Tuesday, December 27, 2005
My Unappreciated Heroism
Truly Horrific Badges
These were worn on chests and caps by the most feared, deservedly, troopers of the Nazi Armies, the SS Among the SS, those with the worst reputations were the Hungarian troops.
Now, take you mind back to the day after the Axis had surrendered. Yours truly was carrying a bunch of paperwork from our company HQ back to Battalion HQ. It was a beautiful day, but cold. In fact, we had had snow just a few days before. So I was wearing my field jacket. To be in military fashion I had it snug around the waist to cause it to flare out at the bottom. I was admiring the freshly green Bavarian hills and the farms struggling along. I whistled while I walked. I didn't carry my carbine, just a German Luger Pistol. It was in my belt under the very snug field jacket. After all, the war was over.
On my right was an open field extending up a hill to a pine forest on top. It looked just like a field I knew at home. In my euphoria, I hardly noticed the soldiers stepping out from the pines and advancing down the field. When I finally registered that their uniforms were unfamiliar, I struggled for the Luger. But my mind quickly took in the number of long rifles pointed in my direction and decided that my pulling out a tiny pistol would not clarify the situation in my favor. I really stood petrified as I realized I was out-numbered and out-gunned. As they came closer I saw they were wearing the insignia of the SS and the uniforms of Hungarians. I froze!!
Four who were clearly officers and one who clearly was not, lined up across the country road, came to attention, and saluted --- saluted ME? I nervously returned the salute. The very small bedraggled non-officer came closer and spoke - in perfect Brooklynese. He said, "Can you take us to your commanding officer?' Without a thought I said, "Sure, follow me!" and headed on to Battalion HQ. The GI Joe cartoon character walked with me and told me he had been a taxi driver in New York. He had returned to Hungary to bring his mother to the States just before the war. Too late, he was drafted there and used as an interpreter. Seemed like a nice guy. After all, I was born in Brooklyn and knew the language.
When we were close to HQ, I "SUGGESTED" they stack their rifles. I explained that we would all probably be safer. We went into town with me walking and them marching stiffly behind me. The Colonel was among those that came out to see what was going on. I saluted and said, "Messenger. Reporting with prisoners, Sir."
Expecting congratulations, his reply was instead along the lines of, "What the blankity, blanking, blank, blank, am I supposed to do with them?" I hope it was a rhetorical question, because I stayed silent. I shook the little guy's hand and waved good-bye to "my" group. They waved back (turned out there were only 37 of them) . I went about my business.