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Excerpts from


a book by George Bailey
1LT, 3AD Hq, G-2, Intelligence Section
Written in 1972


In the area around Mons, Belgium, late in August there was a vortical convergence of pursuer and pursued. We succeeded in cutting off the German retreat, but they succeeded by the same token in cutting us off temporarily - separating the spearhead from the shaft of the spear. We were surrounded as though on a traffic island while the enemy traffic flowed around us for three days. To put it technically, we were in a blocking position across the path of retreat of at least five German divisions, one of them a parachute division.

We captured five German generals and killed one; among our prisoners was the commanding general of the parachutists, Riidiger von Heyking. He was the first German general I had ever met, an older man probably in his late fifties. He was very mild of manner and indeed almost jovial. He was shortish and on the heavy side - not at all my idea of a German general, who I expected to be a sort of super Brandstatter. Von Heyking looked more like the family doctor except that he was perfectly groomed. I was - as always - fascinated by the uniform, the excellence of cut and cloth. He wore the blue-black leather overcoat prescribed for Army field officers and the dove-gray leather gloves much affected by German officers. In fact, the higher the rank in the German army the more leather there was in the prescribed and affected wear that went with it. Germans love leather. Adalbert Stifter's Witiko, chivalric hero and model for "rectitude of conduct and righteousness of life," is called the "leatherman" because of his dress: leather hat-helmet, leather doublet, leather trousers, leather boots. But it is a very old love. Pagan German warriors wore a leather harness laced together with thongs for armor; this was called a "Schirm" (protection) and the wearer a "Schirmmann," a word that according to some sources was later Latinized by Tacitus into "German."

I had about an hour, most of it alone, with Von Heyking. Our general refused to see him. There was reason for his aloofness: our general was a Jew, Major General Maurice Rose, the son of a Denver, Colorado, rabbi. Now Rose - he looked like the very model of a Prussian major general: thin-lipped, sharp features, closely cropped hair, a ramrod of a man whose legs drove him forward like twin pistons - Rose was the toughest looking officer I have ever seen. Appearances were not deceiving. Rose was a troubleshooter who had been brought in to take over the division in Normandy because the commanding general had been relieved of his command. There was not a man in division headquarters who did not fear Rose. I saw staff officers, full colonels, standing at attention before Rose, the sweat pouring off their faces, visibly shaking in their tanker's boots. And yet Von Heyking, for all his Gemütlichkeit, had a considerable reputation in the German army; he had been one of the commanding officers of the parachute operation that took Crete. I tried to picture the family doctor jumping out of a Junkers over Crete in battle dress; I gave it up. I went through Von Heyking's personal documents and found some old photographs of him in uniform as a lad. "How long have you been a soldier?" I asked. "I have always been a soldier," he said with a chuckle. "Always? You can't have been born in uniform?" "Not quite," and he beamed at me, "but I put on my first military uniform when I was eight years old." (I gave it up again.)

While Von Heyking was with us in our isolated blocking position - cut off as we were by those we had cut off - four young Germans in an armored car tried to break through on the road we were guarding. They never had a chance. The gas tanks on the back of their car riddled by .50-caliber machine gun bullets, it burst into flame, crashed into a tree, and exploded. The four Germans were quite literally blown to pieces. One of them had been cut in two at the waist and had lost both his legs just above the knee. The mutilated trunk looked like a piece of broken statuary. "Ein tolles Unternehmen" (a mad undertaking), said Von Heyking. I was reminded of Klopstock's "Ode to Hermann and Thusnelda" - "demanding the supreme effort of his sons, over thousands of young bodies shall his triumphal car roll on."

On that same night quite a few of our officers went out to try to make contact with other American units and never came back. Lieutenant Huni, a Swiss-German immigrant, was found dead the next morning not far away from the barn where we were all holed up; Lieutenant Peterson was likewise found dead nearby next morning. Lieutenant Nolle, a German-American, had the good fortune to be taken prisoner by the Germans. We were all pretty much huddled together in the barn, the "German legion" of the American army with their German prisoners of war. One of the "legion" present was Sergeant Werner Neu, a short, stocky - not to say fat, because he was very strong - German-Jewish refugee-immigrant. Neu had fled Germany in the mid-1930's to escape the concentration camp where most of his relatives were ultimately doomed to die. He had found haven in France, and although he was later forced to flee France in turn, he remained forever grateful for the hospitality and graciousness of his first host country. Whenever anyone shouted "Vive la France!" during our triumphal passage, Neu would unfailingly add: "- et les colonies!"

As the night wore on and the sounds of battle quieted we would hear the groaning and sobbing of the German wounded around us outside the barn. One of our prisoners was a German staff doctor. "Will somebody come out with me and help me bring in the wounded? May be I can do something for them," he said. It had to be one of the Americans, of course, because the doctor and a German helper might simply take the opportunity to escape. On the other hand an American volunteer would be running the risk of a ruse by the German doctor once they were outside in the dark. There were several more or less round rejections of the appeal. Then Neu said, "I'll go out with you," and out they went - the handsome, blond German doctor and the little (but very strong) German Jew who looked almost like a Nazi caricature of a Jew. They brought in four or five German wounded that night. Neu was a man of vast, apparently boundless, good humor. He had a fine tenor voice and he loved to sing German folk songs with anybody who would sing them with him. For himself he often sang a snatch of a song. It went:

Tschim-bara-bim-bam-beh! Na, denn vorwarts - fromm, diel und munter -
A kosher Jud geht niemals unter!
[Tum-tara-tum-tum tah! well, then, forward - true, pious, gay -
A kosher Jew will make his way.]

According to a Division album, Neu's residence was in Saint Louis. He was a butcher by profession. I assume he ran a kosher shop.

Although their military value was nil, the personal documents of the generals we had captured or killed were highly interesting. The dead major general's papers contained a number of family photographs from his home in Hildesheim, among them a picture of his daughter, who was either a beautiful girl or extremely photogenic. I resolved to go to Hildesheim as soon as I could and present her my compliments and condolences.


Rose, too, had his share of the vagaries that appertain to general rank. When one does the grand tour of Europe as a member of the headquarters of an armored division, one stays in the very best places - chateaus, castles, villas, and the like. Of course, there is some military sense to this; castles and chateau-forts are by definition strong points, fortified prominences of some sort. The best places also qualify by their size for the honor of being commandeered as the command post of a general; the shelter must be large enough to accommodate the party. Even so, generals gravitate to aristocrats because generals are themselves aristocrats in the most direct sense of the term. In wartime at least, generals do not get to the top and, above all, they do not stay at the top unless they belong there. Rose once put up for the night on the country estate of Baron de Rothschild in the north of France - and my, how the armored vehicles, the tanks, and assault guns churned up the grounds of the estate! What a mess we made of the front lawn! We put up with another baron - or rather baronne, as the Belgians call a baroness - in Namur. The baronne was very old but she had a very pretty granddaughter. The baronne also spoke excellent German (which made my task easier), having been educated at the court of some German prince or duke even before the founding of the Second Reich. She had met Bismarck and all three kaisers. She regaled me for hours with stories, historical tittle-tattle that was somehow boring and amusing at the same time.

Maurice Rose had the honor - and he certainly had the motivation - to lead the first Allied division into Germany in World War II. In our sector the retreating Germans did not have the time to man the Siegfried Line or even to lay mines in front of its fortifications. So we did "hang our washing on the Siegfried Line." The Third Armored Division simply rolled through the ghost fortifications and kept on rolling until it ran out of gas southeast of Aachen (where Charlemagne was crowned emperor and lies buried) in a small town called Kornelimunster. It was here I met my first German civilian on German soil, a six-year-old boy standing in the middle of the road. He looked hungry. I gave him a chocolate bar which he bolted. His mother came up and I bowed and greeted her: "Gnadige Frau" (a set form of greeting, literally "gracious lady"). She looked at me wide-eyed and said with emphasis: "Gnadiger Herr!" ("kind sir" or "merciful sir," not the set form of greeting, which is simply "mein Herr").


Once and only once, in November I think, we came under enemy artillery fire at Villa Waldfriede. It was a barrage consisting of some ten rounds laid down with great precision and so unexpected that it seemed like an act of God at the time. What had actually happened was obvious enough. We had been holding the line desultorily in Stolberg for more than six weeks. During this time information - perhaps nothing more complicated than a telephone call across the front line - on the exact location of division headquarters had passed into the hands of the German army. Some German artillery officers had consulted their grid maps, plotted trajectories, and sighted their guns. Thirteen of our men were wounded, two of them very badly.

After our own artillery had silenced the German guns with counter-barrages, the wounded who could still walk lined up outside the division surgeon's office for treatment. Rose came up and talked with them all until the last man had been treated by the surgeon. Then he stepped up and said, "All right, doc, now you can take care of me." No one had noticed it but Rose had taken shrapnel in both shoulders. They were light wounds that had not bled enough to show on the outside of his uniform. There was a good deal of discussion afterward as to whether Rose's waiting for the last man to be treated before going himself was done for effect - whether he was merely taking advantage of an opportunity to impress the troops. Notwithstanding the discussion, Rose's performance impressed everybody. On December 6, 1944, I was commissioned a second lieutenant in the field. I think I know from the transformation that overtook me with the granting of the commission how "your darling little general" felt when he finally received his general's commission. It was a watershed. After that nothing was ever the same - especially the food. As an officer I ate in the officer's mess. For me this was very important; cooks eat well and my memory was good.

But the biggest change was with the Germans; I was now "Herr Leutnant," whereas before they hadn't known what to call me. I wore no insignia of rank on the consideration that a military man who interrogated German generals would be better off if he could pose as or at least allow the inference that he was some sort of high-falutin specialist if not a commissar. I also had the pleasure, and my heart beat high with it, of having Rose walk over to shake hands with me. "Congratulations," he said, "your new unit's gain is our loss."

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