The War Ends in Europe, 1945
In early 1945, it was obvious that it was only a matter of time before Germany collapsed under the combined assault of allied forces. The US Army faced a monumental challenge: Once the shooting
stopped; how to convert an army of millions of citizen-soldiers back into citizens. A point system was developed in which a soldier's length of service and combat duty produced a score that either sent him home, dispatched him to the Pacific to fight the Japanese or remanded him to Europe as part of the occupation force. The lucky ones were sent home.
American troops cross
the Rhine River under fire
Patsy Giacchi was drafted into the Army when he turned 18. The New Jersey native landed with the 94th Quartermaster Railhead Company at Normandy on D-day. His job was to supply the front line troops with ammunition and other supplies as they fought their way through France and into Germany. From the time he landed in France, Patsy Giacchi was in the thick of the combat. On the last day of the war in Europe, Patsy and his Company were in southern Germany. We join Patsy's story as a loudspeaker announces the war's end:
"When the war ended, I was in Germany, in a town called Ulm. Out of the clear blue sky over the loudspeaker they say, 'The war has ended! The war has ended!' Here I am in a foxhole talking to one of my buddies. 'What did they say?'
'Pat! The war has ended!' You'd see there were some of them out there going crazy. Guys were shooting each other by mistake! GIs, yes, they were shooting themselves, from the excitement. They tried to tell everybody, 'Calm down! Be careful!'
And I was in a foxhole down there. 'The war is over! The war is over!' I was crying in the foxhole from joy, I couldn't believe it. The following morning they called formation outside, they said, 'The following names, please step forward.' Finally, 'Pfc. Patsy Giacchi!' I step forward.
'Okay,' the captain says, 'you guys are all going home.'
Boom. One guy passes out from the excitement. I couldn't believe it. I think I was 21 years old then.
The following day, it was a clear blue sky. 'Cover up your foxholes.' Before you know it, they put us on trucks, the big Army trucks, they load you up in there, hold the back door, the driver takes off, and he's going for miles and miles and miles, before you know it, you're riding almost a whole day. You ride from one part of Germany to another part. You bivouac. Five in the morning you get up, take your tents down, they give you coffee. Boom! We start to travel. Before you know it we're deep into France. Another couple of days we're in Le Havre. And there's the big liberty ships waiting. But before all that they had to give you the inspection, because a lot of guys caught venereal disease. If you had a venereal disease, they took you out of line. They put you in the hospital, and they cured you there, then they would send you home. A lot of guys were pulled out, who had syphilis, the clap. A lot of soldiers caught VD over there. They taught them how to use prophylactics, but a lot of guys were stupid, they got drunk.
Now I'm on a liberty ship coming home; I can't believe it. All of a sudden, after about a week, they said, 'Here it is, boys.' We come around a big bend, and they say, 'You guys want to see it? Go up on the top deck, you can see it.'
What is it? We're hitting Newport News, Virginia. And you look, as you come in, you can't believe it, the United States! And there's a big sign that says, 'Welcome home, boys! Well done!' I'm on the deck there, I'm crying, I can't believe it.
All of a sudden you start to line up. I said, 'Pat, be careful now, Pat be careful, you made it through the whole war. Don't get killed, don't fall off the ship or get hurt.'
Then they call your name; you step down. When I got off, I kissed the ground. I cried.
Then, 'All the guys from New Jersey, line up on one side. You're going to Fort
Monmouth.' All the guys from another state, they line up somewhere else.
So I went to Fort Monmouth. The following morning we had to go to a big church. You had the organist up there playing songs.
Happy GIs head for the port
of Le Havre, the first to be
sent home under the Army's new
point system. May 25, 1945
They said, 'When your name is called, step up, salute the officer who's giving you your discharge papers, make a turn, go back, you're discharged from the Army.'
'Pfc. Patsy J. Giacchi'
'Pfc Patsy J. Giacchi!'
A guy goes, 'Hey, that's you!"'
'Oh, yeah! Yeah!' I go up there, nervous. They give me that paper. I walk back. 'You don't go back and sit down! Get the hell out of here, you're discharged!'
I see an officer go by, I salute him. He says, 'You're not a soldier anymore.'
'I'm sorry, Sir.'
I'm the only guy that's coming toward Hackensack. They told me where to get the next bus to go from Fort Monmouth to Newark.
I'm on the bus a couple of hours, and then the driver says, 'Newark, Penn Station!'
Penn Station! I remember that from when I was a kid! Penn Station in Newark. I got off the bus. I went to a telephone booth. There were many guys there. My time came. I took out my wallet. Now I didn't know my phone number, because when I left it was three years ago. So I opened up my wallet to look for my phone number. I had my mustering out pay. They gave me three hundred dollars when I got discharged, plus I had another two hundred dollars. That's 1945. That's a lot of money. I'm nervous. All of a sudden, 'Hello. Who am I speaking to?'
'You're speaking to Nellie.' Nellie's one of my sisters.
'Nellie, please, now don't get excited. This is your brother Patsy.'
Coming home - the Queen Mary
arrives in New York City with
thousands of troops returning
from Europe. June, 1945
Boom. She dropped the phone. She passed out.
Jane picks up the phone, my older sister, and she says, 'Who's this?'
'Jane, please, it's your brother Patsy. Please, don't get excited. I'm in Newark, New Jersey.'
'Oh my GOD!' 'We'll send somebody.'
'No, no, no. I'm coming home. I'll take care of it. I'm coming home.'
'Patsy, please be careful. Oh my GOD!'
I left my wallet there. I had some change in my pocket, and a couple of bills.
I got on the bus. I took the bus from Newark to Hackensack. Then from Hackensack on Main Street I took a taxicab to West Street, where I lived.
As I'm coming around the corner, they've got a big sign for me in front of my
house, 'Welcome home, Patsy!' All my Italian neighbors are waiting for me.
I get out
of the cab, and they're grabbing me, my mother's trying to grab me, my father
- no, my father's dead - my mother was trying to grab me, my sisters were there.
The neighbors were there. Across the street the DeLorenzos. 'Ohhh, Patsy, it's
good to see you' and everything else. Who's pulling me here, who's pulling
After about two hours, some of the neighbors disperse, we go inside, we start talking.
Then Jane says, 'Gee, Patty, have you got any pictures?'
'I've got one or two pictures. ... JANE! My wallet! I left it in Newark.'
'Oh my God! How much was in it?' 'Five hundred!'
'Five HUNDRED?!!!' Then it was like five thousand.
We call up Newark. They say, 'Would you please come down?'
We get down to Newark. I go where I made the telephone call from. Behind the counter, there's a couple of cops there, security or something else. They said, 'Soldier, we get this every day. You're going to have to give us some real good detail. Everybody tells us black wallet, brown wallet, something like that. Tell us if you can what's in your wallet.'
Pfc. Lee Harper, wounded in
Normandy, greets his family
on his return to the states
August 1, 1945
'Well,' I said, 'I've got a couple of this, a couple of that.' 'Keep going.' The other guy's writing it down.
I said, 'Okay. I've got it! Okay, now look.' I was always excited. 'Take your time now,' he says.
'Okay. You'll see a picture of my girlfriend, an Italian girl with long black hair. She's got a dress on' - I bought her this dress - 'and the dress has got an emblem of a little parrot.'
That did the trick. They gave me the wallet, with the money in it and everything else.
'Sir,' I said, 'who returned this for me?'
He said, 'A little old lady. She said, 'Some poor bugger left his wallet here with all his money. Please see that he gets it.' '
I said, 'Can I give her a reward?"'
He said, 'She doesn't want a reward. Just take care of yourself, she said.' "
We thank Aaron Elson and Chi Chi Press for granting permission to reprint this eyewitness account
Elson, Aaron (editor), 9 Lives, An Oral History, (1999).
How To Cite This Article:
"The War Ends in Europe, 1945," EyeWitness to History, www.eyewitnesstohistory.com (2002).