Leo Scaruffi, who lives in South Port Square Senior Living in Port Charlotte, Fla., was a member of the U.S. Constabulary forces in Bavaria after World War II ended. Their job was to help the German civilians take their country back from Adolph Hitler and the Nazis.
He went to Europe in 1946 as part of the 28th U.S. Cavalry Division, but was selected to be a member of the United States Constabulary once he reached Bavaria.
According to the official home page for the U.S. Constabulary—the U.S. Army of Occupation in Germany lasted from 1946 to 1952.
“During World War II Germany was destroyed. Following the end of the war the people of Germany had no leadership, no law or order, and there were many displaced persons,” the page explains. “The country was in desperate need of help.
“The U.S. Constabulary formed the deterrent to Communism in Germany. These were our first ‘Cold War Warriors.’ These soldiers performed many of the functions that the German Government could not perform.
“The United Stages Constabulary was phased out in December 1952 having accomplished its mission.”
Scaruffi was a corporal in the Constabulary.
When he first arrived in Hof, Bavaria, a little town south of Nuremberg, most of his time was spent guarding the border between the American and Russian Sectors.
“The Russians were on one side of the border and we were on the the other. We passed each other walking guard duty with M-1 rifles in our hands,” the 90-year-old former border guard recalled seven decades later.
“At one point we invited the Russians to our USO, but they just weren’t friendly,” Scaruffi said. “I think they were envious of us. They drank a lot and got pretty riled up.
“There wasn’t much goodwill between us after they started drinking. They went back over to their side and that was the last we saw of them.”
Unlike the northern part of Germany, Bavaria had survived the war in pretty good shape.
“Hof, where we were, had escaped the Allied bombing. Only the train station in our little town was bombed.
“Unlike other parts of Germany the civilians weren’t starving. Bavaria, where we were, was farm country, the civilians were doing pretty well,” Scaruffi said. “The biggest problem the people had were wild deer. The deer population was large and they were eating the crops.
“These deer hid in a clump of woods near their fields. The civilians appealed to our outfit to take our rifles and kill off some of the deer. Initially we had trouble ridding the Germans of their deer because all we had for ammunition were armor-piercing bullets for our rifles.
“When we go some regular ammunition our unit took care of the German’s deer problem. But only after a couple of our guys went around the back of this clump off woods and scared the deer out of their hiding places with a couple of hand grenades.
While in Bavaria, Scaruffi and his outfit lived in two-story, brick barracks built by Hitler for the German infantry during the war. They had individual rooms for every two enlisted-men. Their living accommodations in Germany were superior to what the troops were accustomed to back home in the U.S.
“Those barracks were real nice,” he recalled after all these years.
“Close by our barracks was a POW camp that housed two or three hundred German prisoners of war,” Scaruffi said. “We were processing these prisoners and trying to send them home. We were also trying to apprehend those prisoners who had been members of the Nazi Party. Many of the German Army POWs were not Nazis.”
Although much of their military training while in Bavaria involved quelling riots, they never happened. However, Cpl. Scaruffi and his fellow soldiers were cautious and wanted to be ready for trouble if it arrived.
“The people in Bavaria who gave us the biggest problem were members of the Hitler Youth,” he said. “At the end of the war Hitler was drafting kids as young as 13 for the army. But those too young to be in the regular army had still been trained as part of the Hitler Youth.
“If you turned your back on them they might take a dagger, or whatever they had, and stick you in the back,” Scaruffi said. “It was a job, but gradually we got them on our side by teaching them sports.
“We had a guy in our outfit whose father was in the Pentagon. He sent his son a bunch of sports equipment we used to teach the former members of the Hitler Youth.
“We started out teaching them how to play basketball. Then we exposed them to football and baseball. It took a lot of sports training and I gave these young German kids a lot of Hershey Bars to win them over.”
By early 1947 Cpl. Scaruffi was headed home. He arrived in New York Harbor aboard a steamer packed with thousands of military troops. He made it back to Fort Sheridan, outside Chicago, where he was discharged.
“I went home to Chicago, took the G.I. Bill and went to Michigan State College (what it was called when he attended). I started out in engineering but switched to a course called Light Construction and Lumber Merchandizing. After graduation I went to work for a lumber company in Chicago.”
After his first job with the Chicago firm Scaruffi joined a larger lumber company where he spent the next 30 years, until he retired. When he retired he was the head of the millwork division at that company.
He and his wife, Sylvia, moved to Port Charlotte in 1984. They have one daughter, Cindy, who lives in Punta Gorda.
Name: Leo D. Scaruffi
D.O.B: 2 Dec 1926
Hometown: Chicago, Ill.
Currently: Port Charlotte, Fla.
Entered Service: 11 July 1945
Discharged: 2 Jan. 1947
Unit: 28th Cavelry Division, U.S. Constabulary Force, Braveria
Commendations: World War II Victory Medal, Army of Occupation Medal Germany
This story was first published in the Charlotte Sun newspaper, Port Charlotte, Fla. on Monday, July 24, 2017 and is republished with permission.
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