Originally Published: November 10, 2015 6:25 p.m.
While war is a serious and a bloody business, it has its moments of farce like all other human activities. So I am relating what I saw the morning of April 29, 1945; the first day of my second year as a German POW.
I was one of 134,000 POWs held in Stalag 7A in Moosberg, in northern Bavaria. It was filled with POWs from all of the countries Germany had fought since the war began in 1938. We knew that today we would be liberated because the allied forces were coming toward Moosberg. There had been firing during the previous night and the morning of April 29 all of the German guards had vanished.
Since our group had been late arrivals, we were housed in a circus tent just inside the southern fence, facing toward Moosberg and with the Russian POW compound to our west. We were separated by a four-meter-high barbed wire fence. About 8:30 a.m., The Nazi flag was taken down from the flagpole of what I assumed was the City Hall. Then the American flag began to rise. But it was upside down, so it was pulled down and then arose again, right side up!
When the Russians saw this, they rushed the perimeter fence like a herd of panicked turkeys. This perimeter fence consisted of two barbed wire fences, each four meters high and two meters apart. The posts were shaped like concrete hockey sticks pointing both inward and outward with the space between filled with coils of razor wire. They surged into the fence, climbing over each other until they reached the top of the fences and their forward motions toppled the fence to the ground. Then they all ran south into Moosberg.
I thought to myself, "If the Russians can do that, so can I." ... So I climbed gingerly through the V gap that appeared between the compound and the perimeter fences and followed them into town. Looking back, I saw that I was the first non-Russian out of the camp.
My route led to the center of town at the main road intersection and I saw CHAOS! There were two MPs directing American tank traffic eastward after the fleeing Germans. There was a winery at that corner and the Russians had found their way into the concrete paved sub-basement which was about four feet below street level. They had kicked in the barrel heads and the floor was about 18 inches deep in wine. Since they were half starved, they became drunk almost immediately. They were splashing around in it, falling down and drinking. Soon, they began to stagger up onto the street where they fell down, helpless, onto the street. The two MPs couldn't get them off the street quickly enough, and the American tankers, being good guys, stopped so they would not run over them.
I watched this while the MPs pleaded with the tankers to get down and help them get the Russians off the street so the tanks could continue to pursue the fleeing Germans. I remember the lead tank commander telling the MPs, "General Patton commanded us that WE MUST always stay with our tanks."... I looked westward up the street and saw the tank column stopped as far as I could see.
As I looked, I heard a commotion in the westward distance, then saw a jeep coming toward us, driving around lampposts and on and off the sidewalk. As it came closer, I saw a red metal bar across its bumper, then four stars on it. A major was driving it and in the rear seat was General Patton himself! He was wearing a chrome helmet, cavalry knickers and boots, and two pearl-handled revolvers. He dismounted and, in the most exquisitely profane language I have ever heard, told those #*^&% MPs and tankers to get those $#^& Russians off the &*^%$ road so we can get on with this *%#$@%& war.
This was quickly done, and the war continued!