One Lonely Soldier
I was one lonely Soldier because I got no mail for several months. My mail was being forwarded every time I moved back and forth across the English Channel to hospitals, through replacement depots etc. I wrote to my mother and Shirley almost daily but had no idea what was happening to them or others in the family.
When I finally did get my mail there was a basket full and I spent a couple of days reveling in it until I got the one that told about my brother Malcolm being wounded and that was a shocker. I misread it at first and thought it said one of his injuries was to his heart. Fortunately (or not?) it was to his ear.
Our stay in Austria was fairly pleasant and further memories there include "Du maken hase kaput." As I stated previously our rations were being siphoned off in Paris and other distribution points for some money making guys in the supply line and we were particularly anxious for meat, cigarettes, beer and some of the finer things like coffee, sugar etc. My mother sent me packages frequently but we were always on the lookout for food prospects.
One morning I awakened and reaching for my boots I brushed them against a duffel bag on the floor. The bag started jumping around and startled me somewhat. One of the guys in an adjoining cot started to break up laughing and told me that the bag was full of rabbits. Some of these characters had found a rabbit hutch in another part of town, went out the previous night and brought the rabbits back. They told me that they had done the hard part and I was duty bound to kill the rabbits and get them cooked.
The old lady in the place where we were housed was pretty friendly and she also lacked a regular supply of meat. She would be discreet and cook the rabbits if I would kill them. The next problem was where to go to perform the execution. The owner of the rabbits had already spread the word about their theft and I couldn't just take them out in the yard and it wasn't thought permissible to do the job right there in the house.
The house was a large one and had a couple of decorative balconies out of the front rooms on the second floor and we decided that this would be a good place to stage the rabbits demise. Another guy and I took the rabbits out on one of the balconies and after carefully looking around we didn't see anyone on the street and proceeded to make the rabbits ready for the cook to skin and prepare. I don't remember what instrument we applied to the rabbits heads, but they were dispatched quickly, returned to the duffel bag and given to the cook.
Later that day I was outside the house and was approached by a pain in the neck kid who belonged to the lady of the house. He grinned at me and said "Du maken hase kaput" which I recognized even with my limited knowledge of the language meant: You killed the rabbits. The little pest had been somewhere out of our sight, but had observed our activity on the balcony. I denied the accusation but he pointed to the balcony and repeated his allegation.
Some candy and a chat with his discreet mother, our rabbit cooker, ensured that he didn't go around town telling his story. We had a real meal that night, the cook having used a can of Campbell's tomato soup from a package from my mother to make a sauce.
We were fortunate in the British having a scout car, which carried us to and from our guard post up in the mountain pass. It was also very handy to go to a neighboring town once in a while. The vehicle had a seat for only the driver and one passenger as I recall, but we would pile half a dozen of us on the outside and tear around the countryside when a visit to another town was in order.
Fortunately the vehicle had a tall metal rod welded to the front end with a cutting slot in it. This was to catch and cut wires that some of the Austrian Nazis were wont to string across the roads from time to time. There were several of these ex-soldiers; alleged to have been SS troops in the area where we were. They didn't really like us and a decapitation of a careless jeep or scout car passenger would please them no end.
Another happening I remember is one day when I was on guard duty a caravan of Hungarians came up from their side of the pass, in flight from the coming Russian occupation of their territory. The were alleged to be mostly members for the Hungarian Natl. Bank and their families. Our headquarters said it was ok to let them through and they were quite a sight to see. Many were well-dressed men and women and they were driving, pushing and pulling all kinds of carts and wagons, some of which had horses, but many with a horse and cow, pair of oxen, and all adults pushing and pulling. They camped out in our area for a short time and then continued their journey. They were scared to death of the Russian Occupation forces.
Finally the day arrived when we were told that we would be going back to the USA if we had enough points.
The services had a point system for releasing personnel and there were so many points for time in service, decorations, battle stars etc. I was crestfallen when I added up mine and found that I was five points short. However when the time came for orders to load up and move, my name was on the roster.
I didn't tell a soul about my point count and went right along with the formation into trucks and started the journey to Camp Lucky Strike in Marseilles, France. I was happy to be going, but fearful that at any minute someone would go over the list and find that I should not be there.