Nazi Admiral Yields
Sends Him Out in Auto to
Get U.S. Troops Before
Partisans Can Arrive
By Homer Bigart*
By Wireless to the Herald Tribune
Copyright 1944, New York Tribune, Inc.
Aix-en-Provence, France. Aug. 23
(delayed) -- Rear Admiral Karl Eyerich entered a private room of the surgical
pavilion at a German marine hospital near here at 3 p.m. Sunday and gravely
laid his sword on a cot where a captured radio operator-gunner of an American
bomber crew lay recovering from a broken leg.
Although the Americans had not yet captured Aix,
Admiral Eyerich said he feared French Partisans would break into the hospital
and harm 300 German patients and his staff of seven doctors and twenty-eight
"I yield my command," the admiral said,
"but on one condition. You must go out and find Americans and bring them
The sergeant, a tall, slight youth from Cleveland,
nodded weakly. With his right leg broken at the knee from a rough parachute
landing in the mountains behind Toulon on Aug. 13, he had undergone that
morning another operation for abscess. The admiral placed his limousine and
chauffeur at the sergeant's disposal. Germans carried him to the car and gave
him a white flag.
It was nearly dusk when they left the hospital, a
bleak cluster of buildings on an isolated moor six miles west of Aix. The
sergeant sat in the front seat beside the chauffeur. A German captain sat in
"We drove toward Aix," the sergeant said,
"figuring that Americans had taken the town, since we had heard a lot of
shooting in that direction all day. But when we passed Les Milles and were
within three miles of Aix I saw a lot of panzer troops preparing an ambush. I
figured if I could get to Aix I could tell the Americans and give these guys
"But the captain ordered the chauffeur to turn
back. He threw the white sheet over my head so I couldn't see any more. They
put me back to bed, and then got me up at 5 a.m. The same thing happened
again -- there were a lot Germans around Les Milles."
Hails American Tank
"At noon a German officer came into the room all excited and told me to
get ready. Apparently the Germans had pulled out without fighting. My leg
hurt like hell, so I went down and loaded myself with brandy. They told me
that Americans were at the airport two miles down the road.
"We drove very slowly I kept waving the white
sheet from a window. Then we came around a curve and I saw an American tank
just ahead. We stopped. I yelled, 'Hey, Mac, are you from Brooklyn?' Some
G.I. stuck his head out of the turret and waves us up. He asked if I had any
souvenirs and I remembered all the Lugers and tommy guns and grenades the
admiral collected from the patients. He locked them in an empty room and gave
me the key.
American colonel told me to go back to the hospital and take command until
medical personnel arrived. The hospital had plenty of food, water, and
medical supplies, and the colonel said the Germans could continue to run the
place as they saw fit."
correspondent reached the hospital this afternoon, a small crowd of American
troops and Partisans was outside. A small group of convalescent Dutch marines
had shed German uniforms and sat in underwear on the pavilion steps apart
from German soldiers sunning themselves on a verandah.
Lieutenant Colonel William McCarthy, a surgeon from
Philadelphia, inspected the hospital and found only one American -- the
sergeant -- within. He introduced himself to Admiral Eyerich, who gave the
hospital census as 246 wounded, forty-six medical patients and thirty-six
venereal disease cases. The majority were Germans, with some Dutch, Poles,
Calls Surgeon "Swell Guy"
The admiral escorted us to the sergeant's room. The sergeant was sitting up,
with a bottle of French mineral water on a bedside table. There was another
cot in the room and on it lay Dr. Kurt Ihnken, a young Bremen surgeon who had
been standing over the operating table three days and nights without sleep
until his right foot became infected.
"I want you to meet a swell guy," said the
sergeant, pointing to Ihnken. "He's the only surgeon in the hospital and
most of the cases are surgical cases. He keeps on the job until he's out on
The sergeant went on: "It all began Aug. 13 when we
were over Toulon on a pre-invasion job, knocking out gun emplacements.
Ack-ack conked our Marauder's right engine, and the interphone went dead. I
called on the two rear gunners to follow me and bailed out.
"I came down in a valley surrounded by
mountains that must have been 3,000 feet high. It was only eight or ten miles
back of Toulon, but wild as hell. My right leg snapped when I hit the ground,
and I filled myself up with morphine. Presently a Frenchman came through the
brush and said he'd get help right away. He came back with two Germans.
Carried 8 Miles Across Hills
"They tied my leg with parachute cord and carried me up a mountain to a
cave. Then they rigged up a burlap stretcher and carried me fifteen
kilometers (eight and one-half miles) across the hills to Ollioules, where
they found an ambulance. That night I slept in a Toulon hospital, drugged
with morphine. French officials tried to persuade the Germans to let me
remain, but on invasion eve they sent me to an underground evacuation center.
I felt pretty miserable -- I thought they'd take me clear to Germany. The
next morning a lot of ambulances drove up and I was taken to Aix.
"I received good medical care. Once they made a
half-hearted effort to pump me. A German captain asked, 'What will you do
with us after you've won?' He also wanted to know how long I thought the war
would last and whether we would continue to insist on unconditional
"They gave me good treatment. Nurses gave me so
many cigarettes and chocolates that I had a twinge of conscience. The other
patients were getting only one or two cigarettes a day. So when I had
collected a cigar box full of cigarettes I asked a nurse to distribute them
among the others.
"I think I know why they treated me so well.
The Partisans were raising hell all about, and they were happy to have an
American around for their own security."
For profile of Admiral Karl Eyerich, see this link. For official 1944 U.S. Army Air
Force report about the attack on Will Largent’s aircraft, see this link.
Will Largent as he
appeared in his flight suit while serving as a radio operator/gunner and
Technical Sergeant in the 320th Bomb Group during missions in Martin
Marauder (B-26) bombers over North Africa and Europe in World War II.