Secrets and my Recollections of World War II - Bulge

Secrets and my Recollections of World War II

Gardner L. Friedlander 1990, 2000

Battle of the Bulge and into Germany

Company "B" units were a little less widespread. Two of my forward air control crews were attached to the Free French tank divisions on the south flank, near Strassbourg and the Colmar pocket near Switzerland. Others were all the way north to Luxembourg. I continued to spend little time near battalion headquarters, because the commanding officer was getting more intolerable the longer he was not promoted. He spent the bulk of his time working on theoretical "tables of organizations", which always had increases of troop numbers, and always had a full colonel (hopefully himself) at the head. Possibly once a month a new T/O went up the chain of command; all were rejected. He publicly announced there would be no promotions above the rank of sergeant until he himself received a promotion; that no decorations would be received within the battalion until he himself had that honor; and that no one would be rotated back to the U.S. before he returned. None happened, and he kept his word.

Living conditions were more tolerable, though. Again my headquarters was in a small school, and I had my own room. The "Red Ball Express" was delivering adequate supplies, and official word came down that any German supplies "liberated" could be used. That included copious quantities of wine and schnapps.

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Traveling still required caution. I spent New Year's Eve 1944 surrounded by Germans, with a division headquarters in (I believe) Zweibrucken, Germany, near Saarbrucken. This was during the "Battle of the Bulge" which started December 19th, and was a very confusing time. There were Germans in American uniforms, and road blocks were set up by every unit to detect them. I was stopped at one road block and asked, "Who won the World Series?". Not knowing was serious, but my interrogator had a cohort from Milwaukee, so I was able to convince them I was not one of the enemy. I was stopped a dozen times a day for several days on this trip, and decided to stay put at headquarters until the middle of January, when the enemy was pushed back and the lines stabilized.

Through the mail I found that my Dartmouth roommate and fraternity brother Bob Bramley was a staff signal officer with the 100th Infantry Division. When I saw that number come up on the position maps, I stopped to see him. They were at the Siegfried line, Germany's redoubt opposing the Maginot line. That night we had a party 50 feet underground in a bunker. When I awakened the next morning, the division had pulled out, and I next saw Bob a couple of years later in the U.S.

General Immell came to Nancy, and I again was asked to meet him for dinner. This time his only other guest was the actress Madeleine Carroll, with whom I immediately fell in love, but she had eyes only for the general. He was in charge of supplies for the area, and asked if I would become his aide. I accepted, but it was a couple of months before the order came through. Even with order to leave I had to confront my commanding officer with an ultimatum, a request to see the commanding general (his boss), after I had been declared irreplaceable. I was then relieved of my command, and allowed to go to my new assignment.

Milwaukee Journal - May 9, 1945.
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Letter to Family.
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(Click for transcript/image.)

Meanwhile, the Rhine barrier had been breached. I crossed at Mannheim/Ludwigshaven, which were so bombed that our bulldozers were making streets straight through the rubble to ease traffic congestion. I got as far into Germany as Heidelberg, although my headquarters was still near Nancy. While crossing the Main River in Heidelberg on a pontoon bridge I saw my first jet, a German fighter strafing the bridge. He missed.

After leaving the radar battalion I joined General Immell north of Heidelberg, where he had taken over a chateau and had relative luxury. My duties as one of his aides were almost nil, except to act as translator and body guard. The General was going to stay over as an administrator in the occupation, and asked me to join him. He would get me home for a few weeks as soon as possible, but wanted me back. Reluctantly I begged off. Nonetheless, he did arrange for me to return to the United States, the order coming perhaps ten days after I joined him.

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Gardner L. Friedlander 1990, 2000
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