Remembrances: Carthell B. Atkins-My Ambulance Ride (How the War Ended for Me)
I had a fractured foot, which I continued to walk on for about a month before our medic examined me, sending me back to the field hospital. I was placed in an ambulance along with 8 or 9 GI's. Seated directly across from me was a young German officer. After a while he looked at me and in perfect English asked, "How old are you? I said 22. I supposed he asked because I looked much younger than my age. I had heard that our infantry shot down a small reconnaissance plane with rifle fire. I surmised he was the same flyer sitting across from me. Without further conversation, we proceeded to an airstrip, where a C-47 that had brought supplies to our 3rd Army, was waiting. POW's loaded us on board. Our litters were hooked up to straps on the plane, the young German flyer still with us.
I was hooked by the window looking out over the wing. (My first plane ride) We were given bags in case we became airsick. I could see the Rhine River below. The plane hit air pockets, seemed to drop at least 10 feet. I breathed a sigh of relief when the co-pilot came back; assuring us it was a beautiful day for flying. At the time, we didn't know where we were going except that we were going away from the front lines. The date was May 6, 1945, one day before the war ended.
We landed at Rheims, France and were taken to a nearby hospital, the German flyer still with us. That was the last we saw of him??? The following night we learned the peace treaty had been signed by the German representatives and the Allied Powers in the now famous "Little Red School House" at Rheims. The 17th Airborne Division was stationed nearby. They really put on a show of celebration that night, firing their weapons. AA guns and automatic small arms. My bed was next to the window, first floor. I had a German pistol under my pillow. I was tempted to join in, firing my pistol out the window. On second thought, I changed my mind.
A couple of days later they announced the point system over the radio. To be eligible to return to the states, one needed 85 points. Everyone in the ward grabbed a pencil and paper to figure out how many points they had. I made it with 89 points. My time served in the Panama Canal Zone helped boost my points. About two months later, I was discharged from the hospital and shuttled from one Reppel Depple to the next.
By this time, the 89th was back at Camp Lucky Strike. I was transported by truck and train all the way back to Bremerhaven and Hamburg Germany. Like the saying in the Army, "The right way, the wrong way and the Army way". I had crossed the Rhine River in an assault boat, a plane, a truck, and train. I finally rejoined I Co. 354th at Lucky Strike, stayed there a short while. Then went by train to Marseilles where I was assigned to the 17th Airborne Division. I boarded the former luxury line, SS Mariposa and sailed for Boston about the middle of September 1945.