“You are not going out with that boy unless his parents are driving and that's that. I'm not just Spitting Grits here, young lady!”

. . . My father, John Thomas Cravey, USAF, to me in 1956.

The Liberation of Stalag VII at Moosburg, Part One

 

 

 

 

NOTE: This  account of the liberation of Stalag VIIA at Moosburg, Germany, on April 29, 1945, was posted by Glenn M. Strong nine years ago on the armyairforces.com site  (http://forum.armyairforces.com/Liberation-of-Stalag-VIIA-April-291945-m75144.aspx?high=Stalag+VIIA ) honoring the 60th Anniversary of the Liberation. An amalgamation of various sources, accounts, conversations, Strong’s piece captures the intense pandemonium, jubilation, and joy of that day. His father was among the POWs liberated. My father, Lt. John Cravey, was also liberated that day. Spittin’ Grits thanks strong for permission to re-post and will run Part Two tomorrow.

 

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It is 0600, 29 April. The attack of Combat Command A is due to be resumed at this moment. The command post is located in Puttenhausen, Germany.

 
The 47th Tank Battalion is eight miles to the southeast where it halted operations at 2300 last night. Lieut. Col. Bob E. Edward's 68th Armored Infantry Battalion is three miles north of the command post, having run into hard resistance late the preceding day and having been ordered to halt in Mainburg to avoid running into a known night ambush.

 
Soon now, reports should arrive that the battalions are moving, and the guns of Joseph J. Murtha's 500th Armored Field Artillery Battalion should be heard. At one minute before 0600 a strange group strode into the headquarters of Combat Command A, to meet Brig. Gen. C. H. Karlstad, Combat Commander. It consisted of a German Major, representing the commander of the Moosburg Allied Prisoner of War Camp, Col. Paul S. Goode of the United States Army and a Group Commander of the British Royal Air Force, the senior American and British Officers respectively, imprisoned in the Moosburg Camp; a Swiss Red Cross representative; and Lt. Col. James W. Lann. The German Major brought a written proposal from his commander for the creation of a neutral zone surrounding Moosburg, all movement of Allied troops in the general vicinity of Moosburg to stop while representatives of the Allied and German Governments conferred on disposition of the Allied Prisoners of War in that vicinity.

The German proposals were rejected and the party was given until 0900 to return to Moosburg and to submit an unconditional surrender offer - or receive the American attack at that hour; a CCA staff officer was dispatched to General Smith.


German SS troops moved outside the city and set up a defense perimeter. They opened the fight.

 
By 1030 the SS were lying dead in the fields and along the roads, grey-white faces and open mouths, twisted and staring sightlessly at the cold, blue sky above; and American medium tanks were roaring through the cobbled streets of the ancient city.

 
The 47th had split in two columns, one led by Maj. Kirchner and the other by Col. Lann; and Gen. Karlstad went into the city with the 47th. Gen. Karlstad picked up a German officer as guide, and with Lieut. Joseph P. Luby and Lieut. William J. Hodges took off for the prison camp proper.

 
The jeep mounted a .30 caliber machine gun; as it swung up, there were several score armed German guards outside. Luby rolled into their midst, his jeep stopped, and with his hand on the gun called: "Achtung!" The group surrendered.


General Smith arrived at the camp shortly thereafter; an American flag was raised.


Official estimates of the total Allied prisoners freed at Moosburg were 110,000, including an estimated 30,000 Americans, officers and men. Besides a series of seven prisoner of war camps, the Division captured a German garrison of 6,000 men at Moosburg.

 
Once the sharp, pitched battle by the SS was over, the German defenses crumbled. The 600-man 47th Tank Battalion took 2,000 prisoners; the 600-man 94th Reconnaissance Squadron took 2,000 more. Division total for the day was set at 12,000.

 
Scenes of the wildest rejoicing accompanied the tanks as they crashed through the double 10-foot wire fences of the prison camps. There were Norwegians, Brazilians, French, Poles, Dutch, Greeks, Rumanians, Bulgars. There were Americans, Russians, Serbs, Italians, New Zealanders, South Africans, Australians, British, Canadians - men from every nation fighting the Nazis. There were officers and men. Twenty-seven Russian Generals, sons of four American Generals. There were men and women in the prison camps - including three Russian women doctors. There were men of every rank and every branch of service, there were war correspondents and radio men.

 
Around the city were thousands of slave laborers, men and women.

 
All combined to give the 14th the most incredible welcome it ever received. The tanks were finally slowed to five miles an hour as they went through the camps - the press of men in front of them was so great. Men, some of them prisoners five years, some American Air Corps men prisoners two years, cried and shouted and patted the tanks.
"You damned bloody Yanks, I love you!" shouted a six-foot four Australian and threw his arms around a jeep driver.

 
A weary bearded American paratrooper climbed on a tank and kissed the tank commander. Tears streamed from his cheeks. The women had flowers, and they threw the flowers on the tanks and in the jeeps. Italians and Serbs, tired and drawn, jammed around the vehicles, eagerly thrusting out their hands to touch their liberators, weeping.
An American Air Corps lieutenant kissed a tank. "G*****n, do I love the ground forces," he said. "This is the happiest day of my life!" "You were a long time coming, but now you are here!" There were no words to express the feelings of these men.

As the German guards were formed in columns of four and marched away, each man carrying two or three loaves of black bread, some of the tankers took the bread from them and tossed it over the fences to the Allied prisoners.


Tec/5 Floyd C. Mahoney of C-47 freed his own son, a lieutenant in the Air Corps.

Part II, tomorrow’s post.

 

Allied Command-ed

The Allied Command at Liberation

 

 

Other sites: http://www.moosburg.org/info/stalag/indeng.html,

 

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