Heroes: the Army
"...The word for firearm is "Schiessgewehr" which when literally translated is "a shoot weapon" Unhappily, I had mispronounced and asked the crowd to turn in their "Scheissgewehr", or "shit weapons!..."
Charles F. Schibener
- Branch of Service: Army
- Unit: Cannon Co., 406th Regiment,
102nd Infantry Division
- Dates: 1942 - 1945
- Location: European Theater
- Rank: PFC
- Birth Year: 1925
- Entered Service: Philadelphia, PA
German Interpreter -- HA!
by Chuck Schibener - Cannon-406
After "The Big War" Cannon CO. 406 went into Bavaria on occupation duty. We moved to a new town every few weeks an the first thing upon arrival was to call a town square meeting of the occupants and demand the surrender of all civilian fire arms.
In the beginning we had two men who were raised back home by German-speaking parents and were totally fluent in the language. OOPS! -They were both close to 35 years old and soon left for the USA and early discharge. What to do? Strictly by default, yours truly with his 2-years-of high-school and 1-term-in-college-German study became ---HORRORS!---The Company Interpreter.
We had little to do except Russian border guard duty. In the quiet of the night you could hear Russian burp guns firing at DPs sneaking thru the woods to get around the border checkpoint. Our own guards took a casual look and often let them pass---Tho' these were not the Orders.
The "Interpreter" joke kept me off pulling any guard duty, bless be. It did have amusing sidelights. As a guy who's followed Jazz closely but never learned a note of music, I once tried to teach six Krauts in a German Oomp-Pah band how to play Glen Miller's stock arrangements for dancing at the beer hail we set up for ourselves. We sure did put away a lot of fine 8% beer! The civilian men elsewhere choked down ersatz beer, but our dancing partners enjoyed our hospitality - we think
One time one of our buddies showed up with VD. This had me waking the jeep driver at 6 am to drive into town (following careful "detective work" at our beer hall the previous evening) to find the home of our poor guy's girlfriend and arrest her, then drive her 40 miles to the Regimental Aid Station to commence mandatory medical treatment. You never hear such backpeddling and "no-no-no's "in your life. All the Germans seemed to close their wooden shutters at bedtime, but it was funny to see the shutters open a slit so early in the morning, as the jeep drove by, in order for the town gossips and busybodies to see whom I was picking up. They knew why!
I made PFC one month before the General Order came out for all European troops in combat to make PFC. (You might say I was a "Battlefield Commission" PFC.) I reached one of those dubious peaks of my interpreting career the day I first got the job. We came into a new town and assembled perhaps 600 civilians out in the town square --- a nervous bunch if you ever saw one. I proceeded to mangle the "Deutch" with a greeting and got across the point that we would not harm them but that we had to collect all the firearms in town, that very day.
WELL! As I was struggling through this syntax, the crowd started to mumble, and then quickly burst out in loud laughter. One of my buddies nudged me and explained my large word goof.
The word for firearm is "Schiessgewehr" which when literally translated is "a shoot weapon" Unhappily, I had mispronounced and asked the crowd to turn in their "Scheissgewehr", or "shit weapons!"
And a good time was had by all for weeks over this one at my expense!
----- Chuck Schibener
(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, "German INterpreter -- HA!", by Chuck Schibener, Cannon Co.,406th, was originally published in the 102d Division "Ozark Notes", Vol. 49, No. 3, April/June. 1997, pp. 12-13.
The story is re-printed here on World War II Stories -- In Their Own Words with the kind permission of the 102d Infantry Division Association, Ms. Hope Emerich, Historian. Our sincerest THANKS for the 102d Infantry Division Association allowing us to share some of their stories.
We would also like to extend our sincere THANKS to Mr. Edward L. Souder, former historian of Co. F., 405th Regiment. His collection of stories of the "Kitchen Histories Project" series entitled, Those Damn Doggies in F, were responsible for bringing the stories of the men of the 102nd Division to the forefront.
Original Story submitted on 28 October 2003.
Story added to website on 24 November 2003.
September 5, 2002.
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