About jeanjacquescrawb

retired public school administrator, lobbyist, arbitrator, box manufacturer, professional singer, employment counselor, coach, doctorate, grandfather, etc.

IN WHICH I GO INTO THE ARMY- PART NINE

 

A little bit of history here needs to clarify things. As we were stationed in Baumholder, we were close to the German/French border. One of the most industrial parts of Germany was the Saar Valley in Alsace Lorraine. After World War II, that part of Germany was given to France politically, but remained German economically. The place has a long history of going back and forth between France and Germany. Border lines were established after World War Two..

So let’s see how this works. During most of my time in Germany, it was really in France. The U.S. Army had no jurisdiction in the place. M.P.s was not permitted to enter the area. However, guess what, American soldiers were permitted to go there to drink and carouse. We certainly did do that. Our favorite town was Neunkirchen and our favorite bar/gasthaus was Analeisa’s. When I visited Neunkirchen years later, there was no more Analeisa’s, it had become a Ford leasing agency.

We usually mingled with the locals there. Since I was able to communicate with the Germans reasonable well, sometimes I was called upon to settle some conflicts. However, there was one time, when I was the conflict myself. There were always locals there playing chess (choch, I think). We used to watch them and bought beer all around when the game ended. Other than that we would sit around and drink beer (coke mostly for me) and schnitzel sandwiches with mustard. It was a no sweat place.

One evening we came into the gasthaus and there were a number of chess games going on. One of the locals asked me if I played chess. I told him that I had when I was younger. He got kind of mean and let out a challenge for me to play against their best player. I, of course, declined. However, things started to ramp up. Loud voices on both sides seem to insist that I play. To avoid a conflict, I sat down. I must tell you, that even today,  I am not a good chess player.

However, on that day, I must have gotten messages from some long ago chess master, because I whipped the guy good. I don’t remember any of the moves, but in the end it was checkmate.

This did not sit well with the locals. I am not sure what they thought. Perhaps, they thought that I was a ringer. They started to shout and to push some of our guys around. Analeisa came out and yelled that we should take our disagreement outside. We did and it was a free for all. I don’t remember much of it,but I do remember something that may have saved my life.

I did have a really bad temper. Thank goodness, my wife Carol, has taught me to be a much calmer person. At some point during the fray, I was sitting atop one of the German guys and pounding his head on the paved street. Somehow, one of our guys, and I don’t remember who, pulled me off and dragged me to the car that we came in. I did see the poundee get up and walk away.

I am not sure that I ever went back to Analeisa’s. I guess I was just too afraid that I would be tempted to do some damage. I spent more time going on trips around Europe and staying around the base and going into Baumholder the town. I guess it was a lesson that I learned.

 

iwigita-part eight-THE RUMANIAN PROSTITUTE

 

As a result of me being supply sergeant, I was asked to go to many seminars on how to keep the books for the supply room. I can only remember AR 735-35 which enabled us to pass inspections when they came. One of the seminars that I was assigned to go to was in Kaiserslautern about 50 Kilometers from Baumholder. I arrived in the morning went to the first class and then bugged out with some of the other guys into town. We went to a gasthaus (kind of a family bar) and sat around drinking and looking around. I saw a young woman sitting in a corner by herself in a purple shimmery kind of dress. The music on the jukebox was playing a slow song, so I asked her to dance.

I spoke to her in German, but she spoke English well enough. She told me that she was from Rumania and that she had become pregnant by some old fellow (not sure if he was Rumanian or German), had a child that she was taking care of and worked at some sort of factory. Her story touched me. She was 19 years old, same as me and seemed to be lost in the world. We danced pretty much the whole evening. I asked if I could walk her home. She told me that the story that she told me about working in the factory was not true and that she was a girl for hire.

Somehow that didn’t surprise me, but it deepened my concern for her. I told her that I would be back the next night and I was. She was there and we took up from where we left off. I managed to get her address from her and told her that I was very serious about establishing a relationship with her. She seemed to like the idea. When the third night came, I told her that I was serious about her and that we would go to America together. She smiled and told me that was going to be hard. I said we could work through it. I gave her my address in Baumholder and began to communicate with her.

I also wrote a letter to my mother telling her that I had fallen in love and was going to marry a Rumanian girl. I did not tell her of the girl’s occupation. Somehow, she must have gotten the idea that there was something not quite right about this and must have called my commanding officer somehow.

A few days after my letter to mom, Major Clawson W. McCain, who had been in the military since before World War II and had married a Belgian woman soon after, called me into his office. McCain was a hardnosed person who had risen through the ranks and was at the end of his tenure and could not rise beyond major. He told me that he was not going to stand for one of his men consorting with the locals and that I did not have my head screwed on properly. He added that I really knew nothing about this woman and he would see to it that I would end this relationship. I quickly wrote a note to this woman (whose name I cannot remember) and told her of the situation. I never received a reply. I did try and look her up and appeared at the same gasthaus with Russ a few months later, but no one had seen her for a long while. Sometime later on, I was told by one of the gasthaus habitués that she would often consort with soldiers and that the old guy was her husband and that he allowed for this to happen. I was devastated. My first true love and nothing was real- another lesson learned the hard way.

IN WHICH I GO INTO THE ARMY-PART SEVEN

At the end of the sixteen weeks, we got a couple of weeks off before we had to report with all of our gear to a dock in N.Y. or N.J. to board the William Buckner troop ship going to Bremerhaven, Germany. Tony and I were slated for the 97th Signal Battalion in Boblingen, near Suttgart in Germany. As we were called onto the boat one at a time by a Puerto Rican Sergeant, Tony Arcoraci had his name pronounced correctly for the only time in his military career. In a loud and clear voice- Antonio Arrcorrachi get on board.

For most of us, the 9 days at sea was a series of latrine cleanings and sitting around. For Tony it was hell on water. He threw up every day from seasickness and lost 24 pounds in the process. You can imagine how he felt when he touched ground. We got to Bremerhaven and took a train to Stuttgart and then Boblingen. I spent the next month or so getting myself set and hanging around with guys from Kansas, Texas and California. I learned so many lessons there. One of the guys I hung around with was Sam Allred, a relative of the former Governor of Texas and a great musician singer and songwriter. I saw him later on the Merv Griffin show with another fellow and they called themselves the Geezenslaw brothers. Sam could write songs of a moment and later on did record some of them. He was last seen in Austin, Texas a few years ago on a morning show as co-host. He was a funny and talented man.

In about a month or less, Elmer Augustine (Ellis Kansas) and I were transferred to a small support outfit in Hopstaden in a more northerly part of Germany. It was there that I learned that you cannot drink ¾ of a liter of Cognac without getting sick for days and that my German ( from the 13th century Yiddish) was pretty good. I was able to speak to girls and sort of carry on sensible conversations. The only odd part of our stay in Hopstadten was a bar that we went to, whose barmaid was a little person. She would serve you beer and crawl under the table and do other things for you for a price. I was never that horny. Other guys were both drunk and horny.

In another 6 weeks we had our whole outfit, about 60 of us transfer to Baumholder about 20 kilometers from Hopstadten. The detachment had its own barracks at Panzer Kaserne (Panzer is tanks and yes it was the home of Rommel). There we had our own mess hall, mess sergeant and the best food the army could produce. Sergeant Sladek was a genius of a chef and made us almost what we wanted on a daily basis, as long as he had the materials to do it.

Baumholder was not a good place to be I was later told. It had 20,000 troops, civilian workers and others. We had French troops (Algerian) and Polish workers and others we did not commune with these “others” for whatever reason and were cautioned not to hang around with them when we were in town.

Since I was one of the few people with any college education among my peers, I was soon made supply sergeant. My time there, as well as my time as a radio teletype operator would require an additional set of words in a book. However, I lucked into a relationship with David Stanton Russell, who had gone to Pomona College for three years and had decided to get into the service, before the service got to him. He became my friend almost immediately. After over 50 years we still communicate and in 2009, Carol and I went out to California to see him and his wife Tassie and their daughter Carolyn and her family.

 

 

 

IN WHICH I GO INTO THE ARMY- PART SIX

We were allowed to go home for a week or so before going to our next station. We could not wait to get out of Fort Benning. A couple of guys were planning to drive to New York City. The guy who had the car said we could be up there in about 10 hours. I doubted that, but I was soon to learn that it is possible. You must remember that there was no route 95 at that time, so we traveled on route 1 until the Jersey Turnpike. I slept some in the back of the car. I could drive, but it wasn’t my car and had no intention of driving at speeds that these other guys did. We drove on route 1 mostly at 90 miles an hour. We traveled mostly at night with our lights off. If I had any brains at all, I would have left the cars at a gas station.

As we got to the Jersey Turnpike, I noticed that the car was weaving. The driver was pretty much out of it. He was sleeping. We were doing 70 at the time. One of the guys in the back seat slapped the driver on the back of his head. We moved to the berm and changed drivers. In another few hours we were in the city. The guys let me off at my home and my mom was happy to see me. Things had not changed in the few months I was gone.

The days I was home, I called some of my friends and went to some movies a couple of parties and a date or two. I wore my dress uniform when going to the movies and I got a reduction in the ticket. Mostly I had a good time.

I actually do not remember going back. I know that I did not fly or take a train. I believe that the same person who drove us to NYC took me to Fort Gordon in Augusta. I had a feeling that the next 16 weeks were going to be a great deal more fun than my basic training experience. The South Eastern Signal School was a much more relaxed place. Tessie (as everyone called it) focused on specific training.

My sixteen weeks at Fort Gordon were somewhat uneventful. I learned to communicate in Morse Code at 35 words per minute, type and use the teletype machine at 60 words per minute and learned all about communications and security. I befriended a couple of guys from NY- Don Mondschein and Jack Behlman (who told us he was from Fargo North Dakota). One day we went to Savannah Beach and the two other guys hooked up with some women and I sunned myself on the beach burning the top of my head off which later on turned into me losing my hair after a few years.

The sixteen weeks went very quickly. Tony Arcoraci, who was with us in basic training, was still with me with the NCO’s still unable to pronounce his name by this time we were used to Southern ways. We kind of accepted the culture and its positives and negatives while we were there. There was really nothing we could do about it. The military was really hard on troublemakers and I had not yet turned into the anti-establishment person that I would someday become. However, its roots were in Georgia.

We had the opportunity to go into town as frequently as we wished. The folks in Augusta were really friendly. We even had a synagogue to go to if we wanted. The first week we were there, Jack, Don and I went into town to go to Friday night services. Friday night was also G.I. party night when we would scrub the barracks for the next day’s inspection. When we came back, we were set upon by our barracks mates as lowlifes who had not helped with the cleanup. In the only conversation that I have ever had with God, I asked, “ Must I go to Friday night services to maintain my Jewish Faith,” God Answered, “ What are you some kind of putz- if you want your ass kicked every Friday night go to shul, if you don’t go, I will understand.” I have not asked anything of God since. I figured that was enough for a lifetime.

 

 

 

 

 

IN WHICH I GO INTO THE ARMY- PART FIVE

For this part, I had to go back to a blog I wrote 7 years ago. I remember the scene, but not the exact words. You might be able to tell from my previous posts, that things were not going well in basic training. Besides the aforementioned incidents, there were gents trying to get out on a section 8 by pretending riding up and down the stairs on a motorcycle, making appropriate motorcycle sounds and keeping most of us awake. Although our training was going well and most of us were developing into the best physical shape we were ever in, we knew that the officers and NCO’s were having mucho trouble with us.

I believe it was at the beginning of our seventh week (the eighth week if you count the zero week) we were called together on a Monday morning, as per usual. What was not usual was that we were being addresses by our battalion commander and not our usual lieutenant or first sergeant. Somehow this event was coming and most of us were not surprise when the battalion commander said, “We hate you. We don’t understand why you speak and act the way you do. This is not the military way. From this point forward, we will no longer train you. You will have to train yourselves.”

Does that remind anyone of the movie “Stripes?” I often have wondered if the writer of that movie was one of us. Fortunately for us, our squad leaders, guys who came with us and were elevated to a higher status. In fact, we did very well with the rest of our training, gas chamber, infiltration course, 5 mile forced marches. Those are the ones that I remember. I am sure that we were being watched in case we did some fooling around. Quite the contrary, we took all of the training very seriously.

Our final parade event saw us and all of the other recruits at Fort Benning march in a giant parade in front of family, visitors, brass, and important people. We did one hell of a good job. Even Sergeant Barnwell was pleased. I could see his fingers wiggling and chaw rotating as we passed him in front of the stands.

We all went back to our barracks to receive our orders for our next station. My orders were to remain at Fort Benning for advanced basic training. That was not one of the choices I would have made for myself. I was kind of down as I sat on my foot locker and reread my orders. At my lowest point, a lieutenant from company headquarters stopped in front of me and gave me a new set of papers. He was happy to give me a new assignment that would not involve me being near him or other place bound Fort Benning staff. I was going to be a radio teletype operator and had to report in two weeks to Fort Gordon in Augusta Georgia. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.

 

 

 

 

 

IN WHICH I GO INTO THE ARMY- PART FOUR

For those who have not been in the military, or have been in the military in later times, you will find our remuneration laughable. As an E-1 we made $73 per month. Being a good son, I sent $25 dollars home to mom to save for me (she used it for household things). We got paid once a month. That was usually the day that we would play poker, just regular poker, 5 card draw.

We pulled a foot locker to the center of our barracks and pulled our other foot lockers around so that we could play. There were regulars and those who lost their money and left. There seemed to be one person who constantly won. It seemed kind of odd, even at the time that this one guy would always come out ahead. As for me, I pretty much came out ahead. It was not a great deal of dough, just enough to buy a carton of cigarettes and some candy.

Some guys played to lose. They kept on betting on nothing, hoping to fake everyone else out. They had no dough at all at the end of the game. If you were winning, it was frowned upon that you left the game. I tried it once and never again. Our constant winner was an older gent of about 25. He came from Chicago and was a rather quiet fella. He has wispy blond hair, which fell over his face when he won a pot. He never smiled, nor said a word during the playing.

After winning one pot, I reached over to grab the dough and my dog tags hung over the money. A recruit named Rockey (his last name) came from a small town in Texas. He reached over and grabbed the dog tags and read them. He was astonished when he read the word Jewish. He looked over at me as if he had been poleaxed. There was this look of perplexity when he said, “You can’t be no Jew. You don’t have horns.”

Yup Rockey, we really don’t have horns. To this day, I wonder how Rockey got into our barracks. He was the only one who was not from New York, New Jersey or Pennsylvania. It was really difficult to explain to him the misperception of a Michelangelo statue of Moses that looked like horns. I am sure that Rockey was still not convinced. Funny thing, after that, he kept away from me.

My Chicago friend kept on winning as the time went by. There were so few players, that we stopped playing until the next pay day. Somehow, I managed to speak with this quiet guy. He told me in strictest confidence, otherwise his life wasn’t worth a plug nickel, that he was a professional card player in Chicago. That was his occupation and full time job. I guess I looked like I would not tell anyone about it. This is the first time that I have really told the story in full detail.

Things were still not going well for us and our leaders. It was even difficult to pronounce our names. Italian names were their specific bugaboo. The non-coms resorted to calling them Alphabet. To break up the monotony of basic training, we were loaded onto buses and taken to Warm Spring, Georgia, to the Summer White House of FDR. Not sure that you can imagine that his home and facilities were segregated. There were white and colored drinking fountains and white and colored facilities.

As we happened upon these places, we all looked at each other, smiled and went about our business of going to the latrines and getting a drink of water. One difference was that the white guys went to the colored drinking fountains and bathrooms and the black and Puerto Rican guys went to the white drinking fountains and bathrooms. Our leaders were apoplectic. They screamed at us and threatened us with all sorts of things. We all kind of stood there with our heads bowed. Soon, the state police arrived and we were hustled onto the buses and driven back to the base.