Almost Heroes

Article excerpt

In March 1945, our infantry unit had passed through the Siegfried Line and entered Germany. As we approached the town of Germersheim, we encountered heavy artillery fire and resistance from the retreating German army. Our losses were significant and served to reinforce our loathing for the enemy. The only comic relief was provided when one of the medium tanks of our armored support group backed over the company commander's Jeep. No one was injured but it certainly didn't do the vehicle or the captain's bedroll much good!

A reconnaissance patrol was dispatched and after declaring the town safe, the company command post was established in one of the village houses. Meanwhile, patrols checked the area for snipers and other German soldiers who might have stayed behind. Soon, a prisoner was brought in, a grey-haired man, resplendent in a uniform the likes of which we had never seen. Unlike the usual drab German combat clothing, this was dark blue with brass buttons and several swastika insignia. Clearly, this had to be a very important officer, possibly even a general. None of us could speak German, and the prisoner spoke no English. He protested, loudly, which only served to anger his captors-the nerve of this guy, to argue with us.

Our company commander ordered his driver, Denny Reeves, and me to take the captive back to the rear for interrogation. Reeves mounted the driver's seat of his Jeep. The windshield had been folded down on top of the hood and enveloped in an olive drab canvas cover to prevent reflecting glass from attracting enemy aircraft. I motioned the "general" to sit on the front of the hood, facing forward with his hands clasped behind his head, his feet on the front bumper, the usual method of transporting prisoners. I sat in the passenger's seat with my Ml rifle aimed at a spot between the shoulder blades of our unwilling passenger.

On our way to the rear, we passed GIs alongside the road. …