|Stalag VII A: Oral history|
A.L. (Bud) Lindsey
A Soda Jerk Goes to War
By A.L. (Bud) Lindsey
November 21, 1944, was a red letter day for me. The day had been rather uneventful as far as shelling, small arms fire and other action. We could hear the whispering of the American artillery shells as they passed over our area to hopefully silence the German's large guns. We had stopped for the night, set up our perimeter, dug in and most of the company broke out "C" rations for a cold bite. I went around the company perimeter collecting the daily report to take back to the company's command post. Since the perimeter was in a semi-circle, I decided to take a short cut across rather than follow the line around, a wrong decision as it turned out.
It was not dark but in the mountains, even though the sun had not set, it was getting dark. Somehow, when I cut across the perimeter, I erroneously bypassed our line, walking between two foxholes. I traveled through the trees slowly realizing that I should have intersected our line, but as I was so sure I was correct I decided to go a little further. I saw a dead German propped up against a pine tree, obviously a victim of that day. This should have alerted me of the fact I was too far out, but since I had only gone about 100 yards, I was not concerned. "Just a wee bit further," I thought. The need-to-know information would have been valuable at this time as no one told me that the German line was "just over the hill, over yonder."
It was very quiet. The only sounds I heard were some distant artillery, not unlike the sounds of a summer thunderstorm in Central Texas. Then there was a Brief burst of automatic fire and a single shot, all some distance from my location. The area was free of any underbrush and an a gentle slope high an the mountain. There were large pine or fir trees and visibility was fair.
I was not not particularly being careful as I expected to run into our perimeter very soon. I glanced to my right, perhaps as a result of a movement in the Corner of my eye. There were four helmets sticking out a fox hole about twenty yards to my right. For a brief moment I thought I had found Company E's line, but then I noticed that in addition to the four helmets there were four rifles pointed at my mid-section. It was then I realized the helmets were of the German style and I had stumbled into the German's line. They were well dug in in what I would guess was a forward outpost. They saw me before I saw them and, as a western gunfighter would observe, "..they had the drop on me."
I froze. I had several options, none desirable. I could have brought my M1 to bear and perhaps got off a round before they killed me. Another option would have been to turn, run, hit the dirt, roll and otherwise take evasive action. Another option, which didn't occur to me until much later, would have been to ask the quartet of German soldiers to surrender to me. This would not have been likely, but I should have tried.
So much for my quick thinking.
With four of them and only one of me, it would have been likely I would have been killed. The best option, I decided, was to surrender. All of this only took a few seconds as I could see that the four Germans, at a distance of only about twenty yards, clearly had the upper hand. I felt pretty foolish walking up on the German outpost, allowing them to spot me before I spotted them. So much for my attendance at scouting school.
I raised my hands and arms above my head, a universal sign of surrender. One of the quartet asked a single word question, "Kamerad?" a universal verbal question of surrender.
I answered, "Comrade."
WESTERN UNION TELEGRAM DC 32 43 GOVT=WUX WASHINGTON DC DEC 6 155P MRS ESTHER I LINDSEY 1103 SOUTH CHINA ST THE SECRETARY OF WAR DESIRES ME TO EXPRESS HIS DEEP REGRET THAT YOUR SON PRIVATE ADRIAN L. LINDSEY HAS BEEN REPORTED MISSING IN ACTION SINCE TWENTY ONE NOVEMBER IN FRANCE IF FURTHER DETAILS OR OTHER INFORMATION ARE RECEIVED YOU WILL BE PROMPTLY NOTIFIED= DUNLOP ACTING THE ADJUTANT GENERAL
One of the German soldiers disarmed me, taking my M1 and grenades, then he marched me a short distance down the mountain to a central operation point which I would guess would be similar to our regimental command post. As we moved into their area I took note of the German's facilities, such as gun positions and other equipment. I noted that they had wagons and mobile equipment drawn by horses rather than gasoline powered vehicles. They took me to a building, into a room which was occupied by several German soldiers who indicated that I should sit on the floor. This I did, using my helmet as a seat.
After a time - it was almost dark by now - the Germans indicated I should accompany a young soldier out of the building. This soldier was very young, perhaps younger than I, and seemed very nervous about having the responsibility of guarding me all alone. He told me, by sign language, that I should precede him down the middle of the road. We had only gone about 100 feet when he said "Halt," or something to that effect. I stopped and turned, facing him from about 15 feet. He had his rifle trained an me and I thought perhaps he had been ordered to shoot me, but that was not the case. He indicated, again by sign language, that he wished for me to give him my watch. I took off my watch and tossed it to him. This was not a great loss, probably an Elgin which kept only approximate time.
The trip from the Vosges Mountains to the POW camp at Moosburg, near Munich, a distance of over 200 miles, took several days to two weeks, the exact time or route I do not remember. We walked and rode civilian trains, but mostly walked, always under guard. As I moved further east I was joined by other prisoners who had been captured in other areas and from other outfits.
At one location, and I believe it was still in France, in the Rhine River valley, I was interrogated by two German officers. The building was a two story building of masonry construction overlooking a road which was lined with trees and a valley with open fields and a brook. Under other circumstances I would have enjoyed the view. The two German officers interrogated me one after the other using what I learned later to be the "good guy, bad guy" technique. The bad guy threatened to have me shot if I did not teil him everything he wanted to know. The good guy tried to draw me into a friendly conversation that he might extract vital information, information which was nonexistent in my person. I revealed little and it did not take the two interviewers long to realize I knew less about the Allied operations than anyone they had run into during the entire war up to that time. I feel sure my appearance did contribute somewhat to their decision to stop the interrogation as it was unlikely I could help their side. I must have looked like a character out of Bill Mauldin's Comic strip... a sad sack. The bad guy did not have me shot, and the good guy wished me good luck saying, "For you the war is over," an expression which I heard more than once. An expression which was not exactly accurate.
The information that might be gleaned from the interrogations of the captured army privates such as myself could be useful in finding the movement and make-up of a new group of troops such as the 100th Infantry Division. We naturally had all reference to our outfit removed along with any papers which we might carry. I learned later, many years after the war, Axis Sally, on her daily German radio broadcast had welcomed our division to Marseilles as we landed.
The Air Corps crews who were shot down over Germany and German territory, were subjected to much more intense interrogation, as the men who flew the fighters or were crews an the B-17s did know information which the Germans sought.
At one town we disembarked from a civilian train, a group of perhaps ten POW's with four guards, and were greeted by an angry group of civilians who wished to do us bodily harm. They were prevented from doing so by the guards. I would guess their town had been subjected to a massive bombing the night or day before, perhaps with misdirected bombs.
Earlier, when we were fewer in number, perhaps five with two guards, we were being marched down a country road when we heard an American fighter plane. It was easy to identify the sounds of a German fighter and an American plane as the German aircraft motors made an irregular sound while the American plane has an even sound. The guards urged us to run into a building located only fifty yards or so up the road. We could hear the American plane as it started a strafing run an our group. We made it to the entrance to the building and turned left down the hallway into a room. The fighter strafed the entrance to the building with some of the rounds ricocheting down the hallway, creating sparks. I don't know what type of fighter this was, nor do I have any idea why the pilot decided to flre an a small group of men of which only two were armed, and five were American POWs. I feel sure it was hard to identify with accuracy such a group from the air. Perhaps it had been a dull day for him and a target such as our group was the best he had. It would be interesting to run into this pilot one day and listen to his story. Better yet, I would like to view the 16mm film from his gun camera had he filmed the entire episode, which I doubt.
We spent at least two nights in a large building surrounded by a high stone fence. This building may have been utilized as a barn at one time. The Germans had a large group of French POWs in one end of the barn and a similar group of American POWs in the other end, each being prohibited from mixing. Our outdoor latrine was the familiar open pit with a structure of logs placed above. There was one log to sit an and one an which to rest your back and prevent you from falling into the pit. I, as did most of the group, suffered from "the G.I.s", a condition that I would nurse for about thirty days, caused by the abrupt change of diet and the water. It was very cold and the "sitting" log was covered with frost which I encountered several times each night during our tenure at this location. I tried to time my trips so the "sitting" log was still warm from the previous user. There was danger of sticking to the frost-covered log during the intense cold.
Near the Rhine river we were placed in a large building equipped with cells, evidently a regular jail or prison which was apparently vacated except for the in-transit POWs.
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