THE U.S. ARMY
Department of Defense
MY TWO YEARS OF FUN AND GAMES
WITH UNCLE SAM
From January 1951 to December 1952
Perhaps one of the funniest movies I ever saw was called, “What did you do in the Army, Daddy?” This was a story not too different from my own experiences in the Army.
The U.S. Army was a place that seemed to make or break young men, and I saw it do both. For me it was easy. I had just spent two years in the mission field “without purse or scrip”–never knowing from day to day where I would eat or sleep. In my opinion, the Army had good food, comfortable beds, excellent training–and money at the end of the month! What more could I want? Besides, there was a lot of fun.
Here is my story for those two years.
THE DRAFT BOARD ANNOUNCEMENT
September 1950. I arrived in Salt Lake City, Utah, after two years in the mission field. It seemed like a long time to have been away, but missionary work was a good experience and I enjoyed the labor.
My girlfriend, Lois, had waited two years for me, and now it was time to look for a wife and settle down to the work of building a home and family. We went out on a date, and it was awkward for me to do much else than talk about the gospel. For two years not getting any closer to a girl than to shake her hand and say no more than she “looked nice” was a difficult rule to suddenly change. But there was plenty of time for dates, so I wasn’t going to be concerned.
I called home to my mother and told her I would be coming home in a few days. Then she gave me some news that really shook me up. The Draft Board had kept track of my two years in the mission field, and they had just called my mother to tell her I had been drafted! I was already being shipped away for two more years! I could hardly believe it!
I told my girlfriend what had happened, and could see despair in her eyes. She was not willing to wait two more years.
It was tough to spend two years doing missionary work to save souls, then take up the military work of warfare to destroy them. War was waging in Korea, so I suspected they may be planning to send me overseas, little did I know at that time I would end up on the other side of the world.
I had finished a mission for my church–now this would be a mission for my country. But I wasn’t very enthusiastic about it!
NINETY DAYS P REPARATION
When I arrived home in Shelby, Montana, the draft notice was waiting for me, and I was to report to the Draft Board as soon as I arrived. I went down and was told they had just filled their quota for October and part of November, so there was a chance I might be able to stay home for Christmas (if they had the month of December free of any recruitment requirements).
I decided to get some work even if it lasted only a couple of months. There was a job opening about 50 miles away in Chester with the State Highway Department. I accepted the job and was put on a rock crusher. When rocks too big went up the conveyor belt, I would push them off. It was so dirty and dusty that sometimes I couldn’t see ten feet away. I
wore a respirator mask, but had to keep cleaning the mud out of it. However, it was a job–and paid quite well, I thought; but then I hadn’t had a paycheck in over two years!
Hour after hour I stood on that machine watching the conveyor belt–and kept thinking about the Army. I wondered what I did to deserve that! How come I just got ready to settle down to a normal life and then get caught up in a foreign war? It seemed like the Lord had just walked away from me when the mission was over. Little did I know that it would be another mission with just about as many spiritual experiences and just as much to learn.
While in Chester, I rented a room from a family there and then went home on the weekends. Occasionally, I visited with this family, but nothing very intimate. Years later I was talking to a fellow who lived near those people, and he said they often mentioned me and wondered how I was. Sometimes even casual acquaintances can mean a great deal to people. I always wanted to make a good impression with people. Contention and war were not much of a part of my character—that’s why I didn’t think I would make much of a soldier.
One day in Chester I went into a cafe and was surprised to see my high school sweetheart’s step sister. I was almost as surprised to see that she wasn’t very talkative. I never did have a good conversation with her while I was there. However, I thought about having a date with her, but my military obligation was going to interfere with anything serious in the romance line or family business. Already the Army was interfering with my life and I wasn’t even in it yet!
ON WAR AND DESTRUCTION
The red letter day arrived, and I was given my orders to leave on the train for the induction enter at Butte. My mother drove me to Great Falls to catch the train there. As I turned to say goodbye on the depot platform, she began to cry. I realized tat a lot of young men had gone through the same experience, and never came back. So many mothers have given their time, labor and prayers for their sons, only to see them grow up, go to war, and be killed in their youth.
How strange that governments can force their young men to go half way around the world to kill men they don’t even know. Boys who never had a thought or desire to kill someone else must shoot another man who never did them any harm. Boys from different countries, who wanted nothing but to be left alone to grow up and have a family, must go into combat to kill and destroy each other. What a shock–to realize that Christians are sent out to kill other Christians—even Mormons have destroyed other Mormons!
The system has certainly fallen to a depravity below the animal kingdom, for there are very few animals that kill without reason. No animals collect into packs to purposely go out and destroy each other. If all the money spent on warfare could be distributed among men, we could all enjoy half work days, months of vacation each year, plenty of food, education and the comforts of our own homes. Christ said He would provide a thousand years of peace when He ruled the earth. He certainly doesn’t rule much of it now.
As I rode the train to my new camp for training in warfare, it was difficult to understand why. It seemed to me that there was no need for me to be in the Army and there were certainly many other things I wanted to do that I thought were more important both to me and to the. Lord. A fight of any kind is not in my character. I would rather run away from a fight where many men enjoy starting one. Going on a second mission would have been more to my liking and understanding than to be sent into the Army. However, I have learned that most things in life don’t just happen–there are the forces of the unseen world that have more management and control over world events than the leaders of the nations. Each man’s life is certainly being influenced, directed and aided by unseen powers. I knew there was a reason or purpose for my being in the military service.
I was browsing through the Bible and ran on to, two passages which I thought were appropriate and helped me understand. They were part of the Psalms of the great warrior David a man after God’s own heart:
Blessed be the Lord my strength, which teacheth my hands to war, and my fingers to fight: My goodness, and my fortress; my high tower, and my deliverer; my shield, and he in whom I trust…. (Psalms 144:1-2)
Though an host should encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war should rise against me, in this will I be confident. The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? (Psalm 27:3, 1)
Arriving in Butte’s Induction Center was like being a part of a zoo. Such a collection of humans I had never seen before, and I wondered how we would ever win a war with such a crew. Most of the wiser young men had joined one of the other branches of service, and we were generally the rejected and discarded. I had been rejected by the Navy, Air Force and Army near the end of World War II but this time they seemed more
eager and the main requirement was that you were alive. One fellow wanted to get into the service and they rejected him. He hollered at them and said, “How healthy do you have to be to go into war and be killed?” I don’t know what they found wrong with him, but he seemed OK to me.
Another fellow was told to put his hand over one eye and read the chart. He couldn’t read it. They told him to move up to where he could. He walked and walked until he .got al lout two feet away and then yelled “E”. Someone said, “Hey, Doe, he’s blind!” I can’t remember if they took him or not, but they probably did.
I saw one fellow who walked as though all f his joints were in the wrong places. I know they took him because he ended up in our outfit, and he never did learn to march. He was so badly coordinated that they had to make him walk in the rear of the company. Ile would watch the fellow ahead of him and try to march the same cadence, but he would jump, stretch, hop, skip, and constantly bounce around out of step. Marching seemed to be one f the most difficult things for him to do—but he was qualified for the United States Army.
Some of the other fellows were fat; others so skinny they looked like they would soon die of starvation. But they herded us all into proud soldiers. They inspected our blood, urine, eyes, ears, mouths, and even places where the sun never shines. As one fellow came in to the doctor, he was told to bend over and pull his cheeks apart. He bent over and put his fingers in his mouth.
I’ll never forget standing in one line to leave a urine specimen. When it came my turn, my modesty turned everything off. The longer I stood there, the more guys were hollering for me to hurry up, and it made everything worse. I finally went back to the end of the line. About an hour later while we were in an assembly room, one of the sergeants came up’ and announced, “Kraut, go back-to the urine line.” I got up amidst the roar or laughter and went back again. I don’t know to this day if that was a joke or if they lost my bottle.
We were paraded into an assembly room, made to stand, raise our hands and pledge ourselves into the Army. Crossing our fingers didn’t do any good either. We were now soldier ;–“professional killers” as we were told, but by the looks of my company, they were more like something the dog drug home.
Our first assignment was to go to Fort’ Lewis, Washington, Where we would receive our basic training and then be shipped to Korea. The future of my Army life didn’t look very bright. So on the train we went. I don’t know if all of them made it or not
Fort Lewis was a much larger camp than I had expected. They fed thousands of men at a time. Lines moved along for a couple of hours or more for each meal. I got KP duty and couldn’t imagine paying for all the food consumed in one meal by that group of men. When I thought f all the money that went into food, clothes, pay, insurance, medical care, etc., for an army–besides all the tanks, planes and weapons-I realized that the military was a very expensive •operation!
We were assigned our quarters and began our basic training. After about ten days, the announcement was made that we were shipping out. What a bedlam! We didn’t know where or why. I couldn’t conceive of sending this bunch to battle in Korea without any more training than that—they would end up shooting each other by accident. We boarded a train like cattle, and it seemed to stop for every intersection and wait for other trains to pass by. We knew we were second class citizens by now.
The train went through Oregon and then into California, where we ran into a passenger car, causing another long delay. I’m sure it wasn’t the engineer’s fault–he never got that train out of low gear. From California we went into Arizona, where we heard rumors that we were going to. Texas. At least that was better than Korea!
A FAMILIAR SIGHT
One night on the train, I suddenly woke up. It was very dark and everyone was asleep, but for some reason I was wide awake. It was a little after 2:00 a.m., but I was so completely awake that it was no use trying to go back to sleep. I got dressed and decided to go to the vestibule of the train to get some fresh air.
Opening the door I could see we were approaching the lights f a town. I decided to watch as we went past the depot to see the name of the town. As we came closer to the buildings and streets, they looked very familiar. Suddenly I recognized the Arizona Territorial Prison; we were going through Yuma, the very town where I had just spent most of my mission! As the train moved along, I stood there thinking of the many experiences there and the many people throughout that town that I had talked to The ‘Territorial Prison reminded me of all the Mormons who had been put in those little cells for living plural marriage.
I think I was the only soldier on the train that was awake then–and probably was the only one that Yuma meant anything to. It was a strange sensation to have been awakened just in time to see the town that I had just left about 90 days previously. Soon the lights f the town faded away into the night, and I went back to bed and fell asleep once more
ARRIVAL AT FORT BLISS, TEXAS
When we reached El Paso, Texas, we were shuttled to a place called Fort Bliss. I could never figure out how it got that name. It was stretched out across barren wasteland with no trees, water or mountains. I saw nothing blissful about that, and thought they should have named it Fort Morbid. But it was to be my new home, so I decided to make the best of it.
I was assigned to a two-story barrack, the upper floor of which I shared with about 35 other guys. I was assigned a lower bunk, and every time the fellow above me turned in the night, it woke me up.
Our clothes fit us like they had been fitted by a blind man in a hurry with a broken pair of scissors. At least we all looked the same—which was poor to bad. We needed a laugh about then, so it only took a look at each other.
We went to breakfast and I thought the food was good; however, not many shared my opinion. I never did think the food was bad. I even enjoyed the “C” rations whenever we had to eat them, but they did get monotonous after about a week.
Next was the hair cut–which was cut, cut and cut. We all became bald together. Some boys had beautiful hair, and they almost cried when they saw it all over the floor.
It was here at Fort Bliss that I really noticed the difference in men. Some were crude, vulgar and offensive in about every way. Others were intelligent, polite and good natured.
Directly opposite from my bunk I noticed a fellow unloading his things, among Which were some very good books. I could tell he was not an ordinary sort of fellow, so I introduced myself and soon struck up a friendship that lasted for as long as we were together in the service. He was not a Mormon, but was interested. We spent many ‘hours talking about religion.
The sergeant told us that we would be confined to the base for the whole eight weeks of basic training, but we decided to make a try to get off post to attend a Mormon Church in town. We went to the company commander and told him that there was no LDS Church on base and we would like to attend. My friend said, “We are Mormons and would like to attend our church in town.” I thought he was mighty close to being a member. To our surprise, the captain gave us a pass for the whole day, and he told us we could go every Sunday if we wanted to.
We were the only soldiers in the whole basic training camp who got to go to town. The sergeant and the others wondered how we got passes, but we never told them. Perhaps I should have and maybe I could have got the whole camp to go to church.
The days at Fort Bliss were packed with a variety of things to do. We had lectures, films, classes, exercises, marches, and other forms of training. All these activities were enjoyable to me as I felt it was useful information. One of our classes was map reading and another on compass work. One night we were broken up into many four-man units–each unit with a compass. We were to read the compass by the North Star and go a number of yards to find a stake with instructions on how to find the next stake. We were out for several hours and were to cover all the stakes until we were led back to the starting position. I used the compass for our team, and we finally got back to the starting place. I felt certain our team would be the first one back, but another team was already there, laughing and laying around. I had strong suspicions that they had given up and returned before completing the course. I felt our team was officially first.
We were given instructions on many different weapons. I did excellent with a rifle, but that machine gun wouldn’t do anything right for me. Most of the training was very useful, but we had a few unfortunate incidents. For example, while crawling on our bellies, they would explode things next to us and shoot live machine guns over our heads. On a couple f occasions, they had to pack fellows away in the ambulance. They never told us how serious it was. We were told if we got up, we would be hit. Some guys, however, did get up when all the explosions went off around them.
When the day came for us to learn to throw hand grenades, we were told by a tough old sergeant– at least he always acted that way—that every time troops went up to the grenade range, “some 8-ball couldn’t follow instructions and ended up getting hurt.” We went to the range and threw grenades. However, the old sergeant put his head around the wall to see them go off and got hit in the shoulder, and they packed him off in an ambulance. I thought to myself that he turned out to be the 8-ball who couldn’t follow instructions–even though he was the one who gave them.
I also heard about one of the guys who smuggled a rocket back to the barracks and hid it over the heating system. When the furnace came on, it got hot and blew a hole hi the ceiling and floor, and several guys were hurt. He had trouble following instructions, too.
We had some excellent movies every day on special training—some on weapons and warfare, some on morality or something else. We usually had a different lecturer for each subject. Every week we had a minister give us a one-hour lecture on religion. Ono week a minister came and gave a lecture that wasn’t much better than if one of the troops had given it. I guess he thought if he could talk like a soldier, he would get their attention more than if he were too stuffy or holy.
However, a couple of weeks later, another man came to give us our religious lecture. He was a Catholic Priest who spoke with an accent, being a native of Holland. His lecture was, on the Ten Commandments, and I have never heard a more powerful and meaningful sermon on those commandments. He didn’t compromise on any principle just to gain the favor f his audience, nor did he try to flatter or excuse them. Every eye was pinned on him and every word sunk deep. A better or more appropriate sermon could not have been given. When it was over, I wanted to go shake his hand, but he left immediately and, we were all marched out as we had marched in His talk was so effective that not a man said a word until we arrived back at the barracks.
How strange that nearly two years later on my last month in the Army, I was walking out of an Army chapel in. Bad Krueznach, Germany, and saw this same priest walking into the chapel. I went over to him and shook his hand and told him I had wanted to do that two years ago in Fort Bliss, Texas. I told him how effective his sermon was and how much I appreciated it. Then I told him I was a Mormon and that I had been a missionary for the Church. That may have created a little more respect for the Mormons—knowing that one of them had such respect for him.
A SENSE OF HUMOR
One of the lectures was given by an old sergeant with decorations all over his chest. He told of some of the most unusual, bloody and horrible things imaginable. His war stories would have made a best seller, book or a top movie. But at the end of the hour lecture, he said, “You may forget everything I have told you here today, but there is one thing I don’t want you to forget. Just remember this—no matter how boring or terrible or bloody this Army may be to you, just never lose your sense of humor.” I was greatly impressed by the fellow, and the more I thought about his lecture, the more I appreciated it I forget the details of his endless stories of battles, but I still remember what he told us to remember.
I would soon see some men lose their lives, their sanity, and their morals. Many blamed the Army for all their woes, but I still see that sergeant who lived to come through all he did, still smiling. I am convinced that the devil hates a man with a sense of humor. He certainly hates to see a man happy–he wants all men to be miserable like himself.
I once went through a huge ocean aquarium and looked at all the funny looking fish. There were some with a long nose, stub nose, skinny, fat, bug eyes, etc., etc. By the time I got to the end of the exhibit, I was laughing so hard I had tears on my cheeks. I knew then that God must have a sense of humor. People are about like those fish–yet we were made in His image!
ONE COLD JANUARY
It was January and cold, even in Texas. Finally came the week that was set aside for camping out. The wind was blowing, we had some snow, and it was really a winter setting. I had a cold besides; and to consider going out there and sleeping in a tent could mean disaster, but I had to go. I figured the cold weather would kill my cold—or else me. Sure enough it was cold enough that my head cold went away. I once heard someone say that to be cooped up in a warm house was a sure way to catch cold.
One morning on our “camp out” we were told that everyone would have to be shaved. It seemed to me that we needed a little more hair on our faces to help keep us warm. I didn’t even bring a razor because I knew there was no hot water out there on the desert; and besides, what or who was out there that we had to shave and dress up for? One fellow loaned me his dull razor, and I went through agony cutting a four-day beard with cold water and a dull blade!
When you’re cold, hungry and away from home and friends, it is easy to learn to appreciate the things so often taken for granted. The purpose of life is to learn appreciation for the good things which are most often the common and natural things of daily life.
A NATURAL LEADER
The Army is a cosmopolitan collection of men from every walk of life. It was an excellent place to learn and study mankind, because there are some of the best and some of the worst men I had ever met. One man stands out in my mind, and probably always will, as one fine specimen. He was a natural leader of men and was in every way an example of quality. He was a lieutenant and was drafted like the rest of us. By profession he was a lawyer, but that didn’t seem to be any detriment to his character. I wish I could remember his name.
The first thing I noticed was his concern over the men under him. lie always wanted to know if everything was OK. He often talked to each man individually when he had a chance. After a long hike, he would come
into our barracks and check everyone’s feet. Ile didn’t have to do that, but if some of the fellows had blisters, he would tell him to go to the dispensary the next day and have them treated.
Then one day we were required to swing across a chasm on a rope and reach the other side. I saw some of the other officers standing around poking fun at the troops because they were awkward or afraid to make the swing. Finally when it looked like quite a few were afraid to try, I saw this special lieutenant crawl up the beams and hang on with one hand and holler at the troops to come ahead—he would help them and see that they didn’t get into any trouble. He risked a fall himself to instill courage-and skill in the men, while the other officers were making fun of them.
On another occasion an officer was supposed to give a lecture on Communism, but either be didn’t know the subject or he was bashful about public speaking; so my friend, l he lieutenant, was asked to do it. He accepted, and for nearly an hour he delivered one of the best exposes on Communism I had ever heard. He did it all without notes. He seemed to be gifted or certainly good at self-discipline.
It was a natural thing for me to get up at 5:00 a.m., and when I was up at that time, I found out this lieutenant was always up, too.
Once we went on a ten-mile hike, and on the way back my nose began to bleed. I kept on walking, expecting that it would soon stop. One of the other troops called to my friend, the lieutenant. He told me to step over by the side of the road and sit down. He took his hanky and wet it with his canteen water and wiped my brow. I felt embarrassed and let him know it, but he said it was necessary.
I found out he was not a Mormon, but he thought highly of them. I told him that he had my respect and best wishes. A jeep came down the road, and he hailed it down and told the driver to take me into camp. I told him I could walk back, but he said it wouldn’t be necessary. So I got in the jeep, and the driver asked the lieutenant to get in and he would drop him off with the rest of the troops who by then were about a mile down the road. “No,” he said, “my troops walked it so I will, too; I’ll catch up to them in a few minutes.”
As I was going down the road, I looked back to see that lone soul hiking fast to catch up to the troops. I never saw him much after that, but I still remember him very well. Ile remains one of those unforgettable characters—and a real leader.
When in the mission field, I stopped to see a family in Bard, California. It was the Colvin family, and Mrs. Colvin had a sister visiting her by the name of Louise. She seemed like a good girl and the type that had a motherly instinct. Not too many girls nowadays have that I thought at the time that she would make a good mother. I decided to write her, and she wrote back. We corresponded and she anti her folks decided to come over to El Paso to visit me. This was the beginning of a permanent relationship.
The weekends were usually free to write letters, read, go visiting or to the recreational facilities. Most often I enjoyed reading, writing letters, or going to a movie. One Sunday after I finished reading some books, I went down to the bathroom. As I was walking down the stairs, I overheard one fellow talking to another and their conversation went something like this:
“You know there are some people that have something about them that leaves an impression with you, and they sort of keep you from doing something wrong.”
“There’s one fellow here that way. I can’t ever swear in front of him.”
“Who is that?”
“It’s that Kraut fellow.” “Yeah, I know.”
I was just about to step into the bathroom when I heard my name–but I stopped short and tiptoed back upstairs so they wouldn’t see me or know I had overheard them.
I sat down on my bunk trying to think of something I had said or done that made me appear different from the rest of the troops. I didn’t think I had done anything so obviously different from the other soldiers. One thing seemed sure–a man can leave a good impression or a bad one, almost without knowing it
Many of the lectures, films and training episodes were not just for the benefit of the troops. I fell victim to a plot concocted by the officers, without my knowing it. It was during one of the last weeks of training and they ran a movie. It was about a fellow who became a football player, and it showed some of his games and problems. After the movie, the instructor got up and asked what we got out of the film. Only a few hands were raised, and a few short answers given, such as, “If you’re a good ball player, you won’t get drafted;” or, “If you’re good at football, you get the pretty girls.” He kept trying to get some sense out of the troops, but they didn’t seem to be in that frame of mind that day.
Finally, I raised my hand and said that it was obvious that the fellow needed the cooperation f his team. No matter how good he was at passing and running with the ball, it took help from his team to win the game. I then related it to the Army. It didn’t matter how good we were at shooting, or how brave we were—if we didn’t cooperate on the line, we were going to be in trouble. I thought they were a pretty good audience, and I wasn’t going to pass up a chance to do some missionary work; so I added a little more about how we spend a whole lifetime learning and practicing and developing talents, but it takes everyone to cooperate, to also do the best they can with whatever God endowed us with.
It seemed to be what the officers wanted to hear. They were looking for fellows who would exert themselves and take an interest in what was going on.
Right after that they came to me and said I was picked for further schooling. I was the first person to be selected out f the whole battalion to be sent to school. At first that was not particularly good news to me, but when they told me where the school was, then I got excited. They said it would be at Camp Gordon, Georgia-that was the location of one of two photographic schools that I knew about, operated by the Army. Was I ever glad!
CAMP GORDON, GEORGIA
I was soon packing all of my goods for another adventure in moving. I had never been east of the Mississippi River, so it would be new territory. It was a little sad to leave because I had made a lot of friends. Getting on the train and going to the East Coast was another long extension of my Army travels—from Montana to the West Coast, then down to Texas, and now to the East Coast. Little did I know that in the next year I would be landing in New York and traveling all the way back to Montana–almost a complete circle all the way around the United States.
When my train arrived in Georgia, I noticed there was a completely, different sort of climate, terrain and people. The weather was very humid, making both heat and cold much more noticeable. The land had a wide variety of vegetation, and was very picturesque. The people seemed to be mostly black and generally poor and lazy. Some of the houses had never seen a coat of paint.
The camp was quite large, and I was anxious to see where I would be going to school. There were both a photo school and a radio school at this location, but I was informed it would take a while to get our papers in order. I didn’t know it would take so long to get a few papers in order–about six weeks!! I was afraid the: had forgotten about me, but I learned this was just the beginning of Government “efficiency”.
One day a sergeant came in and called my name. When I answered, he came over and handed me some papers that said I was to report Monday at the Radio School. “Radio School?” I said. “There must be some mistake —I’m a photographer!”
Monday morning I reported for duty and declared that my name must have got on the wrong roster–the wrong school! There had to be some mistake. “No mistake,” they said “You’re a radio man!” I felt as if I had just been flushed down the drain. But there was no changing the Army!
We began to study the “theory” of radio. It certainly was no more than that, because they couldn’t even answer my question about which direction electricity travels–positive to negative or negative to positive for the first week it was so hypothetical and insignificant that I was completely bored. I thought about Paul who said, “Ever learning and never able to come to a knowledge of the truth.”
Each week the lessons got tougher and tougher. We got into trigonometry, some of the problems taking two or three pages to solve. We had been there for weeks and never saw a radio, yet we were taking radio repair! I had never seen a radio repairman who had to work out his problems with a paper and pencil.
The more I thought about this whole mess, the madder I became. I was going to look for an answer. There just had to be a way to get into that photo school. At least that is what I thought!
TO THE SCHOOL COMMANDER
During a question and answer period, I decided to change the subject of radios and asked, “How do you get out of this school?” They said a person must first flunk his Friday afternoon test. Then he must take that week over again. If he flunks the second time, he is out of the school. I began to study on ways to flunk. Sure enough, I successfully flunked the next week’s test. I said goodbye to friends in the class–telling them what I was doing. The following week I flunked again.
I was called in and questioned by a staff of teachers who said, “Ogden, how could you get your worst grade on a test the second time you took it?” I told them it took planning. They said that I was too intelligent to do that, but I told them I wanted to go to the photo school and after two flunks I was to go see the Post Commander and explain why I flunked and beg for another chance, but I was prepared with an answer. They laughed and said, “Good luck.”
In the Commander’s office I realized that I would need it. He flatly told me that I could not be sent to the photo school. I told him that I had just received the name of a fellow who had been in radio all his life and he was assigned to the photo school. I had been in photography all my life but I was in radio. “Why can’t you just switch our schools and we will all be better off?” “We just can’t do that,” he retorted. I told him it would be easy just to reverse the names on our papers. But the more insistent I was, the more determined he became to the contrary.
Then he decided to look at my papers. I felt as if I were winning the war singlehanded. But after he looked them all over, he said, “You have good qualifications to be in motor maintenance.” “No, I don’t,” I responded. “I know I would flunk that, too.” He kept looking. “Well, you are well qualified for motor repair and maintenance; how would you like that?” “Not for me,” I said. “You are good in telegraphy; we could put you there,” he suggested. But I responded, “No deal.” “Well, Private Kraut, you will have to choose one of these or we’ll send you back to your old outfit.” I said, “Major, if I can’t go across the street to the photo school, then you’ll have to send me back to my old outfit in Texas.” “Very well,” he said. “You’ll have your orders cut for Texas.”
The next week I was on a train bound for Texas. It seemed like a total waste of time and money, but worse than that it was all so ridiculous. They send thousands f troops clear across the world in a few days, but they couldn’t get me transferred across the street!
THE AXIS POWERS
Before returning to Fort Bliss, I want to mention a few close friends I made at Camp Gordon. One was a little Japanese fellow named Seiko Inuma. He had been born in America, but his folks had a business in Japan and America; at the time of Pearl Harbor they happened to be caught in Japan. He told me how he saw his father’s business blow up in an air raid over Tokyo. Then one day his home was bombed and some shrapnel hit him in the arm. He showed me the scars. After the war, he came to the U.S. and got drafted.
Seiko was a quiet fellow who never said much and was very unpretentious. He would often wait at mail call but never got much and seemed disappointed when nothing came. One day while I was in town, I saw some little bamboo fans on sale, so I bought a couple and wrapped them up in a brown paper wrapper and addressed them to him. Inside I wrote a little note scribbled in what I thought looked like Japanese–sort of a little love note. In a couple of days, he got a package in the mail and quickly took it to his bunk. He kept looking at the return address–which was also in reformed Japanese. He seemed more curious about the return address than what was in the package. Finally he opened it and studied it over and over. Then he looked up at me, and since I’m not very good at keeping a straight face, he caught on to what had happened. But he got a big laugh out of it–at least what was a big laugh for him. He said the writing was close to Korean and he couldn’t figure out who he knew in Korea. I told him I didn’t know anyone over there either.
* * *
Another fellow who used to pal with Seiko was an Italian. He was very outspoken, boisterous, and sometimes rude. He had been in America for only a few years when he got drafted.
One day while we were out on a detail, the Italian was bothering Seiko, who was in a solemn mood. Seto kept telling him to leave him alone, but the Italian kept it up. Finally Seiko turned to him and told him to leave him alone or he would throw him on the ground. But the spagetti man only took that as a taunt, and didn’t seem afraid since he was so much bigger than Seiko. He kept bothering Seiko and suddenly–quick as a bolt of lightning–our Italian was on the ground. It happened so fast, it amazed even the Italian. He wanted Seiko to do it again. After some more taunting, Seiko flopped him down again, but it was still so fast that he didn’t know what happened. Seiko just left, with the Italian still hollering to know how he did that. Seiko later told me that jujitsu was a regular subject like mathematics, in Japan.
One day soon after, the Italian went in town and came back all excited. He found a place called Lunge’s where they served real Italian spaghetti. He offered to take us to dinner, and we learned how the Italians really ate spaghetti. As we left, one of the soldiers said, “There go the Axis powers–an Italian, a Japanese, and a German!” But we were about the least warlike people in camp.
Every Saturday we had to march in formation. It took an hour to line up, and get in formation according to height. It was such a boring and burdensome task for me that I always tried to avoid it by being on KP or guard duty.
One day I got the idea of taking my camera out and photographing the fellows marching. If anyone asked any questions, I would merely say I am photographing our unit for the troops—which I did. So every Saturday after that I got my camera and went to the sidelines. No one ever questioned me, so I was lucky to get out of that heat.
One day as we were standing in the chow line, I became dizzy and had to go sit down. The next day it was just as bad, so I went on sick call. They determined that I had pneumonia so put me in the hospital. I found out a lot of men got pneumonia there because of the humidity from the ocean. I have had pneumonia several times since then and perhaps it is because my resistance was broken down at this time.
A nurse came by and said I would have to have a shot, so I rolled up my sleeve. She said, “Drop your pants.” I argued about blood and veins being the same in my arm as they were elsewhere. She wouldn’t settle for any of my “logical” reasons, and I lost the contest. I still think she was just trying to be smart.
I was in the hospital for about ten days, and that was all I could take. I’m too active to lie in bed all day; and after the third day, I was ready to go–but not well enough. I felt relieved that it was pneumonia rather than the diseases many of the soldiers were being treated for.
We had training films that were so horrible that they almost made you want to stay away from all women forever. Didn’t seem to bother some of the fellows though.
About two months later I was talking to a fellow by the name of Gregg as we walked to lunch. He said, “I got a bad letter in the mail today. A girl wrote to me and said she was pregnant by me.” I asked, “What are you going to do about it?” “I’m not answering it; I’m staying away from her as far as possible. I’ve had several letters like that!”
I turned to him and said, “Gregg, sometime in this life or the next, you are going to have to pay for what you’ve done.” Ile didn’t say another word to me, and he completely avoided me after that. Some men have no more honor or morals than a dog. In fact, the world seems to be full of them.
THE POOR BLACKS
The people in Georgia were mostly black, or so it seemed. I never saw such poverty. I went down some streets and saw houses that could have been built by two men in a day. Furthermore, it looked like the inhabitants never did a thing to keep them up. No paint was on them, the doors and windows were broken, the steps were hanging on one end, etc. It wouldn’t take much money to do some improvements, but they would tolerate anything–junk in the pathway they had to step over; a broken hinge on the gate meaning they had to leave the gate open all the time. It was a strange thing to see so little pride among the Black people in general. Some were more ambitious and did quite well, but most of them only wanted to sit on the porch all day. I thought it would be boring but they must have enjoyed it.
Occasionally I would see Malattos, who always seemed to associate with the Blacks rather than the whites. On any social or political issues they would side with the Blacks. This was true in the Army, too. I saw a couple of really beautiful Malatto girls in the Army, but they were always with the Black people.
In schools the Civil War was still raging. The instructor could hardly keep the South and the North at peace. I never heard so many arguments for and against the outcome of the Civil War. I concluded that war was not yet over
During KP one day I had a hassle with the sergeant of the kitchen. He came over and told me to take a crate of celery that had never been opened, and throw it away. I said, “Why not put it on the tables at suppertime? That is what it is here for.” lie said it was meant to be on the table at noon, but someone forgot it, and they had enough rations to use at night. We argued and the arguments became hotter and more lively. I told him it was against my principles to waste and destroy food, and I wouldn’t be guilty of doing it. With his permission, I said I would go down the street and give it to the poor Black people.
He was hollering at me to go throw it in the dump, but I wouldn’t. I told him that if he wanted the responsibility f destroying good food, that’s OK; but I wouldn’t take it. He could do it himself or get someone else. He got someone else, and he didn’t talk to me again. I never said any more to him either.
THE PRODIGAL RETURNS
It was a long train ride back to Fort Bliss, Texas, but I was glad to get back. Several of my friends were glad to see me and laughed when I told them of my escapades in Georgia.
They were determined to have a party for me, so they took me to Old Mexico where we shopped for bargains. Then we went to a little cantina and heard a Mexican band. They ordered Mexican Tequila, and the bartender asked me what I wanted. I said, “a grape pop”. The bartender looked like his roof had just fallen in. The guys all laughed, knowing what I would be asking for. The bartender didn’t expect a soldier to be drinking pop.
We wandered around town and went to another place and the same thing happened. Later we wandered into another little place, and as we walked in, some girls came over and started talking to us and then sat down beside us. I went over and put sonic money in a juke box for some music and ordered another soda pop. Pretty soon one of the guys and a girl went in another room. When he came back, the other one went out. Soon he came back, and the girl next to me wanted to go in the back room. I declined and she got mad. They tried again and I refused again. “What did you come in here for?” she hollered. I said, “Good music and pop.” Then she started swearing at me and calling me names. I heard one of the guys tell the other two girls to leave me alone–I was not like them. The girl left.
We sat there for a little while and one of the other girls began to talk to me and ask some questions. I visited with her and found out that she was originally from Austria. She and her husband and baby came to Mexico, but he began chasing around with the Mexican girls and left her and the baby stranded. She resorted to prostitution as the only means of earning money. I talked to her for quite a while and told her I had been a missionary and that if she really wanted to get out of that business, that she would have help.
A couple of weeks later these two guys came running into the barracks, all excited. “You remember the prostitute you talked to about quitting?” they asked. “Well, she quit the business and got another job.” They were more excited about her quitting the business than I was. Anyway, it was good news. I’m sure that Mexican gal that cussed me out was still in business.
GALVESTON BY THE SEA
When I arrived back at Fort Bliss, the first military news I heard was that we were to pack up–we were headed for Germany! The more I thought about it, the more appealing it sounded. I began to think of it as my Grandpa’s homeland, inexpensive cameras, and a picture-taking vacation!
We were transported to Galveston and loaded on a ship called USS Butner; but it should have been called USS Sardine. We were jammed six deep for beds, and there were constant lines at the bathroom and in the dining room.
As the ship pulled away from port, an eerie silence fell over the whole ship. Everyone stood at the railing watching our “homeland” get smaller and smaller. We wondered if we would see it again and what changes a couple of years overseas would make in our lives. Bidding farewell to this American port created a solemn attitude which I was glad to see in some of the fellows. They needed to think about something besides cards, booze, and wild women.
Our ship was near Cuba and it was about June. The weather was so hot I thought we must be near the equator. The ship was so hot we couldn’t touch the metal, and it was difficult to find shade except below deck; but that was worse. The humidity was near the saturation point, and besides the heat from the outside air, there was also the heat from the engines. It seemed like at least 120 degrees with maximum humidity. What an experience!
We had to go down to the lower deck to use the latrine, so everyone had to enjoy this different kind of tropical heat wave. I was there one day and heard the fellow in the next compartment say, “I’ve never been so hot in my life–I mean I’ve never been so hot in my whole life ever!”
I kept thinking about shivering in the cold just a few months previously. The earth is a strange place–a place of extremes. I guess it is designed that way to give us that experience and understanding. But sometimes enough is enough!
Our company of soldiers was scheduled for about 12-14 days on the trip, so we were going to be sailors for a couple of weeks. After the third day, I was ready for shore. I began to get seasick, and the only remedy I could find was to lie down. I hated to lie down for two weeks, but I didn’t want to be sick for two weeks either. One fellow told me I just had a weak stomach. I told him I didn’t believe that–I was heaving as far as the rest of them!
While on board the ship, there was not much to do. Occasionally we were called out for exercises, lifeboat drill, or something; but the rest of the time we could read, sleep or talk.
I sometimes walked to the rear of the ship to watch the water churn. I thought it would be interesting to see the motors that pushed such a big ship so fast in the water, but they wouldn’t let me down there. That was Navy property.
Once I saw a huge hammerhead shark just motionless in the water, watching the ship go by. He was probably as curious about the ship as I was. On a couple of occasions in the morning, I saw some schools of whales on top of the water. The flying fish were interesting–especially when some other fish were after them. I learned there is a balance of nature among fish as there is among the animals, and it is “survival of the fittest”. Everything in the universe is perfectly fashioned to order. Scientifically, mathematically, and chemically our system is made with the precision of a watch. But I couldn’t figure out why there is so much wasted water. For days and days and days–nothing but water. Most of the earth is covered with it.
We all usually sat around reading–just waiting to get across all that water. Since I got a little seasick standing, I usually was sitting or lying down. It gave me a chance to do a lot of reading, but even that got tiresome. Most of the guys were reading pocket books, sex books or something similar. One fellow came up to me and asked, “Have you got a good book I could read?” I reached in my pocket and handed him a Bible. He stared at it and said, “Oh hell, not that good!”
A SKUNK GETS CAUGHT
When we got off the ship in Bremerhaven, we were given tents to live in for a while until we could get relocated. I went to the showers late one afternoon, and when I came back, my helmet was gone. It was right on top of my bunk when I left 15 minutes before. That was the last straw! My name was painted with white ink on the inside, there was a little white line around the insignia that I had painted on, and there was a small portion on one of the straps that was missing. That made the helmet identifiable, and I decided to hunt for it until I found the skunk who stole it.
The next morning I waited at the front of the chow line until I saw who was wearing it. We had four companies in our mess hall; so if it wasn’t in ours, then it would be in the other one next to that one. I stood there for a short time and there it was! I walked over and grabbed it off the guy’s head and said, “Last night I put this helmet on my bed, and this morning I find it on your head. This is my helmet because I have it identified in the white paint you couldn’t quite scratch off; the white border and nicked strap are still here, too. I just regret that I have to serve my country with thieves like you. I’m over here in Germany because of the Russians, but up to now my biggest trouble has been trying to keep my possessions from being stolen by guys like you. Your kind of people ought to live in a country like Arabia where a thief gets his hand cut off so he can’t go around picking up things that don’t belong to him. I’m more sorry for you as a thief than for me who has things stolen from him.”
The whole company had stopped eating and the chow line had stopped moving. They were crowding around to listen and see what would happen. The fellow was very embarrassed and said, “Go ahead and take it back.” said, “If it means so much to you that you have to steal it, then keep it! You can think about me every time you wear it.” I slammed it into his stomach and he bent over. I walked away.
I had prepared that little sermon all evening and several soldiers heard it. I think it was worth the price of a helmet. It was certainly worth it to me just to get it out of my system. We had much less stealing after that, so I hope this incident was the means of stopping some of it.
We were transported by train from the sea port to a camp near Baumholder. The trains were cute little things compared to the American engines. They were small, square steam engines with a completely different locking system. My years on the Great Northern Railway taught me a great deal about railroads; and one of these little trains was like something you would see in Disneyland.
As we rode towards camp, we passed through little town that seemed to have quaint, old style architecture–yet everything was so orderly, neat and clean. On the outskirts of each village was a large garden area. Everyone in town had a little fenced garden spot and a small garden shed on it. The spaces were about 25 feet square or less. These gardens were all so neat and orderly that they seemed to be built with clock precision. The longer I remained in Germany, the more I could see this feature in the German people. They did everything systematically, orderly and with great concern for quality. Yet in spite of their more modern civilized orientation, they kept their towns in the old style format. No modern streamlined buildings could be seen in their smaller towns and quaint villages. Once I saw the U.S. Army build a housing area for their married dependents, and it was the usual cracker box style. The whole town was horrified because it broke up their pattern n. I thought it was a disgrace myself.
Each village usually had one or more chapel’s right near the center of town. The steeple could be seen above the other buildings and gave the village a dramatic but beautiful appearance. The roads in and out of the towns were often built of cobblestone–rough riding but durable and picturesque to look at. Every larger town had a city park which was always a masterpiece of composition. People filled the parks on weekends to rest or sleep, read or visit. Many of the people were walkers. All the hills had footpaths, and all the roads had bike paths. Saturdays and Sundays the hills were full of people walking and hiking for exercise and to get a break from their daily work.
Everywhere I looked it was photographically a paradise. A person could stand in one place and take four or five beautiful pictures. I could tell as soon as I arrived that it was going to he a fun place to me and my camera equipment.
As the train passed through these quaint and quiet little hamlets, I couldn’t imagine a more peaceful looking place on earth. Yet, the history of Germany, from as far back as its history’ goes, records war after war after war. It seemed almost impossible that such a friendly, happy, good natured people could have so much trouble. My coming there was because we expected another battle with the Russians.
We arrived at a little village called Baumholder and were all assigned a six-man tent to live in. One of the first things we were told to do was to dress up and prepare to meet the General. We all got ready in neat, perfectly lined columns. For thirty minutes the sergeants lined us up, dressing down and polishing over the troops. We were getting worn out with all this formality when the General drove up in a jeep and said, “OK boys, gather around; I want to talk to you.” All of that rigid posing was gone with his first sentence.
The General told us that we had been scheduled to go to Korea, but since some new troubles had arisen in Germany and it looked like it would result in the same kind of military action that was going on in Korea, we were sent to Germany. It appeared that the Russians wanted to take the rest of Germany. They had innumerable tanks and troops all along the German border and we had hardly any. For that reason, we were not going to be expected to hold the line, but just be protectors for the troops until we could get out. That was not very good news to me. I was assigned to the 2nd Armored Division–one of General Patton’s units.
There was not much to our camp in Baumholder. Our six-man tents were pitched on the gentle slope of a hill and were not much of a home with only the ground for our floor. Our regular inspections were always a joke. One day the captain came by for inspection and walked through the tent–never saying a word; then on his way out, he turned to me and said, “Kraut, you have a dirty floor,” and then walked out. I turned to the fellow next to me and said, “That’s going to be difficult to remove, because there are about 8,000 miles of dirt on it!”
The people in town were always conscious of dirt. I remember seeing girls working early in the morning–either at home or at businesses–sweeping and mopping the steps and sidewalks. I saw young girls on their knees scrubbing the sidewalk steps with a brush. They always kept things neat and clean, no matter how poor they seemed to be.
The Germans were a very polite, kind and generally happy people. It was common to see them walking down the street and greeting each other with, “Gute Morgen”, or stopping for a short visit. They were all very kind to me even though I was a soldier.
I always woke up and began the day before 5:30 a.m. Since I was the only one up, it gave me the quiet and privacy that I enjoyed before the noisy routine of the rest of the day began. I could read, write, shave or shower–all without being bothered or interrupted. While the others slept, I had the latrine all to myself; then when everyone else was standing in line to shave, I was back in my quarters–alone. This was standard procedure for me all through my tour in the Army.
One day the sergeant came over to me and said, “Kraut, if my alarm ever fails to go off, would you be sure to wake me up before 6:00 a.m.? There were a few times that I had to wake him, and he was glad or he could have been in trouble with the officers.
Early morning has always been my favorite time of the day. It’s so quiet and peaceful and seems to be another fresh start. It was early morning when I was born, too. I could never understand how it is possible for anyone to sleep past 8:00 in the morning. To me that is almost an impossibility. Sometimes when I get very tired, I envy people who can sleep eight hours a night. It seems that the older I get, the less sleep I get or need. That gives me a little more time to do the things I need to do.
LEARNING THE GERMAN LANGUAGE
We began to get passes on weekends and occasionally during the week after duty. Going to town was not much of a treat because there wasn’t much to the town. Most of the guys went in to get drunk or whatever other kind of mischief they could find.
The first thing I was confronted with was the language barrier. Immediately I bought some books on the German language and even took a course provided by the Army which was given on records. However, only one record player could be found, which was at the training room. I would read these books while standing in line, walking guard mount, or waiting for something. The language came fast and easy for me. I recall it was 90 days after starting Lesson One that I was talking about religion to a German man. It seemed impossible to really enjoy a foreign country or get anywhere or understand the people without knowing how to talk their language. The Germans seemed to respect or at least be eager to talk to Americans who knew enough of the language to speak with them.
I recall walking a guard mount with word cards–talking to myself on the hill as I walked around. I read and learned nearly 200 words on one two-hour shift. So many words in German are nearly identical to English that it didn’t seem to pose much of a problem for anyone who was really interested in learning it. I used to think the language was easy for me because my grandfather came from there. Anyway, a knowledge of German was one of the best things I acquired in the Army, and I greatly appreciated talking to the German people.
It took me only a short time to learn that American coffee and cigarettes were a big luxury to the Germans, and they paid a high premium to obtain them. I soon learned that I could trade my rations of coffee and cigarettes to the owners of camera shops for camera equipment. It was not long before I had some beautiful camera equipment and the Germans were enjoying what they considered American luxuries.
In camp we had a one-hour lecture about the Black Market and its illegality. At the conclusion the sergeant said, “Therefore, if I hear about or catch anyone selling coffee for less than 20 marks, they will answer to me.” I do believe that the U.S. Army was one of the greatest suppliers of foreign aid and boosting the German economy.
The Black Market got to be too severe and struck too close to home when it affected my own dinners. One Sunday they were serving fried chicken for dinner. That was a great treat for us, and I was looking forward to it. I was near the front of the line when they ran out of chicken. Someone had stolen nearly all of the chickens and sold them to the Germans. Boy, was I mad at those Black Marketers’! It wasn’t too many weeks later, however, that we heard about one of the sergeants who got caught in the middle of the night stealing food from the kitchen stores. I was hoping that it was the same fellow who got my chicken.
I was going down the street window shopping one day when a man came up and spoke to me in very good English. We talked for a while, and he expressed his heartfelt thanks to the Americans who saved most of his country from the Russians. He told me of the plot to divide Germany into sections–American, English, and Russian. The Russians wanted most of it and some control over the rest. He said it was America who came through to help the Germans and to give them some aid. He pointed to many new buildings and said, “It was the Americans who were responsible for getting the German people back on their feet.” Another German told me that “Deutchland ist kaput.” He had no hope of it ever becoming a nation of any means again.
Going down a road on another occasion, I was driving a jeep ahead of a convoy. It turned out that I was about 1/2 hour ahead, so I had to wait for them. While I sat there, a German came by who was limping. As he came closer, I noticed he had an eye gone, his face was scarred and one hand was also missing. I called him over and said, “Do you smoke cigarettes?” He said he did. I told him that I didn’t, but we were given rations with cigarettes, and if he wanted them, he could have them. I handed him a carton which was equivalent to about two or three days of pay for the Germans at that time. He was overjoyed. He told me that he, too, had been in the Army and was captured by the Russians near Moscow. He had spent three years in Soviet prison camps. I thought if ever anyone had a right to be prejudiced or had a reason to hate the Russians, it would be this man.
I asked, “What kind of people are the Russians?” expecting to hear a very negative answer. But he said, “They are just like you and me–they only want to have a little piece of ground, a home and family and be left alone. It is when they get into Communism or in the Army that they change.” I thought then, and still feel the some, that it is the leaders of the nations that cause wars–not the people themselves. They ought to take every leader who talks about war or conquering and put them all
into a boxing ring and make them fight until they have to be carried out! A little authority, “as they suppose”, changes them into machines of death and destruction. When I looked around Germany at the massive destruction, I wondered who really was behind the war. Men who conspire to bring about war will surely be among the lowest forms of our species in heaven. How many leaders of nations are responsible for the blood of the youth of their nations!!
As I stood talking to that war-torn German whose body was so mangled, I thought what a good man he was. But the misery of his life was a testament against maniacs for power like Hitler and Russian Communist leaders.
There were many interesting things to see near our camp. A friend of mine, who was a Latvian and drafted, went on hikes with me. One day we found a huge gravestone which was written in Russian. Nearby were about six or eight graves that had been dug up. We didn’t know if the Russians had buried them and later dug them up, or if the Germans had. They were not too far from a little grave where some Germans were buried.
On one of our hikes we walked along the railroad tracks and followed them into a tunnel. When we got half way in, we heard a train whistle. We ran along the walls which were very close to the track until we found a little cut-out in the wall, where we could hide from the train, which seemed to be chasing us. We just barely ducked in and the train went by. After the train had passed, we came out of the tunnel and discovered our faces, hands and clothes were all sooty black. We decided that was enough hiking and exploring for that day.
This friend’s name was Vigo Rouda. He told me of how the Russians had taken over his homeland and what terrible deeds many of the soldiers and Communists did to his people. He was a very serious fellow; and after telling me what he had been through, I could understand why.
We were hiking around one day and found a little tavern, but some people said the fellow who owned it really hated Americans. He was bitter about losing the war–we didn’t know if it was because he lost wealth, family, or his vain ambitions; but we never went near the place. His tavern was not too far from camp, so I suppose he was upset every time he saw our troops around the town. He probably dreamed of the day when he and his troops could walk around the streets in America.
I met another fellow who was bitter about the war and its outcome. He went on and on about battles, and if this or that would have been done, they could have won the war. I soon discovered that he was a Hitler Junge or Hitler’s Youth. He was trained as a boy to be a warrior, and was taught that Germany was the greatest country and should be the victor. There was no talking sense to him; he was still a soldier and frightened at heart. It would take more training to get that war business out of him than it did to get it put in.
Many of the Germans would relate war stories as though they were accomplishments in their life. I always thought it was a waste of time and money in any man’s life to go to war. Little, if anything, worthwhile ever came from it. Even a fight between trio individuals seldom provides a solution to their problems.
MY BIKE AND I
I soon learned where the most interesting places were in Germany, and kept planning trips when I could get away. The railroad fares were so cheap that it was almost embarrassing to buy the ticket. I remember paying 27, 16, and 13 cents for tickets around the area, and we had a military discount on top of that.
Then I learned that the railroad had a special car for bicycles; it was about 10 or 15 cents for them. So I bought a bike which I kept for nearly two years. Nearly everywhere I went, I would ride my bike–then when I went on longer trips, the bike and I would go by train.
Some fellows didn’t care about going anywhere. One of my tent-mates was an Indian from Alaska. He was always sitting by his bunk and never did much. On weekends his big pleasure was to get some liquor and drink all evening. I could never tell when he was drunk or sober. He never talked much, never did much–just sat around by his bunk. Nice fellow and I enjoyed associating with him, but we never had any long conversations. The only way I could ever tell if he was drunk was if his eyes were bloodshot!
I met a family nearby that had two young girls. We became good friends, and I sometimes went bike riding with them. It was a little difficult to put all my camera equipment on my bike, but I managed to handle most of it.
These little bike trips were the most enjoyable days of my Army career–my bike, my camera and I went all over Germany!
Some f the fellows in the company were assigned jobs. I never got into anything, so it was usually my job to do all the odd jobs. Sometimes K.P. or guard mount or typing was my lot for the day. I thought it was degrading to be assigned to going around picking up cigarette butts–especially when I didn’t even smoke.
Occasionally a cook would come over and ask for a volunteer to do K.P. duty in the kitchen. Of course, I was the only one who ever volunteered, but it was better than loafing around or cleaning yards. The cooks got to know me quite well, and knew I volunteered to do duty with them; so they often did favors for me and never gave me any trouble like they did some of the guys. When I was working hard, the days passed quickly.
There was a unit camped up the hill from us, so one day I wandered up there to see what they had. I was surprised to learn that part of it was a photographic unit. I went in and met the sergeant who said they needed photographers in the worst way. He asked me to try getting a transfer from my commander, which I did, but to no avail. He told me he couldn’t make transfers from his unit into another. I was greatly disappointed and thought perhaps I would be on ICP. duty all the rest of my term in the Army.
THE I.G. (INSPECTING GENERAL)
The Army had a method of handling complainers. Every once in a while they sent someone around to listen to complaints. They called him the “Inspecting General”, or I.G. All the troops that had a sad story were permitted to line up in their best uniform and personally relate all their complaints about the Army or anything else. I’m not sure that he ever did much except be very sympathetic and take notes–which are probably all that most of the complainers wanted anyway. Some soldiers needed a nursemaid or someone’s shoulder to cry on.
One early afternoon the I.G. came to our camp. He was in one of the mess tents, and I was working nearby. All afternoon I walked past his tent and heard the soldiers telling about how terrible the food was, how miserable they were and how the doctors would only give them pills when they thought they were sicker than that. I don’t know how he was able to listen to all that “belly aching” every day without complaining himself.
Near the end of the afternoon, I could see the end of the line. It seemed to me if someone really wanted something, the I.G. would be the right man to see. So I walked in after the last man had left, and said,
“Excuse me, sir; I’m not here for a legitimate complaint–in fact, I think the Army is doing much better than I ever expected. I just happened to be working on K.P., so please excuse my not dressing up. I’m only here to see if I could get some information. You see, I usually volunteer for K.P. duty because I prefer to be busy doing something rather than finding some easy duty that requires neither work nor brains. But I have thought that I could do more for the Army and myself if I could do that which I am most qualified for–photography work. Just up the hill is a photo unit that is shorthanded. The sergeant there has tried every way he knows to get me transferred there. I have tried every way I know from my end, but to no avail. I am here to ask how such transfers are made and what can I do to get into a unit where I really could be of some service to the Army.”
He reached into a briefcase and pulled out a book and quoting from it, said, “Can you set a camera exposure, develop film, produce prints, mix chemicals to make solutions, etc., etc.?” My answer was “yes” to everything he asked. He closed the book and got a piece of paper out and said, “Private Kraut, in about ten days you will have your transfer.” I shook his hand and told him how much I appreciated him. He probably did more for me than anyone else who went in complaining.
Sure enough, on the tenth day my commander came to my tent and said, “Well, Kraut, you got your wish. I hate to lose you, but I’m glad to see you get what you want.” I packed my duffle bag and said so long to the rest of the gang–but really I was going only about 100 yards away.
As soon as I got into the photo unit, we were transferred to a place called Bad Kreuznaeh. We arrived to find some beautiful barracks that were built a few years before for the German Army. What a pleasant place to be located–by a beautiful little river, lots of trees and a quaint little village. The barracks were warm, the wind couldn’t blow through them, and we had running water. However, the water had not been purified; so if you drank it, it caused some laxative-type problems. We filled our canteens and added a water purification pill. It made poor tasting water, but it was better than enduring the problems of water without the pill. The barracks were a luxury to us after months in the tents, ships, and trains.
One morning as I looked out of the window, I noticed a large factory nearby. It was a curiosity for some time until someone told me it was the Kreuznach Optical Works. Of course, I had seen “Kreuznach” written on many fine lenses. What a surprise–to be camped a couple of blocks from one of the world’s great lens makers. It appeared that I would be broke all the time buying lenses which were so much cheaper in Germany than in the U.S.
As soon as I got a pass, I went on a grand tour of the plant. It was a very interesting tour to see how lenses are ground, polished and tested. gave me a new and greater appreciation of photography.
The photo work was easy and fun–I was finally doing the work I knew and liked best, even though we worked long and hard at times. Most of the equipment was old and weathered, and it was difficult to get anything new. I bought a new Rollicord camera and was elated at this beautiful piece of workmanship. It was a better camera than the one the Army gave me to use.
Most of the work was not very important and was easy to shoot. I had been able to do well enough on shooting jobs to be assigned to those which required a certain amount of skill and assurance that they would turn out. The Army announced that they had a new tank that had just arrived, and they needed photographs immediately of the inside–driving, shooting, and controls, for training purposes. I was assigned to fly all the way over to the border by Czechoslovakia where these new tanks were located. I took the pictures and then worried all the way back about, whether they turned out good enough. Our lab man took them in and developed them, and then came out and said, “Perfect” Was I ever relieved! A general had ordered the pictures, and it would have been a tough job getting another plane to fly the trip over again without some embarrassing explanations.
Most of my photographic career has been experienced in poverty;. Equipment and supplies were usually purchased second-hand or at discount prices or close-outs. Much of my shooting had to be with improvised means because I never had the money for the needed products and better brands. But it often taught me important lessons by experience.
For instance, I was assigned a job to do some copy work. We had a couple of flood lights which could be used, but this particular job required minimum glare, and the flood lights were not the kind that would produce the best results. I took the charts to be photographed and went outside and put them up against the wall in the shady side of the building under a porch. I finished the job and they turned out fine. As I was coming back into the lab from gathering up my apparatus, I heard one of the corporals complaining to the sergeant that “Kraut is not using our copy board; he’s taking copies underneath the porch.” The sergeant seemed dismayed at his complaint, and said in the usual Army vernacular, “I don’t care if he’s using the ass of a firefly for lighting–he’s getting results and that’s all I care about.” I ducked into another room so I wouldn’t be noticed as overhearing their conversation.
Another photographer told a friend of mine that I “was like a bumblebee–the scientists say he can’t fly with the equipment he has; hut the bee doesn’t know he’s not supposed to fly, so he pays no attention to that and just goes out and flies anyway.”
For me, photography was never more fun than in Germany. Perhaps there were few times in my life that were as much fun as looking through a lens at a large fascinating castle, surrounded by beautiful clouds, and tripping the shutter to know I had captured it on film. Everything in Germany seemed to be photogenic.
Weekends in Germany were especially fun. The interesting sights, the stores, the history, and the mountains–all blended into a constant pleasure every hour I was away from camp. I took so many pictures that I had neither the time nor the money to print them all up.
Going through the negatives one day, I decided to print a few of them into 8 x 10 prints. One of the Recreational Servicemen Officers saw them and begged me to print some for him to hang on the walls of their club. I made some 11 x 14 prints, and when they were matted and mounted in 16 x 20 frames, I thought they looked beautiful! They hung in the club for over a year and a half–and I left them there when I came back home.
My main disappointment was not being able to spend all my time roving through Germany taking pictures. But the Army often made me work on weekends, and on many other weekends it would be snowing, raining or cloudy. But I made the most of what little time was available, and enjoyed every minute.
Not far from camp was a little town called Bingen, which was situated on the Rhine River. Nearby was a bridge in the water which had been bombed during the war. Another beautiful bridge was still there. There were postcards of castles all along the Rhine River, which appeared to be an exciting subject for my camera. Learning that there was a boat tour of the castles, I bought a ticket. The guide was interesting and told many stories of the past. The castles were owned or taken over by kings, soldiers, and sometimes robbers. They varied in sizes, shapes, and purposes. Some were so old they were merely walls, while others were built within the century. We stopped and toured through some of the nearby castles, but we saw many of them on both sides of the Rhine and all the way to the sea. It was impossible to spend all the time I wanted just visiting the castles.
On another trip I went to see the Neu Schawnstein Castle, which was the one that Walt Disney used in patterning his trademark castle. It contained millions of dollars’ worth of paintings, statues, silverware, and gold products. It was built by one of the last kings in Germany–Ludwig II, often known as the mad king of Bavaria.
It was here that I was riding my bike and met two German fellows on their bikes. They were trying to learn English, and I was trying to learn German, so we spoke the other’s language and made corrections for each other. We spent most of the afternoon together and had a very enjoyable time. It was difficult for me to understand how young men like that had to go to war.
On another occasion, a friend and I were on a train and met two fellows–one from Germany and the other from France. The Frenchman spoke only French and my friend spoke only English. The German spoke French and I spoke a little German; so the Frenchman spoke French to the German, who would tell me in German, and I would convey it to my friend in English. That was an interesting lingo.
It took me only about 90 days to learn to speak enough German to visit with people. It is too bad that Americans do not spend more time teaching language rather than some of the junk they do. It would be a means of understanding other people in other nations.
When I had built up enough vacation time, and all the others had had their first choice at leave, it became my chance to spend more than just a weekend photographing Europe. Most of the fellows had more rank or time and therefore had first choice. Fortunately, most of them went in May, June, or July. That left most of August free for vacation. That was fine with me anyway; because August was the time I wanted anyway. That month is about the only one that is mostly sunny. The weather during the rest of the year is very unpredictable.
When my turn came for vacation, I took the whole four weeks that I had built up, because I realized there may never be another chance for me to see Europe. I made plans to see as much of Germany as I could, and perhaps go to France and England.
Before I left, however, I asked several soldiers where they had gone on their leave, what they saw, and what they did. Most of them didn’t see much, do much or go anywhere interesting. One fellow went to Paris, so that was intriguing to me. After asking all about his trip to Paris, I learned he had spent a month’s wages in less than a week, never saw the Eiffel Tower or the Arch de Triumph, Ile spent the whole time in bars and a hotel room. It is strange that some men have so little regard for their life that they just waste it.
When it was time to leave, I had my camera bags full of film and equipment, and I had saved enough money to travel for nearly a month. What a treat it would be to have a month of total freedom and be able to just photograph Europe. So the first thing on my schedule was to purchase a ticket on the train to Paris, France. The train was leaving that night so I would be traveling most of the night and arriving the next morning. As the sun came up, we were pulling into Paris, which was much different than the places in Germany. It appeared that the French are not as clean, orderly or as particular about their living and their towns. I jumped off the train with all the excitement of a great adventure about to begin. As I walked down the steps of the station, a French girl came up and asked to go out with me. I told her, “No,” but she persisted. I kept trying to avoid her and she kept after me. When I got irritated with her, I hollered at her, “No!” Then she got mad and started calling me names. About that time a bus came by so I got on it just to get rid of her. I didn’t even know where it was going, but at least it was away from her. The driver drove the bus up the street and then turned around and came back; and as we passed the station, I could see her walking along the sidewalk, with her mouth still jabbering. I guess she was still cussing me.
I came to Paris to take pictures so I didn’t want any interruptions or distractions. That first introduction to Paris was not a very good one, so I pursued my venture. Purchasing a map, I could soon see where everything was that I wanted to visit. For three days I wandered around the town and took pictures. It was fun visiting the Arch of Triumph, the Eiffel Tower, etc. However, it was so difficult to ask people the price of something, directions, or to get some additional information about something. I decided then and there that the next time I wanted to spend time in a country; it should be the first step to learn something about the language. A country cannot possibly be enjoyed until you know a little of the language and can converse with the people.
On my map I saw an art museum close by, so I walked to it. When I stepped in the door, I could see that it was a “Museum of Modern Art”. I looked around to see paintings that looked like a steam roller squashed some tubes of paint on a canvas. Statues looked like something that had just been pulled out of a bread mixer! What an array of distortion, in color and plaster, I have never seen before or since. If those things were representative of something in the world (other than politics), it passed my observation. I have seen better work come out of the third grade in schoolrooms. I didn’t make it any further than a few steps inside the front door and decided that I was in the wrong place.
I went to the Army Air Base near Paris and asked for a military HOP flight. The Air Force will let any military person fly with their planes if they have any space available. I had to wait only a couple of hours and caught a plane to London. Here was a place that I could talk and be understood. Some of them had such a strong accent that it was a little difficult, but at least messages could be conveyed.
When I arrived in London, the first place on my agenda was to visit the Church Mission headquarters. It was there that so many of the great stalwarts of Mormon history had spent years in the mission field. When I arrived, they told me that most of the missionaries had gone out on a cruise for a couple of days. That was the same response when I was in the German Mission. It was certainly a different mission than the one I had just come from. The missionaries here were always with a camera, going out to some social party or off on a camera sight-seeing trip. In my mission we felt lucky to spend a week-end with some members of the Church.
My picture taking was a little hampered by the weather, but in Europe the weather is almost always overcast. It was interesting to see the places in England like the House of Commons, Big Ben, London Bridge, the changing of the guards, etc. I also went to the Wax Museum, 10 Downing Street, the torture chambers of a few centuries before, and rode their two-story buses. I even took in the world’s largest bookstore.
But perhaps the most enjoyable place to visit was the British Museum. It took me all day to go through there and see items from all over the world. They had a section of Egypt which was like walking into an ancient world. Part of their exhibit was like walking into an ancient tomb. They also had parchments, books, and old manuscripts that were a real fascination and study. I bought a couple of publications that had pictures and explanations of those ancient manuscripts. I did get a little peeved at their “British” rules. They saw me taking some flash pictures and told me that I couldn’t do that. I asked them why and they told me that “it was the rules.” They said “no tripods, and no flashes,” but didn’t know why. I told them that I was the only person in there, so there wasn’t anyone to be bothered by the flash, but they said, “It’s the rules.” To me that was typical British. Nothing like regulations to conform to–even if they didn’t make any sense.
Another custom that I couldn’t get used to was the sharp and critical snaps that they made to each other or anyone else. It was their nature, but a missionary said that you soon learn to do the same thing. That just wasn’t my nature and I was glad I hadn’t been sent to that mission field.
While going down the street one day, a fellow came up and asked me if I were an American. I answered in the affirmative, and from then on he seemed to want to be a friend, so I let aim. He wanted to show me the town and tell me all about himself. He was a Polish man who had served in the Army but was captured by the Germans; he had escaped twice and then also escaped once from the Russians later. He also had been able to finish the last days of the war in the British Air Force. When he told me that he was able to escape from the Nazis and the Communists, I began to think maybe I should learn a little Russian so I could escape if I ever
got taken. He took me to his home and showed me pictures of his life there, including many war pictures that astounded me. We also went to a Polish restaurant and I bought him a dinner. He asked me what kind of food I wanted, and when I told him I wanted to eat a meal just like a man from Poland would enjoy, he was pleased. He introduced me to the owner of the restaurant, who made a very interesting visitor. That whole day was full of interesting, informative and enjoyable companionship.
Food was still scarce in England from the effects of the war. I had “Fish and Chips”. Meat was a scarcity and most people didn’t make much money, yet many things were expensive.
After about a week in England, it was time to go home. It would have been enjoyable to spend a few more weeks there because of so many things to see and places to go. Little did I know that later a couple of my children would spend their missions for the LDS Church there.
Again I took an Air Force plane over to Paris. Then when there, I couldn’t get a plane going to Germany. This was a panic for me, because I was just about out of money and didn’t even have enough for train fare. Time was running short, too; so I finally decided to talk to some G.I. who looked trustworthy. I found one and told him my plight. I said I would give him some camera equipment for a $20.00 loan and then when I returned to Germany, I would send him the money back and he could return my equipment. He did loan me the money and I later received my equipment.
After my return to Germany, I went back to camp, got my paycheck and then took off for the final week of my vacation. This time it was to southern Germany.
The country of Southern Germany was similar to parts of Northern America. There were mountains, forests and lakes. Northern Germany was flat and mostly industrial. Arriving in a little town near the Bodensea, I noticed a big parade going on which happened to be their Oktoberfest. Different towns all joined together in colorful uniforms and dress. Everyone was happy, singing, and drinking. They treated me like I was one of them and occasionally they asked me to take their picture. Again, I thought it was so strange that a people so friendly always had so much trouble with war. They just got bad dictators into power, much the same as in many other countries.
The Bodensea was quite a large lake that connected Switzerland and Austria. I thought about taking one of the touring boats and going over
across the border, but didn’t. However, took pictures with the Swiss
Alps in them. The Bodensea had a type of fish in it that was found nowhere else in the world, called the Boden fish. I ate one and found it to be similar to a pike in taste and texture, but I didn’t care for it cooked in milk.
I checked into a beautiful hotel in the area. It had a balcony that opened out with a beautiful view of forest and Alps. The cost was 75 cents in American money, including breakfast.
In the evening the people all went to a large hall and danced. It was one of the most jovial affairs I ever saw. They knew how to celebrate.
It was during this week that I was able to take some of the most interesting and beautiful pictures of my whole time in Europe. Perhaps it was the most enjoyable time of my life up then. Everything seemed to be so perfect–the weather, the location, and plenty of film. Being crammed up together with so many other men for so long, the time alone and the freedom to go as I pleased, was just a rare and lovely feeling that I drank in like heaven’s nectar.
After such a wonderful vacation, it was difficult to return to camp.
The Germans were an interesting people to me, and so I tried to visit with them whenever I could. Sometimes I visited with them while walking my guard post. That caused a little trouble when I got caught. But I usually passed it off as a joke by saying, “Well, they looked suspicious so I had to find out who they were.” The officers or sergeants of the guard soon realized that I was a “nut”, and not to expect too much from me. But walking a guard post without any bullets gave me plenty of ammunition to illustrate the nonsense of it all.
The trains were sectioned into first, second and third class. The rich took first class. Sometimes women and children, etc., took second, and the workers rode third class. At first, I went first class; then second; but finally I went third so I could meet most of the common folks.
I got on the train near a factory and it was full of passengers with lunch buckets. In a four-seat area there were three workers seated. They were talking and laughing until I sat down; then there was a cold silence. I began talking to them in German and their eyes lit up. I told them my name was Kraut and that did it. We visited and joked and they were very
cordial—so much so that I asked them to write down their names and addresses, which they did. Later, when I arrived back at camp, I got a big box and put coffee, cigarettes, candy aid other goodies in it and mailed it to them with a note saying how much I enjoyed my visit with them and my trip to Germany.
About a week later when I came off duty, the first sergeant called me into his office and gave me a box. I opened it to find a beautiful, huge cake. It was not an ordinary cake, but a cake that looked like it had been carved by a master artisan. There was also a beautiful card of thanks—written and signed by the wives f the men I sent the gift box to. It had such kind remarks that I got tears in my eyes. I thought how strange that some things so seemingly insignificant could become so meaningful. Being a soldier to protect West Germany may have had its value, but creating good will with the people was more interesting and easier for me to do.
I went to Cologne (Köln) by train just to see what was left of the city. When I had sold newspapers in Shelby, Montana, as a young boy, I remembered reading the same headline for three days in succession. It read, “1000 Bombers over Cologne”. I wondered at the time how any city could survive such a pounding. When I arrived there, I could see that it didn’t survive very well.
The Bosgaard family (I will mention later) came from Cologne. The Mrs. told me that it was all afire and the bombs just kept the earth shaking all the time. It was so terrible, she said, that words could never describe it.
I remember one little town that was bombed completely out of existence. The only thing standing in that town was a marker–a monument built there after the war–in remembrance of the once peaceful German community. It was the statue of a boy holding a bomb. Why that town was wiped out I never knew, but sometimes they were destroyed because of military installations or scientific laboratories, etc.
After returning to camp from England and hearing the story of the Polish soldier, I decided to learn some of the Russian language–at least enough so I could ask for help or directions. I went to the education center and asked them for a book on the language. They not only had a lesson book, but a dictionary and a set of records. I was thrilled until I started to read and speak it. I couldn’t even find any words that were similar to English, but I persisted.
One day at dinner one of the troops sid you should go talk to that little fellow in the chow line; he comes from Russia. I looked him over, but thought it would be more appropriate some other time.
About a month later, while on a shooting assignment of a particular maneuver, I spotted that same little fellow sitting on a log eating his lunch, some distance from the rest of the troops. I came up behind him and said in Russian, “Hello, friend, how are you?” He jumped up and turned around, and said, “Are you Russian?” I assured him not–that I was only trying to learn the language and thought he might help me with it. He was eager to have me sit down and visit.
After talking with him for quite a while, I asked him why he sat there all alone instead of with the troops. He said they really didn’t understand his position; but because he was a Russian and they were in Germany because Russia posed a problem, they were resentful of him. He said no one would even share half their tent with him, so he just rolled up in his half on the ground. I told him to come over to my 2-1/2 ton truck after dinner, and he could sleep in there with all the comforts of home, and we’d let the rest of the troops sleep out there on the ground in their little tents. He laughed and was overjoyed.
He brought over his things and we set up house. Later on, I fixed some hot chocolate and brought out some pastry for us. He was elated over everything. He began to tell me the story of his life, and it sounded like a movie that was too unbelievable to be true. We visited until 2:00 a.m. and still never got around to my learning the language.
His folks were in Leningrad when it was being fought over by both Germans and Russians. He got captured and was sent to slave labor for the Nazis for about three years. After the war, he tried to locate his folks in Leningrad. Everyone told him that the town was all rubble. No trace of his parents could be found. The Americans told him he could go back to Russia, to Canada or the U.S. He chose the U.S. and then got drafted. He said that after the war, an order came from Roosevelt that all Russians had to return to Russia, all Italians must return to Italy, etc. He said when that order came, he saw dozens of his people jump out windows, cut their wrists, or hang themselves.
I said, “Do you mean to tell me that Communism is that bad?” He looked at me with a look I’ll never forget–it was like, “you poor dumb fellow–where have you been?” He only said, “Ogden, I can’t tell you how bad Communism is because you have never been in a condition that bad. You wouldn’t comprehend it.”
He told me story after story about the cruelty, barbarian and despotic tyranny of Communism, as he had witnessed it. It was a great education to hear a first-hand account of the work and history of Communism–a history that is not commonly understood.
That was the beginning of a friendship that lasted long after our time in the service. He wrote me one time from Waco, Texas, to tell me that he was on a television program showing his German. Lederhosen and telling his story of Communism and Nazism.
THE LIFE OF SOME SOLDIERS
On one of my train trips back to camp on a Sunday night, there was a drunk soldier, a sergeant, who was sprawled all over the seat with his feet out in the aisle. He was about the worst representative for America that I had seen. I knew him enough to know that he was in the same camp as myself. So when the train stopped at Bad Kreuznach, I stepped very carefully over his feet so I wouldn’t wake him. The conductor saw what I was doing and smiled. I think he went along with the prank because the train ended up in France the next morning, when he was supposed to be in camp for duty. I heard he got busted to a private for his drunken escapade. For some of them, it must not have made much of an impression as they continued with their bad habits anyway.
Another evening as I rode the train back to camp, a German sat across the aisle from me. I could tell he was upset about something by the way he shook his head and mumbled. Finally, he turned to me and asked, “How many children do you have in Germany?” He probably thought I didn’t understand German, but he acted like he wanted to get it off his chest. I responded, “None”. I sat there thinking that the poor fellow must have had a daughter who got into a family way by some American soldier. There was little I could say. It was a gloomy feeling that I shared with him, and I felt rather ashamed that men wearing the same uniform that I did would cause so much grief.
Once we drove through a town which had had some soldiers stationed near there a couple of years before us. I could tell by a young woman standing by the side of the street with two Mulatto twins.
It was not difficult to tell what a soldier would do with his life simply by the way he talked. It doesn’t require much intelligence to tell what’s on a man’s mind when he begins to open his mouth. Usually the soldiers talked about booze, women and gambling.
ON GUARD ALL NIGHT
It came my turn to guard a machine gun nest. We were out in the middle of nowhere playing our military games, but we had to pretend, because the machine gun didn’t have any ammunition. That was a common story–empty guns! I don’t know how we ever won the west. Now I wondered how we would ever win a war.
It was about noon and the chow truck came up to feed the men. I was positioned right by the troops so I hollered to some of them to relieve me so I could eat. They said they would as soon as they had finished. But before anyone was finished, the cooks started to pack up. I dashed over to get something in my mess kit; but as luck would have it, before I could get it filled and return to the gun, a captain drove by and saw the unattended gun. He stood there hollering as I walked over, and I told him it was my post but I never got relieved to eat. He ranted and raved and told me to go back there and not leave until I was relieved.
I returned to my little machine gun and waited to be relieved. Well, I guess someone forgot about that gun. I was there all night-which was not so bad except it started to rain about 10 o’clock and didn’t stop until breakfast. As the troops assembled for chow, the captain came over to the line and then spotted me. He came running over and said, “How long have you been here?” I replied, “All night, sir. They never relieved me!” He was all apologetic and was very sorry. He told me to go rest in my tent, and there would be no more duties for me.
I realized that I could have created some serious problems for him. No guard should stand post for over two hours–yet he was responsible. I always liked the fellow (his name was Skelly), and. I never complained. But that was typical of Army affairs.
It was not an infrequent occurrence to see German men come around to look through our garbage cans. They seemed to treasure the soldiers’ garbage. As I watched a man picking through our trash, it struck me hard about the unappreciated wealth of the Americans. The man I watched seemed to be a noble sort of fellow, yet he was trying to scrape together a living by such lowly means. The garbage he got was probably thrown away by a soldier who was a much more unworthy person. God doesn’t seem to appropriate the wealth of the world into the hands of His servants. He certainly must have some wise reason for keeping most of the human race so poor.
Martin Luther once said that God considered wealth as one of the least of all His gifts to man–yet it was the one that was the most sought after.
I saw some workmen going past the barracks one day and asked them if they would work for 25 cents an hour. They were all eager to do it. I told them I was only curious as to the money ratio between Germany and America. I was a lowly P.F.C. and my pay was about $400 a month. I saw the top optical man at the Schneider plant ride home on a bicycle.
It must be that the Lord will take away the wealth f the Americans someday, to humble them down. No one can abuse the gifts of God without paying the penalty.
THE KRAUTS’ FATHERLAND
Germany is my fatherland, but it was my grandfather who came from there. I was curious about the “Krauts”. In America all Germans are “Krauts”, but I learned that in Germany not all Germans are Krauts. In talking to the Germans, I noticed the expression on their face when I said my name was “Kraut”. They would light up and say, “Das is Deutsch”, after which I would tell them my grandfather came from Germany. That usually broke the ice and I was a welcome friend.
One day our plumbing lines broke in the barracks, so they called some German plumbers to come and make the repairs. The sergeant came to me and said, “You know more of their language than anyone in the barracks, so I’d like to have you go down and help them in case they need something or have any questions.” I went down in the basement and talked to them and told them I was there to assist if they needed it. The foreman of the crew was a happy fellow who seemed to take delight in talking to me. When I told him my name was “Kraut”, he seemed jubilant. The next day he came back but he had a new man on his crew. He introduced us by saying, “Kraut, dis ist Kraut!” We both had the same name, but didn’t know if we were relatives. He said there were many Krauts in Germany, so I suppose we were all related somewhere on the family tree. Nearly all of them are Catholics or Lutherans.
We soon got notice that we were to leave on a maneuver. It meant driving our vehicles into the mountains, camping in tents, traveling at night and practicing warfare.
Several big tanks were used, and it was interesting to see the way they traveled, and fired, and the places they could go. One night I was sitting in a tank visiting with the troops and decided I would sleep in a tank just for the experience. In the middle of the night, I discovered how cold steel can be It seemed to me that sleeping in a tank was colder than beside it That was the last time I did that When we had to eat our “C” rations, I always went over to the tanks because they have a very hot exhaust. It took only a minute to heat up the rations–and yourself as well So having a hot meal was no trouble while the tanks were around.
Some new smaller tanks came to Germany–they had been developed for use in Korea. They were extremely fast, having two Cadillac engines in them.
Many men in these outfits were men who drove tanks with Patton against Rommell. They were tough and seasoned men who never said much about war. I guess most of them didn’t want to be reminded, nor did they ever want to go through that experience again.
This maneuver was supposed to be for only a couple of days. Whoever did the planning was really messed up. It seemed that we went to the wrong place, then we stopped for an hour, went half way to another place. Then we had to negotiate a turn in a town which was impossible for a 2-1/2 ton truck like I was driving. What a mess! The M.P. at the town waved me on and said, “Try and find them later,” which was my cue to proceed wherever I wanted to go and come back to camp when I felt like it I did, too. It was a grand tour through several towns where I bought some things, visited with Germans and arrived back at camp late at night. The sergeant asked me where I had been, and I told him what had happened and that it took me hours to get relocated. He didn’t say anything, and I suppose the fellow who was in charge of the mess had to answer for the stray who got lost.
I soon learned that you were often given undeserved dirty assignments, chew-outs that were misdirected, and a denial of rights that should have been guaranteed. I seldom gave much allegiance to them when they were in the wrong, and if I could help the guilty officers catch what they deserved, it was not often in my character to cover up for them. The more they realized my attitude, the more they seemed to respect me. It was the poor fellow who couldn’t or wouldn’t defend himself that was always being picked on.
I KNEW THE BAKERIES
One of the most sought after items that our soldiers appreciated was the German bread. Strange that so many soldiers could eat only white
bread, but they would always take some German whole wheat. I couldn’t stand the American white bread, so I always had some German bread in my locker to go with my grape juice. When we went out on maneuvers, it was the same. I would wait until dark and then sneak out of camp and go to the next little town and buy some bread. Usually I would add some cheeses, salami, or jam to go with it Many soldiers would see me eating German bread stuffs with my “C” rations and want some for themselves. They asked me where I got it, and then laughed when I told them. It got so that I was running a small grocery for the troops. Of course, it was taboo to leave camp, but it seemed like a joke and was appreciated when I did it
But the surprise came one night as I lay in my tent eating and reading. Someone rattled my tent so I told them to come in. A helmet with a man in it came through the opening. The helmet had captains bars on it and the officer said, “Are you Kraut?” “Yes, sir,” I answered. “Well, I was wondering if you would get me some bread and things the next time you go to town.” “Sure,” I responded. So I made another trip to the next town. He was an officer from one of the other companies. My reputation seemed to be expanding beyond my own outfit.
However, I really was shocked one night. As I was leaving a little village, my arms loaded with goodies, I saw a convoy coming through the town. Of course, I could easily hide, but I was afraid it was my outfit leaving. I had nightmares, while I was wide awake, about getting back to camp and finding them all gone–just my lone truck sitting there and me not knowing where they went! I ran back over a couple of hills to find my outfit still there. I imagined that bread would have been the most expensive and disturbing batch of bread I ever got. That was too close for comfort, so I made provisions in case that ever happened again–but I still kept getting that good German bread for the troops.
On another trip to town, which was during daylight hours, I heard a convoy approaching. It scared me again; but as it drew near, I could see it was a different outfit. I didn’t want to b seen by the M.P.’s who were looking for stray soldiers, so I pulled off my coat and stood behind the Germans, who crowded around me so they wouldn’t see my Army green pants. Everyone was waving and I did, too. I would even occasionally chirp up with, “Hooray for American soldiers” or some other bravado. Usually I yelled the German language and the Germans laughed the whole time the convoy went by. As much fun as it was, however, it always made me nervous.
Each year the Battalion had a big celebration or birthday. It was full of parades, marching past grandstands and all the other nonsense. My friend and I decided this year would be different for us. We would report for 6:00 a.m. roll call, but would disappear afterwards.
It was all planned out in detail. The day before, we went to the railroad station and bought tickets to his relatives’ hometown. The next morning we put our old work clothes over our Class A outfit and reported in at roll call. Our train was to leave in 30 minutes so we were cutting corners. We dashed back to the barracks, pulled off our work clothes and ran off down the street. We caught the train just as it was starting to move out. We made it without a minute to spare.
We arrived in the little town where his relatives loaned us their car. We put on civilian clothes, which were not allowed, but we didn’t want to be stopped and questioned by M.P.’s. We had a grand day taking pictures, touring the country and shopping. We even saw some of the walls of the ancient Roman Empire.
That night when we got back, I went to the barracks and met the sergeant who demanded, “Where have you been?” I said, “All around—since it was a Battalion Holiday.” He scowled, “It was cancelled–so it was a regular workday!” I could have fallen through the floor. I apologized and was willing to take a punishment, but for some reason he perhaps realized that since it had been scheduled right up to the last, it was an unintentional mistake. I asked my friend how he got out of that scrape. He said his buddies covered for him saying that he was out on a delivery. I guess he had some pretty smart buddies in his outfit–smarter than the ones in my photo unit.
One thing I remember on that day was going to a German movie which included an American comedy, “Tom and Jerry”, the cat and mouse. At the beginning, the homeowner said, “Tom, where are you?” and that was the only voice in the whole cartoon; the rest was all sights and sounds of the battle between that cat and mouse. I don’t know when I ever laughed so much as at that silly cartoon. Being gone when I was supposed to be in camp was pretty serious, but every time I thought about that silly cartoon, I had to snicker.
Germany was famous for its religious and political history. Among its more valiant heroes was Martin Luther. He was one of my heroes, too, and I loved reading his writings and about his life. The man was a marvel.
In the United States I had seen 52 volumes of his writings. However, after talking to a Lutheran minister who had taught theology in Germany, I discovered that those 52 volumes were only the ones that had been translated into English. Luther had written over 200 volumes. The man couldn’t have spent very much time reading because so much time went into his writings.
As soon as I could get a pass, my next trip was scheduled for Worms. Here was the grand finale of Luther’s connection with the Catholic Church. His trial was noted with great interest by heads of the. Catholic realm, political leaders of Germany, and of course by all the common people of every nation. Luther didn’t want to make a big deal out of it, but the church was bound to make him bow down to their authority and their dictates. But Luther was a man of conscience and couldn’t yield. The effects of his obstinacy are still being felt—and always will be.
Outside of the church building is a huge set of statues dedicated to all the Protestant reformers–Zwingle, Huss, Jerome, Luther, etc. It is the world’s largest monument to the Reformation. Inside I stood where Luther stood and said, “I cannot recant–I will not. I can do no other.”
Soon after my trip to Worms, I prepared to make a trip to Wittenberg, where Luther translated the Bible and posted his 95 theses on the chapel door. When I asked the ticket taker at the railroad station how much the fare was to Wittenberg, he told me I would need special permits because it was two miles inside the Russian zone. I was furious! How could Roosevelt be so dumb that he put one of the great landmarks of history into the hands of Russian Communists. I well-nigh consigned him to the eternal dungeons for that, on top of the rest of his political blunders. In the first place, he consigned all of East Germany to the Russians by signature, and the right to do so had not been granted him. Congress had no say in that matter; Roosevelt just took it on himself to do it for the old Butcher from Moscow. We have suffered ever since he took us off the gold standard and the worst is yet to come.
It’s time for a Martin Luther to show up in this country, but I fear it is too late. It’s no use trying to lock the gate–our economic and political horses have already run away.
JEFFERSON IN MY TENT
There were times when there was not much to do because of the circumstances. While on maneuvers, we would go to our little one- or two-man tents when the sun went down. I was aware that such would be the situation, so I went to town and bought some candles. They would be waxed on to the top of my helmet so I could read on into the night. How well I remember reading a book on the life of Thomas Jefferson by candlelight.
Late one night I finished reading his biography, and as I closed the book, tears streamed down my face as I thought about that great soul. What a great joy it would be to meet that man! He certainly left beautiful words and expressions that have been an important part of my quoting memory.
His life was that of a hero, and I loved the man as though I knew him. Strange that so many men like him, Washington, Franklin—not to mention Joseph, Brigham, Heber and others–all have been such a force in my life, yet I never knew them. They are closer to me than most associates, neighbors, and even relations. I know those men so well that I quote their words; I know their lives and even understand what they would do or say in most any situation. When I make a stand on politics, I bring in Jefferson to support my views. I’m glad he believed the same way I do. It’s too bad that more Americans don’t appreciate a master spirit like Tom Jefferson.
Near the camp were some German families that I met. One family in particular (the Basgaards) was always glad to see me and always invited me to their home. They could speak no English, but they were eager to help me learn German.
One evening I told them that a few days before I had been to town in the night. They roared and laughed. I couldn’t understand why they thought that was so funny. One of the girls even left the room. The mother covered her face with her hand and laughed. I found out that in the German language night and naked sounded very much alike, and I had switched the pronunciation. I couldn’t get them to laugh that much when I told them a joke.
They were eager to do things for me, so I would take my laundry to them and visit with them often. They soon let me know that they wanted to have me over more than twice a week. I think they would like to have adopted me, which would have been much more fun than being with the Army. Usually I would bring them some treat from the Post Exchange. They really enjoyed the different kinds of food and candy–it was like Christmas every week for them. A dollar’s worth of PX goods was almost equal to a half or full day’s wages to them.
One day I came over to visit and they asked me if I was trying to poison them. They said the can of grapefruit was horrible. I realized they never had it in Germany, and so they had never tasted it. They thought it was bitter, sour and absolutely unpalatable. They couldn’t understand how anyone could eat it.
The Basgaards took me in like a member of their family. They were like my own family, too–I even got a couple of sisters in the deal. The two girls were about 18 and 19, but quite timid; however, they were as strong as an ox team. I spent many days with the two girls, bike riding, walking, or just visiting. One day I took them into the PX and bought them a milk shake. They never had one of those before. They were really wide-eyed at all the soldiers, the American products, etc. One of the soldiers, who saw me in the PX with them, later asked me about my relationship with them. I told him that in the year that I had been associating with them, I had never even kissed them. He looked at me for a minute and said, “Yeah, I can believe that.” I had never looked at them as a romantic relationship nor did I expect to marry them. They were more like sisters than anything else. They just enjoyed my company and I enjoyed theirs.
But they were not the only family that I met with. In fact, when Christmas came, I had invitations from eleven different families to come and spend the holiday with them.
The Germans are generally very friendly and enjoy visiting. Men always enjoy going to a beer cellar and spending the evening drinking and talking. But I saw very few Germans ever get drunk. It was the social hour with them, rather than a drinking party.
One thing was always a bother to me in the Army, and it was the inspections. We would spend hours getting ready. Everyone had a footlocker or wall locker, and they had to be identical. Every toothbrush had to be lined the same way and facing the same direction. The boots and brass pins had to be perfectly shined, which often would take an hour. They would be so meticulous about those things–then on Saturday nights go down town and corrupt their souls. I was not created to be a soldier and usually demonstrated it just to the point that it wouldn’t get me in trouble.
Most of the fellows had a wall locker to put all their belongings into, but I also had a footlocker because I had too many other important things. There was always a lock on it so they couldn’t inspect it. But even that wasn’t enough space. I had all my books lined across the windowsill. They were not supposed to be there, but they were tolerated.
One day when I came off guard duty, the fellows in the room said I missed out on the biggest inspection of the year. A real tough Colonel made the rounds and found something wrong in nearly every room; but when he came into our room, he saw all the books and went right to them. They thought for sure they had had it. He stood there looking at
them in silence. Then he picked up one of the volumes of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire; then put it back. “Whose books are these?” he demanded. “P.F.C. Kraut–but he’s on guard duty, sir.” The Colonel looked at the books again and walked out of the room. “You saved the day for us, Kraut, with your library.” The books stayed there the rest of the time.
Everyone decided to avoid K.P. duty by paying a small fee and hiring the Germans to do it. There was a German fellow working in the mess hall that became a friend of mine. He invited me to his home one weekend and I met his family. He wanted to be in opera and finally asked me if I would loan him about a month’s pay so he could have lessons. I wasn’t that excited about opera. I did take him to an opera, however, which he greatly enjoyed. I didn’t understand much of it since it was in German—but I can’t understand much of an English opera, either.
We did some traveling together, and he took me to Kiel, where the submarine base was. It had been bombed over and over again. Another town nearby was bombed about the same; however, it was not a military base. Nothing in the town had any military significance, yet it was bombed out terribly.
He told me that he went to England and looked up the date of the bombing and read that Churchill had ordered the bombing for a “demoralization” raid. A lot of innocent women and children were demoralized into ashes and rubble in that raid. Other towns such as Dresden, where pottery and ornate glassware were made, suffered heavy bombing. The war didn’t make much sense, but then it never does.
THEY WENT CRAZY
The Army was a mixture of all kind; of people from every kind of life. Some found the Army to be better than they ever had it before. Others were in misery for the duration of their stay. Some found it an interesting experience or a chance for education and training. It was all in what opportunities you were watching for. Some played cards, got drunk and complained the whole time.
One day some of the troops were playing cards in the room, jesting and drinking beer. All of a sudden one of the guys (the chaplain’s assistant) jumped off his bunk, dashed over to the card game and kicked
the table over and yelled at the guys. It was not like him. Then he ran down the stairs and into the first sergeant’s room hollering and began to bite him on the leg. After that he ran across the parade field and ran into the flag pole. When they got to him, he was screaming and pounding the ground. They took him away, and I never saw him again.
I heard of a couple other fellows who couldn’t take it either, and they had to be shipped home. I always remembered the sergeant who told us not to lose our sense of humor, and it was becoming clearer all the time what he meant.
I remember another fellow in our outfit who was a good guy. He never smoked or drank or chased wild women. However, he began to go to town with some of the other troops who did. It wasn’t long before he began to take up some of the same habits. One Sunday morning he found himself in a bed with a woman instead of in church where he used to be. Well, his conscience began to bother him and in order to alleviate the burden of guilt and to offer some explanation to his girlfriend back home, he wrote and hinted or briefly explained how things were not going •the way he intended them. She wrote back indicating that he had changed–for the worse—and that she was going to look for someone else. He read the letter and it nearly paralyzed him.
That evening he was on K.P. duty passing out the peas. As one G.I. came by, he piled on the peas until he was yelled at. The next fellow only got one or two–and that was all–no matter how he asked or demanded more. All of a sudden he yelled and threw the peas and spoon in the air and ran to his barracks. He began packing his things. Then he unloaded them and repacked them again. Ile kept that up until they took him away. He was too far gone, so they sent him away.
I was on guard duty one night during a rain storm. It was cold and miserable, with no way to keep warm. I noticed a deep narrow hole near the road, so I crawled in there, putting my trench coat around on the ground so that only my head was above ground. We had a new system–to halt and challenge any passers-by. They were to answer with the password or say a sentence including it. In return, I would give a sentence using the password.
That night my countersign was the word “devil”. I halted two men late that night, and they gave their password. I then said in a real low voice, “Behold, if you do not repent, the devil shall have all power over you at the last day.” They stood there looking all over, but couldn’t see me. They were mumbling something and finally wandered off. The next day the corporal of the guard told me it was two officers going to the latrine–one of them told the first sergeant that the other one thought the devil himself had a hold of him. He said, “You’ve got a weird guard out there.” Everyone got a laugh out of it.
Another time, one of my friends was on guard duty, so I took two florescent reflectors and got them charged up. Then I walked down the road where he was stationed, put them in my eye sockets, but kept my head down. When he halted me, I said, “What?” and turned my head up and he saw my silhouette and two huge glowing eyes. He just stood there for about a minute–then realized who it was.
I didn’t really mind guard duty too much, even though it was rather a frequent occurrence. One time I was sent to Post 13, which was several miles away, on top of a hill. No one liked it because it was so far away, but it was my favorite place. Rarely did the captain of the guards ever come up there to see if you were doing your duty. If he did, I could see him coming for miles away. The post was a little radio center, and all we were there for was to protect the gasoline that was stashed outside. Sometimes that amounted to less than three or four gallons. I would find a nice comfortable spot where I could read and write or listen to my radio. The German radio stations always had beautiful music, but the Armed Forces had one for the soldiers that sounded like a catastrophe trying to happen.
Sometimes other guys would ask me to take guard duty for them and would pay me well for doing it. I would arrange to trade for Post 13 which all were eager to avoid. On many occasions I would cover two shifts at a time–four hours on duty and two hours off. I learned a lot from reading on that post, and I made a lot of extra money besides that I used for camera equipment.
SIN AND SORROW
A few of the fellows lost their morals and felt bad and tried to repent. Others just took on the low life and never intended to do any different. During my time in the Army, there were a lot of soldiers who came to cry on my shoulder. Sometimes I thought the chaplain should have shared his paycheck with me. One fellow said he was a straight arrow like me until he got in the Army; then he went down all the way. He lost his will for everything–not caring what he did, what the Army did to him, or anything else. He was so incorrigible that he had received 14 demerits, or charges against him. I wanted to help him, but it is difficult to put a different spirit in a man when he has chosen a bad one.
The Army realizes the weaknesses of the flesh and had many movies on venereal disease, prostitution, blackmail, selling to enemy agents, etc. But most of the fellows didn’t pay much attention and became bitter. One fellow told me that he had a venereal disease many years before, but it seemed to have a mental block with him. He was always bothered with it even though the disease was gone. Sin often seems so enticing and alluring, but after a person indulges, then all of the horror and sorrow set in. The devil is cunning, and a master of the art of deception. One can only learn by experience that when you burn your finger on the stove, the next time it may still be hot. But once a soul is taken by sin, it is difficult to get him back.
I think one of the meanest, dirtiest scoundrels I met in the service was a Mormon. It takes a Judas to make a devil. People, who are enlightened and then turn against that light, are worse and know how to be worse than anyone else. This Mormon fellow knew more about being mean, how to steal, swear, and be an all-around scoundrel than most of the other fellows. Wickedness seemed to be a part of his way of life.
Once we were on maneuvers and I was assigned to take pictures from the spotter’s post. I drove up a hill where the captain of artillery would call for the shooting. The shells were supposed to go over our heads, land in the valley or on the other hillside, according to where the officer would direct them. At least, today would be different. At the call for firing from about four big artillery guns, the shells started coming. The officer was an old hand at artillery shells, and when he heard them coming, he screamed, “Hit the deck!” Everyone immediately fell down. The shells were hitting all around us, and the captain was on the radio yelling for a cease fire. They stopped the guns, and boy did I hear some people get cussed out. Someone had given the wrong colored bag of powder for the shells. The charges were too weak to make the shells go over our hill. It was scary for a couple of minutes, because that was the first time I was ever that close to exploding heavy artillery rounds–but not the last time.
On another trip to photograph some maneuvers, we came to a guard who said the road went through a French artillery range, and no one could go through unless they signed a release of liability. We would have to enter at our own risk. The guard said no one had done any firing all day, so we had a good chance of making i t without any trouble. It meant hours of travel to go around the other way, so we signed the sheet and went in. There were three of us in a little jeep and we bounced along full of confidence, when all of a sudden we could hear an artillery round coming. It landed about one to two hundred yards in front of us. We were petrified but kept going. Another round came in alongside of us, and it made us feel like the jeep about tipped over. Another couple of rounds came in and then it stopped. What a relief! But we didn’t know if any more would be coming or not. I was glad we weren’t in war–I could hardly stand the peaceful army.
LITTLE CHAPEL IN THE “WILDERNESS”
I could find no Mormon churches near camp, so I decided to set one up. I went around and managed to get a list of all the records of men in camp who had put down L.D.S. as their religious preference. Next I borrowed a mimeograph machine and wrote a little letter to all of them. Then I contacted as many as I could and asked them to come to our little services. Out of about 18 Mormons, we had about 8 come to meeting.
I delegated responsibility to some of the others, because I didn’t want to do it all. All of them were reluctant but could see I needed help so a few volunteered. One would offer opening prayer, another would lead singing, and another couple would pass Sacrament. Usually I gave a lesson. It became a very good little church group, and we looked forward to it each week. We kept sending little newsletters to the other members.
A couple of years later I went through Salt Lake and called one of the fellows; his wife answered the phone, and I told her who I was. She was overjoyed and asked me to dinner. She also said that she, his folks, and the Bishop had worked with her husband for years trying to get him active with no results; but when he came home from the Army, he took over conducting meetings like he had done it all his life. She couldn’t thank me enough. I was glad to hear such good news.
Some of us L.D.S. soldiers got to be very chummy and we went places together, took in movies at the post, and ate at the mess hall together. It was our custom to bow our heads in silent prayer over our food. This was noticed by the rest of the troops, but we didn’t mind. To some it may have been ridiculous; perhaps to others it was respected. It was a rather strange thing for soldiers to be doing, I suppose.
THE G.E.D. TEST
The Army had many advantages and opportunities, if a person wanted to take advantage of them. We had a film and lecture about the educational program called the G.E.D. It was designed for soldiers who wanted to continue with their education or to take courses that would qualify them for a high school diploma.
I had had a little trouble in high school with my algebra teacher. I took half a year with him, and it was all I could tolerate. Ile represented most of the things I hated in a man. He slapped some of the students just because he didn’t like them; he had the worst temper I ever saw in a man; he was partial to some students because they flattered him; he had a scowl on his face nearly all the time; and he was a gay–out playing with some of the boys.
At the end of the mid-term, I went in the office and asked for a transfer to typing. The principal said I would lack half a year of math to qualify for a diploma. I didn’t care–half a year around that teacher was more than I could take. Since that day to this, I have never needed algebra in my work, but I have used the typewriter almost daily.
The officer in charge of the G.E.D. program said that it was necessary to take a series of tests that covered all the subjects taught in high school. From that, they would determine which courses were necessary to be taken to qualify for a diploma.
It took most of the week to take all those tests. Some were very interesting and I learned a lot from them. The next week, when the results were back, I was told that my grades were good in every subject–nothing was lacking to qualify me for a high school diploma, so it was not necessary to take any additional courses. The officer said they would send the results to my hometown high school, and they would give me a diploma. Coincidentally, this occurred in the same year that my younger brother graduated from high school.
29th HEAVY TANK BATTALION
Photo assignments required us to go nearly everywhere. Many of the jobs were for pictures of men re-enlisting in the Army. Most of these came from the 29th Heavy Tank Battalion. They often referred to it as the 29th Heavy Razor Battalion because they were all Blacks. Most of them found the Army a better place than what they had in civilian life, so they wanted to stay.
After arriving at company headquarters, I reported to the commanding officer who was white. He told me that he wished most of them wouldn’t re-enlist because he had constant problems. “Like this,” he said, pointing to a paper which was a charge for rape on a German girl. While we were talking, the phone rang. He answered and said, “You caught them in the shower room?” When he hung up, he turned to me and said, “See what I mean?”
While I was there in 1952, a directive came down saying that all Black units would be broken up. Our first sergeant told us that he wouldn’t allow any Blacks in his company. I don’t know what happened but we got two of them.
I did get a little upset at some of them occasionally. For example, if we were standing in a line and a couple of Blacks were near the front, a half dozen other Blacks would crowd into the line where they were. If whites did that, we would have a resulting commotion, but we weren’t allowed to say anything to the Blacks because that would be prejudicial and be racist in our feelings. I had no feelings concerning the Blacks one way or the other, but I began to lose respect for a lot of them while in the Army.
A new lieutenant came to our company who was named Apple. He was a rotten apple for all I could tell. He had a wife and kids in America, but he was always out chasing women, drinking, or pulling some illegal or immoral act for his personal gratification.
He wanted to impress us in the photo lab, so a party was arranged in town. The German people were very poor and were glad to have the business of making a dinner and arranging a special dining area for us. At the banquet table, they provided a wide variety of delicious food and used the most expensive silverware and china that I had ever eaten from. During the meal, the lieutenant picked up the salt and pepper shakers and said, “These are just too beautiful to pass by.” Then he put them in his pocket. For him to condone, let alone conduct, this stealing from the poor German people, in front of all those men under him, was about the last straw. I lost all respect for him.
In some of his conversations he would tell about his escapades–as though he was proud of his nefarious deeds. On one occasion he told about sleeping with some German girl, and she wanted some money in exchange. He told her that he “never paid for it and never would.” That was below his standards, I guess.
It was hard for me not to express my contempt verbally or otherwise. One day while I was working under my 2-1/2 ton truck, the sergeant came over and yelled, “P.F.C. Kraut, get out here; I want to talk to you!” I crawled out and stood there while he chewed me out for not having enough respect for my leaders. I guess something I said got back to the lieutenant, so he wanted me to know that I should have more respect for him because he was my “leader”.
When he was through spitting out his condemnation, I stood up to him and said, “Sergeant, as long as Pm in the Army, I’ll have the necessary respect for my officers, but you can’t force me to respect some of them as leaders. Any officer who is sloppy drunk, carouses with harlots, steals in front of his juniors, profanes the name of deity, and everything else to make his men disrespect him—then he deserves no respect as a leader even if he is an officer.” I threw my wrench down on the ground so as to emphasize my remarks. lie walked away without a word.
A few days later, Lt. Apple came over to me while I was working and made some small talk and then said, “Ogden, what is it that the Mormons believe in?” I made a few small comments and left. He never said much to me after that.
This new lieutenant had a fad for calisthenics. So, we all had to spend more time jumping, pushing and running. He made up a chart of exercises and a required amount of calisthenics that each soldier must perform to meet his standards. All of it was based on his ability. He had one requirement for 27 push-ups. That was his maximum; so when it came time for me to do them, I did 27 with one hand, and then did another 27 with both hands. The physical requirements were easy for me, and the Army didn’t require much for the mental ones, either.
THREE MORE LENSES
Every paycheck was usually spent before I received it. With all that German camera equipment so accessible and a small paycheck, it was easy to be broke all the time. My friends of the Schneider Optical Works were always glad to see me come in
One day, however, I came with the news that my orders just arrived which would send me home. I shook their hands and bid them farewell, and said that I really wasn’t ready to leave quite that soon. I told them
that there were still more lenses that I wanted, but wouldn’t be able to get them at that time. They asked which lenses they were. I told them a wide angle, normal and telephoto for a graphic camera I had. They went in the other room and brought them out. “Are these the ones?” they asked. “Yes.” “Take them with you, and when you get to America and get a job, you can send us the money,” they said.
When I returned home, I got a job on the railroad with my dad. It took me two months before I got enough money to send back to Germany. Every Christmas for many years, I received a Christmas card and note from them. The Schneider lenses have a significant place in my camera bag and in my heart.
HOORAY FOR OUR BOYS!
During the weekends the troops usually got drunk, sick, and totally sloppy. After one of these horrible weekends, I was assigned the Monday morning cleanup of the latrine. When I looked at the mess, trash, vomit and other things all over the floor, I had to remind myself of the sergeant’s advice to never lose our sense of humor. It was a real degradation to clean up after drunken troops when I didn’t even drink.
Going past the window upstairs in the latrine, I saw the troops all running into formation. We would stand for five minutes every day waiting for the captain to come and dismiss us for work. Since they were just getting into formation, I realized there was time to say something. So I opened the window and yelled, “Hooray for our boys overseas!” Just then I looked down to see the captain looking up. ‘I he troops literally fell out of formation laughing, but I knew it wouldn’t be funny to the captain. I shut the window quickly and figured I was in for it this time. Soon the First Sergeant came up the stairs, and I got ready to take my medicine. “What did the captain say?” I asked. “Well, he had fire in his eyes and asked me who that was. I told him P.F.C. Kraut. He thought for a minute and said, “I might have known,” and then walked away.
THREE SERGEANTS IN ONE
The sergeant over the photo unit was named Flory. One of the old timers in the outfit told me that Flory had become three different men in the time that he had known him. In the States he was a family man. He and his wife went everywhere together. he was happy, considerate and helpful during this period. Then he was sent to Germany, where he was alone, which seemed to make him irritable, cross and critical of everyone and everything. Then he took up drinking, which changed him further into the worst of the three people he had become.
It was during this time that he invited the whole bunch to go drinking with him. I was the only one who didn’t go down to the bars with him. This was the beginning of a resentment that he built up for me and it just got worse. To make me miserable, I was given all the work details and cleanup jobs. Whatever he could do to cause trouble for me, he would do.
Sgt. Flory always gave the good assignments to the other fellows and left the chores, details and miserable assignments to me! This became obvious to everyone, and they felt sorry for me; but there was nothing they could do or say.
However, his meanness backfired on one of his pranks with me. There was a phone call for a photographer to go to Luxemburg. He had already assigned everyone out and the others were on leave. I was the only photographer he had available. He told me to report to the P.I.O. headquarters and they would take care of my transportation, rooms and food. He gave it to me like a poor man being forced to throw a thousand dollar bill in the fire.
I packed all my gear and photo equipment with excitement and joy. After being confined to menial tasks, I really appreciated a good assignment, and I couldn’t have asked for a better one. It was to photograph a group of V.I.P.’s at a meeting in Luxemburg. That’s all there was to it, yet there was a whole weekend to spend over there. I could photograph many places in that little country, too.
The P.I.O. office gave me all the papers, schedules and passes that I would need. What a pleasant tour I was planning while there. As I was about to leave, the phone rang. The officer answered it and then hung up. He looked at me rather dismayed and said, “Sgt. Flory just cancelled your trip.” I was sick inside. He got me again.
Monday morning I got a telephone call. It was from some Colonel that. I had never heard of before. fie said, “Are you the one that was scheduled to go to Luxemburg?” “Yes, sir,” I replied. lie then chewed me out so severely that I think if we would have been face to face, he would have hit me. When he got pretty well along, I interrupted and told him the whole story–including the fact that it was almost a personal matter between myself and the sergeant. I explained that in all the time I had been in Germany that was an assignment that I looked forward to more than any other. Boy, did he blow up then. He wanted to know the name of that sergeant. I was glad to give it to him along with Flory’s rank and phone number. Then I sat back knowing that justice would be administered–and it was!
Besides getting all of the dirty details, I was never allowed any passes. The sergeant said everyone had to apply to him for weekend passes and he would OK them with the front desk. Every week I would add my name to the list and every week everyone got passes except me. This was a new quirk that was instituted by the sergeant to cause me misery. But wherever there is a regulation, there is a loophole. One day I managed to get a pass permit, so I went up and signed out; then behind it I signed back in. Now the register showed that I went out and came back in–but I still had the pass in my pocket. When the weekend came, I just showed my pass and walked out the gate. For the rest of my time in Germany I had a pass. The sergeant was probably laughing every weekend how he was personally taking out his vendetta against me by making me stay in camp. But I knew I was entitled to a pass just like everyone else.
THE LAST OF FLORY
Flory continued giving me a hard time, and obviously went out of his way to cause me trouble. Finally he persuaded a lieutenant to call me in and threaten to transfer me if Flory didn’t find me better suited there, etc.
I really felt bad, so I went down to the boiler room where my bike was, and got down on my knees and asked the Lord to do something to relieve me of this situation. That weekend Flory went on leave on Friday night, but it wasn’t authorized until Saturday morning. He was drunk and disorderly, and the tavern owner called the M.P.’s to take him back to the barracks. The company commander really tore into him the next morning and told him he could have his leave, but he would catch him when he returned. The-next week Flory was in a hotel, drunk and chasing a whore down the hallway. He tripped and fell down some stairs, broke his back, and was sent to the hospital where they told him that he may never walk again. He was sent back to America, and I never saw him again.
It frightened me to have my prayer answered so quickly, but more so to have it answered so drastically!
GOODBYE TO GERMANY
I still had a couple of months left in tile Army, so I thought it would be to my advantage to make the most of them. There was a friend of mine who spoke French and he was about to be discharged, too. We decided that we would take a train to Rome, then catch an Air Force plane to French Morocco, over to Cairo, then to Jerusalem, back to Athens, Greece, from there to Rome and then catch a train to our camp in Germany. While we were formulating all of our plans, we received orders for us to pack up because we were going to be shipped home early so we could be there by Christmas. Of course that was nice, but it ruined our great expedition.
My Army career had come to an end. After a two-year duty in a cold war, it was difficult to bid farewell to many good friends in the Army and a grand host of German friends. But now we were packing up our belongings to return to America.
We were finally going home! Everyone was excited and we were rushed for time. We traveled in big trucks to the railroad station, from there to Bremerhaven, then we marched down to the docks. There by the dock was a huge ship. This time it appeared that we would take a ship that would ride smooth enough so that we wouldn’t get seasick.
After standing there for about a half hour, the sergeant came down and told us to stand at attention, then left face and forward march. We marched clear down to the end of the pier in front of a little ship that looked like some overgrown tugboat. Then they started loading us on it until we were packed in there like sardines without the oil.
We finally got under way and after about two hours out to sea, the ship hit some swells, and nearly every man on board got sick. One tough old sergeant who was handing out linen, finally threw it all down and said, “Get it yourself,” and he dashed for the restroom. Most of the Navy men who were running the ship were also down in the latrine. Some guys would start running for the bathroom and not make it before they lost their lunch. The stairway going up onto the deck was slick with the sick. The odor was enough to make you sick if the water and swells didn’t get you. The 30 days I spent on a ship during my Army career were enough of the Navy to last me for the rest of my life.
Our ship was scheduled to take the northern route, and was the last ship going that way because storms were so common during that time of year. Well, we didn’t make it–the storms had already started. After a few days out to sea, we hit a terrible storm. Everyone was ordered below deck and had to stay in their bunks. I nut up a little key on a string and stuck it to the wall. As the boat tossed to one side, the key would swing. I would mark it and then later take a reading of the tilt that the ship had been making. As far as I can remember, we were only a few degrees from tipping over.
In the middle of the storm, all the lights went out and the motors stopped. We then just tossed back and forth in total darkness. It was a very scary experience. Finally some joker said, “Sam, will you get your rubber band and go down there and fix their motor for them?” It was fun to see guys with a little courage and humor after two years in the Army.
When the ship finally got going again, after about a half hour of tossing and turning in the middle of the night in darkness, we were off again. Then we got a message that a fishing boat was in trouble. We had to go way off course to locate it. They hurriedly loaded a man on board and rushed him to the operating room because he had a ruptured appendix. We lost three days of travel, but we saved the man’s life. Everyone cheered when the news of the operation was announced to have been a success.
We woke up at 4:00 a.m. to get ready to dock at New York Harbor. As we arrived on deck, we strained our eyes to see America again. Finally, we sailed by the Statue of Liberty. A strange sensation went over every soldier and not a word was spoken—the first time such a thing happened on the trip. Every man was thrilled to be home—but home meant more to us now than when we were growing up. The Statue of Liberty was a sight that made us proud we were Americans–proud that we had served two years in the service of our country. Recollections of home and the two years of Army service were all symbolized in that statue. It nearly brought tears, but at least the silence was in reverence while we slowly passed by that famous statue.
We sat in the harbor for several hours. No one knew why. I had a small radio and was fascinated to tune in to all the different stations–Spanish, Polish, German, and one I didn’t know, but understood what they were saying. A Jewish fellow told me it was modern Yiddish. It was similar to the German.
One fellow next to me said he was going to be afraid to go home and open his mouth. I asked him why. He said he had learned so many bad words in the Army that he couldn’t say anything without using four-letter words. I presumed most of the soldiers were “in the same boat”.
While we were being detained at the camp until our records showed up, I decided to go into Detroit for a sightseeing trip. I looked around at the things of interest and decided a free trip through the General Foods Cereal plant was the most appealing to me. It was a very interesting and complex system of producing cereal. Strange that they do so much to wheat, taking so much out of it, and then retailing it for $2.00 a pound, when the wheat was originally bought for about 2 cents a pound. Besides, it was healthier to just grind it yourself and eat it. But such is the story of our civilization.
A STUDIO CAMERA
Also, while in Detroit, I looked for the largest camera company and went for a visit. They had exactly the equipment I was looking for. There was an Ansco 5 x 7 view camera with a split back, and it was just the kind I wanted. It cost me $175.00, and I bought some other things, too. Now I was ready to begin my own business when I arrived home.
IN RETROSPECT OF
MY TIME WITH THE 2ND ARMORED DIVISION
Of all the Army divisions, I was placed in the one that I myself would have selected, had I been given the choice. It was the 2nd Armored Division which was the outstanding and first assigned division of General George S. Patton, and he has always been one of my heroes. It was said of him that he was “a commander who was accustomed to leading his troops in person and inspiring them by personal example.” Few men have that leadership ability. In a biography of his life, it was written:
As was admitted even by his most ardent military detractors, Patton was the best the United States Army had in the European Theater of war. Probably in all theaters of war. As time passes, and more facts come to light, we see that Patton was more right more often than his fellow commanders, not only in military matters, but also in his international political assessments. He was more successfully consistent in his winning abilities than any other military commander of the Second World War. (The Unknown Patton, by Charles Province p. 88)
Patton’s life and his accomplishments for his country are much underrated, as they are with most great men. He was perhaps the greatest of all military leaders because “his Third Army would go farther, faster, kill more enemy, take more prisoners, and conquer more territory than any other Army in history. All of this with Patton in the vanguard of the attack.”
He was as devoted to his life’s work in the military as many others are with their religious or economic goals and achievements. My experience with the military has given me even a greater appreciation for General Patton, and for that reason I have included this section.
While we were on maneuvers near the Russian border, the Russians shot and hit one of our jeeps. It was a jeep that always made a routine trip along the border to check on anything that might he out of order. Every few days the Russians would shoot at the jeep. There happened to be some of Patton’s men still in our outfit and they had volunteered to run the jeep patrol, and the rest of the guys were willing to let them. W hen the Russians took a pot shot at them, they opened up with mortar, machine guns and rifles right back at them. It really created havoc. Our officers were frantic and managed to get those guys back and take their guns away from them. None of this information got into the newspapers because our officers were so afraid that it might become a serious “incident”. It was a typical example of the men that Patton had trained–they were men of courage, and they were not afraid of an “enemy”.
Patton had one of the largest private collections of military books, and he had read and marked most of them. He loved history and claimed it was as important as any other subject. He was very knowledgeable, but even more important than that, he had the gift of intuition or the ability to predict events. Pour and a half years before Pearl Harbor, he told how the Japanese would make an attack there.
In 1936, while stationed in Hawaii, Patton forecast a doctrine of amphibious warfare that proved to be highly, and terribly prophetic.
After studying and observing the Japanese in the Pacific, Patton’s conclusion was that they could and would attempt an air attack in the near future against Pearl Harbor. He wrote a paper on the subject in which his prophesy proved to be almost exactly the same as the actual Japanese attack on December 7, 1941. (Ibid., p. 61)
Many of the successful campaigns in Europe were instigated by Patton, but he was never given credit for them. Even plans that he suggested, but were not used, proved to have been correct. On one occasion Patton explained:
“Bradley called up at 1710 hours and, in my opinion, crawfished quite blatantly, in his forbidding me to use the 83rd Division. I believe that he had been ‘overtalked’ by either Middleton or Hodges, or by both. I was very sore at the time and I still regard it as a great mistake. If I had been able to use the two combat teams of the 83rd to attack Saarburg, that town would have fallen on the 12th or 13th and we probably would have captured the city of Trier. With Trier in our hands, Von Rundstedt’s breakthrough could not have occurred. This is probably a case of, ‘because of a nail, a shoe was lost, etc. . . .'”
In other words, had Patton been allowed to use the 83rd Division, as he had been promised, the Germans would not have had the ability to stage their offensive, let alone break through to Bastogne. Knowing Patton’s perceptiveness, his intuitiveness, and above all, his track record, it is next to impossible not to believe him. Yet, he was once again ignored and put in his place by his “superiors,” to use the word in a military sense only. (Ibid., p. 56)
All nations have a national pride concerning their military leaders. The British thought that General Montgomery was the best in the world, but history shows he was no match to America’s Patton. After D-Day, Patton gained 50 miles in 26 days; Montgomery had gone 10 miles in 55 days.
Perhaps the greatest blunder of World War II was made by General Eisenhower and General Montgomery in “Operation Marketgarden”. Nearly twice as many allied soldiers were killed there than on the D-Day Invasion of Europe. Patton was held back so that this operation could take place.
It seems incredible that with Patton stopped, with Montgomery enjoying absolute priority in supplies and weapons, and having at his disposal over 30,000 troops, the British commander still claims that his plan was “improperly backed.” What more could he have asked for and gotten? The only other possible “resource” would have been for the Germans either to throw away their weapons or to shoot themselves.
Had Patton been given this kind of support, supplies, and equipment, he could have destroyed the entire German Reich within three months.
Perhaps Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands summed it up most succinctly when he stated, “My country can never again afford the luxury of another Montgomery success.” (Ibid., p. 55)
Eisenhower claimed that “Montgomery is the greatest living soldier in the world.” Patton replied to that remark with “I can outfight that little fart, Monty, anytime.” And again: “Monty is trying to steal the show with the help of Eisenhower. He may do so, but to date we have captured three times as many enemy as our cousins have.” (Ibid., p. 174) And, “Monty has never won a battle since he left Africa, and only El Alamein there. I won Moreth for him.”
Even in the personal jealousy between the two, Patton never lost his sense of humor. Once Monty sent a message to Patton, asking for some gasoline. Patton replied:
Take this five-gallon gasoline can to Montgomery with this message: “Although I am sadly short of gasoline myself, I know of your admiration for our equipment and supplies and I can spare you this five gallons. It will be more than enough to take you as far as you probably will advance in the next two days.” (Ibid., p. 159)
Eisenhower once said to Patton, “George, you are my oldest friend, but if you or anyone else criticizes the British, by God, I will reduce him to his permanent grade and send him home.” Patton wrote in his diary, “Ike is bound hand and foot by the British and does not know it. Poor fool. We actually have no supreme commander.”
Patton wrote a little more in his journal concerning Ike:
Ike was fine, except that he spoke of lunch as “tiffin,” of gasoline as “petrol,” and of anti-aircraft as “flak.” I truly fear that London has conquered Abilene.
Ike and I dined alone and we had a very pleasant time. He is drinking too much but is terribly lonely. I really feel sorry for him. I think that in his heart he knows that he is really not commanding anything.
Ike called up late and said that, “My American boss will visit you in the morning.” I asked, “When did Mamie arrive?” Man cannot serve two masters. (Ibid., pp. 152-153)
Ike never could realize what a good military commander he had in Patton. Ike was always holding Patton back and Patton wrote his his journal: “I wonder if ever before in the history of war a winning general has had to plead to be allowed to keep on winning.” And, “It always makes me mad to have to beg for opportunities to win battles. Julius Caesar would have a tough time being a Brigadier General in my Army.” Also, “My Third Army starts attacking in the morning, but we will go slow so the others can catch up.”
But he concluded his grief with: “If I do my duty, I will be paid in the end.”
The worst enemy Patton had to contend with was the news media. When he slapped a soldier, the news media made a big thing of it. Patton replied:
I have written more damn letters, I suppose a thousand, to the mothers of private soldiers whom I happen to know have been killed, but that never comes out. I kick some son of a bitch in the ass who doesn’t do what he should and it comes out all over the whole damned country. (Ibid., p. 177)
The man he slapped was a homosexual away from the front AWOL, and lied to the medics about his medical condition. Patton could have had the man shot, legally. A slap was a mild punishment.
Patton had a sound philosophy of life. Some of his statements are worth quoting:
I am always fully confident that I can do what must be done and have had my sense of duty developed to the point where I let no personal interests or danger interfere.
It is hard to answer intelligently the question, “Why I want to be a soldier.” For my own satisfaction I have tried to give myself reasons hut have never found any logical ones. I only feel that it is inside me. It is as natural for me to be a soldier as it is to breathe, and it would be as hard to give up all thought of being a soldier as it would be to stop breathing.
No sacrifice is too great if by it you can attain your goals. You must be single-minded. Drive for the one thing on which you have decided.
If a man has done his best, what else is there? I consider that. I have always done my best. My conscience is clear.
Wars may be fought with weapons, but they are won by men. It is the spirit of the men who follow and the man who leads them that gains the victory.
You are not beaten until you admit it. Do your duty as you see it, and damn the consequences.
Never stop until you have gained the top, or the grave.
Never stop being ambitious. You have but one life, live it to the fullest of glory and be willing to pay the price.
Cowardice is a disease and it must be checked before it becomes epidemic.
Never make excuses whether or not it is your fault.
I found that moral courage is the most valuable, and usually absent, characteristic in men.
As you go in <to battle>, you will perhaps be a little short of breath, and your knees may tremble. This breathlessness, this tremor, they are not fear. It is simply the excitement which every athlete feels just before the whistle blows. No, you will not fear for you will be borne up and exalted by the proud instinct of our conquering race.
Although Patton was always called “Old Blood and Guts,” his men had the greatest respect for his commandeering. Once he wrote:
On the opposite side of the road was an endless line of ambulances bringing men back; wounded men. Yet, when the soldiers of the 90th Division saw me, they stood up and cheered. It was the most moving experience of my life, and the knowledge of what the ambulances contained made it still more poignant. (Ibid., p. 182)
I have seen the movie “Patton” many times and will, probably see it again. However, it failed to tell about many interesting little incidents. For instance, the speech he gave at the beginning of the movie was an extemporaneous speech delivered to the troops just before the D-Day invasion. The big white horse he was riding at the end of the movie was the horse that Hitler was going to give Hirohito when the war was over. Imagine what Hitler would have done if he knew Patton got it! He was also a gold medal winner for pistol shooting in the Olympics.
Although he was victor over the Nazis, he had great respect for the Germans. tie said, “All Nazis are bad, but not all Germans are Nazis. Actually, the Germans are the only decent people left in Europe.”
He could for see dangers in the future and again his “prophetic” eye made him aware of them:
Patton was cognizant of the impending dangers of Communism and the belligerent attitude of the Russians. He attempted to warn the people of these dangers, but he was ignored. The press both attached and ridiculed him; his superiors gagged and restrained him.
As the years go by, more information comes to light concerning the truth about the waging of WWII. The emergence of one point becomes clear—General Patton was the most correct and successful army commander that the United States had. His military decisions have, with each succeeding year, been proven correct, much more so than is the case with any other top echelon commander in W WWII. His political observations and prophecies have also turned out to be more accurate than those of the “political analysts” of the post war era.
The bottom line is that had we listened more closely and carefully to General Patton, and had we paid heed to his warnings, the world would very probably not be in the condition in which it finds itself today. (Ibid., p. 140)
And further in his prophetic look to the future, Patton warned:
The Russians give me the impression of something that is to be feared in future world political reorganization. I really shudder for the future of our country. I believe that by taking a strong attitude with the Russians, they will back down. We have already yielded too much to their Mongolian nature.
We promised the Europeans freedom. It would be worse than dishonorable not to see they have it. This might mean war with the Russians, but what of it? They have no Air Force anymore, their gasoline and ammunition supplies are low. I’ve seen their miserable supply trains; mostly wagons drawn by beaten up old horses or oxen. I’ll say this–the Third Army alone with very little help and with damned few casualties, could lick what is left of the Russians in six weeks. You mark my words. Don’t ever forget them. Some day we will have to fight them and it will take six years and cost us six million lives. (Ibid., pp. 188-189)
Patton was, in my estimation, one of the greatest of all military leaders. It is always a pleasure for me to see a man who is professional in his field. Patton was the best in the arena, and America was very fortunate to have him lead their forces. It was unfortunate for me not to have met the man, because I was five years too late. I wanted to add this little section to my military journal because he was an inspiration to me in my life. I can only say that I was proud to have been in his “old outfit” in the Second Armored Division!
After two years as a missionary and then two years of military training, I saw two opposite sides of life: one devoted to saving lives, the other to destroying them. War has always been popular, but peace-making missionaries are few and far between. Yet in reality, they may not be so different after all–they say there are no atheists in foxholes. Men certainly are brought closer to God in battle than in palaces of pleasure. Men in the military are usually more ready to listen to something religious than during other times. Collectively they are boisterous, tough and wild, but individually I found it easy to talk to them.
For many years after my joining the Mormon Church, it was a problem to me to understand why the Book of Mormon contained so much warfare. I used to think that a book that was introduced to us by the Father and Son, delivered to Joseph Smith by an angel, translated by the powers of a seer stone and Urim and Thummim, ought to be more than a series of war stories. Gradually I began to see why.
First, because we live in a time when there will be more wars, death and destruction than at any time before, it is necessary for us to know how to be on the winning side. When the Nephites were righteous, they were always victorious; when they became wicked, they lost battles and wars or were captured and finally destroyed.
Second, it gave us the reason for wars–that a righteous battle is one in which men fight to defend freedom. The Founding Fathers had to buy liberty with their blood. The Lord said, “And for this purpose have I established the Constitution of this land, by the hands of wise men whom I raised up unto this very purpose, and redeemed the land by the shedding of blood.” (D. & C. 101:80)
Third, that God often uses war to save His people even if they are killed. For instance, many Israelites who were killed in battle were blessed for it. First, because they died defending’ Israel, their families, and freedom. Secondly, they perished because God knew if they had lived much longer, they would be tempted beyond their power to overcome sin. Third, that they perished in blood which was an atonement for their sins.
How many men, led by Patton, perished by bloodshed? They gave their lives for liberty, for America, for their families. They had their lives cut short in death; and perhaps some before they could be tempted into sins beyond their power to resist. By being slain, they were making an atonement. Brigham Young said:
Now take the wicked, and I can refer to where the Lord had to slay every soul of the Israelites that went out of Egypt, except Caleb and Joshua. He slew them by the hands of their enemies, by the plague, and by the sword, why? Because He loved them, and promised Abraham that He would save
them. And He loved Abraham because he was a friend to his God, and would stick to Him in the hour of darkness; hence He promised Abraham that He would save his seed. And he could save them upon no other principle, for they had forfeited their right to the land of Canaan by transgressing the land of God, and they could not have atoned for the sin if they had lived. But if they were slain, the Lord could bring them up in the resurrection, and give them the land of Canaan, and He could not do it on any other principles. (J.D. 4:220)
Paul the Apostle knew and understood this principle. He refers to it as the destruction of the flesh to save the spirit:
To deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. (I Cor. 5:4)
The military was a great source of knowledge and experience for me. Even the Lord has designated that we gain an understanding of its nature when he gave the “commandment” to learn and be instructed in the “things which are, things which must shortly come to pass; things which are at home, things which are abroad; the wars and the perplexities of the nations, and the judgments which are on the land; and a knowledge also of countries and kingdoms. …” (D. & C. 88:79)
I greatly enjoyed that period of time overseas learning about the great World War II and the problems that have arisen since then. I saw men who were more like children, some couldn’t handle the Army even in peacetime, some claimed that it ruined them, a few had mental breakdowns, others turned out to be drunkards; but there were many who were improved by it and took advantage of many opportunities that came along. Some became much better for it and gave them a new experience in life and learned discipline and responsibility. The Army was like a proving ground for men. But one thing that we did–we performed a mission for the people of Europe by being there and protected them from the Communist aggressors. We served our time in the military for our country, too.