Occupation Duty
#1

Occupation Duty :drinkin:

 

Most of the men, officers and enlisted men alike, were draftees or had volunteered to serve "for the duration." These were not regular Army career men. They were civilians by nature, (Citizen Soldiers), and so far as they were concerned, the "duration" was over. The job they had agreed to do was finished. In combat, they lived with an extreme intensity. They found it hard to adjust to the eternal boredom of occupation duty and had no patience with what they regarded as "chickenshit" regulations. They had no useful duties, as such. Control of civilians was handled by American Military Government (AMG) forces, a special branch of the Army. The Infantry and Armored Divisions assigned to Occupation Duty were there to "show the American flag". Their mission was to act as a deterrent to further Russian expansion into Western Europe, militarily if necessary. They were marking time, they were lonely while awaiting their turn to go home, and Army discipline, essential in combat, was now fading fast.

 

The Army recognized the problem and came up with a solution, one which Mencken would call, "Neat, plausible and wrong." Those Divisions which had seen little fighting and spent the least time overseas were put in the pipeline for transhipment to the Pacific, by way of the United States, to fight the Japs. A point system was put into effect which sorted the remaining men by time in the Army, time overseas, and related criteria. Those with the fewest points were put in the same pipeline and those with the highest points were assigned to occupation duty. At the time, it all seemed very fair. But, as you may remember, the War in the Pacific ended very suddenly, three months after VE Day, when the atom bomb was dropped on Japan. Those soldiers with low points were, at that time, in the States on 30 day leave, or in the pipe line headed for home. Since they were no longer needed, they were separated from the service in late summer or early fall, while the high pointers were stuck in Germany for at least six more months of occupation duty.

 

With the War over, the Army was no longer sending replacements to Europe. There were few new draftees and the Army didn't dare try to turn around and send back those who had just come home. Add to that a policy where the Army, in its desire to retain combat veterans, offered a 30 day leave in the States plus up to 60 days travel time, and a promotion of one grade to selected officers who volunteered to stay in the Army. Many junior officers who were short on education and qualifications for civilian employment found this offer attractive. This left the Occupation Forces short-handed. With no replacements coming in, those who wanted and deserved most to get out, were held for three or more months beyond their date of eligibility for redeployment as established by the already unfair point system. Such was my fate. I was separated from the military service on January 23, 1946, almost eight months after the War ended.

 

My Division, the 3rd Infantry, was deployed along the line of demarcation between the American and Russian zones. I spent the first two months in Salzburg, Austria and the next six months in Bad Hersfeld, Germany. In my case, I would describe that time as a time of extreme loneliness and brain-deadening boredom. In combat, we had lived with an intensity that cannot be imagined by those who have not experienced it. The suddenness of the contrast was something that I found hard to adapt to. Not that I missed combat! But I missed having something useful to do, I missed the inner satisfaction that comes from seeing daily results from my contribution to victory and I had been over sensitized by being away from my loved ones too long. I had volunteered for "the duration" as it was called in those days. The "duration" was over. I had done my part. It was now someone else's turn.

 

When the War ended, my company commander Captain Alarie was promoted and made a Battalion Commander. A newly arrived Captain, a protege of the politician Huey Long, replaced him. He saw his job as taking care of the Regimental Commander and his immediate staff of senior officers at the downtown Command Post. The rest of his company (about 150 men) was about a mile and one half away under my command as Executive Officer. The only time we ever saw the new company commander was once a month when he came down to distribute the monthly payroll to the men in cash. There were four other company officers, but three of them disappeared quickly. Mr. Keogh, a regular Army Warrant Officer was promoted to Captain and retired. Two other Second Lieutenants signed on for four years and were rewarded with a 30 day leave at home plus 30 days travel time each way. They were still not back when I left seven months after the War ended. That left me and a Warrant Officer who was the assistant communication officer. I was acting Company Commander for all but one day of each month (pay day), Executive Officer, Motor Officer, Mess Officer for the enlisted men's and for the Jr Officer's Mess, Supply Officer, Provost (responsible for the Regimental Stockade), I & R Platoon leader and anything else that didn't fall under the category of Communications.

 

You would think that I would have been overworked! The truth is that in the absence of a mission, with help from good sergeants, and with civilian help, there was still little for me to do, which only added to the boredom! The enlisted men were quartered in the former resort Kurhotel and the junior officers in nearby surrounding homes. We hired kitchen help for both the Jr. Officers and the Enlisted Mens Messes, from pot scrubbers to professional pastry chefs. We hired waitresses for the Junior Officers' mess who were both efficient and attractive and maids to clean and make up our rooms.

 

But the real prize was a German middle aged man, Herr Wulff, who spoke both German and English, who I hired as my civilian deputy. He managed, bought, stole, wheedled, bargained, traded and procured all our needs at no cost to us. One of his most useful functions was touring the local farms which had plenty of fresh food but no transport to get it to market. He traded them GI rations which were preserved for long term storage while we dined on delicious fresh salads, fresh meat and vegetables and delicious deserts, all prepared by professional German chefs. He was full of ideas on how to make our time there less odious. In order to improve his scope of activity, I assigned him a captured German Kubelwagen (German Military Jeep) which our motor pool maintained for him. I needed only tell him what I wanted. He would snap to attention, click his heels, and with a "Jawohl, Herr Leutnant!" would be on his way. And the job he did always exceeded my expectations. He often came to me with splendid ideas (such as having the motor pool black topped and paid for by the owner of the land) after which he convinced me that the idea was my very own. He furnished the junior officers early on with typewriters, radios, and a grand piano, freshly tuned, for the music room of our beautiful Junior Officers' Mess. The German homeowners from whom he requisitioned (stole) these items were given a receipt promising return or reimbursement signed with a fictitious Officers name. He requisitioned the local factory owner's lovely home for our Junior Officer's Mess and a former Nazi meeting hall with a large dance floor, stage, bar and cocktail chairs and tables for an Officers' Club. Beer was free and mixed drinks cost five cents per glass as a result of a deal he made with a local distillery and brewery. I know these things seem unbelievable now, but that's the way it was. The German population was so beaten down after five years of War and so afraid of the Russian's who were only a few miles away on the other side of the Occupation Demarcation Line, that they offered no resistance at all. My character would not have allowed me to do the things that Herr Wulff did on my behalf, but somehow, after what I had been through, my character allowed these things to happen using him as the interface with the unfortunates and myself as the interface with the beneficiaries.

 

A typical day for me started about 10 A.M. when I would wander down to either the enlisted men's or the Junior Officers' Mess to inspect the kitchen, check on any problems the mess sergeant was having and to savor my custom made late breakfast. I'd then call for my jeep and ride over to the Motor Pool to see if the Motor Sergeant had any problems. Back to the Jr. Officers' Mess to have lunch with about 20 other Junior Officers who had discovered I served the best meals in town. We had two Battalion Surgeons who kept me up to date on the men's health and morale out in the rifle companies, two Red Cross Girls who gave me the enlisted men's latest gripes, a Military Government man who gave me the latest civilian political gossip, a French women who ran the Displaced Persons' Camp with the latest on attempts to make the Eastern nation D.P.'s go home instead of being fed, clothed and housed by the United Nations, several Liaison Officer's who kept me abreast of activity within the Regimental Staff downtown (the big picture!), the Regimental interpreter who regaled us with tales of his latest conquests, and our Liaison Officer with the Russians who kept us abreast of what was going on across the border. Information flowed freely among this friendly and well-fed group of bored young people.

 

After lunch, I'd usually take a nap until it was time for pre-dinner cocktails at the Jr. Officers Mess. The same well fed, knowledgeable group was present but in a much more relaxed atmosphere. The dinner prepared by the German chefs was superb, our army cooks being limited to peeling potatoes, lighting the stoves, disposing of the garbage and washing the china. After dinner some of us would retire to the music room and listen to beautiful classical music performed on the grand piano by a liaison officer who in civilian life had been a concert pianist. The rest, who preferred "Mairzy D'Oats" type music, wasted no time making their way to the Officers Club Bar a few blocks away. I would join them there and the drinks, gripes, and personal plans for "after the War" would be casually explored not only by my messmates, but by Officers from other Companies and Battalions. One memory stands out as being typical. I was sitting at a table with Lt. Col. Wallace, our 3rd Battalion Commander, commanding as many as 800 men. He was a very brave man, highly decorated, and an outstanding leader. We were supposed to wear our ribbons, but he would only wear one. It was the Distinguished Service Cross with an Oak Leaf Cluster. We were discussing our plans for "after the War" and he allowed as how he probably would stay in the Army. He didn't think much of the alternative which was to "go back to the firehouse." Another young Officer who had received a battlefield promotion from sergeant to 2nd Lt. late in the War, decided he would rather be an Army Officer than go "back to the steel mills in Youngstown." At about midnight I would call it a day so as to be up for breakfast at 10 A.M. The next day was just like the last except that my after breakfast visit would be to the Orderly Room and the Supply Room. I'd save inspection of the Stockade until the following day.

 

But the Army likes to keep its men busy! The word came down that inter-company leagues would be formed for softball and for volleyball. Sports were the thing! Good exercise, good competition, good unit morale and cooperation, all those good things! I turned out for the Hq. Co.'s first softball practice, but found that most of the positions were already assigned. I told them that I used to pitch softball in college. I was told that the Colonel would be doing the pitching, but they might find a spot for me in the outfield. The Regimental Exec. was catcher and the infield was manned by three majors and a captain. I got to play in the outfield which was a very busy place with the Colonel pitching. I was not overly surprised to learn, when it was our turn to bat, that the Colonel would bat first and the batting order would be in order of rank. I batted last and we lost every game!

 

Volley ball proved to be equally ridiculous. The rules state that after each point is scored, the six man team will rotate one position clockwise. We did that except for the Colonel. He played center forward at all times and everyone else rotated around him, lofting the ball up for him so he could kill it! We didn't win any of those games either!

 

Finally, after seven months of this incessant boredom, during which all my friends and buddies had left for home, I was fed into the rotation pipeline and in two more months was home.

 

3_7_I_Recon

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#2

Ah organized incessant boredom. Three hoo-rahs for the occupation army! :drinkin::drinkin::drinkin:

 

I've often heard that things got a bit crazy in Europe with the G.I.s because there was nothing to do and that's when ol' trouble would start to brew. Let's look at the formula, bored young men who just fought a war + mindless jobs + loneliness = total craziness with much drinking and carousing! Lots of men wound up in the brink!

 

:pdt40:

 

I know my dad didn't get home until November of that year and I wondered what the heck all those engineers did for nearly six months ??

 

But the real prize was a German middle aged man, Herr Wulff, who spoke both German and English, who I hired as my civilian deputy. He managed, bought, stole, wheedled, bargained, traded and procured all our needs at no cost to us.

 

Ah, now there is a real prize of man. Sounds like he was the best thing that could have happened to the 3rd Inf Div Occupation Army. As you said, he probably did a few things that the "normal" you wouldn't have done, but I'll tell you if I was there, I would have done the same thing. A little creative license after all you guys had gone through. It was all part of your "pay" and well earned as far as I'm concerned. The drinks are on me. :drinkin: Wow, how much aspirin was acquisitioned from medical supplies? You guys must of had some dillies of hangovers!! Oh my aching head... :pdt12::pdt12:

Marion J Chard
Proud Daughter of Walter (Monday) Poniedzialek
540th Engineer Combat Regiment, 2833rd Bn, H&S Co, 4th Platoon
There's "No Bridge Too Far"
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#3

Yes Russ, remember the "point system" well. Never thought it was much use to a dogface. Those that "endured?" behind the lines got 2 points per month. Also by "them" getting near a "campaign area" got 5 points by being in each "campaign area"and not in actual fighting. C.I.B. got no points even though being a high quality award . As I had enough "points" I stayed with the 3 rd Inf Div in occupation till I was

homeward bound. Actually, being single and a young un it was not too bad. Little to do,

plenty of time to go hunting ETC. . However was glad when my "point count" came up

and was shipped home and got out.. For those that were not married it was not too bad. But for those married, it must have been bad time, just waiting to go home.

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#4

Russ, I think your stories are absolutely captivating. Got any more? :coffee:

 

Marilyn

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#5

Marilyn, I tried to convince Joe to let me create a page for him on the site, but dear Joe seems to think that he doesn't have much. What do you think everyone? I think that Joe and Russ should both have their own pages in the near future. Their stories are fascinating and give us a real feel for the everyday life of a WWII vet.

 

So Russ, what would you think about that? You've probably read a few of the pages that I have for the vets on the regular site. Would you be interested? I hope you will say yes, then convince your buddy Joe to let me do the same for him. The more the merrier! ;)

Marion J Chard
Proud Daughter of Walter (Monday) Poniedzialek
540th Engineer Combat Regiment, 2833rd Bn, H&S Co, 4th Platoon
There's "No Bridge Too Far"
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