The Herald Bulletin

Afternoon Update

Columns

March 8, 2014

Don McAllister: Adventures of a 'monuments man'

Every day starts a new story, and this could be a Hollywood epic.

There are people in life who open doors and lift you through hard times. They disappear for years and are often never seen again, but they still summon a warm smile when they wander through your mind. I’m recalling one in particular from my long-buried youth. One of the nicest things she did for me was to arrange an interview with her father.

Hershel and I still talk about Cpl. Ernie Mader from Arvada, Colo. It was one of those “best days.” Ernie was a likable fellow with a great sense of humor. Soft-spoken, but certainly no wimp, he had a friendly face and demeanor. Ernie was an aficionado of fine art. The colorful life images he shared with us reminded me of a cinematographic work where each scene was carefully crafted.

Cpl. Mader told about a family member who starved to death at the infamous Andersonville prison. It sounded like a Civil War saga.

Ernie entered WWII at Casablanca, which stirs images of Rick’s Café Americain. I asked him what he thought of Casablanca and Ernie said it looked beautiful, “from a mile out.” His service in North Africa took a page directly from the movie “Patton.” Ernie’s unit had been under the command of Col. Davis whom Ernie described as “like a father.” George Patton stormed in and chewed Davis out in front of his whole command for having a “sloppy unit.” Cpl. Mader was not a fan of Gen. Patton.

Ernie Mader was a mail clerk in a tank battalion. He had the interesting job of driving the 100-mile stretch between the HQ mailroom and the front lines. He was often in danger making that run, but like so many who weren’t “front line” he played down his peril. Their first night in Italy proved more comedy than war. They slogged through the mud and darkness to find a place to set their tents. They were rudely awakened in the morning to find that they had camped a few yards in front of their own artillery.

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