Our job was to interrogate prisoners, not fight with them, and we had lots of prisoners, thousands of them. Prisoners would be searched after they were captured, and any documents they had on them would be given to prisoner-interrogation teams like ours to see if they contained any important military information. Then we would sit down with the prisoners, one on one. We’d offer them coffee or chocolate or cigarettes, try to get buddy-buddy with them in order to gain their trust, just as we were taught at Camp Ritchie. If they were wet and cold, we’d sit them next to a fireplace or stove and give them a blanket to wrap around themselves.
We’d start out by asking about their home life—where they were from, if they were married or had a girlfriend, what they did before the war, whether they had been drafted or had enlisted—things like that. Of course, we knew most of the answers because every German soldier was required to carry his Soldbuch with him at all times, and we had studied it.
If a captured soldier were hurt or wounded, our medical personnel took care of them, just as they would a wounded American or Allied soldier. It was one of the crazy rules of warfare—you go out and try to kill the enemy, but if you capture a wounded enemy soldier, you are required to treat him kindly, make sure he that receives medical attention, and that he’s well fed and clothed. The Germans were supposed to do this, too, when they had a wounded Allied soldier on their hands. For the most part they did. It was all covered by the Geneva Convention.
Many of the Germans we captured would express relief that they had been taken prisoner; it meant that for them that they were out of the war, and the fear of being killed was over. Tens of thousands of them were shipped to the United Kingdom and United States, where they spent the rest of the war in relative comfort in POW camps; most of them were very happy that they had not been captured on the Eastern Front by the Russians, who were notorious in their treatment of German prisoners. Once the war was over, they would be repatriated to their home countries.
In 1949, while attending Indiana University University at Bloomington, I decided to start another soccer team, just as I had done during my stint at the University of Missouri during ASTP in 1943. But now, with my bum knee, my playing time was limited—but I could coach. Thus, in the fall of 1949, the first Indiana University soccer team was born. It wasn’t an officially school-sanctioned, varsity sport—just a club team, but it was a start.
That first team was quite an international bunch. John Lynge, an import from Denmark, was the team captain. He had also served in the British Commandos during World War II, so I knew he was tough. Kok Joon Tan was a player from Singapore, and Peter Danielson had played in Norway. We also had three Iranians—the brothers Teimoor and “Fred” Vaziri, along with fellow countryman Michael Bit-Alkhas. Most of the rest of the team were Americans, including Len Kenworthy, from New Jersey; he had served in Patton’s Third Army during the war. We also recruited a Scotsman, Walter Hutchinson, to referee our home games.
In 1949 we played only two games, losing by a combined score of 14-0. But we stuck with it and trained together and got better, winning our first game in 1950 against Purdue, 5-3, in front of 300 fans on the IU football team’s practice field.
I produced five All-Americans during my IU coaching stint—Tom Morrell, John Hicks, Ghassan Omary, Joey Singer, and Ian Rothmuller. Well, let’s say they produced themselves; I was just the coach. But I’m proud to say that the school named its Most Valuable Soccer Player Award after me—the Joe Guennel Award.