RAINBOW REUNION AND 50TH ANNIVERSARY TOUR OF EUROPE - APRIL
Cory J. Eberhart
to the 1995 Munich Rainbow Reunion and 50th Anniversary Tour
of Europe --
child learns the numbers, how to count and tell time in minutes
and hours. She learns what are days and weeks. A month
is an eternity; a year is beyond comprehension. Early birthdays arrive amidst laughter and probably tears. How can
holding up the fingers of one hand mean so much? Somehow it does. We learn
to mark the passage of time; commemorate the events of our
lives. Anniversaries of fifty years are cause for
great excitement and celebration, laughter and probably tears. Thus it was during late April and early May
1995 as American veterans from all Divisions crossed the Atlantic
to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the last days of the
War and Victory in Europe. Time masks their youth. To the uninitiated eyes of strangers they are
so many old men traveling in numbers.
Even their grown children see them this way until suddenly
the facade of time is cracked and they are there before us,
the beautiful boys who we know lived right next door.
This generation shares more than a baptism by fire.
They look into each other's eyes and the same question is mirrored,
"Where has the time gone?"
Munich, Germany, April
contingent of twelve is a loosely organized complement to
the official "Return to Victory in Europe 1995 50th Anniversary
42nd Infantry Division 'The Rainbow' World War II Battlefield
Tours including Solemn Commemoration of Liberation of Dachau
by the 42nd Infantry 'Rainbow' Division, V-E Day Celebrations
at Hatten and Innsbruck." As a famous columnist is fond
of saying, "I am not making this up." That is the
actual title of what later is simplified to the "Alphabet
Tour" because of the A, B and C packages offered by the
battlefield tour organizers.
of our party gather at New York's Kennedy Airport for the
trans-Atlantic flight. Just getting this far has been a comedy
of errors but everyone has a current passport and we all manage
to make our connecting flights. A propitious beginning.
arrive at the Munich Airport, some distance from the city,
on the morning of April 26, 1995 and proceed through the immigration
check point. Of our party, (parents Barbara and Dee, my
husband, Bruce) Dee is the only one who is stopped for a closer
look at his passport. "Why
is that?" he asks us.
At the exit from the baggage area two young men hold
"Rainbow" placards. They direct us to the city shuttle for the Eden Wolff Hotel in Munich.
Hand lettered signs announce the location where the official
Rainbow battleground tour gathers, mistakenly identified as
the "24th Division." Willie Shurtleff finds a pen and helps change
the sign to "42".
We ride the airport shuttle into the city.
Eden Wolff Hotel on Arnulf Strasse is directly across from
the Hauptbannhof, the main train station. A constant parade
of continental tour buses load and unload along the hotel
strip. Dozens of taxis line up in front of the bannhof, more
coming and going every few minutes.
Bicycle racks are full; pedestrians brush shoulders
as they stream along the sidewalks. Our first impression is
that Munich on a Wednesday is a very busy place. The hotel
entrance is a rotating door of glass and brass. Its sweeping
arc is the transition from street to lobby. Two people with
luggage are cozy in its circled embrace.
Robinow, 242 Intelligence & Reconnaissance, has organized
the "Munich 50 Year Rainbow Reunion".
This event has attracted more than 200 old soldiers,
their families and friends. While the "Battleground Tour"
makes up a large percentage of these travelers, during our
six days in Munich the non-tour, loosely affiliated members
are identified as the "Robinow/Snapp Group." Our contingent consists of Dee and Barbara
Eberhart, Bruce and myself, Willie Shurtleff and his son,
Mike, Joe and Shirley Dorsey, and Ted and Donnie Simonson.
Tom and Barbara Dillingham join us at the end of the
check in and are told to pick up our reunion packets from
Wolfgang Robinow or his able assistant, Bea, on the fifth
floor where he has taken up residency for the duration of
the events. Each of
us receive a gift from the City of Munich.
Men are given dark blue ties. Women receive elegant
matching scarves. The
generosity of these gifts sets a tone of welcome and hospitality
towards the visiting Americans. In the reunion package are personal invitations
to a formal dinner and reception to be held during the long
press is an innocuous presence but also a constant reminder
of the importance of the 50th anniversaries we are here to
observe. Camera crews for the major networks, photographers and reporters
for the print media, are here to bring the stories home. Just
like the other 50th anniversaries celebrated during the past
year, including D-Day, Battle of the Bulge, Liberation of
Bergen-Belsen, Auschwitz and other camps, the world will be
watching the commemoration of the liberatin of KZ-Dachau. We are told that 2,000 survivors are expected
to attend ceremonies at the camp and the reception at the
Kaiser Halle in Munich afterward.
Rainbowers gather at the hotel for a briefing led by Wolfgang
Robinow on the evening of April 26.
Ted Johnson, one of the reunion organizers, flew into
Frankfurt and drove to Munich. He is late arriving and the meeting proceeds
without him. Wolf,
the primogenitor of the week's events, outlines the order
of activities and his expectations for the dress and conduct
of us all. We are impressed with the ceremonious nature of
some of the events we are to attend; as much or more formal
than church. It
is stated firmly, caps will not be condoned. Wolf describes
an ongoing, emotional debate within Germany whether the country
was "liberated" or "occupied."
He urged an open exchange between Americans and Germans
but cautioned that divisive topics be avoided.
27 we climb aboard tour buses for a ride to Siemans Museum.
The director welcomes us and we are honored with a luncheon
of fine food and drink. The government of Bavaria, Cities
of Munich, Dachau and Salzburg, and German based international
businesses like Siemans have rolled out the welcome mat.
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