On to Dresden
Ahead, just off the Autobahn, was the town of Crimmitschau. It was very old and quaint. We were to spend quite a few days here and it sure felt good to experience settling in. Arriving at the middle of town with a few Recon troops there was a beautiful park, well defined, surrounded with trees and walks. Coming through the park was a group of six town officials with the Burgermeister (mayor). They were all dressed in Tuxedos with top hats, and looked very out of place. It finally came to me, that as a few of us nonchalantly waited for them, the officials were formally surrendering the town to me, personally (because of the stance I took). One of theirs stepped out of line to relieve himself in the bushes then quickly returned to take his place. We didn't try hard to make them feel at ease and instead made sure they understood we were totally in control. It was very necessary to demonstrate our strength and determination. At one time we held 30,000 prisoners in the 76th Division area. More than half were prisoners of the 304th Regiment, a ratio of five to one. The Germans gradually became less arrogant and haughty realizing the war was over and they were defeated.
Crimmitschau became comfortable for us as we were billeted in an apartment building and pulled regular guard duty. This was a sizeable town with a population to control. The Germans were impressed, I'm sure, because we practiced non-fraternization. Especially at Division, we didn't speak to citizens and would not respond to any of their questions. After a month, the rule was dropped and normal communication was possible.
Our Division Band had been practicing some serious music and the sound was excellent to hear. Each evening we practiced retreat which included the Honor Guard on parade as the Band marched in front of us. Occasionally whi1e on guard, I could watch this parade. Usually, I was in the middle of it. The easy, confident gait was unmistakable. Sometimes the band would stop abruptly, but the music continued as we all whistled a couple of phrases (unforgettable). Germans lined the streets en-mass. I'm sure this was humbling for them. They were given the message that we were in control and atrocities ended. Earlier some had strung cables across streets and anyone in a jeep would be decapitated. All jeeps and trucks had angle irons welded on the front bumper equipped with a cable cutting hook on the end.
German life style had not changed since the 30's compared to us, our freedom to drive, travel, and in every way be able to up-grade our lives and possessions. Our diet was better also, as our commerce at home had accelerated very much. Germans had a strong work ethic, Americans had production. To illustrate, earlier we were in an industrial town and set up Marshall Law. Next morning two of us were on the street for control and guard. Soon the street filled with civilians. One girl was young and pretty, and stepping up behind her a comment was made. The girl turned and spoke in good English. "Are you enjoying the view"? My answer was, "Yes". I immediately asked if she could tell me where this group of people were going and why are they defying our curfew? She said that they were afraid and didn't know what to do, so they were all going back to work in a factory. The street cleared.
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