Dad goes to war Part 3
By Lynn K. Juckett
During the Battle of the Bulge our division was transferred out of the 1 st army and put in the Ninth Army under Gen. Montgomery.
During this time our Division operated a rest center where about a 100 men from our regiments would stay over night. First they would be taken to a quartermaster shower point and there they would get a shower and clean clothes. After they had their shower they would bring them back to the rest center and feed them real good meals and let them see a couple of movies. This also gave them a chance to write letters and get a haircut which Benny and I had to give. We didn't mind this too much as we would eat the good meals and watch the shows. None of them wanted to get their hair cut during the movie, so Benny and I would watch the movies too. The rest center was located in a 3 story school house which was about a half a mile down the street from our office. The other men in our section would have to cover our work in the office for us while we cut hair. They never knew how easy Benny and I had it.
Occasionally a German plane would strafe our area. I was walking down the road on Dec. 27th when a German plane came strafing and a bullet lit in the road about 20 feet from me I picked up and kept it for a souvenir. On Jan. 1 the Germans flew about 8 or 9 planes all in a line abreast and give us a good strafing. Three men were hit at the rest center. The men were about 15 feet from me. They were waiting to get their hair cut.
By Jan.29 the bulge in our lines had been straightened out and our Division resumed it's attack with the Schwammenauel dam as it's objective. The weather had turned spring like and the snow had melted. We had to contend with mud now, especially our vehicles, as they churned the roads into a river of mud. Our division closed the rest center and the 18'th Corp took it over and they changed it into a field hospital.
We moved to Roetgen Germany on Feb.8. This was a town about the same size as Raeren. We set up our office in a farm house that was in the town. On the back end of the house was the barn. You could step right out of the kitchen into the barn. It still had cows in it which some Germans took care of. The house itself didn't have any furniture in it. I think that it had been used by other American troops before we had got there. Our cooks set up the kitchen in a ruined factory about a block down the street. It had been a factory where they made cloth for suits. Part of the roof was gone and all of the windows had been blown out from bombing or shelling. Our Colonel thought that the part in which we ate was too drafty with the windows blown out so he made George Roper and me find boards and board them up. While we was looking for boards we came across a church that was being used as a grave collection point. There were quite a few dead soldiers both American and German lying in the church yard. There were also some stretchers leaning against a stone wall. I found one that wasn't blood stained and carried it around the rest of the time that we were in combat to sleep on. It kept me off a lot of floors.
During the time that we were in Roetgen I got a couple of passes to Liege Belgium. While I was on one of these passes I seen a Shirley Temple show and all of the talking was in French. It amazed me that they could find some one with a voice that sounded like Shirley Temple's to dub in the talking in French. Our work was fairly routine, but lots of it. The work consisted of ordering replacements, classifying them, transferring them, making out morning reports and etc.
We moved from Raeren to Wollershiem on the 7'th of March because our Division was advancing. The Division had captured the Schwammenauel dam and had crossed the Roer river. We moved by truck as usual. On the way to Wollershiem we passed through the towns of Lammersdorf, Konzen, and Schmidt. These towns was really torn up. They had been captured by the 78íTh. We crossed the Roer river at Niedeggen. There was lots of dead livestock, mine fields, you could see the mines where they had been buried in the snow and was now lying on top of the ground, and ruined military equipment both ours and German. When we got to Wollershiem the town was still smoking and was in ruins. There was lots of dead Germans still lying around. The town itself was smaller than Raeren and had been quite well fortified with trenches and fox holes all around it. While we were there some of us went searching the dead Germans looking for pistols. I never found one, but I did find a nice mauser rifle which I sent home.
We were only in Wollershiem 3 days, because our Division was advancing so fast. On the 10íTh of March we moved to Altendorf. We had a pretty good set up there. The town was hardly touched. We had our office in another farm house. The owners of this house must have been pretty well off financially as they had a grand piano, real oil paintings, an electric refrigerator, and nice furniture. They also had tractors besides horses to farm with. We slept in another farm house about a couple blocks away. It wasn't nearly as nice. We didn't stay to long in Altendorf. One thing that I remember about Altendorf was that when we got ready to leave I ran some strip maps showing the route to the next town where we would set up our Headquarters. My buddy, Edlemann, and I had to deliver them to all of the units in the rear echelon about 15 of them. Each place that we went to deliver them offered us a drink of booze. Each place that we went had a different kind of booze. Anyway by the time we had the maps delivered we was feeling quite high. In fact we felt so good that we made some of the units twice as we had some maps left over. I had a headache for about 3 days as a result and Edlemann was sicker than a dog. I learned my lesson and never got that way again.
In combat our Headquarters was divided into 2 echelons, the forward and the rear. The forward echelon consisted of the General and the general staff. The rear echelon had the General's special staff plus all of our unitís personnel sections. We probably had 200 men in the rear echelon and our Colonel, the adjutant general was in command. He made us do a lot of things besides our office work. He had some of us run some generators that were on trailers and rig up wiring so that we could have electricity. He had us doing rough carpentry work like boarding up windows or doors so we wouldn't be so cold. He always had Benny and me cutting hair. Some times some of our units in the division would be assigned to another division and some times other units would be assigned to our division to help us attack our objective.
On the same day that we moved to Wollershiem the 9'th armored division reached the Ludendorff bridge at Remagen. The bridge spanned the Rhine River and they found it intact and immediately began to cross it. One of our battalions from the 310íTh regiment had been assigned to the 9íTh armored and crossed. The following day the rest of the 78íTh was ordered to cross the bridge and all of the division went across there except the rear echelon and we stayed in Altendorf. While we were there the Germans would try to bomb the bridge and our anti aircraft guns would shoot at the German planes. Then the shrapnel from our guns would come down on the roofs of the houses in Altendorf. Our vehicles were backed up bumper to bumper clear back to where we were, waiting to cross the river. It was probably 4 or 5 miles to the river.
It took our army about 10 days to start advancing again after they had crossed the river as the Germans tried desperately to contain us and drive us back across the river. The Rhine was the German's last line of defense and from there it was a clear shot right into the center of Germany. The rear echelon moved to Bonn on the 21'st of March. We had to wait there for a bridge across the Rhine to be completed. The Engineers were building a pontoon bridge under the cover of a smoke screen. The Germans was shelling it while it was being built. We set up our office in a three story apartment house. We slept in the same building. We thought that it was very nice as we slept in a real bed and had hot and cold running water. The German shells would land about a block away, but we were safe from them. Our Colonel had found a walking stick and he would strut around with that. Well we found several of them in our building and we started strutting around too. Some of us even found top hats and we would wear them. The Colonel seen us and threw his walking stick away. We quit using them also.
I got word on the 24íTh of March that my cousin Howard Maurer had been killed in action fighting in Manila in the Philippines. We moved on the 8íTh of April to Eiklehart. I can't remember too much about Eiklehart except the country was beautiful and there was a brewery. The soldiers were going in and out of it like ants in an ant hill. They would come out with 5 gallon cans of beer and when it went flat or empty they would get another one.
Our next move was to a town called Gummersbach. We moved on the 13íTh of April. We set our headquarters in a factory. This factory made half track vehicles for the German army. It was the most modern factory that I had ever seen. It sure beat Oliver's or Kellogg's. Some of its buildings were pretty well demolished from bombing, but a lot of them were still intact. The factory had a swimming pool, an athletic field, a band room, and etc. The swimming pool wasn't usable and most of the band instruments had all ready been looted by the time we took over. We set up our office in the factory's drafting room. We pushed the drafting desks over to one side and brought our field desks in and set them up there.
We did our share of looking for souvenirs or things that we could use. One of our men found a pocket watch in one of the desk drawers and wound it up and put it in his pocket. He didn't know that it had an alarm on it. After he had it in his pocket for a while the alarm went off and he jumped about 2 feet in the air as he thought that he was going to be blown up. We had all been shown training films on booby traps that warned us not to pick up fountain pens, cameras, and etc. as they might be booby trapped. He thought sure that the watch was a booby trap.
While I was in Gummesrsbach I got a 3 day pass to Paris France. I left for Paris on the 20íTh. They took us to Viviers, Belgium by truck and from there we went by train to Paris. It wasn't to pleasant riding on the train as our coach had most of its windows blown out and we like to freeze to death especially at night. I had a good time in Paris. I stayed at the Grand Central Club Annex. It was right in the center of the down town and run by the Red Cross. Here I must put in a good word for the Red Cross. It only cost 50 cents a night. The Red Cross ran these kinds of places in all of the major cities of Europe. A lot of veterans run the Red Cross down. They say that they had to pay for every thing that they got from the Red Cross instead of being grateful for a clean cheap place to stay.
While I was in Paris I took a guided tour of the city and seen all of the main sights. I also took in some shows. I seen a live performance of Rose Marie in a real nice theater the fanciest one that I had ever seen before. The talking and singing was in French. I also saw Glen Miller's Air Force band. Glen Miller had all ready been killed though. It was led by Ray Mckinley. They still sounded great.
You couldn't go any where on foot after dark but what you would be propositioned by prostitutes. You could argue with them about the prices and even feel the merchandise. While I was on my pass to Paris the rear echelon moved to Dillenberg. Our office was set up in a school house and we had lots of room. While we were there the Germans began to tell us that the war was over. After the 78íTh crossed the Rhine and had started to advance again they headed north into the Ruhr valley, which is the industrial part of Germany. There the 78íTh and about 8 other divisions surrounded a German army. The Germans fought quite hard at first and then they surrendered in droves until the whole army had surrendered. They called this battle the Ruhr pocket.
I saw a field where about 50,000 German soldiers were being held. There was a machine gun set up at each corner of the field. The field had a small stream that ran through the middle of it and the Germans would stand in line for hours to get a drink in it or to wash in it. Our guards wasn't to gentle with them either. I saw one guard smash a German in the small of his back with his rifle butt. The guards that was loading the prisoners into trucks would beat them with canes to make them crowd back in the trucks so that more of them could be loaded on. After the Germans surrendered in the Ruhr pocket our division didn't do much fighting just a little mopping up. We just stood by and let the Russians capture Berlin. This is why the Germans were telling us that the war was over.
On the 5íTh of May I went to Brussels Belgium on liquor
Detail to get the officer's liquor ration. There were about 10 of us on the detail. Our colonel sent more of us then was needed just so we could see Brussels. We had 3 full nights and 2 days there. I found it wilder then Paris. They had more and bolder prostitutes there. On the way back one of the men, a cook was so drunk that he had passed out. When we got back to our company he was still out and they had to send him to the hospital where he died. I used to loan him money and he would give me snacks from the kitchen. I could get cheese, bread, eggs, cold cuts, and etc. from him. I really missed him.
We moved to a town called Treysa on the 27'th of May. We had a real good set up here. We had our offices and sleeping quarters in houses. My buddy Edlemann and I had a room by ourselves. In fact 7 of us had a 5 room apartment. We also began to get German beer here. Our army furnished the ingredients and a German brewery made the beer. We were in Treysa until June 11, 1945 and then we moved to Bad Wildungen. We set up in a hotel here. The town of Bad Wildungen was a resort town its main attraction was mineral baths. It had several hotels that catered to this sort of trade. Before the war these hotels were real plush. The one we set up in had a swimming pool, tennis courts, band shell, bridle paths for horseback riding, steam rooms, massage rooms and about every thing else that you could imagine. Before we took the hotel over the Germans had used it for a hospital and all of the furnishings was gone. The name of the hotel was the Staatle Badehotel.
We had our offices and sleeping quarters in the same hotel. During this period of time we werenít allowed to fraternize with the Germans. We couldn't even shake hands with them and it was forbidden to be seen with a German girl. The officers of our headquarters had a hotel down the street it had about 40 rooms in it and 40 maids. We all wondered why the officers needed so many maids.
On July 3, I got a three day pass to Valkenberg Holland. This was a religious town and they had big meetings there every summer and they had lots of hotels to cater to this crowd. The army took over one of these hotels and had a rest center there. It rained most of the three days that we were there. The best thing that I can say for the town was that there was some good beer there. We were supposed to go back to the division on Saturday, but our truck broke down and we had to stay in a transient camp at Kerchrade Holland until the 17íTh. It turned out to be quite a lengthy 3 day pass. Kerchrade was as nice as Valkenberg. We stayed in a Catholic monastery. It looked to me as if the Nuns did all of the work and the priests just studied and loafed. We could travel to several different towns as they were all connected by trolley lines. We drew a weeks supply of PX rations every day. We would sell them off on the black market and use the money for a good time.
While I was on my pass to Holland the Division moved to Hofgiesmar. This was a move back about l50 miles. The territory that we had just captured became part of the British zone of occupation. Hofgiesmar was a town of about 10.000 and didn't suffer too much damage from the war. According to the rumor mill we were supposed to be there quite a while. We were quartered in a German Kaserne or fort. The buildings were brick. The heating plant didn't work so we set up tent stoves and stuck the smoke pipe out the window. We had about 6 men to a room and slept on canvas cots.
We began basic training all over again as we was preparing to go and fight Japan. The no fraternization rule was still on and we couldn't be friendly with the Germans. In spite of this rule one of my buddies, Bob Allen, got me a date with his fraulien's girl friend and we used to sneak out at night and call on them. Her name was Erna Heybach. One night the MPís saw me go into her house and they knocked on the door to search it. She showed me a hole in the ceiling of a closet that went up into the attic, from there you could get into the hay loft. We hid there until the MPís left. Then I dropped down into the barn and sneaked out the back way and never got caught. We had a real good time in the hay loft though.
On Aug. 15 we got 3 days off in a row. Aug. 15íTh was the division's third anniversary of being reactivated. On the 16'th we heard that Japan had quit fighting and we got that day off and on the 17'th it was the official surrendering date and we got that day off. There wasn't any big celebration and very few got drunk celebrating.
The army quit our training program for the invasion of Japan and started an information and education program. Under this program you could take educational courses. The army provided instructors and books. They also had a lot of athletics to keep the troops busy. The main military task that we had for the division was guard duty. Our office was just as busy as ever transferring men with high points to go home and receiving replacements for them. The Army had a point system based on the time served, medals earned, and your family status. The ones with the most points got to go home first. I took a course in German during this time. Our instructor was a German high school teacher from Dusseldorf. Our course was cut short though as his school in Dusseldorf reopened after about 3 weeks. I learned more German from fraternizing than from him.
I enjoyed my stay in Hofgiesmar. It was good deer hunting there, the surrounding woods were full of deer and I enjoyed the fraternizing. The Commanding General of the 78'th division, Major General Edwin P. Parker, was on the 15'th of Sept. transferred to the 23'rd Corp. as the commander. He was replaced by Major General Ray Barker. I always liked General Parker. He was strict and made us train hard, but was fair. When we were in the states he always seen that we got furloughs.
Our Division was assigned occupation duties we were to send 2 regiments to Berlin and 1 regiment to Bremmen. On the 16th of November the Division moved to Berlin. The city was really torn up from all of the fighting and bombing that took place. The people were really suffering from lack of shelter and food. Our quarters were quite nice. We were put up in apartment buildings all on the same street. I can't remember the name of the street. The apartments hadn't suffered too much damage, that is why chose them. We didn't even have to clean them as we had German maids to do it. Our headquarters was in the Telefunken factory and it was a couple of miles away.
I had a good time there though. Our company ran a couple of Beer Gardens for the enlisted men. One was for the Corporals and Privates and one was for the Sergeants. I would go to both of them. I would go with one of my sergeant friends to their club and I would go to the other club because I was a Corporal. These clubs had dance floors and hired German musicians to play for dancing.
At ten o'clock free sandwiches and coffee was served. You could buy beer, cognac, and coca cola anytime the clubs was open which was, 8:00 to 12:00 every night. There were plenty of German girls waiting outside of the clubs waiting for a G.I. to take them to the dance.
I don't think the girls were as interested in dancing as they were the free sandwiches. The people in Berlin were hungry as there was a severe food shortage there. For the girls that was about all of the food they could get and dancing with the G.I.s was a small price to pay.
The black-market was another big deal in Berlin. The German money wasn't any good and trading for cigarettes was the means of monetary exchange. A carton of cigarettes was worth a $120 and a king size carton brought a $150. Back in France and Belgium cigarettes was only $26 a carton. The black marketers would show up every night at our quarters and try to sell us their goods. They had about anything that you would want, such as rings, watches, cameras, binoculars and etc. If they didn't have what you want they brought it the next night.
I bought a gold bracelet with a diamond in it and a amethyst pin while I was there. One of the reasons the price of cigarettes was so high was that the Russian army had the same kind of military script money that we did and when their soldiers was sent back to Russia their army wouldn't change the soldiers money into Russia money, so they would buy cigarettes instead of carrying home a bunch of useless German occupation money.
While we was in Berlin we had more trouble with the Russians than the Germans. The Russian soldiers were a lawless bunch. They would steal German cars and sometime our vehicles. About the only way these Russians could get gas for their stolen cars was to steal it from our vehicles and motor pools. One night one of our guards caught one of the Russians stealing gas and shot and killed him. Our headquarters called up the Russian headquarters and wanted to know what to do with the body. The Russians told our headquarters that it was our problem that we shot him, so the body was put in a truck and driven by the Russian Headquarters and thrown out in front of it.
Some of the sights that I saw in Berlin was the Brandenburg Gate, the Reichchancellery where Hitler died the Reichstag and some other of the German government buildings. I also attended a show in the fanciest theater that I ever was in. It had a restaurant and a night club in it besides the auditorium. When you went to the theater you could have your whole eveningís entertainment there.
I ran the order transferring me and most of my old buddies to the 29'th division as we had enough points to go home and the 29'th was being sent back to the U.S.A. and on the 26'th of Nov. we left Berlin for Bremmen. My stay in Berlin was only for about 10 days.