For Howard Bolin of Oyster Creek subdivision in Englewood, Fla. being a member of the U.S. Occupation Force in Germany immediately after World War II meant good times: pretty girls, beer halls, dancing, riding the army’s Harley Davidson motorcycles and playing on the battalion’s baseball team.
He was a private first class attached to Company B, 508th Military Police Battalion stationed in Munich, Germany in 1947. Bolin was assigned to a motorcycle unit that accompanied dignitaries around the German countryside. On other occasions he rode his Harley while doing traffic control duty. Most of his off duty hours he chased German girls at the beer gardens in town. When he wasn’t doing that he was playing left field for the “Raiders” his battalion’s baseball team.
“I met this beautiful lady at a skating rink in downtown Munich. She spoke no English and I spoke no German,” Bolin recalled 70 years later. “It was love at first sight. I took one look at her beautiful eyes and fell in love.
“Her parents had been wealthy Germans who lived in Krakow, Poland before the war. When the Second World War began her family was run out of Poland by the advancing Russian Army. They ended up living in a little town outside Munich when I met her.”
Johanna, his bride to be, took Bolin home to meet her parents after their first couple of dates. At the time she was working as a secretary in Munich living in a little apartment in the big city.
The young couple would go out dancing in what was left of Munich’s night clubs. Bolin would put her on the back of his Army Harley and off they’d go for the evening when he wasn’t on duty.
“I was given the keys to the Harley. It was mine and I was responsible for it,” he said. “That was my bike. It was assigned to me and I could ride it any time I waned to.
“One time he remembers taking Johanna to see Hitler’s “Eagle’s Nest” the Fürer’s Bavarian mountain retreat. All he recalls of the adventure is that she climbed aboard his cycle and off they went.”
What they did or what the saw that day is lost in a haze of years gone bye.
By the end of his two-year enlistment Howard and Johanna were getting serious. In order to keep the romance alive he reupped for another year in the Army. During his last year in the service he and his fiancé were married in a big Catholic church in Munich with her parents in attendance.
Meanwhile during his day job, Bolin was handing out traffic tickets, escorted dignitaries around Munich and played ball for the “Raiders” ball club.
“When I was playing left field for the ‘Raiders’ I was on special duty. I could throw the ball from deep left field with one bounce all the way to home plate. And my batting average was pretty good, too.,’ Bolin recalled.
His most exciting time as a member of the Army’s motorcycle escort service was when Supreme Allied Commander Gen. Dwight Eisenhower came to town. A half dozen Army motorcycle escorts, including Bolin, showed the general around Munich. That’s all he can recall about the incident.
Shortly before he was sent home and released from the Army on Jan. 1, 1948, he took a liberty ship with thousands of other soldiers back to New York City.
“Johanna followed right after me. She came to the U.S. aboard another transport full of war brides,” he said. “My father, stepmother and myself were at the pier to meet her when she arrived in New York. We took her back to my folks Indiana farm.
“We stayed with my folks for a while until I got a job in South Bend working on the line assembling relays for a local company that manufactured remote control outdoor street lighting and billboards,” Bolin said. “Forty-five years later, when I retired, I was plant manager.”
It wasn’t long after he got the job they bought their first home in South Bend, a few blocks from the business he worked for. Their first child, Jackie, was born in 1948 and Michael, their son, a couple of years later.
“In February 1992 Johanna, my beautiful German girl, died. We had been married for 45 years,” Bolin said. “A short while late I got a call from a friend who was the best man at my first wedding in Germany. “He told me he had a friend I needed to meet. We got together and again it was love at first sight.
“Maybe it was because I have happy feet and like to dance. Betty, my second wife, likes to dance, too. We went dancing and fell in love. I’ve been married to her for 14 years.”
Name: Howard L. Bolin
D.O.B: 29 July 1926
Hometown: Granger, Ind.
Currently: Englewood, Fla.
Entered Service: 17 Jan. 1945
Discharged: 3 Jan. 1948
Rank: Private 1st Class
Unit: Company B, 508th MP Battalion
Commendations: Army of Occupation Medal, World War II Victory Medal
Campaigns: Occupied Germany
This story was first published in the Charlotte Sun newspaper, Port Charlotte, Fla. on Monday, Sept. 26, 2016 and is republished with permission.
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