Tuesday, December 18, 2012

O'Hare's WWII Diary: "We are Being Looked After Like Pet Children by the Russians"

Writer Kurt Vonnegut's letter home, written soon after his release from a POW camp, was published here yesterday. Believe it or not, my dad was the real writer back then - he even kept a diary for an entire week.

Unlike Vonnegut, he sheds no light on what had actually happened to him as a POW. He provides no explanation about his weight going from 150 lbs. before the war to 80 lbs. as Adolph's guest. Mum's the word. He'd stay like that the rest of his life. Vonnegut's three-page letter tells me more about my dad's POW experience than he himself ever shared.

He just drank. A lot. Especially at Christmas time. That didn't kill him. Neither did the Germans. The cigarettes did.

But for one week, my father chronicled his post-release experiences in amazing detail. Just twenty-two at the time, he was a pretty good writer himself. Occasionally, he mentions Vonnegut, who was just a "minor being" at the time. For the next few days, I'll share my dad's thoughts with you, day by day.

5/17/45

Our mangy but well-fed crew left DiHille's at noon today. We proceeded over the Elbe to Russian headquarters in the city and after much confusion - due to our ignorance of the Russian language and vice versa - we were directed to the Hitler Caserne on Konigsbage Strasse. Here we find ourselves confronted with the perpetual situation of no one knowing anything about anything. However, we are being looked after like pet children by the Russians. We have been here only four hours at the most and have already been fed twice, showered, de-loused and billeted. As near as we can gather from speaking to the limeys and G.I.'s here, we are to stay put until our troops come seeking us. Except for the anxiety that we all have concerning our parents and families, we don't give a damn how long it takes them to root us out.

I heard my first radio program since I was captured. Dannine and I went across the compound and fell in with a few Tommies who have a wireless set in their flat. We heard an A.M.G. broadcast from Hamburg. That American music certainly sounded good. The Tommies surprised us before the evening was over with a meal of spuds, meat and beans. We rejoined our crew with a full stomach and a highly satisfied mien. I don't believe I'll ever get up out of bed again. Goot nacht.


Blogger's Note: First published 12/11/07.

15 comments:

Carol said...

Bernie, Merry Christmas, I am following the Vonnegut letters, I was just a kid during WW2, but we all followed the news and the gold stars that would suddenly appear in the windows, saving grease, metal, the air raid wardens, covering the windows, I was in school in Paterson at the time, stepdad worked at Wright Bros. airplanes on engines, we kids wore dogtags to school. Memories!

Anonymous said...

Es wird benannt, "gute Nacht"

DEUTSCHE GRAMMATIKPOLIZEI

Aber wir brauchen mehr Geld, um Griechenland zu schicken. Hilf bitte!

Anonymous said...

Great Job Bernie - Sehr interessant - Danke für das Teilen!

Anonymous said...

Excellent. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Excellent. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Awesome and very interesting, Thank you Bernie and Merry Christmas

Anonymous said...



What happened to our Country?

More importantly what happened to our CITIZENS?

They were the GREATEST GENERATION!

Anonymous said...

My uncle was a Japanese POW. He was stationed on Corregidor and I understand that his gun emplacement was the last to fire on the Japanese on May 6, 1942. He also never talked about his POW experiences. He graduated from West Point --- was a member of the class of 1939. He was awarded a silver star. He died in 1982. Thanks for sharing the letters.

Anonymous said...

My uncle was aboard the USS Tangier, anchored with the Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor on the 7th of December, 1941.

Our families mailman when I was a child growing up in Bethlehem, was a survivor of the infamous death march on Bataan.

Young men who found themselves facing extraordinary hardship.

Don't kid yourself, our country still produces young men and wemon of the caliber as these WW II Vets.
We should applaud them one and all, and recognize their frail and brilliant humanity even as we laud their courage.

Thank you for this wonderful post.

Zach said...

Wow this is amazing, Bernie ... thanks for posting!

Anonymous said...

My cousin was one of the 317 sailors that survived the USS Indianapolis sinking. He never discussed this nightmare. Letters that document what these guys went through are priceless.

Bernie O'Hare said...

f your cousin is still alive, it would be nice to get his story. I'd be happy to help you if you like. The WWII roundtable has guys who do that, too, now that I think about it. Let me know if they or I can help. Obviously, nobody would pressure your cousin and i would respect his wishes.

Anonymous said...

That's really decent of you BOH. A very decent, kind and historically significant gesture.
Nice job.

Anonymous said...

Bernie, my cousin, the Indianapolis survivor, unfortunately is dead.Thanks for your offer.

Bernie O'Hare said...

I am sorry for your loss, which s also our loss.