Stodghill Says So

An opinionated posting on a variety of subjects by a former newspaper reporter and columnist whose daily column was named best in Indiana by UPI. The Blog title is that used in his high school sports predictions for the Muncie Evening Press.

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Location: Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, United States

At the age of 18 I was a 4th Infantry Division rifleman in the invasion of Normandy, then later was called back for the Korean War. Put in a couple of years as a Pinkerton detective. Much of my life was spent as a newspaper reporter, sports writer and daily columnist. Published three books on high school sports in Ohio and Indiana. I write mystery fiction for Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine and others. Three books, Normandy 1944 - A Young Rifleman's War, The Hoosier Hot Shots, and From Devout Catholic to Communist Agitator are now available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other booksellers. So are four collections of short mysteries: Jack Eddy Stories Volumes 1 and 2, Midland Murders, and The Rough Old Stuff From Mike Shayne Mystery Magazine.

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Monday, August 18, 2008

Frightening a little creature always disturbs me

I frightened our little hamster Sophie this morning and it has bothered me all day. She was on the top floor of her four-story cage, sitting on top of the little building that is her potty while Jackie was talking to her, something she loves. I got up from a chair and with the light behind me, Sophie saw me as a dark shadow, possibly a hawk. It's amazing how fast a hamster can move at such a time. Like a shot she was back in her nest and hidden from view.
When something like that happens it triggers a flashback to the winter of 1945-46 when I was a military policeman in a town in Northern Germany. A former German paratrooper named Muller had a small band that played for dances at the Officers Club. They played a variety of music but Muller refused to play American jazz. The officers decided to show him who was boss, make an example of him and others.
The entire contingent of MPs was gathered one night and told we were to raid a number of German houses looking for American cigarettes or candy bars.
"But the women do our laundry and that's how we pay them," the officers were loudly informed. They didn't care.
None of us had any enthusiasm for the job. My friend Frank Schwartz and I made up one team. Like the others, when we found cigarettes or candy we overlooked it. The officers were furious. While we were in the home of a man we knew, an officer swaggered in the door. Frank had just found a pack of cigarettes in a desk drawer and knew the officer would search it. He tossed the pack to me. I ripped it open, lit a cigarette and put the pack in my pocket.
The fat officer was suspicious. He ordered us to search upstairs. We opened a bedroom door and found two blonde-haired little girls staring at us from under the covers. They appeared about nine or ten but could have been a little older because all children in wartime Europe were small for their age. To them, men wearing white MP helmets meant American Gestapo. We tried to reassure them but they couldn't understand and remained terribly frightened.
Although we had found nothing, the officer said to arrest their father. It happened to a number of others that night. Later I looked through the peephole in a steel door at the jail and saw the father holding his head in his hands.
A military tribunal - that means give a man a fair trial and then hang the guilty bastard - handed each of the men 15-year prison sentences. How long they actually served, I don't know.
The American Gestapo? Perhaps we were. Was I proud of my role in the injustice? Not for a minute. To this day it bothers me, just as frightening Sophie bothers me.


Blogger STAG said...

I personally distrust and dislike most forms of military "justice". I didn't see much of it during my time, and what I saw of it did not give me confidence in my officers.

The fact that I grew to totally distrust all officers from the acts of a few is why I refused the offer of promotion. When asked why I was turning such an honour down, the devil in me sputtered loose and made me answer truthfully, "why should I desire to become something I despsise?"

Like a lot of comments I made over the years, this one was another nail into my coffin.

6:53 PM  
Blogger STAG said...

I should point out that I never DID regain my trust in officers after the men I was supposed to respect left me hanging on the wire. But over twenty years, I DID learn to live with them. But I NEVER EVER assumed that any of them ever had my better interests at heart.

A duly comprised military tribunal is often the only hope...and it beats a drumhead c/m or summary trial hands down.

8:40 PM  
Blogger Dick Stodghill said...

I have always felt the same way about officers. I served under a few very good ones, some that were at least competent, and many who were either total washouts or downright evil men.

1:16 PM  

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