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Member since: Thu Dec 6, 2012, 02:13 PM
Number of posts: 8,821

About Me

"It is certain, in any case, that ignorance, allied with power, is the most ferocious enemy justice can have." James A. Baldwin

Journal Archives

Seventy years ago today . . .

Spring had reached the smoldering ruins of Nuremberg, Germany only shortly before his artillery battery did. I imagine it seemed the best Spring of his life, for he was young, the war was almost over, and he had survived. In fact, the last few days in Nuremberg he had been more of a tourist than a soldier in a conquering army. Though the city had largely been bombed into ruins several times over, there was still much to see. Especially stunning was the vast and nearly intact sports arena where the Nazi's had once held their infamous rallies. It was an epic moment to be an American soldier in occupied Germany.

That morning, however, he had an irresistible urge to find some real food. "Real" as in not the creamed-chipped beef on toast and powered egg substitute variety that was monotonously offered in the company mess. He wanted some fried eggs. Two of his friends borrowed a jeep and set off with him to find some black market eggs, "Real" eggs.

The streets of the city were full of people selling all kinds of things. Gold jewelry and family heirlooms were to be had for a few cigarettes, but almost nothing in the way of food was on offer. At last they were told by a helpful German civilian who knew some English that just a few miles outside the city was a farm whose owner could usually be convinced to sell a few eggs for a reasonable price. The man was kind enough to even sketch them a map with directions. Quickly they were on their way.

I have often wondered what they must have talked about on that drive into the Springtime German countryside. I guess they talked about what young American fighting men usually talk about, both then and today: The cars they had waiting back home, the girls they had waiting back home and the truly great plans they had for their futures. I like to think they were happy, laughing at each others' jokes and thinking how wonderful things would be as soon as they got back home.

They reached the farmstead just as directed and began to jump out of the jeep. He was just a couple of seconds slower getting out than were his two friends, those seconds were what saved his life. He was in the back as the three crossed a small foot bridge and a German machine gun began firing from the house. Hit by the first bursts, his two friends fell back against him, and the three tumbled into a shallow roadside ditch. His friends said nothing and did not move. They lay motionless on top of him, their blood slowly soaking his uniform.

How intently he must have listened to hear voices or footsteps coming toward them. But there was nothing to be heard except the normal sounds of a small country farm. No one came to check the bodies of the dead soldiers who lay on top of him. No one came to find him, and to finish him off. He lay there for hours. How long those hours must have been I can not begin to imagine.

Finally it became dark. Carefully, fearfully he chanced a movement and crawled out from under the weight of the dead men. In a near panic he hurriedly made his way back to his outfit and, covered in blood but physically unharmed, reported what had happened.

He had no way to know it, but that was the day Red Army soldiers were at last completing their costly conquest of Berlin, Hitler's Capital. It was also the day the German dictator shot and killed himself in his bunker there. One week later Nazi Germany officially surrendered, and World War II in Europe ended.

Posted by another_liberal | Thu Apr 30, 2015, 01:59 PM (0 replies)
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