Gerard Henry Fanning - ETO Base


 

ETO ADVANCE BASE

In late April 1945, Uncle Jerry was in Saaralbe, France looking after German POW’s. The camp held 5,000 Kregies. The medics examined the POW’s inside the POW cage. Many were at the extremes of the service age, those as young as thirteen and as old as their sixties. That’s where he met Leopold David, an Austrian in service to the Reich. Mr. David was an artist and offered to do a portrait of Uncle Jerry from his hospital bed. The portrait is the opening picture in this section. The friendship and correspondence lasted well after the war. For another example of Leopold David’s work click here.

I have heard stories similar to this one, told by Uncle Jerry about a German POW. As a Major from the headquarters battery was passing by the POW cage someone called out "Hi Rocky", not a name he was accustomed to in the ETO. Strangely, it was his stateside neighbor from before the war. This fellow had returned to Germany in 1938 to visit family. With the invasion of Poland Germany was not about to let this able-bodied man leave the country. As is often the case where you hear these similar stories he was placed in a noncombat area, clerk or cook. As the war went poorly he was moved to the infantry. No surprise at the first opportunity he would be separated from his unit and end up surrendering before he could be killed or wounded.

Soon after the war Uncle Jerry was stationed in Mulhausen, Germany, next to the border of Switzerland. The medics, being American GIs, devised an ingenious way to profit from the unusual currency exchanges in post war Europe. They found those visiting Switzerland would have no use for Swiss Francs upon their return. In addition, Russian soldiers would pay high prices for items like watches, which they rarely saw. Further, access to an ambulance and "medical emergencies" across the border allowed an unusual freedom of movement. Unfortunately, the ingenious, now wealthy GI’s would be told that they would not be allowed to return to the States with such large sums of cash. Uncle Jerry gave a fellow GI a $1,000 wedding gift before he departed from France.


Gerard Henry Fanning
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