Welcome to the world's first sneak peek at the
Robert B. Sherman autobiography,
by Robert B. Sherman
language has been modified for the purposes of this web publication
only. This was done minimally and with the express permission of the
We who were fortunate enough to somewhat survive the war, after
mending for months in makeshift English hospitals and being
shifted from Taunton to Bournemouth to Southampton, were at long
last under weigh aboard the hospital ship ‘A.A.MILNE’. (It was
only many years later that I learned, in a delightful way, that
Mr. A.A.Milne was a revered English writer who created Winnie
The Pooh.) And on that hospital ship is where I and seven other
GI’s almost killed ourselves.
I was one of eight wounded patients in a ward room. We took a
vote and unanimously decided we should have an alcoholic toast
to our heading home at last. But where to obtain the alcohol?
With a stroke of ingenuity, I ordered a full case of “Tally Ho”
after shave lotion from the ship’s PX. Another fellow ordered a
case of Coca-Cola. Voila! We had the makings of “Tally Ho
A ship’s orderly dropped our stuff off after the late afternoon
chow. All he ventured was:
“Gonna do a lot of shaving?”
We poured half a bottle of Tally Ho into half a bottle of coke
and passed them around.
Then, for a very brief time, we eight had a merry party. We
toasted our victory over the Nazis and we toasted the hard-to-believe
fact that we had survived all the sh-- behind us in
Europe and were at last homeward bound to the great old U.S.A.
Soon all the vomiting, shaking, hallucinations, cramps and
other attendant misery began. We were all out of our minds,
moaning and pounding the bulkheads in agony.
When we were discovered by the medicos at the height of our
severe discomfort there was little they could do but let the
denatured alcohol run its devastating course.
Recovering from our near death took eight full days. That was
the first third of the voyage home. Fortunately, we had
sufficient time to recover.
The ship’s captain announced that he was skirting a large
Atlantic storm due to the extremely injured men aboard and we
would miss New York by eight hundred miles and dock in South
Into the ward room, wearing a tattered red robe, walked a slim,
There was a disturbing glare in his jaundiced eyes. He came
over to my bunk and stared at me for a long moment–
“I looked at the patient lists and saw your
“Swell,” I said. “Who are you?”
“Gerry Brauer. I’m Gerry– Sherman!”
Saliva dripped from his gaping mouth.
“My God, Gerry! I didn’t recognize you for
a moment! How’s the war been treating
In my travels I have known two German refugees who were later
used mercilessly by the U.S. Army as interpreters. Both were
imminently decent people: Gustav Steinkamp and Gerry Brauer.
Both hated the Nazis but for different reasons. Gustav’s father
had actually been a Nazi. Gerry, on the other had, was a Jew.
Both were victims of their natal geography.
A drop of saliva fell again from Gerry’s mouth and onto his
“Sons-a-b------s looked in my record and
found out that I was a German refugee.
‘Spraken zee Deutch?’, they asked. The
bast--ds knew. For two years they used the
he-- out of me. Even when I was sick with
pneumonia. Every stinkin’ campaign,
reading maps, questioning prisoners,
walking the point till they used me up!
Not like in High School, Sherman. No?”
“No, Gerry, not like Beverly High.”
He gave a strangulated laugh-
“You’re f---in A! I’ve got yellow jaundice
and TB. I’m no use to them anymore. They
treated me like I was a Nazi since I knew
the language– Some of them even spat at
* * *
When the ship finally docked in South Carolina, I was
transferred to a long hospital train which was headed to the
west coast. It stopped at all the pumpkin junctions and whistle
stops inbetween. It took ten days to roll from South Carolina
to Los Angeles, California.
When I boarded the train I could only walk with the aid of
crutches. But I was determined that by the time we reached
California I wouldn’t depend on them anymore.
Each night of that seemingly interminable train ride, I
practiced walking back and forth in the car, holding onto both
sides of the aisle. At first it was quite painful, but a doctor
had advised me that even though it might hurt, no permanent
damage would be done by exercising my legs. I didn’t want my
folks and brother to see me on crutches. I didn’t want anyone
at home to see me hobbled.
Actually, I wasn’t really heading home. My orders read, “to the
Birmingham General Hospital” in the San Fernando Valley. (Soon
to be converted into Birmingham High.) It was just a twenty
minute drive over Coldwater Canyon to home.
As the hospital train slowly pulled into the Union Station in
downtown L.A., my anxiety mounted. As I carefully climbed down
from the train, a nurse insisted that I use the crutches. She
was unaware of all the work I had put in, just so I could walk
unaided. I knew that my family would be standing there at the
end of the long platform, their faces pressed against the gate,
straining for a first glimpse of me. Therefore, once off the
train I propped the crutches against a beam on the platform.
Then slowly, I limped toward the gate, unaided and probably
looking like a slow moving Frankenstein’s monster.
As I struggled toward the crowd waiting at the end of the
platform I relived the hallucination of the bright tunnel which
I had experienced on the field hospital operating table. My
anxious pulse began to race even more. Just then, a porter
pushing a cart piled high with B-4 bags passed close by me. He
exuded an overwhelmingly heavy application of “Tally Ho” after
shave lotion. That smell did it! I suddenly got a case of the
heaves. Then, heaving, I continued limping toward the gate. I
spotted my kid brother, Dick, waving. My Mom and Dad came
running toward their returning hero. Mom cried:
“Bobby, what have they done to you?”
“You sure got skinny.”
I pointed to the campaign ribbons on my Eisenhower jacket.
“Hey, Dick, ever see a combat infantry
My face went splat against the pavement. I counted several
flattened black wads of discarded chewing gum then passed out.
I awoke in my own bed in my own room. Dad was sitting in my
easy chair in the dark, puffing on a stinking Mexican cigarette–
the only kind available to civilians; and they still had to
venture across the border to Tijuana to get them. They smelled
like they were rolled from track and bull ring sweepings.
“My orders said–”
“Don’t worry son,” –Dad’s response was
already prepared. He continued– “I rang
up the hospital and explained. I can drive
you there tomorrow morning.”
We remained there in the dark room not saying a word. Then dad
broke the silence with a little cough as a preamble to his
“Son, we’re very glad and thankful to the
Almighty to have you back with us. Many
families we know were not so blessed.”
“Yeah, Dad, I know.”
“When that first telegram came, believe me,
Robert, I wanted to go somewhere and die
too. So did your mother.”
“What first telegram?”
He came to my bedside and snapped on my lamp. He took two
yellow, often folded sheets of paper from his wallet. He handed
me the first one. I gazed at the purple letters pasted to the
page. This phrase popped out:
“YOUR SON, PFC ROBERT SHERMAN 1920....WAS
KILLED IN ACTION IN GERMANY ON 12 APRIL,
“Those stupid, criminal sons-a-b-----s sent
Dad handed me the second telegram dated three days later.
“You see, son, they were deeply sorry for the error. They
corrected their mistake over the week end. But for a while
there, I thought we were all going to go crazy.” He started to
sob. “We really thought we had lost you, sonny. We all just
wanted to die too.”
* * *
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