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Warm memories
of the Cold War

By Joe Volz / Copley News Service

We old soldiers who fought the Cold War in Germany in the 1950s used to regularly sing, "Please, Mr. Eisenhower, send me home from Germany" to the tune of the old German drinking song, "Lili Marlene."
Now, a half-century later, President George W. Bush, who was a toddler in those Cold War years, is sending home thousands of U.S. soldiers, including two famed divisions, the 1st Infantry, known as the Big Red One, and the 1st Armored (Old Ironsides).
Bush says, "The world has changed a great deal."
The world has changed so much that it is time to redeploy the troops. There is no longer a threat of a Soviet invasion of Europe.
Many of us soldiers came of age in Germany. We were a diverse population of 300,000 soldiers in Germany, many draftees, in the days before the word "diversity" became so popular. It was the first time away from home for many and the only time many would ever leave the United States.
Now, we are in our 60s and 70s.
So return to those years for a few minutes through the eyes of this ex-draftee, who rose to the rank of private first class in his two years in Germany. If you are like me, you may very well have softened your view of Army life in Europe a bit over the years. I have long since forgotten about carping from Master Sgt. Walter Leicht, who had us out marching early on frigid Saturday mornings while he examined our rooms for microscopic samples of dust so he could restrict us to base.
Well, almost.
With no war on, sergeants had plenty of spare time on their hands.
And that mess hall food, full of starch and grease, is a faded memory. What did they call that creamed beef on toast - "sh-- on a shingle?"
Many of you no doubt had similar experiences but perhaps you, too, have chosen to remember only the good times.
We arrived 13 years after World War II and there was no animosity toward us. No one was trying to blow up our jeeps or our barracks. I often wondered why the Germans looked at us so fondly. After all, we had obliterated their cities in terrifying bombing raids, killing thousands of men, women and children.
I remember the beauty of the evergreen countryside and the majestic winding rivers and the many old castles and cathedrals that survived the bombardment.
Of course, everywhere there were the beautiful tall blond German women.
We privates lived pretty well on our $110 a month in the days when the dollar was strong. We could buy fuel at the Army gas station for 25 cents a gallon, pick up a used Mercedes for $150 and travel all over the place.
And we even had German busboys in the mess hall who cleared away our dirty dishes .
What I remember most was the friendliness of the German people even though they made fun of the pimply faced teenaged GIs who has invaded them a few years before. The Germans called them "chewing gum conquerors." The GIs who preceded me and fought their way through stiff resistance to march into Germany arrived not as devils, as portrayed by Nazi propagandists, but just as uniformed teenagers, just kids themselves, tossing chocolate bars and chewing gum to the small children.
The Germans were forever inviting us home for some sauerbraten and potato dumplings or coaxing us out on long hikes.
Some of us would go to downtown Stuttgart and join a German-American club. Many young German women came to practice their English and one, who had lived in England for a year and spoke fluent English, asked me one day, when a Tennessee sergeant was leading the discussion, "What of language is he is speaking?
How did I know? I had my own dialect. I was from New Jersey.
So now, Bush has sent the troops home from Germany.
I suspect that many of those soldiers are a bit sad about leaving. I know I was.