We, in A Company said goodbye to our halftracks we left behind in Berg, and pretty much retraced our journey back to Le Havre, France where we had landed I late January. All told, we had six major episodes of transport. I have included a rough map that (hopefully) simplifies the picture. As mentioned earlier, both sets of experiences described had major elements of transport at their core. Remember, we were an Armored Division and we traveled on wheels and tracks. We were on a constant journey very much as in life itself.
Steve and I, in trying to re-traverse the 13th Armored Division journey could not do every element, only just high-spot what we considered the most important. In so doing we had to leave out long roads. One such was the traverse from Berg to the Ruhr. The map I refer to shows in purple that journey.
However, three major events highlighted that long travel. The first occurred about halfway down that long purple line when in late April 1945 we joined General George Patton’s Third Army. The 59th Armored Infantry Battalion’s story of its movements and Third Army connection went like this:
The march continued at 19:10 via BAMBERG, to an assembly area near GERBERSBERG, which was reached at 17:00, 22 April. The next three days were spent in preparation for further combat, and on 24 April all officers and platoon sergeants were addressed by the Third Army Commander, General GEORGE S. PATTON, JR.
In my view, our next two events stood out. The first took place at Regensburg where we came upon a major Luftwaffe (German Airforce) airfield. Here is Captain Ford’s account:
Captain Ford assigned the machine gun squad of the Third Platoon the task of destroying the aircraft on the ground. S/Sgt. Thomas F. Young and his squad fell out of the column, completed this mission and rejoined the Company later in the day. Six Messerschmitts and one reconnaissance plane were destroyed.
Here is a picture (I apologize for the double exposure) I took in 1945 of a Messerschmitt 110. I actually got up in the cockpit and tried to start it. Don’t ask me why, but that’s the way I was in those days. Again, through God’s Grace I survived…
We crossed over the Inn for the last time on June 25, 1945. Vacation time was over. The next day we were scheduled to head back to the United States and get ready to go to the Pacific Theatre and fight the Japanese. Maybe the higher ups thought so much of the job we did in Germany, they were going to give us the honor of leading the charge to Tokyo. I’ll never know, but we were made aware that the war was not over for us. I don’t remember being too enthusiastic about all that, but, war was war, and we had to do our part.
Then, a completely different kind of event took place in Plattling, on the Isar River. I refer to a previous account I wrote to set the stage:
A Corporal from our second Platoon had employed a stick of dynamite to liberate several bags of German Marks from a bank vault. He was joyfully running down the street flinging the money every which way like it was Monopoly Money. I, along with several others, ran after him and scooped up what we could.
That German money was the same money we used in Berg to go to all the beer joints we went in our two months, vacation, as described in the Berg stories.
The message in all these stories is that we are all human. Humanity is many sided. It’s not all one thing or another, it is an achieved blend. A peaceful blend that is achieved through respect and brotherhood. What could be in a true sense, called love. The humanity we all have is our gift from God. How it turns out is up to us.
Veterans get a close-up look at what it takes. Not all their stories are about heroism. They, like everyone, have many messages, from no nonsense leadership of Generals to the fraternizing of Privates, to all shades of in-between, Veterans are classic examples of humanity. They have many voices. Their voices relate tales of human conduct in crucial times. To be whole is to be totally human. Sincere and human voices are what instruct. Who we are and who we need be. Veterans voices light the ways.
Our human voices can and should be echoed by those to whom Veterans have shown their love.
Those who call themselves families…
Steve and I, as we rode our train along the Salzburg to the Ruhr route, acknowledged that much had happened since 1945 along that route. We were on our way back on it to get some a close-up looks at the Ruhr, and do what we could to show its transformation.