I went to the customs counter, and asked that my two war trophies be returned. The customs agent said he would walk with me to the airplane, and give them back to me there.
0030 hours, and boarding begins. I look for the customs agent, and he is there, with my 32 and Mauser, and we walk out to the airplane, a Boeing 707. The flight attendant gets the co-pilot, who accepts the weapons from the customs agent, and has the baggage people load them in the baggage hold. And, I board the plane.
It is not full, and the flight attendant who had asked where I had picked up the "war trophies," put me and the major in 1st class! The first scotch and soda was in my hand before we began to taxi, and there were a couple more. Then a nap, and soon I was being shaken awake, by the stewardess saying, "We will be landing in 20 minutes!"
Touchdown, and we were in Frankfurt, Germany, at 0345 Central European Time, 360 days, 8 hours, and 15 minutes after I left.
There was no problem clearing customs, and I caught the commuter train to the Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof; which at 0445 in the morning was almost deserted. The American RTO was closed! The German waiting room/restaurants were closed, and the ticket clerk told me I could go sit on the train, which was on track one.
It was dark, with no heat, and very cold! A railroad guard told me I could board the train, and that the heat would be applied around 0600 hours. I sat in the dark, half asleep, until other passengers started boarding at around 0615.
Promptly at 0700, we pulled out of the depot, bound for Kaiserslautern. At 0830 we pulled into Kaiserslautern, and I got off, looking eagerly for Liliane! Not there. But, Colonel John Matina, who had been the 24th Engineer Group Commander a couple years ago, got off the train, and came over, and welcomed me back. We chatted for a few minutes, while I kept looking for my wife.
I finally called home, and my mother-in-law told me she had just left. About 15 minutes later, she drove up, and the greeting was everything you could imagine. She apologized for being late. It was 22 degrees below zero, and the damn car wouldn't start, so she had to call ADAC, the German equivalent of AAA. My 8 year old, Donnie, was there. But the only thing exciting him about the day was that he was going to go get new glasses.
Twenty minutes later, we were going through the door at our flat in Hohenecken. Biscuit, our part Samoyed, part Husky, gave me a royal greeting, and my mother-in-law gave me a hug. Then, Liliane, took me into the bed room, and led me to the crib. Inside was this gorgeous blond, blue-eyed baby, five months old. "Johnnie," she said, "Meet your Daddy!"
I picked him up, held him for the first time. And it was emotional!
My journey to Vietnam was over!
NOTE: There will be an epilogue to the "Vietnam Journal," in a couple of days.