Wrong Place - Right Time
Ulm, for its size the most heavily bombed city in the southern Reich, was a ruin. Water-filled bomb craters covered blocks where parks, factories and houses once stood. The streets were rough winding paths through the rubble. Above this stood the 500-year-old Munster Gothic cathedral, towering above the stark shattered city around it. In the shell of this once prosperous city medics driving a 'meat-wagon' were lost, defenseless and separated from the infantry. Walter Patrylick, Paul Jolma and a third unidentified 'doc' from Company "B"- 119th Medical by chance found themselves at Ulm City Hall. Waiting were a large contingent of German dignitaries and officials, at the head the city Mayor. The top city officer of Ulm, its 'Buergermeister' officially greeted the lost medics and then performed a formal and quite unnecessary surrender on the city hall steps. Addressing the assembly briefly in Oxford 'King's English' the Buergermeister surrendered his city to the Allied representatives, the three unarmed, outnumbered and concerned medics. In a few minutes, a jeep arrived with soldiers from the 324th. The medics were both relieved of their "command" and relieved to rejoin the grunts.
The following day the three 'liberators of Ulm' attended Mass at the Munster Cathedral. Accompanied by pipe-organ, the choir performed with grace and beauty, as if the war never existed.
Above: Dodge ambulance or 'meat-wagon'
My father kept this account secret to the grave. Gratefully his fellow "Liberator of Ulm" medic Walter Patrylick detailed this event 60 years later.
The gallant Erwin Rommel was born in 1891 in Heidenheim an der Brentz near Ulm and was buried in the Ulm area after his forced suicide death by Hitler in late 1944.
In his youth, Rommel was an adventuresome mountaineer. He learned 'the ropes' in the region of the Alps stormed by the 44th at war's end. Rommel's first combat was during WWI starting in the Western Front, as a Lieutenant with an Ulm Field Artillery Regiment. Later he was awarded the Pour le Mérite, comparable to the Medal of Honor and usually only awarded to senior officers. On this occasion Rommel scaled 7,000 feet up the rear of an Italian Alp mountain leading only six companies to captured 150 Italian officers, 9,000 enemy soldiers, and 81 guns.
Rommel treated his Allied captives with care and respect. His forced suicide was the result of his support of the failed coup of July 1994.