Across the Rhine
It took nine days to leave the Mosselle and get to the Rhine. Each day and night felt like a lifetime. At St. Goar the 76th patrolled a long length of the Rhine River and were very much spread out. A pontoon bridge was built across this granddaddy of rivers and advance shock troops were sent across. I was on a truck and we drove to the bridge. I observed the 76th along the shore line and it made me proud. Without notice, our truck drove on to the pontoons and the Honor Guard was moving across first, kinda weird. Patton came across later in a Jeep, stopped in the middle, and took a leak in the Rhine. The 76th was now the 3rd Division north of Frankfort. During the next 3 weeks we were partly sheltered by being involved with 4 infantry divisions of ours criss-crossing each other. Traveling through the north edge of Frankfort gave a new perspective of Germany. Many warehouses and factories. I entered into one warehouse and was happy to find new clothes. Carrying a small backpack I had accumulated three Luggers and two P-38 pistols. Without hesitation I threw the hand guns away and carried a stack of girls petty coats (used as under shirts) and a couple of piles of women's pink panties (size large and made of cotton). This allowed many changes and I felt much cleaner for a couple of months.
Division Headquarters did lag behind the 304th Regiment, and as a result I became aware of our rear support troops. Upon capturing an Air Field our troops set up some anti-aircraft guns and would spend sometime in the area. The Air Field was a large training station and the buildings were permanent stone structures. Our high ranking officers took over various offices in one building including those up on the third floor. The Germans had captured a number of our P-40 aircraft. Patton issued an order that no American pilots using P-40's would fly over the 3rd Army. He would avoid shooting down our own planes if he could. My job at the air base was to observe and guard. Unexpectedly, German pilots flew over and then strafed the buildings. The word was so obvious "take cover". I stood outside and observed as the planes made passes. When the building I was guarding was hit I stepped into a doorway for shelter and felt safe before going back outside to observe again. One of our Major Officers was jumping down stairs one at a time. He had been using the toilet upstairs and didn't take time to pull up his pants before descending the stairs. Anyone in the building was safe from being hit. This is the second time I found an Officer with his pants down.
I observed that near a hangar was a small single place airplane that appeared strange. It had no propeller but simply an empty hole instead. We pondered quite a while to conclude this indeed was a jet aircraft. Realize the enemy was ahead of us in this area. What a surprise and we talked of being glad if the war would end soon.
I was not worn out or feeling down but experiencing the effort it takes to press forward against a strong enemy. Surprise came from the rear in the form of the "Stars and Stripes" (Army newspaper) was being circulated. There was only time to look at the headlines and study the current battle map. Arrows pointed east and represented the entire front. Quickly I found the one furthest into Germany and knew that we were leading the way. To see this in print was meaningful and the only time I reviewed the paper while overseas.
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