I mentioned in my last column that I had been corresponding with a most interesting serviceman from WW ll. He is now 86 y/o and his communications are both fascinating and articulate. He’s a wonderful guy. He built what he calls a Clydemobile, and it is a marvel. But I will wait for his permission before printing his picture sitting on it.
Here is one recent account from Mitch:
One lazy Sunday afternoon my Jeep driver and I decided to explore some of the countryside south and east of Steyr, Austria.
At that time it was against regulations for U.S. soldiers to enter the Russian-occupied area, which was across the river. Without giving much thought to the situation, we crossed over a small shallow creek. Later, we discovered we were in an area occupied by the Russians. Before we high-tailed out of there, one of the Russian soldiers recognized us as he had been in Steyr when travel between the American and Russian zones was permitted. He invited us to stay and have dinner with them. This was quite a treat for us, so we accepted. First they brought out a big pitcher of half cream and half milk. I immediately shoved the cream in front of my Jeep driver because I knew its purpose. Liberation was forthcoming. In the meantime, the housekeeper went out in the chicken and pulled the heads off two chickens and began dressing them for our meal.
Preparing the meal took a long time and, in the meantime, the soldiers kept filling our glasses with vodka. I discretely dumped some of mine in the toilet but my driver kept drinking. After our very cordial dinner, he was feeling no pain. It now was almost dark, so instead of returning the way we came, we decided to take the main road. What a mistake that was! Soon we came to a Russian checkpoint, and the guard met us with his rifle drawn. He returned to the guardhouse and I could hear his angry and excited voice telling someone about our visit. I pushed my drinker driver in back, told him to stay down, and I started driving back where we had come from. Soon the guard came out and started shooting at us. Apparently, he had received orders to detain us, which could have meant being held as prisoners for a long time.
Fortunately, I managed to make it across the stream and back to Steyr. I often wonder how long it would have taken me to be discharged if they had arrested us.
We also had to keep the Russians from entering Steyr for black market purchases. We usually just took the items away from them and sent them back to where they belonged. But they became bolder and soon we had to place them under house arrest until they were cleared to return. The Russians were not as kind and would just shoot anyone from their side trying to swim across the river to the American side.
The Steyr population liked us and became very friendly. They started giving dances and made efforts to entertain us. Fraternization was forbidden but became much more accepted once that hostilities were over.
In April 1946, I finally had enough points for discharge and came home on a little Liberty ship. The thing I remembered best was the taste of frozen vegetables. And sitting down to a real home-cooked meal. My three-year-old son could not figure out why I was kissing and sleeping with his mother but this quickly changed to acceptance, and he was happy to have his daddy around.
I felt I should try to return to Steyr someday but little did I realize 62 years later I could do it. I will report how this came to be in the following issues.