent one from sinking to some degree. In addition, we had a life preserver, four grenades in our lapels, rations, and cigarettes stuffed in our clothing. I cannot conceive how I recovered, found my boat crew, rearranged my equipment and got into the boat. Paddling was difficult.
We were all intent as we made our strokes. We bumped hard into the bank . Some mortar fire was hitting into the river, a glimpse caught one of our boats overturning. We started to scramble ashore but I needed a boost to hop up the bank. I met water instead of the bank and I was again soaked at the start. After landing we reorganized as best we could into our squads, then followed the original plan.
The offensive plans worked out carefully in detail beforehand didn't resemble the actual. The plan was to gather in a wooded clearing near Imbush, and employ ourselves in squad formation as we had practiced.
Unfortunately after we had unloaded we seemed to be mixed up. But it was no time for thinking. Everything was mostly reaction.
The English artillery unit was to provide a timed barrage, then letting up, advancing the barrage on up, and repeating the process. I'm sure the advancing barrage wasn't well co-ordinated, and I believe we got caught in our own barrage.
We came to the stream beyond the river, but there was no plank as planned. We were forced to wade it.
Fortunately the stream was shallow as we waded across. The water was ice cold! If Then came the mine field.
Lt. Miller grappled through and we worked our way in single file, crawling on our knees. At least in our area we found no mines. I was about the fourth man and as we passed safely and spread out . The moon was shining brightly making a perfect silhouette of every man back there. I could see everybody clearly. I shuddered thinking what would have happened had they been just one enemy machine gun nearby. We waited again, so many yards at a predetermined time at which our artillery barrage was to move up. Then suddenly there were flares up above making it so bright that the cry, "Freeze!!" was quite more terrifying ! I could clearly see again.
Everybody felt we were dead ducks. I guess it was true, if we stayed motionless as they said in training, we may not be detected. It is hard to freeze when you get a bit nervous. As the flares diminished, we moved on, as we came to another field. Mortar fire and artillery fire fell upon us. All hell, all hell, broke loose!
We were caught in either our mortar fire as well as from the Germans. The barrage was intense and all we could do was to take cover and hope for the best. The best income for many of our company. I lay as close as I could to a concrete pillar. I heard the sorrowful, screaming, mournful cries for Medic... Medic....Medic. A GI limped over me, crying out Medic, Medic... also. We were instructed not to attend to the wounded. I asked some fallen fellow GI's if they were all right, possibly to assure myself that I was all right.
I lost my bazooka ammunition and had a bazooka with no ammunition, but figured I would get some later. I still had my bandolier, lapel grenades, (two phosphorous, and two shrapnel). The shelling finally lifted as we moved on through a flooded area. It was getting close to dawn. The smoke haze mixed with fog . Vision was poor. I could hear the sounds of German machine gun "Burp" gun, with it's fast chatter, "rrpbrrpbrrp"...which was my first experience. I'd never heard a machine gun as rapid. With poor vision, I imagined an ambush! Somehow we but we finally found our way. I don't know who released smoke bombs but it was very difficult to see beyond your hand.. After the flooded area was passed, we approached to the railroad embankment, alongside "B" company, then moved to the left, finally rejoining our company ranks.
We were near Boslar and Tetz, which was A & B Company objectives Ahead of us was "Sportsman Park", which had a series of communication trenches and bunkers. The park was atop the flat part of the low hill. The hill slope have been cut for the railroad bed. The side of the railroad track away from the park was the continuation of the slope. We reorganized at this point and began to dig in on the side of the bank. The Germans recognized our presence by sending Mortar fire on the way. It was almost daylight when I finished digging in. I flopped on my back and lit a cigarette. At daylight, smoking was permitted. Smoking was a universal habit. Cigarettes were valuable in the Black French Market. A few puffs later, we set out to take the Park. In the meantime companies B and A had moved in on Boslar and Tetz.
In an open field, we began a marching fire attack with M1's on our hips, and firing continuously, made most of the Germans retreat. Several Germans surrendered from a bunker. Other prisoners were insolent and in by the same token so were we. We ordered the prisoners back to the rear. I don't recall how we did this worked out, but it did.
Our final objective was to be Hotsdorf. This was about 5 mi. away in the attacked was to be fixed bayonets with marching fire. We were to have support from our tanks in the rear.
The first mile was relatively peaceful. The remaining distance was a heavy barrage with gunfire, screaming "Mimi's" German 88's, machine gun fire, burp guns firing. As real as war can get! Enemy guns found range on our tanks who had joined us in support. I saw one go off in phosphorous flames. Some of us ran over and pulled the tank driver out, pulling off his burning jacket. However we had little time to linger, especially when the firing order was from the hip and straight ahead. The land was confusion and fear. Additional machine gun fire, mortars, 88's eighths came screaming. I saw another GI burn from his phosphorous grenade. We later were ordered to take the next trench with bayonets fixed , 3 point landings. We caught Germans by surprise. I just missed one German. He was wounded; shaking, trembling and terrified. He was waving a bandage of his and crying "Bitte!" (Please!), please help him. He stayed terrified as we got pinned down by machine gun fire by the Germans beyond. I then took the time to open his bandage. He was frightened that I would kill him. He offered me his watch and possessions. I shook my head, saying ( no, no!). He was sobbing. We continued to be pinned down by machine gun fire. The German was lying on his back obviously suffering. It was almost dawn, and we are allowed to light cigarettes. I lit one. The German was praying hard. I lit another cigarette it to the German on impulse.
We moved to the left in the trench for better positioning leaving the German lay. Behind was Taglibowski who was crawling over the German and assortments of German weapons. "Tag" was visibly shaking, praying beneath his breath, his hands so trembling, he had difficulty in getting a cigarette to his mouth. For some reason my hands were steady. I gave "Tag" a cigarette lit it for him, and tried to start a conversation. He was mumbling that he was afraid, and nothing I could say seemed to help. He began to pray. So did I.
Tagliobosky and Sheldon from my squad, crawled near us. Sheldon had been a supply sergeant from Texas and had volunteered for combat duty as a replacement. He did not have any other assignment other than a replacement. He seemed to be self-assured.
Then the signal came, to take off out of the trench, hip firing again, running forward. I heard the yelling, "Spread Out!", more than the noise of machine gun and mortar fire. It seemed as if everyone wanted to be close to one another, all wanting to converged into a little tight band. I found it to relieve my mind as I yelled as loud as I could, "Spread Out, Spread Out!". I could see some G.I.'s shooting almost at their foot.
This was just as severe as the previous assault. With firing at our hips it continued to be hard to get people to spread out. Yet it was natural to try to be close to somebody. Suddenly a shell hit between myself "Tag" and Sheldon who were on both sides of me. All of us were thrown up in the air. Within a hot smell, with my head and helmet stuck in a mud. I was afraid to look. I was stunned and felt as if my feet were blown off! Then I looked at "Tag" and Sheldon, both were still lying down. I looked again down at my feet, they were still there. I got up, found my M1, resumed firing my rifle from my hip, reloading with my mouth wide open. I looked to see if Taglioboski or Sheldon were following. I sadly learned later that both Taglioboski and Sheldon died. It seems strange that I in between both of them escaped and they were killed outright. I will always remember "Tag" praying and shaking in the trench. I kept moving forward until we found another trench just before the town of Hotsdorf. We regrouped to complete our objective.
Later, we made a charge into the town, on up a winding road just below a bunker which was manned by Germans. I was following Tommy Harjo into the town. This was a hostile bunker. The bunker opened fire on us.
I made a most stupid blunder. Everyone hit the cover on the opposite bank away from the fire. I hit the ground in the line of the fire on a sloped bank. I was a temporary tempting target until I scrambled to the other side. We encircled the bunker and grenades were dropped inside. Just as we reached the outside of the town , we were shelled again. It seemed as if the town was toppling but most Germans had apparently retreated.
The park had a series of communication trenches which were only about 3 ft. deep. These led to underground bunkers. As we occupied these trenches, my squad leader spread us out along a semi circular area. I laid prone in the trench and nervously kept track of any movements. There were Germans about. I must've been discovered by a sniper. For the several hours I laid prone, a sniper was trying to get at me because he was shooting all around me as I moved. The snipers, who were apparently in a church steeple were taken out by the machine gun platoon. (a silver star medal was awarded, I believe (to Lt. Smith). I believe Tommie Harjo was awarded a medal also.
After some time, I felt frozen and realized no one had bothered to check on me. I noted a smoking fire stack out of a bunker area. I crept to the bunker and discovered I had been "forgotten"! All the others were taking turns warming up by the fire. I vehemently "expressed" my feelings. In the meantime Boslar had been taken, counter attacked, then retaken. Some of our tanks finally managed to get across the pontoon bridges and gathered in the protective gully to the right side of the park. I was told some of our first tanks and pontoon bridges were blown out by jet fighters. I heard of the jet fighters and saw my first German jet zoom over! That was an awesome and terrifying experience some 59 years ago. We had heard Germans had great secret weapons and how many more they had was a matter for wild imagination.
About 20 some of us were left from our original 200, with a few stranglers more perhaps. We were practically out of ammunition. I was! We had not encountered a counterattack as had Company A. Finally the 406th Regiment came up. They were unused as yet and took over. We held our position.
My feet were aching so bad after we got relieved, I went to "Silas", our Medic, and thought that my arches had fallen. As I took off my shoes, my feet were black. Just as fresh replacements came up for the ones we lost I was held back to go to the hospital.
I went to the rear by an Ambulance "Weasel" with 2 wounded Germans. It was in the middle the night and the ambulance driver had deliberate trouble avoiding holes. The Germans moaned to his delight. I was just miserable. We were going to a Field hospital, "Gas" 93 in Holland, which was converted from a monastery . While I was in the hospital the Americans reached the center portion of Germany, short of the Elbe River.
The 405th was scheduled to spearhead against the Germans, over the Rhine, towards Berlin.
My company progressed toward and paused at Krefeld as I joined them again. In the interim, the Allies made an agreement with Russia that Russia would advance to Berlin instead of us, (My Division.) Thereafter, this was a rapid cleanup, riding on tanks during April until the awaiting of Russians on the Rhine, wiping out pockets of resistance to that point. I found many new faces and was put into another platoon with new replacements.
Our final combat ended at the Elbe river, clearing out a fortified embattlement, yet on the west of the Elbe. I had written of this episode, printed some time ago. Occupation, transferring to the 1st Big Red Division for the Nuremberg War Trials continued my duty until July 1946.
I am not 6 ft. tall, the minimum height for Courthouse duty. But I was assigned to house guard, rotating to the American Justice Jackson residence, English, and Russian houses. I strode behind Generals Timoshenko, and Nicoshenko and their staffs in the walled yard area, along with Vladimir Rudenko, the Soviet soldier assigned to me.
Later, Lt. Steve Matheny called me in to introduce to Hungarian Red Cross Ambassador Horthy, (son of Regent Horthy of Hungary), and his wife Countess Horthy. Steve recognized that mu name was Hungarian and assumed that I spoke Hungarian. I was invited then to be house guard at the Mansion housing all witnesses for the Allied Prosecution. I "faked" my language ability sufficient to get the assignment.
This was a highlight of my life! Countess Horthy was a beautiful blond, on the order the Gabor family, having been groomed in artistical graces. She had been "liberated" as she was pregnant, then selected to be Hostess for the witnesses who were housed during the prosecution. Ambassador Horthy was busied by his assignment as Ambassador to Switzerland.
I was the only evening "inside guard". Each evening, dinner was held for the guests. I remember the Chief of Police from Austria, who had beetle like protruding eyebrows. Bela Lugosi like! He didn't mingle much. The celebrity "guest" was Heinrich Hoffman, Official Photographer of the Nazi Party, and personal photographer of Adolph Hitler. He introduced his secretary, Eva Braun to Hitler, and received his unique position.
As such, he was cooperating with Justice Jackson, and therefore under custody of the 1st Division, which turned out to be me, as he was a house protected "guest".
There was libation, great evening dinners, and themes planned by the Countess. Extremely clever, charming the effort was to make these witnesses comfortable. Hoffman (Heine), was a gifted mixer. He displayed his skills in Levitation, claiming International Membership in a World Wide Society. He wrote limerick songs, singing them to guests, and wrote two songs for me, "Hans". I was instructed to be social but alert for the guests protection. A spectacular evening was a Lady Godiva night by the Countess. In "costume"! She was truly beautiful.
I also saw some of the trials. This experience almost made me accept an Officer Training opportunity by Steve Matheny, and to stay in my assignment.
But I had enough of Army however and itched to come home. I did during late June 1946.
Heinrich was later sentenced by the German Denazification Court to ten years imprisonment released early, and wrote a book, "My Friend Hitler!" He failed to mention me, but the words to one of the songs he wrote for me was: Loosely translated from German:
"This John, in his fantasy, has all what he wants. But what he wants, he doesn't have, and what he has, he doesn't want!"
Perhaps that is insight to our world today. I wanted, fought, and thought we won Peace. But Peace has eluded us these 59 years with Korea, Vietnam, Kosova, Afghanistan, and Iraq. We have terrorism to defeat for some time to come. We donâ't want this to overwhelm us in any fashion. We need to remember that those who "Globally" oppose us today, were either our foes, or liberated, or did not participate or support us in WWII!!
----- John M. Legyel
(Editor's note: Attempts were made throughout the text of the following story to place full names to the men listed in the story. For the most part, this is an educated guess and some names may very well be mistaken in their identy. The names were all taken from the division history book: With The 102d Infantry Division Through Germany, edited by Major Allen H. Mick. Using the text as a guide, associations with specific units were the basis for the name identifications. We are not attempting in any to rewrite the story. Any corrections are gladly welcomed.)
Interested in some background information?
Check out the related links below...
United States Army, 102nd Infantry Division
102 Infantry Division
History of the 102nd Infantry Division
Attack on Linnich, Flossdorf, Rurdorf - 29 Nov -- 4 Dec 1944
Gardelegen War Crime
Gardelegen: April 13, 1945:
Massacre at the Isenschnibbe Barn
American Battle Monuments Commission: WWII Honor Roll
National World War II Memorial
The above story, "Memories from My 1946 Diary", by John M. Lengyel, Co. C., 405th, was sent to World War II Stories -- In Their Own Words by Mr. Lengyel.
The story is re-printed here on World War II Stories -- In Their Own Words with the kind permission of Mr. John M. Lengyel. Our sincerest THANKS for Mr. Lengyel for allowing us to share some of their stories.
We would also like to extend our sincere THANKS to Mr. Edward L. Souder, former historian of Co. F., 405th Regiment. His collection of stories of the "Kitchen Histories Project" series entitled, Those Damn Doggies in F, were responsible for bringing the stories of the men of the 102nd Division to the forefront.
Original Story submitted on 10 September 2004.
Story added to website on 24 September 2004.
September 5, 2002.
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to our "Veterans Survey Form" page where a survey form
has been set up to conviently record your story.
It is fast -- convenient and easy to fill out --
Just fill in the blanks!
We would love to tell your story on
World War II Stories -- In Their Own Words.
WW II Stories: Veterans Survey Form
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World War II Stories -- In Their Own Words
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Updated on 17 January 2012...0832:05 CST
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