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  •       I have pleasant memories of Neu Isenburg. We stayed in a house belonging to a local burgomeister, whose family was good to us. Anna, about my age, catered to our basic needs and tried to teach me German.
          While in Neu Isenburg we acquired a captured Fiesler Storch airplane, which was the German equivalent of our Stinson L-5. I had lots of fun flying it around. Since it was not widely used by the Germans, I was surprised recently to see one on display in the U.S. Air Force Museum. It was an awkward-looking airplane, but its flight characteristics were very good.
          During the time at Neu Isenburg, most of my duties consisted of flying General Boudinot, General Hickey, or Colonel Garton around to various meetings, or running errands for them. On one administrative flight to Darmstadt, I landed in high grass, and the plane nosed over, breaking the propeller. I also managed a leave to both Bonn and Paris during this time. On the flight to Paris, I stopped in Huy, Belgium to visit the Compere family.
         On July seventh orders came down transferring me to the 6th Armored Division at Aschaffenburg, which was to be the first step in re-assignment. The army had adopted a point system based partly on number of awards and number of campaigns to determine priority for returning to the States. Since I had received the Air Medal and nine oak leaf clusters to the air medal, and since I had been engaged in six campaigns, I ranked fairly high in the point system. The day after I received my transfer orders, I moved our two planes to a field where the rest of the division planes were, and on July 14th I paid my last visit to the 391st Field Artillery Battalion. On July 15th I was sent to the 14th Replacement Depot at Couflans, France to await further orders, either assignment stateside or, more likely, to the Pacific Theater of Operations. On July 26th I went to the staging area at Calais, just outside of Marseilles. (On August 3rd I was flown in a B-17 (Flying Fortress) to Casablanca. Casablanca was a city of contrasts, with some beautiful buildings and some real slums. In walking down the sidewalk in front of modern buildings, one would step over sleeping natives and human excrement. I was there only a couple of days and left on August 5th on a C-54 transport plane for Miami, Florida, with stops at Santa Maria in the Azores and at Bermuda.
          The truth is, I was never a very good soldier. Survival was always my main concern, and survival meant a lot of luck and a "live for now" philosophy. To keep my sanity in the uncertainty of combat, I think I adopted a kind of nonchalant fatalism, and, as with a lot of other soldiers, the inbred sense of decency and morality were temporarily suspended.
          I lost several good friends. Of the four officer-pilots and the three non-commissioned pilots with the 3rd Armored Division on D-Day, only two of us lived to return to the States. Of those killed, two crashed into the ground, two flew into the trajectory of one of our own shells, and one was shot down by enemy aircraft. The record shows that the 3rd Armored Division had 10,371 total casualties: 2214 KIA, 706 MIA, and 7451 wounded. Such is the glamour of the "good" war.
  •       There remain, however, many pleasant memories. Perhaps the very uncertainty of one's future and the absence of moral restrictions during wartime enables one to enjoy life's pleasures more fully than during normal times. I've alluded to some of the benefits I enjoyed in my role as a liaison pilot. That I was an artillery officer who also wore the silver wings provided a sort of independence that neither an Air Corps pilot nor a regular artillery officer had. Since none of the command officers in a field artillery battalion had had any flight training, I had the final say on whether or not conditions permitted our planes to take off. It was also my decision as to what constituted a combat mission. It was possible for us to log several missions in one day, with the same fringe benefits afforded a fighter or bomber pilot who normally would be limited to two or three combat missions per week.
          One of the nicer benefits I enjoyed as an officer was the number of times I could go to Paris, London, Brussels, and Liege, for example, for three or four days without being charged with a leave or furlough. Since the artillery planes were a quick and easy way for the generals, colonels, and majors to get to these cities for a three-day leave, I flew them there and stayed until they were ready to return. Thus I got to know many generals and other ranking officers on a friendly basis.
          There were two other big pluses in being a liaison pilot. One, if fate decreed that I should be killed, chances were good that it would happen quickly, without the prolonged suffering that many ground troops endured. At least I would not be wading through the mud and snow, waiting for a bullet with my name on it. Secondly, from my vantage point 500 to 1,000 feet above the ground operations, I could see and appreciate the "big picture" better than most people could. Also, as noted earlier, since my section was often somewhat isolated from the rest of the battalion, we felt a sense of independence that other groups did not have. I often felt that I was my own boss. On the negative side, of course, we were vulnerable to the ground fire of machine guns and anti-aircraft guns; to enemy aircraft; and to the ever-present hazard of flying into the path of our own artillery shell trajectory. In retrospect, however, I believe that if it had to be a combat assignment, the liaison pilot's job was better than most.
          I hope I have not misled anyone into thinking that the road from Normandy to Dessau was all glory and fun and games. Hemingway's words, We all loved the same old bitch, and her name was Nostalgia do not apply to the war. No one really wanted to die for his country; no one talked about patriotism and bravery. Survival was all we sought. Since most of the casualties were the result of shelling, death came rather easily. There were not many face-to-face encounters, but I suspect that when they did occur, both the American soldier and the German soldier would rather have turned and run away from each other. Perhaps many times they did. Both the American soldiers and the German soldiers were the same: They hated being where they were, and they hated doing what they were doing. They did not hate each other. War is the worst invention of mankind.
         Historically, the Third Armored Division was credited with five campaigns in the European Theatre of Operations:

    1. Normandy: June until August 21
    2. Northern France: August 25 to September 14
    3. Rhineland Phase I: September 15 to December 1
    4. Ardennes (Battle of the Bulge): December 16 to January 20
    5. Rhineland Phase II: February 7 to May, 11, 194

    Battle Hymn of the Grasshoppers

    Over clouds, under wires,
    To hell with landing gear and tires.
    We're the grasshopper artillery.
    In and out, through the trees,
    We're as hard to find as fleas.
    We're the eyes of the artillery.

    So it's fly, fly, see
    For the field artillery.
    Shout out your data loud and strong.
    So we'll give the Axis fits
    With our Maytag Messerschmitts
    We're the grasshopper artillery.
    (This was the set of words we sang to the Field Artillery
    Song during flight training at Ft. Sill, Oklahoma. )

    Copyright 2000 Allen H. Knisley & Charles Corbin