Posts Tagged ‘Germany’

Seventy years ago today, the Germans surrendered and WWII was over. The men of the 111th had been anticipating the announcement for at least a week. When word finally came, the men celebrated in a big — and rather dangerous — way.

Sgt. Frank Sossi, the company clerk, wrote in his monthly report for May 1945, “It was extremely annoying to have to move 194 miles south southwest from Salzwedel to Freidrichorst [an area of Neubeckum, northwest of Dortmund] on the 6th of May, because we couldn’t keep our ears glued to the radio for a whole day.” Their quarters were a cement works. “By 7 May it was quite apparent that the war was over. After being on the continent for 9 months, and during that time only 31 men and 1 officer out of the whole company receiving official rest passes, the company was really ready to let go in an all-out celebration. The men couldn’t wait any longer for the official announcement of cessation of hostilities [the next day] so they broke out the 50 gallons of whiskey that had been acquired for the occasion and started celebrating on 7 May, the night before official VE Day. It will be an occasion the men of this organization shall never forget.”

Well, it seems there was a story behind that “whiskey” Sgt. Sossi referred to. Here is Lt. Fred Kent’s account: “Finally, word reached us on May 7th that Germany had surrendered. To commemorate the occasion, Captain Brooks asked me to comb the countryside to obtain alcoholic beverages with which the men could properly celebrate….I finally located a distillery where I procured what appeared to be around a ten-gallon barrel of pure grain alcohol. After returning to the company with this precious cargo, I repaired to where the kitchen was set up in the cement factory and instructed the cooks to mix the alcohol with an equal amount of water and to add to it some caramelized sugar to give the mixture some color and flavor.

“Word of the availability of this libation spread quickly, and in no time the men were lined up with their canteen cups to partake of this deadly brew. In reminiscing on this event, I’m certain that God must have been watching over us, for that must have been the most dangerous day of our company’s wartime experience. The men were absolutely inebriated, but in their exuberance to celebrate—by firing their rifles in the air—they were incapable of raising their weapons to a trajectory higher than the horizontal, with the consequence of bullets flying all over the place.

“Poor Stan Errington was O.D. [officer of the day], and no sooner had he succeeded in quieting one group of men when suddenly there would be an eruption of small arms fire and flares in another area. It wasn’t until the small hours of the night that he was finally able to establish tranquillity, but by that time I think he was on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Thus ended VE Day.”

Lt. Witt described that night: “[It] proved to be one of our gayest, and I grant you the drunkest, of our whole time in the Army. It was unbelievable…..”

Sgt. Roland Unangst wrote later: “That night we used a confiscated wind-up record player and a bunch of German records (‘Roll Out the Barrel’). It was a good tune. Lord, we were happy it was over.”

Addendum: Right after I published the above, one of the surviving members of the 111th, John Raisler wrote in and gave his account of that day in 1945:

GOOD MORNING, LOT OF MEMORIES THAT DAY, IT WAS A WILD ONE AND THAT’S FOR SURE….KNOWING THAT THE OFFICIAL DAY WAS NEAR, JOE (Sedlacek), DELA (Leo DeLaGarza) AND I CRUISED THE OLD BATTLEFIELDS AND CAME BACK WITH OUR TRUCK FULL OF FLARES AND FLARE GUNS…… NOW THE TIME OF DAY, I’M NOT TOO SURE, BUT A JEEP WITH A COLONEL RIDING UP FRONT, DROVE UP, FOLLOWED BY A GI TRUCK. ON THE TAILGATE SAT A 5 GALLEON KEG OF WHISKEY. THE TROOPS GATHERED QUICKLY, AND LISTENED TO THE OFFICIAL ANNOUNCEMENT OF THE END OF THE WAR. THEN BEING BIG-HEARTED HE GAVE US THE KEG, AND A ‘WELL-DONE BOYS’…WHEN HE LEFT FOR THE NEXT OUTFIT.HE WAS SENT OFF IN A BARRAGE OF COLORED FLARES. THE PARTY HAD BEGUN. NOW WE WOULD HAVE TO WAIT AND SEE WHEN WE WOULD HEAD HOME…IT WASN’T TOO LONG AND MOST OF US WERE BACK HOME IN A FEW MONTHS…..THE WHOLE WAR WAS AN GRAND EXPERIENCE, BUT I ASSURE YOU, ONCE IS ENOUGH…..RECOLLECTIONS VARY, BUT BASICALLY SOSSI’S ACCOUNT WAS CLOSE TO BEING WHAT WE ALL FELT ………AN OLD VET…JOHN R.

A couple of weeks ago, Ed decided to try one last time to find family members of the men. He located what he believed to be about five more sons, daughters, nieces, or nephews and sent out letters. So far, we have heard back from two: a nephew of James Grappo, who was from Ohio and died in 2003; and the daughter of Stanley Carlson: Cathy Jacobson, from Minnesota. After hearing from Ed, Cathy found her father’s photo album and sent us many good photos. As usual, her dad, like all our dads, failed to write names on the backs of most of them, so if you recognize a face, please do let us know (remember you can click on any image to enlarge it).

Stanley Carlson and buddy, Camp Shilo, Canada, February 1943

Stanley Carlson and buddy, Camp Shilo, Canada, February 1943

 

Supply section warehouse and office crew, Camp Shilo, Feb 1943

Supply section warehouse and office crew Camp Shilo Feb 1943

 

 

Stanley Carlson, leaving home in 1943

Stanley Carlson, leaving home in 1943

Carlson joined the unit in November 1942, just in time to enjoy winter in Canada with the unit. Perhaps being from Minnesota, his experience wasn’t the shock it was to all the Texas boys. He served the rest of the war with the 111th’s Supply Section, leaving Germany with the last group in late fall of 1945.

 

The photo below of Stanley greeting his wife upon his return home is a classic!

Carlson and wife, Lolly, reuniting, late 1945

Carlson and wife, Lolly, reuniting, late 1945

 

Unangst on left and Carlson in  Germany Feb 1945

Unangst on left and Carlson in Germany, Feb 1945

Unangst and Carlson on bike built for two Germany probably

Unangst and Carlson on bike built for two, Germany probably

We did immediately recognize one familiar face: Roland Unangst’s!

 

 

We had a nice phone chat with Cathy the other day. She said her dad–again, like most of the others–never talked much about the war. After coming home, he started a printing company that became quite successful, and one of her brothers runs it now. Stanley went to work at his business every day until he died in 2012 at the age of 94.Center man is Stanley Carlson in front of church Stanley Carlon on right Fort Dix possibly Carlson on right perhaps Fort Dix Carlson in center standing others unknown Fort Dix maybe Reichelsheim, Germany train station 1945

 

Last week we heard from the son and daughter-in-law of 111th Sergeant Frank Sossi: Phyllis and Frank Sossi, Jr. The other day, Frank Jr., opened up an old trunk of his dad’s and unearthed a treasure–a set of copies of the unit’s monthly history reports from January 1944 (when they were in Wales, UK) until the end of the war in May 1945 in Germany, covering almost all of the 111th’s time in Europe. Ed and I had searched but never could find the unit’s monthly reports in military archives, so we are quite excited to have them at last. They are a terrific supplement to the memoirs of Perry Witt and Roland Unangst, which we published on this site earlier. Thanks, Frank and Phyllis!

You will find images of each month’s report at the top of the home page, right next to the little box that says “HOME.”

Frank and Phyllis also sent us more photos. Remember, you can click on a photo to enlarge it:

Frank Sossi in Brake, Germany, summer 1945, giving Hildegard Schirmbeck a piggyback ride

Frank Sossi in Brake, Germany, summer 1945, giving Hildegard Schirmbeck a piggyback ride

Frank Sossi, Alsdorf, Germany, 1945

Frank Sossi, Alsdorf, Germany, 1945

Service section, right to left, Goessel, Cole, Hendon, Gardner, Apple, Dowling, Beckhusen, July 1944

Service section, right to left, Goessel, Cole, Hendon, Gardner, Apple, Dowling, Beckhusen, July 1944

Curt Vosz, Dragon's Teeth outside Aachen, Germany, Nov. 1944

Curt Vosz, Dragon’s Teeth outside Aachen, Germany, Nov. 1944

Matt Ottea, Maastricht, Oct. 1944

Matt Ottea, Maastricht, Oct. 1944

George Legg in Paris Aug 1944

George Legg in Paris Aug 1944

Bodiford, Driscoll, Ottea on VJ Day, Brake, Germany, August 1945

Bodiford, Driscoll, Ottea on VJ Day, Brake, Germany, August 1945

John Andrews and Pinky Johnson, Luchow, Germany, near Salzwedal, April 1945

John Andrews and Pinky Johnson, Dannenberg, Germany, near Salzwedal, April 1945

Lynn Adams and Alvin Hamburger, March 1945 in Germany

Lynn Adams and Alvin Hamburger, March 1945 in Germany

Matt Ottea, Alsdorf, Germany, March 1945

Matt Ottea, Alsdorf, Germany, March 1945

Walter Bradley next 88mm overlooking autobahn, April 1945

Walter Bradley next 88mm overlooking autobahn, April 1945

Walter Bradley in Flak Valley, Germany, April 1945

Walter Bradley in Flak Valley, Germany, April 1945

Murvel Saucier, Chiene, April 1945

Murvel Saucier, Chiene, April 1945

Loy Knasel, Alsdorf, Germany, March 1945

Loy Knasel, Alsdorf, Germany, March 1945

Cleveland Roy, working in the mud, Heerlen, Holland Feb 1945

Cleveland Roy, working in the mud, Heerlen, Holland Feb 1945

Andrew Schultz and Ray Buggert, Alsdorf, Germany Feb 1945

Andrew Schultz and Ray Buggert, Alsdorf, Germany Feb 1945

Pinky Johnson and Frank Sossi, in Paris, Aug. 1945

Pinky Johnson and Frank Sossi, in Paris, Aug. 1944

Hubert Mathis, Maastricht, 1944

Hubert Mathis, Maastricht, 1944

 

We received a packet of about 60 photos in the mail the other day from 111th surviving member John Raisler. John is 93 and lives in Florida; he is originally from Clarendon Hills, Illinois. We have enjoyed talking to him many times since the blog began–he was our first “find,” although it must be said that he found us back in November when he asked his granddaughter to Google “111th Ordnance Company.”

John Raisler in Hawaii a few years ago

John Raisler in Hawaii a few years ago

Last week, John enjoyed a great conversation with his former commanding officer, Art Brooks.  Art told John that he didn’t have to call him “Captain” any more. They talked about their Normandy landing experiences, and although they were in different LCTs, they had very similar experiences. Raisler recalls how Brooks described how “he checked the water depth, it was too deep, so they moved and then came in, where he was the first jeep off [with another of the 111th survivors as his driver, Roger Rickon] with no trouble. My experience was very similar. First we were too deep so we moved, and my assistant and I went off into the water that was too deep for a jeep, but we floated long enough for the churning wheels to get caught [in the sand] and we pulled right out. The MPs guided us to a large field, where we all assembled. Then we moved to Cerisy Forest. I think we were all there until St. Lo opened up.”

Several of the photos were taken in October 1945, as a group of about 15 of the 111th headed to LeHavre, France, for the ship journey home to the States. John says he will always remember the date he got home: October 17, 1945. He married the girl who waited four years for him exactly one month to the day later.

Aboard the LCT headed toward Omaha. John R was on lead boat

Aboard the LCT headed toward Omaha Beach, Normandy. John Raisler was on the lead boat.

Here are some of the photos; thankfully, John wrote names and places on the backs so we know who and where they are. We will  also place them on the “photos” pages at the top of the blog.

Pyaday at Canp Shiloh, Canada: L to R: First Sgt. Mayo,  Sgt. Nelson, Lt. Brooks, Cpt. Malsberry

Payday at Canp Shiloh, Canada: L to R: First Sgt. Mayo, Sgt. Nelson, Lt. Brooks, Cpt. Malsbury

Going home. sign at port in Le Havre, France

Going home sign at port in Le Havre, France

Going home, convoy break on way to port

Going home, October 1945, convoy break on way to port

John Raisler at German pub

John Raisler at German pub

John Raisler  Apt in Fridenhorst, Germany, last stop on way home

John Raisler at their apartment in Fridenhorst, Germany, last stop on way home

Just before crossing Rhine, Driver Matt Ottea, Ass't Frank Sossi, backseat L- Sedlacek, R -  Raisler, standing 1Sgt Mayo and company clerk

Just before crossing Rhine, driver Matt Ottea, Ass’t Frank Sossi, backseat L- Sedlacek, R – Raisler, standing First Sgt Mayo and company clerk

Gun is German 88, L to R Raisler, Goerges (section chief), Lt from 83rd Div, We fired against Germans with this gun, Along the Rhine

Gun is German 88, L to R Raisler, Goerges (section chief), a Lt from 83rd Div. We fired against Germans with this gun, along the Rhine

While in quarantine, we got beer. L-R unknown, 2 . Stanhouse, 3. Railser, 4 Ray Ludwigson

While in quarantine, we got beer. L-R 1. unknown, 2 . Stanhouse, 3. Raisler, 4 Ray Ludwigson

Matt Ottea in his foxhole in Normandy

Matt Ottea in his foxhole in Normandy

John Raisler, Munchen-Gladbach GE

John Raisler, Munchen-Gladbach, Germany

Focker Wolf 190 at Salzwedel Airport, their location on V-E Day. Cliffie Graham, John Andrews, E De La Garza

Focker Wolf 190 at Salzwedel Airport, Germany, their location on V-E Day. Cliffie Graham, John Andrews, Leo De La Garza

Swimming at pool in Brake, GE. Occupation time after V-E Day

Swimming at pool in Brake, Germany, near Bremen. Occupation time after V-E Day

Chow break in Belgium

Chow break in Belgium

Leroy Faehling, (John Raisler and Leroy went to Brussels together)

Leroy Faehling enjoying the pool at Brake, Germany, summer 1945 (John Raisler and Leroy went to Brussels together)

Barracks 17, Room 2 Rear Row - Webber, Gomez, Clawson, Kent, Goerges. Front row Vaughn, Raisler, Tyler, Boufford, Savage

Barracks 17, Room 2. Rear Row – Webber, Gomez, Clauson, Kent, Goerges. Front row: Vaughn, Raisler, Tyler, Boufford, Savage

With pipe Matt Ottea from Instrumentation section, drilling is John Andrews, 3rd guy is Bob Hammer  Gun is 105 Howitzer, Munchen-Gladbach GE

With pipe, Matt Ottea from instrumentation section, drilling is John Andrews, man on right is Bob Hammer. Gun is 105 Howitzer, Munchen-Gladbach, Germany

Showering in Cerisy Forest - John Raisler at pump, Louie Soutier showering

Showering in Cerisy Forest, Normandy: John Raisler at pump, Louie Soutier showering

105 Howitzer torn down - guys from the section

105 Howitzer torn down – guys from the section

L-R Sgt Nelson, Cpl Raisler, Sgt Ottea, Kneeling. Sgt Sedlacek

L-R: Sgt Robert Nelson, Cpl John Raisler, Sgt Matthew Ottea, Kneeling. Sgt Joe Sedlacek

John Raisler crawling into ME109. Salzwedel Airport GE around V-E Day

John Raisler crawling into ME109. Salzwedel Airport, Germany, around V-E Day

Half track combat vehicle with 75 mm howitzer. That is a 155mm howitzer in front of it.

Half track combat vehicle with 75 mm howitzer. That is a 155mm howitzer in front of it.

Farmer getting in the way in France

Farmer getting in the way in France

German wrecked tanks in Falaise Gap FR

German wrecked tanks in Falaise Gap, France, August 1945

Pete Patrick in foxhole, Normandy

Pete Patrick in foxhole, Normandy

John Raisler in unfinished German Submarine

John Raisler in unfinished German submarine

Street Scene, Munchen-Gladbach Germany, 1945

Street scene, Munchen-Gladbach Germany, early 1945

Wrecked vehicles, Heerlen, Holland, winter 1944-45

Wrecked vehicles, Heerlen, Holland, winter 1944-45

8 inch railway gun, they really roar when they go off

8 inch railway gun; they really roar when they go off

Bus used to carry German soldiers, now kaput, France

Bus used to carry German soldiers, now kaput, France

It turns out Roland Unangst had kept more photos than daughter Linda Campbell first thought. Her husband, Ken, just emailed these. Many names and places are unknown (although most seem to be of the Brake, Germany, area near Bremen), so we ask again for your help (click on photo to view it larger).

Roland Unansgt at far right, others unidentified

Roland Unangst at far right, others unidentified

Top row is cut off; bottom row: Hueni, Gene Karl, Unangst, Zito

Top row is cut off; bottom row: Hueni, Gene Karl, Unangst, Zito

campbell7

???

Unansgt on right, others unknown

Unangst on right, others unknown

???

Red Cross girls, Heerlen, Holland

.

Taken while on a march, note the local means of transport.

Taken while on a march, note the local means of transport.

Could this be Munchengladbach?

Their apartment building in Brake, Germany

Curtis Vosz, in Bremen, Germany?

Curtis Vosz, in Brake, Bremen enclave, Germany

Roland Unangst wrote, "Our swimming pool." Brake, Germany, 1945?

Roland Unangst wrote, “Our swimming pool.” Brake, Germany, 1945

Unknown

Unknown

???

???

Who is this?

Who is this?

An Army "captain"! But who? Confiscated motorboat in Germany

An Army “captain”! But who? Confiscated motorboat in Germany

The above photo reminds me of a phone conversation we had with one of the five living members of the 111th, Roger Rickon, last month. He told us that while in Brake, Germany, in the Bremen enclave, in the summer of 1945,  his two buddies had confiscated a boat and put a Packard engine on it. They would go up and down the Weser River in it to play baseball games with other units nearby. They called it Gravel Gertie. One day they tied it up to a high dock, and because of tides the river would rise and fall. One night the boat got caught up under the dock and was crushed. Days later, they saw bits of wooden floating in the river, and one piece had the name of the boat on it! I will ask Roger if this was the boat.

Vosz and burned-out ship, Brake, Germany

Vosz and burned-out ship, Brake, Germany

"Inside our automotive shop," wrote Unangst

“Inside our automotive shop,” wrote Unangst

German children, after receiving candy treats from the men

German children, after receiving candy treats from the men