Chaplains of the
36th Infantry Division


Chaplain (Colonel) Herbert E. MacCombie
Division Chaplain

Advancing Through Southern France

The cemetery at San Raphael was ordered closed.  While checking the operation of transfer, I visited the LST which had been bombed on D DAY.  It was still smoldering.  At LaPuy I picked up one body which had been placed in a coffin by the French population.  The coffin had been covered with flowers.

On August 21st the Division Headquarters moved to Sisteron.  Among most of the way we had been greeted with enthusiasm by the French people.  One man stopped me on the road to give me a bottle of eau de vie.  However, when I tried to purchase some eggs, the price was $1.00 apiece.

Attitudes varied.  At Sisteron the people were not very friendly.  Some of our men asked me to find out what was the matter.  I learned that there had been a German garrison in the town.  The previous week the Air Force had bombed the town.  They never hit the Germans, but they certainly caused many casualties among the French.  The damage had been great.  We had been boasting of the accuracy of our new bombsight, and the French could not understand why we hit them instead of the Germans.

The division kept moving forward rapidly.  Almost every day we moved the C.P. to a new location.  On August 24th we were about twelve kilometers from Crest.  While we were there, it was reported that we were surrounded by the enemy, but our troops broke through their lines.  While at Crest we were alerted to be prepared to destroy all classified documents and papers.  I had with me a special fire bomb to destroy important papers, if necessary.  I never had to use it.

During the fighting our men captured a German Headquarters.  They found large bundles of 5,000 Franc Notes.  They offered some to me, but I refused them, because I did not want to be burdened with any more souvenirs, and I thought they were probably worthless.  Some of our men went into nearby French villages and found they were (worth about $100 apiece).  When word got back to higher command, all the notes were ordered impounded and turned into headquarters.  I do not know how many of the notes were collected, but I do know that once I had a chance to be very rich, thanks to the generosity of some of my friends.

About this time one of our units captured several prisoners, including a German general.  The sergeant who was in command ordered the general to line up with the other prisoners.  The general refused, claiming the privileges of his rank.  The sergeant kicked him where it would do the most good.  The sergeant met each protest with a good kick.  When he arrived at the Corps P.O.W. cage, the general lodged a protest at such inhumane treatment.  An investigating officer was sent to the division to look into the charges.  Word of his visit got around.

A few days later some men reported to me.  They said, “We’ve got a German general for you, Chaplain.”

I replied, “I don’t want any German general.”

They told me, “This one won’t cause you any trouble. He is dead.”

The division kept moving rapidly.  One day I had to cover the Division Rear, the cemetery at Montelimar, and then chase the Forward C.P. to Louhans.  Total mileage for the day – 354 miles.


Copyright 2001 by Mary MacCombie Fietsam
Printed by Permission

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