|Stalag VII A: Oral history
Robert D. Reeves
Part I: We Arrive at Stalag VII
Liberation!By Robert D. Reeves
One night at about 10:00, the guards came past our cars, unlocked them, opened all the doors, and then disappeared. We all got out and scurried to the nearby air raid shelter where we bolted and secured the door from the inside, not opening it for anyone unless he could speak good English and identify himself to our satisfaction. We had no desire to admit an angry German soldier with a gun who might shoot all of us. This was the first time we had ever been left alone and didn't know what the enemy had planned for us, if anything. We could hear that there was no firing or bombing taking place, which was as frightening to us as if there had been an air raid, because this sudden change might be bringing some kind of disaster.
We stayed put and speculated on these new circumstances all night and carefully emerged at dawn. We could hear heavy vehicle movement but couldn't see the source. Finally, as we slowly spread out from our shelter, some of us topped a ridge to discover a long-awaited sight. There, rumbling along the road were American tanks, topped with our GIs casually leaning against the turrets, smoking cigarettes. Munich had fallen to the United States military! You can imagine our jubilation to see our troops again - armed, battle-ready, and flying the American flag.
We were liberated that day, April 30, 1945 by the 42nd Rainbow Division of the United States Army. We surely must have been a sorry looking bunch of humanity. We were all in filthy clothing that had, in many cases, been given to us to replace our worn-out GI clothes. I, myself, was dressed in an old long blue overcoat and a French cap over my tattered Airborne jumpsuit, virtually the only clothes I owned.
We grouped again as a military unit and were housed in a nearby Munich apartment building at 222 Arnuf Street. U.S. troops had evicted the residents only moments before our arrival. Two of us were assigned to each apartment. The occupants had been moved out so quickly, we found coffee brewing on a lit stove when we entered the kitchen of the apartment. I made note of the name Pfister on the door of our quickly vacated apartment. In the short time we remained in Munich, we occasionally ventured out into the German civilian area. It seemed quite safe as U.S. Military Police were patrolling in their jeeps. It should come as no surprise that we didn't like the civilian railroad bosses who had given us such a rough time while we were on work details from Stalag VII-A. We would occasionally encounter some of these so-called bosses while we were walking around and get a little revenge. I suppose we were perceived as American bullies, since we would sometimes demand a cap, a belt, or even a watch, under threat of a beating. In my own defense, I helped out with the intimidation, but didn't acquire any of my souvenirs this way.
In the first week of May, we were flown to Camp Lucky Strike in France to prepare for our trip back to the states. Lucky Strike was no paradise, but it was a lot closer to heaven than what we had become accustomed to in Munich. We were given physicals and received long-overdue medical treatments for various wounds, infections, and ailments. We were each debriefed and, for the first time, were able to tell our stories to someone from the outside of prison walls. You would think we would have been anxious to get into town to do some celebrating, but we didn't leave Lucky Strike until it was time to board the ship to go home. Just being back in U.S. control was enough celebration for us!
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