Chaplains of the
36th Infantry Division
Chaplain (Colonel) Herbert E. MacCombie
On March 24th we moved with the
Division C.P. to Herxheim, Germany. Here made our first contacts with
displaced personnel. Lt. Colonel Grady C. Durham asked for my help in some
of the pressing problems.
We had about one hundred twenty
five persons located in a factory building. They were of many
nationalities — French, Dutch, Polish, Russians. They had had no food for
sometime. My first job was to find food for them.
I went to see the local
Burgomeister. He was not interested. There was no food available. I
became impatient. I remembered that the Germans had fired on some of our
medical personnel and our chaplains when they were serving the wounded
while carrying the Red Cross flag. They had fired on me when my vehicle
bore the Red Cross Flag. I decided that I would be firm. I would not
take “NO” for an answer from any German official.
I told the Burgomeister, “If we
were not here, these people would still be working for you and you would
have to feed them. If, as you say there is no food available, I will have
to find it. I will go to your house and take out all the food there.
Then I will go to the next house, and the next. I will seize all food
from house to house until I get enough to feed these people.”
He suddenly capitulated. The
displaced persons were fed.
There were no sleeping
accommodations. I thought the men could make out all right. They would be
no worse off than our fighting men had been for months. They could sleep
on the floor. However, there were eighteen women, whom I thought should
have better accommodations.
I went to the Burgomeister.
Again there was no room. Again I threatened to take over his house.
Suddenly he had a bright idea. There were beds in the local hospital.
“Would that do?” That was fine.
The only available
transportation was my jeep. I would have to make four trips. When I came
back with the second load, I was met by the Senior Schwester. She put up
quite a fuss. Her beds were clean. These women were dirty. They
couldn’t take them in.
I listened for a few minutes.
Then I told her, “It makes no difference to me where you Germans sleep.
You can sleep on the ground, if necessary. Tonight these women must sleep
in bed. That is an order.”
I turned on my heel and stomped
When I came back with the third
and fourth loads, I found them drinking coffee (ersatz). The following
morning I was told, “After you left, she asked, ‘Who is he’. We didn’t
know, so we said, ‘He is a Russian officer’. Then she asked, if we would
like some coffee. She was very much afraid when you said 'Mussen'.”
Apparently the German word
carries much more determination than our must. After that I used it often
in securing action from the German authorities. During our stay in
Herxheim I continued to do what I could to assist the Military Government
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by Mary MacCombie Fietsam
Printed by Permission