Amazing times, those. I knew an American who was
on Corregidor when it fell, and said he got a
guided tour through Bataan. And when I lived in
Germany, I met a German who had walked back to
Stuttgart from Siberia.
But the best story I ever heard was from a fellow
I met in a little Gasthof in Schwbisch Gmund. He
had been taken out of school at the age of 15,
given a uniform and a rifle and put on guard duty
on the bank of the Rhein River.
This is his story:
It was night. He heard splashing, so crept down
to the water to investigate, where he discovered
a wet American soldier sitting on his steel
helmet, lacing up his boots. He was afraid, but
there was nowhere to hide, so he pointed his
rifle at the American and said "Hends op!"
The American looked up at him and exclaimed, "Jesus Christ, a Kraut!".
He realized the American was pretty much like
himself ... and just as scared. He didn't want to
shoot him and he knew the Germans would just
execute him if he took him prisoner, so to gain a
little time to think it over, he asked the
American if he had any cigarettes.
The American fished out one of those C-ration
cans that contained little envelopes of coffee,
toilet paper, matches and a pack of cigarettes,
opened it and gave the whole pack to the German
kid. The kid explained he only wanted one, took
it, and told the American to take one too, and
they sat there in the dark in the space between
armies, enjoying a smoke.
Then he thought of what to do. "If I let you go,
will you throw your rifle in the river, swim back
to France, and promise not to come back tonight?"
The American was happy to oblige.
A few days later, the Americans attacked
established a beachhead on the German side of the
river, and the German kid got shot. Just as he
was being patched up by an American Medic, the
same fellow from the smoke by the river came
along, recognized him, and knowing POW's were
sent to the States, gave him his parents' address
and phone number, explaining he would write them
and tell them the whole story.
The German was sent to a POW camp near Fresno,
California, where, luckily, the American
soldier's parents lived. Every Sunday afternoon,
they would drive out to the POW camp, pick up the
German POW and take him to church, and then home
to have dinner with them, and after the war, ever
since, on every summer vacation, either the
American went to Germany to visit his friend, or
the German went to the US to visit his friend
That's what he told me.