Welcome to the world's first sneak peek at the
Robert B. Sherman autobiography,
MOOSE



K.I.A.
by Robert B. Sherman

Some language has been modified for the purposes of this web publication only.  This was done minimally and with the express permission of the author.  

Robert B. Sherman autobiography sneak peek "MOOSE"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 Cocktails”!

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 Carolina.

Into the ward room, wearing a tattered red robe, walked a slim, yellow-faced soldier.

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 name.”

“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 you?”

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 sleeve.

“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 me.”

* * *

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?”

Dick observed:

“You sure got skinny.”

I pointed to the campaign ribbons on my Eisenhower jacket.

“Hey, Dick, ever see a combat infantry badge?”

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 words.

“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, 1945...........etc.”

“Those stupid, criminal sons-a-b-----s sent you this?”

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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