Overnight our bar became a popular hangout, not only for us and the Bundeswehr soldiers from around us, but the Brits who through a quirk in serendipity discovered it
That’s when the place really got hopping!
Following WWII, the “major powers” of the Allied Forces divided Germany into four sectors (US, British, French and Soviet). Koblenz lay in the French Sector. The French had about ten thousand troops stationed there. Their officers treated their conscripted soldiers like dogs and paid them about seven bucks a month, out of which the soldiers themselves had to pay for their own supplies!
You rarely, if ever, saw French troops around town … they simply couldn’t afford it! Thus they sadly weren’t able to enjoy our bar! But the Germans had around thirty-five thousand troops in the area. While these draftees didn’t cut a fat hog either … and couldn’t come close to the playboy lifestyle we fifteen or so of US contingent enjoyed … they could afford a beer or two.
However the Brits, as in so many other things, were eccentric. Perhaps it was because they had such a long history of treating their poor like dirt (as in Dickens’ many tales), or maybe it was because they had an island mentality and wanted to see the world, but for whatever reason they seemed to have had a ready supply of young men who’d volunteer … for six and 8 year hitches!
They also had a different military philosophy from our other NATO allies. They operated in small units, learning to rely on themselves and each other. In order to foster this inter-dependence they’d work at making their troops as self-sufficient as possible.
For instance, when a new British soldier came to Germany, they’d drop him off around a hundred miles from his duty station, give him a map, a few marks (very few) and instruct him to find his way “home.”
One of these fellows happened to wander into our bar, after which the Brits’ garrison in Berlin learned of us out. It didn’t take long for their grapevine to post Koblenz prominently on their place-to-spend-a-few-days-drinking-and-singing map! And we hosted many of these solo newbies or groups of them for days on end … in the bar, where they slept of course.
They were always the best of guests and they’d always pay promptly … often overpaying! And then, before leaving, God love ’em, they’d clean the place … spotlessly!
Sometimes we’d host entire British platoons, that, after a couple of weeks in the field would have an “extra” week to do with what they and their officer pleased … a vacation of sorts with the only proviso that they’d spend it together as a unit (this also made them excellent, self-reliant combat groups). They found our bar made to order for such bonding excursions!
Naturally we loved hosting them, but at times it did get a bit absurd. For instance, a chap from the Berlin garrison stole a lorry (truck), drove it to Koblenz and surrendered himself and his lorry to us. We didn’t have a clue at to what to do, so we called his unit … and housed him in the bar.
After a couple of days, some of his fellow soldiers from Berlin came to pick him and the lorry up. However, instead of apprehending the fugitive, these guys decided to go AWOL with him!
After a few more days some more Brits came to pick them all up. The entire bunch then stayed several more days until they all drove back to their barracks, leaving us with a cash box overflowing (even with our honor system of payments and our nickel profit per beer), not to mention a stupendously clean bar!
We had no end of memorable nights at the bar, long nights filled with stories, women, song, games and fellowship. Remarkably, considering the combustible mix of testosterone and liquor, we never had a fight, or anything that even came close to one … which we took as a divine sign in testament to Sergeant Peterson’s wisdom in creating the bar in the first place.
The 16th Signal Battalion’s commanding colonel, however, didn’t quite see it that way! Pete’s high flying, innovative ways not only ignored, but side-stepped so many army regulations and battalion SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures) he could have set an Olympic record!
This penchant of his for spontaneity predictably had often provoked unfortunate reactions in the chain of command … and our bar was the final straw!
When the colonel heard about it, he exploded! He made up his mind to deal with that rogue Peterson once and for all! He grabbed a driver, jumped in a jeep and headed to Koblenz with fire in his eyes!
As soon as the colonel exited the gates of Butzbach’s kaserne, a friendly battalion clerk phoned me. I in turn called Pete who was home at the time. He heard me out as calmly as if he were hearing a weather report, “Don’t worry about it, I’ll be there soon.”
About a half hour later Pete stuck his head in my office (by that time my campaign to fight boredom in the workplace had resulted in my de facto running all the detachment’s administrative activities), “I’ll be up in the bar.”
I wondered at the wisdom of his strategy, but his composure under fire inspired me. By the time the colonel arrived I was feeling downright cocky! When he strode into my office and demanded the whereabouts of Peterson, I simply pointed heavenward and replied, “Oh, Sergeant Peterson’s up in the bar, sir!”
You could almost see the steam shooting straight out of his ears. He executed a perfect about-face and shot up the stairs like a rocket! Naturally I followed, not wanting to miss a thing!
When the colonel burst into the bar, he found his shrewd sergeant sitting at a corner table with three generals … two Americans, (the Army and Air Force attaches) and one from the Bundeswehr … enjoying a mid-afternoon beer!
King of Koblenz was able, as always, to pull a rabbit out of a The colonel quickly reconnoitered the place, realized he was both out-ranked and out-foxed.
Pete jumped up and shouted out cheerily “Hey Colonel! Welcome! Welcome! Come on over and join us for a beer!”.
“Sounds good!” was all the out-gunned colonel replied as hegrabbed a flip-top pilsner and joined the illustrious gathering. One beer turned into several, and mid-afternoon turned into late afternoon. The colonel finally drove away and seemed to be happy enough … as were we since we never heard another peep out of battalion about our bar again!
Coming next! How I Won The Cold War, Part 19 … JASKO STARES DOWN DEATH AND EXISTENTIAL POETICS
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