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Lest We Forget – Relive The Past

Guestblog WWII Veteran: Dogfaces in Frankfurt am Main

December 12, 2018 joedemadio 0 Comments

Edgar Valderrama – 5th Infantry Division, 11th Infantry Regiment, Company C
Entering the City
We were a scraggly, dusty, sorry looking line of Dogfaces dragging ourselves single file into the first German city I had seen since ‘joining’ the Fifth Infantry Division as a replacement. The city had been rendered an impressive pile of ruins by merciless bombardment.
Nevertheless, industrious German civilians had cleared the streets of obstacles, giving the city the clean tidy look of normality if you didn’t notice that the buildings were all piles of rubble.

As we approached a slanting heap that had once beena a large apartment house I noticed several young people digging amidst the sticks and stones. Curiously I asked: “Looking for firewood?” “No,” one of them answered, “we are looking for our “Vater.” (not “water” but “FATHER.”) I saw no point in continuing the conversation.

Champagne Guard
By the time the last one of us had dropped his rifle and slid comfortably unto the floor of the basement in the house that had been chosen for Co. Headquarters, one of the talented treasure finders among us (I suspect he had been a burglar in ‘real life’) had discovered and recovered a respectable stash of high quality German champagne. (A worthy rival to the best French product) In fact, he had quickly discovered a champagne factory and brought us a respectable part of its store for our enjoyment.

Enjoy it we did. I had phone guard the second night we were there. Two hours of it. There being no clear and present danger in the now quiet city; and a sense of responsibility never having been very noticeable among my qualities, I found a most enjoyable way to while away the hours. Though my sense of danger was nonexistent, and my ‘duty’ gene lost in the shuffle, my ability to time my sleep was perfect, and I exploited it to the maximum. Upon beginning my two hours of “duty,” I opened one of two bottles of bubbly delight I had brought to the phone guard table and downed a delicious tumblerful of tasty frothiness. As the comfortable sense of satisfaction permeated my organism, I carefully placed my forearm on the fine mahogany table and dropped my head on my arm in a comfortable position. My obligation was to call from Company Headquarters to Battalion Headquarters every half hour as proof we were still there. This I did faithfully by setting my internal clock to wake me at the proper time. I would wake and call Battalion with impeccable timing, then leisurely enjoy the satisfaction provided by a tall glass of champagne and then replace my head on my arm for the next interval. The ritual was repeated every half hour till it was time to wake my replacement and drop the onerous duty onto his shoulders. My instinct was so flawlessly tuned that the two hours and the two bottles ended simultaneously in perfect synchrony so as to wake the next man due to free me from this demanding task.
Hatfield
This genuine hillbilly (there were lots of them) claimed to be a member of the notorious Hatfield vs. McCoy legend, but we had strong doubts, as he was one sorry individual. He would even avoid the strain of carrying water in his canteen by mooching it from us.
I doubt the rest of the guys were following my example; as they had probably figured out the bottle per hour of guard duty routine on their own. What I do know is that Hatfield also took to the idea but that instead of pulling it off he brought about our downfall.

Hatfield took over guard duty at midnight and was to wake his replacement at two. ALL of us, including Hatfield slept well that night, but it was the last rest we had till Germany collapsed. Battalion noticed our absolute silence; Hatfield having entered into sound, blissful, lasting sleep as soon as he had finished his first glass of champagne. No jangling of the bell by Battalion was able to rouse him or us so they finally felt obliged to report our disappearance to Regimental Headquarters.

The Colonel
A Colonel came personally to investigate around six AM. He strode unchallenged into our basement fort greeted only by the soft rumbling buzz of peacefully sleeping soldiers. Hatfield was sound asleep, head down before his two unfinished bottles. The rest of us were strewn about as comfortable as possible.

To rouse a mighty Colonel so early in the morning is bound to have unpleasant consequences for the responsible lower life forms. I will leave you to imagine the “wrath of Kahn” and only note that our pleasant but short Frankfurt stay ended abruptly; the whole company being held accountable and immediately returned to the front lines.

Now Hatfield had to carry his own water or go without.

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