Elsey, George

Kane, Jim


Lunghi, Hugh

Roberts, Frank


Interview with Alfred Aronson, Former Staff Sergeant, 29TH Nov.1995

Q: Taking you back a number of years, tell me what was it like in Germany immediately before you met up with the Russians? What was happening with the Germans you were seeing? What was happening in the country around you?

A: Well, we had just prior to meeting with the Russians, we had taken the town - the City of Leipzig. And the German people themselves I think were welcome the American troops. They were glad to see the American troops, because they had a terrible fear of having Russians occupy or come into their area. So, we were greeted by the population rather well. And it was, you know, as anything else, they were certainly short of so many things, you know, deprived of food supplies and whatever. And it was a difficult time for them and yet I think they were very relieved over the fact that the war was over for them at that point.

Q: Did any of them ever let on what it was they were fearful of about the Russians? What were the fears?

A: I think the fears were retaliation. Retaliation for what the German soldiers had inflicted upon the Russians when they invaded Russia. And they just felt that there would be a vengeance on behalf of the Russians to, you know, even up the score, if you will.

Q: How did you and your men feel towards the Germans?

A: We welcomed the Germans - there was no animosity towards the Germans, in fact, we were very sympathetic towards the children, because they had been deprived of so much and, what candy we had we'd distribute to children. And chewing gum seemed to be a favourite. And it was a good relationship, I think, with the children.

Q: Move us on to actually meeting up with the Russians. Lead me into the first actual contact that you and your men had, what you saw, what it was you felt at that time.

A: Well, you know, after the fall of Leipzig, we had moved to about - oh, I'd say fifteen to twenty minutes further east to a town of Trebsen, which is located on the Mulde River. Now, orders came down that we could advance beyond that point. So we stayed there for a period of three to five days, when Katzabol, who was our lieutenant, came in one day and said he wanted to get a patrol together, we're going to go and see if we can find some Russians. Well, none of us were too eager to go on that patrol really, because we realised the end of the war was imminent and, we didn't know what was out there. You know, we had gotten this far, why stick our necks out again? But, you know, duty bound, we did go on the patrol. Now, we left actually on the afternoon of the 24th of April. We were the first patrol to go out. We got as far as a town called Zehren, where we stayed that night. Now, en route to that town, we encountered many, many German soldiers on the road. And as soon as they saw we were Americans they immediately threw down their arms, put up their weapons, that is, and you know, surrendered meekly. There was no fight at all in them, and they were just - they just wanted to know where the American lines were. The first batch that we encountered, which was probably about seventy-five or a hundred, we sent one of the men back with them, as a guard, if you will. And we soon realised, following that, we were encountering so many that if we kept sending people back with these Germans, there was no one left on the patrol. So then we just took the senior officer, or a senior non con in the Germans, and asked them to - we pointed them in the right direction to find the American lines. And just directed them to stay on the roads. We took their weapons from them, destroyed their weapons, and turned them loose. On the following morning, Katzabul took off with a couple of jeeps and I was left at Turan with the balance of the patrol. We were right at the edge of our limit of communications with the regiment headquarters. So he went out and it was during that trip that he encountered this one lone Russian soldier. After he talked with the soldier he had a German translator and he had a Russian translator with him. The German translator was a fellow by the name of, gosh, Polowski, and the Russian was a medic, and his name was Jawolski, I believe. Now the Russian soldier told him where the main Russian troops were, on the other side of the Elbe, on the east bank of the Elbe. So he went there and saw the Russians on the other side, they fired some flares, which were supposed to be the signal, green flares was the appropriate signal to fire, to let them know that they were Americans. And he proceeded to go across, but before that he then took Sergeant Johnstone, who was our platoon sergeant, and had him return to where I was, to gather the rest of us to meet with him. So we then left Zehren and went on to the Elbe. And the Russians had a pontoon type ferry, they had a cable strung across the River Elbe, and they would pull this pontoon ferry back and forth across the Elbe. And this was the vehicle that we used to cross over to meet the Russians.