Segment 12

Annotation

When the GIs started pushing the Germans back [Annotators Note: during the later stages of the Battle of the Bulge], George Griffenhagen’s unit got moving again. They were working on roads and bridges. They got to the Remagen Bridge the day after it was captured. They crossed over the pontoon bridge that had been set up next to the bridge. Some of the guys in Griffenhagen’s unit said that when they got to the Rhine River they would go swimming in it. They all did it. The water was ice cold. From the time they crossed the Rhine they were continually on the move. At the time they were attached to one of the armored divisions and remained attached for a week or 10 days. If they took fire from a village they would bring artillery up and blast the village but they kept moving. At night they would just stop on the road and sleep in their vehicles. One morning they awoke around daybreak and heard the booming of guns going off. They recognized that the guns were not theirs. It turned out that there was a German headquarters right off the road next to them that they did not know was there. The German officers there got into a plane and took off. Sometimes they had to do some mine work but by that time the Germans were no longer laying mines in large amounts.[Annotators Note: the interview is stopped briefly so Griffenhagen can use the restroom] They got to the Oder River and met the Russians there. At the time they were part of the 1st Army and were then transferred to Patton’s 3rd Army which was coming up from the south. They travelled south into Czechoslovakia. They stopped in Plzen on their way to Prague when they were stopped. Eisenhower had promised the Russians that they could take Prague. That was alright with them. They celebrated VE Day. On the 9th [Annotators Note: 9 May 1945] they decided that they would help the people of Plzen celebrate victory. They broke the doors of the Plzen Brewery down and loaded up trucks with bottles of Plzener beer. Other trucks loaded up with ice. They met in the town square and iced down the beer. They told the civilians to join them and they did. Everyone had a great time. On VE Day and in the following weeks Griffenhagen felt happy that he would be going home. He had plenty points. They got word that they would be going home but not at that time. Troops who were set to go to the Pacific were sent home first. Griffenhagen did not go home until October. They took over a small winter resort named Babylon. They started holding dances and Griffenhagen was responsible for getting the girls to the dances then home afterwards. Finally Griffenhagen got word that he would be able to finish school. Professors from the United States travelled over to Europe to teach classes. While in school he was able to take the train to London to visit his future wife. In September he got word that his unit was ready to go home. He joined his outfit back in Czechoslovakia just in time for the unit to move to a camp in France where they waited about a week to go home. When he got home he was sent to Davis, California to be mustered out. His parents never saw him in uniform. He got rid of his uniform before he got home.

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