Travels with Rainbow


by Cory J. Eberhart

Prologue to the 1995 Munich Rainbow Reunion and 50th Anniversary Tour of Europe --

A 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 26, 1995--

Our 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.

Ten 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.

We 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.

The 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.

Wolfgang 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 week.

We 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 commemorative weekend.

The 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.

The 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.

April 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.

  Links to More Travel Reports

Ourcq River and Meurcy Farm World War I Battlefield Tour - 2001

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