Heroes: the Army
"...Can you imagine living in a civilized country and not having anything to do with the local people? It didn't take long for the GIs to get acquainted with the local folks..."
Joseph J. Szalay
- Branch of Service: Army
- Unit: 380th FA Btn.,
102nd Infantry Division
- Dates: 1942 - 1945
- Location: European Theater
- Rank: CWO, Bronze Star Medal
- Birth Year: 1925
- Entered Service: Paris, TX
Non-fraternization policy violated
Joseph Szalay, FA-HQ-3
Our mail had been censored since we left Fort Dix, NJ in September, 1944. I don't know why our letters to our families in the States would contain information that the enemy could use.
Why would soldiers going overseas write something that would give comfort to the enemy? How would the enemy even have the opportunity to get to the mail that we were sending to our families? I'm sure there were spies in the States getting information on troop movements and other military information, but I don't think any soldier going overseas would be in possession of this information. We were not allowed to write about our activities regarding the time and place of departure.
After we landed in Europe, we knew the Germans had information about our trip overseas. The German radio kept us informed of our troop movements. These programs were in English, and Berlin Sally would play popular music to entertain our troops. She would also tell us that the Germans knew when our Division left the States and when we landed.
Berlin Sally kept reminding us that we were fighting the war for the French and English and they did little to help the cause. She would remind us that our girl friends and wives were going out with other men while we were fighting the war. All this was being done to break the morale of our troops.
Propaganda, in the form of leaflets were shot out of their long range guns to land where our troops were located. These leaflets would have pictures of scantily-clad women entertaining the draft dodgers back home. They also had pictures of girls having a great time at local bars with men who avoided the draft.
We also sent propaganda leaflets to the Germans to break their morals. They were told they were giving up their lives to satisfy the madman Adolf Hitler. I'm sure there were many diehard Germans, but as the war moved forward, many German soldiers had doubts about giving up their lives for "Der Fuhrer." Toward the end of the war, the German soldiers were glad to surrender to the American troops instead of being taken prisoner by the Russians. They feared the Russians because they knew that if captured, they would get a oneway ticket to Siberia.
About April 1945, the Allies were rapidly advancing to the Elbe River, which was to be the final drive to defeat the Germans. The civilians were aware that the war was rapidly coming to an end. Some of the German families that lived in the area were ready to become friendly with the American troops.
The Allied commanders didn't want us to get friendly with the local Germans since there were some diehards who would cause a lot of trouble. Gen. Eisenhower ordered a "non-fraternization" policy in order to keep our troops safe from the hard-cord arrogant Nazis. I don't remember if the non-fraternization policy was even lifted, but I do remember that it didn't work.
Immediately after the end of the war, most of the troops were placed on occupation duty. During this time our military government took over the various responsibilities of governing the locals. We were given the authority to hire kitchen personnel to assist with various duties normally carried out by our own troops. Our personnel were relieved of these duties so they could perform guard duties and other essential military duties.
Since we had dealings with the local government, it was necessary to fraternize to carry out these duties. Can you imagine living in a civilized country and not having anything to do with the local people? It didn't take long for the GIs to get acquainted with the local folks.
They were anxious to sell their services to us. Their tailors made riding clothes for our GIs who rode horses in their spare time. The shoemaker made boots for our cowboy types.
There was a lot of bartering going on. We traded a pack of cigarettes for a 50-pound sack of potatoes during potato harvest. We traded German marks (which we had managed to accumulate during the war) for various goods and services.
I guess we violated the non-fraternization policy but managed to survive.
----- Joseph Szalay
(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
The above story, "Non-fraternization policy violated", by Joseph Szalay, FA-Hq-3., was originally published in the 102d Division "Ozark Notes", Vol. 54, No. 2, Jan/March. 2002, pp. 10 - 11.
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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Updated on 17 February 2012...1351:05 CST