Longform

Foreign Correspondence

Page 5 of 12

On March 18, just before the Rainbow Division broke through the Hardt Mountains, Creasman was sent west to Paris for 10 days. Envisioning the imminent collapse of Germany, the American command was preparing education programs for troops who would have to occupy postwar Europe. Creasman was tapped to help organize the "Rainbow University," which offered college courses to GIs overseas. While he was in Paris, his division stormed through Germany's vaunted -- but largely abandoned -- Ziegfried Line of defense. Then it rumbled down the slopes of the mountains and captured the German towns of Dahn and Worms, before racing east across the Rhine toward Würzburg.

It took Creasman five days to catch up with his comrades.

"At 4 o'clock in the morning," he wrote on April 3, "...I crossed the Rhine on a pontoon bridge at a large, ruined German city. The huge stone span lay on its side, only chunks of it and the two end approaches visible after our skip bombing tactics. After we rode as far as the railroads run east of Paris, we asked how we could reach the Division and even Army headquarters didn't tell us exactly where it was -- things were moving so fast. All they said was 'The 42nd is on the jump today and if you can hitch a ride to the [CENSORED] bridge, maybe you can catch 'em!' So we hitched a ride with a convoy of trucks which became lost and finally got us to the bridge at 4 AM, too late as the Division had crossed in the middle of the night. Still hitch-hiking we set out, finding that no one could tell us much, and so it was largely guesswork, riding along with one outfit and a bit farther with another, arriving in a town always an hour or so after corps headquarters had moved out, it seemed."

One of the rides he caught was with Margaret Bourke-White, the renowned photojournalist for Life magazine, and a correspondent for Vogue -- possibly Lee Miller, another renowned photographer. Like Creasman, the two correspondents were racing to catch up with the American vanguard in Germany.

"This afternoon after catching 8 different rides we have finally reached corps Hq and while the Lt. is resting (he will go right into combat with his platoon up ahead where the 42d is mopping up a big city) I am sitting at a desk in what looks like a Nazi school...

"Germany is a beautiful country, and in spite of awful destruction to such places as Darmstadt which I saw yesterday, the people are well dressed and seem well fed and much more prosperous than the French. I watched the Easter Parade in Kaiserslautern Sunday, and if one overlooked wrecked buildings and white flags it didn't seem that a war was going on. People in very good, stylish clothes were going to church, not looking war weary or particularly angry, although they carefully tried to ignore us and of course we are not fraternizing. I thought they had put on every stitch of finery in an effort to show defiance. German lights still burn and there's running water in taps and toilets. In France, outside Paris, this was not the case. Is this 'German efficiency,' or is it merely because they have been able to benefit from looting and plundering all of Europe? I'm inclined to think the latter.

"White flags flutter from nearly every building. American trucks thunder thru the streets 24 hours a day and Germans timidly wait for a chance to cross the street, scurrying like rabbits when an opening comes. In Bürstadt, I stood at the corner of Adolf Hitlerstrasse and Bielungstrasse and saw more people going to church. Suddenly 13 big trucks went by loaded with German prisoners. Some prisoners waved and the people flickered a few hands in response (the women held their hands to their mouths, as about to cry), and in the next to the last truck they caught sight of a little boy still in short trousers and wearing a civilian shirt & tie, and they stifled a little exclamation of shock. He evidently had been captured with the rest -- a fanatic member of the Hitler Jugend.

"I have seen bombed towns, but never have I seen anything like Darmstadt. It must be larger than Phoenix, and I drove all thru it, but I did not see more than about three buildings still usable. Block after block of walls with no roofs or floors, just skeletons. Many of them 4 and 5 story buildings. UNBELIEVABLE destruction. Utterly gutted, smashed, crumbled.

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Edward Lebow
Contact: Edward Lebow