|Posted by Richard Ames on November 21, 2013 at 2:10 PM||comments (0)|
From Paul Lutz:
From Paul Lutz:
When the 1945 Class President, Capt. Paul R. Peak called me to ask if I would write a class of 1945 column for the Alumni Bulletin I replied that I was not in touch with many of the class but I had some history that could interest "old timers" and some others. Paul said go ahead and here it is:
The German Army Motorcycle (Mon Cycle)
Over the years when the Class of 1945 got together I was always asked to tell again the story about the German Army motorcycle. What follows is that story.
In the summer of 1945 with the European war over, several officers were transferred from the Cutter Duane. One of these transferred back to the USA was Lt. Henry Keene, the ship's navigator. Henry had somehow attained possession of a captured German Army courier motorcycle.
This was a small one cylinder BMW model with a passenger seat behind the operator. The motorcycle was taken during the invasion of southern France when a German Army courier encountered a group of Navy Seabees who shot the driver with a Thompson sub machine gun. The driver was killed and the motorcycle damaged. The Seabees returned the motorcycle to their main base, Bizerte,Tunisia, and repaired it. The motorcycle was not in condition for a long trip but it was great to ride on the base.
When the Seabees went back to the USA, the motorcycle stayed in
Bizerte and eventually Henry Keene took possession of it and parked the cycle near the jeeps
attached to Duane in Bizerte. When Henry left, he asked me if I would like the motorcycle, and I thought that would be fun. Sometimes the motorcycle had problems with the foot starter when the metal support would break. The support was made of aluminum and only a very skilled person could re-weld it. When I could, I rode the motorcycle on the base, but eventually I had great difficulty in finding anyone to
repair it. When Duane left Bizerte on her last sweep around our bases in Sicily, Italy and France the
motorcycle was broken and left stored in an airplane hanger on the base. Upon return of Duane I went to see if I could get the motorcycle and found to my dismay that it was gone.
I soon learned that the order had been made to transfer all German equipment to the French Navy at Bizerte, and the cycle was in the French storage yard. I was incensed that the French had my cycle and went to the French Navy Headquarters and talked to the Liaison Officer, a Lieutenant Ferateau, who I knew from his visits to Duane. I remember telling him "YOU HAVE MON CYCLE". This made such an uproar that Lt. Ferateau went to the French Chief of Staff and returned with the directive to return the motorcycle to me.
I was elated and went to the storage yard to get the motorcycle. The officer in charge of the storage yard was an older French Officer and I guess he was amused by the young American who was speaking to him in French with a North African accent. At any rate he not only gave me the motorcycle but he had it repaired first and also included with the motorcycle a spare engine.
Duane was now scheduled to leave Bizerte for Charleston, South Carolina and the question came up as to the motorcycle. I never thought I could get "mon cycle" back to America and never asked for permission. In fact, Commander Scullion, Exec. Officer made it a point for me to NOT ask to return the cycle on Duane. So I intended to just leave the motorcycle on the dock when we left in August. Things changed when the last US merchant ship arrived to finish the American withdrawal from Bizerte. The day before the ship was to depart to the USA
I met a young officer from the merchant ship, the radio officer, who visited the Duane as he saw it was a
communications ship. This Officer was a friendly man from NewYork City. His name was Charles Von Haupt Kessler, and he had an unusual background. His father had been the youngest colonel in the German Army during World War I and had a major part in the battle of Tannenberg. After the war he came to America and joined the US Army as a colonel and had been on the US Army war plans staff when WWII began. The father died shortly after WWII began. His name, Kessler, caught my interest and I mentioned my mother's family name, Kossler. There were enough things in common that we talked for several hours. As the officer left Duane, he asked "Is there anything I can do for you?" Just as a bolt out of the blue I said, "Yes, could you take my motorcycle back for me?" He said he would ask the skipper, and if he could, he would take it. The merchant ship was on the other side of the wharf, just about 50 yards from Duane. Soon he came back to say the skipper was roaring drunk and he could not talk to him until the morning.
As this discussion went on I was the Officer of the Deck on Duane. About 10 pm, as best I remember, he came back to Duane and said "the skipper is still very drunk, but the chief mate told me to go ahead and bring the motorcycle". I pointed out the motorcycle and invited him to take it. I gave him my home address in Crafton so he could have a destination and he walked the motorcycle along the wharf to his ship. The last thing I saw was a cargo sling reach down from the merchant ship and "mon cycle" rose up and disappeared into the merchant ship.
I had no arrangement to pay him any costs and felt that it was such a chancy business that I would never see the cycle again.
Amid our great joy in returning to America I forgot the cycle. To my amazement, in the mail that reached Duane in Charleston, South Carolina, there was a short postcard from my father saying "your motorcycle is in the garage!" And so it was, the motorcycle and the spare engine all in beautiful shape and carefully crated.
The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania kindly gave me a title for "motorcycle" and a license plate. It was such fun to operate it in Crofton. I gave a great share of the children rides on the cycle as well as all the relatives. I never went long distances on the cycle but once I rode it to Annapolis, MD, when I was at the US Navy Postgraduate School. It ran great and got about 50 miles per gallon. After I bought my first auto in Carnegie, I took the motorcycle back to Crafton in the spring of 1947. I was uncertain what to do with it. My father was buying an auto and would need the garage, and I couldn't take both my auto and motorcycle to my next assignment. I did not want to sell the cycle — that would have been improper. Amazingly, other things happened. My next door neighbor, William Garret Haag, a year younger than I and a boyhood pal, had gone into the US Army and was one of the people rushed into the breech at the Battle of the Bulge. He had been shot, losing I 1/2 fingers on the left hand, and had his hand smashed. The Army Hospital (Crile General Hospital) outside of Cleveland Ohio did the reconstruction work after Bill was returned to the USA. The reconstruction was very successful and Bill was exercising it to build strength when we were together in Crafton in 1947. One beautiful summer day, Bill and I were working on the cycle in the alley behind our houses. Often I had taken Bill for rides on the cycle and he greatly enjoyed it. As I watched Bill work his injured hand with skill, I understood what I should do. I stood the motorcycle up and asked Bill if he was strong enough to work the clutch lever on the left handle. Bill tried, it was hard, but he could do it. I immediately said "Bill, the motorcycle is yours! The hand exercise will be fun too". I signed over the title, and Bill was so delighted. I was delighted too as this is exactly what should have happened to "mon cycle".
To finish the story, in 2009, Bill is deceased. I talked to his son last year. He said Bill sold the cycle when he needed money when his wife was dying from cancer, but the cycle can still be seen in the area near
Victoria, Virginia, their last home and is still running. As for me I have had a thousand laughs from this — my favorite story.
|Posted by Richard Ames on December 30, 2011 at 3:55 PM||comments (1)|
I just installed a new "Video" page for the website. It's a listed along with the other 14 pages as a link across the top of the page. I also uploaded the first video for the new video page. One of our Sherman crew members John Holden ENC 82-84 ... Sent me an interesting DVD he had converted from one of his old movie films have a race between the Sherman and the Midgett ... he mentioned it might be one of only three copies were ever made, See the full caption for the video below
Before I could post the video on this website, I had to convert it from the DVD format to a digital format (avi)
My plan was to upload the 840 MB AVI file to YouTube .. thereby saving some of this website's band width .. In other words the website provider allows me something like 5 GB uploads and downloads in a given month, if I want anything over that I have to pay more. The original video being almost 1 GB, means if five people downloaded it in a month's time, that would be 5 GB of my bandwidth for the month. But as a workaround I could upload it for free to YouTube .. Then do what they call an "embed" what is basically an Internet web link back to my YouTube page. Then if anybody downloaded it would not affect my bandwidth. So the video is also on YouTube.. And when you click on the planet it will play inside of a window but streaming from the YouTube webpage without you ever leaving the Sherman site. I've known about this for quite some time but it's the first time I've actually put it into practice. I have several more private Sherman videos that I will convert and get posted here on the site sooner later.
Why did I tell you all of this? Because I really want to encourage you to post your videos of the Sherman or Coast Guard or anything related ... and share them with the rest of the crew members. But at the same time if at all possible we can post them on YouTube and embed the videos here. If you need help doing that just let me know ... I can send you detailed instructions on how to do most things on this website if you're interested. Or send me the videos that I will post your video for you in your name.
One interesting thing about John's video is listening to the helicopter crew and photographer, turn up your sound a little .. especially near the end when the Sherman crew is lined up along the rail rowing past the Midgett ... listen closely when they panned back to the Sherman and one of the helo guys points out that the deck crew is mooning the Midgett ... there's no accounting for some of our crew members even when they do when LOL!
The Video Caption reproduced here ...
The USCGC Sherman (WHEC) 720 and the USCGC Midgett (WHEC) 726 engaging in their "Full Power Trials" testing the capabilities of their Pratt and Whitney Gas Turbine Engines. A true sea going "Drag Race"
This race took place in the early 1980's near San Diego California. The video was shot from the Midgetts helo with over heard comments from the photographers. The video was sent to me by John Holden ENC.
Chief Holden was on the Throttles in Main Control aboard the Sherman at the time. John said "I remember it like it was yesterday, Pete (Pete Mason was the Shermans EO at the time) put me on the throttles, it was my engine room!, I had to pull back a little because the exhaust pressure was too high and when I did, it was a little too much, (this is when the Midgett pulled ahead at the beginning of the race) then a minute later I slammed the throttles down once again, and all 18,000 hp came alive." John also related to me that the race or "full power trial" was the first time the Sherman was at 100% full power in13 years. The "Race" was agreed upon by both ships and the ship that lost would pay for a party for both ships to celebrate.
John believes that one of the deciding factors was the excellent maintenance being performed on Shermans jet engines particularly a new practice he initiated, cleaning the fuel filters with a military surplus ultrasonic cleaner a practice which just may have given the Sherman the winning edge.
John Holden ENC and Pete Mason LCDR are both members of this website. Thanks for the great story!