A Southern Boy Goes to War
Reminiscences of Ellis Titche and the 15th Army in World War II
By Ellis Titche
Gosh, I guess my “wartime” experiences started with being in the ROTC at Louisiana State University I was at the fraternity house on that Sunday in December when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor! Without any hesitation, it seemed as if all of us in the ROTC rushed to the Commandant of Cadets (it looked the entire body of students) and marched in at the same time. We were all yelling, wanting to be taken in the army then and there! For the life of me, I can't remember who the commandant was, but we were told in no uncertain terms to get back and THEY would call us when they needed us! And I am sure it was true because it was Oct 1942, before I was called to active duty at Fort Oglethorpe, GA. All the “new” soldiers were given physicals, etc., and it was new to me seeing us soldiers passing out when getting whatever shots they were giving. Next we were issued a uniform. In a few days, we were put on a train and I don't think they told us where we were going. I remember very well that I was in a coach with an old stove in the middle of the car. I think it was about two days later when we arrived where we were going--an army camp! It was Camp Swift, Texas!
I was in the Infantry ROTC at LSU, but they told me I was going to take my basic training with the Field Artillery of the 97th Division. How could this happen? I immediately went to the 1st Sergeant of my company and tried to explain how wrong this assignment was, but he assured me all was fine and that I should accept this like a good soldier, whatever that was. So, I became an artilleryman! This was a 105mm howitzer company and I guess I was going to get used to the training. I only remember going on KP one or two times and I learned that was good.
I did not know at the time, but we were testing a TOT (time over target) fuse. The shell was set to explode over a target instead of hitting something and then exploding. Gosh, looking back, time did go by quickly. There was a lot of going out to the range and firing the 105's. To recount another instance during my training, I was told by an officer to get in that truck (2 ½ ton GMC with a 105 attached) and drive it to the firing range. Having never driven a truck of this size, I was little hesitant, but did as I was ordered. A few feet down the road, the truck went into the ditch in spite of my efforts to keep it on the road. Needless to say, the officer was not happy with my actions. After a few weeks, I heard that you could get a pass to be off for the weekend and that some of the guys were going into Austin, TX which was not too far from Camp Swift. Well, being a fraternity man at LSU, I figured the University of Texas must have a soriety or two. So off I went! Enough said! (A good time was had by all.)
By this time, I had heard of OCS, so I applied and then waited. I was accepted. But, there was an officer whose name I really do not remember and he started to try to talk me out of going as he said there was a new program the army had started called the ASTP (Army Specialized Training Program). I know he called me in several times and told me almost anyone could become an officer but this was a wonderful opportunity for me to continue my education. And the more he talked, the more sense he made. So rather than going to OCS, I signed up for this program. Here it was-- early 1943—and I was becoming a member of the ASTP at Texas A&M in College Station, TX. Me--from LSU, becoming an Aggie?
So there I was, now with a slide rule at my side studying Engineering. One of the first “orders” we were given was that we had to make our grades or it was off to the Infantry. I believed it enough that most of us really applied ourselves--in school, that is. One of the first things I learned that there was a train that went to Dallas (the Sunbeam) and we could get passes on the weekend to get away. Well, Dallas happened to be a wonderful place filled with soldiers on the weekend. There were lots of young women, with hats and gloves….what a place to visit and visit I did. I remember visiting Dallas and enjoying the USO many times. I told my father I had been going to Dallas and he asked to look up Henry, a cousin of his who also lived in his home town of Port Gibson, MS. This request went on for a month or so and then he became angry since I had not complied with his request. Reluctantly, I called his cousin whose wife asked me to come out and meet them but I said I had other plans. I gave in and did meet them. Amanda, his wife, told me they had two daughters, but they were away in a Dude Ranch for a couple of weeks but she would have the youngest contact me at a later date. I fell in “love” with Amanda since she smoked, drank bourbon and told risqué jokes. I had never met anyone like that from my home town. A few weeks later, I did get a note from her daughter, May asking me to return to Dallas to meet all of them and spend the weekend at their home. I believe it was the 28th of August 1943, when we met and afterwards I went to Dallas almost every weekend I could.
I can't remember that date, but the Army needed “canon fodder” and they dissolved the ASTP program after about nine months after I joined it. Most of my friends were sent to the 101st and 102nd Infantry Divisions and I was sent to San Antonio, the Artillery Section of the 4th Army headquarters. I really don't think I comprehended where I was or what I was going to do. Fort Sam Houston was quite a place, but it was “just” another assignment and I was most excited to be there. About this time I asked May to marry me and we decided to get married and did it on July 20, 1944. I got real busy to find us a place to live and went to the USO and other organizations to locate a place to rent. I can't remember where it was, but I was telling the person behind the counter my name and a lady a few feet away interjected, “are you related to the department store in Dallas called Titche-Goettinger? “ Well, seems she had been to Hockaday School in Dallas with the sister of my wife –to- be. Small World! She introduced me to her sister Helen who had a servant's house no one had ever lived in and I said yes almost immediately. Helen was married to a young air force General! But in the meantime, the army in its wisdom decided to send me to Military Intelligence School at Camp Ritchie, MD. And it goes without question; the F.B.I. had agents in Memphis, TN check me for Top Secret clearance before I was accepted to school. Apparently, it was almost immediately that one of my parent's friends who was questioned called and asked my father: “what has Ellis done now?”
It was shortly thereafter that I received a letter from my father demanding to know the answer to that question. Unfortunately, he did not get an answer until after my discharge that he demanded of me in person to tell him what I had done to cause him the embarrassment. I then told him why. I guess it is no longer a secret so I tell you we were studying the invasion photos for D-Day. To tell you the truth, we were studying them on June 6th and no one said ANYTHING! Remember, it was supposed to be a secret--even from us. I also remember learning how to count in Japanese…….1( ichi). 2 (ni). 3 (san). 4 (shi or yon). 5 (go). 6 (roku). ... .or something like that. I guess I was really there to learn aerial photo interpretation and I did. One memory was we were given a set of photos with several circles with a gun like object in the middle. You could see a shadow of this object. Another set was given to us with the shadow different. There were all kinds of different interpretations and all of us thought the photos were a new weapon the Germans had developed. I am not sure how we found out that this was only how the Normandy farmers staked the cows—wonder how we really learned that. This was a short tour of duty for and I returned to Ft. Sam Houston to resume my duty. Little did I know that while I was at Camp Ritchie, the 8th and 10th Armies were formed, filled with personnel and sent off to the Pacific. I was now officially assigned to the Artillery Section of the 15th US Army headquarters.
After May and I were married, we moved into our “house”. This was the servant's house that had never been lived in. Helen was a wonderful hostess and I think one-half of Brooks Air Field Officers were in her house during the weekends and so was this Pfc! I remember very well that we had to go on a maneuver at Camp Bullis for a weekend. That was where “All Quiet on the Western Front” was filmed sometime in the 30's. When I got back to the house I was loaded with ticks and May used a cigarette to “back them out”. She had so much fun! But the fun stopped when we had orders to be shipped out. Pack up and leave! May's mother and sister drove from Dallas to San Antonio to pack her up and drive her back to Dallas--end of the honeymoon! Later I was told they had three flat tires on the way back and had to finally get a new tire. It was lucky they had a ration card that allowed them to buy one.
We left San Antonio by troop train and arrived in New York and promptly, went to the harbor to board the HMS Aquitania. Can't really say how long it took to load the ship, but we did set sail on November 13, 1944. After a few days onboard, I did walk onto the deck to see us gliding over the smooth water, I then realized that we were all by ourselves---no convoy! Our bunks were to the ceiling with very little space between them. One of the things I remember best about the voyage were the “green eggs” served regularly and Haggis served to us upon disembarkation. It was Thanksgiving for us when we docked at the Firth of Clyde, Scotland in November 1944. I will never forget being offered a beautiful little sausage roll like which turned out to be Haggis! Yuck! This southern boy had never eaten anything like that. Finally we boarded the LMS (London, Midland and Scottish) train and all the cars had compartments that were really very comfortable. The ride was nice and we arrived in Crewe-Nantwich area. I later learned that Crewe was a major rail center for north and south trains. From the train station we were loaded into trucks and then went to our first assignment in England—Doddington Hall in Cheshire, England as well as Doddington Estate.
I guess that we GI's adapted ourselves fairly fast. We learned where the local pubs were and really tried to accept warm ale as well as other British ways. I must say that we were fairly free to fend for ourselves and most of us took the time to sight see. The countryside was like nothing I had ever seen before. I remember seeing a thatched roof on a pretty little home. Did I imagine there was a stork's nest at the ridge—a baby coming to the family? My childhood imagination was at its best. I wrote May on the 4th of December telling her that I got my two weeks ration last week, as well as the current week along with five packs of cigarettes. The other stuff was eight milky way bars, two packs of gum, one roll of life savers, one towel, two flashlight batteries, a tube of tooth paste, five razor blades, one bottle of after shave lotion, two bars of soap, four boxes of matches and some pipe cleaners. I said all that cost me the total of 8'11d (8 shillings and 11 pence) which was $1.82. I also said in the letter that I finished some detail I was on at 3:00 AM and reville was at 6AM. I was excused from guard detail that morning.
The first visit to London, on a two day pass, made me really appreciate and love the English. I arrived at Euston Station and went to the Red Cross to obtain a room which was near Russell Square for two shillings per night (about 40 cents) There, in the tube or underground where people were living as best as they could continue with their lives as if nothing had happened to them. This was my first look at war and the horror it caused. I had never seen the effect of a bomb in this case bombs except in newsreels. On another visit to London I heard a different sound—the sound of a V1—“ffflbbbblblblblpppphhh”—and then dead silence for seconds or even minutes and then a loud explosion in the distance—several miles away from where I was. Even though there was the danger of V1's or an air raid, I felt Londoners were going on with their lives as usual. Of course, I had to see many of the well known places such as Piccadilly Circus, Westminister Abbey, Big Ben, etc. On another visit to London, I had to find an antique shop to find something to get for May. I did find a delightful store and the lady behind the counter who was real curious of why I wanted a piece of silver for my wife. She showed me a beautiful silver dish (Copelands) with a porcelain insert. The clerk told me it was only from the 1900's, but it looked like my wife's taste. I still use it on occasions and it brings back wonderful memories.
Somewhere, among our letters which May kept, is the one telling me how beautiful it was and she would treasure it always. I remember a newspaper clipping from a London newspaper on the 7th of December 1944. This scene is only a part of the damage that a V-bomb did when it hit. I was only a few blocks from this spot when it was hit on the night of the 6th —and London blocks are fairly short. This was my first taste of anything of this nature and it scared the hell out of me when it happened. I thought the world was coming to an end as the sky was red with fire and there was a deafening explosion. Even though we were a few hundred yards from where it landed, we felt it as if it were right beside us. After stuff had stopped falling, we went to this store to see what had happened.
As we were still waiting to go to the continent, I was able to visit London again. This time I went to Buckingham Palace with camera in hand, and was lucky to get a picture of the Queen Mother leaving the palace in one of two black cars. It was about 10 to 15 feet away from the car when she passed and I could see her face! Was I ever so lucky with the timing. I guess I was happy with just wandering around being a wide eyed tourist in uniform. Oxford Circus and Leicester Square were among some of the tube stops I made. I am having to look at Joe Hazen's prints (see the Art of Major Joseph C. Hazen, Jr.) to refresh some memories.
It was Christmas 1944 at “Camp Beastly” at Southampton. It was a tent city and while our Christmas dinner was warm, it was freezing outside. The next day, we marched to the docks of a really bombed city. Finally, after fulfilling an old army expression—hurry up and wait—we boarded the HMS Empire Javelin and on to somewhere in Europe. There was an English crew manning the ship that was made in the U.S. I remember a little more up and down movement than on the Aquitania but this was a real small vessel in my opinion. All of us on the ship were just shooting the bull to pass the time. Since we had crossed the great big Atlantic Ocean with nothing to bother us other than a few rumors that some subs were chasing us, we thought nothing about crossing the little English Channel. It was as simple as that. All of us had heard about how rough the channel was, and it was just that. Then at 1549 (3:40PM) there was the loudest explosion I had ever heard. The air was filled with the smell of gun powder and all of us were thrown to the floor. It made no difference, top or bottom bunks. Barracks bags covered quite a few of the guys and to add to the confusion, the lights went out and the emergency power didn't come on until a little later. I don't believe it took us very long to realize what had happened. We were either torpedoed or struck by a floating mine. Later, we found out that it was a torpedo. It struck the boat on the starboard side, and I was on the port, a little below the water line. It was just a few seconds later that the water started pouring in, and how it came in! Here's the finest part of the entire story.
I never saw, and no one did either, one case of fright. All hell broke out it seemed. I could hear someone yelling to put on our life jackets and try to get up to the main deck. I can't believe we behaved as we should--- I don't remember any panic at all. Sam DeDio and I finally reached the main deck as well as many others had done. We didn't even think of going below to get any of our belongings. Apparently, members of the crew had put rope ladders over the side as well as lowering lifeboats almost immediately and a French Frigate, the L'Escarmouche as we found out later, came out of nowhere as far as I was concerned and came along aside us so we could go down the rope ladders and get onto her. The frigate tried to come along side of us, but it was a little too rough. Apparently the Captain of the frigate was told there where some men trapped below and had no means of getting out. When the French learned this, the Captain of the frigate ordered his boat along side to put aboard a torch to cut the men out. I've seen men work before, but the French sailors worked like mad to do it. A boom, on our boat, caught a 20mm gun on the frigate and that is when all the trouble started.
After firing a few rounds into the air, a sailor succeeded in taking the drum of ammo out. Then, to make matters worse, one of the mines on the French boat broke loose from it's mooring and started to roll across the deck, fully armed. It was stopped by one of the sailors who stopped it with his body. If he hadn't done that, we would have been blown sky high. All the time we were standing right above all this watching everything, knowing we could do nothing. Finally, they got the boats linked together, but now and then, one rope would break. Of course, there were casualties on board. That was to be expected, but one thing I never expected to see—I did. I was trying to get some blankets for the wounded, but since none of us could go below, we started to open an officer's bedding roll that was on the deck. I was cutting one open like mad, when some Lieutenant asked me what I was doing! I told him and kept on cutting. Then he told me to stop as these were the bedding rolls were the property of the U S Officer! I was never so mad in my life. Honestly, tears came to my eyes. For some reason, I didn't stop—why I don't know. But the nerve that officer had telling me to stop—I'll never forget. Sam and I got off and onto this rope ladder which seemed real thick at the time and proceeded to climb down. Strange as it may seem, we both got cut on a finger! Chaos reigned! We were bouncing up and down quite a bit, but were able to see the Javelin go down.
Things seemed to calm down a lot as we were headed to La Harve, France. Then we boarded a LST and all seemed really good—I then heard another “BOOM—were we hit again? Then I think I really was scared thinking we were hit again! After a few seconds, I realized it was a sailor who just dropped an empty 50 gallon drum on the steel decking—why I don't know. It was on board that Sam went to the aid station to see about his cut finger. I believe it was while we were stationed in Bad Neuenahr, Germany we found out Sam DeDio had been awarded the Purple Heart! I now realized that if I had been more concerned about my finger, I would been awarded a Purple Heart and discharged six months earlier, as Sam was. After we disembarked the LST in Le Harve, which was something to see. It was the flattest town over here. You see, we bombed it, shelled it from the channel and then turned our guns on it. As soon as we got off the boat, we got into trucks that were waiting for us. We were driven to what was going to become our home in Harfleur, France. At this time, I had Major Uchereck's overcoat on as I had nothing but my OD's and a life belt that wouldn't have held me up in a bath tub.
On the 29th of December 1944, we moved into the “Pneumonia Palace”. It must have been a nice resort hotel before the war, but now, no windows, no toilet facilities, no nothing but cots all over It was there, I realized all I had was on my back! My pictures of the entire trip—especially of the Queen Mother were lost—at the bottom of the channel! We were provided with outside food facilities quickly as a chow line kitchen showed up quickly to serve us hot “C” rations and coffee. In this little stone abode, officers and enlisted men were but one, slept and ate as one. All the time, I was sleeping next to Major Uchereck, and wearing his gold leaves. Yes, I did get quite a few “highballs” from the some of the other enlisted men in another outfit. They just couldn't understand why a “major” was in the same chow line as, at rear of the palace the enlisted men. The corps of engineers provided us with toilet facilities—a slit trench dug the entire width of the “palace”.
I believe it was the first Sunday, I had to use the slit trench. There I was, minding my own business when I heard: “Bonjour monsieur-- comment êtes-vous”? It was a man, woman and a child walking uphill about 20 feet away, apparently, going to church. Harfleur was my introduction to Calvados—Normandy Apple Brandy! As a first time drinker of Calvados, my throat was cauterized and it burned all the way down. It was January 1st or 2nd we were issued new clothing and equipment and then we left to be stationed at Suippes—a World War I French army camp—a much better place to be quartered. Much better, as it was near Rheims, France. Wow, the Champagne Country as I found out. We found a French bar and we ordered a glass of this sparkling wine as explained by the bartender who did speak some English. I was beginning to appreciate France more and more. We didn't stop at one or two drinks either. Some of us went to the Red Cross to get some doughnuts, but mostly for black coffee. I wonder if any of us remember much about this old French army camp.
Dinant, Belgium was to be our destination when we left England, but it seems that the Battle of the Bulge prevented that. It was around the middle of February that we left Suippes for our new assignment. I really enjoyed the trip from France into Belgium as it was some of the prettiest countryside since leaving England. Dinant, on the Meuse River was where the Germans were stopped. I found my first letter dated the 24th of February showed “somewhere in Belgium” as we were not permitted to give the location. Our living quarters, the Chateau de Noisy a Celles was like nothing I had ever seen and our office was King Leopold's summer palace. Chateau Noisy was located at the top of a hill and looked down onto a beautiful valley below where the Germans were finally stopped. All of the Artillery section as well as other sections were quartered there. I remember as we walked in with our duffel bags and equipment, the personnel of the chateau were all in line watching us. They cleaned the rooms, made the beds, cooked as well as served our meals! Was this really the army? After a while, we started calling the girls who cleaned the rooms “beaucou d'armpits” as we realized that they had no deodorants nor had they shaved their armpits or legs as was the European custom at that time. I really cannot remember how far it was to the office from the chateau….we must have been close enough to walk. I have a picture dated March 28, of me with my combat jacket as well as dress boots standing at the river Meuse. It looks as if I was walking on water—only just an under exposed print with the date March 28, 1945 on the back.
It was sometime around the middle of April that I wrote home showing Germany for the first time. The army has made me neglect my writing, and I had to write that I'm somewhere in Germany. There's not much to tell about the towns I've seen in Germany—the majority of them are flat! Honestly, there's very little or nothing standing. Well, Aachen is one I've seen. What buildings are still standing, there is only a shell—the insides are gutted. You really don't receive the impression that it was bombed out. But you would think that a tornado made a clean sweep on the town. The only way you can tell that it was bombed is by the shell craters that dot the entire countryside. Along the roads, which aren't too good, you see horses grotesquely stiff---dead as anyone thing could be. I would say that is the only grim or not so grim reminder I have seen of war. Of course, the roads are lines with wrecked vehicles of all types—ours and the Germans. When you pass German civilians, you expect to see the shake their fists or even sneer at you, but they don't. Whether they look upon you as conquers or just American b------s, I can't determine. But I do feel they are thinking something of that sort. They look like any other race—not so very super, either. Well, they look much better than the French and in some instances, much better than the Belgiums. Good clothes or not, you can see a whipped dog expression on the older people.
Now for the living quarters. They aren't as nice as the chateau in Belgium, but they were alright. We were living in what was the business district. The people who had owned the store downstairs, lived upstairs. At one time, this store used to be a fine men's store. The people who owned it must have prospered as the upstairs is very nice. We have a beautiful Baby Grand Steinbach piano-- it is the European Steinway. Honestly the tone is superb. Then we have two baths and three toilets. I was lucky enough to get an inner spring mattress and a couple of sheets—oh so comfortable! Mmmmm! Somehow I acquired a huge steamer trunk, and it takes care of my entire wardrobe. There are three windows beside my bed and makes it very convenient to make request to the special services outfit right across the street. They have a loudspeaker outside their building and play music at night. The only bad things are that there is no hot water and it seems that a shell tore out one of the steps leading upstairs out—had to be careful walking up them. When I wanted to take a bath, I go downstairs in the place our offices are in and have one of the Germans draw it for me! Yes, they draw our tubs, check the temperature, let us know when it's ready and such. The water is wonderful—almost could call it a bubble bath. It's mineral water and it makes you feel very refreshed after you take one. By the way, some of the attendants are women—most embarrassing at first to say the least.
Now to tell you about my office. Yes, I have an entire room to myself. Well the maps are in the room. It is the size of a single hotel room. Has a sink and a closet. This is where I shave as the water is always hot. The view is about a $3.50 view—very nice. From the window, you can see most of the town. Two gothic style churches and numerous houses. The town has a background, beautifully cultivated hills—most of them have grape vineyards. Off to my right, and in the distant, are the ruins of an old German Castle. But, to get back to my office. I picked up a leather cushion chair--very high back and very heavy. But plenty comfortable. Then I got my desk and a marble top table with a few drawers. There is a lot of light as the lights on the map boards provide a lot. One wall is taken up with two huge map boards, and on the other wall, I have some maps and pictures tacked up. Humph, much nicer room that we had at the Gunter in San Antonio! Had a key made for the door as this is the map room and when I leave it, I have to lock it.
Our new “home” is now in Bad Neunahr, Germany. This town is a Spa (Bad) and was full of gambling casinos. I got a radio from one of the empty rooms within the office and had a steno take the news down every hour so I could post it on the maps. Remember that I am in the Artillery Section if the 15th Army and we had an L5 observation plane for our reconnaissance. Lt. Schneidewent, who was also interested in photography, decided that we should fly to Cologne to try to find some photographic supplies. We took off early one day flew there, and after spotting the cathedral, we landed on the autobahn. I got out and proceeded to find a camera shop while the Lt. waited with the L5. Luck did happen and after a little time exploring as well as asking a few civilians I found one near where we had landed. White flags were still flying from the windows of the homes and offices. I picked up a few things and returned to the plane. In the weeks to come, we made several more trips there. We would land about the same place on the autobahn, I would get out, he would take off and circle while I found the supplies. I would signal him by waving my arms and he would return to pick me up after a successful mission!
I must admit that the army did attempt give us culture as Jasha Heifitz held a concert for us. From a letter dated April 23rd , I wrote that I didn't write last night as I was on a trip with the Colonel and didn't return till late. That's the only news I have to tell you. So I'll tell you as much about it as I saw. Köln (Cologne) was the largest town we saw. It was there we ate our dinner—K rations front of the Köln Cathedral! The cathedral itself is beautiful- Gothic style. Buildings that surround it are almost leveled, but the cathedral itself is hardly touched. Once, the city must have been a wonderful place, but now, the streets are filled with debris, buildings torn away from each other. There are a few places that you see four walls, but the inside are gutted, and the stench of death still in the air. I would have taken some pictures, but the weather wasn't too good—too cloudy.” This is what I wrote on May 9, 1945—“ Last night was quite a night over here. I don't think the Germans ever saw such a celebration as there was here. Where the fellows managed to get anything to drink is beyond me…guess they have the same connections as we (the 15th Army HQ) did. It seems as if everyone was drunk or if they weren't drunk, they were felling pretty darn good. A couple of fellows let a couple of rounds go off, fire-crackers (German) and empty bottles were flying around also. I wouldn't be surprised if there were reports about someone getting hurt.
Tonight, the celebration is going along nicely as we were issued a liquor ration. It was just a ration!!! Sometimes I wonder about this army…don't they realize the enlisted men have the same tastes as officers. But they must be ignorant of that fact, so they give us some rot gut and expect us to be satisfied. Of course some will think it's OK, but the majority of the fellows resent that very much. We are just as discriminated as they are in our tastes. Such are the fortunes of war. But with the twenty gallons of wine, everything well within the section. I can say that two men were missing in action from last night's brawl. What a head they must have had this morning….I expected one of them to bleed to death when I saw his eyes. A major in our section came back tonight after spending VE day in Paris. He said that was one sight to see. He said that all Paris was out last night and the crowds were just as thick at 5AM as it was the night before. It was an all night party for them as the war is finally over. I'm glad you enjoyed my description of the German countryside. I'm no writer, but I do try to make you see it though my eyes. I might not paint a pretty verbal picture, but I try to tell you just how it affects me. I really haven't told you much about this town. This town used to be a health resort before and during the war. The Germans used it for a hospital town. There are quite a few buildings that were used for hospitals, so the town itself is not badly bombed. The railroad station and the area around was not badly damaged. North, east, south and west of us are hills that are covered with vineyards, ones that should start producing again. I believe that this is the only area of Germany that produces red grapes in abundance.
There is a river that winds throughout the entire town, flowing very swiftly. I guess you can say it is a river, but it's just a wide stream. Quite pretty. When we go walking, we usually walk back by the river. It's there you wish the one you love could be with you. I thought of many things that we did together and the many things that we will do. In going through my letters to May, letter #126 dated 2 May, 1944 from Germany I wrote: ”Darling, it's 12:45 and a special news flash just reported that Hitler, Goebbels, and this new yo-yo committed suicide. Well, things are really shaping up now. Maybe VE day will be before Friday. It doesn't seem real that we are in Germany. On May 11th , I wrote that we found out that 85 points were needed to get out—Me? I've got the damning total of 44!! Just a little shy-41. Here's how I reach that. I've been in the service—counting the time from my enlistment date—Oct 42—33 months. Then 6 months of the 33 is overseas, so that is 6 more points and there is a 5 point credit for one battle star. That is only a total of 44---=oh why didn't I go the aid station after cutting my finger?
On May 18th 1945 I was able to show I was in Bad Neuenahr as the letters were no longer censored. I also wrote that the ship took 8 days to cross the Atlantic and I thought it was propelled on baloney as we had it every day. The army opened OCS again (writen in a letter from Bad Neuenahr June 23, 1945). It happened about two weeks ago when the Colonel called me into his office and asked me if I wanted to attend. I told him that I would if they would open the artillery OCS. He asked me about my training in artillery, math, leadership, etc. He said that there was nothing now, but he thought there would be soon. I went by to see Major Ucherek and Major Hazen to ask them what they thought as well as did they think it was a good idea. It was a chance for me to be sent back to Ft. Sill, Okla! I then started pushing the papers through the system.
On June 26, I returned from Solingen. This time, I did the driving. The artillery section got a German Volkswagen—the German Jeep. It's the darndest thing I ever drove. This car was built along civilian lines for army use. One thing is that it really rides good, but will only go about 55 or 50 miles an hour. I took a major and two of the USO girls there to get some nice knives. I did get a beautiful German Navy Ceremonial dagger which makes a great souvenir. A couple of days later, I had to go to Andernach, which was about a 40 minute ride to the south on the river to get the papers to process the application for OCS. They still had not completed the forms, it will be processed through normal channels. Col. Louis Compton gave me a note saying that I was fit to proceed to Ft. Sill and I was really pleased with what he wrote. Not a word of the note was true, but oh, did I like it!
On July 1st, I went again to Solingen in a sedan! We now have an 1939 Opel that really drives nicely and in pretty good condition. Really a very nice trip to get more “junk” as one of the guys spoke pretty good German. I believe it was in July,1945 that I took the OCS test again. It was a test consisting of 65 questions, some with 3 and 4 parts with a top score of 170 points. They give you 1 point for every correct answer and deduct 3 points for an incorrect answer. The entire test lasted only 45 minutes, so you could see, we were rushed for time. I answered 52 or 53 , thereby, helping my score. So, out of a possible 170, I got 131. I then will appear before the board. It will be left to higher headquarters to decide if I go. My fate is in their hands and I do hope that the will let me go. On July 12, 1945, I write: “Tomorrow I am supposed to become a father, --you a mother.” It would be Friday, July 13, 1945 that my daughter Patricia Anne was born! I found out by an Expeditionary Force Message (E. F. M.) from my father-in-law saying “LOVE TO DADDY” which was received on July 17th.
I did get a real wonderful deal on two cameras. One is a Leica and the other is a Rollicord. They wanted 3000 cigarettes for each. I offered some German cigars—one cigar equaled three cigarettes—plus a little other odds and ends were also offered. I got the Rollicord!! I paid only 15 packs of cigarettes, 4 bars of soap and a few boxes of the German cigars! On August 12th I wrote that we were moving to another town—Bad Nauheim which was a short distance From Bad Neuenarh. I had been going there for several days and returning late at night. I would being going there to live the next day. I thought that Bad Nauheim was a much nicer city and was also a famous town for it's mineral water and small hotels. Neuenahr was in the French sector of occupation there had been cases of French soldiers going through our billets.
Letterhead from our 1st apartment in Bad Nauheim.
Bad Nauheim will be in the American Sector of Occupation and I think we will like it there much better—at least I hope so. I also wrote that the Japanese were suing for peace. Of course, we all hope that there will be peace. The atom bomb has caused a lot of talk and I wonder myself it is a good thing. Of course, it will help bring the war to a close, but what will be it's future and ours? Maybe a lot of boys will be saved—I hope so. I stated that I knew you were wondering about the OCS now that the war was almost over. I have no idea what will happen. I stated that if the war is over, I will have a long stay over here with this General Board, I might not. Wonder what will be in store?
Well, on the 14th of August I wrote my first letter from Bad Nauheim. If it had have been possible for me to take movies, you would see one of the most beautiful little towns I have ever seen. The more places we move to the nicer it comes. Our offices are in the Grand Hotel and we have an entire wing for the Artillery Section—even makes the Baker Hotel in Dallas look like a two-bit flop house! Honestly it was huge. As soon as the furniture is in, it will look much better. All we had to do was to drive the truck to the door and German civilians would unload it and take it up. We're on the fourth floor of the hotel. So far, we haven't been assigned our permanent billets, but when we do, we will have beds, sheets and etc. We were in a hotel –four to a room and that's not too bad, and we would be there for two weeks before the remaining part of the section comes down. I wrote: “here's the best—our meals!! In the hotel is our dining room. All we had to do is walk in and sit at a table for four. German women serve us and with style—couldn't believe it. Flowers on the table, a five piece band playing waltzes. Made us feel like a king and looking for the recuiting office to sign up for thirty years. Then a block from the hotel is the club with girls waiting on the tables, soft lights and an orchestra playing requests.
The Red Cross took up an entire block and had everything—games, table tennis rooms, sewing room, library, and other places. To the rear were clay tennis courts. Since this was a large hospital town, there was little damage done and our troops by-passed the town. This accounted for the fact that all the stores had stuff to sell. Of course, all of us were excited over the new setup and wonder what will happen to us. Hard to believe the arrangements they are making –swimming pools, tennis courts, golf as well as other things. I happened to find out that some of us were going to live in the Columbia Haus. From the outside, it seems to be fairly nice. There were civilians living there now and after they move out, we have to wait to see if some of the Colonels want it. Apparently, they were giving the high ranking officers their choice of the houses that they want--rank has it's privileges! If only the weather would clear up, Lt. McCallum will fly our mail down!
All of us were working quite late each day to make ready the offices. Now, we had a General as the Artillery Officer—Col. Compton will be the executive officer. This General Board calls for 20 or 25 one star generals! Finally, we did get the Columbia Haus and Smiley and I got the corner room which overlooks the park which is across the street. We could sit on the porch which faced the park and watch the people go by—Fritz and his wife maintained the billet and she promised to do our washing, just Smiley's and mine. We had maids to do the cleaning and making of the beds. An elevator took us to the second floor apartment! Since we moved to the apartment, we have to walk about four blocks to eat, but the first part of next week, our mess will open in the Sprudel Hotel, which is just around the corner. In my letter, I wrote that I chewed a French Captain out! I found him and a lieutenant in our apartment. I couldn't throw him out as I didn't have the authority—but it didn't take me long to get the authority. I saw the company commander and told him the story. The major, sharing my feelings, gave me the green light and Smiley and I started and he demanded to know what I meant. We told him that we were placing all their stuff in the hall. He proceeded to tell us that some captain had given him permission to stay! We then blew our stacks as only we could—we didn't care who told them. Later on, they saw our chief clerk and he said that he couldn't do anything since I was in “charge”. That night they were gone—except some empty wine and champagne bottles..more darn fun. On August 18th , I wrote on stationary with the following letterhead ;
EUROPEAN THEATER OF OPERATIONS
UNITED STATES ARMYThe army has made the entire town of Bad Nauheim a Military Post just like like Fort Sam Houston. The entire town comes under the Headquarters control, so it really makes it swell. The people here, unlike the Rhineland, are not too friendly. I did meet a man named H. V.Neufville, who seemed a bit more friendly than most. He was from Berlin and forced to move after his home was burned, since he was a Christian Scientist, he had a little trouble with the Nazis. According to him, his family was worth millions. He showed me some pictures of his homes in Germany and all most attractive. Right now, his only fear is Russia, like every other German. They claim that the Americans don't know Russia and that they will, in time, they will try to take us over us as they did Germany.
We sit around and talk politics as well about his time in the insurance business if I can get him to talk about anything but Russia. Bob Hope and Jerry Cologna were here for a USO show. Hope is a real comedian in every sense and knows how to work. First real good show we have had. I blew all the radios and other electrical equipment out when I tried to make it work. Didn't realize that current here was 220V direct and not 220V alternating. We had to take the ice box and phonograph to have them fixed. Bright little me! Smiley and I moved to the first floor and now have a four room suite! The bedroom is much nicer than the previous one and now have two large twin beds. There is a kitchen to the left of the bedroom and to the right was a living room and dining room. We made the living room into a lounge and the dining room into a reading room. Since all of the rooms are at the end of the building, there is only one entry door. We had Fritz come down and wake us about 7:30 so we could make breakfast. Then his wife comes in to make our bed and clean up. I really can say that we were living like kings. I was told that as soon as the remainder of the section gets here, I will be able to go to Switzerland. I really am looking forward to that trip.
This is a drawing of our apartment in Bad Nauheim taken from a letter I wrote in late August 1945. Two of the guys in the artillery section left for the states and we gave them a real send off! The officers had given us some of their rations, so it turned out to be a real fine send off. It was several days later that I had any more to drink.
On the 23rd of September, I wrote a V-Mail letter from Mulhouse, France on my way to Basil, Switzerland. One of the “reasons” I wanted to come here was that I was “chasing” the daughter of the director of the Leica Factory at Wetzler, Germany. My memory of the trip to Wetzler isn't too good as I can't pin point the dates I was there. It must have been while we were in Bad Neunahr. One memory was getting to use the Mirror Reflex Housing for the Leica and making huge enlargements of small objects. Of course, it was here that I met the director and some of the small talk was about his daughter who was in Switzerland. How I could find her escapes me now, but I knew that I could get a Leica if I found her and could contact her father. Not sure now what my logic was at the time.
I did meet a lovely couple in Basel—she was the President of the National Society of Swiss Women. Also went to Thun, Switzerland for a couple of days and then to Interlaken as well as Bern on our way back to Bad Nauheim. On October 5th , I wrote that Fritz had gotten me a small dog that I named “Hector Heinz” The name was from the Heinz food as he was 57 Food Varieties and looked a mixed breed. I later found out the dog was a Schnauzer and not a Heinz 57, but the name stays. I wrote on October 11th that General Patton was in the office that morning. He came up with another two battle stars for our outfit. I was in our General's office—Seven Stars in the room! I had heard that Patton curses—but I didn't know that he did so much! It was and I quote: “Son a bitch, if this—and those dirty bastards that—and a few other colorful choice bits” He wants to go to the States pronto.
In the afternoon on the 20th of October, I got into the Volkswagon with six of the guys and off we went deer hunting. We got our carbines out of the store room and started out. When we found a likely spot, a plan was developed for our attack on the deer. Three of us would “flush” the deer and four place themselves at certain spots. I now realize that this wasn't the way to go deer hunting. In about 5 minutes, Red flushed out a doe. Since he didn't have time to shoot, I did get off a couple of rounds and hit her in the leg and she dropped to the ground. We finally got close enough to see her and she was up again and running like mad. All of us looked as best as we could, but no deer. We must have chased her about 45 minutes, but no luck. We decided to go back—without our steaks. Later, some of the fellows brought in three small does and Fritz skinned them. Guess that someone knows how to hunt!
It looks as if our postal system is beginning to be more efficient as my letter dated October 31st has mail stamp of Nov 1st . I wrote that one of the officers wanted me to drive him to Frankfurt. Seems that he had an opportunity to get some whiskey, so he had to go and in a hurry. I didn't like to drive the Opel we had at a high speed as they were so light and it was terribly hard to keep under control. The rear bounces from one side to another and when you hit a small bump the wheels rise off the pavement. The officer had to get to the I G Farben building—Ike's headquarters (SHAFE). I was surprised that I got to eat lunch in the officer's mess—out in the kitchen. Guess that I was becoming a chauffeur as a colonel called the billet and asked for me. He wanted me to come to his house to do him a favor. All he wanted was for me to take two Red Cross girls back to Frankfurt, but his car wouldn't start and I could not get it started either. I called the motor pool and had a government sedan come to his house to take them back. They must have had a real party, for the house smelled to high heaven and nor did they look too good. I also noticed that a few of the colonels in the office didn't look too good either.
November 2, 1945 was exactly one year since I left San Antonio to go overseas. On the 8th of November, I was in the Grand Hotel (headquarters) in the Adjutant General's section trying to find out about a TWX from USFET saying that men with 56-59 points would leave December 8th and I should leave the 8th or 9th of December. I am not too sure that I should hold my breath! Also found out that it's all day at the office—no more days off! That is going to hurt, but I'll make it. At least, the headquarters was preparing to get replacements for us before we leave. While I had the time, I made a Christmas card from a drawing I made. When some of the officers as well as enlisted men found out, I had to make cards for them. Many wanted their own photographs of themselves as well as pictures of Bad Nauheim on them with a personal message. I did get a card made and here it is:
It really was what I was wishing for and hoping it would be soon! Rumors were still making the rounds as they always did—not always happening. The most “current” as that I was going to leave on December 9th. In Marburg until the 17th and Antwerp until about the 22nd and then sail. (rumor #300). As per a letter dated 3 December, 1945, I turned in all my excess equipment—what little I had left. Two days later, a non-com with some knowledge of what was going on told me that we were not leaving as we had been told. We are now going to leave on the 22nd! The Army is living up to it's reputation—hurry up and wait! I have to interject at this point to say I am thankful that all my letters were saved and put in order of the postmark date on the envelope. This makes it possible for me to write with a little logic as well of memories that were long gone. I wonder now, how confused as well as disappointed my family was reading my letters telling them the departure dates that never came to be. On 6 December 1945 the Headquarters Fifteenth U.S. Army issued a memo with the subject: “Revision of Quota Allotment for Return to ZI”
High score quotas scheduled to report to reinforcement depots between 9 December 1945 and 20 December inclusive will contain no enlisted personnel with ASR scores 59 and below except those who are eligible for discharge because of over age or who have 4 or more years of service or who have 3 or more chidren under 19 years of age depending upon them for support.
Personnel deleted from shipment in December will be rescheduled in January.
Authority” TWX EX-95048, U.S. Forces, European Theater (Rear), dated 4 December 1945.
BY COMMAND OF GENERAL PATTON:
Joseph S. Claypool
Actg Asst Adj Gen.
The above information was sent to my wife within a letter dated December 6, 1945. In the aforementioned letter, I wrote that we now had a Geman in charge of quarters in our house Oh well, none of us have to go on CQ now, They are on duty 8 hours. Then another one comes on. Sid and I went out to the ordnance depot to see what we could round up as equipment for a jeep that was assigned to us. We did get a few things for it, but they were only some fancy gadgets—extra mirror, air horn and other fittings. While we were there, I saw Patton's car. The front end is really smashed—the motor is pushed way back. There wasn't as much blood as the papers implied—only a little on the back seat. (General George S. Patton, Jr. was injured in a car accident on Dec. 9, 1945 outside Manheim, Germany.) What burned me up was how they were placing the blame on the driver. I would bet my next pay check that Patton ordered the driver to go faster as he liked to go very fast. Guess that having 4 stars on the uniform permits Mrs. Patton to fly over. Rank has it's privileges.
I was able to go to Wetzler again for a short Leica course. The instructors were not able to give much advanced work as most of the guys were taking a basic course. I did get to talk with one of the instructors quite a bit and he told me a lot of stuff that I never knew. Went to bed about 9:30 and was well after 12:00 before I feel asleep as all I could think about were Leicas! They were floating past me as if I was counting Leicas rather than sheep. There I was trying to think of some way to get one—kill, beg, borrow, steal or even buy one. What a night that was. Another small world story was that I met a fellow who went to Texas A&M who, along with other GI's worked in the Leica plant. They can't get a camera either! I had to draw a cartoon for one of the Colonel's. He wanted to give it to another officer as a joke.
Oh brother—I'm getting really fed up with the army. It was announced that 50 points will be discharged on the 31st of December. They say that we are the only outfit with 55 points! It was just announced that General Patton died today—21 December 1945—really a great leader in battle. Another small world story to tell as I bumped into Sam Bauman from Memphis, he is a Captain stationed here with Special Services in the 15th. The last time I saw him was before I went to the ASTP. He started to tell me about his job with the 15th —how they were writing the history of the war. After he finished, I told him that I had been with the 15th since activation. I did go to Sam Bauman's house to shoot the bull and talk about people from Memphis as well as his experiences in the army. I did have a couple of drinks with him. The officers gave us our Christmas rations—two bottles of whiskey. I got a bottle of PM (?) whiskey and a bottle of vodka. Since I really didn't care for the vodka, I gave it away.
Then the Sergeant's club had open house for it's members for Christmas. Well, another small world story! As I was heading for noon chow, I bumped into a fellow I went to high school in Memphis—John Logsdon. He is in our AG section as a civilian. We talked for a few minutes, then we went on our separate ways. About 1:45, he called me and wanted to know if I would like to have a couple of drinks with him. I couldn't refuse so went to his house. I had planned a sober New Year, the situation had changed. A good time was had bringing up old memories of Memphis, but not a too sober time was had. I wrote that Lt. Clayborn had helped me to get back to my billet and that he also wanted to know what went on after we were rejected from getting into the officer's club. Well, finally on the 4th of January 1946 I received Special Orders Number 4 stating that I was to be attached to the 2nd Reinf Depot APO 776 for further processing and ret to ZI by first available transportation.
One of my letters to May was dated January 27 and it stated that I was still in Antwerp, Belgium and it looked like I would be there a few more days. I stated that I was going to Camp Fannin, Texas near Tyler. I did find a Commercial Cable dated January 30th stating that I would sail for the states tomorrow. This cable was only mailed to May with an enclosure that they regretted it was necessary for them to deliver my cable by mail instead of using the facilities of Western Union Telegraph Company because the landline employees were on strike. In all of the letters May saved was a telegram dated Feb 6th from my Uncle in New York saying the “NEWBERN VICTORY LEFT ANTWERP 1ST ARRIVES SUNDAY CANTAINS CAUSALTIES ALSO HIGH POINT MEN NO DOUBT ELLIS ABOARD” SIGNED GUIDING LIGHT CO. Actually, it was the Newborn Victory and the “Guiding Light was a company owned by my Uncle Sam who lived in New York, City. Then on February 12th , I wired “ARRIVED SAFELY EXPECT TO SEE YOU SOON DON'T ATTEMPT TO CONTACT OR WRITE ME HERE”
I remember that the voyage wasn't too much fun for me for several reasons. No sooner than I had gotten aboard, I made friends with one of the cooks and talked him out of some butter so I could have toast with butter. I must have loaded up on it as I got pretty seasick a day or so out of port. The weather wasn't the best, in fact, it was real rough! I heard that an aircraft carrier that was also going to the states had the front end of the carrier torn up from the rough water. I just happened to walk past the shop's mess and started to shoot the bull with one of the cooks. There happened to be what looked like a pound of butter on the table and I asked the cook if I might have a slice of bread with a lot of butter spread on it. Well, apparently there was too much butter consumed along with a few slices of fresh bread! Only a day or so out of the port and I got real sick…..sea sick. Several days were spent hanging on for dear life and in the toilet area. By the way, the toilet area was a long trough with running water flowing freely. Sure was glad that there was something to hold on to. All aboard the ship, as well as me, did make it to New York docks where we disembarked and boarded a train to head for Texas.
I was discharged on the 20th of February 1946 at the Separation Center of Camp Fannin Texas. My Texas family met me there and I met my daughter, Patricia Ann, after seven months! I bonded with her quickly as I got her a chocolate soda without asking her Mother—little did I know that was a no-no. After a while, a long while, her Mother did start speaking to me. I was placed in the army reserve and subsequently discharged from the Military Intelligence as a Special Agent/Master Sergeant on the 30th of November 1952.
-Ellis Titche 2011
Page published Dec. 14, 2011