War Ain't a Social Club
by Harry Fisher
Harry Fisher was born in New Jersey. He was an American soldier in World War II and was with the first unit to free the inmates of the infamous concentration camps. He was a first sergeant in the third Army under General Patton and was decorated with two rows of medals and battle stars plus he received a letter of outstanding service and bravery from his commanding general.
Having enlisted in the army prior to the bombing of Pearl Harbor, he started his tour of duty in the Pacific right after Pearl Harbor was bombed. He was with the 27th division which attacked Guadal Canal near the Hawaiian Islands. He spent a year and a half on these islands fighting the Japanese.
After this period, men from this group were selected to come back to the states to form a new division. These seasoned soldiers were to be the nucleus to train new recruits to properly engage in warfare. Harry was amongst those to be selected.
"After training in several camps in the states, we formed the sixty-fifth division. In 1944 we headed for Europe. We were ten thousand troops cramped on one ship - a ship that would normally carry two thousand people.
After being on the ocean for five days, being fortunate that we were not attacked by enemy submarines, we arrived off the coast of southern France."
"We received orders to disembark. It was midnight. Each of us had all of our equipment, including guns, ammunition, clothing, etc, which altogether weighed over one hundred pounds on our back. There was no port. The ship was anchored out in the ocean. We went over the side of the ship down a sixty foot rope ladder during a blinding snowstorm into the landing craft waiting below. There was no cover to conceal us from elements or the enemy. A few men fell off and were lost."
"The landing craft brought us near the beaches. When the front of the landing craft opened, we ran through the freezing muddy water to reach "dry" land."
"There was constant fire from the German army. We eventually drove them out, killing quite a few. We moved into the small French villages and took over the local houses."
"We received orders that General Patton was going to address all of the officers. I, being a non commissioned officer, a first sergeant, was included. We were lined up and General Patton came up in his command car. He got out of the car and stood up on the fender of the car. He was a tough general; they called him 'blood and guts.'"
"His first crack was telling us that the other day they got in two truckloads of prisoners. 'One of them took out a gun and shot my aide. You know what the hell we done with them? We machine-gunned the hell out of all of them! If you catch any of them sons of bitches don't wait till you get them to the wall. Kill the sons of bitches before you even get them there!'"
"'One damn thing about it,' General Patton continued, 'you might get bumped off tomorrow, or maybe today, hell, I don't know. But one thing about it, if you live to get back home and they say to you, 'pop, grandpa, uncle, I don't know who the hell you are, were you over there in Germany fighting or back there in Alabama shoveling "hay"'.
"As soon as we had a break in the weather, we started our drive into Germany. As soon as we crossed into Germany, the first little town we took was called Ittersdorf, there we were bombing them all day and all night long and they were bombing us too. The mud was up to your knees, and the morale was low due to the bombing, the lousy weather, no food, and losing a lot of good men. We were fighting for 24 hours a day, seven days a week with no let up. When I saw that the morale was getting low, I said to the men, 'It's just the way I like it. I wouldn't have it any other way.' We received orders to drive ahead."
"The next town we hit was Ordruff. There is where we came in contact with our first concentration camp."
"General Eisenhower, General Patton, and General Bradley all came to see this camp. When you approached the camp, there were two huge steel gates, forty feet high. The entire area was surrounded with barbed wire. When we came into the camp, there were hundreds of dead bodies. These were the inmates who were just skin and bones. The German's shot them all before they pulled out. These were the ones that were too weak to march in retreat with the Germans."
"I looked in one building and saw bodies stacked up head to foot, too many to even estimate the number. Some had their guts ripped out from the cruelty of the retreating German army. They did not have a chance to burn them. There was a gallows there, where they would hang them with a steel cable. We forced the people from the town to dig graves and we put ten to twelve bodies in one grave. "
"We continued our drive into Germany, taking several cities. We lived through bombing, sniper fire, machine gun fire, minefields and eating GI rations."
"One time I was in a jeep with a driver and a guard. We had to get to a small town called Eswidge. As I approached the forests, which were very dangerous places, where the Germans would lay in ambush with machine guns, - seven or eight men from our unit jumped into my path. "Where the hell are you going?" they asked. I replied to Eswidge. They told me that they just machine-gunned the hell out of a colonel and his driver. I told them the hell with it; I'll take another road. In this fortunate incident, I was spared injury."
"Taking another road, I finally got to Eswidge, but the Germans were bombing our soldiers there. So I never made it into the village."
"As soon as we passed Eswidge, we came under fire from the Germans. They had a gun called the "88"'. It was a very accurate gun. It knocked out some of our tanks and vehicles. We returned the fire knocking them out."
"Continuing our drive across the Rhine River, we chased the Germans into Austria. We were on one side of the Danube River and the Russians were on the other side. We had the Germans in the middle. We received word that Germany surrendered. We took the German troops and put them under barbed wire."
"There was one concentration camp in Austria that I visited. This was called Linz. The inmates told us that when the Germans would feed them, they would tell us that this is from the flesh of your children."
"Now I am fortunate to live in Israel. We are at war here, when people are killing your people, that's war! During war, you have to attack, not retaliate, it's either your life or their's. People understand only one thing: might! Don't kid yourself to think that the Arabs will give up the fight as long as they have guns and leaders that urge them on. We are in a real war and we should act accordingly."
||Harry Fisher is retired and lives in
from the February Purim 2002 Edition of the Jewish Magazine