Heroes: the Army
"...All of my possessions, issued and personal, and, most importantly, all my papers, orders and most of my cash were speeding towards Paris..."
Robert A. "Bob" Smith
- Branch of Service: Army
- Unit: Co. K., 407th Regiment,
102nd Infantry Division
- Dates: 1942 - 1945
- Location: European Theater
- Rank: PFC
- Birth Year: 1925
- Entered Service: Hillston, MA
My Furough Story
Bob Smith, Co. K., 407th
After the fighting was over, we were suddenly offered furloughs to distant and exotic places. I chose Glasgow, Scotland, inasmuch as Holliston, Mass, wasn't offered.
We had reached the time of interminable shuffling and reshuffling as high pointers were being sent home and low -pointers were being reassigned at the will and pleasure of the Army genius. Consequently, I boarded my train encumbered with a full dufflebag containing everything Uncle Sam thought the well-equipped GI should own, plus my own few personal belongings.
My seatmate was Ray Michaels from E Company, also headed for Glasgow.
We relaxed and swapped lies until the train stopped in Karisruhe, Seventh Army Headquarters. We were told to bring canteen cups only, as we would be given a meal at the GI mess.
After the meal I had to relieve he time I got out, myself, and by the time I got out, the truck back to the train had left.
All of my possessions, issued and personal, and, most importantly, all my papers, orders and most of my cash were speeding towards Paris.
For one of the few, infrequent times in my military career, I made the right move. I went to the nearest MPs and explained my plight. An unknown Guardian Angel disguised as an MP sergeant outlined the best procedure. I was to get on the next train to Paris; see what I could of the city, while looking for my belongings; and, if unsuccessful, to check with the MPs at the railroad station by five o'clock, or so. He would phone ahead, telling them of my predicament, for my protection, and they would put me on the train back to Frankfurt.
I set off for Paris. By inspiration, I removed my stripes and my Ozark patch and stuck them in my pocket. I wandered around the railroad station and found nothing of Mike or my baggage, so I determined to see everything in Paris that I could. Everywhere I looked I saw those billboards informing the American soldier that he was a representative for the USA, an "ambassador without portfolio" and that at all times he must be immaculate. Then the billboard listed the fines: so much for no necktie, so much for no cap, for buttons unbuttoned, for shoes unshined, for needing a shave, and on and on - a list that, in my conditioon, exceeded my next month's pay should I ever get one. I did see the Eiffel Tower, the Arche de Triomphe, the Rue de Pigalle ("Pig Alley") and other sights. I walked and walked, looked and looked, certain I'd never get another chance.
Suddenly I was confronted by a major and a lieutenant. It was almost immediately obvious that the lieutenant was "fresh off the boat." Striving for brownie points, he launched into a beautiful lecture on how the Europeans' attitude toward the US could be damaged by the sight of a slovenly GI, and the whole line of stuff, all the while sneaking sidewise glances to see how he was doing. I, as is a habit of mine when I'm very nervous (read that "terrified" at that moment), stood there smiling stupidly, wondering how long I'd be locked up, how much this was going to cost me, and would I ever get back to Lichtenfels and the 102nd. Came the final obligatory demand, "What's your name, rank, serial number and outfit, soldier?"
Mind racing desperately, I hit upon some Polish lessons Stan Pokorski had tried to give me while whiling away the long hours. "Nie rezumie", I blurted, meaning "I don't understand."
The lieutenant's jaw must have settled to one button above his belt buckle as the major smiled and said "You'll find a lot of these Polish DPs around in old GI uniforms, Lieutenant."
I let it go without pushing for authenticity by begging a cigarette.
Oh yes, I checked with the MPs very soon after that and was directed to St. Lazare Station (I'd come in at Gare du Sud) inasmuch as the train for Le Havre for the ferry would leave from there. As soon as I walked in, I was hailed by my new buddy who had sheperded all my impedimenta as well as his own. Had I not turned up then, he would have turned it all over to the MPs. We did see London; we did see Glasgow, and, coming back, we did see Paris under better conditions.
And the moral, kiddies, is: "A little knowledge isn't always a dangerous thing. Sometimes it can save your ass!"
----- Bob Smith
(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.)
12 January 2005.
A photo of Co. A., 2nd Platoon, 407th Regiment, 102nd Division. This image is on a page that is dedicated to Mr. Edward Marchelitis, Sr., by his daughter Carol. Most of the men in the photo taken on December 20, 1943 are identified on the back of the image.
To view the photo of Co. A., 2nd Platoon, 407th Regiment as well as other photos of Edward Marchelitis, click on the image above.
The family of Mr. Marchelitis is seeking information on his platoon.
A special Thank You is extended to the daughter of Edward Marchelitis, Sr., Carol Marchelitis Heppner.
Interested in some background information?
Check out the related links below...
The above story, "My Furlough Story", by Bob Smith, Co. K, 407th., was originally published in the 102d Division "Ozark Notes", Vol. 43, No. 3, Spring 1991, pp. 3 - 4.
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 18 November 2003.
September 5, 2002.
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