General Mark Wayne Clark Comes to Hinterstoder-Chapter 2
There are several sentinel events that put Hinterstoder on the map. World War II was one such happening. It wasn’t so much the war, but what happened after it was over. The Axis (Germany, Austria, Italy, and Japan) versus the Allies (United States, Soviet Union, United Kingdom, China) was the war that followed Word War I and was supposed to be the war to end all wars… but didn’t. Hinterstoder remained relatively untouched in both of those conflagrations, except for the sons of Hinterstoder that were conscripted and some 60 of whom died in in that war.The first American landing on the European continent was in Salerno, Italy under General Mark Clark on September 12, 1943, nine days before I was born. The battle cost huge casualties. From there he marched up to Rome, and despite his superiors’ (including the English General Montgomery “Monty”) opposition to taking Rome, Clark took it by destroying an historic monastery overlooking Rome, Monte Casino. This has led historians and other second guessers to be critical of Clark.
They have labeled him inexperienced, impetuous, and putting his own selfish ambition to be the one who took the Eternal City, while ignoring and allowing the German 10th army to escape and to fight another day. Eisenhower disagreed and Clark was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his valor and front-line leadership, often ignoring his own personal safety. That award was pinned on the General by President Roosevelt.On December 16, 1944, the Germans launched a surprise attack on the Allies in a densely forested area in Ardennes, Belgium, an American occupied region. General Patton was beleaguered by the Wehrmacht in Central Europe, and initially could not respond while the Allies sustained heavy losses.
It was General Mark Clark who came in from the south over the alps to replace Patton, freeing his forces to respond to the Germans. Patton was then unshackled to essentially become the victor and hero of the Battle of the Budge. Before he launched into the battle he chose a site in Luxembourg that would be the cemetery for the fallen. He estimated it would be over 10,000 men. Surprisingly it was only half that amount who are buried there, ironically including the General right in front facing his troops. Clark nevertheless was instrumental in the defeat of the German forces at the Battle of the Budge, the largest and as history proved, the decisive battle of World War II. This set up Clark to send his forces to take Hinterstoder, just a tiny footnote in the greater picture. In May of 1945 Americans swarmed into Hinterstoder. Shortly thereafter Hitler crushed a Cyanide capsule between his teeth and to be certain put a Luger into his mouth and pulled the trigger in his bunker in Berlin, along with his just married wife Eva and his dog.
The war was over. Eisenhower appointed Clark the High Commissioner of Austria as a reward and also because it was his army that was the one who occupied the country. Once Clark saw Hinterstoder he fell in love with it. He made it his headquarters from where he governed Austria from 1945 to 1947 under military marshal law. He was an enthusiastic hunter, fisherman, and outdoors man. Hinterstoder was the ideal place for him. He chose a small but elegant hunting lodge, the Jochems Villa high on a hill at the back of the valley.
From there he ruled Austria. Many important military and civilian people trekked to the little village in the “Toten Gebierge” (the Dead Mountains) which was the name of the mountains surrounding the valley that was carved out by two glaciations 347,000 (Riss) and again 115,000 (Würm) years ago, including the five-star general that defeated Hitler, Dwight David Eisenhower. He would be a frequent guest at the Jochems Villa. Clark would try to entice Eisenhower to go hunting. Eisenhower didn’t mind fishing, but hunting was not his thing. Furthermore he didn’t mind driving his own jeep, a habit that might have saved General Patton’s life, who was killed in a head on collision with his driver at the wheel.
One-day Eisenhower was visiting Clark and Clark had worked on a plan to hook Eisenhower on hunting. Clark had engaged a number of Hinterstoder teenage boys to herd the deer population into a narrow canyon from which there was no escape. Clark then innocently suggested they go hunting. Eisenhower obliged his four-star subordinate. They were near an alcove near a cave (the Kreide Hole) about which you will hear more later. There Eisenhower encountered a 12 point stag (that is a stag with a huge rack that has 12 points, a prize by any measure). Eisenhower raised his rifle then pointed it into the ground and fired, scattering the stag and his harem. The man that defeated the German army, the man that had 3 million men under his command, the man that was overlord of the war that cost the lives of over 60,000,000 people would not shoot a stag. It was just too majestic he said. Clark was not pleased.
I had never tasted chocolate, until 1947. Chocolate was just not something children had access to in the post war era. General Clark’s lieutenant gave me a Hershey bar. I will never forget it. It was really ausgezeichnet (splendid). Sixty-five years later I was the host of a large fundraiser in Santa Paula, California. The charity, which raised funds for children of parents that were in legal jeopardy such as arrest or just not available to their offspring, were the organizers of this function. They were responsible for setting up the food, drinks, entertainment etc. for about 350 guests. The chief bartender, an elderly portly man, came early to organize the alcoholic libations. He wandered around my house to find the best location for the bar and noticed all the pictures on my walls of Hinterstoder. “I know where this is. It is Hinterstoder, Austria,” he said. I asked him how he knew this little jewel of a town hidden in the Alps. “I was General Mark Clark’s lieutenant when he was High Commissioner of Austria.” What are the odds?
General Clark was a friend of Hinterstoder. He continued to support and help Hinterstoder long after he no longer ruled from his mountaintop villa as High Commissioner. During the height of the war Hitler needed metal since there are no metal mines in Austria or Germany. Panzers are made of metal, bullets are made of metal, air planes are made of metal. Where was he going to get it? Church bells were a source that worked for a while. So Hinterstoder lost its church bell in the early Forties. No bells to toll the time of day, no bells to toll for Sunday mass, no bells to toll for whom the bell tolls when it was time to mark the end of a life. Clark was aware of this loss for the village. He was a good friend of Cardinal Spellman of New York. On a cold and rainy day, December 17, 1950, the new bell that he and the Cardinal personally funded was hoisted into the belfry of the church. The church bell was back and its sonorous sound marked the time as it passed, barely noted during the day, but even I, at age 9, noticed it past midnight every hour on the hour all night. The bell was re-consecrated in 1996 with the addition of smaller bells to complement the large one, adding to its sound.
The General also helped build a new school in Hinterstoder. Education for children in Hinterstoder dates back to 1778, but the school was built in 1874. This was the first building dedicated to being a school, and I started first grade there in 1949 and continued there until the end of second grade.
My first day of School, I stood under the old Linden tree that was planted by school children of Hinterstoder in 1879 to commemorate the Kaiser’s silver wedding anniversary, waiting to step into what I perceived to be a prison. My thoughts were, “there goes my freedom,” no more was I able to do what I wanted, no more could I roam around the hills looking for Edelweiss or climb any cliff any time I wanted. I was a prisoner of the system. My first grade teacher was Fräulein Moser, a strict disciplinarian. If you did anything that was perceived as being wrong it was a whack across the fingers with a ruler, and you better not pull your hands back, or it was two whacks. The seats attached to the desk were hard wood with a writing platform in front of you, and a rack under the seat to store your books and writing implements. There was an inkwell cut out of the wood on the right side near the top and a glass vessel to hold the ink. My grades were all excellent except writing, that was average or a bit below. The comments on the report card were always: “must practice writing diligently”. That is probably what launched my career to become a doctor, because most doctors’ writing is illegible and is a prerequisite to be admitted to medical school.
The old school, next to the church, had worn out its usefulness and it showed its age with seventy-five years of students. It was time for a new school.The new school opened in 1952, and I was one of the first to step into its classrooms as a third grader. My teacher was Fräulein Seuffert. The daughter of the Principal and the sister of an Austrian who was executed by the Gesapo for the crime of having mild Cerebral Palsy (more to come on this story).
General Mark Clark at the new school opening ceremony. In this photograph there was some childhood drama that preceded the event. You can see the General is wearing a rain coat and onlookers have their umbrellas open. The little girl handing the flowers to him just minutes before refused to do it. It took a special bribe a very unique ceramic tea pot the girl wanted that belonged to the lady onlooker just behind the umbrella stem looking with anxious anticipation to see if the deal will go through. The little girl was Sissy Schwartz-Messany, my and my sister’s childhood friend and playmate.
The new school labeled VOLKSSCHULE (Grade School) MUSIKSCHULE (Music School)
Mark W. Clark was born in Madison, New York in 1896, third generation military. His father and grandfather served distinguished careers in the service of our country. Clark graduated from West Point in 1917 and saw the action in the last years of World War I in France at age 22 with the rank of captain. Between the two wars he served as an aid to the Secretary of War and held various positions as a trainer and teacher of army tactics. After the Pearl Harbor attack, December 7, 1941, the day that will live in infamy, his talents were quickly recognized. He skipped the rank of Colonel and was made a Brigadier General and quickly advanced to Major General, and then to become the youngest Lieutenant General (three star) ever, on November 11 1942 at age 46. He made an historic secret trip, at great personal risk of capture, to North Africa where the German Tank Commander, General Erwin Rommel, was at the time the overlord. Clark brought back vital information on the terrain and how he was going to train the first American landing forces that would eventually be instrumental in securing victory in the greatest battle of the war and turning the tide. That battle, the Battle of the Bulge, was commanded by General Patton. General Patton was initially not impressed by Clark. In his personal diary he commented about Clark, “If you treat a skunk nicely, he will not piss on you –as often!” He would later change his opinion when Clark helped him win the Battle of the Bulge. Hinterstoder was Clark’s gift from Eisenhower, who was aware of Clark’s proclivity to the outdoors, hunting, and fishing. Hinterstoder was good to and for the General, but the converse is also true, the General was good to and for Hinterstoder. Despite his official duties ending in Hinterstoder after 1947, he returned to Hinterstoder often. He went on with his heroic life negotiating the treaty for Austria with the four major participants: USA, Russia, England, and France as Deputy to the Secretary of State. He then became the Commander in Chief of the United Nations Command in Korea. His final job for 12 years, was as President of the Citadel, a military school in South Carolina. He died in 1984.
General Mark W. Clark’s and wife Mary’s last visit to Hinterstoder on September 26, 1974