12

Victory

On April 1, Colonel Sink alerted 2d Battalion that the regiment had received another defensive mission, this time along the Rhine River to assist in sealing the Ruhr “pocket.” Our job was to hold the west bank of the Rhine opposite Dusseldorf and the area south to Worringen, while General Omar Bradley’s armies encircled and pinched off the pocket to the east. Second Battalion’s sector extended from Sturzelberg on the north to Worringen on our south flank, where we linked up with the 82d Airborne Division. The 82d Division’s paratroopers’ area extended ten or twelve miles north and south of Cologne, from Worringen on the north to Bonn on the south. Both airborne divisions were basically occupation troops, sending only harassing patrols and artillery fire across the river, and receiving occasional artillery fire in return. This occupation duty continued until the pocket collapsed on April 18. In the interim, we patrolled across the Rhine, although not with the intensity that characterized our combat at Bastogne. Occupation duty also produced our first real contact with the native German population and with the problems associated with fraternization. Eisenhower’s Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force (SHAEF) was adamant on the point of no association between American GI’s and the German populace. With so many camps populated with displaced persons (DP) of various nationalities who had been brought into the Fatherland for slave labor, nonfraternization proved a pipe dream. None of our soldiers performed much manual labor since the DP did most of the menial tasks and irritating duties like KP associated with soldiering. The orders prohibiting personal contact were well-intentioned, but totally unrealistic, particularly to soldiers who had spent months on the line with no female contact. As battalion commander, I strove to enforce the regulation, but was never so naïve to think that my paratroopers didn’t develop innovative ways to circumvent SHAEF’s policy.

As we waited for the Germans encircled in the Ruhr pocket to capitulate, my battalion received orders to send a patrol across the Rhine. The area I selected lay directly across the river from Sturzelberg. This was the safest area in our sector. On the German side of the river, we had observed no activity and the farmland on the opposite shore was covered by an extensive orchard. Lieutenant Harry Welsh, Battalion S-2, was given the job of leading the patrol and I personally set the objectives and controlled the covering artillery concentrations as I accompanied the patrol step by step up the east bank of the river toward the industrial center of Benrath. Welsh was thoroughly disgusted with the safety limits I purposely imposed on the patrol, but I had no intention of losing any more soldiers. Actually we went through the motions of a combat patrol, found nothing, and everybody returned safely. The most dangerous part of the patrol was crossing the Rhine and returning since the river was 350 yards wide and flowing very swiftly.

I also toured a small town named Zons on our side of the river. Zons was a typical German village, founded in the early fifteenth century. All of the buildings, the castle, and walls were constructed of stone, and a moat surrounded the castle. I wondered how many times this town had been under attack over the past 550 years. After all the destruction that I had witnessed, I was elated that Zons had not been destroyed by the air corps or by artillery fire. In contrast to the small villages that dotted the German countryside, Allied bombers had obliterated the large cities like Cologne. Months of bombardment left only a few houses standing in the entire city. Much of the population fled to the countryside and the few who remained in the large urban areas wandered around in the rubble in search of food and personal possessions. Cities that I had read about in travel journals when I was young simply no longer existed. During the early stages of the war, German residents could scarcely imagine how terrible war could be. They now appreciated the horrors of modern warfare as they witnessed their own cities crumble around them.

In the countryside the Germans fared far better than their urban counterparts and much better than the inhabitants in the countries in which we had fought since D-Day. The rural Germans weren’t hurting for much during this war, but who would expect them to with France, Poland, and a handful of other countries supplying them with silk stockings, raw materials, and other amenities. What a contrast to the English, who rationed virtually every commodity since early in the war. In my estimation, the people in Germany had not suffered nearly as much as our newspapers had led us to believe. German towns and villages were really something to behold. I never had seen anything like them in England, France, or Belgium. On the whole, military duty in Germany wasn’t half bad. The battalion moved into a town, picked the best house, told the folks, “I’ll give you a reasonable time to move—fifteen minutes. Leave the beds, silverware, and cooking utensils.” At the end of the reasonable length of time, 2d Battalion had a nice command post and if time permitted a good meal, bed, and bath. What a great way to fight a war! Occupation duty was much better than Normandy, Holland, or Bastogne, where we lived in foxholes most of the time. Now that we were playing ball in their backyard, a fellow gained a degree of satisfaction in knowing that these people were going to pay for bringing on the war. They knew it, too. After seeing what others had endured at the hands of German occupiers, I was hardly sympathetic to the plight of the German people.

On April 10, the majority of the battalion received a seven-day furlough to Nice, France. While they enjoyed the amenities of the French countryside, the 506th continued sending out periodic patrols. On one of these patrols, Lieutenant Purdue from Fox Company was wounded by a booby trap and was immediately evacuated. That same day, Major William Leach, 506th Regimental S-2, led his first combat patrol. In preparation for the patrol, Leach persuaded my friend Sergeant Al Krochka, a photographer from division headquarters, to fly a small Piper cub over the Rhine for photos of a suspected machine gun emplacement. The plane was hit and Krochka was wounded in the arm by fire from the machine gun. That night, Major Leach and four men attempted to cross the river. Unfortunately they failed to notify Friendly forces that they would be crossing the Rhine. Midstream, Leach and his patrol were fired upon by an American machine gun crew and all were killed. Their bodies were recovered on April 18 in front of Fox Company’s position at Sturzelberg.

Leach was a good staff officer who made his way up the ladder of success on the strength of his personality and social expertise. During the crunch times—this Ruhr pocket duty was nothing more than police duty—Leach had never led a patrol. Like Lieutenant Hank Jones at Haguenau, he had not yet earned a battlefield decoration, and like Jones, Major Leach planned to make the army a career. Jones survived his initial brush with combat and was immediately transferred out of the company, but Leach was not as fortunate. The common feeling after his death was that this was a foolish patrol, and that Leach was on an “ego trip,” trying to earn a stupid decoration. In the process he got his entire patrol killed. Six days later, German resistance in the Ruhr pocket came to an end when 325,000 German soldiers surrendered on April 18. This was the largest bag of enemy prisoners in the war to date.

By mid-April, the war in Western Europe neared a rapid conclusion. Even the Germans realized that the war was over. They battled on only because they were professional soldiers. As we prepared for the final push, the battalion received word that President Roosevelt had died on April 12. Roosevelt was more than a fixture in our lives. He was the only president most of us could remember. Every American soldier in the U.S. Army held the commander-in-chief in utmost respect. Few were familiar with his successor, Harry S. Truman, but none doubted that the new president would see the war to a successful conclusion. By General Eisenhower’s orders, each command conducted a simple memorial service for our fallen commander-in-chief. In the interim, 2d Battalion received badly needed supplies. April 19 marked an important day as each paratrooper received a new pair of socks, three bottles of Coca-Cola, and two bottles of beer. Life now was a far cry from what the men had experienced at Bastogne and Haguenau. For the most part the farther that we traveled into Germany, the better we lived. One trooper noted that for the past month, he had never eaten better, kept cleaner, or slept in more comfortable beds than at any other time in the twenty months that he had been overseas. Rations also improved. Instead of eating K-rations, the men enjoyed fresh eggs for breakfast six days in a row. Staff Sergeant Robert Smith joked that if living conditions continued like this for the remainder of the war, he “might sign up to be a thirty-year man.” On careful reflection, he then wrote, “What am I saying? Someone must have jabbed a morphine needle in me.”

Three days later, the entire 101st Airborne Division was en route to Bavaria as Allied headquarters attached the division to Lieutenant General Alexander Patch’s Seventh (U.S.) Army in southern Germany in its advance to secure Hitler’s “Alpine Redoubt.” Whether Hitler ever intended to fortify the Bavarian Alps was anyone’s guess, but Eisenhower wasn’t taking any chances. We left our defensive positions along the Rhine and boarded 40' x 8' (cars designed to carry either forty men or eight horses) railroad cars. Supply also issued five K-rations per man. Due to the conditions of the German railroad system at the time, the rail convoy trip of 145 miles traversed four countries: Holland, Belgium, Luxembourg, and France to reach Widden, Germany. On April 25, we switched modes of transportation and climbed aboard big, amphibious vehicles called DUKWs: D (1942), U (amphibian), K (all-wheel drive), W (dual-rear axles) to carry us to the vicinity of Miesbach southeast of Munich. We traveled through the German countryside, continuing our journey through Mannheim and Heidelberg until we reached Ulm. At Ulm astride the Danube River, we stopped to gas the DUKWs and then proceeded to Buchloe, which lay at the foothills of the Bavarian Alps. There we halted for the night because once again the convoy was low on fuel. Our standard operating procedure was to dispatch reconnaissance patrols whenever we halted. Earlier in the day, Frank Perconte, one of the original Toccoa men from Easy Company, reported that he and his patrol had discovered a German concentration camp. The 10th Armored Division had entered Landsberg the previous day and had also come across several concentration camps in the Landsberg-Buchloe area. Later we discovered Hitler had constructed six large “work camps” in the vicinity.

By now the men and I were seasoned combat veterans, but the sights we witnessed when we arrived at the camp defied description. The horror of what we observed remains with each paratrooper to this day. You could not explain it; you could not describe it; and you could not exaggerate it. It did not take long to realize that the Nazis were intent on eliminating all the Jews, gypsies, and anyone who disagreed with Hitler’s regime. The memory of starved, dazed men who dropped their eyes and heads when we looked at them through the chain-link fence, in the same manner that a beaten, mistreated dog would cringe, left a mark on all of us forever. Nor could you underestimate the barbarity of the Nazi regime, even during the latter stages of the war. I immediately directed Nixon to take all the local inhabitants to clean up the camp, including the crematorium and the burial pits.

As I went through the war, it was natural to ask myself, Why am I here? Why am I putting up with the freezing cold, the constant rain, and the loss of so many comrades? Does anybody care? A soldier faces death on a daily basis and his life is one of misery and deprivation. He is cold; he suffers from hunger, frequently bordering on starvation. The impact of seeing those people behind that fence left me saying, if only to myself, Now I know why I am here! For the first time I understand what this war is all about.

That night, I selected a large home in Buchloe for my battalion headquarters. In the cellar and in the adjoining buildings, we discovered stacks and stacks of huge wheels of cheese. I did not know if the Germans had a factory in the village or not, but I knew what had to be done. We immediately distributed cheese to the internees at the camp and to our troops. I then radioed our problem of the concentration camp to regiment and requested help. Within hours Major Louis Kent, the brigade medical officer, arrived and cautioned us against overfeeding the former inmates. Under his supervision, we halted the distribution of the cheese because the ingestion of so many calories would have produced a detrimental effect on the emaciated prisoners. A more difficult task was forcing the liberated internees to return to the camp so that medical personnel could care for them.

In spite of the horror associated with our initial contact with the Holocaust, it is difficult to exaggerate the natural beauty of the Bavarian countryside. Spring flowers covered verdant fields watered by crystal-clear mountain brooks. One Easy Company trooper, Staff Sergeant Robert T. Smith, couldn’t believe “that he had ever seen countryside so nice to look at as here in Germany . . . since they prohibit the lining of the roadways with signboards and such. When we ride down a highway you can take in all the scenery instead of having to read all about ‘Burma-shave.’ ” The most beautiful region in Germany heralded the coming spring. It was an enchanting time, watching Hitler’s Third Reich crumble before our eyes.

Munich fell to the Seventh Army on April 30, prompting congratulations from SHAEF for the destruction of “the cradle of the Nazi beast.” The 101st Airborne Division, however, sought a bigger prize—the capture of Hitler’s Alpine retreat of Berchtesgaden. On May 3, 2d Battalion was located at Thalham, Germany. The past few days had been spent moving through streams of German soldiers, who were slowly walking toward Munich, or just lying along the sides of the autobahn. Once in a while we encountered scattered rifle shots, a token resistance by a dying regime. At other times there were more German soldiers with weapons marching north than there were 506th paratroopers heading south. Literally thousands of Germans choked the autobahns as we raced into Bavaria. American and German soldiers exchanged glances with great curiosity. I am sure both armies shared one thought—just let me alone. All I want is to get this war over and go home. That night we received the word that at 0930 the next morning, we would be moving out to seize Berchtesgaden. Regiment directed us to draw additional ammo and rations.

Bright and early on May 4, the convoy started down the German autobahn toward Salzburg. We passed Rosenheim and the Chiem-See to Siegsdorf, a distance of forty miles from Thalham. At Siegsdorf, we turned right on Route 30, the direct route to Berchtesgaden. About eight miles down the road we ran into the stalled French 2d Armored Division under General Jacques Philippe de Leclerc. This outfit had supposedly been on our right flank for the past week, but we had not been able to maintain contact with them. They had been there, and then they would disappear. We had a gut feeling that they were looting their way through Germany, but we had no proof. Here the convoy halted because the Germans had destroyed another bridge over a deep ravine. Moreover, the enemy covered that blown-out bridge and the ravine from the sides of the mountains with plunging fire from their machine guns. Under these circumstances, Colonel Sink could not move the regiment’s bridging equipment into position. Up front the French exchanged long-distance fire with the Germans, but since the enemy was out of range of the machine guns, nobody was hurt on either side.

The 101st had been briefed on the new 57mm and 75mm recoilless rifles while we were back in Mourmelon. While at Thalham, we were issued four 75mm recoilless rifles. This morning 2d Battalion had our first opportunity to employ them on a long-range target. While this firing was going on, the French 2d Armored Division and the 506th PIR headquarters staffs assembled in one group and enjoyed a rare meeting under combat conditions where there was no pressure. It was a festive mood, a time for international fellowship. Before too long, I grew bored with this party and I approached Colonel Sink to request permission to dispatch a platoon to outflank the German roadblock. His answer was correct for this stage of the war: “No, I don’t want anybody to get hurt.”

Later he reconsidered and ordered me, “Take 2d Battalion back to the autobahn and see if you can outflank this roadblock and get to Berchtesgaden.” We immediately backtracked to the highway and went down to Bad Reichenhall, only to be halted by another blown bridge. Consequently, we had to stop by the roadside that evening, still thirty-five kilometers from our objective. Standard operating procedures dictated that all squads were to be quartered in houses, so the men enjoyed a restful night. Early the next morning, we resumed our march and by 1230 we entered Berchtesgaden.

Berchtesgaden was a town unlike any that we had encountered in Germany. Set against the Bavarian Alps, the town had served as a magnet for Nazi officialdom ever since Hitler had constructed a home called the Berghof in the vicinity. His villa contained a large picture window from which he could look into Germany and neighboring Austria. Overlooking the Austrian city of Salzburg, the last home of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, was the Obersalzburg, a mountain that was the site of Hitler’s personal chalet, the homes of most senior-ranking Nazi officials, and an SS barracks. The residences of the German officials were located along the hillside, widely spaced so that each home enjoyed the luxury of privacy. All homes were well constructed and elaborately furnished. Five miles from the Berghof was Hitler’s private diplomatic house, a mountain retreat called the Adlerhorst (Eagle’s Nest), atop the Kehlstein. It had been designed by Hitler’s henchman Martin Bormann as a present for Hitler’s fiftieth birthday. Bormann used over 3,500 laborers to construct the Eagle’s Nest before it was finished in summer 1938. The views from glassed-in circular hall and the adjacent veranda were some of the most picturesque in all of Germany.

My only orders from Colonel Sink were to put a guard on the Berchtesgaden Hof “because Division wants to make this their headquarters.” Naturally, the first place I headed when we reached the center of town was the Berchtesgaden Hof. Accompanying me was Lieutenant Harry Welsh, my S-2. As we entered the front door, we could see the hotel’s staff disappear around the corner. We walked into the main dining room where we encountered one very brave waiter gathering a very large set of silverware in a velvet-lined case. The case must have been four feet long. Obviously, he was preparing to hide this last set of silverware, but he was just a little late in getting the job done. Harry and I simply walked toward the man. There was no need for orders; he took off. I glanced at the silverware and thought to myself, Hell, this is more than I can carry in my musette bag. So, I said to Harry, “Why don’t we split the set?” He agreed, so we divided the set right down the middle. Today we are both still using the silverware from the Berchtesgaden Hof in our homes. I then placed a double guard on the Berchtesgaden Hof to prevent further looting. When regiment and division headquarters arrived, they finished the job, looting everything of value that remained—what a fool I had been not to complete the job with 2d Battalion. I also placed additional guards on various strategic points around the town, at the ammunition dump, the railroad tunnel, the P.O.W. enclosure and Hermann Goering’s house. We moved into Berchtesgaden so fast and had taken over the hotel, the key buildings, and the homes for billeting so quickly, that if there were any serious problems or resistance from the German soldiers or civilians, I was not aware of them.

Now that we were in Der Fuhrer’s backyard, we simply seized what we wanted. I selected a private home on the outskirts of Berchtesgaden for my battalion headquarters. The surrounding homes were taken over by the companies, one home per platoon. Seizing German property was a simple matter. Take for example, the house that served as my battalion command post. I told Lieutenant Cowing, my logistics officer, that I wanted this particular house as my CP. “Tell the people they have fifteen minutes to move out.” Cowing was a replacement officer who had joined us at Haguenau. He was a very nice, polite, and efficient officer, who had never been hardened by battle. In a few minutes, he returned to report, “The people said no. They will not move out.”

“Follow me,” I said. I went to the front door, followed by the rest of the battalion staff. I knocked and when the lady answered, I simply announced, “We are moving in. Now!”

We did, and the family disappeared. Where they went, I don’t know, but there was no further problem.

Did I feel guilty about this? Did my conscience bother me about taking over this beautiful home? No! We had been living in foxholes in Normandy; we had been in the mud at Holland; and we had suffered in the freezing cold at Bastogne. Just a few days earlier I had seen a concentration camp not 100 miles from here. These people were the reason for all this suffering. I felt no sympathy for their problems. I did not feel that I owed them an explanation. This is about the way I think it went as each of the platoons took over a home and got themselves settled throughout the community. Billeting the troops—no problem whatsoever!

How did the troops react to the liberation of Berchtesgaden? You could see the smiles on their faces. They simply enjoyed themselves; they were at peace with the world. There was no breakdown in organization. We maintained our guards on the key points in order to pro- tect vital installations. Mostly, the 506th PIR relaxed and simply enjoyed a little sight-seeing. We confiscated a wide assortment of German cars, and we seized a lot of German army trucks. We were in total control of the situation and of ourselves.

While conducting a private reconnaissance on May 6, I found my way to Goering’s private compound, including a set of officers’ quarters and club. It was rather foolish to be walking around, exploring by myself, at this stage of the game, but I felt no danger. I found a dead German general in full dress uniform in Goering’s private quarters. In his hand was a Luger. He had committed suicide, putting a bullet through his head. Later, I learned that corpse was General Kastner.

Just as I exited the dining room of the officers’ club, I noticed another door in the corner of the room. Somewhat apprehensively, I walked down a stone staircase, which led to a darkened basement. Lord, I had never seen anything like it before. This high room, about fifty feet long and thirty feet wide, contained rack upon rack of liquor, wines, champagne, all the way to the ten-foot-high ceiling. Brand names covered virtually every wine-producing region in the world. A conservative estimate was that the wine cellar housed nearly 10,000 bottles of the world’s finest liquor. I deemed it prudent to put a double guard on the officers’ club, especially the wine cellar.

Captain Nixon was always my finest combat officer. My only problem with Nixon was keeping him sober. That afternoon I told him, “Nix, you sober up and I’ll show you something you have never seen before in your life.” Then I promptly forgot about the wine cellar. There were too many other important points and places to cover. It was obvious that the excessive drinking could get out of hand, so I issued an order—everybody on the wagon for seven days. Now, I was no fool, and I didn’t expect an order like that to be carried out 100 percent. But the message was clear—keep the situation under control. I didn’t want a drunken brawl.

The following morning a sober Nixon approached me and asked, “What was that you said yesterday that you were going to show me?”

“Follow me,” I responded.

We then took a jeep and drove directly to Goering’s officers’ club. Nixon thought that he had died and gone to heaven. I told him, “This is yours. Take what you want, then have each company and battalion headquarters bring around a truck and take a truckload. You are in charge.” I have of picture of Nixon with his stash of liquor next to his bed as he awoke on VE-Day as proof that he did a good job in distributing the liquor, but only after he collected his personal spoils of war.

Private David Kenyon Webster penned a different account of Goering’s wine cellar. Webster was shocked to find that “Hitler’s champagne in the cellar was new and mediocre, no Napoleon brandy, no fine liqueurs.” Webster was a Harvard man, a self-styled connoisseur of liquors. So was Nixon, who prided himself on being a Yale man. Before Webster reached the wine cellar, Nixon had already absconded with his personal booty and supervised the distribution of five truckloads for the troops. Once the troops had their share of the liquor, Nixon lifted the guards. On this occasion the Yale man pulled rank on the Harvard boy. Small wonder that Webster was disappointed in what remained. Nixon would have been first to attest that in the army, rank still had its privileges.

Another of my favorite memories of Berchtesgaden is that of 1st Sergeant Floyd Talbert on the hood of one of Hitler’s staff cars, a Mercedes-Benz. The men found eight or nine of those cars around Berchtesgaden. I know that Captain Speirs commandeered one. The windows were supposed to be bulletproof. When we received orders on VE-Day that we were to leave for Zell-am-See, Sink’s headquarters issued orders that we must leave the cars behind for 101st Airborne Division senior officers. Until that time, nobody in headquarters had the nerve to commandeer the cars from the men who had found them. From what I understand, that last day some of the cars ran off cliffs. Nobody was injured for no one was in the cars at the time of the “accidents.” Talbert later reported to me that the windows on the cars really were bulletproof, but if you used armor-piercing ammunition that would get the job done. This was very interesting. You never knew when you might need this kind of information.

Other places of interest in Berchtesgaden were Hitler’s Eagle Nest and Konig-See. To reach the Eagle’s Nest, troops had to climb a spiraling road that Hitler’s engineers had constructed up the sheer mountainside. The Eagle’s Nest had been constructed at a height of nearly 2,000 meters above the valley floor, some 800 meters higher than Hitler’s private residence at the Berghof. Hitler himself was not fond of the Eagle’s Nest and rarely went there except to impress foreign diplomats because at that height, the air was very thin and bad for his blood pressure. I assigned Easy Company the mission of securing the Eagle’s Nest, where Alton More discovered two of Hitler’s private photograph albums. More confiscated the albums, keeping the books hidden when a French officer, supposedly speaking on behalf of a high-ranking French general, demanded that More turn over the albums. In Kaprun he slept on the books and guarded them constantly. When an American officer threatened to court-martial More if he didn’t relinquish the photograph albums, I solved the problem by transferring More from Easy Company to Headquarters Company, where he served as my driver and where I protected him until he returned to the States with his treasured souvenirs. After the war, Alton More died tragically in a 1958 automobile accident.

Berchtesgaden remained full of surprises. In addition to the chalets around the Konig-See, Nixon and I came across a group of German civilians guarding several railroad cars. They were a pathetic-looking group, but something about that scene told us to use common sense and leave them alone. We understood later that the cars contained a cache of artwork, which was later taken over by division.

In recent years, controversy has surrounded the identity as to which unit captured Berchtesgaden. Was it the French 2d Armored Division, the 7th Infantry Regiment’s “Cottonbalers” of the U.S. 3d Infantry Division, or Sink’s paratroopers from the 506th PIR? Major General John W. “Iron Mike” O’Daniel’s 3d Infantry Division certainly seized neighboring Salzburg without opposition and may have had their lead elements enter Berchtesgaden before we arrived in force, but let the facts speak for themselves. If the 3d Division was first into Berchtesgaden, where did they go? Berchtesgaden is a relatively small community. When I walked into the Berchtesgaden Hof with Lieutenant Welsh, neither of us saw anyone except the hotel staff. Goering’s officers’ club and wine cellar certainly would have drawn the attention of a Frenchman from LeClerc’s 2d Armored Division or a rifleman from the 3d Division. I find it inconceivable to imagine that if the 3d Division were there first, they left those beautiful Mercedes staff cars untouched for our men. Regimental and divisional histories provide contradictory accounts. In Rendezvous with Destiny, the 101st Airborne Division’s official history, the 506th PIR are latecomers, but I assure you, members of 2d Battalion have different memories and photographs to prove that we didn’t do too badly in getting our share of the loot at Berchtesgaden during the final days of the European war.

World War II ended about as gloriously as I had ever hoped. Berchtesgaden was really the heart of Germany, not Berlin, and it was quite an honor to be in on the final drama. Reich Marshal Goering, Field Marshal Albert Kesselring, generals by the dozen, and Germans by the thousands hurried to surrender and escape capture by the Russians. I had never seen anything like it, nor could I have imagined it. The enemy was backed up right into the mountains with no place to go. Then they threw in the towel and started coming out of the hills. Days before the final surrender, everyone knew it was over. Thank God, there just wasn’t any fighting!

It was at Berchtesgaden on May 6 that the 506th PIR received the following communiqué from division headquarters: “Effective immediately all troops will stand fast on present positions. German Army Group G in this sector has surrendered. No firing on Germans unless fired upon. Full details, to be broadcast, will be issued by SHAEF.” For all intents, combat operations ceased with the receipt of this message. At 0241 hours, local time, May 7, General Eisenhower received the unconditional surrender of Germany at his headquarters at Reims. The Nazi surrender became effective at midnight. Word of the German capitulation immediately filtered down the echelons of command to my headquarters. VE-Day was officially proclaimed on May 8. Outside my command post, the sun climbed into a clear sky over Berchtesgaden. It was D-Day plus 335. The war in Europe was finally over.

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