Sgt. Alexander Balter, Pittsburgh, CCA interpreter
Yank Who Contacted Reds By Radio Once A Salesman In Maryland.
With an Armored Division at Mittweida, Germany, April 24 [Delayed]
By Lee McCardell [Sunpapers War Correspondent]
For two days Staff Sergeant Sergeant Alexander J. Balter, of Pittsburgh, a Russian-speaking Russian-speaking Russian-speaking communication sergeant of an armored division combat command, had been trying to establish radio contact with the approaching Russian forces. The division was waiting along the Mulde River. The Russians were known to be moving in from the east, not far away. Balter, aged 37, squat, baldish, spectacled, was a peacetime carpet and furniture traveling salesman whose territory included Maryland and Pennsylvania. Born in Elizabeth, N.J. he learned to speak Russian fluently in Russia, where his mother, a native Russian, took him to live with his grandparents for a time after the death of his father in America.
Also Baiter also speaks German. Last August when his division was attacking a Brittany seaport he was sent forward as an interpreter and returned with 795 German prisoners he talked into surrendering. He wears the Bronze Star ribbon in reward for that exploit. The headquarters to which he is attached having been set up near Mittweida. Balter took an Army Signal Corps CW-506 radio set out of his halftrack and installed it in the house where he settled down to go fishing among the wave bands for the proper Russian frequency. His set has an ordinary range of about 25 miles, up to 40 miles in wet weather.
No Replies In Two Days
He could hear Russian broadcasts and Russian field radios transmitting military orders. But for two days he received no replies to his own calls to the Russians. "These are American forces approaching approaching the south of Germany," he'd shout over his transmitter in Russian.
"Listen! American forces! Listen! American forces!
This is the voice of your American allies now at Mittweida waiting to meet you here."
Then he'd switch off the transmitter and listen anxiously for some reply. When none came he'd try another waveband. After two days of fruitless calling, he was beginning to lose patience yesterday morning when at 8.20 o'clock he heard a Russian voice:
"Bravo Americanski! Bravo Americanski! Bravo Americanski! Bravo Americanski!"
The Germans must have been listening, too, because a moment after the Russian voice came in the radio channel was jammed with a burst of German music "Ach du Lieber Augustine, Augustine, Augustine." Augustine." More than one hour passed before, before, at 9.37 o'clock, Balter managed to hear the Russians again. This time he gave them the position of the American forces waiting to link up with them and asked for their position. Nazis Interrupt Again a German voice broke in, this time with considerable profanity about "Jew lovers" and "enemies of the Reich and Fatherland." " None of the radio reception had been very good during the forenoon,but at 1.10 P.M. the Russians came in again, this time loud and clear. "It sounded like a whole regiment shouting greetings and cheers," Balter said, "hurrahing ,for the Americans." The Russian radio operator told Balter the Russians were proceeding toward the American lines, but gave no position. There was a steady flow of continuous greetings to the "American comrades" and repeated admonitions to "expect contact in the morning."
Inquires For Germans
The Russians were so jubilant they even began joking with Balter. The Russian operator said: "Where arc these Germans? They wait until they're good and hungry and then they surrender in large groups". Everything looked good for the Russians and the Americans, the operator rattled on.
A great victory was ahead. We were all good comrades together, brothers tomorrow,
brothers. "Brother Americans, we greet our American comrades. Be watch ful tomorrow morning.
Given American Position
Later the Russians asked Balter for the exact location of the American front line. He gave it to them, on the direction of his commanding officer, orienting the position in relation to the town of Chemnitz. "They went off the air for a while like they were examining a map," Balter said. "Then they came on and corrected my pronunciation of Chemnitz, giving it back to me in Russian. But everything was most polite and cordial, real palsy-walsy." "God be with you, friends," the Russians said. "Greetings and health to our American allies. Tomorrow at 8 o'clock. Tomorrow at 8 o'clock. Wait where you are. We are coming. Hold your position. We'll, contact you at present location. Stay where you are."
Coming Closer, They Say
"Third Army! 3d Army!" the Russians called later in the day. "We're coming closer to you continuously now. We'll contact you soon now. We Russians are not sleeping. There's much work being done by us now." And again a German voice chimed in angrily: "Cease your worrying, Americans. You'll soon meet up with your hoodlum friends." Then another voice came over the air in broken English. Balter said it sounded like a German speaking, but he couldn't be sure. It was a foreigner speaking English with a heavy accent.
He said: "A great Russian and American get-together is now being formed. Stay where you are. You will be contacted." Balter told the Russians the American forces were intact and had reached their destination. The Russians replied with another outburst outburst of "Happy greetings blest be our friends"
The Evening Sun
25 Apr 1945, Wed • Page 1