Ellis “GIB” Gibson

Ellis G. Gibson was a Staff Sergeant in the 3rd Army, 2nd Armored Division (1Armored Division) of the U.S. Army.  Imet “Gib” in 2005 when he arranged a tour returning to Barth, Germany, for the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Stalag Luft I.

Brief Story as told by Ellis “GIB” Gibson 

On the third day of the invasion of France (8 June 1944), our Armored Division came ashore on Omaha Beach.  While the beach fighting had stopped, there were still scenes of battle.  As an example, the water was “pink” from the bodies beneath the surface. 

The next few months found us fighting along the hedgerows in France, and around to the east of Paris.  Nancy and Metz were two of the heavy battle areas.  And at Christmas time, 1944, we were heavily involved with fighting in the Battle of the Bulge, trying to relieve Bastogne. 

Next came the Ruhr Pocket, where we saw our most intense fighting.  It was here that I had shrapnel wounds, and experienced the tremor of seeing my own blood dripping in the snow.  As a result of this action, all members of our unit received the Combat Infantry Badge.  I lost three tanks during my action from June, 1944, to April, 1945. 

As we made a final run down through Germany and into Austria, in the Spring of 1945, we came to Braunau, Austria, across the Inn River from Simbach, Germany.  We were told about a large group of Prisoners-of-War, camped in a forest, just west of Braunau.  We crossed the Inn River on a raft, with a jeep on board, and went out to the Weilhardt Forest.  Here were over 12,000 POWs (American, British, French, Polish, Italians, Russians, etc.), all from Stalag 17-B (Krems, Austria).  They had walked about 160 miles west from Krems to Braunau…and the Germans had finally abandoned them there in the Weilhardt Forest.  They were cold, wet and all had dysentery from drinking the water out of a spring, down by the river.  We told the Americans to go to the Aluminum Factory, just south of Braunau, to get in out of the bad weather.  Several days later, when the last of the German resistance had been eliminated, our group (attached to the 67th Armored Infantry Battalion, of the 13th Armored Division…3rd Army), drove into the Aluminum Factory, to liberate the American POWs.  Here I ran into my cousin…Jim Clark…who had been a POW at Stalag 17-B for 18 months (shot down over Brunswick, Germany).  Jim Clark was later to be responsible for my getting into POW Return Tours to POW Camps in Europe. 

From the Braunau Area, we drove south, through Salzburg, Austria, and into the very southeastern section of Germany, where Berchtesgaten is located.  As we approached the area, we could see a badly shot-up German column, who was trying to leave the Berchtesgaten area.  A US MP directed our column up a mountain road…totally unknown to us.  As we got about half way up the mountain road, we came across many buildings and homes that had been badly bombed.  Many were burning, while others were just heavily damaged.  We drove into a parking lot of the Zum Turken Hotel, which had been bombed.  Just next to the old hotel was a bombed-out building…which turned out to be Hitler’s home…the Burghof.  We were at Obersalzberg…the mountain retreat of the Nazi leadership.  There were no German soldiers around…they had set Hitler’s Berghof on fire, and left the area.  We had no idea where we were.  Underground bunkers were everywhere, and we were afraid to go exploring.  Bormann and Goring’s homes were heavily bombed, but we could still get into them…and we did…to bring home souvenirs.  Shortly (within two days), we were relieved by the 101st Airborne Division, who claimed to be the first to occupy the Obersalzberg area.

By the later part of May, 1945, I was on my way to the US, to prepare to invade Japan.  On the day the atomic bomb was dropped in Japan, I was at home on furlough.

 As a band member (2nd Armored Division Band), I was frozen in the service (I had double points for discharge) until April, 1946.