The View from a Drawbridge

The random musings of a bridgetender with entirely too much time on her hands.

IMG

This photograph has haunted me my entire life. If you know anyone from France, Germany or Austria, or the US Army 65th Infantry, please share this story with them on any social media you choose.

My father served during World War II, and he brought home many photographs and even more stories, most of them outlandish. Due to his lifelong battle with alcohol, I never knew him. All I was left with was his photo album and those few stories that have managed to trickle down to me over the years.

Needless to say, I was very obsessed with the entire photo album. But of all the pictures in it, the one that has always fascinated me the most was this one of a little boy in a uniform, sitting on a jeep. Who was this child? Why was he there? What became of him?

The story that was passed down to me was that he was a German boy that the company sort of adopted as a mascot, and that he was killed by the Germans, which made my father so angry he then killed all the Germans he could.

There are several problems with this story. The main one being that when my father’s company was breaking through the Siegfried Line, they were in no one place in Germany long enough to develop a relationship with a child.

Let’s follow his company’s path, and then I’ll give you some of my theories. I’d love it if someone could provide me with more pieces of this puzzle

The year was 1945, and my father was in the United States Army, 65th Infantry Division; 1st Battalion; 261st Infantry Regiment; Company C; 2nd Platoon; 1st squad.

  • The division arrived at Le Havre, France on January 22, 1945. They were stationed in Camp Lucky Strike.
  • They departed Camp Lucky Strike from February 25 – March 1, 1945
  • From there they went to Ennery, Moselle, France on March 3rd.
  • By March 7th, they saw their first combat in Boulay-Moselle, France.
  • In March 17th, they were in Villing, Moselle, France
  • They breached Siegfried Line, March 17-19.
  • On March 20th, they were in Saarlautern and Reisweiler, Saarland, Germany.
  • On March 21, they had reached Neunkirchen, Saarland, Germany.
  • On March 27th, they were in Rockenhausen, Pfalz, Germany.
  • On March 28th, they were in Schwabenheim, Hessen, Germany.
  • They crossed the Rhine, March 29-30, 1945.
  • On March 31, they were in Laubach, Hessen-Nassau, Germany.
  • By April 1st, they had reached Hattenbach, Hessen-Nassau, Germany.
  • On April 2nd, they were in Ersrode, Hessen-Nassau, Germany.
  • On April 3rd they were in Berneberg, Kurhessen, Germany.
  • They fought to secure the Mulhausen-Langensalza Line from April 4-6, 1945.
  • On April 5th, they were in Treffurt, Thuringia, Germany.
  • The fought the Battle of Struth, on April 7.
  • On April 9 they were in Berka, Thuringia, Germany.
  • On April 12, they were in Waltershausen, Bavaria, Germany.
  • By April 14, they arrived in Arnstadt, Bavaria, Germany.
  • April 17th found them in Breitengussbach, Bavaria, Germany.
  • On April 20th, they arrived in Altdorf, Bavaria, Germany
  • They fought the Battle for Neumarkt, April 20-22, 1945.
  • On April 23, they were in Velburg, Bavaria, Germany.
  • On April 24, they were in Deuerling, Bavaria, Germany.
  • They crossed Danube to capture the sector at Regensburg, April 25-26th.
  • On April 275h, they were in Regensburg, Bavaria, Germany.
  • On May 1st, they were in Platting, Bavaria, Germany.
  • On May 2nd, they were in Furstenzell, Bavaria, Germany.
  • May 3rd found them in Neuhaus, Bavaria, Germany.
  • On May 4th, they crossed over to Austria, and were in Scharding and Raab, in the Ober-Oesterreich region.
  • On May 5th, 1945 they were in Linz, Ober-Oesterreich, Austria, and also helped to liberate the Mauthausen Concentration Camp. (This experience, more than any other, forever changed my father.)
  • The Germans surrendered unconditionally on May 8, 1945, and they met with a company of the Soviet 7th Guard Parachute Division.
  • The division remained in Austria until disbanded on August 31, 1945 in Enns River, Austria

What I get from this grueling itinerary is that my father’s company moved through Germany pretty quickly. I find it hard to believe he met the child during that time of heavy combat. Here are some theories I have about the encounter.

  • My father was in the Le Havre area of France for over a month. He may have met the child there. If so, this child could not have been killed by the Germans while my father was there as they had yet to see combat.
  • He was in Austria for almost 4 months. Perhaps he met this child there. If so, again, the child could not have been killed by the Germans, as they had already surrendered.
  • What do the numbers on the jeep’s license plate mean? And what do the symbols on the uniform mean? These could provide clues.
  • Obviously this kid was well liked or they would not have taken the time to fit him out with a uniform. You don’t rustle up spare uniforms and sew those impossibly high hems on a pair of pants for someone you only know for a day or two.
  • I doubt he came from the concentration camp in Austria. He looks too well fed.

So what became of this child? Here are some of my thoughts.

  • Perhaps he was in a neighboring village and hung out with them during the day, going home to his mother at night. I hope so.
  • Perhaps he was orphaned and they did actually take him in. If so, when they left the area, any number of things could have happened.

Maybe he was left with some volunteer organization, but I suspect that regardless of the location, there were not many organizations up and running at the time. As with disasters these days, there’s a substantial lag before these groups gain a foothold. But who knows? Maybe the Red Cross took him.

But what I strongly suspect and fear is that this poor child was an Austrian orphan that they took in as if he were some sort of pet, and when it came time to ship out, each soldier looked at the others and said, “I can’t take him. You take him.” Faced with overwhelming amounts of paperwork, and anxious to get home to wives and sweethearts and start their lives again, they drove away, leaving him standing on the side of the road, amongst the devastation.

That image breaks my heart. I look into this child’s eyes and I long to know more. If he survived the war, he would be about 75 by now, so time has all but run out, and I fear I’ll never have closure on this story.

If you can fill in any of the blanks, please let me know. Thank you!

11 thoughts on “Do you Know this Child? Help Solve a Mystery.

  1. Oh man… this is an awesome bit of history.

    1. Isn’t it? Tainted only by the fact that the story lacks an ending. Would you be willing to share it on facebook or something or reblog it? Up to you. No pressure. I just need the word spread as much as possible.

      1. um… I might reblog it later. It would be awesome to help, but I doubt many people who follow me would be able to… try military websites… Google stuff.

  2. Carole says:

    Forwarding… Such a sad, haunting story.

    1. Thanks, Carole! I’d love to have closure.

  3. Dad says:

    Please, do not consider what I write as negative. I am giving you a realistic, first-hand view so that your search will not be clouded with false beliefs:

    You wrote: “… My father… brought home many photographs and … outlandish [stories]. Due to his lifelong battle with alcohol, I never knew him…”

    You did know him, you only refused to accept him. I am sorry for you because his stories were all true, not “probably.” Besides you, how many other people called him nuts? I will tell you that almost drove me to drink. How do I know? For ten years I wrote simple letters of my “outlandish” life in the military stationed at many places worldwide. When I was stationed in a relatively peaceful area of the world, I brought my father over so we might share time in an unfamiliar (to him) land. After ten days of jaw-dropping, “never in America” impossibilities, my father said as I bid him goodbye at the airport, “When I get home I will re-read every one of your letters. I now understand that your stories were not fabricated.” My whole family thought the same. My sister still refuses to acknowledge my reality.

    You also wrote: “… You don’t rustle up spare uniforms and sew those impossibly high hems on a pair of pants for someone you only know for a day or two…”

    Yes, you do. Life and death are Siamese twins in war. Your “friends” are made quickly, forever bound, and lost in an instant. These hardened men had families and sons who they fought for and died for. This boy was their son. They would… the DID… give him the shoes off their feet and their only set of good pants. Money, possessions, food… these mean nothing and everything in war, especially when a delicate, young life walks and talks and smiles or cries, gets hungry, thirsty, cold, afraid or lonely, or just curious. The boy was *their* family and probably enjoyed every comfort the men could dig out of their rucks.

    You can easily find images and complete stories of today’s warriors in barren desert camps cultivating flowers and grass in 140f, arid heat, or adopting a stray animals to tuck in their 35lbs of body armor. This thing is their life, which may not exist tomorrow or in an hour.

    I urge you to re-visit all your father’s stories. I also urge you to understand that your refusal to yield faith to his “… outlandish [stories]…” drove him over the edge. He would forgive you, and allow you to forgive yourself, if you just accept the truth — his truth.

    In the course of the current wars involving NATO countries, a series of independent films have explored the topic of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Try to find “Civvy Street” by Peter Curruthers. Within it you will find outlandish stories… all of them real.

    1. Thank you for your input, but perhaps I did not make my situation clear. Due to his alcoholism I never knew him because he was gone by the time I was three months old. I LITERALLY never knew him. Ever. No contact, no child support, no birthday cards, no phone calls, no physical presence whatsoever. I couldn’t have picked the man out of a police line up. So please don’t accuse me of driving him over the edge. And he was an alcoholic before he ever came home from Europe, so while the war may have done so, my family did not. Alcoholics need to take responsibility for their own choices.

      I’m quite sure he did have PTSD, and I’m sorry about that. I also happen to have PTSD, diagnosed, and set off by a chain of events that would have been avoided if he had been there to be a father.

      And they also, literally, they only stayed in any one German town for three days maximum. So I doubt that child was German. I wasn’t commenting on their insensitivity. I have no doubt that a lot of those men were very compassionate and generous. I was commenting about the time factor. Three days, in the midst of a massive troop mobilization, they’d have to have been pretty darned busy. I don’t see them stopping in the middle of breaking camp to hem pants. So I still think this was a French or Austrian child. But I will never know.

      I’m grateful for your service just as I am grateful for his, but you don’t know me, so please don’t accuse me of driving someone over the edge.

    2. Oh, and for what it’s worth, I’m told his outlandish stories didn’t only have to do with the war. They occurred prior to and after the war as well, and people who where present for the same events had wildly different versions. So I’m not blowing his stories off. It’s more a factor of being told the type of person he was.

  4. Gugerbauer says:

    Dear Sir,

    acutally we do not kow the child on the car, but we are writing to you, because we have red that your father was in our region. He has been in Scharding and Neuhaus. We kindly ask you have you have some pictures of this region in your foto books because we are preparing a book fo wwII in our region? Please respond to my e-mail adress karl@hotel-gugerbauer.at

    If yo have further information or if you need some more information please do not hesitate to contact us.

    Thank you very much for your help!

    Yours sincerely
    Gugerbauer Kalr

    1. I will e-mail you. Thanks for contacting me!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: