Editor’s note: This is the final installment in a three-part series of columns.
Now in late September 1945 we were finally in the right place to perform occupation duty for the Ninth U.S. Air Force. We were living at a former German tavern on top of a mountain about 11 miles south of the Russian Zone of Germany and as many miles north of the town of Bad Kissingen.
As I mentioned before, there were just four U.S. Army men assigned to the Relay Station: myself, our Station Commander Herman Morris, Albert Fiske and Helmut Giese. Anna, a former member of the German Luftwaffe, lived a short distance away and we were later assigned a driver, a guy named Holsinger.
Morris, the sergeant in charge, volunteered to cook.
“I am the boss, but I enjoy cooking,” he said.
We were all supposed to do KP to help Anna. Morris reminded us that there were a lot of deer in the nearby woods.
“Maybe you guys could get one to increase our meat supply,” he said. No one responded but later I volunteered to be the hunter because I thought it would be fun to explore the nearby woods.
No one came to the tavern during the first few weeks after we arrived. Then we began to get visitors. A number of young German boys on bicycles came to see the Americans. Several GIs from a nearby Army base also visited us. The boys let me ride their bikes.
One of the GIs commented: “A couple of months ago, they would have killed you. Now they let you ride their bikes.”
I spent a lot of time walking through the woods looking for deer. I really didn’t have to bother because the American infantrymen from a nearby camp killed a lot of deer and gave us some of them. The war was certainly over but there were still a lot of people walking on the nearby highway during the day and night.
I was able to get frequent rides into Bad Kissingen to get items we needed and the important letters and the food package my mother sent every week. The guys in my outfit helped find my mother’s package because I shared the food with them.
I met a lot of different people on those trips. One of the most impressive people I met and with whom I had some interesting conversations was a former high-ranking German officer who frequently stayed near our American headquarters in Bad Kissingen. He was well-dressed but not in uniform and loved to talk. He seemed to enjoy talking to me and liked me. I told one of my GI girlfriends that he seemed like a nice person.
“Some nice person,” one girl said. “He would have shot you if he captured you three months ago.”
Some of the German women we met seemed to be jealous of Anna, who really worked hard for us.
“Don’t you know that she is still a Nazi?” one of the women told us. That seemed to me to be one of the things they inherited from Hitler. But it was true that Anna had been the girlfriend of many German officers when she served in the Luftwaffe in France.
I trusted Anna and I figured that there was no reason why she would be a Nazi now. I wrote out a pass for her which the American MPs honored even though I was only a corporal. The war was long over at that time and it seemed to me that the Germans, especially the women, had to make friends with the soldiers who invaded and conquered their country.
My belief was amplified some time later when two German women came to our radio relay station near Bad Kissingen. I had never met them before, but they told me: “We Germans love soldiers and you are one of our soldiers now.” They didn’t like the way my uniform looked. They sewed up some holes and pressed the uniform to make it look good.
I got the impression then and much later when I was out of the Army that the Germans, especially their women, decided when World War II ended that they had to make friends with at least some of the victorious Allies. Who were they going to make friends with? Not with the Russians, who hated them. The British and the French were not bad, but the best people who defeated Nazi Germany were the Americans, the more than 3 million troops America had sent to conquer Nazi Germany.
Some of the German women seemed to have concentrated their efforts when the war ended on getting to know and later to marry some of the Americans who conquered their country. I personally and other veterans knew or heard of the many foreign girlfriends and brides of a lot of the veterans I served with.
I met many of these people when I was out of the armed forces and meeting and dating women in New York City. The largest number of foreign people I met in New York City then were from Great Britain and the British Commonwealth, but there were a lot from Germany and other parts of Europe.
World War II had a great impact on the ethnic diversity of the United States.