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May 25, 2014

The memories are burned deep

Almost 70 years have hardly diminished James Sain’s memories of bombed-out Berlin at the end of WWII


The war in Europe was over, the Germans had formally surrendered May 7, 1945. The Allied occupation had begun and a young soldier from Mineral Wells found himself in Berlin, in a city and country that would be split in half for almost 40 years.

James Sain, now 87, arrived in the rubble-strewn German capital in December 1945, about seven months after Soviet troops seized the Reich Chancellery, ending Adolf Hitler’s Nazi regime and the Second World War in Europe.

“On the train [into Berlin] we saw nothing left but just shells of buildings,” he said.

The young soldier had come to a city that after the war was a place where residents “lovingly named the piled-up remains of their destroyed houses, factories and churches ‘Monte Klamotte’ (rag mountains),” the German newspaper Spiegel recounts in a 2010 story of Germany’s postwar rebuilding.

Bremerhaven, where he was assigned after Berlin, was much the same. “There was still a lot of rubble piled up and bathtubs hanging from sides of walls.”

The war’s destruction spared nothing, not even a 13th century church, the top of which was completely destroyed, he said.

A member of the U.S. Army press corps, Sain was attached to the 813th Quartermaster Corps Car Company, and would spend much of his time in Germany – when he wasn’t on an eight-hour guard duty shift – making sure officers and others made their appointments and completed their mundane tasks that would help lead the nation to recover its wounds.

He came into a nation divided into four sectors – American, British, Soviet Russian and French – but  not yet divided by a wall, Cold War politics and the potential threat of a third war breaking out in Europe.

“I drove through the Brandenburg Gate [into the Russian sector] many times,” he said.

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