The last day of the march went off without a hitch. With two IV bags in me, I was well hydrated and back in action. We all did the twenty-five miles almost at a run, and were finished well before three in the afternoon. I think we all just wanted to get it behind us and we did.
Back at the tent city, we met up with the MI folks who had arranged for the buses and were told, “The buses will be here at 0730. Be right here.”
That sounded great. Already, different units of soldiers were boarding buses and heading out. Without a march ahead of us, we all went into town (or limped in some cases), enjoyed a good meal, a final beer, and then went back and bedded down for the evening.
The next morning, we (the MP team) and the Field Artillery team sat at the designated meeting place waiting for the buses to arrive. We sat. We waited. We sat some more.
We all chatted back and forth. We looked at out watches. The day started warming up. The buses must be running late, someone said.
It was pushing 8 AM and then someone asked the question we should have asked an hour before. “Has anyone seen the MI team?” They certainly weren’t sitting there with us.
A couple of guys went over to their tent area. They were empty.
We made a few checks and discovered the buses had arrived at 3 AM. The MI team boarded them and left.
We’d been left behind.
And automatically everyone looked to Lt.’s John Bielecki and David Grimms to solve the problem. I’m sure they felt the burden of the chain of command drop from the sky onto their shoulders like a ton of bricks. There were 20 plus guys looking at them to get them home. Both officers would later say it was one thing to be stuck behind enemy lines and another to be marooned in a friendly country. They teach you what to do in wartime. There was nothing in the books on being left behind in peacetime and in a friendly country.
They took quick stock of the situation. On the battlefield, you inventory what you got to work with. They did the same, but rather than looking at ammo and food, the question poised was did we have enough cash to get us back. We all searched our pockets to come up with a few meager coins. Everyone, to include the FA guys, had gone out the night before and spent almost every guilder we had.
Most of us had our bank at the military bank in Ansbach and the fact we had ATM cards had given us all a false sense of security. We’d all made the interesting discovery that our bankcards didn’t work here in Holland.
The LT found a phone and called back to the company area.
It was the weekend and getting hold of command back home was proving difficult. Finally, he got hold of the company First Sargeant. The best counsel he could get from him was when the 1st Sgt asked, “Lieutenant. Do you have a credit card.”
Lt. Bielecki told him he did.
“Well, I suggest you march those soldiers down to the train station, buy each soldier a ticket, and get them home.”
The officers had already looked into it. It would cost three thousand dollars to make that happen and neither one of them had that kind of credit limit. There was also the consideration of how they’d get their money back.
By this time, evening was settling in.
Fortunately, the Dutch army who had sponsored the event saw we were in a pickle. They left our tent up as well as a smaller tent with a television for entertainment. A latrine and showers stayed intact and operational. They brought us in food and water and even beer. In short, they babysat us, which was fine.
Looking back, it was a blessing in disguise. Most of us could barely stand, much less walk. It was a chance to stay off our feet, rest, and recover. And rest we did. Except for eating, bathing, and taking in the occasional movie the Dutch brought in, we slept.
After several false starts at getting us home, a vehicle from SHAPE headquarters showed up. The driver said he was going to Ansbach and could take a couple of guys with him. Two of the FA guys were detailed to go along, round up every van they could get, and come back for us.
The following day they showed up. Not all the vans were equipped with seats, and I rode back to Ansbach lying on duffle bags in back of one of them.
We got to Ansbach and found out we were on gate guard. Since most of us could barely stand, much less work, we were at the clinic the following day, and we all got weeklong light duty profiles.
Sounds like that is one situation no one has ever thought of or never came up with a solution for. Talk about you guys being in a pickle!!
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It was a pickle.
More neat side stories abound, I’m sure. Here’s two LONG notes:
1- Like how irritated the CG (Commanding General) of the Division was that the OIC of the transport portion (the MI Captain) left with only two teams of the four that he went to Holland with.
Not only that, but that he left HIS two teams that had placed First (DivArty) and Fifth (we Division MPs) among the US Forces teams behind in Holland.
He was SOOOOO irritated, that there was discussion that they were trying to get authorization to fly a few Blackhawks across the border to ferry us home. (almost too bad the vans arrived, that would have been WAY cooler to say we got choppered back!)
2- Like the look of complete surprise on the faces of the Dutch engineers we were talking to when they found out that:
“NO”- we can’t go smoke marijuana with you outside.
“NO”- we’re not allowed to have any on us.
“NO”- we can’t use cocaine either… seriously.
NO, not kidding.
We were actually having this conversation while watching those movies mentioned earlier and a nearly One Year Commemoration of The Wall coming down on the other side of Germany.
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I agree, the choppers would have been cooler!!
Seems the Dutch engineers have been allowed to get away with more than you in the past, eh?
What an experience!! I can see how this makes people friends and brothers (sisters too sometimes, I guess) Felt like I was there, didn’t take long with your way with words to teleport my imagination there.