Chaplains of the
36th Infantry Division


Chaplain (Colonel) Herbert E. MacCombie
Division Chaplain

Over The Dragon's Teeth

On December 26th Division Headquarters moved to a new location near Larquin, France.  On January 4th we moved to Diemeringen, France.  These moves brought us near the Luxembourg boundary.  They were part of the American reaction to the Battle of the Bulge.

On January 18th we moved to Hagenu, France.  On January 20th we moved to Brumath, France.  On January 21st we moved to Mommenheim, France.  On January 31st we moved to Stefansfeld, France.  We stayed there over six weeks.  That was my longest stay in one place while overseas, except for my stay in the hospital.

With several other officers I was quartered in a house formerly occupied by a doctor.   He and his wife moved into a nearby hospital.  When the Germans were there he was known as Dr. Detweiler.  When the French came to power, he changed his name to Dr. Deviller.

I became well acquainted with several members of the hospital staff.  At that time heavy fighting was going on in the town of Bitche.  I asked one doctor where he came from.

He replied, “I am a son of Bitche”.  Judging from his smile I presumed he knew the implications of the phrase in English.

They were puzzled by our language.  They said to me, “We can understand you, but we cannot understand the English of the men who are with you.”

They had learned their English from the British broadcasts.  My New England accent was close to the British way of speaking.  The Texas accent and phraseology was more difficult.

They told me of an incident in nearby Saverne.  When the Germans took over Alsace they drafted a young Alsatian.  He was blond and blue-eyed.  They assigned him to the S.S. Forces.  He refused to serve, so they hanged him in front of the local school.  They did this to impress upon the people that they were now Germans and must serve the German cause, including saying, “Heil Hitler”.  No French was to be spoken.  All French books must be destroyed.

While we were at Stefansfeld, I was visited by two chaplains from the French Army.  They were destitute of all religious supplies.  I gave them some of our communion wafers and even some wine.

On March 14th the Division C.P. moved to Batzendorf, France.  On March 16th I went to the Seventh Army Headquarters to pick up supplies for the Jewish Passover.  Our trailer was almost top-heavy with boxes of Matzo.  However, we could only get twelve bottles of Kosher wine for the celebration.

On March 16th the Division C.P. moved to Pfoffenhofen, France.  On March 18th we moved twice.  In the morning we were in the vicinity of Morsbronn, France.  In the late afternoon we reached Sultz, France.  No religious service was held that day, because of the constant movement.  On March 20th and 21st I visited the Rest Camp at Bains les Bains to inspect the work that was being done there.  I was particularly interested in the work of the resident chaplains, and the morale situation.

On March 22nd the Division C.P. was located at Wissembourg, France.  On March 23rd we moved to Bergzabern, Germany.

At last we were in the Fatherland.  Thanks to the wonderful work of our Engineers, I rode OVER the “dragons teeth”.  As I observed the strength of the German defenses on the Siegfried Line, I marvelled at the courage and the fighting qualities of the men of the “Texas Division”.  They were really good.

I saluted the Texas flag as I passed through Schweigen, Germany.


Copyright 2001 by Mary MacCombie Fietsam
Printed by Permission

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