89th Infantry Division Band
by Henry G. Keyser
Did you know that there was an 89th Division Band? Do you know what Bands do?
Well, they are generally assigned duties where the need is the greatest at the particular time.
This could range anywhere from being litter bearers attached to the 314th Medics or
given the onerous task of grave registration. You know, going out to find out who had been
killed, collecting their dog tags and bringing them back so there could be an accurate body
count. This was to help verify who had not made their last mission. This
way families and next of kin were notified of the loss of one of their family.
You might even bring back the bodies in body bags for shipment to a military cemetery
Sound like as “crappy” job. You bet. I can only remember one instance where
they hinted that we were going to be litter bearers. Not being a hero, I asked for a transfer
back to my old rifle company.
Fortunately, the band was assigned to the MP Platoon because they were under their required
T.O. strength and we were able to bring the M.P. Platoon up to the required strength while
waiting for replacements. When they got their replacements the issue of litter bearing came
I am sure that you all remember the DP’s (Displaced Persons) who plugged the roads with their
carts full of personal possessions as they were fleeing the invading
Here are a few high lights of the participation of your Band. During the war, the Band
trained as Military Police. The commanding general had assigned us to G-5 to perform Military
government duties. This released other soldiers to carry out their functions in their
assigned units and relieved them of setting up the functions of Government in the
various towns and villages. Captured by the Rolling W.
When a combat team would go into a town, one of our teams would accompany them during
the “fire fight” and begin to establish government that would enable the rest of the
Division to fulfill their assigned missions. We were shot at many times and shelled
more times than I want to remember.
This past summer I attended another Band Reunion. We have generally been able to
get together every two years.
To “toot our own horns”, so to speak. There was not a more capable, flexible unit
ready and able to carry out any assigned tasks in the Division. Sitting around the
pool listening to the “old timers” there was a great sense that there was never any
recognition for the band.
Seeking to rectify this using the basis of the history that Sgt. Alfonso R.T.
Esposito compiled I decided submit this to the President of our Association
for inclusion in the next Rolling W. Here some pertinent excerpts:
15, 16 Feb. CWO Steg and 13 Band Enlisted men who had attended a 2-day Mine School conducted
by the 1151st Engineers in practical mine work. This course consisted of probing uncharted mine
fields for neutralization of mines. I never knew it was possible to sweat so much in the
middle of winter.
6 March 45 The Band displayed its worth in combat. CWO Steg, Tec 4 Peterson,
Wimberly, and Tec 5 Hewetson killed a German Officer and captured three German Soldiers.
8 April 45 The Band suffered it’s first combat casualty. Tech 4 Julian B. Aubuchon was ambushed
by a German machine gun Squad suffering aggravated wounds in the legs
and chest. Tec 4 Aubuchon was enroute to the Division water point at Tabarz to provide
water for the kitchen. He was awarded the Purple Heart Ribbon on 15 April 45.
On the same date Peterson, Wimberly and Hewetson were awarded the Bronze Star for meritorious
service rendered against the enemy.
Two Band members served as M.P.’s directing traffic over the Moselle River Bridgehead directing
traffic for the 4th Armored Division.
Discovery and capture of the first German Jetfighter (intact) at Friedrichroda, Germany. This
is a little known fact to the rest of the Division. However, being present I can remember
very clearly the delight and thrilling presence of Eighth Air Force Intelligence Officers.
Military Government Team 3 took over the government of the City of Zwickau. They maintained a
stable government until a full company from Military Government replaced them. I have often
wondered how twelve of us did the work of 180 men.
My most humorous moment of the entire war was going to capture this German General. I think
he went out the back door as I came in the front. When I checked around his desk for
anything that might prove of value. I found this coin. This was encrypted on both sides
with various symbols. Thinking I had perhaps found something which would “crack” a secret
German Code I took it and ran as fast as I could to the “CP” that had been set
up. I gave this to CWO Stegg who was fluent in German and
read and wrote the same.
Mr. Stegg held it up and turned it repeatedly looking at it intently. This coin was held
by something shaped like a slingshot. He began to turn the coin slowly repeatedly in the
slingshot. Then he picked it up and blew on the coin causing it to rotate. All of a
sudden, he let out a huge burst of laughter. He said Keyser; do you know what this
says? I said, “No Sir.” Mr. Steg said this says in German.
“Leck Mich Am Arsch!” Again a big laugh as he said this translates into English
meaning, “Kiss My..... (You figure it out!) Well there went my medal and promotion
or whatever. Therefore, my contribution during WWII (The Big One as Archie would
say) was keeping us the moral of my fellow soldiers by breaking the tension and giving
everyone a good laugh.
We all have selective memories and tend to forget the horrors that we encountered and
remember the humorous. I saved many of those humorous memories and they are the ones I
like to keep the best.
We played a Parade in Rouen, France for Bastille Day. One of the bandsmen tossed a
cigarette on the ground. Only to have it Pounced on by a full Colonel from the French
Army. Good Lord he had more medals than Eisenhower did and MacArthur combined. All sorts
of cords wrapped around his shoulders. I swear enough to tie
up a small ship at dock.
Do not forget those guys in the band. No we preferred not to have been litter bearers but
if it were necessary, it would have been done!
Tec. 5 Henry G. Keyser now The Rev. Henry Keyser
89th Inf. Division Band
P.S. That blinking war and what I was exposed to as a “kid” (I was the
youngest one in the outfit) made me realize that what I’d seen and done had me headed
for the ministry where I now hold the position of a Hospital Chaplain.
I still have the opportunity to see suffering, but this time I
hope I am also helping.