CHAPTER IX   CATEGORY FOUR                      [1] prev contents next

 

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CHAPTER IX

CATEGORY FOUR


The downtown square at Limbach, Germany, was already crowded. Soldiers in ranks stood shoulder to shoulder, forming a ring around the plot of grass. Along the sidewalks, against the buildings, were the German civilians. Faces peered out from the windows of houses. In the center of the square there was the tall white flag pole where, not many months before, the nazi flag had flown; the flag to which the townspeople, as one, once paid tribute for what it had brought to Germany. It was just like the flag that once waved above the concentration camps of Dachau and Buchenwald and had flown triumphantly from flagstaffs in France and Norway, in Poland and Czechoslovakia, in every suffering spot where the hobnail boot had trampled. Today, 9 May, there were no nazis -- they had mysteriously vanished with their flag. Only "good" German people, "victims of the nazi reign" were left to witness the event that was soon to take place.

Down the old cobblestone street came the 76th band; the martial music filled the air, resounded between the buildings, bathed the scene in Americans. Close behind dressed in pressed OD's, brass shining in the midmorning sun, marched the men of ONAWAY in the easy-swinging step that marked the Yank the world over. They halted in ranks about the flag pole. Maj Gen Schmidt, accompanied by Brig Gen Woolfley, stepped forward to the base of the pole. A hush fell over the throng as the Commanding General's first words rang out clearly. "Officers and men of the 76th Infantry Division and attached units, we are gathered here to raise the American flag above defeated and conquered Germany." The men listened. This, too, was martial music . . . "The American flag above defeated and conquered Germany" . . . This was the victory song, what they had sacrificed and fought for, what their buddies had died for, and it was the death song for the oppressors of freedom.

But as the men listened they were conscious of a background harshness, a discordancy in the distance that kept up an insistent drumming beat. The war drums of Japan had yet to be stilled.

Gen Schmidt commended the men on their battle record and recounted the sacrifice of ONAWAY infantrymen in 110 days of action. Looking to the future of the division, the Commanding General said, "Where we will go next we do not know as yet. If we are to go to the Pacific, we will go fighting. If we are to remain here, keep on the alert. You are among enemies."

The General had finished his brief talk. Rifles and hands snapped up to present arms and as the band played the National Anthem a soldier hooked the corners of the flag onto the guide rope. Old Glory rose slowly to the top of the pole. The wind caught in its folds, the flag fluttered a moment and then waved majestically in the symbolic boast of victory "Made in America". It was then lowered to half-mast in mourning for the late Commander-In-Chief.

"We are gathered here to raise the American flag
above defeated and conquered Germany" . . . . .

Most of them had been prisoners of the nazis for nearly five years. Held captive in and around a castle at Königstein on the Elbe River south of Dresden, the incarcerated party included fourteen American officers and 134 enlisted men, seventy-three French generals and 750 other French officers and men, five Dutch generals and three other Dutch officers, a Polish captain, and sixty-seven British officers and ten enlisted men. The existence and plight of this party, which included most of the Dutch general staff and three English lords, was revealed to the 76th Division on the night of 10 May when two of the American officers, Maj Laurence Bowlby and Capt John A. Hanson, arrived at the 76th CP to tell of conditions of starvation and disease at the fortress where the ex-prisoners impatiently were awaiting arrangements for removal.

With Königstein now in Russian territory, it was no longer a question of imprisonment but of facilities for the rapid evacuation of the long suffering captives. Beginning 11 May, a party of 76th Division officers and enlisted men commanded by Maj Mark H. Terrel made two seventy-mile trips to complete the evacuation. Because of the possible existence of German pockets of armed resistance in the Russian zone, Maj Terrel's command was referred to as Task Force 76. The Russians, however, had the situation well in hand and the humane mission was accomplished without incident.

French generals brought from the formidable seventeenth century Saxon fortress, from which Gen Giraud escaped in March 1942 included Gen Conde, ranking officer among the ex-PW's, who had commanded the Third French Army and Gen Bourret, commander of the Fifth French Army. Members of the Dutch general staff included Gen Winkelman, commander-in-chief of Holland's land, sea and air forces, two brother generals named G. Baron Van Voorst tot Voorst and H. F. M. Baron Van Voorst tot Voorst, Gen. R. Van den Bent and Gen H. G. Baron Van Lawick. Among the British were Capt the Earl Haig, son of the World War I field marshal, and Capt the Earl of Hopetown, son of Lord Linlithgow a viceroy of India.

Task Force 76 met first Russian troops near Chemnitz.

Dresden civilians watch TF 76 - first Americans in city.

Members of Dutch general staff
prepare to leave castle.

Gen. Conde (seated) was ranking officer among the ex-PW's.

Russian womes MP's at intersection direct returning convoy.

Maj Gen Schmidt receives French flag at formal retreat.

The first French flag to fly over the prison fortress of Königstein was presented to the 76th as a token of appreciation by the French officers and enlisted men. A message accompanying the flag which was sent by Gen Henri Francois said: "In the name of the French generals, officers and soldiers, former prisoners in the fortress of Königstein, I wish to express to you in this manner, regretting that I cannot do so in person, our deep gratitude for having accomplished our evacuation so rapidly and under such favorable conditions.

"We salute the victorious Army of the United States, and especially the 76th Division, the first unit with which we came in contact.

"I ask you to accept as a remembrance, and as a token of our gratitude, the first French flag which flew over the fortress of Königstein."

Duties as occupational troops began immediately for the 76th along with the gigantic task of discharging tens of thousands of prisoners of war, of screening towns for SS troops and war criminals. Even as the troops proceeded with these duties training was begun in Japanese tactics. "The 76th was not for permanent occupation," the doughboys said. "They need experienced divisions in the coming invasion of Japan." It seemed inconceivable that all the power and efficiency of a battle-proved division would be spent by the War Department on occupation. That power and efficiency had not been born overnight.

In the headquarters of the 76th the Commanding General with the Assistant Division Commander and Division Artillery Commander had gathered a hand-picked staff of officers and enlisted men, each one especially trained to coordinate the many functions of the division and to see that orders were carried out quickly and efficiently.

The G's are at the core of division organization, operating directly under the Chief of Staff who supervises and coordinates their activities. Officers heading the G's are also Assistant Chiefs of Staff. G-1 is concerned with personnel. He formulates policy, handles administrative duties, supervises replacements and the disposition of PW's, and checks on soldier morale factors and conditions under which the soldier fights. Lt Col L. H. Walker and later Maj C. M. McCallister were the Division G-1's in Europe.

Special Service activity is conducted under G-1 supervision through the Special Service Officer. Through two and one-half years of training with the Division in the States, the Special Service Officer received invaluable experience in its manifold responsibilities, first under the supervision of Maj Russell C. Cabot who in January 1944 was replaced by Maj Marvin C. Kress.

After V-E Day, with the German bid for international supremacy completely kaput, Special Service overseas came into its own. Teams of Special Service officers and assistants throughout the division provided a free time recreation program that included soldier shows written and produced by ONAWAY men; USO shows featuring the most famous names in the entertainment world of comedy and music; sports with intradivision softball and baseball tournaments; a daily change of cinema fare in twelve theaters throughout the division area; scheduling of Red Cross Clubmobile coffee-and-doughnut service; a film development service, and enlisted men's clubs where music and beverages helped while away the tedium of off-duty hours in a defeated land.

Traveling with the division through combat and occupation were the American Red Cross workers. Mr. A. Dana Burnett was Field Director. When haggard, weary combat men returned from battle lines, longing for rest, sleep and a chance to clean up, Red Cross workers supplied them necessities perhaps misplaced in the heat of continuous combat, or left behind in order to save space for ammunition, grenades and emergency food rations.

The Red Cross also helped with problems of mental concern to front line men, such as assistance in sending cables home, investigation of family situations, birth and death records, and location of relatives in the ETO. Dr. J. T. DeLeo, a physician, personally expanded Red Cross services by administering first aid under fire to a wounded non-commissioned officer.

 


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