PRETZEL, THE AMBASSADOR AND THE GENERAL
By: Jack Serig, Sr.
To be assigned to the staff of the prestigious general
Bruce C. Clark, then commanding general of Seventh U.S. Army
, at Patch Barracks, Vaihengen, Germany, near Stuttgart, was a hallmark to
many officers’ careers.
Right out of flight school, early 1956, I was privileged
to be one of two second lieutenants assigned among fifty-five full
bird colonels and a greater array of lesser ranking persons, several of whom
would someday wear their own stars---Johnson, Wickham, Cassidy, Patton, among
them. “Red Dog” Hamilton was the 7th Army Aviation Officer and
A T Pumphreys was my immediate boss.
My wife, son and I, were assigned quarters just across
the street from the headquarters’ buildings of the kaserne. We had
a German housemaid, Bruni, who was conveniently allowed to reside in the
fourth floor maids’ quarters of our same building. We purchased a German
longhaired Dachshund we called Pretzel, as a playmate for our 3-year
Pretzel was special to all of us because he was such a
clown. He was a happy dog whose bright brown eyes and facial makeup
always carried the hint of a smile, or the feeling that he was laughing at
us, or with us, when we romped and played in and out of the house.
He could “play dead”, “roll over”, “sit”—on a chair or hammock, and
jump through your encircled arms from and to the floor. Pretzel gave
us many fine and entertaining hours, especially during the cold German-winter
The social life at our Army-level assignment was continuous.
Monthly hail-and-farewells, holiday parties, section and department parties,
and constant attention to VIP’s visits. It was the latter that
caused Pretzel to get his first---and last---D/R (Delinquency Report).
The usual trappings had been weeks in the planning for
the day the new U.S. ambassador to Bonn, Germany, was to pay his initial
visit to our Commanding General and our 7th Army Headquarters. The
post commander and the Headquarters Company Commander had their
schedules full with the intricate planning and detail required to pull off,
without foul-up, the Honorable Ambassador Bruce’s visit for the short time
he could afford to spend with us.
The center of the parade field was equipped with the usual
bleachers for the distinguished German and American guests and senior military
personages and wives. Bunting, microphones and loudspeakers were in
place. The troops were impressive in their platoons of well-pressed
khaki, spit polished boots and shining rifles. The honor guard and
flag bearers in their shinny, silver helmets, with all of the pertinent colors
and pennants required for such an event, waving in the slight breeze. The
weather cooperated with a beautiful blue sky accentuated with some puffs
of white cumulus.
Everything was in place. Ambassador Bruce’s entourage
was met by General Clark. After the usual greetings the ambassador
and the general reviewed the troops among the discord of reports from the
75-mm artillery pieces and the 7th Army Band’s music , both reverberating
and echoing among the valleys formed by the four-storied buildings of the
Bruni, while taking our young son and Pretzel, our Dachshund,
on their customary afternoon walk, could not resist the allure of the band
music, the cannons’ roar and gala atmosphere associated with such events,
and headed the short distance from our quarters to the parade ground.
Pretzel was nearly hyper form the excitement of the crowd and the noise,
and Bruni had a very hard time restraining him, on leash, while simultaneously
watching our son and vying for a better position to watch the activities.
Determined Bruni made way through the onlookers at precisely the time the
troops began to “pass in review”. In the jostling Bruni took from the
crowd , trying for a better view of the ceremony, holding on to our son with
one hand and the dog leash in the other, Pretzel got loose and ran right
smack into the middle of the (only temporarily) well disciplined and serious-minded,
Pretzel bravely led some platoons’ formations for short
periods while barking and successfully eluding the military police
(MP’s) whom were dispatched to capture him. Now, because he was being
chased, leash flapping behind, he ran through the formations perpendicular
to their direction of travel. This caused the lines to snake as the
troops were not about to step on this dog that was giving them so much delight.
The smiles and snickers on the troops’ faces would have been an official
photographer’s dream had their duties not been directed at the reviewing
stand to capture the glorious moments of a new ambassador’s official greeting,
now being somewhat dishonored by Pretzel’s folly.
The Band Master could observe the confusion but he never
allowed the band to miss a beat, even though Pretzel had many of the troops’formations,by
now,completely out-of-step. The kids in the crowd and many of the spectators
thoroughly enjoyed Pretzel’s short “moment-of-glory.” Others were stunned
that a German dog would dare challenge the authority and splendor of the
United States Government, and its Army, at a time when diplomacy, decorum
and a certain military rigidity, should have been the “order-of-the-day.”
But Pretzel could have cared less. He was a typical carefree, laissez-faire
type who would have been a draft dogger if he were human.
When my wife received the call at home to report to the
kaserne’s Military Police Headquarters to bail Pretzel out of detention,
she went immediately to retrieve him. After being advised by the MP
captain, who was very angry and showed it, she apologized for Pretzel’s transgressions
and was shown to the room where he was interred.
Pretzel was tied to the radiator by a piece of rope the
MP’s had purloined from their war chest. He showed no remorse.
Only that simple little smile and non-stop wagging tail that has forever
endeared him to his adopted family. But Pretzel did get a D/R!