May 5, 1945 – 75 years ago in a WW2 M.A.S.H. Unit

May 5, 1945
Heidenheim, Germany
No. 33 (continued)

Dear Folksies,        

            The trip that the Colonel, Mattie, and Wally took was apparently a most enjoyable one for all, particularly for Mattie.  They visited Jena and Weimar.  Mattie, you see, had gone to school there not so many years ago.  He said he was dismayed when he saw the city and figured that all his old friends at the Clinic were most likely killed, buried under all the rubble that used to be the city of Jena.  However, much to his surprise, when he got to the district where the Clinic had been, he found that only one of its buildings had been demolished, and that one had been immediately adjacent to the Zeiss works.  Our boys apparently have really perfected their pin-point bombing.  We’ve seen other evidence of it also.

            Anyway, when Mattie went into the building it was dark, and he heard a voice yell down some stairs, “Who is there?”  He recognized the voice as being that of the Professor’s nurse and merely answered back, “Ja, who is there?”  With that came the exclamation (of course all this was in German) “Ach, Herr Mathewson, at last.  So long we have awaited his return!”

            It is difficult to give you, this way, second hand, what Mattie had to tell us on his return, concerning the things he was told, his reaction to these people whom he had known very well a few years ago, etc. One of the things that stands out, however, is that they kept telling him that he had told them so – i.e. that things turned out as he had told them they would when he was there, etc. Mattie says he doesn’t remember being quite as vehement as they seemed to think he had been, but he does remember the arguments he had with them at the time re: Hitler and the new regime. As a matter of fact, they hadn’t been arguments, for the Professor had agreed with him then and, in fact, later, was going to commit suicide — but because he would be leaving his wife and children to fend for themselves, tho’t better of it and continued in his same position.

            One interesting thing, too, was that, despite the fact that we had heard how advanced the Germans were in the surgical field and care of the wounded, they never did have the blood banks as advertised. They never, in fact, gave a patient more than 500 cc of blood, no matter what the condition. They didn’t have plasma, but had some other sort of blood substitute, which apparently wasn’t very good, and, of course, they didn’t have any penicillin. Another thing, they gave a lot of direct, instead of indirect, transfusions and never used the universal donor system – giving only blood type for type.

            Our three travelers also visited the concentration camp at Weimar [probably Buchenwald, which was liberated on April 11, 1945], tho’ the place was cleaned up by then. (Ferris had told us about it too, having seen it before it had been cleaned up much and, as a result of it, having lost several good meals).  They were told many a harrowing and astonishing thing by the attendant that took them thru — strangely enough, a Jewish fellow who had been there sort of as a trusty for four years.  Of course, one never quite knows how much to believe, but even if ‘tis only 50% true, it is horrible.

            FLASH  —  Bill Reiss, who stopped in for lunch today, and who is now staying the night, just came in our tent with the news that the War is over!!

            Oh, oh, just checked and found that it is only the capitulation of Denmark, Holland and Northwestern Germany to Montgomery that was announced!  The actual end over here, however, is going to seem like an anti-climax at best.  It’s only a matter of days now, anyway, but virtually it has been finished for a few days now.  What next???

                        Loads of love,

rene-transparent

.

Watch for the conclusion of this letter
May 6, 1945


In Jena, Mattie (Carleton Mathewson) went into the Clinic in Jena where he had gone to medical school “not so many years” before. Only one of the Clinic’s buildings had been demolished – the one immediately adjacent to the Zeiss factory – shown in the photo above.




Mattie (Carleton Mathewson) visited the medical clinic in Jena, where he did his medical training in the 1930s, and, miraculously, one of his professors and the professor’s nurse were there!




René tells his parents that in addition to visiting Weimar and Jena, Colonel Bolibaugh, Mattie (Carleton Mathewson) and Wally (Greene) visited the concentration camp at Weimar – almost surely Buchenwald — a few weeks after its liberation by General Patton’s 7th Army.  This photo above shows former prisoners and U.S. army soldiers standing behind the main gate of Buchenwald on which it is written ‘Jedem das seine’ (to each his just deserts).



Here are some observations Dr. Phil Westdahl noted in his journal…

“By the 5th of May, all [German] troops in Northern Germany and Denmark had surrendered, leaving only troops in Western Czechoslovakia and eastern Austria holding out against American and Russian forces. Admiral Dornetz, appointed by Hitler to succeed him, had ordered all German U-boats to return to their bases. The world was told to stand by for the announcement of the cessation of all hostilities in Europe.”