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702nd Tank Battalion “Red Devils”

Rolling On

 

THE DEMISE OF "HERBIE’S FATHER”

 

Walt Disney's movie of the exploits of a V.W. "beetle" named "Herbie" made no mention of the bug's ancestory.  Most, if not all of you, know by now the story of Hitler’s big pro-war shake-down of the German people, the "People's car" or Volkswagen.  Briefly, stamps were sold to working people who booked them (like Green Stamps) in hopes of saving enough to swap for a promised V.W. beetle.  The money collected built a factory which then produced a Dr. Porsche designed German version of our "Jeep".  Their name for it, Die Kubelwagen!  It resembeled "The Thing", re-released by V.W. in the 1960's.  Enough background.

 

 

On about the 5th of May, during the final week of W.W. II (the big one), the 80th. was out of gas.  Literally!  Three task forces were formed to race through the Austrian countryside trying to capture some intact bridges across the valley rivers of the area.  As the point of one of these task forces (Black, I think), the 1st  Platoon of “D” Company with one M-24 (mine), and three M-5’s and a new M-4, complete with 76mm gun, added for extra punch.  Some 3/4 tons with infantry, an engineer squad and an ambulance completed the make-up of the point section. Early in the morning, as we were approaching some Austrian town, we spotted a German “kubelwagen" coming toward us.  The German lieutenant on board and his driver saw us at about the same instant.  The jeep stopped in the road, the occupants jumped out, arms overhead, and stood at the side of the road.  I hit the button and told our driver, Frank Ritacco, to "run your left track over that S.O.B." and told the other tanks to "follow us".  The-steel tracked M-24 had no trouble going up the flat-sloped front and over the vehicle.  As we kept rolling Tony Garguillo, our gunner and I watched as following tank made the pile of junk flatter.  The Medium gave it the final touch!  Not a shot was fired, we totally ignored the two Germans.  As we pulled away they were still standing, hands high, looking down at their former transportation, now turned into scrap!

 

I have since wondered many times just what was going on in those two "kraut" heads and just how they explained the poor state of repair of their vehicle to their maintenance group.  For me, it is one of the funniest scenes of my life, and not many of them occurred during the war.  It never could have happened if we weren’t all so sure the whole mess was about over and if we hadn’t captured 1,500 prisoners the day before (but that's another story).  I'm sure none of us dreamed that 10 years later, in the 50’s, we would like to be in a tank again, and to use it in the same way, to combat the invasion of "bugs" that seemed to always cut in front or dart across our path.  Or am I, as Dot says, just an old grouch behind the wheel?

Milt Still

 

 

 

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