The following is an after war statement by former Lieutenant Harold “Slim” Rives:
“I was raised most of my life in Las Cruces, a town in Southern New Mexico, just north of El Paso, Texas. It is an agricultural area - - alfalfa, cantaloupes, pecans, onions, etc. My wife, Mary Anne, and I met there at New Mexico State University, were married and had a son before I went to OCS. While I was overseas, she stayed on a farm, near Las Cruces, living with her sister and her Grandmother.
Our tank company had just finished cleaning out a small village. This was shortly after the Bulge, weather still bad, raining and spitting snow. It was our custom, when we had taken a village, each tank crew would take over a house, to stay inside overnight, warm, and away from weather. Our tank crews started picking out their house. I told my crew to find one for us as I had to go to a commanders meeting which was planning the next move on the morrow.
When I got back, my gunner said “Lieutenant, you better come with us. We have a problem. The house we picked out has a woman in it and she refuses to leave.” (We always told the people occupying the house to go find another place because of the anti-fraternization policy of the 3rd Army.)
So I went to check on this obstinate female.
“Why won't you get out of the house so my crew can move in?”, I asked.
She replied “I don't have to. Your country owes me.”
“Owes you?” “What are you talking about?”
“Well my husband is a prisoner-of-war in the United States, and you owe me a place to live.”
This startled me, but piqued my interest, since her husband was in the United States, living high on the hog (probably) and here we were, bad weather, getting shot at, little food, no rest.
“Where in the United States is your husband?”, I asked.
“In a State called New Mexico.”, she replied. “Wow”, I thought. What part of New Mexico, was my next inquiry.
“He is in a camp near a town called Mesilla.”, she answered.
Mesilla is 3 miles south of Las Cruces, and is where my wife, son, her sister and grandmother were living.
As it turns out, my wife had written me that German prisoners were working on the farm she was living on, picking pecans and doing other farm chores. She even mentioned that she had talked to one or two, feeling sorry for them.
It hit me. This is a small world. This woman's husband could very easily be working on my wife's farm and here I am in Germany taking over his & her house.
When I tell this story, the next inevitable question is “Did you kick her out of her house?” “Damn right we did, with little ceremony.”
What a small world this can be sometimes!
And the next day we moved on to attack the next town.”
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