I hope this email finds you all healthy, happy and well. Just wanted
you an update on my trip so far.
On Thursday last week I flew to Dallas to visit my friend and fellow
historian George Cone. I hate to put myself in the same category,
since he's been doing this for 30 years. We had a wonderful time
and looking at some of the unique items given to him by WW2 veterans
the years. Unfortunately, he was not able to join me for this trip,
sent me off on Friday to fly the coop alone (if I can mix my
It seems apt!
After a wonderful Lufthansa flight I landed in Frankfurt Saturday
picked up my rental car, and drove immediately direction Stuttgart
interview an AfrikaKorps veteran. The weather was truly outstanding.
a beautiful time of year here.
We had a lovely interview over 3.5 hours or so and then had luscious
baked by his wife while we enjoyed the sun in their garden. Then I
room at a darling, modern, boutique hotel near his house.
Although I was very jetlagged, I had taken his letters to his
he served, and needed to scan them in. I scanned six hours until
while looking out my window at a gorgeous, lush green valley and old
viaduct bridge, and only got a fraction of the missives - mostly
sent from the Russian front his first year of service.
I woke up at 3:30 am. Since I was awake, I started scanning again.
At 8 I
had one of the best breakfasts I'd ever had in Germany - wonderful
eggs (unusual to find) and of course fabulous dark German bread.
At 9 I stopped by to return the letters and wish my new friends
before spontaneously deciding to drive through Ludwigshafen on my
My friend Robert Sweatt's bomber had hit Ludwigshafen before it was
down over Normandy, and I remember the mission records detailing the
long BASF plant target along the Rhine river.
I found the river and parked at an old, shutdown factory parking lot
walking path. Across the river I could see the BASF factory and only
what it must have been like to be a resident of that city during the
Seeing an older lady walking her dog, I decided to introduce myself
her if she had lived there during the war. She hadn't, but told me
of one of her friends (now deceased) who had. She encouraged me to
city's archives the next day, but since I'm on a mission I told her
have to wait for another trip, gave her my card, and left. As I
the river and by the factory back to the Autobahn, I was truly
amazed by the
current size of the BASF industrial complex. It stretched along the
for miles and miles - three miles after I thought it had ended I was
Onwards I drove northward in my Ford Fiesta. (Warning to Mom -
to the next paragraph now) As I was minding my own business in the
three lanes, driving around 160 km per hour (you do the math),
suddenly 6 or
7 cars came up in all three lanes, swerving around me and blowing by
inches to spare at a speed that made it look like I was going
just held on to the steering wheel as my little ship got buffeted by
tubulence and puttered on.
Safely arriving in Muelheim AD Ruhr after 5 hours on the road I
my longtime friends Kerstin and Marc and baby Fabian. Then we went
Kerstin's parents, eating more luscious cake in the sun overlooking
wildly blooming, huge garden.
Monday morning I played with Fabian while Kerstin got ready to go to
work at the University of Duisburg (she teaches Japanese int'l
then they were off. I went into town and added minutes to my German
cellphone, grabbed some cash at the bank, and walked the 45 minutes
the house remembering this place as it was 20 years ago when I lived
20 years ago!! How the time flies!
I got a call from the nice lady from Ludwigshafen, who upon
decided to offer her help by going to the city archives to research
Sometimes I'm just overwhelmed and awed by the goodness of people,
makes me really happy.
Then I jumped back into the car for a 3-hour drive north to
arriving at the small village where a German Knight's cross holder
was warmly welcomed into the house where he was interviewing with a
historian who is writing his story.
His wife returned home after a 3-day road trip adventure with three
historians, one Finnish, who had come to interview Knights Cross
the son of Von Ribbentrop, and SS veterans. The house here is
inundated with historians from all over the world seeking out
more than one at a time. Regine says she feels like the head of an
institution for crazy people with all the people coming and going.
After a supper spread where I was one of three visitors, we drank
until 10 pm when I nearly fell asleep on the couch after all the
and jetlag. They put me up in a room upstairs - one of the other
is in the room across the hall - and we're all to have breakfast at
After I interview Guenther, who is 90 and exhausted by the daily
but such a good sport, I'm off to Hamburg this afternoon, with a
the British cemetery at Becklingen on the way.
Hope you don't mind my rambling mails...there are going to be more
so prepare yourselves :-)
Signing out for this morning,