Monday, December 20, 2010

Beer for Christmas By Clarence "Inky" Jungwirth

Here's a different sort of beer story from our friend Inky Jungwirth

Clarence "Inky" Jungwirth 1944
During World War II, I was a beer drinker and also a member of the 24th Infantry Division. On Oct. 20th, 1944, the 24th Infantry was involved in the Liberation of the Philippine Islands and the intial landing on the Island of Leyte. Fighting the Japanese on that island was fierce and there were many American casualties. Initially, supplies were scarce due to the large force of Americans engaged in the fighting, but by Christmas of 1944 equipment and supplies had been increased considerably and we were able to meet the enemy on a superior basis. Supplies had increased so that by Christmas Day every G.I, including all those in actual combat, were given a Christmas present by the U.S. Army. It was a case of Beer! The beer was warm as there was no way it could be refrigereated in the tropical climate of the Philippine Islands and though I don't remember the brand of beer, it was the best present a G.I. could receive. 

Our beer was stored on trucks, away from the combat areas, with each man’s name attached to his case. There were times, during combat, when we were relieved for rest after days without any sleep and during these periods each man was allowed a bottle of beer from his case. Only one beer was permitted, though, to eliminate the temptation to become drunk and escape the horrors of combat. Although the beer was warm, we beer lovers were in seventh heaven to have the taste of even a warm bottle of beer.

Each man’s small allotment of beer was highly valued. While we were in the Philippines, we were given our monthly army pay in Peso's, but there was nothing to buy and, in a sense, the money you were paid was considered almost usless. Most of us were single men who figured our days were numbered. You might be killed tomorrow or next week. Gambling was a relief from the stress of combat and it was nothing for expert crap shooters to make thousands of dollars in Pesos in a night of gambling. What to do with that money? It was not unheard of for a beer loving gambler to pay a thousand dollars in Pesos for another soldier’s case of beer. Non-beer drinkers took a chance that they might survive the war and sent the money home to a bank account. Both the non-beer drinker and the gambler were happy.

Somewhere on the Island of  Leyte, today, there must be thousands of beer bottles left behind by American G.I.s. All of them empty of beer, of course, as not a drop of beer was ever wasted or absorbed into the air. We G.I.s who survived the Philippine Island Liberation and the war in Leyte will remember the taste of that "Liquid Gold" and the Christmas of 1944 forever.

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