Excerpt Reprinted from Just Good Stories...Volume 1 Submitted by Philip Kates, Medic, 3d Bn, 261st
Finally on May 6th, we got to Asten near Enns. We were placed in a big farmhouse and it seemed like just another stop. We did not know that it would be here that we would await the end of the war. I was so tired that I did not care where I slept that night. The next day, May 7th, I slept late. When I woke up, the sun was shining bright outside as if nature was rejoicing with us on this day which was to be the end of the war. I was hungry and went downstairs to look for some food. I found fresh eggs and looked forward to a good meal of fried eggs, instead of the monotonous rations. Someone called me from outside to talk to some refugees. They were Jewish refugees that had just come out of Mathausen Concentration Camp. They were the first Jewish refugees that I had met in Europe. These were some of the very few that survived despite their horrible experiences. I couldn't eat looking at those horrible skeletons that were once normal human beings. I gave them all my cigarettes and rations and deicded to go hungry. Then someone came out and told me that a message had just come over the radio announcing the surrender of the German Army. I managed to tear myself away from the refugees and went into teh house to listen to the radio. I heard teh end of the news about the bitter fighting in Okinawa and the high casualties on both sides...the war in the Pacific being fought with utmost vigor...most of the troops now in the ETO would be used in the Pacific and hard fighting could be expected.
DISGUSTED, MISERABLE and HUNGRY, I DECIDED TO GO UPSTAIRS. I laid down on the floor which was my bed, with some flithy, infested blankets. My hands were dirty and smelly from shaking hands with those refugees. I tried to rest and clear my mind, but all I could think of, was the miserable world, those refugees, my filthy bed, my empty stomach, the severe fighting in Okinawa, ETO veterans destined for the Pacific and the hard fighting ahead. Then I thought of home, rich , clean USA where you have all the comforts you want. I thought of my last furlough home - that broad clean bed, the sheets and even mattress where I stretched out and could enjoy a good night's sleep. There was no running water in this house. How simple it is at home - hot and cold water all the time - you take a bath or shower any time you want to. Sundays, you eat breakfast for an hour and no one bothers you. At night when you are hungry, you just go to the refrigerator and everything is there. Life seems so simple and easy and yet we have to suffer so much because of some crazy Hitler or Horohito. Yes, all I can think of is Okinawa, ETO veterans to the Pacific, hard fighting ahead, those refugees....my stinky bed. My beautiful home seems so remote.
WHAT A THOUGHT FOR A V-E DAY CELEBRATION!
Excerpt from Just Good Stories- Volume 3 Submitted by Ross D. Mitchell, 565th Signal Co. THE LAST FEW DAYS
May 1945, the war in Europe was coming to an end. The Signal Co. provided a wire team and a radio team to each regiment. My wire team was attached to the 261st. I remember one night in the back of a truck in Linz in a square full of trucks, tanks, DPs, and confusion. We laid some wire and ended up in the middle of the night in front of a school building. Seargeant Childs said we were in a town called Ennes and were assigned to a billet in the building. Found a bunk, unrolled my sack and went to sleep.
The next day there was nothing to do as the wire was in and secure. We found the breakfast chow line and later I started wandering around the grounds. I noticed something going on over by some trees. I wandered over there and saw some people, evidently processing POWs. There were German soldiers and Hungarian troops, kids and horse drawn wagons. I was impressed and saddened by the Hungarian kids, some as young as nine years old. They were dressed in light uniforms of blue, some were crying. I heard a Hungarian officer ask one of our officers if they could go to the wagons and get them some food. They went and got the food, it was large loaves of bread and wheels of cheese. The boys were lined up by twos and each pair received a large portion of bread and a big hunk of cheese. There was also a keg of Gin in one of the wagons of which I found out later that Gin, warm and in an aluminum canteen can make you sick.
An officer asked me what I was doing and I told him "just watching." He had a German captain with an infected hand due to a bullet hole through it and asked me if I could take him to a German army up the road a ways. We proceeded to look for the medical building. I saw the pain in his face and felt sorry for the guy, gave him a cigarette. When we found the place, we went in. The floor was covered with German wounded. We finally found a surgeon on the flloor, it too was full of wounded. When I finally found the doctor I turned the captain over to him. He could speak English, said he was from Vienna and was drafted into the German army. He was also glad the war was ending. We were looking out the window and watching our artillery shells landing across the river. I gave him a cigarette and gave the rest of the pack to teh captain. I have wondered what ever happened to him.
I don't know what day this was or what was happening but I remember one day sitting on the school steps enjoying the sunshine and a Major coming by and saying, "it's over fellows."
A couple of days later my buddy Maynard Hanson and I went over to the highway to watch the Germans surrendering. They had been coming for hours or days, on foot on either side of the road with their motorized equipment in the center. They were a sad looking lot and it felt good to see them after all the trouble and terror their country had caused the world.
Hanson and I moved up to the bridge. A car stopped and a man in it asked us, "would you like to have our pistols?" naturally we said yes. He handed out two holstered pistols and I noticed they were in civilian clothes, but had a driver in a black uniform. I asked why, he said they were police, Gestapo.
We crossed the bridge and the highway to look at the piles of small arms. Then we got bolder and went farther east to about a quarter mile from the bridge. We were standing by a tree watching when something changed. The Germans started running and spreading out across the fields. We saw a tank smash one of those funny looking military cars, ran over it and caught fire, some other vehicles left the road and some crashed or turned over. Germans were running all around us with frantic looks on their faces and shouting. We climbed into the tree for safety. Soldiers shouting, "Raus, raus Rusky kommen." Then an officer stopped, speaking English, he asked "How far to the American lines, the Russians are coming." Told him, "just a short way."
When the chaos subsided we got out of the tree. There was packs and various debris everywhere. Just then we heard a roar and three Russian tanks arrived. We waved the V sign and hoped they knew we were Americans. The tanks were covered with soldiers. They were dismounting and shook hands and hugged us, giving us drinks of their vodka. Powerful stuff! They climbed back on the tanks and the tanks turned and went back the way they came. We started back and came upon a man and a woman sitting by the road and calmly going through the packs, totally unconcerned about the mess around them. He spoke English and told us he was a Gypsy and this was his woman and his wife was in Vienna. That was an exciting day.
V-E DAY STORIES...PAGE 2
Excerpt from Just Good Stories- Volume 1 Submitted by Bob Cardinell, 3d Bn, 261st
While other units of the division captured Linz and crossed the Traun River despite some blown bridges, our Bn. lazed along in regimental reserve on Sunday May 6. 1st Bn moved out of Linz on road south of the Danube capturing Asten and then Enns, and we mopped up behind them. The Enns river became the demarkation line between the American and Russian Forces. Asten was 5 kms West of Enns and a real small farm town and became our command post for the next few weeks. I slept in the Burgermeister's bed in Asten and from it got my first and only case of head lice which did respond to DDT powder.
19 miles separated our regiment at Enns and the nearest Russian troops at Strengberg. 90,000 German troops of the Army Group South were squeezed in this area and were given until 2400 on May 8th to cross one of the five bridges over the Enns River and into our zone. The main bridge was through Enns and the bulk of the troops, especially artillery and armor came our way. In the flat fields south of the Danube near Asten I was given the job of setting up POW camps for the many German units rushing to surrender to the Americans rather than the Russians. The rush started on the 7th of May with unit after unit crossing the Enns bridge and on thru Asten to where I was standing in the middle of the road directing them off to the right into these flat wheat fields. All weapons and ammunition were either ordered dropped into the ditch of to be turned in later- it was that confusing. Even now I recall the strange feeling in the pit of my stomach when these really tough looking, battle tested veterans rolled up toward me with full weapons. They did not give us a bit of trouble and maintained good disipline. Thank god for Spellun and Katz as interpreters, but many of the officers spoke English. When darkness fell that first night machine guns at four corners of the field became our "fence line" and the word was pased that the guards would fire at anyone going over that line. Within about two nights we had a semblence of a fence up, but the Germans did not want to go anywhere. By midnight 8 May about 21,000 Germans were housed in 2-3 enclosures under 3d Bn. control. Teh Germans were good organizers and arranged the best tent housing possible and set up mess facilities. Food became an immediate problem because they only carried a day or so rations.
WAR ENDS IN EUROPE
The following is an excerpt from Just Good Stories...Volume 2 Submitted by Charles Kraut, HQ 260th
Linz, until our bombs ravaged it, was a beautiful city. Today, on May 7, 1945, it is once again beautiful. For at 1145 this morning, a messag was received from Division Headquarters telling us that the German High Command had signed a treaty of unconditional surrender and effective one minute after midnight on the 9th, the war in Europe would be officially over.
Our work, however, does not stop with the coming of peace. For there are yet many problems, large and small, to be solved. Largest of tehse is the dispostion of the thousands upon thousands of displaced persons (DP's) in the city. It is imperative that these people be centralized until such time as they can be returned to their native lands. All elements of the regiment immediately began to wholeheartedly cooperate in this task.
Now, also the War Department released its heretofore secret plans for the redeployment of troops, and most important of all, the point valuations that would score toward discharge credit. The accent on purely military trainin gis now to be lessened, and strenghthened in educational, athletic and recreational subjects. As this report closes, we leave the regiment well organized in Linz, with each member speculating on whether he will go to the CBI direct, by way of the United States, or if, by some lucky quirk of fate and a favorable score card, he will retun to his home carrying that long-coveted piece of paper.
In conclusion, it might be well to examine ourselves and our accomplishments during our short period of combat. In reviewing this, we have a deep feeling of saitsfaction in knowing that we, individually and collectively, had an integral part in the successful performance of a difficult task. For we find that during the period covered by this writing, the regiment travelled over 1200 miles, often as the spearhead of the attack. During this time we captured over 15,000 German prisoners (about three times the strength of our regiment), and approximately 18,500 Hungarian prisoners of war passed through our prisoner of war cage. All in all, it is very gratifying.
75th Anniversary of V-E Day...
A collection of stories from our 65th Veterans...