It was February 2nd, 1945 we had just driven from the area near Metz, France through Luxembourg and on to a staging area close to Maastrich, Holland. Our Assault Gun Platoon of the 80th Tank Battalion was assigned the small town named Vilt in the County of Limburg. My tanker buddy was Joe Constantino, born and bred in Brooklyn, New York and stocky like a pit bull.
We "parked" our M-4 tank in the front yard of a small cottage. The little home had miraculously avoided being destroyed by bombs or shellfire, but we turned it into a tank parking lot. We noticed two young children watching our every move intently. The boy finally gathered up enough nerve and asked me, "Du ‘bliben’ mit uns?" Which after our short time in the country we translated ineptly as "You sleep with us?" Joe and I both responded in unison, "Nein! Nein!" But the children took us by our hands and led us toward the cottage door while they both chimed in together chanting "Du bliben mit uns?" (Later I learned they meant “stay with us.”)
The door opened, and there was their mother. She promptly handed each of us a pair of bright yellow wooden shoes to wear before we took another step on her clean floors. The children's father, a veteran of WWI made an invalid from mustard gas, sat quietly near the fireplace struggling for each breath. "Momma” started preparing potato soup and dark brown bread for our dinner. There wasn't enough to feed the four of them let alone us, too. But they were determined to make us feel "welcomed," and that they did.
After dinner we tried to help Momma with the dishes, but she motioned to us to go sit down. As we started to sit, Joe glanced at me with a twinkle in his eyes and said, "Don, I think it's time for a little moonlight requisition!" I nodded, and when it was finally dark we politely excused ourselves for a moment. The requisition list was conveniently filled from the company kitchen truck left "unattended," and the next evening we all enjoyed corned beef, dehydrated mashed potatoes and fruit cocktail. It sure beat the C-ration canned beans we usually heated on the Sherman's manifold (watching them closely so they didn't overheat and explode all over).
That night, Joe and I spent very restful slumbers on a real feather bed. Breakfast was bountiful— bread and cheese augmented by some powdered eggs nicely prepared, peanut butter and "white" bread too, which the kids ate with gusto! After breakfast, Momma insisted that we attend Mass at the church with her family, which we did causing a great deal of commotion in the church as we entered.
Too soon it was time for us to join up with the rest of the battalion and get back to the war. While the M-4 was warming up, the children Peter and Ellie gave me two snapshots of themselves. On the back of one they had written their address and the words: "To mein Ami, friends. Forget me not," Peter & Ellie.