Section Four of Ten
Downed Our Own Me-110
Unbeknownst to us, at the end of 1943, the Allied troops were ready
to invade Italy. This event must have been known to the German High Command
and it appeared to be the reason for our move due south. The purpose of
our move will become clearer later on.
Before moving and relocating the entire battery, we received three days
of furlough. I packed my belongings and bid adieu to the barracks and trenches.
I could see my parent's unhappiness over the news of my transfer. They
saw their son leaving home to an unknown destination, while the war showed
signs of distress. However, my enthusiasm about the new adventure helped
ease their apprehension. I promised that I would write often. It turned
out to be an empty promise. Mail does not function well when you are losing
Instead of enjoying my three days at home, I ended up spending nearly
half of every night in the bomb shelter. I must admit, sitting in the reinforced
basement shelter during a bombing raid was worse then squatting in a dug-out
trench. When the three-day pass expired, I was actually relieved, saddened
only by the thought of how much my family would have to endure. They could
only look forward to more nights like the last three. Hitler had promised
that a secret weapon would soon turn the war victorious for us and would
end the air raids. It became obvious that my mother now had enough of the
war and she questioned why it ever started. I said goodbye to my parents
and my sister, not knowing when we would see each other again. Only one
month earlier I had celebrated my 16th birthday.
Joachim, a school friend from the neighborhood, was in my class and
we would be traveling together. Joachim lived only two blocks from our
home but we had never really been close friends. As it turned out, we would
become very good friends.
All boys of our high school class had to report for assembly at the
Berlin-Lehrter railroad station, and we did it with nervous anticipation.
Winter had set in a little early and light snow fell as we assembled at
the station. So far, the only word about our trip was that we were going
The train assembly consisted mainly of a group of flat bed cars loaded
with all of the equipment, like guns, radar, optics, kitchen, ammunition,
Quonset hut and barracks kits. Two boxcars with sliding doors became our
new mobile homes, supposedly for the next two days. Two NCOs assigned to
each car were in charge of us helpers. Straw covered half of the car flooring,
and each of us received two blankets. Between the blankets and our winter
overcoat, we had enough to survive the train ride.
Once on the way, our NCO revealed our destination. The German High Command
had ordered our battery to make our guns operational as soon as possible
on some farmland south of the city Graz, Germany, between the cities of
Maribor in Slovenia and Zagrep in Croatia. We estimated it to be about
550 miles of travel. We also had the good news that our two teachers were
not on the train, and the bad news that they eventually would join us.
I hoped that they could not find us.
Our train moved along quite well with virtually no stopping until lunchtime.
The train stopped at a small station to serve us a hot meal and to allow
us to use the restroom. They also handed us our evening and breakfast rations.
The stay was of short duration and we were on our way again.
After darkness set in, we closed the doors. By the light of some flashlights,
we munched on our bread and sausage. We washed the bread down with some
cold tea. After that, we got comfortable and one of us classmates read
aloud an episode of an adventure story written by Karl May. It is strange
how a bunch of 16-year-old boys could be quiet and listen to written words.
Reading aloud Karl May's adventure stories became a steady evening entertainment
for us later. Most of the time, many would fall asleep before completion
of the chapter, asking others the next morning what happened.
Karl May wrote approximately 42 adventure books, quite often in first
person. He was Old Shatterhand in most stories about American Indians,
cowboys and bad guys. I found out later that he had never set foot on American
soil. I devoured a minimum of 22 volumes ranging from the famous Apache
Chief Winnetoo to Hatchie Alef Omar Ben Hatchie Abul Abas Ibn Hatchie Abul
Agossera from Arabia. (I spelled Hatchie's name as I remembered it). Winnetoo
was such an important Indian chief that he wrote three volumes about his
adventures, such as meeting and living with this world famous Apache leader.
His writing was so believable that Winnetoo just had to be the greatest
Apache chief on American soil. Little did we know about the real Indian
leaders in America and less about the real Hatchie in Arabia.
During the night, we passed through the Austrian city of Vienna. By
dawn, we had arrived at our destination. Unquestionably, moving a train
so far and so fast meant we had high priority.
Recent rain had soaked the fields destined to receive our guns. It appeared
to be a hopeless situation, with some of the guns sliding down any minor
embankment. Somehow the soldiers, who appeared to be like a German Corps
of Engineers, overcame the impediment. Within three days, with the help
of several trucks, our four guns formed a perfect square. The optics and
radar equipment ended up in their strategic location, with the power and
communication cables strung and secured to wooden poles. We had to survive
in tents for a week before we could occupy our barracks.
Our manpower had a surprise personnel addition and reduction. Six Russian
war prisoners were there to help us with physical labor. We did not know
if they had volunteered for this assignment or if they had no choice. We
received orders not to fraternize with the Russian POWs. Only assigned
personnel were allowed to communicate with them. The other surprise about
our manpower was the loss of about 20 soldiers, replaced by us helpers.
We heard that most of the replaced soldiers ended up at the Russian Front.
It became clear that we helpers were no standbys anymore. We were now ready
to show what we could do. The only soldiers remaining were NCOs, ammunition
handlers, cooks and a few orderly room personnel.
Our living quarters were assembled using pre-fabricated barracks sections,
some even with built-in window panes. Our Hauptleutnant, promoted to captain,
occupied one small hut, right next to the orderly room barracks. Our six
NCOs had one building, while the few other regular soldiers had their barracks,
and the Russian POWs lived in their own hut. The helpers' quarters was
one large barracks with 12 double bunk-beds, 2 large tables and 24 chairs.
Again, each of us had a little portable pantry to store our bread, sausage,
cheeses and marmalade. A very temperamental potbelly stove in the center
of the room could heat the room close to 100 degrees F when fired up. With
the outdoor temperature hanging around 15-20 degrees F and the stove in
full blaze, it was often that by bedtime we used only sheets to cover us.
By dawn however, we used both blankets and our overcoats to keep warm.
We needed a maid to put some wood into the potbelly stove overnight, but
we had no such luck.
I had brought my crystal radio along. At my first chance I strung a
wire as antenna. Amazingly, by poking around late in the evening with a
wire on the crystal, I had good reception on my headset, bringing in distant
stations in foreign languages with nice music. One short time, I heard
Radio London broadcasting news in German. My crystal radio was highly sensitive
and when I lost Radio London, I was unable to find it again. I thought
it to be very interesting.
After our anti-aircraft battery was set-up, we had to bring it into
operational readiness. The next few days were very interesting and different.
The optical instrument required computer calibration. The guns and our
optics required coordination, to allow the guns to point in the direction
the computer tells them. We had barely completed this operation when we
had our first action. A spotter sighted a plane at high altitude and he
identified it as an American plane, a P-38 Lightning. The P-38's estimated
height was about 35,000 feet. The spotter called for Alert Status 1. We
hurried to our posts and quickly focused on the plane. Within minutes,
although our instruments still required final calibration, our guns fired.
The plane appeared to make evasive maneuvers, it reduced elevation, and
after we had fired about five to six rounds, it disappeared over the horizon.
From what I observed, there was no chance that our shots ended up even
close to the plane. Yet one hour later, our captain received word that
we had helped to shoot down a German airplane, a Messerschmitt Me-110.
The P-38 and the Me-110 look similar at great distances and at different
angles. We really had no excuse but only mitigating circumstances. Rumor
had it that our captain did not report our participation in firing at the
Me-110 and that he conveniently forgot to do it later. The pilot of the
Me-110 had not released identification flares, which would have indicated
that it was a friendly plane. The signal for the day was two reds and one
green flare. If he had followed procedure, we would have ceased fire. We
heard that the pilot had ejected successfully. I have to admit that we
were convinced that it was a P-38 from what we saw through the glasses.
But shooting down a P-38 with 105-mm guns is as likely as killing a flying
swallow by throwing boulders at it.
Naturally, our plane identification instruction went into high gear.
Besides German planes, we had to recognize P-51 Mustangs, B-24 Liberators,
P-38 Lightnings, and Flying Fortresses, the famous B-17.
that we did not have so many soldiers around, we helpers were stuck with
our next job. The four guns, the radar unit and the optical instrument
required protection by surrounding each piece of equipment with a dirt
barrier. The mound had to be high and thick enough to give us maximum protection.
At the same time, it had to allow us to lower the guns to a horizontal
position and our optics had to be able to see over it for calibration.
We had no plans to fire the gun in that horizontal position. However, sometimes
after firing a round, the empty cartridge would not eject. To dislodge
the cartridge, poking it from the front end with a long pole was required.
That effort necessitated lowering the barrel to the horizontal position.
While dealing with gun firing abnormalities, I might as well mention
another potential serious problem. If an activated round misfired, meaning
the projectile did not leave the barrel, a dangerous situation existed.
In this predicament, orders were that all personnel had to evacuate the
gun emplacement for a minimum of 3 minutes. This time interval was supposed
to be enough for the projectile to explode while inside the gun barrel
and it would blow the barrel to bits. After the 3-minute delay, two soldiers
had to enter the embankment and operate the release mechanisms on the gun
to eject the round, and then catch the round. Can you imagine, a 75-pound
cartridge, possibly activated, comes flying out of the back of the gun
and you have to catch that thing. After that, he must carry the round to
an embankment made for such a case. Such safe place required carrying the
round at least 50 yards. During my service interval, this occurred four
times. One time, the NCO asked the Russian POWs to catch the round, but
their response was a panicky "no way" in Russian. An activated
round is a hot potato. The timer in the projectile could be running and
then would blow at the set time. If that occurs while the projectile is
still in the hand of a soldier, you may guess what would be the result.
Luckily, all our duds remained deactivated.
Between shoveling dirt, we completed calibrating all our guns, radar
and equipment. Now we had to prove not only that we calibrated the instrument
correctly, but also we had to show that Hitlerís little helpers could perform
the duties as expected. A target shooting exercise for our battery
was scheduled. A target airplane would fly over our area. Our system was
rigged so that the optics and the radar would track the target, but the
guns would shoot at the mirror image. We passed the test, both by optics
and by radar.
We were now action-ready and just in time for our two teachers to arrive.
Our school curriculum included four hours each per week of mathematics,
physics, German, chemistry, and biology. One hour per week was set aside
each for history, English and Latin. At that time, I could not imagine
why I had to learn Latin. Sure enough, one of the teachers was Herr Lustig.
I got along with him a little better since he had again left his bamboo
stick in Berlin. Herr Lustig also taught Math and Physics, my strong subjects,
besides teaching Latin and history.
The first school day after weeks of hiatus started on a Monday at 8
a.m. and by 10 a.m. the alarm bells ordered us to man our anti-aircraft
stations. Good timing.
Incoming reports from headquarters alerted us of approaching planes
from the south. The dispatch gave a distance of approximately 100-km and
we searched with our optics. Wanting to see anything through the misty
sky, we finally made out a blob of what looked like a group of planes.
Once focused, we followed their flight path diligently. Soon we could identify
them. Twelve B-17 Flying Fortresses were coming on a straight pass toward
us. When our captain asked for the countdown of the distance, excitement
mounted. Every few seconds one helper would call out the distance, "700,"
"650," "600," "550." We knew that the distance
callout of 420 was close enough to be in firing range. The guns were pointing
toward the planes with the first cartridge in the gun's cradle ready.
Naturally, not knowing their destination, and since their course was
straight towards us, thoughts entered our mind that they might have orders
to wipe us out. Just then, we saw movement of the lead plane. Sure enough,
the group was turning right. They turned a full 90 degrees, when they were
at the distance callout of 450. It appeared that they would fly a circle
around us, knowing where we were. So much for keeping our travel destination
secret. Their bombing target probably was Vienna Neustadt, because, once
they made half of a circle, they proceeded north again. This confirmed
that the Allies had airports either in North Africa or in Italy and knew
about us. Apparently, our German High Command had thought 'let's put some
guns in their path.'
By the time one group flew past 90 degrees of their 180 degree half-circle,
the next group of twelve B-17s was coming near enough to become a target.
We would pick them up, follow them, the distance count down proceeded again
and sure enough, by "450" they too would turn. This procedure
would occur with five more groups of twelve planes. Without a doubt, this
kept us busy, but we had no chance to shoot while they stayed out of range.
We knew now those 72 bombers were on their way to bomb a target and that
there was nothing we could do to stop them.
Once they were all gone, we assumed they would soon return. We watched
the northern horizon for returning planes. Shortly, we heard the report
that they are heading south, meaning they would have to come right over
us. If they were short of fuel, they might have to go the shortest route,
and fly right over our battery.
The B-17s probably considered the location of our battery to be quite
a nuisance. On their return trip, they did exactly what one could have
guessed, they made a nice wide circle around us again. The only positive
thing about this activity was the training we received for tracking planes.
Also, when the planes made their evasive circle and reached the 90-degree
point, we had a full side view of the planes, giving us a chance to admire
the various girly paintings on the sides of some planes.
This exercise of futility continued on and off, sometimes two or three
days apart, for weeks, with the same scenario, circumvent our battery.
One time, we were in the process of securing our battery after the usual
alert, and we heard engine noises. Surprise, surprise, a lame duck of a
B-17 with two engines out, one of them smoking, flew right across our position
at approximately 10,000 feet. But by the time we got ready, it was almost
gone and our guns did not get a round off. However, a few miles from our
location, a sister battery of 88-mm anti-aircraft guns, was able to let
a few rounds go. Later we heard that the crew jumped and that a Croatian
underground partisan group took them into protective custody.
I remember one other occasion, when three B-17s headed in our direction.
Since we had received advanced notice, we were ready. It was a clear day,
and they came into view at an altitude of approximately 30,000 feet. It
appeared that they were on a return trip from an attack on Vienna. They
knew the location of our battery position and when they came within firing
range, they initiated severe evasive maneuvers. They spread out a little,
and flew in a zigzag fashion. One moment we saw three planes in our glasses,
next we saw only one with one of them going left, and then after a while,
right. When all three were doing this maneuver, we got confused. In order
not to confuse the computer however, we tried to keep a steady motion,
but without much success. Every time we adjusted a little too fast, we
could hear the gears in the computer whirl excessively. When that happened,
the guns received very erratic signals, and I mean disastrously wrong signals.
The gun operators would try to follow these erratic signals, with all four
guns pointing to nowhere and everywhere. One would think that they would
stop firing, but no way. Every 5-6 seconds they blasted away, not in a
salvo, but they fired whenever they were ready. Then one of them had a
stuck cartridge, and they had to lower the gun, to allow one soldier to
push the cartridge out from the front.
Laurel and Hardy could not have created a more comical situation. Once
we had our optics under control again, the computer quieted down, and the
guns started to settle down, continuously firing. The guns had fired a
record of 64 rounds for one engagement. We had no evidence of hitting any
of the planes, but we somehow received credit for downing six planes. I
have no idea how they came up with those figures. The next day they painted
six white stripes on each gun barrel.
But to avoid a repetition of such a fiasco, we received detailed instructions
on how to handle the next capricious B-17s.
My Appendix for a Latin Test
Relatively little contact between us helpers and the Croatian population
occurred during the time that our battery occupied some of their farmland.
Some of us helpers changed that on Easter Sunday, 1944. Hard-boiled eggs
were not on our canteen menu and Easter Sunday required some eggs. We decided
to visit the village community and try to purchase some eggs from the surrounding
farmers. We figured that if we got enough eggs we could share them with
the entire battery.
About eight of us helpers invaded the village, in-groups of two, not
knowing that the Croatian people had a special Easter social observance.
If someone entered their domicile on Easter Sunday, they could not allow
the visitor to leave without serving food and drink. When we asked to purchase
eggs, they invited us first to the cellar for a taste of their fine wine.
I remember the wine flowed just like light oil and slithered down our throat.
I might have been a novice when it came to wine tasting, but that wine
was outstandingly drinkable. Then we received a slice of their homemade
bread covered with sausages or cheese. Only then, would they surrender
some eggs, without accepting payment. That was a symbolic gesture of some
remarkable people, who had foreign soldiers in their backyard, and treated
us cordially and friendly, like neighbors. By the time we visited three
farmers, we had enough eggs, as much as we could carry, and definitely
we had drank enough wine. We returned to our barracks singing drinking
songs. All but two of our fellow helpers returned more or less inebriated,
all with a few eggs. A couple hours later, our last two showed up. They
were very noisy and very drunk. One of them, trying to stand straight said,
"Look I have some eggs." With that, he reached in his coat pocket.
His hand came out dripping with raw egg stuff.
We had to put him to bed, and when he got noisier, we restrained him.
Our sergeant had heard the commotion and came into our room. He assessed
the situation, and then shook his head and left after telling us, "Just
make sure everybody shows up tomorrow morning for roll call." The
next morning, we presented our cook with about 40 eggs, maybe not quite
enough for everybody, but he was very appreciative.
As time went on, with many alerts interrupting our schooling, our teachers
had a hard time getting us together for classes. Our captain gave them
room to maneuver, however, and so we got some casual education. Naturally,
Herr Lustig, the Latin teacher fanatic, had to have his days, I believe
just to make me miserable. He would give us an assignment to read and to
remember a great number of Latin words. A week later, he threatened to
give us a written test. I had no problem reading the words, with the remembering
part I had a problem.
Teacher Lustig finally got the best of me. He scheduled a Latin test
for next Tuesday, only four days away. I knew that I must find a way to
avoid Tuesday's class. Every waking hour required serious thought to find
an excuse why I could not attend school. I knew that "not feeling
well" would not work without having to go to the medic, and he would
check me out and send me to class. I needed pain not easily determined
with a phony ache.
It was not until the day before the test that I had the foolproof solution.
A few years ago, my sister had an appendectomy. I remembered her symptoms,
such as pain in the lower right abdomen, and vomiting. That is the solution,
Tuesday morning I reported to the sickroom. Oh, my pain. I could not
stand straight. I held my lower abdomen and I grimaced convincingly. When
I said that I had thrown up, the medic took my temperature. I had no fever.
He made some "hmm" sound and said, "That is strange."
He poked a little on both sides of the abdomen, and predictably, I only
made noises when he poked on the right side. It seemed to work. He ordered
me to see a military doctor in Maribor, a town in northern Slovenia, about
5 miles north of our battery. The nurse requisitioned a vehicle, and with
some paperwork in my hand, I arrived at the doctor's infirmary. He too
heard my story, I had it pat by now, and he examined me. After a similar
"hmm," he did not want to take a chance of a wrong diagnosis,
he suggested that I go to the military hospital in Graz, a city in southeastern
Austria on the Mur river. Now, this was becoming a problem, more than I
had planned. By now it was afternoon, and I had expected to be back at
the battery already. With new papers in hand, I was driven to the railroad
station, put on a train and was on my way to Graz.
In Graz, a soldier picked me up at the station and drove me to the hospital.
Clearly, I now had a problem and second thoughts about continuing the charade.
My forwarding papers indicated my reported symptoms and I had no idea how
could I tone down my symptoms without admitting my deceit. I felt trapped
in my scheme. The doctor, an Army major in his 50s, appeared a little rough
around the edges. He looked at me, poked, then walked away. I thought I
heard a "hmm" on his way out. Five minutes later, two friendly
female nurses took charge of me. They provided me with a hospital gown
and took care of my uniform, after assigning me a bed in a large ward.
The situation escalated now from a simple appendectomy to a civil war,
when this Berliner, a Prussian, ended up in a large ward, next to a bunch
of sick Bavarian soldiers. Replace in the last sentence, Berliner with
New Yorker; Prussian with Yankee; and Bavarians with Southerners and you
have a volatile situation. Many of the soldiers in my ward had some kind
of goiter condition, which would make anybody disagreeable. During my first
day, two guys tried to belittle my Prussian heritage, one guy threw a spittoon
at me, and one threatened to use me as target for his flying bedpan. Maybe
they got mad at me for knowing everything better, than they, those southern
After that experience, I told myself, keep your big mouth shut if you
do not want to get hurt. Besides, I received loving attention from the
nurses since I was the youngest soldier ever to be under their wings.
I almost forget my condition. The nurses informed me about an upcoming
appendectomy, the next morning. Yes, the removal of my appendix appeared
on the operation schedule. I asked myself: "Do I need an appendix,
or would I be better off with out it?" I really did not have much
of a choice. The date was July 12, 1944.
A couple hours before my operation, the nurses made me swallow some
pills. They said they were happy pills. Who can resist a nurse with happy
pills? Once in the operating room, an injection into my spine was supposed
to make my lower body anesthetized. They made me turn over on my side,
and then, what appeared to be an intern, tried unsuccessfully to insert
that anesthetizing needle into the proper spine area. I asked, "Having
problems doc?" The major took over and finished it without any discomfort
for me. After a while the major would ask me if I felt this. My lower body
was anesthetized, but my mouth was still functioning well. "Felt what,
doc?" I asked. He had made the incision already. I did feel a little
strange around my upper belly, but no pain. Before I could really tell
the doctor the story of my life, he closed me up. I had no idea if the
doctor could tell that I had faked the illness. Since no one mentioned
it, I felt a little relieved. All he told me was that I would have to stay
in bed for nine days; not something to look forward to with all those funny
sounding soldiers around me. They might have spoken German, but they sure
could fool me. I had a hard time understanding the strange southern words
The days went by rather slowly and staying in bed all day became boring.
On the second day, I got out of bed to use the bathroom. On the seventh
day, I stood next to the bed for the rounds by the doctors. The major looked
at me, looked at the chart, and then counted, "1,2 3,4 5,6,7."
"I said 9 days", he continued and ordered me back to bed. Therefore,
I remained in bed for one more round. Apparently, my recuperating period
had not ended. The nurses informed me that I had to hang around the hospital
for at least one more week before I could return to my unit.
Since I was not restricted to the hospital I requested and received
a pass, allowing me free movement within the city of Graz. During my entire
stay in this city, the air raid sirens were silent giving me free time
to hang around cafés and movies. Here I met a young lady, a few
years older than me. She had long wavy red hair and some freckles crinkling
around her nose when she smiled. Soon we met every afternoon giving me
a wonderful experience. I had a genuine crush, maybe puppy love, but you
could not have convinced me of that. At the end of my recovery period,
sadly I had to report to my unit, taking loving memories with me.
Nothing significant had changed at my battery during my prolonged class-cutting
interval. Naturally, I had to tell my buddies everything that happened.
One particular item, however, I kept secret, the fact that my appendix
was never inflamed. Only my friend Joachim was privy to this secret. The
American bombers appeared to have other urgent targets, since during my
absence they came around only once. The appendectomy had a benefit, limiting
my physical activity. No drill, no ditch digging, and no push-ups. Unfortunately,
kitchen duty had no limitation. I learned quickly how many potatoes needed
peeling to feed the personnel of one anti-aircraft battery.
My light duty also included manning the spotter glasses during quiet
periods. It really was relaxing duty. I would scan the horizon and the
sky with the 32 power glasses. I told myself that I would not falsely identify
the Me-110 for a P-38, but nothing even close to that past episode happened
again. One exciting moment occurred while scanning. I heard engine noise,
and suddenly appearing over a rise, I saw a plane tree hopping. Quickly
I picked up the plane, but had a hard time keeping it in sight since it
was relatively close. It was too close for me to see the entire plane through
my glasses, but for a moment I saw the tail, then I saw the nose, and then
I saw the pilot. I identified the plane as a P-51 Mustang. The plane had
a brightly painted red nose, and it was gone in seconds over the next hill.
I made a report to my superior about the incident.
On June 6, 1944, the Allied troops had established a beachhead in Normandy.
It wasn't until August 1944 that we heard about the invasion. Now we knew
the reason for the bombing pause over Vienna. They needed the planes somewhere
Nestled within the Drava River valley, our battery had a beautiful view
of the surrounding gentle hills. The Drava was a wide river and flowed
quite swiftly. Our battery had no fence for security, just a few little
specks of guns and barracks surrounded by farmland. The river was only
a minute or so away. One early fall evening, six of us helpers ventured
to the river. It was one of those quiet times, the world appeared to be
very peaceful. Forgotten was the war for a moment. We sat on the river
bank and tossed pebbles or skipped flat rocks on its surface. On the other
bank, we could see an apple orchard, with inviting apples. We noticed a
man in working clothes walking through the orchard. He appeared to be just
looking at his beautiful trees, loaded with an abundance of reddish-yellow
apples. When he looked in our direction, he noticed us. He appeared to
communicate by holding up his arm and then pointing to us. He then picked
an apple from the tree and walked up to the riverbank. From there, he attempted
to toss the apple across the river. When we applauded his actions although
his throw was just a little short of reaching us, he motioned, what we
interpreted to mean, "come on over and help yourself." It was
evening, the sun was about to set, not a time we normally had an alert.
Two of our best swimmers, which excluded me, needed little coaxing to cross
the river and bring back a few apples. In discussing how they could hang
on to a number of apples, we suggested stowing the apples in their shirt,
after making sure the belt was very tight. They both crossed the river
effortlessly. The stranger appeared to be amused and when he pointed to
the trees and to our two fellows. They started to pick apples, stuffing
them into their shirts. After thanking the stranger and shaking his hand,
our two comrades started their return venture. Halfway across, one of them
appeared to have a problem and he called out for help. He was unable to
make any headway. The other boy quickly swam over to the boy in trouble,
while my friend Joachim jumped in to help. With the apples in the shirt
acting as a flotation device, the three then jointly arrived back on our
side. We waved goodbye to the man on the other side who smilingly waved
Not long after this apple caper, we received important information about
our high school classes. For me it was the best news I had in a long time.