Heroes: the Army
"...Occupation duties consisted primarily of necessary guard duty and routine maintenance and normal military duties. Organized athletics were carried out daily to keep morale at a high pitch..."
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
Occupation of Germany
by Joseph Szalay
Occupation began at the end of hostilities in April, 1945. Thousands of prisoners, displaced persons, and various transients had to be fed, housed and cared for until final disposition was made by our military government. General Keating, commanding general of the 102nd Infantry Division, was declared the military governor of the area occupied by the 102nd Infantry Division. It took months to resolve many of the problems that faced our military government. What a nightmare!
There were isolated cases of German youth groups trying to stir up trouble. Some die-hard Nazi's also caused problems but all these groups were soon quelled. We slept with our pistols and rifles loaded and ready in case we needed them in a hurry. The majority of the Germans were glad the war was over and they were ready to cooperate with us.
Our temporary occupation areas were soon replaced with more permanent occupation areas and things began to get down to a more normal routine. Our troops were assigned housing facilities that were available in the area. Kitchen facilities and other military facilities were placed in service. Existing buildings and homes were used for this purpose.
By agreement of our military government with the local German government, we were authorized to hire kitchen help and other necessary help to do certain chores. These people were paid by the local German government with pay based on current hourly wages. This was part of the reparation agreement worked out by our military with the German government. I never did understand this arrangement but these were political decisions that we had no control over.
It was my responsibility to pay these civilian employees at the end of the month. On or about the last day of the month, I would report to the courthouse to pick up the pay. The payroll complete with names, job titles, and pay scale would be ready for me to deliver. I was the paymaster for all the batteries of our battalion and it took me a couple of days to locate the employees at the various battery locations to pay them. This was a happy occasion for these employees since jobs were hard to come by.
Occupation duties consisted primarily of necessary guard duty and routine maintenance and normal military duties. Organized athletics were carried out daily to keep morale at a high pitch.
Local brew-masters were located and arrangements were made to have beer available for the troops. Most every village had a brew-master and usually they were very cooperative. Yeast was a scarce item so we would take the brew-master to the nearest town to scout the black market to buy yeast. We would give the brew-master a part of the yeast for his efforts and that satisfied him.
The 102nd Division band was relieved of most of their normal duties so that they could entertain the troops at night. The troops enjoyed the music as they sipped on their bottles of local beer. The music of the forties, played by the band, certainly made you homesick. If you wanted to cry in your beer you had plenty of buddies to share in your . thoughts of loved ones back home.
Our Division Service Officer was in charge of entertainment of the troops and he managed to get some magician acts, tumbling acts, and various singers to perform for us. Most of these folks were from various European countries. Our unit was never entertained by the USO. I guess we were located too far off the beaten path to justify these entertainers from back home.
We learned that deer were available in the general area where we were located. It didn't take long for our Gl deer hunters to round up a few of their buddies and go hunting. There were plenty of deer available and our hunters would always bring in two or three each time. Usually the local butcher would clean up the deer and prepare it for our cook. That meal was a real treat for our troops.
A locally owned German bakery was located near our quarters. We traded our beer for some homemade bread occasionally- The bread was made from imitation flour but it tasted OK. Practically all local foods were made from imitation ingredients which were referred to as "ERSATZ'. The flour at the local bakery was made from sawdust we were told. ERSATZ coffee looked like weak tea. It tasted like it was made from wood pellets. We lived off Gl rations and did not partake of the local German fare very often. Real food was hard to come by.
We did a lot of bartering with the local folks. Cigarettes were as valuable as gold. A pack of cigarettes could buy a 100 pound sack of potatoes during potato harvest. Semiprecious jewelry could be bought for a pack of cigarettes. Domestic help would be glad to clean your quarters, shine shoes, or do odd jobs for a few cigarettes. Of course, we used some German currency once in a while if our cigarette supply was exhausted. Most of us stil! had some German currency that we had accumulated from various sources during our trek through Germany.
The local folks would rarely accept our military invasion currency. We were paid with this scrip since American money was not authorized to be used. New scrip was issued in each country that we were located in during our stay. It was not unusual to have your billfold with French francs, German marks, and Dutch guilden scrip. You would also accumulate other currencies if you had occasion to visit other countries during your tour of duty.
----- 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, "Occupation of Germany", by Joseph Szalay, 380 FA HQ., was originally published in the 102d Division "Ozark Notes", Vol. 52, No. 4, July/October, 2000, pp. 9-10.
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 2 November 2004.
Story added to website on 3 November 2004.
September 5, 2002.
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Updated on 17 February 2012...1351:05 CST