We're not lost, Sergeant, We're in … France

Du kannst zum Teufel gehen
23 December 2010, 15:35
Filed under: 101st, 327th, 401st, Battle of the Bulge, Medics | Tags: ,

A few years ago, while I was looking for information of Joseph H. “Bud” Harper, I found an interview in the St Petersburg Times of Ernie Premetz. During the Battle of the Bulge, Harper commanded the 327th Glider Infantry Regiment and when the Germans came to demand the surrender of Bastogne, they came into the 327th’s sector.

Everyone knows the basics of the story, about “Nuts”, but Ernie Premetz can say “I know what happened. I was there.” You see, Ernie was a medic at the time, and, based on his post-war profession, marine biologist, probably one of the smarter men standing in the snow on the 22nd of December. Ernie also spoke German, so when the two German officers and two German enlisted men approached American lines, Premetz walked out with a sergeant to find out what they wanted. After GEN McAuliffe responded “To the German Commander, NUTS!, The American Commander”, Harper was accompanied by Premetz to deliver the note to the Germans.

Needless to say, the Germans couldn’t quite figure out what it meant. To quote from Jeanne Malmgren’s interview with Premetz….

Harper and Premetz discussed how else to convey the message.

“You can tell them to take a flying s—,” Harper said to Premetz.

Premetz thought a minute. He knew he had to be clear.

He straightened up and faced the Germans.

“Du kannst zum Teufel gehen,” he said.

You can go to hell.

Those boys had some brass ones. If you talk to any veteran who was in Bastogne, Patton didn’t rescue them in Bastogne. They had the enemy right where they wanted them.

The Germans’ faces darkened.

“We will kill many Americans,” one of the officers said in English.

“We will kill many Germans,” Harper responded.

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My father, Jerry R. Mullen, was a commercial artist in NYC when he got that letter that started “Greetings from the President” in Feb. 1944 just before my 12th birthday. After going thru the infantry school in Camp Blanding FL that summer, he shipped out in October aboard the SS Isle de France as a rifleman replacement. Most of the troops on the ship were from the 106th infantry division. After arriving at leHavre, they were sent to the Ardennes, as it was a quiet area, ideal for a green division. Dad ended up with the 11th Replacment Depot in Givet sur Muese. In mid December, of course, the Ardennes was no longer a quiet sector. My wife, Jane, found an old trunk that contained hundreds of letters from that period, and may be almost an uninterupted series of his serivce. Jane ironed them all and arranged them,by date, in archival plastic sheets in five big three-ring binders. I’ll check thru and see if he has descrioptions of the Bulge. Sometimes stuff was censored if it contained operational material, and it was against regs to put a date on letters! Oddly, they stamped dates on the envelopes. Anyway, if I find any material of interest, I’ll post it here. Sometimes history is a lot more interesting if there’s a lot of personal stuff instead of just the “big Picture.”

Comment by Gerard A. Mullen

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