|1950's...Allied Flags at "Checkpoint Charlie" Berlin|
or...how I could have ended up in a Czech prison camp
Few get a transfer in the Army. That is just plain fact. At least not often that's for sure!
I did...but it took magic.
I worked directly under a guy why would process any transfer requests...and kill them! But I became friendly with one desk jockey who told me how to beat the system.
He said it depends on the strength of the unit...not only where we were but also at AFN Germany in Frankfurt...the network equivalent of CBS or NBC for the armed forces.
If we were over-strength, he said, and AFN was under-strength...so...they could not block the transfer request. However...he said the Colonel who ruled us all would likely “sit” on the request until we lost some men...or until AFN got some. Then he could cancel it.
He recommended that I volunteer for some extra duty to catch the big boss’s attention so I offered to be a courier to 7th Army Headquarters.
Now I must digress once again here because this was really an example when my “angel” took a hand in stopping me from starting World War III.
I took the top secret pouch and headed for the train from Nurenberg to Stuttgart, Germany. Things went quickly... so after dropping the pouch off I decided to check for a little “action” in Stuttgart. It wasn’t long when another GI and I were chatting... I noticed a pretty good looking girl was taking an interest. We introduced ourselves and the three of us window shopped and then offered to buy her a drink. She replied...”Why not just get a room?”
We did...and that’s the way things happen in Europe. She wasn't a hooker....but her story was fascinating.
She said she had “serviced” the German SS officers during the last part of the war...and actually...she missed it!
Weird to us but the way things were in in 43-44...I could understand. She told us she was working with a group of about 20-30 young girls and that was what they did. Probably the only way they survived.
How I almost ended up in a Czech prison camp!
It was still not that late so I checked out of the hotel and caught the last train back to Nurenburg...figuring I could sleep on the way. I told the conductor to wake me before we got to Nurenberg and I’m sure he understood.
I only woke up when I noticed the train had not moved for sometime.
A big burly guy in a long green coat holding a rifle was standing over me. I looked around at the empty coach and said “Nurenberg?” and he laughed.
"I AM NOT A SPY"....or How I might have started World War III...or at least ended up in a "Czech" prison as trade bait for a real spy.
The train had reached the border of Communist Czechoslovakia.
Now I must remind you I was in uniform...which probably saved a lot of trouble for me. American military personnel are not allowed within about ten clicks of any border...but here I was ready to get off the train and step into a cold war nightmare.
But this fellow was a fellow "well met" and he joked that I needed some coffee so we went into the small border station where I shook hands all around and said hello to several other border guards before having my hot cup of Czecho coffee.
It seemed the conductor forgot to wake me when we stopped at Nurenberg (probably on purpose...a left over unhappy German.) The guard spoke excellent English and said I would have to wait for a few hours for the first train going toward Nurenberg and suggested I go back to the rail car I had been in and get some rest. He assured me they would wake me in time fore the train. Which they did.
I thanked them for treating me well and waved goodbye and never mentioned all this to anyone. Are you kidding...with my transfer about to be finalized!
I did hear about something much crazier than this happening...which was kept quite for years. Rumor had it that an American infantry officer mistakenly led his battalion across the border and into communist territory but soon realized his mistake and got the troops back before they were discovered! And no one ever got the goods on that for the New York Times.