Sunday, March 22, 2015

Guarding Hitler's Airport

Our barracks with bullet holes!
      Like I said WAS indeed a bumpy ride across the Atlantic. but upon arrival my "guardian angel" seemed to on:
        When we got to Bremerhaven, Germany they lined us up and ask anyone who could type please step forward.  This sounded like a good way to get out of I stepped forward.
I was sent to a unit that would play a major part in my getting an eventual transfer (unheard of in the military) into Armed Forces Radio.
I became a clerk-typist at the 3rd Armored Division headquarters in Nuremberg, Germany where the famous Nazi war crimes trail took place ten years earlier.
This...for the Army...was good duty. Make that...great!
We were based in an building that had been a key SS headquarters for Hitler’s military...called simply the SS Kasern in south Nuremberg. It had lots of bullet holes on it!
The office work was easy...and every night we hit the town for beer and jazz.  They had some great jazz clubs and American soldiers were very welcome...even though  we still used script at the time...which was like monopoly money but good anyway.  
I remember one club had a drummer who, in my opinion, was as good or better than the famous Gene Krupa.  He played so hard he kept having nervous breakdowns but boy was he hot.  He could solo on the drums for about an hour at a time....and nobody would miss the rest of the band!  I’d never seen anything like it.
We bunked between two and four to a room...and most of the guys were smart...well educated and friendly.   Typical was one PFC who’s Dad had invented the plastic dixie drinking cup or owned the the Scott paper company or something like that ...and he had to be rich as hell.  But he didn’t act like it...he was just one of the nicest guys around.  I often wondered what happened to him.  His son is probably running the company by now.  This was not the case later at AFN...armed forces radio.  A snotty kid came in for duty...he let us all know his Dad owned the biggest steel mill in Ohio and he was rich and acted it.  He bought a snazzy Mercedes 300 SL and drove it around showing it and himself off. The only nice thing he did was to buy thousands of dollars worth of ham radio equipment so he (and we occasionally) could contact our loved ones back in the states. I got in on that and I thank him for it.  However I heard that after he returned to the states he was killed driving recklessly on the Ohio turnpike in that SL.  Sad.
New years 1955 was approaching and us new guys found out what happened New Years eve.     We were restricted to the barracks but everyone bought a big bottle of their favorite hard wine allowed... and the approach to the new year was passed by taking your bottle and a large mug and going from room to room and sampling everyone’s bottle.  Awards were given for the guys who could make it from one end of the hallway to the other and it was a really long, long building!
About 11:30PM we were all goners...weaving all around the place and then a typical Army thing happened.  We heard the call to fall in for formation.
Well...I’ve got to tell you it was something else.  I guess maybe I was the soberest but I was plenty woozy from the mix of the booze and could hardly make it down the stairs to the parade ground standing up straight.
After we sort of composed ourselves in some kind of formation the sergeant yelled that five of us were needed for all night guard duty.
Man was quite a scene.  My buddies kept passing out on the ground and of course nobody volunteered so the Sarg picked five of us...and yep...wouldn’t you know he focused in on me... I guess because I was still standing fairly straight up.
We headed back to our rooms to gather heavy coats and weapons.  But we were not allowed to take any ammunition.  That would be tempting fate with the condition we were in.

   A couple of jeeps pulled up outside the barracks and took us to our posts.
As luck would have it I got Hitler’s underground airport.  Nothing like all the Nazi ghosts in the world gathering around me, all alone,  for the next few hours until daylight.  Lucky I was drunk...otherwise it would have got to me.
Hitler had ordered his architect Albert Speer (of later book fame from jail) to build an airstrip next to the Nazi Rally grounds on Zeppelin Field...but the end of the runway would go underground so Hitler and his henchmen would be safe from allied bombing.  There were underground walkways from there to all parts of the city of Nuremberg and we were told to be careful because the Germans had mined all of them!  I've wondered if the mines were ever dealt with.  If the city goes up sometime you'll know the rumor was right!
So there I was...with an empty rifle...barely able to stand up...and in the dark, cold German night all I could see was the outline a Hitler’s half completed World Congress building where he had planned to have the leaders of the his conquered nations meet once the war ended. But it didn’t work out that way.
Finally, the dawn came and with it a jeep to cart us back to the barracks and badly need sleep.
But it was a duty and night I’ll never forget.

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