The following story was submitted by Lt. Ezra Mann's son, Ezra Mann III:
Dad entered the war in February 1942 somewhere in NY. He was stationed in Virginia for a while. One of his duties was to patrol the beaches before dawn to look for bodies and other materials washed up on the shore from ships sunk by U-boats. Dad did not know until he read “The Two Ocean War” in the 1960s how damaging the U-boat threat was to U.S. shipping.
Dad was reassigned to Fort Riley, Kansas, to a training battalion. Dad laughed at the fact two bad OERs (Officer Evaluation Reports) probably saved his life, for lieutenants had such a short life expectancy on the front.
Dad felt the two bad OERs were punishment for not being sent to duty in Europe. As mess officer he was responsible for the daily menu. On a day that classroom training was exchanged for field training, Dad did not change the menu of egg salad sandwiches. Half his battery became ill from mayonnaise that turned. The second report was when he didn't do what he was told. Dad felt that the mess sergeant was selling food from the battalion. The CO told him that this was not the case. Dad went to the CO a second time with the same results. The third time Dad went to the battalion CO and then found out that it CO and sargent were the thieves.
In the spring of 1944 Dad was sent to Europe. Dad was attached to Bradley’s Army in Austria as part of a mechanized cavalry reconnaissance squadron. In his first interaction with the German Army, prisoners were taken. His first sergeant came to him and said that SS soldiers were part of the group. Dad did not know what this meant and asked what was the normal procedure. The first sergeant said that the regular soldiers told them that SS where there because the German regular army did not like them. The prisoners were lined up and had their sleeves rolled up. The SS were separated from the regular solders.
Dad talked about overrunning the camp that is mentioned on this site. The Army marched as many American soldiers as it could through the camp to see, in part, why they were fighting the Germans. Dad felt lucky that his platoon was on guard duty both days he was there so that he and his men did not have to go through the camp. Dad said he was never able to get the smell of the camp out of his memory.
Two of my personal recollections about my father and WWII:
1. In the late 1960s, I was getting ready to watch the TV show Combat with Dad. Dad was in his chair asleep. At the start of the show the men were moving in silence slowly across a foggy swamp. A mortar shell came into the swamp with a high-pitched scream. Dad leaped from his chair and headed in a slow trot for the kitchen. Dad stopped and said “Son, where am I?” I told him we were watching Combat. Dad mentioned the mortar. I told him the shell and its’ report were part of the show. Dad did not relate this to any particular WWII event.
2. In the late 1960s neighbors came to see my father for he was a Selectman of the town, a town father or “burgermeister.” The wife of the couple was born in Germany and married a soldier who worked as part of the effort of rebuilding Germany after the war. On leaving our house the couple walked by my father’s gun cabinet. The husband was very interested in guns so Dad described the history of the weapons for each had a story. The last of the pieces were pistols that Dad had liberated in Germany. German officers would walk up to Dad and hand him their pistols as part of their surrender, officer to officer. When Dad started to describe the pistols the lady interrupted and asked, “You were in Germany?” Dad said he was and she interrupted again and wanted to know when and where. She then mentioned the name of a town and Dad said yes his platoon was the first into the town. She asked “Did you know why you met no resistance?” Dad was a little startled by the question and answered that they were supposed to meet heavy resistance but there were no German solders there. The lady said, “I will tell you why. The SS came a week before you did and lined everyone up and told us to dig trenches around the town. We did that but the day before you came it rained. It rained so hard all the trenches filled with water. The SS left.” Dad looked at the lady and asked, “How do you know this?” She said, ”I was there! When you came our parents hid us in the ovens outside the town. Our parents feared the Americans after what the SS said.” Dad started to ask a question but the lady interrupted and asked Dad where he was, what he looked like on that day. Dad asked if she remembered what happened. She said, “Of course I do! That day the war ended for us! I remember everything about that day!” She again asked Dad where he was and what he looked like. Dad said he was in a half-track and probably standing in the cab because the roof could be opened. She nodded and urged Dad to explain more. Dad said, “I had a mustache and used to curl the ends with German wax…” The lady interrupted saying “And the driver had a parrot on his shoulder!” Dad said, “Yes” and she answered that ”the driver’s mirror had a baby shoe hanging from it!” Dad explained that the driver had his child’s bronzed baby shoes hanging from the mirror. The lady interrupted and said, “I Remember You!!” She cried! Dad cried! I saw her two summers ago and she still talked about that moment in time.