below is an article by correspondent Homer Bigart from an August 1944 edition
of the New York Herald-Tribune
describing the surrender of the German admiral Karl Eyerich to Technical
Sergeant Willard Largent. For this event Will was awarded the Croix de Guerre
by the French government.
Yields French Hospital to American Patient
- Sends Him Out in Auto to Get U.S.
Troops Before Partisans Can Arrive
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
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
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."
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, and
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 his
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
Carried 8 Miles Across Hills
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.
"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 surrender."
"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
"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."
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