A Miracle of Music

At War's End

In late May 1945, I was assigned to a unit developing Germany's military government, and we sought temporary housing in battered Hoechst am Main, a suburb of Frankfurt, before moving on to Berlin. War and V-E Day were not far behind us, and hostilities continued in many areas.

Many houses were dark and roofless, if not destroyed. As we picked possible sites to stay, a sergeant explored a church. To our amazement, we suddenly heard its organ.

Several of us suspended our search for housing and joined the sergeant in the church, which was open to the sky. He was playing popular songs. Suddenly, we became aware that Germans were coming out of the rubble and filling the church. The sergeant switched to hymns.

At least two miracles seemed at work: electric power to an organ, and the total peace shared by the Germans and the U.S. military.

This "service" could not have lasted more than five minutes before the voice of our commanding officer rose above the organ and ordered us out.

I never forgot the miracles of that night. Back home, I studied the organ and have served some eight years as an alternate organist for the Episcopal church.

-- Cedric C. Philipp, Radnor, Pa.

'Feathers' in the Sky

Near Pearl Harbor

On Saturday, Dec. 6, 1941, I went with my sister and her husband to their newly built house in the countryside near Honolulu. My brother-in-law had decided to quit his city job to establish a piggery.

Early Sunday morning, about 7:30, I was helping my sister hang white kitchen curtains when the house shook violently. We ran outside, thinking earthquake. Once outdoors, we noticed what appeared to be white feathers floating to the ground, and we saw in the distance a silver plane spiraling earthward, trailing smoke.

Some of my classmates in college were children of military families, and they had told me about Sunday morning military maneuvers, during which they would wave to the pilots from the ground. Seeing the plane crash made me wonder at the extravagance of making the maneuvers look so real.

I heard the roar of an airplane at that moment, and I thought I would wave to the pilot with the white curtain still in my hand. I stopped abruptly midway: The plane was not silver, but an ugly dark green with a huge red disk painted on the wing. I was so astonished that I did not complete the wave. It was later explained to me that the Japanese plane, after dropping a bomb on Pearl Harbor, flew over our area while circling back to its target. What appeared to be white feathers were actually part of the packaging of the bomb. As these "feathers" fell, so did chunks of shrapnel, many of which we found on the property, large and sharp enough to damage the tin roofs and concrete foundations of the pigpens.

-- Dorothy Goo Nahme, Potomac

A Very Long Night

Trapped in a Boxcar

People today talk about the wonderful trains in Europe, but in the winter of 1944, I traveled on trains that no one ever wanted to experience. I had been a top turret gunner and the flight engineer on a B-17 that was shot down over Holland on Nov. 6, 1943. Three days later, I was captured.

I was put on a passenger train, handcuffed and chained to two German guards. A young girl looked my way and gestured that she was going to throw me an apple. I nodded, caught it and tried to eat it before the guards could take it away. One guard said to the other: "Let him have it. When he gets to the Fatherland, he won't be smiling."

I was placed on another train to be sent to a prison in Frankfurt am Main. We were in the train yard in Munich one night when the Royal Air Force bombed the city. They began about 9 at night and continued until about 4 in the morning. We were packed in boxcars so full of prisoners that we all couldn't sit down or lie down at the same time. All we could do was listen to the sound of the bombs and the antiaircraft guns and feel the car jump each time a bomb hit. The doors were locked, we were trapped and the RAF didn't know we were there. It was a very long night.

-- Alexander M. Girvan,

Clarks Summit, Pa.

Cedric C. Philipp outside his house in Hoechst am Main, a suburb of Frankfurt, in 1945.