Trip to Klagenfurt, Austria
By Ed Kellam (Gen. Mark Clark's navigator and later a pilot)
After I won the right to purchase a new (1940) Ford from the PX in 1946 I obtained a loan from my parents and spent a whopping $1,600 for the car. Picked it up in Frankfort and headed for Tulln. Gasoline was not a big problem. The army sold it for eleven cents a gallon - in Jerry cans. I was the hit of the town driving a new black ford around Tulln and Vienna.
During the post war period cigarettes were king. One could get big bucks for a carton. One of my officer associates learned that in Klagenfurt, Austria there were many gunsmiths. I was approached to drive my new car through the Russian zone to Klagenfurt to purchase guns - shotguns and rifles. So, armed with only a bunch of cartons of cigarettes, a set of orders writen in Russian, my friend and I took off for Klagenfurt.
Looking at the map it looked like the way to go was through Salzburg. I had a brother in-law stationed at a constabulary unit just South of Salzburg at Niederaim. So we went there the first night, had a good visit, and filled up with eleven cent gas and took along a spare jerry can - just in case. Early the next morning we headed South. The map indicated a road across the alps. Two hours later we came to the end of the road, high in the Alps and could go no further. There was nothing to do but go back to Salzburg and refuel and go another way. This time we found and alternate route further East from Steyr to Graz. I was a beautiful trip until the car‘s engine stopped. It acted like fuel starvation so out came the "Ford" tool kit and with the good Lord in the lead we took the fuel line off at the fuel pump, and lo and behold, there was a small piece of masking tape extending out of the line. I pulled it out and it was about a foot long. Thinking back - when we were attempting to pour gas into the tank without a funnel, being industrious I made a funnel out of cardboard held together with - you guessed it - masking tape. This had become lodged in the gas line causing the fuel starvation. We put it back together and off we went.
Soon it was getting dark and we were in the mountains on a narrow road but there was a house with some sort of sign out front. We stopped and with sign language made arrangements to spend the night. The limit to our German was "Donka". We said our "Donkas" in the morning and were in Klagenfurt by noon and made the transaction for about ten guns. Next we went to the British compound and they received us with open arms, refueled the car and gave us lodging for the night. I’ll never forget being awakened by a British orderly the next morning with a hot cup of strong tea.
The trip back to Vienna was made in one day. We arrived at the Russian checkpoint after dark. The British had given us fur hats with the fur flaps that come down beside your face. We had those on so we looked like Russians. We stopped at the check point and presented our orders, written in Russian and with multiple stamps all over. The guard mumbled "Ruskie" and we mumbled "Americano" One pack of cigarettes and we were on our way - oh the fortunes of war.
Later on I received orders for the States and drove the Ford to Bremerhaven - put it on the boat and sailed for America. Dumb move, I should have sold it right there and I could have retired.