A party of officers from the Chinese Army visited the Ozark Division. Here
they gaze across the Elbe at Tangermunde, in the direction of Berlin.
On May 3 the Russians at long last appeared. To Ozark doughs of 2d Battalion, 405th Infantry
fell the honor of first greeting our Allies of the east when they met, at Sandau, a war-worn
but joyful party of the 1185th Infantry, 156th Russian Division. There followed many hilarious
meetings and a great exchanging of compli-ments, weapons and decorations between these Allies,
so strange and unknown to each other, yet firmly united by their singleness of purpose -- a
speedy victory, then peace for all mankind.
In the Tangermunde area the German's defensive attitude toward the west had long since
deteriorated. Indeed, the Nazis, driven by their abnormal and guilty fear of the Russians,
developed an abject, cringing manner, doing everything in their power to ingratiate themselves
with the Americans. For them, their war with the Americans had ended, an attitude that struck
a particularly unresponsive chord in the Ozarks, in whose memories Gardelegen still rankled.
Beginning April 25 as the Russian attack on Berlin gained its full momentum, there were scenes
on the banks of the Elbe which hardly could have been equalled in the long and troubled annals
of that river. German soldiers, civilians, and displaced persons of every nationality, waited
in a common and almost superstitious terror of the advancing Soviets, crowded to the river's bank,
pleading for permission to cross, often hurling themselves into the water on any object would float.
They flocked to the river as the legendary dead once flocked to the ferry on the river Styx --
but unlike the legendary dead did not bother to wait for boats. They crossed on debris, on hastily
contrived rafts, on rubber tubes, in wash tubs, on planks. They crossed by hundreds, by thousands.
The scene became more chaotic and frenzied as the war drew to a close. Wes Gallagher, veteran
Associated Press corres-pondent, described it for the folks back home:
Nazi Army in Shame on Elbe Banks.
May 4. -- (AP) -- Germany's once proud wehrmacht is dying a shameful death on the banks of the Elbe.
SS panzer troops -- once Germany's elite – paddle across the river in makeshift rafts. Sometime they swim, leaving their medal-bedecked tunics behind.
The swarm of soldiers clogging the east banks by the tens of thousands is more than a beaten army. It
is a fear-stricken horde -- afraid of the Russians with a fear
that only a guilty conscience can inspire.
Ten thousand surrendered to the Twenty-ninth division in 24 hours. One hundred thousand are in the process of surrendering to the Eighty-second airborne division, which is across the river. Three thousand surrendered to one regiment of the 102nd division.
It is the same for 100 miles up and down the Elbe.
And their coming has created a grave problem for American military commanders. The American Ninth army does not want them, but they come anyway and military men are afraid the Russians may feel the western Allies are giving shelter to the enemy.
Can't Be Discouraged.
Every effort has been made to discourage surrenders. The Germans come up to the river under white flags, row across, and say they are going to surrender, and the doughboys can't do anything but accept them. Enemy generals come up to regimental command posts to await their turn and nothing is accepted but unconditional surrender.
Anyone standing on the Elbe couldn't help but feel the war is over, VE declaration or no.
That enemy generals are standing in line is no figure of speech.
At one regimental command post of the 102nd division there were two generals, one a panzer army commander, and half a dozen colonels all trying to surrender their units. The two generals weren't speaking to one another. All sat with hard Prussian stares while the interpreter for the panzer general made it clear that the other general “had no rating at all," that he had no authority and that, besides, the panzer general was there first.
The panzer general came down the river through the rabble at Tangermunde, where thousands were trying to walk over the girders of a wrecked railroad bridge. In the background tanks, trucks and other vehicles abandoned by the Germans lay scattered over a meadow.
Came in Jeep.
The general came down in an amphibious jeep, with a big white flag flying. He stood on the vehicle like an admiral on his bridge and crossed the river to where a matter-of-fact G. I. gave him a cold stare and asked, "What the hell do you want?"