Longform

Foreign Correspondence

Page 7 of 12

"Every few kilometers these people would collect in pathetic groups, trying to decide where to go and where to get something to eat.... One old couple made a pitiful sight; he was pulling the cart and she, with the aid of a cane, and holding onto the back of the cart with the other hand, hobbled down the road, bent almost double. Three girls carried all their belongings on a long stick held between them. In one town about thirty poor refugees were eating lunch. They were definitely backwoods Poles. The men wore those 'hick' caps with big bills, and the women wore shawls. Out of sacks and boxes tied to carts and bicycles, they dragged black bread, sausages, sow-belly (one woman was eating it like cheese) preserved fruits, and cheese. A young mother came over to where our mess had hot water for washing and asked for a little to heat a bottle of milk for her tiny baby. Where she had obtained the milk I do not know, but imagine how unsanitary it must have been. And, sadly, one of the young women was taking long swigs from a bottle of what appeared to be schnaps -- very potent German wine..."

"Get the picture, thousands of these poor slaves, on the roads, been away from home as many as five years, may never find their families again, nothing in the world but what they carry with them; starved, beaten, neglected. Bad teeth, lame, homeless, drifting. And still the 'master race' has the gall to come to us and 'cry' about being displaced. Yes, in one town we were the last to leave when the division moved, and for several hours were the only soldiers there. The Burgomaster brought his troubles to us, and these included two German women who wanted to reach some town down the road where there was a 'friendly family' and wanted a pass to leave town. One spoke fairly good English and explained that she didn't know how to carry all her stuff with her. Actually it appeared that she expected the U.S. Army to furnish a truck to move her! When we gently suggested that she leave her stuff in the town until she could send for it, she had the gall to say, 'If I do, the American soldiers will take it!'

"One of our men who is Jewish... flared up and said, 'The French people carried their stuff on their backs when you drove them out of their homes. I saw them do it, and they didn't cry. Now it's your turn, so solve your own problem.'

"Confusion, displaced people, both friend and foe, broken homes, despair, hope, suffering, joy. A strange mixture of emotions and events we see each day here. Too much to grasp; to comprehend. We're too close to it all. On that same day two French officers came to us, saying, 'We have 100 comrades up here at the next town; we've hidden in the woods for 10 days to escape recapture; where do we go?' Questions like that are hard to answer. And, strangely, the Frenchman is speaking English mixed in more German than French. He called the forest walde and 'camp' stalag and American Amerikaner. That shows what five years in a Nazi environment will do. A few minutes later four Russians showed up, one an aviator -- fine looking men -- and their question was the same: 'Where do we go?' They could only make themselves understood by speaking German too. What irony...

"To give you some idea of just how fast this thing is moving, I can say that our Division has pushed 175 miles in the past month!! We will soon run out of German territory in which to push...."

Creasman and his division rarely stayed more than a day in one place. "Our daily news reports have read almost like earlier Russian dispatches lately. 'The Rainbow captured 100 towns today.' And 'The Rainbow cleared 75 towns today.' The infantry have to be mounted in trucks and the opposition has been withdrawing so fast they dismount for only a few minutes at most towns merely to see if there are any troops there. White flags are usually out already, so there's a quick check and they move on. Somewhere, soon, the enemy must stop to fight a determined action if he is planning any fight at all. Hitler is said to be planning a last-ditch fanatical stand at a 'last redoubt' here in the south, probably close to Berchtesgaden [his country retreat] in the mountains of Austria, and if so it may easily be the Rainbow that will have to dig him out."

KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Edward Lebow
Contact: Edward Lebow