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Sunday, November 21, 2010

War stories from the old pluggers at coffee time

Yesterday at coffee time they were several war veterans. They got to discussing their war experiences. I kind of stayed in the background as they were talking amongst themselves and starting to use terms like 1st Louie, 2n Louie, Short Arm Salute and I had a pretty good idea what inspection required the latter term and I kind of liked hearing the more reserved old guys loosen up a little.
There was a younger farmer who was in the National Guard in between wars. I would say he missed Korea somehow. He said he didn't want to drive truck so he tried to miss most of the questions on the truck driver test. Of course he ended up being a truck driver. He did not like doing this because that mean you had to sit around all the time and didn't get to walk around during war games.
He then asked this older gentleman who comes to coffee time every Saturday about his WWII service.
Mr. C is not in such good shape, his younger friend brings him out and they bring doughnuts on Saturdays.

Mr C responded.
I was 26 when I got out of the infantry.
When I got to Germany we were all lined up and the officer asked if anyone spoke German.
I spoke up and said I did. I was the only one.
The officer asked if I spoke it well.
I said I did.
The officer said, "C stand right there and don't move"
The other soldiers were dismissed and the officer came out with a German woman. He told me to interpret what she said. I understood her but it didn't make any sense so I asked her to repeat it.
The officer asked me if I understood. I said I understood the words but I didn't understand what she was saying.
He said, tell me what she said.
I said, she is saying the Goose is finished.
The officer clapped me on the shoulder and said, "Well then, lets go eat!"
They had found some fat geese in a pen and had them cooked for dinner. I ate pretty well.
My Uncle (fellow WWII vet) asked what his rank was when he got out. Mr C said he didn't want any rank and he didn't remember. I can't remember exactly what he said and other people were talking but it was going to lead to something interesting.
Then other coffee time participant ask him if he did any interrogations.
Mr. C noted that he was one of but a few German speaking US Soldiers.
"Sometimes I was with a couple prisoners and sometimes I was the only one with 6,000 prisoners. I have some bad stories and some good stories," he said.
He was quiet a while, and then told this story,

There was another soldier who spoke a little German. We  found a fish hatchery. It was in a pond in the middle of a big field. We didn't tell anyone but in the evening or at night we would go and catch a mess of fish. We just used a worm and a hook and it was great fun.
Finally the officers wanted to know where we were getting all the fresh fish. We said we got them from the creek that ran through town. That was true, we just didn't tell them we found the hatchery.
The officers had a big lunch packed and they spent a full day fishing the creek and caught nothing.
That night we went back to the hatchery and caught out share. We never did tell.

He went back tot he rank discussion.
"I tried not to get any rank. they tried to promote me but I thought if I had rank I would have to stay there longer. Finally they made me a corporal(didn't hear this exactly). I guess that was ok."

That lead to talking about rank and the offenses of second lieutenants.
My Uncle had a short story. He was in Germany in the Headquarters Battalion at the time of the Battle of the Bulge.  (I'm assuming this was during this time.) One time I met an officer in the woods in. I didn't salute properly and so he made me salute him repeatedly until I got that right. After about eight times I kept thinking that was a pretty crazy way to win a war. Soldiers were off fighting and I was saluting a 2nd Louie in the woods.

Mr. C told a short story about being assigned to find what women in town had "the clap" and to get them treatment. "I only found three but I got some soldiers pretty worried," he said.
Someone threw out a comment asking how he tested them and the discussion changed.
Another coffee drinker told how a 2nd Louie called for a VD inspection in the chow line. Another fellow piped up with the term "short arm inspection" and all the vets laughed. It was quite a coordination act between holding the tray, standing at attention and being inspected.
The instigator of that inspection got in a lot of trouble for that.

My Uncle told how he got to be a sharpshooter.
My other brothers where the target shooters, he said. I never did that much but I was the one in the Army. I was trying to hit the target but I wasn't much good at it. The instructor wanted us all to be good shots as that would make him look better. He got down there with me and told me I should let him show me how. He finished my shooting for me and hit the bullseye every time. I ended up with a sharpshooter's medal.

There were some other interesting short stories but I didn't get all of them. Then a customer showed up and coffee time was over.

3 comments:

  1. Can you imagine all the personal history that's passing away every day with our veterans? Interesting post!

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  2. These fellows are nineteen and twenty again, reliving the most intense time they'd ever know. We can only interpret what they lived through from snippets of conversation and code phrases. I still wish I could get my own father to speak of his time in the marines in the Pacific, and beyond that....is there any living memory of the stories his father might have brought back from serving with the horse cavalry in France? Grandpa John turned thirty one in the spring of 1917 and probably wouldn't have had to go...We should all appreciate our warm, dry beds and, full stomachs and freedom to make choices wise or foolish.

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  3. Everybody has a story and it is such a shame to see it go away. Writing it down gives them immortality i think.

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