Until 2 May, the section operated a message center for the Division CP, in a castle some six miles out of Weilheim. While we were at Weilheim, the infantry captured the German General von Rundstedt, soaking in his bath at Bad Tolz, and pleading rheumatism. A buck slip was passed about, forbidding the confiscation of Admiral Horthys liquor supplies from the castle cellar, this narrowed the liberation down to a few staff officers in headquarters. SS troops were converted into palace guards for Admiral Horthy, and a personal staff retained by the former regent. Lt. Mercaldo once called and demanded of one of Horthys flunkies to see the Admiral. "I will see if his Majesty will receive you", replied the flunky. "His Majesty, hell", replied the lieutenant. "Tell that bum to get down here".
A company forward echelon, including one of the sections three teams, pulled out for Kochel on the 2nd, and had completed their installations there when it was decided to yank them all out again and proceed to Bad Tolz. The main event of our pause on Kochel was the surrender of an entire German signal company, complete with shiny boots, pressed pants and goose-step, to Major Trescott, the Division Signal Officer.
The advance arrived in Bad Tolz that evening, but did not open message center until 0900 of the 3rd. On 4 May, one team advanced to the town of Rottach, set up its agency in a plumbing establishment and commandeered a hotel to live in. The town was full of German soldiers wandering aimlessly about, moving rearward to surrender in carts, broken-down trucks, touring-cars, on donkeys and on foot: our infantry was moving so swifty that it could not bother with taking all available prisoners. Rottach, an important medical centre, was full of large hospitals. The Signal Company took half of Rottach, and left the other half to the German medical staff: at one point, Captain Wells was walking up and down the main street, arguing with a German major about the division of quarters. The Signal Company finally got sufficient lebensraum, but we didnt stay long.
The 5th of May took an advance to Kufstein, where the men occupied a German barracks. By now all roads were full of surrendering Germans. At 1630 the radio section received a flash message, announcing the surrender of all German troops on the Seventh Army front, and message center men began here and there to celebrate. On 7 May, the German barracks occupied by signalmen were requisitioned for use as a displaced persons centre, and the company removed to a resort hotel, high on a hill above Kufstein. Message center men, who had accumulated quantities of pistols, cameras and other desirable articles in the course of the drive into Germany and Austria, had also managed to gather together several cases of champagne, white wine and schnapps. On the eve of V-E Day, with the war in Europe over at last and small prospect of any 36th Signalman going to the Pacific, there was sarcely a sober man to be found in the section.
On the 8th, we all moved off in convoy for Kitzbuhl, to occupy for a while, and savor the peace. The town of Kitzbuhl had been, in quieter days, a favorite resort of the international smart set. Set deep in a sunny valley, amid mountains covered with snow, it was an excellent winter-sports spot. Our first message center was in a home in midtown, but later we moved up to the famous Grand Hotel, above Kitzbuhl at the foot of the mountainside. The Grand Hotel bar served free drinks for two days, which did not improve our efficiency, but made the work more pleasant by far. Our living-quarters were a block of homes, from which the civilians had been persuaded to depart. Air Marshal Goering was wheeled into town following his capture, for interrogation and a chicken dinner. It was easy to tell that the war was over, sunbathing signalmen on the Kitzbuhl porches could look down into the streets and see German M.P.s directing our military traffic. Finie, la guerre.
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