143rd AAA Gun Battalion - Page 43
On May 1, 1945, a truck load of men from the battery climbed the mountain on the Rhine topped by the ruins of a castle from which (it is said) sprang the legend of Siegfried and Brunhilde. Following that the famed Remagen bridge (scene of the first Rhine crossing) was visited and towers on the east bank explored.
On V-E Day, May 8, 1945, two truck loads of men took a sightseeing trip to Cologne. The general consensus of opinion was that Cologne was more badly damaged than Aachen or Duren -- probably true as it was a much larger city with nothing but ruins as far as the eye could see. The famous cathedral suffered surprisingly little damage, a tribute to the accuracy of our bombradiers. The huge railroad station across the street from the church was totally destroyed.
On May 14, 1945 a COE with 42 men explored the Ruhr Valley. The larger cities visited were Dusseldorf, Wuppertal and Essen. The latter, site of the Drupp Steel Works, had been flattened completely. En route back to our positions at Beuel we passed over the newly erected pontoon bridge dedicated to Ernie Pyle.
On June 23 and again on June 30, two groups made a tour of the Austrian Alps, the trip taking us along the north shore of Lake Constance into Austria and along the fast flowing Inn River to Innsbruck where we stayed over night. The next morning we proceeded south to Brenner Pass and the Italian border, returning to Innsbruck. There we took the Telepherique (cable car) ride to the top of the mountain, and watched the skiers practicing their art in the melting snow. North from Innsbruck Garmisch Partenkirchen was visited -- the scene of the 1935 Winter Olympic Games. That night this group bivouacked on the shore of the Ammer Sea, proceeding to Munich the next morning. Hitler's Beer Hall was searched for souvenirs on the first trip, but it was closed the second time, being renovated for use as a Red Cross coffee and doughnut center. The concentration camp at Dachau was next, revealing evidences of the horrors practiced by the Nazis. EVerything we had read about concentration camps was firmly implanted in the minds of those who saw the gas chambers, ovens, dog kennels, shooting gallery and the storage room with bloody hand prints-even on the ceiling. A former inmate still recovering from his imprisonment acted as our guide and gave us an account of Dachau which we will never forget.