April 8th to May 3rd, 1945 — Krems, Austria, to Branau, Germany
APRIL 8, 1945 – Sunday 5:30 A.M. Got up at four o’clock to start for God knows where. Had barley and raisins for breakfast. I am all set to go and have packed the following: two blankets, five pairs of socks, one half a Red Cross parcel, one sixth of a loaf of bread, one pair of long johns, one pair of shorts, eight packs of Camels, one pack of Prince Albert, six bars of soap (five for trading), an overcoat, and a pair of gym shoes. 8:00A.M. Left camp at 8:15A.M. (one hour fifteen minutes late) in the first five hundred men. We have thirty-nine guards—Army, Luftwaffe, Storm Troopers, and Volkstrum. Marched twenty-eight kilometers. (Rough). Stopped four times. Weather fine. Came through five towns snuggled in the mountains. This is the most beautiful part of the world I’ve seen yet. Army and Storm Troopers have taken over four of the towns. People are friendly to the surprise of everyone. Some very beautiful shrines along the road. Their beauty lies in their simplicity. Fellows in fair condition considering the little food and no exercise they have had in the last two years. Four men did pass out, however. We are to sleep out in the open tonight. Mac, Jim, and I will sleep together in order to keep warm. No food from Jerry [The German military.] yet. Leaving at 8:00 A.M. tomorrow, rise at 6:30 A.M.
APRIL 9 – 7:00 A.M. Cold and damp last night. Not much sleep. 8:30 A.M. Leaving at 9:00. No food from Jerry yet. Jerry Captain so sorry. 12:00 noon. Not bad so far today. Ten minute break every hour. Walked about six kilometers. Stop for lunch one-half hour, although no food from Jerry yet. Mountains are really beautiful—but hard on feet.
APRIL 10 – 1:30 P.M. Didn’t have time to log last night. Yesterday we marched twelve kilometers at a slow pace. Most of the fellows were dead on their feet because of the twenty-eight kilometers walked the first day. Had beautiful weather yesterday. Passed through only three small villages. The S.S. (Storm Troopers) have them all. Ho food from Jerry yet. We are stopped outside a village for a twenty-four hour rest which we need badly. Last night was very damp but fairly warm. At ten o’clock this morning, Jerry finally came across with some chow in the form of barley which tasted delicious, probably because we’re hungry. We also received a loaf of bread per eighteen men. All the bread for the last eighteen months has been black. We have had wonderful weather so far. Dread the rain that is bound to come. Wheels [“Wheels” refers to high German officers and others important enough to have automobiles. There was a continual stream of heavily laden automobiles speeding past our column for most of the march.] seem to be leaving too! Two Jerries R.I.P. [R.I.P. stands for Rest In Peace. Two German soldiers died from over-exertion the third day out.] None of us—yet. Got a chance to wash and shave today in mountain stream, cold but refreshing.
APRIL 11 – First time I’ve had a chance to log today because I’m kept busy. Slept warm last night for the first time because I was in the middle. Eighteen men to a loaf of bread again in the afternoon. This morning up at six, had Jerry beans (similar to dried lima beans) for breakfast, walked nine kilometers to a small town where we had a hot soup which was obtained by Jerry, Hollywood style! All in all, we walked twenty kilometers today. Sunburned, two blisters on left foot, and turned my right ankle today. With the exceptions of these minor details, I’m in good shape. Eighteen men to a loaf tonight—and that is all. We are running out of G.I. chow. Don’t know how we’ll fare after. We are supposed to sleep in a barn tonight—which ought to be great after outdoors. Still walking in mountains. Weather perfect. Civilians treating us much better than we expected. Jim reasons that they have not been subjected to Nazism because of lack of newspapers and radios back here in the mountains. Been thinking of Cokes and ice cream for the first time in eighteen months. Still no idea where we’re going! (Think we are walking ’til the end of the war.)
APRIL 12 – We got up at 5:30 this morning and marched all day in a cold downpour of rain. Am soaked through to the skin with no chance to dry out. We marched twenty kilometers and although I am tired, the beauty of the distant snow-capped mountains has not been entirely wasted on us. I would like to bring Joan through this country someday. Still going South. I am writing in an old barn where we are to sleep. I’ll try to dry my blankets now before I turn in.
APRIL 13 – 11:00 A.M. Some delay in starting on the march. Clothes still very wet and continuing to rain. Four biscuits today—that is all. Heard from Jerry that President Roosevelt died. He was a very good president. Don’t think it will hurt progress of war, but it may affect the peace. Looks like the right wing of Democrats knew what they were doing when they got rid of Wallace and put in Truman.
APRIL 14 – 10:30 A.M. We are in another barn. Weather clearing but rained last night. Marched eighteen kilometers from eleven to five. Hard marching in mud and rain. No food today and no more G.I. chow. Am damn hungry. Staying here for twenty-four hour rest which we need badly. Trying to dry clothes. Shaved and washed. Face is peeling from sunburn. Still going South. Reached Danube River. To a New Englander these mountains are breath-taking with their well-kept forests and sparklingstreams. Jerries killed a cow. [The German Army confiscated whatever they needed in the style made so notorious by our Hollywood movies. In this particular case, they threatened to burn down an Austrian’s farm unless he “cooperated”.] Guards got one half, G.I.s (500) got other half. Hope we get something to eat soon. Came through one fairly big town yesterday. People didn’t speak, but no violence.
APRIL 16 – 12 30 P.M. Didn’t get a chance to log yesterday. Came down out of mountains. Much easier walking. We are now headed West. The people aren’t as friendly here. However, Jerry gave us a good hot meal (soup) and a bag of dog biscuits last night. The biscuits were for yesterday’s breakfast and today’s dinner. Walked eighteen kilometers yesterday and saw just as many shrines as we did in the mountains. 5:30 P.M. Walked twenty-three kilometers today. Still in valley and followed Danube for a while. Today saw a sight never will forget. [This was our first encounter with the Nazi treatment of the Jewish race. We met approximately 300 of them marching in the opposite direction. Judging from their clothes, they had been, at one time, very prosperous but now they had degenerated into a dirty, starved, and completely beaten mass that was hard to recognize as once being human beings. They were literally dropping like flies as they dragged along. Those unfortunate to drop received no aid whatsoever from their own group and their filthy, revolting guards would dispatch them from this world with their rifle butts rather than waste a single cartridge. Some of our own guards tried to apologize for this demonstration but from that day on, we hated the Germans as a group.] There is much truth in our propaganda about the anti-Semitic feeling here. The treatment is unbelievable. City stopping in tonight thirteen kilometers out of Linz and has been bombed—as has Linz [Linz was the second city through which we passed during which time the Russian were bombing. Twice we were mistaken by American fighter planes for German troops and strafed. No Americans were injured. However, about twenty Frenchmen who were with us were injured or killed.]. Hope we get fed tonight as I’m hungry. Weather hot, sun hot, and roads dusty.
APRIL 17 – Today I am 22 years old and growing older every hour. We are staying in town for twenty-four hour layover and rest but so far 6 (six) air raids. I feel like hell as my stomach is in an uproar. Last night nine men to a loaf of bread—that is all. Ran out of G.I. chow about four days ago. Am living (?) on Jerry chow, which is edible but not much of it. Cold sleeping last night in shelter with roof and floor, no sides. I still don’t know how far we have to go yet. I believe they intend to march us ’til end of war. Anyone of the four horsemen [Refers to the Four horsemen of the Apocalypse.] could get us. Happy Birthday!
APRIL 18 – 6:00 P.M. The past twenty-four hours were beauties. Walked thirty kilometers today on one cup of Jerry coffee! On the 17th got up at 7:00 A.M. We got one thin cup of soup (very thin) and at this hour nothing more except nine men to a loaf of bread. At 6:30 last night air raid started and ended at 3:00 this morning. Left at 6:00 A.M. and walked twenty-two kilometers before noon. Walked through Linz and crossed Danube during air raid. Roll call coming now and still nothing to eat. Still going South West but need food badly. Water was no problem in mountains but down here can’t even get water and people not as friendly.
APRIL 19 – 5:00 P.M. Last night at 10:00 P.M. received some soup (not enough to cover a six-inch dish pan!) and eight men to a loaf of bread. Left at 8:00 A.M. marched ’til noon, covering seventeen kilometers, and then stopped for day! Reason: Protecting Power checking on conditions. They gave us five men to a small loaf, seven and a half men to a can of meat, and we bought a few spuds. Jerry promised to give us a hot meal tonight but the stove broke or some damn excuse. Jerry is very nice while a man from Geneva is around but as soon as he leaves: back we go again to starvation and abuse. This morning Ialmost dropped from hunger. All we get is excuses from Jerry but nothing to eat. Red Cross man said we would have parcels in a few days. Let’s hope so.
APRIL 20 – 6:00 P.M. Still going West. Marched about thirty three kilometers from 7:90 A.M. to 11:30 P.M. in hot sun. Very hard marching as weak from hunger. No food yet today. None of us can go on much longer marching thirty-three kilometers a day on a cup of Jerry coffee. The energy we are burning is our youth. We are like a lighter with no fluid, just burning the wick. Country is getting hilly again. The people are more friendly. Have seen at least two old women with tears in their eyes as we went by. I think some of the people would like to trade with us. We use cigarettes and soup that we had left from Rea Cross parcels (the only thing we have left) to trade. One cigarette is worth eight marks, so if the guards with us would let us trade, we could eat. A loaf of bread is worth eighty marks or ten cigarettes. The last town we came through was as near on a peacetime basis as I have seen. The kids were eating ice cream and cookies. We pass hundreds of roadside shrines every day and strange as it seems, with bombs knocking down everything, I haven’t seen a shrine hit yet.
APRIL 21 – 1:00 PM. Staying here for a twenty-four hour rest. Two Red Cross parcels for five men came to us in G.I. trucks and jeeps driven by Swiss. We haven’t received them yet but expect to late today. At 11:00 last night Jerry gave us some warm soup, very weak and very little, and no bread. Today I have eaten nothing but boiled turnips. I still have some oats but am going to save them. Shaved and washed today. My right heel has been giving me trouble for five days but can do nothing for it. Men are stealing from farms, from Jerry, and from G.I.s. (Nature in the raw is seldom mild.) Just heard chow came in.