Heroes: the Army
"...One of their headquarters was found which contained pictures of Hitler and his staff and numerous pictures of the German troops in parade with all their modern weapons of destruction..."
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
Much Needed Rest Enjoyed Near the Rhine
by Joe J. Szalay
About the fist week of March, 1945 all effective resistance inside Krefeid was withdrawn It was now time for a much deserved rest for all the troops of the 102nd Infantry Division. The next major offensive, crossing the Rhine River, would require several weeks of preparation. Maintenance of vehicles, tanks, guns and other military equipment would be carried out during the next few weeks. Some of the troops would be required to secure the west bank of the Rhine river. The three to five miles from Krefeid to the river was subject to infiltration by the Germans.
The Germans retreated across the Rhine in a hurry and left many of the Nazi memorabilia behind. One of their headquarters was found which contained pictures of Hitler and his staff and numerous pictures of the German troops in parade with all their modern weapons of destruction. I managed to get some of these pictures but they got lost sometime during our many movements to the Elbe River.
We found a post office that was vacated in a hurry by the employees, leaving money in their cash registers. Packages of mail were stacked in piles ready to be sorted and mailed to their destination. We managed to get a handful of German currency, which we thought would be useless since the country would be bankrupt by the end of the war. We kept some for souvenirs and used some after the war for bartering purposes. We attacked the piles of mail with fixed bayonets to see if there was anything of value to be found.
To the victor belongs the spoils but the military did not approve of this idea. We probably would have been court martialed if we were caught looting and destroying civilian goods and property.
An infantry captain was relieved of his command for participating in the streetcar victory ride into downtown Krefeid. (He drove the streetcar.) The charge was conduct unbecoming to an officer and a gentleman.
During the temporary lull in hostilities some of the infantry managed to board the boats that were docked along the Rhine River. The Germans had to leave the boats in a hurry during their retreat and left plenty of liquor and other items for our troops to discover. The prize loot found were gallon jugs of Three Star Hennesy Cognac. Many of the GIs in the infantry managed to get a jug tor their personal use to share with their buddies. All the booze, wine, and cognac had been stolen from the French during the German occupation. Our troops enjoyed this gift from the French people even though we had to steal if from the German military.
Some of the GIs were fortunate enough to get a leave of absence to visit Paris. The trip consisted of about four hours of riding in the back end of a 2 1 / 2 ton truck to Belgium and then a several hour ride on a train to Paris. The military had a hotel that was used to house these GIs during their stay in Paris. Meals were also served without cost at this hotel. This was military chow that was cooked and served by French cooks and waiters, paid by our military. Cigarettes were used to bribe thet waiters to get a second helping of food. One or two cigarettes was all it took. A concert orchestra played dinner music for the evening meal.
Back at Krefeid, plans were being made for the crossing of the Rhine River. Patrols were crossing the river at night on three man boats. This happened to be very hazardous duty since the Germans would send up flares that would light up the sky until it looked like daylight. Then our patrols were sitting ducks. These patrols had to be cancelled because of numerous casualties. The Germans were perched on high ground and could observe every movement of our night patrols. After a few weeks of relative quiet on the west bank of the Rhine River it was time to get ready for the crossing. Dummy tanks and other military equipment partially camouflaged was placed at various strategic points to confuse the enemy. The exact crossing site was to be kept a secret from the Germans. Numerous movements of military traffic all along the river were carried out to further confuse the enemy.
The Rhine Rive crossing by the 102nd Inf. Div. was scheduled to begin the first week in March. Since most of the bridges were damaged or destroyed it was necessary tor the engineers to build a pontoon bridge for the major crossing. Antiaircraft guns and other artillery were concentrated near the crossing to protect the troops and military vehicles.
This was the last major obstacle to overcome in order for our tanks and other mechanized equipment to pursue the German armies to Berlin.
----- Joe 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.)
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The above story, "Much Needed Rest Enjoyed Near the Rhine", by Joseph Szalay, 380 FA HQ., was originally published in the 102d Division "Ozark Notes", Vol. 52, No. 2, Jan/March., 2000, pp. 12.
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 19 October 2004.
Story added to website on 21 October 2004.
September 5, 2002.
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Updated on 17 February 2012...1351:05 CST