At the end of World War II the Army found itself occupying a defeated Germany and facing a dubious ally in the east. As the work of rebuilding Europe under the Marshall Plan got underway, many American units simply took over former German military installations. For the 3rd Infantry Division (3ID), which returned to Germany in 1958 (having departed in 1946 just after the war), its units occupied facilities in Aschaffenberg, Bamberg, Kitzingen, Schweinfurt, Wertheim, Wildflecken, and Wuerzberg. A significant part of the mission was to rebuild German-American relations.
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The Countess von Stouffenberg was a handsome woman. Sitting there at the head of her formally set dining table she was imposing as well as charming, to say the least. The war had been hard on her. She had lost her husband, Colonel von Stouffenberg, after his failed attempt to assassinate Adolf Hitler. But things could have been so much worse. She was alive; all of her children were alive, and all, save her youngest daughter, Valerie, were reasonably well along on their chosen careers.
Seated around the dinning table that evening, they were Prussian perfect; if only their fallen father could have seen them now. How proud he would have been– even though there were Americans at the table—at least they were professional soldiers.
I occupied the seat to the right of the Countess. I was one of the two bachelor officers from the American post in Bamberg. She had invited us to celebrate one of the many German holidays…the farmer’s rebellion of 1202 or something. It didn’t make any difference anyway. I was just honored to be there.
A uniformed woman of Bavarian proportions entered carrying a massive silver tray of … what. What was it? The servant leaned down holding the tray for the hostess’s approval. It was white asparagus; eighteen inch long sprigs of white asparagus. I hate asparagus.
At the age of seven my Mother had given me the choice of one pet hate from the infinite list of vegetables I uniformly disliked. I chose asparagus. In order to never have to eat asparagus again, I had agreed to give up an attitude toward all other vegetables. Asparagus thus became the focus of all my vegetable hatred. It wasn’t really fair, but at the age of seven what deal did you ever cut with a parent that was fair.
“Ah, Herr Leutnant, you must help yourself to more than just one little stalk of asparagus. It is all that we having this evening.”
An eighteen inch stalk of asparagus was more asparagus than I had eaten in twenty years. Out of the corner of my eye I noted the large boat of hollandaise sauce– the aristocrats answer to catch-up. All was not lost.
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