John M. Gaul
Omaha Corporal, U.S. Army
Served with 102nd Infantry Regiment, 43rd Division from February 1952 to February 1954.
Memory: “Dad took me, his sixth kid to join the military, to Harlan, Iowa, to catch the Davis Bus, which took me and a bunch of other Shelby County guys to Fort Omaha to be sworn in.
“(After training) we left for Europe, 2,400 strong aboard the troop ship USS Stuart Heintzelman. When we reached the Cliffs of Dover, we stopped to take on a pilot who steered us through the English Channel, which was still littered with many partially sunken vessels. ... A bunch of us took a train to Augsburg, Germany, and Sheridan Kaserne, which became my home. A man named Sholler and I were assigned to keep (the vehicles in the medical company's motor pool) running. The bulk of the occupation troops in Germany held maneuvers along the Rhine River that autumn, so we got to see a lot of the countryside and the British and the French armies in action.
“Josef Stalin died March 5, 1953, but no one asked for leave to attend the funeral. However, the June 2, 1953, coronation of Queen Elizabeth II left the kaserne (the barracks) almost empty. Sholler attended the coronation and married an English lady he met while there. He was rotated back to the States a short time later. With Sholler gone, we got a new mechanic named Metzger (on the left in photo). He had fought on the German side during the Battle of the Bulge as a Hitler Youth, was captured at age 16 and somehow became an interpreter for the Allies. This got him to the States and citizenship, and he was later drafted into the U.S. Army and sent back to Germany.
“On Thanksgiving and Christmas 1953, our medical company opened its doors to an Augsburg orphanage. They all ate with us in the mess hall, and we bought as many gifts as we could afford to give them on Christmas. There were a lot of happy little German orphans that day. I left Augsburg for my return to the States near the end of January 1954.”
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