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Jerry Saum Army

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Jerry Saum - 926 Views
honored by Michael Ford


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Assigned: 28th Infantry Division, 628th Tank Destroyer Battalion
Gender: male
Current City: Ft. Jennings
Current State: Ohio
My War Stories
  
  1952 (Courtesy Michael Ford, Delphos Herald). During the summer of 1950, the conflict with the Soviet Union was warming up. As a rising red star cast an iron-dark shadow over Eastern Europe, the cold war turned blazing hot. As it did, American forces stood watch on the free side of Deutschland’s Rhine. One of those who served in a support capacity was rural Fort Jennings’ Jerry Saum, 81. He was drafted by the United States Army in 1950 and assigned to the 28th Infantry Division of the Pennsylvania National Guard, which was still on active duty, having been called up during the previous war. Saum joined it at Camp Atterbury. Ind. There, he received his basic training and then some over his first of two years in the military. “My home battalion was the 628th Tank Destroyer Battalion and we went to the Mojave Desert to fire the cannons. We had 90 mm guns and there wasn’t anywhere around here where we could fire them, so we went out into the desert. Then, we went east to Fort Bragg, NC; then on to Germany,” he said. Saum never operated any tanks or saw any combat. He worked in the office, monitoring machines that received encrypted communications for the unit. “I interpreted Morse Code and wrote it out. It was a job. I had my own Jeep, so I could drive around. It was interesting. We were stationed at Leipheim and often had to go out on maneuvers and fire the tanks,” he said. Saum said there were times when his unit fired its tanks but his maneuvers were less dramatic. “We had to be ready to go out at any time if they called an alert. Personally, I was never assigned to a tank; we had our own vehicles. We’d go out in the field and act like we were shooting but we didn’t. We set up headquarters and the perimeter; antennas and hung telephone wire so we were ready to go in case something happened,” he remembered. However, the primary file in his memory bank concerns one of the winter holidays. “What I remember most was on Christmas Eve of 1951. My buddy and I got the idea to go to Munich and sell some coffee grounds on the black market. We each took about five or six pounds and had a good ole’ time but we didn’t sell it all. We each had a pound left when we got back to camp so he took one side of the street and I took the other. We gave the grounds away to some old ladies walking down the street in their shawls; they just cried and hung on us because they hadn’t had a cup of coffee in years, I suppose. Economically, they were still in pretty bad shape from the war, especially the older ones,” he said. That wasn’t the only time Saum used his cunning for personal gain. “Around Easter that year, they sent us communications guys out early. The rest of the battalion wasn’t going out until Monday but they sent us out on Thursday for maneuvers. We got to the C-rations early and opened them all up and took out the cigarettes. We traded them for beer; you talk about some angry guys when the rest of them got there on Monday. It wasn’t a very nice thing for us to do but the beer sure tasted good,” he said. Saum got out of the Army in 1952. He came home and tied the knot two years later. He and Annabelle have been married for 55 years, having raised four children. He worked for the former Hayes Albion Corporation in Spencerville.