Looking Back

This blog features poems by a native New Englander and octogenarian, as he looks back on the stomping grounds of his youth -- Chaffee's Woods, Kent Heights, Beach Pond, Escoheag, Wood River -- and his army days in Europe towards the end of WWII.

Sunday, August 21, 2011


We wakened when we heard some shots
And wondered what was up
We thought it was just nervous guards
And so went back to sleep
But later on we were to learn
The Krauts had sent out troops
And killed three men from First Platoon
While they were fast asleep.

At three o’clock they wakened us
And said we would attack
Across the field and road we’d hit
And then we’d be in Fürth
We moved across the field quite fast
The road and river too
Then up the other side we went
To wait for six o’clock.

But just before we made our jump
White flags began to show
It was still dark, but we could see
The Germans coming out.
They surrendered, all of them,
And we just went on through
We sent the Krauts back to the rear
With just a guard or two.

It was the same, where’er we went
The Germans just gave up
We saw one Kraut in uniform
Just kiss his wife goodbye
And knew that he had been called up
Not many days before
The old, the young, the crippled too
Would try to make a stand.

So after we had taken Fürth
We headed south again
Thru many towns and villages
All flew the big white flag.
We had but one slight incident
Some miles south of Fürth
There we were strafed by three Kraut planes
That came down on the road.

They came in line, and opened fire
Before we spotted them
Then each man jumped to save his life
It mattered not just where
One of my squads had moved thru town
Along a garden wall
And when they jumped, they fell ten feet
And nothing broke their fall.

The mortar, sight, and cleaning rod
All ended up in mud
But as each man got himself up
Not one of them was hurt.
We looked again to find the planes
But found that they were gone.
We later learned they’d been shot down
By our P51’s.

We went across the Blue Danube
That wasn’t very blue
It was a wide and muddy stream
And so we crossed in boats
When the south side had been secured
Our engineers then built
A pontoon bridge to get the tanks
And vehicles across.

So we continued on our way
When evening called a halt
We stopped right near the autobahn
That led down to the south
Toward Munich and still further on
This open road did go
We thought of how we’d move along
If we were on that road.

We spent the night in this small town
Without an incident
And in the early morning dawn
We saw a lot of tanks
They now were on the autobahn
And waited just for us.
We climbed aboard and off we went
And now it was a race.

The Third Division raced us hard
The Forty-Fifth did too
All tried to reach the old beer hall
Where Hitler got his start.
It took two days to reach the town
For often we did stop
To clear the road of SS troops
Who tried to block our way.

We’d passed by Dachau in our plunge
To get to Munich first
And later learned that some of ours
Had gone into that camp
They saw the horrors in the stripes
The living and the dead
The living only skin and bones
The dead lay everywhere.

The German guards were shot on sight
Wherever they were found
But very little could be done
For those close to their deaths
The dead were stacked as cordwood is,
Around each oven door
While inside, ashes and their bones
Were all that once were men.

And now we were so very glad
That we’d been picked that day
To ride the autobahn on tanks
And miss out on Dachau.
We had no envy for our friends
In our first battalion
Who had a most distasteful task
Of cleaning up the camp.

At last we came into Munich
And stopped quite close to dark
We jumped down off the tanks we rode
And looked across the street
For here we saw a storage plant
That was chock full of food
It did not take us very long
To load that tank with crates.

We then jumped back onto the tanks
And rumbled down the road
Until we came to the billets
Selected for the night.
We took the food down off the tanks
And carried it within
Then had a feast, the likes of which
We’d never had before.

The Swede was a machine gunner
Who liked to eat his eggs
Now he had a whole crate full, but
Could eat just twenty-eight
The rest of us just ate and ate
‘Til we could eat no more
Then after setting guards about
We settled down to snore.

Now as for us, we slept that night
And rested one more day
And then we started south again
Thru old Bavaria
Town after town, we passed on through
Without a single stop
Sometimes we rode the tanks or trucks
But mostly we just walked.

There was one time that we were stopped
By just a bunch of kids
They had an MG forty-two
And stopped our movement cold.
So we had to set up our guns
As our riflemen deployed.
We thought four hundred yards would do
For nothing could we see.

We got a call, from out in front,
On where we were to fire
The range was right, but where to shoot
Was anybody’s guess.
And so we dropped one round ahead
“You’re shooting far, far to the right,”
The answer soon came back.

We then adjusted all the guns
And moved them to the left
Then dropped another round out front
And hoped it would be close
“You’re long about ten yards or more
And now just to the left.
Come in a bit, and move more right
And you’ll be where we want.”

These weren’t the ways that mortar men
Were used to firing guns
But this is what we got that day
From someone out in front
So we corrected all our guns
According to his word
Then started firing while we searched
Traversing left to right.

 “You’re on,” I heard him shout in glee
Over my five three six,
“One landed right on that bunch of Krauts
And now confusion reigns.
I do believe they’re giving up
Stop firing anytime.”
And so I gave the sign to halt
And sure enough they quit.

The Germans just threw up their hands
They were about sixteen
They all were just a lot of kids
Whose officer was dead.
He had been hit by mortar fire
That rattled these young kids.
And with him dead, they chose to quit,
And this is what they did.

We moved on out, when we were sure
The village had been cleared
This was the last time in the war
That we would have to fire.
In two more days of marching so
We entered Austria
And there we rested for a while
Just waited out the war.

The war did end officially
The seventh day of May
But for most of us at least
It ended days before
We now began to occupy
The villages and towns,
The western part of Austria
Known mainly as Tyrol.

We traveled now by German trucks
We’d captured in the war
And first went up to Krimmel
The last town to the west
Where the Salzach River begins
So high up in the Alps
It was a pleasant place to stay
The fishing was just great.

We stayed in Krimmel for a month
And then were called upon
To furnish General Collins troops
To act as honor guards.
We went by truck to Kitzbühel
That lies in the Tyrol
This was a ski town ‘fore the war
But none of us did ski.

We stayed in Kitzbühel for a month
It had a great hotel
Where General Collins lived in style
With non-coms as his guards.
We stood our watch throughout each night
Two man on every floor
And then had four days of our own
To see the sights of town.

We went up on the Hoehnenbahn
The ski lift for the town
Went way above the timberline
And could see all around
The snowcapped peaks just to the west
Was where the Alps began
While down below we saw the town
It looked so very small.

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