Reassignment and Recap.
In deep snow using my poncho and creating dead air space around me, it was possible to keep warm and sheltered only a short distance from the enemy who instead of living in the open as we were, found shelter in a building or sheltered foxhole. Early a.m. we would attack and had the advantage. Patton wrote later he could hardly believe how we did survive. Rain and snow meant nothing to us as it repelled very naturally from our helmets. Wool gloves were critical and flexing my left hand became a habit to keep circulation for my trigger finger. Socks were a serious problem and I did go a month before changing once. The fibers clung to my feet and had to be carefully plucked from my raw toes. We did get shoe packs (rubber boots with leather uppers) in February, but could have used them earlier in January. Our supply lines were never the less excellent. "c" rations were two cans; one of dog food and one with about six biscuits, hard as rocks. "K" rations; a box the size of a pound of butter containing a small round can of ham and cheese or chopped beef. Also, four small crackers and several hard sugar candies were included. "D" rations were of chocolate; bars with vitamins and minerals. If not eaten too often the taste was good. It was seldom we could supplement our diet. Once I found a can of Portuguese canned fish. We learned to attack a town early in the morning to get to the hen house, so eggs were available occasionally. I learned to suck eggs at this time. One morning I boiled four eggs in a can on a small stove. Two were three minute eggs, the other two were extremely hot and hard to handle, because they were made of glass! Don't know why, but I put them back in the hen house. In time I realized that my diet was not right because I threw away the "hard" biscuits in the "C" rations. To solve the problem I began to soak them in apple cider and the result was like eating paste! In every cellar, liter bottles of sweet cider was available and also jars of pale colored cherries. This improved diet caused me to gain weight, up to 180 lbs. Always on the move this body weight was solid.
One day our platoon gained the high ground overlooking a small town. Another platoon was to attack as we gave support from above. What a surprise as our Supply Sgt. came up to deliver some mail. Mom had sent a package made of a waxed milk container. It was no small effort on her part. Near the bottom of the box was some unpopped popcorn. This was planted around my foxhole and I would guess the local farmer would be surprised in the spring.
A couple of Medics came up from the rear to inspect our feet. Quickly we alternated taking off one boot each. It was no small effort to try to remove my sock. My toes were raw and I was careful to show them to a medic as he passed by. Calling after him, he said, "Toes do not matter, I'm only looking at heals"! I put my wet sock back on and forgot about being pulled out. This was the only physical inspection we had the year I was away.
I learned to pack "D" rations (3) in the lining of my field jacket. Being a chocolate food concentrate bar, they were kept warm riding on my fanny. In combat, twice I had more energy than buddies because of this. It is hard to imagine not bathing for a month at a time though. This is how it was, but shaving was a must and to be erect carrying yourself in a military manner was a high priority. This kept us sharp and improved morale. No " excuses were accepted. I learned how to sleep while standing against a building even for a short time. I learned to be confident while in the attack watch for opportunity to flank the enemy and realized that I could think in micro-seconds as my B.A.R. was overwhelming them. I learned also to demonstrate control of prisoners by getting in their faces without hesitation. I was not alone in learning these things. Before experiencing 100% casualties, 2nd platoon had accomplished more than any other and I could never expect to be in a better unit. Much thanks to Lieutenant Spiller. Our ratio of casualties would be a hundred to one in my mind.
Looking toward reassignment didn't take long as a decision was made to make up a permanent "Honor Guard" at Division Headquarters. It would mostly involve displaced Soldiers who became separated from their units. This included me. I would continue in this assignment for the next 5 months. Headquarters Personnel treated me like royalty and I felt 10 ft. tall. Being in contact with Division personnel presented a whole new perspective to me. I found none who were interested to experience battle first hand. Although I'm convinced they were able to defend in case of the need to do so. It seemed there was an invisible line to cross each time I joined the Cavalry and we once again exposed ourselves to the enemy. My goal was always the same. Hurry to finish the conflict. Returning to Headquarters gained renewed respect, however, I felt it necessary to not display a false pride.
I found a friend who was in a position to get me some hot poop. I also was able to get information from the clerk of "G" Company, my former outfit. So much of the information, I really didn't want to hear. PFC Sterns had been killed. Also, Ernsburger had become a casualty as were so many others, that my heart was especially heavy at this time. Our Division Headquarters was constantly being advanced as we moved toward Koblenz, crossing the Mossell River a couple of times, as it was winding toward the north. The Honor Guard was used to go ahead and find a suitable small community that we could defend with a perimeter defense at night. One day we came to a suitable area and because a short wall surrounded the town I found myself back into combat. German signs were posted in both languages, "Verboten", enter at risk of death, and other "B.S." This caused me to become angry and I started to double time as we entered on foot. The capture didn't take too long and casualties were light. German prisoners pointed frequently at my glasses. They were surprised to see a soldier with need for them. I smiled an inexpressive smile on each occasion and didn't attempt an explanation. The Germans displayed a normal amount of fear when captured. They were very unpredictable and would no doubt go berserk. To avoid this after having the drop on them I would yell loudly "Vas is los"? The answer was always the same, "Nix is los"! Then we both laughed as pressure was released.
("Vas is los" -"what's the matter"? "Nix is los" -"nothing is the matter".)
This is about all I learned in German vocabulary.
Some prisoners couldn't understand how we could fight so well and not be inspired by a Fuhrer as a leader. How would you explain that our American President was crippled and depended on a wheelchair. What we had and took for granted (and still do) was so precious, FREEDOM. With freedom comes responsibility! (accountable, reliable, distinguishing right from wrong).
The two German Divisions that fought us so hard as we entered Germany were a Mountain Division all dressed in whites as camouflage in the snow, and the second division was German Paratroopers. All were seasoned and there were no Hitler youth involved. The youth were deep into Austria and surfaced later at wars end. Imagine, the German troops did a lot of parades, swimming (all around), and aerobic exercises, and swaggering. I don't have to tell you, but Americans had compulsory gym in high school (why not now?) and played basketball, football, handball, baseball, and gymnastics. Physically we didn't make any apologies. It surely was good to be in the 76th Division. I could not imagine how it would be to oppose us. Germans thought we were the most polite Soldiers in the world.
Entering into so many towns and demanding that civilians leave so we could take over a home or business for our C.P. (Command Post) became routine. Each time these civilians would half bow and curtsy and say, "Donkashane, donkashane". It was their word for thank you, thank you (for not shooting them). Our reply was always the same, "Donkey shit to you too"!
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