I arrived at Flak Kaserne, Augsburg to join the Airborne. I was a "Leg", or non-jumper, or a nothing in their eyes. I was billeted in noncom quarters. The bar/snack bar was handy, two doors down, straight ahead, from the door of my room. I wasn't accepted too well until they found out I was going to try for jump school.
The Division was stationed in and around Augsburg and Munich. They had a high esprit de corps. Most of the line troopers were in their late teens or in the early twenties. Their spirit, in combination with the German beer, caused many problems, especially with the citizenry. I was in charge of three other investigators and we were under the Division Provost Marshal. Our job was to ferret out the trouble makers and criminals without any publicity, or clean our own laundry as it was called. When they were apprehended, the punishment was strict, but within the confines of the Division where possible. One of us was assigned to the area Provost Marshal, in downtown Augsburg. This was rotated on a daily basis. All of my investigators were married, so they volunteered for weekend duty and that gave me my weekends free. I usually headed to Garmisch to relax.
The time arrived for me to pass the physical requirements for jump school. Well, the first try was a failure and I was having a bad time trying to do my duty without those wings. Airborne suspects or witnesses were reluctant to give me any information, so I put myself on a training program. Every evening I would run around the quadrangle. It paid off. One evening a master parachutist decided he needed some exercise, so he joined me. He couldn't complete the run, so I knew I was on my way. The next testing period arrived and I barely passed it, but good enough to enter the parachute school.
I received my wings (22 Dec 1956). General Harris pinned them on and I suspect it was a big day for him, too. He told me as much and commented on my physique, saying that I looked as I did when we were back at A P Hill. I had lost about twenty pounds at the school. On my first jump I landed too relaxed and in doing so, hurt my legs. We headed back to the bus for the 2nd jump. One of the instructors noticed my limp and cautioned me about favoring it during the next landing. I told him that it wouldn't present a problem since I had hurt both of them. We completed the other three jumps the following day. I limped around for two months before I finally got rid of it.
You had to jump once every three months to get your jump pay and I was hanging on until the last moment to get my legs back in shape. The MP Company was preparing a jump manifest and someone told the captain that I hadn't jumped since I had received my wings. He asked me about it and I told him it was true. He said I was afraid to jump, and I told him that wasn't so, as I noticed he was still jumping. I said you're not afraid, I'm certainly not afraid. Well, he had his revenge. The next day he was standing in one door and I was in the other, and we were both leading the sticks (line of troopers) out of the plane.
On another occasion I was doing a "Hollywood Jump", which meant without packs and weapon. General Joe Stilwell Jr, the deputy CG, (Vinegar Joe's son) jumped with me that day. His driver told me the night before that he was going to do it. We had a talk, before boarding the plane, and I told him I worried about loosing my false teeth when the chute opened. He said no problem, and with that he took out his upper and lower teeth, waved them around, put them back in, saying that he had one hundred jumps and hadn't lost them yet. So that answered my question and I am probably the only sergeant who ever had a General officer take his teeth out for him.
I met him again one wintry night, while checking for a prowler around his off-post quarters. I had gone to the door and he answered my knock. He told me it was too cold to be outdoors and that I should knock on the door when I wanted to get warm and if no one answered, kick it in and come in. The prowler turned out to be the German gardener. He came in the yard, while I was there, shook one of the small trees. He was trying to shake the last leaves off the tree, so he could stop raking the yard. I just about scared him to death when I stepped out of the shadows and grabbed him. I left him go home and then I knocked on the door. The general's wife let me in . I told him about the gardener and he had a big laugh. He helped me remove my heavy coat and we went into his study, while his wife prepared tea for me. On the study wall there was an oil painting of his famous father "Vinegar Joe" in uniform. We talked and I noticed a boom-ba standing in the corner. I hadn't seen one before. He told me he had purchased it in East Berlin. With that he proceeded to play it. After my spot of tea, I headed back to camp. (The General disappeared several years later, while over the Pacific when he was in Special Forces.)
I was able to function better, as an investigator, after earning my wings. I was accepted in the bar/snackbar in a more friendly manner. The bar was our weekday evening hangout. We had two old men in our group. They were both 44 years old and still parachuted. At 34 I guess I was considered middle age. One of the 44 year old troopers, Bill, consumed fifteen to twenty martinis each evening. He was a little difficult to understand at that point. He too is dead, but he didn't drown in the Pacific.
The guys were spontaneous. For a long time we had been teasing the Club Manager about taking us to Garmisch for a weekend. One Friday afternoon we started again, but this time he said, "Lets go". We jumped in his car to call his bluff, but he kept driving. Half way there we stopped at a horse show. Sgt Crow was unhappy because a lot of horses couldn't clear the jump barrier. The good sergeant stood about five foot five if he stretched, so when he said he could clear the barrier, everyones' wallet was out and the bet was on. Fortunately there was an intermission, and at that time Sgt Crow entered the arena, cleared the barrier and our wallets.
We arrived in Garmisch and found a place to stay. The next morning we were up bright and early, to find a barbershop and buy tooth brushes. The talk turned to skiing,so we picked up equipment at Special Services and headed to a slope or so I thought. The next thing I know we are at a cable car and they are bringing a German out of it with a broken leg. We arrived at the top of the mountain and I take one look down and I wouldn't even try to take a Jeep down that slope. Sgt Cat and Ben are going for it. The other Sgt and myself see the Germans have provided a Gasthaus for cowards such as we.
I told Ben that he hadn't been on anything resembling a ski since he stole his mother's curtain rods for that purpose. He started down and we headed for a beer, but were stopped abruptly by a yell for help. We looked down the slope and there was Ben, on his back and the skis were pointed in different directions. We had a time getting down to him. We did get him untangled and back up the slope. We stuck his skis in the snow, along side of ours, and headed for a glass of beer. We left our skis there until we went down in the cable car. Our driver would have the last laugh when he made it down the slope successfully. He did break his leg later, skiing in Austria.
There was a period when I was without a car. My Mercedes was so time tired that it would pass everything on the road except a repair shop. I sold it and got a bicycle. I eventually purchased a VW Beetle, which I brought back to the States with me.
On my first weekend alone, in Garmisch, I went to a wine stube. The owner and I became great friends. He was a submariner and had been interred in England. He had learned to speak English while there, and that helped when I met him. After that they always had a room for me on my visits. One afternoon, he talked me into going to a German Paratroopers reunion at Shonegau. He wasn't invited and I certainly wasn't, but off we went. I had long hair, German clothes and a hat (Bavarian style) and a cherry wood tobacco pipe. He lifted a tent flap and we were in another world. I knew that if I opened my mouth we were in trouble. We sat at a table and Alf joined in the conversation. I just nodded my head and puffed on my pipe. I knew enough German to know that Alf was getting in over his head; he was knocking the minister of defense and Shonegau was the minister's hometown. The argument was getting louder, so I took the initiative and got him out of there alive.
Another bar was the Dachel Bar and the owner was Nick the Greek. In WWII Nick had been a German fighter pilot. The war was over, but the Greek government called Nick a traitor and wanted him back to stand trial, so they tried to extradite him. The German government said "No", and so it remained as far as I know. Nick's girlfriend had a daughter, so Nick set her up in a fried chicken restaurant, in Oberammergau. This girl Heidi, will pop up again in my story. I returned to the area in 1968, while stationed in Italy, and Nick had branched out. He now owns a restaurant in Mittenwalde too. Time has dimmed his memory, but his girl friend remembered me.
The discipline problems continued and we carried eight to twelve cases. It was difficult to remember which case you were working on. The problems were also of a civilian nature and that didn't settle too well with the German population. Alcohol was the big problem. I opened a case, which had been closed about a year before. Specialist 4 Sugar's death was caused by the ingestion of large quantities of alcohol. I reopened the case because information was received that the cause was murder. I sent for the autopsy and interviewed those with knowledge of that night. The story was that a bunch of troopers went out on the town, bar hopping. In one of the bars, Sugar lapsed into unconsciousness. His buddies carried him from bar to bar, in and out of taxis, even trying to get him to have another drink. Sugar died before they returned to camp, but they were too drunk to realize what had happened. They returned to camp, but couldn't get him up the stairs to their quarters. They asked a soldier, in their quarters, to go down and help Sugar. The soldier realized that Sugar needed medical help and called an ambulance. At the hospital Sugar was pronounced dead, and had been dead for at least an hour. A review of the autopsy confirmed the cause of his death. Several other alcohol related deaths caused a change in the military club regulations. The clubs could only serve mixed alcoholic drinks, no straight shots.
The previous commanding general had been put to pasture and that was an end to future promotions. The 11th Airborne would lose the battle of civilian Bavaria, and as a result would be removed from active duty. The 24th Infantry Division would be activated to take its place. The troops were the same, but the 11th would be history.
I did manage to keep my jump pay through quarterly jumps. On one such occasion, Ben said he'd go along to boost my morale. As the C-119 gained altitude I noticed the smoke stacks of the industrial complex near Augsburg. The wind was blowing at right angles to the top of the stacks, which was an indication of very high winds. Ben saw it and said that it was a good day for jumping. He said the conditions were so good you could jump without a parachute. I didn't believe him and when I jumped I couldn't seem to get control of the parachute. It appeared as if I was going to come in backwards and that wasn't a good landing position for me, even on a calm day. I pulled down the one riser but the parachute didn't rotate. By now I had visions of the hospital bed, with the nurse in attendance. I kept pressure on the one riser and just before ground contact, the parachute rotated enough to allow for a sideways landing fall.
My problems were just starting. The wind velocity was so great that I couldn't get to my feet to collapse the chute. I was being dragged along the ground at high speed. I tried twice to get to my feet to no avail. I was now covered with sheep manure as they pastured there. My training finally took over. I rolled on my back, threw my legs back over my head, rolled to my right side. My feet dug in, and in doing so, I was jerked abruptly to my feet and started running forward and around the chute, which then collapsed to the ground. I was lucky, some of the troopers were hung up on a fence and another landed on the hanger roof and then fell to the ground. The troops were cheering a guy who broke his leg, but shut up when they found out it was their colonel.
Ben stayed in the airborne and got into Special Forces. He put so much time in Viet Nam and vicinity that I thought he would change his citizenship. On one occasion he ran across a goof-ball of an officer that I had told him about years before. He wrote me and told me I was absolutely correct. I would see this officer again while serving in the underground Pentagon. He was the Headquarters Commandant. Someone else had learned and now he was in charge of the janitor and other services people. Ben finally retired as a Sergeant Major in Special Forces.
My duty day started by reading the police blotter. One entry was about shop-lifting in the commissary. It was a woman and she was married to a master sergeant. My first thoughts were that he was a bum for not giving her enough money. The woman eventually was returned to the states and her husband moved into the bachelor quarters. I met him in the snack bar one evening. His name was Lank and he seemed like a nice chap, but I wondered about the shop-lifting episode. He told me his evening was spent with a bottle of whiskey and the TV. When his wife called him for dinner, he didn't eat because he wasn't hungry. The booze took over and her love life disappeared. Alas, I remembered that I had been taught, in criminal investigation, that shop-lifting was a substitute for lack of sexual attention in some cases.
Lank headed to Garmisch one weekend. He wound up in Heidi's chicken restaurant in Oberammergau. He met Heidi, and from that time on he went to see her on weekends. He came back one weekend and told me about the Russian Princess he met in the restaurant. He insisted that I go down the following weekend. I did and the so-called Russian Princess (well-to-do German business woman named Elka) was there with her German officer friend. I did get introduced to her, and went about my business. I was walking back to my room when I noticed a sport car approaching. It stopped and offered me a ride back to the hotel. The German captain and the girl were in the car. I thanked them and told them that my hotel was around the corner.
We would meet again and would tour the lakes and sights in and around Bavaria. On other weekends we went to Switzerland and Austria. In Austria we visited Salzburg and the Eagle's Nest, Hitler's mountain retreat.
While I was in Criminal Investigator's School, we were involved in an A,B,C surveillance in downtown Garmisch. There were four such teams and we were each following a particular individual. The idea was to do so without being discovered. The suspect had the advantage of knowing he was being followed. I dressed as a German visitor, complete with camera and German wife (Elka). I was the only one who wasn't discovered. Elka wanted me to leave the army and go with her to Portugal, where we would spend our days looking out over the sea. I had given up my career, for a woman, once before and wasn't about to do it again. Finally, we went our own ways, but she did remember my birthday. She sent a gold wrist watch through the German Post and it was delivered to my office in Flak Kaserne. We never did meet again.
Lank continued his romance with Heidi. He used to get back in time to go on duty Monday morning. I always returned Sunday afternoon during daylight hours. That way I was fresh and raring to go Monday mornings. One Sunday afternoon Lank came to my room and I was surprised to see him back that early. I could tell he was troubled and after a time he told me that Heidi had carried the love making beyond his realm. I laughed and told him that she was definitely in love with him and that was her way of proving it. It must have sunk in, because he went back to his weekend routine, but this time he was forgetting to return on time. He had his assistant cover for him, but when he started coming back on Wednesday, the School Commandant brought him back into the army. I returned to the states for reenlistment, so I don't know the end of that story either.
The time arrived for me to return to the states. Once again I had the pleasure of knowing a lot of nice people. The Germans in Berlin, were great, but so were the Bavarians. I never did enjoy parachuting; it was just a part of my job and I did it. I had eleven jumps with the 11th Airborne Division.
I was in Germany from 1955 to 1958. In 1955 I was head of the American Traffic Accident Section, in the American Sector of Berlin. I had gone there with General Harris, who was the Berlin Commander. I made many friends there and had enjoyed many a night on the town (9 eligible females for every male). General Harris called me in one day and said he was going to Augsburg to command the 11th Airborne Division. I was asked if I wanted to go along and I said, "Yes". He asked me if I was going to parachute and I said I'd tried about everything but that, so I might as well. At that time I was 34 years old and it wasn't as simple as I thought. In fact, I failed the first try, but made it the second time. I made more friends there, especially with the German Police.
One afternoon I took a German Policeman to his house, in the country, about 40 kilometers out of Augsburg. I had taken my fishing gear along hoping to do some trout fishing. As we neared the village, where my friend lived, he directed me down a country road to a castle. I had no idea who we were going to see, but followed the directions given me. In the courtyard we were told that the person, we wanted to see, wasn't available at that time, but if we would go to the gasthaus and come back in about 20 minutes he would be there.
We drank a beer, walked across the courtyard, and the maid asked us in. The man she directed us too looked like Prince Valient and after talking to the Policeman, turned to me and said (in English) that he was very sorry, but as head of the landowners they had decided against allowing fishing rights. I apologized for having distrubed him and turned to go. He asked me where I was from and I told him Pennsylvania, but had spend many years in Virginia. He said he had been to Virginia and had received fine treatment there. He then asked me if I had my fishing apparatus with me, and I said "Yes". He told me to come to his desk and he would give me a fishing permit.
Fishing permits were usually preprinted and the owner usually filled them in. In this case, this one was hand written. I asked him how much it was and he said nothing, so I thanked him and left. It was only after I got to the car and looked at the signature and realized who he was. The signature was Prinz Heinrich Franz Wilhelm von Bayern. At that point you could have knocked me over with a feather. I had some Pall Mall cigarettes and asked the policeman if he would give them to the maid, for the Prince, which he did.
We drove to the fishing stream and I had caught a couple of trout when I heard a car approaching the spot where I had left my car and the policeman. The prince had told me to confine my fishing to a certain area and I thought that I had made a mistake. The car was a Mercedes 190, so I figured it was the prince. I stopped fishing and headed back to my car, but the car drove away as I approached. Arriving at my car I asked the policeman if there was anything wrong and he said "No", the prince brought you a case of beer from his brewery.
Several days later I sent some Old Spice after-shave lotion and a thank you letter to the prince. In about a week I received a fishing permit (handwritten) for 2 days, with the dates left blank, so I could fill them in as desired. That fishing permit was a pass to everywhere, especially in the villages where I would go to get fishing permission.
I learned later that the prince was killed in an automobile accident, while he was in Buenos Aires.
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