Keep your Confederate
money folks, the South will rise again..
15 February 1945 troops of
the 475 MPEG Co.
once more assembled for duty. The new home was Ft. Eustis,
VA, a “reception center” for newly-arrived German
POWs disembarking at nearby Norfolk, VA.
The assignments were mainly
those involving guarding trainloads of POWs
as they were taken to camps throughout the
|south. Usually one or
two sections of the 475 accompanied
a trainload. It was dirty duty riding in
non-air-conditioned troop sleepers, with their
ill-ventilated 4-tiered bunks, behind oil- or coal-burning
|soot- and cinder-spewing locomotives.
The POW’s rode in vin- tage coaches with
guards on the end platforms. When the
train stopped, the guards stepped off
both sides to watch the windows and platforms for
possible escape attempts. Once its cargo
had been delivered , the detail would be hustled onto a return train
back to Ft. Eustis.
||Tuesday 20 February 1945
“May 20 will be
the second anniversary of the activation
of our company. We’re going to have
a party and if we’re still in the states,
which we prob- ably will be, we’re going to have a dance… We got in a bookshelf
full of books today, material for curtains for our mess hall;
we’re going to get a billiard table, curtains, and a radio for our
day room. Looks kind of permanent doesn’t it?”
At Ft. Eustis your author was fortunate enough to be assigned to special
duty with POW Supply. There he served as a clerk under the
command of a retread from WW1, a Captain Hall. Each POW was
issued a uniform befitting the climate of his next station-stockade. The
uniforms were serviceable Class X garments stenciled
with the letters “P” and “W” in a bright contrasting
1 April 1945 a detachment of the 475
was sent to a Military Intelligence camp at Pine Grove Furnace, PA.
This was a camp that reportedly escaped inspection visits
from the International Red Cross. It was a “side” camp of Carlisle
18 to 25 June 1945 the Pennsylvania detachment
moved to Indiantown Gap Military Reservation, PA and
functioned as post MPs, doing town patrol in Harrisburg. On 25 June
these troops rejoined the 475th at their new duty station.
||Thursday 5 April 1945
“The furloughs have been cancelled for the present.
The 475 is all away
escorting prisoners except maybe 30 of us. Maybe
I’ll be sent out on a trip too.
They range anywheres [sic] from one day
up to two weeks. Some of the
boys went to Texas, some lucky ones up to God’s country,
Delaware… I have my summer uniforms now.”
Monday 16 April 1945
I went over for chow [from my job
in PW Supply] and found the 475th undergoing a new torture.
They have to stand retreat every night
now… We had a shipment of prisoners up to Ft, Meade.”
Sunday 22 April 1945
We’re building a new stockade here on the post and it
has to be ready by Wednesday.”
Friday 15 June 1945
“We’re awaiting our orders to move anytime now. We got
a phone call from one of our boys who are up at the Gap.
They are doing MP duty in Harrisburg tonight.
Capt. Levine will be a Major in a couple of days and is leaving us. Capt.
Long returns as CO.” Monday 18 June 1945
“Did I tell you we have a battle star in our E.T.O. campaign ribbon
for the ‘Campaign of Northern France.’ We
have a flashy new patch for our
right shoulder.”[A.S.F. Advanced Depots in France]
1 June 1945 the 475
MPEG Co. moved from Ft. Eustis to Camp Pickett,
|The nearest town
was Blackstone, VA. Here the
duty consisted of routine guard and
chasing of POWs. [Personal note:
Camp Pickett was notable to this author for
two reasons: (1) A visit from
his wife and a room rented from a Mrs. Steiner and (2)
Meeting Red Skelton in the line of duty.]
..............One night while
on duty at the gate of a secure ward in the Camp Pickett post
hospital, this writer was surprised to see the “ward boy” letting
Red Skelton out of the ward where he had
been visiting. As he left, Red said, “Good night, Smitty.
I’ll send you a cake with a file in it.”
Several nights later I drew duty at the same post. There sitting
on a shelf in the ward boy’s office was a small cake with an
array of small rat-tailed files standing up in it like birthday candles.
Red Skelton in Uniform
Skelton served as a Private in the United States Army.
The MGM Comedian had more than 600 military base
and hospital appearances to his credit
at the time he was inducted. When he arrived at
Camp Roberts in California, his fellow soldiers
had tacked a sign on his barracks which read, ‘Tour a Movie Star's
Home.. Twenty-Five Cents!’ Red was one of the few
entertainers who did not serve as a Commissioned Officer. After his discharge
in 1945, Red Skelton returned to NBC Radio in Hollywood for, THE NEW RED
occurred that was to affect your author, not at the time,
but 47 years later. One of the troops said to me, “Herbener, there’s a
POW in the stockade with you name. You ought to go talk
to him.” Like a typical 22-year old uninterested in his geneology,
I shrugged it off. In 1992, I made contact with my third cousin,
Günter, in Bad Wildungen, Germany and visited him. That POW
had been Günter’s father, a WW1 veteran
who had been a senior uniformed policeman
in Marburg, Germany., He eventually was shipped
to Ft. Scottsbluff, NE where he helped harvest sugar beets.
I have a copy of the postcard that
was sent to his wife at the time of his becoming a POW.
He was eventually repatriated to Germany where he died in 1954.
..............On 21 August 1945
the 475 MPEG Co. was
transferred to Camp Stewart, GA. Several details
were sent out to POW side camps in rural Georgia to supervise the
POW utilization in harvesting crops. One such detail
went to Statesboro, GA ; another, including your author,
to Swainsboro, GA.
..............Freed from the restrictions
of the T/O of the 475,
I was promoted to corporal and given the duty as the
"company" clerk at Swainsboro. We had
a medic complete with ambulance assigned to the side camp.
There I typed morning reports for the signature of the casual lieutenant
who was the only
||commissioned officer at the side
camp. I also typed the 7 carbon-copied
(on mimeograph paper) contracts for
the farmers to sign hiring POW labor in harvesting peanuts.
We had POW cooks and bakers and ate the same meals
as the POWs. Outside the peanut farmers’
complaints about the too-small-size of stacks of
peanut plants there was not much excitement at Swainsboro.
We had been warned to stay away from the
local young ladies because their swains carried firearms in
the cabs of their pickup trucks. One member of the
unit apparently did not heed this warning – his address is
|now in Swainsboro, GA The most excite- ment at the
side camp occurred when a POW suffered a strangular hernia
and the medic and I took him to several
major Army installations in Georgia by ambu- lance
before we found one with a hospital that would accept him.
the peanut harvest was completed and
Camp Swainsboro was about to close. POWs and personnel
transferred to Statesboro which had more permanent facilities. It
was there on October 30, 1945 that I received the telegram informing me
of the birth of my son.
..............On 14 September
1945, the 475
Military Police Escort Guard Company was
placed on Inactive Status. It
was reactivated prior to the
Korean Conflict from 15 February 1949 until 15
September 1950 in Boise, ID.4