That comments appearing in parenthesis throughout The Drizzle are the personal observations of The Drizzler. However, many of the nicknames clothed in parenthesis in a number of the letters reproduced in The Drizzle are the brain children of the individual letter writers.
ATTENTION, LADS 'N' LASSIES-
The next two months, particularly during the annual Christmas rush in December, will find The Drizzler literally swamped with work. If we are to have a December issue of The Drizzle, I shall need your full and prompt co-operation. Let me hear from all of you immediately upon receipt of the October and November issues so that I may get an early start on the December edition. Otherwise I shall have to skip it so the matter is entirely up to you. To make a longer story shorter, Remember!-For December!
"MEL" MARTY DIES A HERO'S DEATH-
The grim tragedy of war struck Monticello a sledge-hammer blow the other evening when a telegram arrived from the war department for Mrs. Mary Ellen Marty bringing the sorrowful news that her husband, Staff Sgt. Melvin A. Marty, aged 25, had been killed in action near Aachen, Germany, on Sept. 20. He becomes the second Monticello boy to make the supreme sacrifice for his country in this war, Pvt. Paul Derendinger having met death in an accident Somewhere in Italy August 19.
In the thick of the heavy fighting on the European continent ever since D-Day, Sgt. Marty, an army veteran of three and a half years experience, belonged to a motorized unit of the 8th Infantry in the American First Army under the direction of Lt. Gen. Courtney H. Hodges. Also a member of the 8th Infantry but in a different company, Pfc. Emil Weigert, another local soldier, is believed to have been referring to the tragedy which befell Melvin when a letter was received here from him several days in advance of the war department telegram in which he stated that "I would like to tell you something else, but you will probably hear about it soon." The American First Army was locked in savage tank and infantry combat with the Germans on Sept. 20th when the fanatical Ratzis were trying desperately to seal a breach which the Yanks had torn in the Siegfried line north of Aachen and Sgt. Marty is thought to have fallen in this battle.
Undoubtedly all of you have read "Mel's" obituary in the Messenger by this time and I shall only summarize that information briefly here. He was the only brother of Staff Sgt. Wilbert Marty, former tail gunner on a Flying Fortress, holder of the Distinguished Flying Cross with three oak leaf clusters, veteran of 27 bombing missions over continental Europe-five of them over Berlin when air defenses over the Ratzi capitol were still at their peak-and more recently a student in advanced gunnery at the Laredo (Texas) Gunnery School which he expected to leave yesterday for an undisclosed destination. "Mel" was a son of Mr. and Mrs. Albert Marty and besides his parents; brother, Wilbert, and his wife, Mrs. Mary Ellen Marty of Monroe-whom he married in North Augusta (Ga.) on Feb. 6, 1943, while stationed at Camp Augusta-he is survived by a daughter, Marilyn, who was one year old Sept. 24, and a sister, Irene.
The news that "Mel" Marty had given his all-life's greatest treasure-for his country was a cruel blow to relatives and friends alike and it left the entire community dazed with grief. It was as though everyone in Monticello had suffered a heavy personal loss because "Mel" was one of those robust, refreshing individuals with a lively, glowing personality which won immediate and lasting friendships. I can remember the visit so vividly it seems only yesterday when "Mel" was home on furlough for the last time just a little over a year ago and he dropped in at the office for an hour's chat. Like so many of you other boys, he was never particularly fond of army life. Undoubtedly he longed for the peace and quite and contentment of home surroundings. But "Mel" never complained, and because he was devoted to his duty, he rose to the rank of Staff Sergeant.
Yes, I shall never forget that visit because "Mel" was so brimful of enthusiasm-the buoyant and magnetic enthusiasm so typical of young, care-free America. How happy and proud he was of that dandy little daughter of his, Marilyn, then only three weeks old! His face beamed with pride when he talked about his division, officially recognized as one of the best trained and most formidable outfits in the entire armed service. And The Drizzle. "It's tops, Roz!" exclaimed Mel. "It sure takes the cake! You haven't any idea how much it means to us boys."
As I sit here at my typewriter, I am seized with a feeling of deep humility. I feel humble and insignificant as I try to fully realize the valor of fine young men like "Mel" Marty, who gave his life to save the life of his country. None of us here at home can even faintly imagine the hell and the horror which "Mel" went through for the rest of us and which many of the other boys from Monticello are experiencing at this very minute-and every minute of every day and of every night-as they fearlessly carry on the desperate struggle against the ruthless and cruel barbarians of the third Reich and the wicked little fiends of the far Pacific in the flaming and thundering inferno of modern battle.
"Mel" Marty has gone from our midst, but his courage and gallantry
and his unselfish devotion to the cause of his country will live on everlastingly
to serve as a noble inspiration to all of us.
RAMBLING AT RANDOM-
Lt. "Bob" Amans, Co. I, 163rd Inf., APO 41, %PM, San
Francisco, writes as follows from far out in the Southwest Pacific: "Just
received last issue of the Drizzle. I sure look forward to it. Sorry to
hear about Kenny Holcomb, but feel sure he is okay somewhere. (You'll
be happy to read about Kenny and his hair-raising experiences later on
in the Drizzle, Bob) It's raining this morning and let me tell you it really
rains here. Some times it will rain for hours-just a steady downpour. And
the way we have our tents fixed, the wind blows the rain in on top of us.
But the battalion commander likes his tents uniform so who am I to change?
Received a promotion to first lieutenant the 5th of August.
Someone started throwing decorations around and one fell my way. Don't
know what it is yet, but that's a small matter. (Here's a "double-barrelful"
of congratulations, Bob, and now let's have all the inside dope on that
decoration in your very next letter) All I ask out of this war is my life
and I guess that's all any of the fellows want. Well, Roz, due to APO regulations,
my letter will be short. I certainly wish our wounded a speedy recovery
and return to good old Monticello. And to the rest of the lads: Keep ducking!
Thanks a million for The Drizzle. It sure is swell to know what all of
the boys are doing. Oh, by the way, Roz, I might as well do a little bragging
for our outfit. Did you or any of the boys hear about the "Butchers?" Tokyo
Rose gave us that name. Bob." . . . Just a few years ago when they were
both in high school here, Eddie Loeffel did the hurling for the
M. H. S. baseball team and he used to rifle some hot curves across home
plate to his battery mate, who was none other than that likeable, little
chatterbox-Alvin (Schmitty) Schmidt, also now a veteran of Southwest
Pacific warfare. Eddie's with Co. I, 3rd Bn., 23 Marines, 4th
Div., %FPO, San Francisco. Let's lend him our ears, fellows: "Hiya, Roz:
I was wounded on Saipan July 4th so I had plenty of real fireworks.
Not exactly the kind I used to have at home, though. Left there on a hospital
ship the 5th. My wounded shoulder is all right now and I am
back with my old company again. Just got a couple of Drizzles and do I
ever like to get them! Wished I would have received a copy at New Caledonia
so I could have looked up some of the fellows there. (I'll bet Don Trickle'll
be disappointed to know he missed you. You must have played ball against
Art Zweifel of New Glarus and I believe he is still there. I don't
think Schmitty is, tho) Have been all over the South Pacific since leaving
Saipan. So "Cec" Wirth is home. Well, he can tell you all about
these islands and their beautiful women. Ha! How about it, Cec? Don't snow
those post troopers too much. The best to all the fellows. As ever, Eddie."
. . . When Cpl. Raymond Zumkehr, recently transferred from Camp
Grant to Fort Lewis, Wash., was out on the range recently, he had the misfortune
to jam a clip in his gun, but even so, he won a medal for marksmanship
and missed winning a sharpshooters medal by only 11 points. Ray speaks
of the beautiful mountain scenery. Although Mt. Rainier is only 60 miles
away, it looks as though it were only three or four miles distant on a
clear morning. "Doing guard duty tonight from 10 to 12, the first time
in two years of service." (Hope you didn't let anyone slip through the
lines, Ray) "Several of my buddies read The Drizzle," concludes Ray, "So
keep up the good work, Roz. It's a great paper." . . Capt. Norman B.
Steussy, with the 3482nd Q. M. Trk. Co., Somewhere in Italy,
recently had the thrill of visiting the historical city of Rome and he
says it is by far the most modern city he has seen in his travels overseas.
Norman is apparently plenty busy these days because he had time for only
those few lines. Thanks for the shoulder patches, captain.
NO, THIS ISN'T A FAIRY TALE!-
But you'll probably think I've ripped a few pages from one when you read about the thrilling, spine-tingling experiences which were jammed into the forty-six days that elapsed from the time T/Sgt. Kenny Holcomb was forced to parachute from a B-24 Liberator Bomber at an altitude of 9,000 feet until the night he and other prisoners of war escaped from a derailed German prison train bound for Ratziland. In fact, some of Kenny's adventures are so exciting that they'll probably raise your hair straight up on end even if you're in the habit of plastering it down with "staycomb" every morning, noon, and night.
For instance, Kenny, now home on furlough until late this month and looking like the proverbial million dollars despite the rapid-fire series of nerve-gnawing experiences which constantly plagued him, was befriended by the Belgian underground, fell into the hands of the Ratzi Gestapo, and was twice threatened with death by the German vermin.
Kenny was the waist gunner, radio operator, and technician of the B-24 Liberator Bomber, a ship with a slightly larger wing spread than the famed Flying Fortress. It was July 20th on the crew's 19th mission over Europe-this their 12th raid over Germany, while all of the others were over France-when the big plane developed engine trouble just as they were going into their target. Consequently, the crew's pilot had to turn the ship around and head back into Belgium, releasing the bombs along the way to lighten the load.
The plane was at 21,000 feet then, and when the engine trouble was becoming dangerously worse and they were losing altitude at the rate of 500 feet a minute, the time came when they were forced to abandon ship.
This was the very first time any of the crew members had ever attempted a parachute jump. Their training did not include any practice leaps. Imagine the flurry of thoughts which must have stormed their minds as they prepared to take this first and fateful jump! Below them was nothing but an enormous mass of white clouds blocking the earth from their vision.
One of the crew members, his parachute now all adjusted for the jump, stepped bravely to the opening, looked at the yawning ocean of air beneath him, then lost his nerve temporarily and backed away to permit another buddy to take the lead.
Then, one by one-Kenny at 9,000 feet-the fliers stepped into the vast, floorless expanse below.
Instructions to airmen in the fighting zones are to fall as far as possible before pulling the rip chords to their chutes because the large, white "umbrellas" provide a perfect target for enemy fire. Kenny must have descended a good 5,000 feet before he jerked open his parachute and he drifted down into a Belgian wheat field, about 40 miles east of Brussels, at 11:30 that morning. Some Belgians, working in a nearby field, saw him land and two of them who happened to be members of the Belgian underground, immediately came to his aid. "Are you English?" was the first question they asked Kenny, who had with him as part of his regulation equipment a little pamphlet with handy, emergency phrases in Flemish, French, Dutch, and German. By consulting this booklet, Kenny was able to ask them if they could help him and the Belgians replied eagerly in the affirmative.
Then the two men sneaked Kenny three miles away to a little peasant house, occupied by another member of the underground, his wife, and three children. They were kind and extremely solicitous about Kenny's welfare, anxious to help him in every possible way. Here he was given civilian clothes. He was also fitted with wooden shoes, undoubtedly to make more complete his appearance as a regular Belgian native.
Fear that the German Gestapo may have heard of the landing of the Yank airmen in the vicinity and that they might come to search the little cottage for them, led the underground representatives to take Kenny to a nearby woods to sleep for the night. At 1 a.m., he was awakened by the Belgians and you can imagine what a thrill it must have been for Kenny to see one of his crew members-Staff Sgt. Spence of Detroit, Mich., the top turret gunner. Sgt. Spence had landed several miles away from Kenny, but the Belgian underground had located him and brought him to join his buddy.
A plan was formulated to get Kenny and Sgt. Spence into neutral Switzerland with the aid of the underground. From that night on, the two airmen made their way cautiously-by day and by night-from house to house and from field to field, usually following a path in a field away from the road where they felt more secure from prowling Gestapo agents and moving only when they were certain they would run no unnecessary risks of capture. Often they rode bicycles which were placed at strategic points for them by the underground which apparently passes word along the way to other members of the organization. The efficiency of these brave Belgian patriots in giving Kenny and his buddy assistance right when they needed it the most was utterly amazing.
By Aug. 11th, the airmen had traveled 40 miles from East Belgium to Brussels, slow progress to be sure, because they always had to keep well under cover and some times were forced to remain in one locality because the risks of moving on appeared too great. The underground directed them to a house in Brussels where they had plenty to eat, fine sleeping quarters, and even a radio for their entertainment.
What a splendid piece of luck, Kenny and Sgt. Spence thought.
On Aug. 18th, after they had been at the residence for a week, the gentleman of the house asked them to get into a car. Things were really looking up for them now because their host told them that the automobile was to take them to neutral Switzerland. With him now was an RAF flier, who also had been directed to the house by the Belgian underground.
As the car rolled away, the three fliers were almost overwhelmed with joy. Tiny little Switzerland loomed in their thoughts as a heavenly paradise. Once there, they would be safe and secure from the terrors of the Gestapo which they had so luckily eluded up to now. The fliers talked but little as the machine raced along the streets of Brussels, but the expressions of happiness on their faces told a story of joyfulness which would have filled volumes.
Suddenly the automobile swung up to the curb in front of a five-story brick building surrounded by a high iron fence. At the gate stood a haughty, erect German soldier, an ominous automatic revolver at his side.
Kenny and his two buddies, now torn by a rush of conflicting emotions, immediately became suspicious.
The fliers were ordered out of the car and ushered up three flights of stairs into a small office where they were greeted by a paunchy, spectacled German officer. As the Allied airmen glanced about the little room, the cruelty of Ratzi trickery hit them a hard, sickening blow.
"I looked at Spence and our RAF buddy and they were both as white as sheets," relates Kenny. "And I must have looked the same way because we were all plenty scared and don't think we weren't!"
There, on the walls of the little office, were large portraits of two of the filthiest Ratzis-Hitler and Goering.
This was Luftwaffe Headquarters!
Here the fliers were searched and relieved of all their money, rings and watches. Kenny, however, was a little too slick for the slickers. Anticipating this eventuality, he had previously tied his wrist watch and two rings around his left upper arm with a string, and although he was searched twice more later on, the Germaniacs never discovered his hidden jewelry.
Then came the interrogation. The Ratzis wanted to know the identity of the Belgian patriots who had helped them. Kenny and his two buddies refused to tell.
"They shoved us around quite a bit," said the Monticello youth, "But we never suffered any bodily harm."
When these tactics failed to get the airmen to talk, the German officer slyly reminded them that, since they were wearing civilian clothes, they were to be treated as spies and not as prisoners of war.
"And you know what that means," he exclaimed, with painful politeness, referring, of course, to death before a firing squad.
When the fliers still declined to divulge this information, they were taken to a criminal prison in Brussels "to think it over." Most of the inmates were Belgian civilians or German army deserters. In here the airmen were separated and locked in different cells-Kenny with two Belgians and a German soldier. He was kept shut in for 24 hours a day and only once a week was he allowed 10 or 15 minutes outside in a small pen in the sunshine-if there was any.
Kenny's meals consisted of a cup of what was supposed to be coffee for breakfast; a bowl of thin, watery soup at noon; a dab of margarine and a large hunk of black, mouldy bread-so hard you could have almost pounded nails with it-at 3 p.m., and another cup of coffee and another bowl of soup for supper.
"It tasted pretty good, though," says Kenny, "because we were always so hungry."
Apparently the Ratzis could not afford to give their prisoners such "fancy" meals every day of the week because they did not serve any supper at all on Saturdays, Sundays, or Wednesdays.
Quite a contrast to the tender treatment these German murderers receive in American prison camps!
Kenny and the other prisoners were strictly forbidden to talk. Neither did they dare look out of windows. Guards were stationed along the corridors on all floors and they kept shouting instructions or inquiries at each other in that haughty, arrogant German bellow until, in the otherwise deadly quiet behind the dingy prison walls, it nearly drove the prisoners crazy.
Once more Kenny was ushered before a high Ratzi official and questioned. Again he was threatened with death when he remained silent. The local youth later learned that any prisoner refusing to divulge information after a third interrogation was placed in solitary confinement. An American fighter pilot had spent 31 days in a dark, lonely cell by the time that British army was approaching Brussels early in September.
By then the Germans were getting uneasy and began to evacuate troops, prisoners, and all their belongings for transportation into Germany. On Sept. 3rd, they loaded Kenny and the rest of the prisoners, numbering well over 1,000-but of which there were only 41 Allied airmen while the remainder were mostly Belgian civilians-into a 50-car prison and troop train which for two days they tried frantically to get out of the city and headed for Ratziland, but they were thwarted by the Belgian underground which dynamited railroad tracks and bridges. At the end of the second day, the Germans derailed four cars-one of them in which Kenny was riding-trying to switch them onto another track. They uncoupled these cars from the rest of the train and left them there.
Events were happening rapidly now. The British were close to the city limits of Brussels now and advancing steadily. The rumble of their tanks and the boom-booming of their artillery could be heard in the distance. The church bells of Brussels already were tolling in celebration of the liberation of the city. The Germans became panicky, and as darkness settled over the railroad yards which were situated in the northeast section of the city, they began to pull out. The prisoners, however, were not certain but that some of the Ratzis had remained to give battle for that sector of Brussels. Around midnight, after a French terrorist, condemned to death by the Ratzis, had picked the lock of the lone prison coach of the four cars, the prisoners began to leave in twos and threes. They struck out at different intervals and in different directions to make detection less likely. As they stole stealthily along in the darkness, gun fire could now be heard in the streets above the railroad yards.
After remaining in hiding until morning, the escaped Allied airmen were happy to discover that the Germans apparently had withdrawn from the city except for isolated units which still battled on against hopeless odds. Then they went into the city, walking along the streets in pairs and trios. Real peace of mind was not yet for Kenny and his little group because, as they approached a street corner, they were suddenly confronted by the rifles of Belgian police, who evidently suspected them of being Germans. After each of the airmen were frisked separately to see if they had guns in their possession they were taken to the city police headquarters. Here they definitely identified themselves as Americans. The Belgian police officers were very apologetic and then proceeded to treat the Yanks like kings, giving them beer, wine, cognac, and all kinds of food.
Kenny and his buddies immediately contacted the United States Civil Affairs Officer. Then they registered at the Hotel Metropol, one of the finest hotels in Brussels and here all they had to do was to sign their names and they received all the food and anything else they desired. Here, too, Kenny and Spence met three of their crew members, who had been hiding out ever since parachuting to earth July 20th. Imagine what a joy it must have been for all of them to see one another again! Through the Belgian underground, the fliers learned that one of their crew members apparently plunged to his death when his chute failed to open, while one of them was captured by the Germans. From this same source, they also learned that their pilot and bombardier had fallen into the hands of the Ratzis and were locked up in the very same criminal prison as Kenny and Spence. In fact, Kenny caught a glimpse of one of them once, but of course, he didn't dare to make his presence known. Unfortunately, the pilot and bombardier were taken to Germany by the Ratzis the week before, a fate which Kenny and Spence were extremely lucky to escape.
Before leaving Brussels, Kenny and his buddies got word to the Belgian underground of the presence of the German Gestapo agent in their organization. They have since learned that the Belgian patriots took very good care of him-which is just a nice way of saying they gave him a generous dose of lead in the head.
From Brussels, the fliers went by truck to Paris, then the next day by air transport to London where they reported to United States Army Air Force Headquarters for interrogation, physical check-ups, re-issuing of supplies, and completion of records. They left England Oct. 3rd by transport plane, landed in New York City the next day and on the Sunday morning of Oct. 8th, Kenny arrived in Monticello, supremely happy to see "Home Sweet Home" again after two months of hectic and harrowing experiences that would do credit to the best of the movie thrillers.
The Monticello youth is the holder of the Air Medal with two Oak Leaf Clusters and the Purple Heart which was awarded to him because his left hand was lacerated in pulling the rip chord of his parachute when he leaped from the big Liberator Bomber which, incidentally, the crew members called "Evasive Action." He has two battle stars on his European Theatre of Operations ribbon, one for flights over Germany and the other for missions over France.
Kenny, who will not be 21 years old until Dec. 18th, is married
to the former Alice Schenk of Monticello. He is the son of Clarence
Holcomb and a grandson of the late Ernest Holcomb. On Nov. 2nd,
he is scheduled to report at the Miami Beach (Fla.) Air Force Center for
reclassification and reassignment.
HELP! HELP!! HELP!!!-
What'll I do, ladies and gentlemen, what'll I do? Here I am wading deep down into the last page of The Drizzle and I'm brimming with news about some of the rest of you, but there isn't nearly enough room for it. I believe you'll all agree that Kenny's thrilling experiences are so tremendously interesting that they fully merit all of the space given them. All I can do now is to hit a few of the high spots so here goes:
It's grand to know that T/5 Harry Schuerch, who lost his right leg below the knee in action in France July 26, is finally back in the states. He's at McClaskey General Hospital, Temple, Tex., and may be there for several months. His wife, Margaret, is joining him there. Harry had 21 blood transfusions while hospitalized in England for 10 weeks. Our very best wishes, Harry. . . Straight from the Siegfried line area come these "Bob Blumerisms," right from the Honorable Bob himself: "Well, I've been awarded the Purple Heart because of my wounded shoulder and you can bet it didn't come through a bean-shooter." "A fellow may not have believed much in religion before the war, but believe me, he learns how to pray in a foxhole." . . Bob and good, old Whitey Hill, now with Co. I, 317th Inf., APO 80, NYC, are in the same general locality with Patton's 3rd Army. -These two famous "hot air specialists" recently bumped into each other over there and take my word for it, fellows, the spontaneous combustion that resulted was really terrific. I've sent airmail letters to Bob and Whitey, asking them to send me a couple of war souvenirs. Wouldn't be a bit surprised if these two rough-riding, rollicking warriors'll be sending me Adolph's moustache some of these days. Sudden thought: How about each of you sending back something for a Drizzle collection of war souvenirs for public display here at home?
Tommy Brusveen's company entered Paris the night before it was
freed. The next day he was taking pictures of the victory parade and was
right on the spot when French Fascists fired into the procession. Tommy
also got some good "snaps" of the celebrants fleeing for safety. He visited
Marshal Petain's magnificent mansion and estate. To Vincent Gerry:
Thanks for your shoulder patches!
MY SINCERE THANKS-
To these Drizzle donors: Jack Steinmann, Willis Babler, Karl F. Disch;
Ernest Spring, Monroe; R. W. Woelffer, Florence Loveland; P. J.
Babler, Monroe; C. M. Stauffer, James Lobbs, Dr. Baebler, Dr. Clarke,
Emil Escher, S. W. Grenzow, Geo. and Lena Graf, Dr. Horne, John H. Baebler,
Conrad Elmer, H. D. Freitag, Mrs. Abe Kubly, Jr., Edwin Steussy, Madison;
J. A Hughes, Boscobel; Adam Schuler, Charles Deininger, Monroe;
THE LAST ROUND UP-
Cpl. P. F. Blumer has been in San Diego, awaiting shipment to
the Southwest Pacific and may have left by now. . . Pvt. Florence Pluss,
of the WACs, is in New Guinea and likes it a lot. I see I'm creeping closer
to the bottom of the page so here's wishing all of you all of the luck
in the world! And, be sure not to forget, get your letters in early-for
November and December. So long!