August 16, 2016

Somewhere in Nazi germany - Spring 1945

The little guy is my father-in-law, John DiBello.

At 5' 1/2"he was the smallest guy in his outfit. When he arrived at his unit, one soldier exclaimed, "Christ, they're sending us children." He participated in the invasion of Germany with the 3rd Army and fought right through Germany. In April 1945 he celebrated his nineteenth birthday somewhere southeast of Berlin. On VE Day his armored unit was in Czechoslovakia. They had run into a bunch of Russians and had to stop.

Dad never talked about killing Germans. He told stories about sleeping in sinks in abandoned farm houses and grabbing chickens from angry farmers - they always seemed to outrun the field messes.

He was strafed by a ME-262, a German jet fighter. They didn't have the foggiest notion what it was when it flew over head but knew it wasn't theirs. It came back and blew up a halftrack.

When the war ended he didn't have enough points to go home. The Army told him that they were going to send him back to the States for a few weeks and then ship him to the Pacific. He told the sergeant, "You send me home and you'll never see me again."

He found himself in LaHavre waiting to be shipped back to England. So he did what any self respecting Italian-American would do under those circumstances ... he opened up a black jack table in his tent and sent the money home to his mother. She was able to put a down payment on a house on Syracuse's North side.

Scariest people he met during WWII: driving a jeep one night he got lost near the front delivering a message and ran into some North African troops. Perhaps Moroccans. He thought they were going to eat him.That and the Hitler Youth, little stinking fanatics shooting at GI's even though the war was lost.

In England he was the mess sergeant for a German Wehrmacht POW camp. He was issued a .45 but carried it unloaded. In his words - the war was over. Dad and the Germans just wanted to go home. The krauts liked him, called him Kleine Sergeant - the Little Sergeant. On his way home on a liberty ship he threw the .45 overboard. Never touched another gun.

He returned home in June of 1946, walked in the house his mother had bought and ... no one home. A neighbor told him his family was at a wedding. So he went to the reception and just walked in. The surprise almost killed his mother.

Dad died in 2007 in the VA hospital here in Syracuse. He was 81.


Kid said...

There must be millions of stories like this. My Dad was infantry, walked Italy, France, and Germany. He only had 3 funny stories to tell us about it all. Ever.

sig94 said...

Kid - my dad only mentioned the war two or three times to me. He was a Navy hard hat salvage diver. Got torpedoed several times.

LL said...

The greatest generation.

Doom said...

My dad was artillery. He only talked about 'the life'. Became a minister, then a pacifist, and pseudo feminist. I did not, ans till don't, approve of those parts. But otherwise I was pleased and grateful with all else and his efforts.

The guy beside your f.i.l. looks to be about my size. They must have herded the tallest guy they could find in a rather target rich or large area, or both, for the shoot.

sig94 said...

LL - true dat.

sig94 said...

Doom - my thanks to your dad. There was a retired math teacher in my church who was also an artillery NCO in WWII. Deaf as a post. His hearing aids would squeal during service. A wonderful, gentle man who was one of the charter members of the church when it started in the mid '50's.

Doom said...

Yep, I forgot about the hearing thing, Sig. He certainly had that. I think they improved hearing aids, but... I remember the squeaks too. From artillery, but also from a too great a fondness of classical music. That was his one luxury in life.