Then, as it worked out, the next 10 days the 6th Armored was on our north and 4th Armored on our south, we again were the lead Infantry as we closed into the infamous area near Weimar - Buchenwald - a major slave and killing camp and one of the largest. My role was beyond anything I could ever have imagined and I thank God to have had a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity of rescuing some of His Chosen people. Being with Division Headquarters contact with our Cavalry became frequent. My attitude changed 100% to the better as I realized how effective these men were in combat. My traveling with them was now to begin.
Again, it became my job to go on a Recon Patrol and find a suitable Division command post. I didn't make these decisions, but understood we were looking for a small town where we could set up a perimeter defense at night. The Recon Command Car, as we called it, was equipped about half again larger than a Jeep. It had 6 wheels in tandem and oversized tires, and two drivers sat in the open, side by side in the front. A simple machine gun ring mount allowed one gunner to fire in almost a full circle. I was used to sitting on the back facing rear in order to cover the gunner with my B.A.R. No effort was made to shield ourselves. This was an open car. The Recon Men liked what my rifle could do. A very good arrangement, except I had virtually nothing to hang on to while bouncing along at up to 50 miles an hour. Each one of us took pride in what our part of the whole picture was. I never would have preferred to be a driver. My attitude was to give answering fire and I was determined never to be a prisoner. Traveling fast it wasn't long before, I would guess, we had gone about 5 miles. Enemy troops were in the countryside and woods, but were avoided by our speed. Soon in front of us was a town, with a beautiful small church, curbed streets, sidewalks, tree lined, and looked like any residential street in St. Paul, Minnesota. As we roared in, I fully expected our drivers to turn around and quickly withdraw, with the Machine Gunner firing for effect as we drove in and I would fire on the way out. The Blitz in reverse. A block or two was traveled before I realized there was no resistance and everywhere it was too quiet. The Command Car came to a halt and we formed a patrol on foot to find out what was going on. Taking the point, I continued along the main street and watching the flanks had covered a distance of several blocks before confronting my first target. It turned out to be a woman who was staring hard at me. A relief came over me as I had almost squeezed off a burst of three rounds. Her look was not of fear. Ignoring her for the time being, I noticed a large gate which was swung open and left that way. German guards had fled earlier. I could detect the odor that only could be associated with human decay. I hurried to be the first to go into a "Stallag".
(At the time this word was not in our vocabulary.)
The sight is beyond description, and the hundreds of slave prisoners were totally helpless. Three were American soldiers, prisoners just able to get to their feet. The others seemed only able to move their eyes in a pleading manner. They were in bunks stacked three high tilted lengthwise to permit drainage. There were no toilet facilities. I looked carefully in disbelief! This is the cruelest form of torture. We had no prior knowledge that this atrocity was happening. I was outraged and filled with anger just able to be in control. The Lord witnessed to me, and my heart pounded inside my chest. No one had to explain what had happened or who these people were. "Therefore lift up your prayer for the Remnant (of His people) that is left". Isaiah 37:4. The book of Isaiah was coming alive to me. Here was a remnant that needed to survive. We couldn't offer any food as they obviously would be harmed by it. "Quick get the Medics"! To avoid showing emotions was very difficult. I thought it was important not to at this time. I was looking at skin and bones. Their strength was gone. They could speak only with their eyes.
I escorted the three GI's out of the Stallag and tried to walk them toward our rear lines. They were unable to comprehend. Our Headquarters was notified right away, and later we found a new place for Division C.P. (Command Post). A feeling relief came over me as I left the area knowing our guys in the rear would take proper care of these people. I had concluded correctly, the woman's expression was guilt.
(My daughter Janet and sister Karen traveled this way 24 years later and described the fact that it seemed to become darker as they traveled further east. I had experienced this earlier and realized the "Light" was growing dimmer as God's chosen people were suffering the Holocaust. If you don't believe this, please tell me a better explanation.)
It became obvious that resistance would be less, but Germans continued to be very unpredictable, still capable of hate. Ahead was Zeitz and stubborn resistance. Here in the area of Zeitz, hundreds of prisoners were caged behind our barbed wire fences. Would you expect that two of our guards were found fast asleep while on duty? It's true we had, at most, four hours of continuous sleep, however, no excuses were tolerated for this kind of neglect of duty. Now I was assigned to guard two of our own G.I.'s (not in the Honor Guard). What a shame. While they sat on the ground and were humbled, no allowance was made for them to so much as move a muscle. How quickly they lost my respect and I became resolved to do anything necessary to control them. A Court Marshall would follow. On entering another small town, posters were placed declaring Marshall Law and there would be no civilians on the street after 5:00 p.m. Most of our troops left and for a while we were very thin as occupiers. The German's began to form a crowd in the town square with hissing, spitting and defiance. It was up to two of us to interrupt this defiance. I walked right into the crowd to intimidate them. It didn't have any effect. Now it was too late to un-sling my B.A.R. from my shoulder and I felt pressure from these civilians. By grace, I cocked my rifle and fired it using my thumb on the trigger. The rounds went straight up and the crowd dispersed post haste. It even surprised me. It must have looked like my helmet was afire! As it was dusk, I was left standing in the square with three little boys; maybe they were 6, 7 and 8. Our eyes met and each one displayed a sick grin, a strange look of questioning and sadness. The look of orphans, I was sure. It was the first time I cried.
(At this time I felt a gnawing feeling concerning these boys. This feeling remained until 35 years later when Nora and I went to work for 10 years at Arizona Boys Ranch.)
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