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Dick Goodie
486th AAA Bn, 3AD
Written in 1949 and revised for this website in 2005


Each afternoon at one o'clock the incarcerated German Frauleins were allowed to spread their blankets in the compound yard and expose their legs to the October sun; and exactly at one o'clock each day the one hundred GIs that made up the guard detail at the compound were positioned in every window on the four levels of the adjacent building to watch the spectacular scene on the other side of the barbed wire enclosure.

Displaying generous portions of their legs, the soldiers thought the women were following through with a seditious scheme to drive them crazy. But to back up a bit.

In early May of 1945 after the Nazis surrendered to the Allied Expeditionary Force, there were over two million American soldiers who wanted to catch the next ship home. Of course that was not possible; there were not that many ships afloat. So the War Department, with General George C. Marshall's blessing, devised a system of Points for each veteran that seemed fair to everyone except those on the bottom of the list, far removed from the eighty-five points needed for passage home.

The chosen system allowed one point to a soldier for each month he spent in the army; and one point for each month he served overseas. Campaign stars and medals received for heroic achievement, including the Purple Heart, each earned five points. Twelve points were awarded to married soldiers for each child they had at home - up to three children.

So the first veterans to walk up the gangplanks were those who were drafted in the early 1940s and had kids at home. The rest of us would have to forget about being part of the wild victory celebrations that were taking place on the streets of hometown-America. Our families and girlfriends would have to remain patient. We were to stay in Europe with the Army of Occupation.

That summer the army kept us occupied with educational and athletic programs, but in September many units were assigned to administrative duties at prisoner-of-war compounds.

Our unit of one hundred men was trucked to a hamlet near Stuttgart where we were to guard and, hopefully, help de-nazify eight hundred German women that would be trucked in from all over Europe.

We were told that these women had served in the SS - or Gestapo - as telephone operators, secretaries, chauffeurs, or other occupations judged to be detrimental to occupational policies. Our program was meant to moderate the chain-of-allegiance that bound these women to venomous, Nazi beliefs. We understood that their ages would range from eighteen to seventy.

The Internment Camp was a complex of three, large, multi-level, brick buildings that sat on the crest of a flat-topped, grassy hill in an isolated area overlooking the hamlet. An earthen road that ran through shade trees led up to it. Our first assignment was to construct a double-row of barbed wire fencing around two of the buildings. We trucked in male POW for this task. Our unit would occupy the third building.

Then we trucked in cots, blankets, wooden-soled shoes, soap and detergents, toiletries, mops and buckets, light bulbs, medical supplies, DDT and other institutional necessities.

The one hundred men looked forward to the day when the women would arrive. The assignment promised to be a trifle more interesting than the boring garrison life we were tolerating while awaiting passage home. But our captain quickly shot down any romantic intentions that any soldier may have anticipated with the interned women. The day they were to arrive, he called a company formation.

"The Frauleins will be arriving this afternoon," he announced. "You've been instructed on your assignments. One thing I want clearly understood. You are to stay out of their living quarters. Except those on a work permit, any soldier caught in their quarters without my permission will be court-martialed and can expect a sentence of no less than ten years at Leavenworth Prison. Now this will be firm. There absolutely will be no fraternizing with these women. Understand this and get on with your assignments. Dismissed."

After serving in combat for several months with the captain, every soldier in the unit was familiar with his rigid system of command. He wouldn't hesitate a second to follow through with his threat. We would have to walk a very fine line and not show the slightest hint of fraternizing.

When the women began arriving that afternoon with their luggage, and we helped them step down from the backs of deuce-and-a half-ton trucks, we came to understand that our assignment for the ensuing weeks was to be cruel and abusive duty. Most were stunning. Marlene Dietrich could not have qualified for a stand-in for many of them. Adam's temptation for Eve in The Garden of Eden could now only be thought of as a platonic interlude. But, of course, the SS and Gestapo had handpicked these women not only for their occupational skills, but also for their physical attributes.

How would it be possible for one hundred young animals, who were lucky enough to have survived ten months of mortal combat, now with fire in their bellies and an ocean away from their sweethearts, handle the temptation of being close to eight hundred alluring Frauleins corralled in an internment camp? But our captain, who possessed the fortitude and dedication to duty to commit a man to Leavenworth for ten years, suppressed our actions.


The situation only worsened when we administered our first assignment. As the women arrived with their trunks and suitcases, they were ushered into a reception area, where we sprayed them, as well as their luggage, with DDT - a camp rule to eliminate possible body lice. We would instruct them: "Welcome to the world of internment, ladies. Now if you will kindly lift your dress with one hand, and hold your nose with the other--" then, with the DDT gun, we'd cover them in a cloud of white powder.

While there was nothing exactly romantic about these delousing sessions, they decidedly were more interesting than a tour of guard duty, pacing along a barbed wire fence in the moonlight.

-- CLARA --

I happened to have been on duty the afternoon Clara arrived from Paris with two large trunks, ornately decorated with gold lettering and designs. I helped her step down from the truck. She attracted an unusual crowd of soldiers. After she bossed those who fought to carry her trunks, I led her to the reception area, the others tracing along until I closed the door, shutting them out.

On her admittance form she wrote that she had been a telephone operator for the SS, but I didn't believe it. No one else did either. She had too much class. In the German's system of selection, we felt she must have held a privileged position, such as an entertainer, or an SS general's private secretary - or perhaps even more intimate obligations after working hours.

Had we conducted a beauty contest at the compound, Clara would have fared not worse than First Runner-up. She was petite, not too tall, brunette, attractively dressed in the latest Parisian style, and very indignant when I explained to her the mandatory DDT spraying routine. But accustomed to military procedures, she finally complied with a minimum of resistance. I remember she even made some sort of joke during the process.

A daily routine was soon established in the Internment Camp. Since uniforms were either unobtainable of discouraged, the women wore the clothes they had brought with them -dresses or skirts and blouses. Slacks were not in vogue during the mid-1940s.

In the compound yard at eight o'clock each morning, the women, carrying mops and buckets, were formed into several groups of forty. Two guards with slung-rifles would march each group out through the double-gate to our building, where they would scrub floors, walls and ceilings. What better way to modulate a turnaround of lifestyles than mundane, hard work? At noon they were returned to their enclosure for lunch, followed by their sunbathing session.

One morning soon after Clara's arrival, I was supervising a scrub-detail and found myself alone in a room with her. She had sent another girl on an errand and after the girl had left, Clara leaned against the door until it clicked shut. She was aware the inside knob on the door was missing. She leaned against the door smiling coyly, bewitchingly, her dark eyes dancing with lust. Anyone could understand she was not above bartering her exceptional charm for certain compound favors - such as they were.

She wore a short skirt and a flowered, low-cut blouse that revealed a bosom that not only intensified the situation, but heightened the room temperature as well.

At that moment the captain's promise of ten years at Leavenworth flooded my thoughts. I grew uneasy. The captain often patrolled the building.

I had scant seconds to make the most crucial decision of my military career. I rapped on the door until someone passing by opened it.

It was one of those decisions made at age twenty-two that you often think about during your twilight years, and each time you think of it, you smile amusedly.

Near the end of the first week, at three o'clock one morning, an elderly Frau jumped out of a fourth story window and landed on her head. The soldier patrolling the off-limits lane described the suicide as a sickening thud. It was known around the compound that her husband, a high-ranking Nazi, had been accused of heinous war crimes and, at the time, was imprisoned at Nuremberg.


Our captain, raised in the Bible Belt, was a chaste, basically decent man, whose conservative, simplistic beliefs and actions on military matters reflected what he deemed essential tenets for successful command. But he didn't exactly graduate among the top ten at West Point and, for example, if for some qualifying reason he had been required to take a multiple-choice exam of nineteenth century notables, he perhaps would have checked Karl von Clausewitz's profession as symphonic composer.

The point is, nobody thought of the captain as a military genius. He didn't attend West Point at all, and perhaps won his commission on the basis of a year-or-so of pre-war National Guard duty. Instead of allocating menial duties to junior officers, he personally supervised every detail at the compound.

One morning he was seen running alongside a deuce-and-a-half that was carrying a load of light bulbs and bouncing wildly over a rutted road. Waving his arms frantically as he ran, he yelled at the driver, "Slow the son of a bitch down! You'll break all the light bulbs!"

Early one morning the captain called an unexpected company formation. A wave of impending disaster swept through the ranks. Did he catch someone in the girls' living quarters?

We sweated . . . and wondered.

Is he about to make a blanket indictment and send us all to Leavenworth? Are we about to lose our accumulated Points that would cancel passage home?

After the formation was called to attention the captain appeared. He was holding a stick at arm's length. On the end of the stick dangled a condom that hung as limp as a windsock on a windless day.


He paced along the front rank, holding the condom on the stick before him as he paced. He suddenly turned and faced the one hundred soldiers. "ALL RIGHT," he asked. "WHO WAS IT?"

The silence that followed extended into an incredulous suspension of time. The captain's gaze swept the length of the ranks, expecting the perpetrator to step forward and admit: "It was me, captain. Give me ten years at Leavenworth."

Of course no one stepped forward, and we've wondered thereafter: had the captain attended West Point, would he have ranked in the top ten?


As the days wore on, the condom incident faded to ho-hum status after Margaret came to our attention. In her early thirties, slender, statuesque, she carried the militaristic deportment of a field general ­ complete with a no-nonsense, icy stare. No one dared call her Maggie, as one would a truck-stop waitress. During the daily sunbathing sessions, the other women gave her space when she entered the compound yard with her blanket. It was obvious that she once held a rank of importance, which she had carried with her into the compound.

As if on cue each day, just after the girls were settled comfortably on their blankets, the captain entered the yard through the double-gate, and each day as he entered, Margaret would jump to attention and yell ACHTUNG! All the women would then snap to attention on their blankets, their arms rigid at their sides, while the captain sauntered leisurely across the yard on some bogus errand, basking in the misplaced show of authority.

Of course this daily routine spoiled the spectacular show for the one hundred rapturous soldiers hanging out of the windows of their nearby quarters. So a scheme was put in place to end the women's habit of jumping to attention each time the captain strolled across the compound yard. We found an occasion to speak to Margaret.

"It perhaps isn't wise," we explained, "to confuse our captain with Hitler by showering him with such reverence. In truth, Margaret, he might resent such attention. Our captain is a simple, conscientious, American officer who knows his place in the armies' pecking order and might object being elevated on the same level of authority as your Führer. When he enters the yard tomorrow, Margaret, don't bring the girls to attention. Just stay on your blankets. It'll be okay. Trust us."

She seemed warm to the idea.

The following day when the captain entered the yard, the girls remained on their blankets. Obviously perplexed, he advanced twenty yards, stopped, and curiously glanced around the yard but the women didn't move. It was a moment of tense showdown. The captain finally sauntered across the yard, and the practice was dropped for as long as we were at the internment compound. The women were beginning to understand that certain codes of conduct in the American army were more relaxed than those of the Waffen SS - at least when it came to blind adulation.

As the days turned into weeks, a few men qualified to leave for the states, but the remainder of us, on the same Point level, stayed well into late autumn of 1945.

Occasionally, in Stars and Stripes, there would be pictures of victory celebrations on the home front. There was a memorable photo taken in Times Square during the V-J celebrations showing a veteran planting one on a joyous female with the caption: Veterans returning from the ravages of war adjust easily to civilian life.

We prayed fervently for the day our ship would come to dock.

-- JO HANNA --

The day Jo Hanna came to the compound in mid-October and was helped down from the back of a truck, was the day that Clara and Margaret obviously would now have competition as camp favorites among the remaining soldiers.

There was something about her innocent, china-blue eyes, her blond, clean appearance, her voluptuous, mature body that turned every head on the guard detail - ostensibly with the exception, of course, of our captain's head.

To augment her native charm, Jo Hanna could speak English flawlessly. She quickly won a leadership role, such as they were, and I got to know her quite well during the scrubbing details. Often, we would stand in a corner and talk while she bossed the working girls. She was approachable and easy to talk to. The reason she was confined in the compound, she explained, was because she held a lead-telephone operators' position in the Gestapo - again, an innocuous job and also difficult to believe because of her intelligence and innate charm.

I learned that she was thirty-four, born in a small German hamlet, had met an American student while he was touring Europe, had later married him and moved to St. Louis as a young bride. She further explained she had experienced marital difficulties, divorced her American husband and returned to Germany in 1935, at about the time the Nazi movement was gaining momentum.

Many soldiers found reasons to visit the floor on which Jo Hanna was working. Within a week she had developed a good-sized Gawking Club. They either loitered around her work area gawking, or passed by in droves gawking.

Everyone began calling her the St. Louis Woman. The flood of traffic passing her work area became so heavy that the captain himself often visited to put a stop to it. But many of us were suspicious that he, too, was fascinated by the captivating temptress. Isolated from their stateside sweethearts, and starved for female companionship, there was a buzz among many of the men that they would gladly exchange Five Points for a chance to cuddle with Jo Hanna for a single evening. But, of course, such an arrangement was fantasy out of control - that is with everyone except Ed Belanger.

It was no secret among a select few of the men, that Ed Belanger, at great risk, had found a way to rendezvous with Jo Hanna during the early hours, and that they hit it off beautifully.

Before he was drafted, Ed Belanger was a potato farmer from Aroostook County in northern Maine. Tall, light complexioned, the strong-silent type and appearing older that his years, he was a bronze star winner, a damned good soldier, well respected, loyal to himself and to others and hopelessly smitten with Jo Hanna.

Ed's close buddies questioned his dream: to pass up his turn to go home and wait until she got her life straightened out, so they could marry.

They doubted if Jo Hanna would be the type to work potato fields in Aroostook County, Maine, after basking in the glitter of Berlin and Paris. They also wondered if Ed's parents would accept a German bride in their family so soon after hostilities?


A week later I was witness to part of the answer when I was returning a forty-girl scrub-detail to their quarters. We were crossing a field outside the compound. Jo Hanna and I, at the end of the line, were chatting amicably, her blond hair loose in the wind, her china-blue eyes scanning the late afternoon autumn sky.

We came to a swampy area where the women had to pause and then cross single file on a plank. At the end of the plank I saw one of our men poised with a camera photographing the women as they crossed with mops and buckets. He wanted a souvenir picture. When Jo Hanna, crossing in front of me, saw the camera she quickly raised an arm to cover her face and lost her balance on the plank, stepping into the marshy area. I helped her back on the plank and we continued across the field as if nothing had happened.

But I remembered that suspicious incident when Jo Hanna's wartime records finally caught up with her in late November, the same day those of us who were left at the compound were preparing to leave for the States. We learned that during the war, Jo Hanna had been deeply involved in Hitler's genocidal program. She had been an SS official in a Nazi death camp, and was responsible for the torture and slaughter of thousands of Jewish and other ethnic prisoners. Upon hearing that, none of us had any desire to say farewell to Jo Hanna - not even Ed Belanger. We just wanted to get the hell out of there.

During the long train journey down the Rhone Valley on the way to Marseille, where we were to board a Liberty Ship for passage home, we asked each other (and ourselves) over-and-over: "How could this possibly have happened?"

Ed sat by the window watching the French countryside slip past, not talking to anyone. Once on the ship he stayed pretty much to himself on the voyage home.

After all these years, I can still see Ed amid ship, leaning on the rail, staring out at the rolling waves of the north Atlantic that cold December of 1945.

It took us seventeen days to cross the ocean.

Note: With the exception of well-known military personalities, certain names have been changed to protect the privacy of individuals.

Copyright © 2004 by Dick Goodie.

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