The "Siegfried line" was built around the German border for miles. It was a fortification of concrete pillars and bunkers as one of the German defense systems. Hitler said it would hold back any invader who wanted to cross into the "Fatherland". With so many fortified concrete bunkers all along the German border line it was very tough for American combat troops to advance. The support of bombers and heavy artillery had no effect on those bunkers at all.
On September 17, 1944, our town, Waubach, was liberated by the 119 RGT of the "Old Hickory" Division. The next town to us, Rimburg, which was about a mile away from us became a no-mans-land for more that two weeks. The Germans had fortified themselves so strongly that there was no way for the Americans to advance. The little town of Rimburg was directly located on the German border, and it was from there that you could go to the German city of Aachen.
Since the combat zone was so close to our town my mother decided to spend a few days at my grandparents' home in the town of Heerlen. Even when we were liberated, German cannon grenades were hitting our town. So my mother decided after things had cleared to come back again. On our way to my grandparents' home, which was about a three mile walk, we saw lines of tanks, trucks and all kinds of war equipment alongside the streets. Soldiers were standing alongside their trucks and jeeps. It looked like everything was at a standstill and nothing was moving at all.
After a few days at my grandparents' home we returned to our house and found that the windows were busted and everything in our house was stolen. We didn't have much to begin with when we moved into the house because we had lost everything in the bombing of Rotterdam. For the second time we had to start buying things for our home.
Our town was loaded with allied soldiers. We had American troops with many other nationalities (Belgian, Dutch, French, and Polish freedom fighters) who had joined the American, British and Canadian forces. The streets were filled with tanks, trucks, light artillery and jeeps. Piles of ammunition boxes were stacked alongside the roads. We had never seen an overabundance of army equipment.
The American soldier was so different from the German soldier. The American soldier's uniform looked much more comfortable. Just everything they had was much better. I could still see the Germans pulling their artillery with horses, and here were those Americans with all their comfortable trucks and jeeps. All that good food those Americans brought along, like white bread, apple pie, the real coffee. Then their rationing packages which they used on the frontlines. It had cheese and crackers and black chocolate inside. There was no comparison with the German soldier, what they had to eat. I saw them eat Pumpernickel with hardly anything on it. They couldn't even share some of their meals with us. Most of the American soldiers had no idea how we had suffered during the German occupation and missed all that good food. I didn't even know what white bread looked like until the American troops came along. So the Americans were very reckless and unconcerned about their food supplies. With the Germans not being around us anymore, our lifestyle had not changed that much. We still had to get up in the morning an look for food hand-outs among the soldiers and whatever we could steal. Our town had become a haven for stealing American goods and selling them for black market prices. American soldiers would leave their jeeps and trucks parked with unlocked glove compartments. It was always one of our first targets to look into trucks and jeeps. Most of the time there were always cigarettes or cigars left in open glove compartments. I could sell one cigarette on the black market for one guilder a piece (about $.25). A pair of used boots would bring 30 guilders (about $7.00).
One night my friend and I found the door wide open on a kitchen food storage room. We couldn't believe what was inside and took as much out of there as we could carry. I remember we had 5 lb cans of egg powder. All we had to do was add water to it and it made the best scrambled eggs for breakfast. Then those 5 lb cans of pea powder to make soup, and those cans of corned beef. All this kind of food was new to us, and here was this door wide open for us and so easy to take. At that particular time we though that all American soldiers were rich. With all the cans of food we had taken out of the supply room my mother and I could wheel and deal on the black market again for other things we needed. For instance we could trade a can of corned beef for an American blanket. From the American army blanket my mother would make me a pair of pants or a jacket to wear. Most people in town were wheeling and dealing with each other. At that time it was the only way to survive.
We were very lucky that most of the troops were on a standstill and every piece of war equipment was parked all over our town streets. At that time every street had trees in front of the houses and it was a good camouflage. The reason that the troops were on a standstill was because the supply lines were not able to keep up with the moving frontlines. All the supplies were shipped by the "Red Ball Express". Those were the "Deuce and a half", the 2.5 ton GMC-trucks driven by Negro companies and later even by women drivers. All material and equipment was shipped from Normandy to our province in Limburg, Holland. Those convoys drove steady day and night to keep up with the supply. It became a long haul from Normandy to Limburg and that's why the frontlines were ordered to stop moving for a little while. Gasoline was the biggest supply they were in need of for the tanks. For more than two weeks all those troops stayed in our town.
In the meantime, the German army had taken advantage of the American troops' standstill. All around the city of Aachen they had called in more troops and fortified the city.