Jesus Christ, a Kraut!

>> Lots on the news of the historic event 60 years ago Sunday.

>> Reminds me of a holiday visit recently by my parents -- dinner with friends. One of whom asked dad "What did you do in the war, Marco?"

>> He said: "I walked ... from Marseille to Berlin."


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 Schwäbisch 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 there.

That's what he told me.