This installment of Bob’s "Reflections" deals with the overseas period of the 76th Cavalry Reconnaissance Troop. Bob Geberth was a sergeant in HQ platoon with responsibilities for maintaining communications, mostly radios. This excerpt, written in 1996, was retyped and lightly edited by ga 4 March 2004. Omitted is the account dealing with the domestic history of the Troop, prior to embarkation.
Here is an interesting account of the troop’s activities from here on, reported in a document signed by Capt. Stone [commanding officer of 76 Recon] which George Arnstein uncovered at the National Archives at Suitland [relocated to College Park, MD], Maryland; along with other reports. I have a copy [now available on the web at www.76thdivision.com]
Ed Illes also wrote a very interesting and enjoyable account of the troop’s stay overseas, which many of you have [also on the web], so it does not bear repeating. My purpose in writing the present account was to set down personal observations and thoughts of that time, not to report a day by day history. Since the Troop was pretty much split up, with each platoon covering different areas and sectors, it became apparent that we all have different stories and memories to tell. At the reunions it became very evident, that most of the stories are of the better times and you only wish that our comrades that have died could be here now to share in these memories.
Wilbur (Zielke, known as "Zero") and I spent a lot of time going from one platoon to the other, working with the radios that were not working or ones that had to be retuned. We filled in where needed and this led us to become quite involved with each platoon because they were always on the move. Wilbur’s jeep ("lack of nookie") covered a lot of territory and sure caught hell.
I remember that we were running out of parts to keep the radios going and Capt. Stone detailed Wilbur and me with his jeep to proceed to the rear where the Signal Corps had a depot to secure the necessary parts. All went well on the trip there and we spent the night there. Early the next morning we left and on the way we were brought to a stop by a huge tree that someone had felled across the road. Being ever mindful of mines, we checked the tree out as carefully as we could and then made a big, wide detour around the area through the fields on our right. Will and I still wonder about that road block.
Once we were in a convoy lead by Lt. Rainey, heading through a valley, when all of a sudden 88’s [German flak guns which also could be used horizontally as anti-tank guns] started to bracket the fields on each side of the road. You can imagine the reaction when Lt. Rainey stopped the convoy and called back to "button up". Luckily, we got the hell out of there real fast and unharmed.
We were thankful for the smokehouses we found in the back of chimneys of the farmhouses. They provided us with a variety of smoked hams and bacon. It was a good thing that there were plenty of eggs and chickens available and small pigs to go around. Some of the fresh killed meat was like shoe leather, but it was a change from canned "C" rations. Many a house would have a nice array of chocolates and other goodies spread out on the table, but these we approached with extreme caution, because in most cases they were booby trapped with mines.
One night while on guard duty in Weidig, Luxembourg; it was pitch black when all hell broke loose. We thought a German tank was barreling into the area but the brakes on one of our M 8’s [armored car] had given way; and it came rolling down the road ending up in a ditch. They tell us of how many cows were killed at night because they wandered into some sentry’s path and didn’t know the password.
There was always a plentiful supply of wine, schnapps and calvados; and I remember an instance when the water cans were filled with apple jack; this made for much merriment. Some of the wine cellars were well stocked and once we even found an old pinch bottle of Scotch. One cellar that we looked into was loaded with old champagne.
I recall at Easter time that Wilbur and I were so cruddy, that when we were in the vicinity of a small lake we stripped down and took a bath. The water was so cold, but it felt so good to be reasonably clean again.
After VE day, around May 15th at Limbach [Saxony] I awoke in the morning with very severe chest pains and was evacuated to a field hospital near Gera. From there I was air evacuated by a C 47 to Rheims, France. From there I was put on a hospital train and taken to Nancy, France where I was admitted to a rather large general hospital. To this day I do not know what kept that C 47 from tearing itself apart. We could see daylight through the cabin. From there on life got rather interesting. They performed all kinds of tests and didn’t come up with too many answers. We were told that we were to be airlifted to the States.
Well this never happened. Eventually, I along with quite a few others, was discharged to a holding area for shipment to the States. After a couple of weeks of lying around, doing nothing but eating and sleeping, I asked the CO [commanding officer] if there wasn’t something I could do. (I learned, as all GI’s do, never to volunteer but this life was getting boring and nothing was happening.) He told me to pick a squad of six men, draw a jeep from the motor pool, and report to the sgt. in charge of a small village just outside of the camp. I was to relieve his squad and take over as police chief. The town was like a ‘T’ with a bar at each end of it. It was a frequent stopping off point for GI’s coming over from the States for occupation duty.
This proved to be a very interesting, and sometimes a big problem for us between the drunks and all the black market activities. This lasted to sometime around the middle of September when I was assigned to the 354th Infantry regiment, Company A, 89th Division; for shipment home.Return to Front Page