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Decisions and Sights at the Elbe River

April 14, 2012

Each post on this blog builds chronologically on the ones before. Journal entries are written in bold and comments are written in italics. I gratefully acknowledge the sources I used to follow Al’s journal and have listed them on the page, “Where to Learn More“.

Apr. 24.
Went to Stendal (about 30 miles) for a bath.  Stopped at Borstel and saw a Jerry airfield with many wrecked FW’s and ME’s.  Also one jet-propelled (Me-262) intact.  Saw red and green planes on the Elbe, which meant the Russians have contacted us, but from later reports it wasn’t it.  Our objective (9th Army) was the Elbe River.

Apr. 26.
Took a jaunt to the Elbe to get first hand view of the situation.  Some of our doughboys had crossed it and we intended to go across by motor boat, but some Colonel changed our plans.  Many evacuees seen on other side; prisoners galore surrendering and coming over; also American and British soldiers liberated. We had to be content with getting only two snapshots.

Apr. 29.
Moved to Miesterhorst, near Oebisfelde – good deal.  Guns set up – swell theatre.

May 4.
Went to Miesterhorst, near Oebisfelde. Our mission: to act as military government taking control of the town.  Picked up many SS troops & collaborators.  Guns out of action – own beer hall

The Colonel who changed their crossing plans was only passing along orders from Eisenhower.  Considered a controversial decision,the order to halt could have been based at least partly on political considerations. Military considerations, including the fact that the Russians were closer to Berlin, that casualties could be very high and that Eisenhower wanted to end the European operations to be able to pay more attention to the Pacific battles, were factors.  But there were also the political agreements from the Yalta conference concerning post-war division of Germany between Churchill, Stalin and FDR.  Halting the Allied forces progression at the Elbe may have helped set the stage for Soviet control of Eastern Europe.

As acting military government, Al’s unit’s tasks included: appointing new (obviously non-Nazi) officials; establishing and enforcing laws and ordinances;establishing and enforcing curfew 2030 to 0630 military time (8:30 PM to 6:30 AM); collecting weapons and ammunition; setting up road blocks; establishing camps for displaced civilians and Allied POWs and defining allowable geographic limits  that required military government permits to go beyond.

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