Chapter: Victory in Europe Day
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As the month of May approached, many German civilians were moving west with their belongings. It was no secret that they were in fear of the Russians. When the day we had waited so eagerly finally came, a rather strange thing happened. Victory in Europe was announced in the army paper so we felt assured this must be the real thing. We had heard many rumors to date. Anyway, we felt it was time to take down the tar paper blackout curtains. While we were taking down the window coverings, we heard a familiar sound. The pom-pom of anti-aircraft guns, and the slate was falling off our German barracks roof. We promptly lay down on the floor. I peeked out the window and I saw a German jet plane circling low, almost below eye level. The AA guns were firing behind the jet, not being accustomed to the higher speeds of jet planes. I could see it slide onto the airstrip at the field near Weimar. In a matter of seconds the shooting stopped. We got down to the field as soon as possible. The jet and Studka divebombers were loaded with Germans who were escaping from the Russians. This was the end the war in Europe, VE Day!
Of course the talk from now on was about getting home and getting discharged from military duty. Well, this wasn't going to be as easy as we had imagined. The minimum requirements for a discharge was 85 points, I had 122 points, probably as high as anyone who had served as a GI during WWII. I had been qualified to receive ten bronze service stars for the different campaigns I had served in. However, first priority for transportation would go to the GIs being sent to finish off the Japs.
I was transferred out of the 926 Signal Battalion to the 8th Tactical Air Command Squadron. The 926 was being sent to fight the Japs so anybody with more than 85 points would be removed from the 926. At this point there was little to do. My radio operator's duties were finished
Day after day passed without any indication we were going to obtain transportation to the USA. We talked much about ways to get home. One day we were talking about trying to buy a fishing boat from a French fisherman and sail it home. One of the GI's who apparently was listening to our conversation took it quite seriously, When he realized how farfetched our proposals were, he became very incensed. However most of us slept late in the day and then played basketball and some of us set up a photolab for processing and enlarging film to pass the time. I attempted to get a pass to Scotland but to no avail. I even signed up for a Norwegian language course which would allow us to travel to Norway, hoping I could get to Scotland this way
By August my morale was pretty low. Sometimes I would hitch rides on airplanes. Roy and I took a wild ride on a Canadian Bush plane piloted by a former crop duster. He would go into dives and then pull up suddenly, then abruptly level off. Roy became sick and vomited into his cap. I was sitting behind the pilot so I tapped him in an attempt to let him know Roy was sick. I had a sort of the case of the giggles so when I poked him, he thought we wanted more. One time we took a ride to Frankfurt with a couple of fighter pilots who had not flown this type of plane. They forgot to trim the plane so it hit the metal mesh runway very hard and bounced high into the air. We wondered If they were going to get us down in one piece, but they finally did it. Anyway, this was the way the months were passed.
Finally on August 26, my birthday, someone from message center came to me and said a message had come through indicating I and two other GIs would be sent back to the USA. On August 28, I and two others left by jeep for Frankfurt. I could hardly believe this was happening. We waited on the runway about ten days before the weather was clear enough in England to bring a plane for us. Day after day we were disappointed, but finally the day came that our plane was to take us to England to catch a boat back to the USA. Sometime during these days of waiting to go home I had painfully written to Helen in Scotland saying that our plans for our future together must be abandoned,
The flight from Frankfurt to England was a rough ride, enclosed in fog most of the way. We were not able to land at an airport in south England so we dropped through a small hole in the clouds and fog and landed near Manchester. At the railway station, we met a British Major who invited us to ride in his rail cabin with him. Somehow we ended up at a camp near Salisbury, Tidsworth where the 2nd Armored Division was encamped before the invasion. We were given a mattress cover and straw to stuff it with. That was our mattress. I can remember getting the hiccups and everytime I hiccuped the mattress made a noise. About 2AM I went over to the gym and stood on my head and counted one hundred. It worked!
Because we were late we missed the boat we were supposed to take. It was a German liner. During the wait for the next available ship I made visits to my Salisbury friends. Margaret was stationed nearby so we had some visits together. After about ten days we were notified that we would be boarding the Queen Mary and that we had to clear through customs. I had a German burp gun in my duffel bag and the barrel had worn through the fabric. I did not want to take a chance on being delayed so I promptly threw it in the nearest garbage can.
The trip aboard the Queen Mary took about five days. We took turns sleeping indoors one night, then the next out on the deck. After one night inside I slept outside the remaining nights. The trip home was uneventful, except I met Lt. Staib who had a nasty scar just below his left eye from that night of the buzz-bombing of December 28. As we passed the Statue of Liberty the ship tilted south with all the GI's on that side. Fireboats in the harbor were sounding their horns and spraying water into the air. This was pretty comforting because we thought we may have been forgotten by now. As we pulled into Pier 90, Jo Stafford was singing for us. An army general was with her. She was applauded and he was booed. The Red Cross was on the dock with milk and doughnuts. I must have drunk a gallon of milk, the first in three years. The first thing I did after drinking milk was to phone my brother at Fort Slocum, a nearby camp off New Rochelle. I was all choked up emotionally when I tried to talk with him on the phone. He was going on guard duty so be could not meet me.
We were taken by ferryboat to Hoboken, New Jersey. From there we went by train to Camp Kilner for orientation to civilian life. It must have been 2AM when we left front there by train to Camp Mccoy, Wisconsin. It was after midnight when we started our processing there. I had some dental work that needed to be done, They gave us the option of going home first, then reporting back to complete dental work and any other processing.
I left Camp McCoy that same morning and arrived in Minneapolis where my Dad met me at the Great Northern Railway Station. I was totally overcome emotionally to the point I was not able to speak. I could not believe this moment I had dreamed about, but could find, at times, hard to believe it could happen. Mother had one of her delicious meals ready when I arrived. Unfortunately, I was so excited I couldn't eat much. It had been three and a half years, much of the time not expecting to return.
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