For many weeks our town was loaded with troop movements. It was in September and October 1944 and the weather was very wet and cold. Empty homes in our town where German families had lived in before were now used by American combat soldiers. People who had empty rooms in their homes were asked to take in soldiers so they didn't have to sleep outside in the tents in the mud and cold, rainy weather. In our house my mother had made one bedroom available for two soldiers to sleep. We had a medical doctor and his assistant. We only saw them at night. They always left very early in the morning. They were very kind to my mother and always left some food or other items we could use. With so many soldiers in town there was a big business in washing and ironing uniforms. Many of those soldiers had been going through the frontlines for weeks and didn't get a chance to take a decent bath or shave or change clothes. So they took advantage of the few weeks of a break in our town.
The town next to us which was less than a mile away from us was a no-mans-land. This town was called Rimburg and the American infantry had heavily fortified themselves into foxholes to keep their position. In front of them they could see a small water channel which was called "The Worm". It got it's name from the way it circled around just like a worm. Once you crossed The Worm you were in German territory. About 500 meters from there were nothing but bunkers. The American infantryman called those bunkers "Pillboxes". It was good for a lot of the soldiers that they got a break for a few weeks because this battle ground around Rimburg would be one of the costliest for the American troops in casualties.
The frontline was so close to us that as kids we would go around those foxholes and trade Dutch gin for American cigarettes or chocolate. It was very dangerous to get so close to the German frontline, even if it was a no-mans-land at that moment the Germans would shoot their heavy artillery at certain times during the day. We always went there when it seemed there was a slack in shooting each other. Above their foxholes was a tent put together. I remember how cold and rainy it was and those soldiers had to sleep in there. There were always two soldiers together in one foxhole. Most of the soldiers were very friendly and always gave us what we asked for. One day one of my friends was asked to come inside one of the foxholes. As he got in there they closed up the entrance. To our surprise he stayed in there for a long time, but we waited and finally he came out. As we walked away he was spitting all the time. We asked him what took him so long to get out of the foxhole. He told us what happened. When he went inside with his gin and asked for cigarettes or chocolate they took his gin, drank it and then grabbed him and put their penis in his mouth. They told him, "here are your cigarettes and chocolate".
Most of those troops in the frontline had to spend a certain time there before they would be relieved by other soldiers. On their rest period they stayed in the empty houses where German families had lived in before. I became very friendly with most of them. I practically lived with them during the day. When it was time for chow I went along to the kitchen. There was always a long line of soldiers waiting to get their food. We had two large army kitchens in our town. One was set up in the girls school and the other one was an open field kitchen. it was kind of strange but whenever it was chow time and many soldiers were standing in line and away from their fighting equipment, the Germans would send in one of their fighter planes. They were very small planes but they were always able to drop a bomb here and there. Those planes would always fly very low and with a rolling motion so that the artillery could not hit them very easily. Whenever one of those German planes came over our town, every soldier around started to shoot at it. Those German pilots had a lot of courage to fly that low on a clear day. One day, one of those fighter planes dropped its bombs in the middle of a long line of soldiers waiting to get their food from the girls' school army kitchen. A lot of soldiers were killed but the plane never returned to Germany again. The plane was hit by the light artillery fire and the pilot had to jump. His parachute failed to open and he fell straight down from the sky. I was able to see him on the ground. Most of his bones were broken. Many of the soldiers I spent my days with I would never see again. They would leave the houses they stayed in and relieve their friends in the frontline. Others went on night patrol and were either captured by the Germans or killed. In a few days we had made close friends with each other. You saw them taking off for the frontline, and in a few days when you saw their buddies come back again and would ask where so-and-so was, then you were told he was missing or killed. This happened almost every day. Most of the soldiers who stayed in those empty houses were combat soldiers. They slept on army cots or in a sleeping bag. During their time of relief from the frontline they always wanted to have a girlfriend. One day when I was with them in their house two women came in. I don't know if they were professional prostitutes, but in front of me about fifteen soldiers had sexual intercourse. I was about thirteen years old and was watching all of this. There were so many things I saw I should never have seen at my age but there was a war going on and the soldiers you saw one day might be killed the next.