UNITED KINGDOM - CIRCA 1939: World War II. Rubber tank (decoy) in England. (Photo by Roger Viollet via Getty Images)


Dr. James J. S. Johnson

Ghost Army inflatable “M4” tank (WWII)

Like a crane or a swallow, so did I chatter; I did mourn as a dove; mine eyes fail with looking upward: O Lord, I am oppressed; undertake for me.

(Isaiah 38:14)

Therefore I will wail and howl, . . . I will make a wailing like the dragons, and mourning as the owls.

(Micah 1:8)

America’s top-secret “Ghost Army”, during World War II, used cleverness and technology to fool German forces, by masking military vulnerabilities.(1) Yet the main fakery used was not camouflage.  Rather, daring deception involved threat reversal mimicry.

23rd HQ Special Troops (“Ghost Army”) emblem (WWII)

During September 1944, the Ghost Army masqueraded as a large force of “Super Sixth” Sherman (M4) tanks, in order to intimidate a German Panzer division near the Moselle River.(1) It was a high-stakes bluff—employing rubber dummies (inflated to resemble M4 tanks), audio-recordings broadcast by loudspeakers, and bogus radio transmissions.  And it worked!

Their mission was to put on a show, with the German Army as the audience.  They were plugging a hole in General George Patton’s line by pretending to be the Sixth Armored Division, with all its tanks and might.

But the [“Ghost”] men of the Twenty-Third had no tanks—no real ones, anyway—and precious little might. In fact, they carried no weapon heavier than a .50-caliber machine gun. This cast of artists, designers, radio operators, and engineers was equipped instead with battalions of rubber dummies, a world-class collection of sound-effects records, and all the creativity the soldiers could muster.

They understood all too well that their own lives depended on the quality of the performance—if the Germans saw through their deception, they could attack and overrun the small, lightly armed unit. “There was nothing but our hopes and prayers that separated us form a panzer [tank] division,” Lieutenant Bob Conrad recalled. But thousands of lives were at stake as well.

If the Germans realized how thinly held the sector was, they could break through and attack Patton from the rear. In other words, it was just another day in the life…of what became known as the Ghost Army.(1)

[Quoting Beyer & Sayles, citation below]

Notice: the Ghost Army’s main ploy was not using camouflage concealment tactics. Rather, its purposeful play-acting was designed to be noticed—and to be misinterpreted as a viable threat.

This kind of shrewd trickery, if successful, appears to reverse the roles of attacker and target. The target fools the attacker into fearing the target–bluffing deters the attack.  The boldness of the vulnerable target, in feigning readiness to attack the attacker, is a brilliant reversal of predator-prey roles, but only if the prey successfully fakes out the predator.

MOURNING DOVE (Zenaida macroura)

Such is part of the ordinary life for the Mourning Dove (Zenaida macroura).

Known also as “turtle-dove” and “rain dove”), it routinely feeds on the ground, and nests within shrubs, on buildings, in trees—the same kinds of places where opportunistic (and omnivorous) rats, like the Black Rat (Rattus rattus) and the Norwegian Rat (Rattus norvegicus), roam for food.(2) Consequently, mourning dove eggs and hatchlings are sometimes vulnerable to prowling predatory rats.(2)

But how can Mourning Doves intimidate the neighborhood’s rats?

God invented and installed the Mourning Dove’s acoustical mimicry, benefiting countless doves, generation after generation. Their doleful moanings (cooOOoo-woo-woo-woooo) sound sad to humans, like someone mourning.(3) But to rats, that moaning impersonates an owl hooting(3)—and owls eat rodents!(2)

When the Ghost Army used threat reversal mimicry, in 1944, it was truly clever—so we give credit where credit is due (Romans 13:7). However, when Mourning Doves make noises like rat-snatching owls—practicing threat reversal mimicry—God’s cleverness all-too-often goes unseen, unacknowledged, and unappreciated.

God’s Creatorship is not a military secret, so let’s give Him due credit, for all of His cleverly made creatures—including Mourning Doves—whose needs He has caringly and cleverly provided for.   God is good – and truly magnificent!


1.Rick Beyer & Elizabeth Sayles, The Ghost Army of World War II:  How One Top-Secret Unit Deceived the Enemy with Inflatable Tanks, Sound Effects, and Other Audacious Fakery (NY: Princeton Architectural Press, 2015), quoting pages 10-11. The 23rd Headquarters Special Troops (“Ghost Army”) activities are now declassified. Having a lifetime-termed Restricted Radiotelephone Operator Permit (since A.D.1985), issued by the Federal Communications Commission, this author (who previously served at a Christian radio station in Texas) can appreciate — at least to some degree — the technical wizardry of the Ghost Army.

2.David J. Schmidly, The Mammals of Texas, rev. ed. (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1994), 438-441. Rat diets include bird eggs, including chicken eggs. Owl “pellets” routinely include rodent bones.

3.Mourning doves and owls sound alike. (Compare Isaiah 38:14 with Micah 1:8.)

Dr. James J. S. Johnson formerly taught ornithology, avian conservation, and ecology (etc.) for Dallas Christian College. ><>

Volksdeutsche by the Dozen, Part 2: Volksdeutsche in Croatia, before World War II — Jakob and Katarina Webel are Merchants in Marinci (Taking Care of Business and the Business of Life)

Volksdeutsche by the Dozen, Part 2:  Volksdeutsche in Croatia, before World War II  —  Jakob and Katarina Webel are Merchants in Marinci  (Taking Care of Business and the Business of Life)

Dr. James J. S. Johnson

O Lord, I know that the way of man is not in himself; it is not in man, who walks, to direct his steps.   (Jeremiah 10:23)

Webel.Jakob-and-KatarinaAs mentioned in Part One[1] of this series,[2] Texas hosted the birth of Luke Webel,[3] a boy born of German stock, furthering the biogenetic impact of his paternal grandfather’s immigration to America, as an 8-year-old boy.  Like his older brother (Nate Webel[4]), another native Texan, Luke Webel should one day learn to appreciate how his family history, thanks to God’s good providence, includes the survival and immigration (to America, after WWII) of “Volksdeutsche by the Dozen”, on Monday, March 19th of AD 1950, as “expellees” seeking refuge in America (under the amended Displaced Persons Act) from Communist tyranny.[5] 

How Two Native Texans Descend from Post-WWII Refugee Volksdeutsche

To recap the Texas connection, little Luke Webel arrived in Texas, during the summer of AD2012. Luke’s parents are Stephen and Erica Webel, whose lives (and those of their daughters and sons) are in constant motion (due to Steve’s professional responsibilities teaching English to students in Asia), yet they periodically alight and reside (just long enough to catch their breaths) in Arlington, Texas.  Stephen Webel (Luke Webel’s father) is the son of Chaplain Robert (“Bob”) and Marcia Webel, who currently reside in Florida.   Chaplain Bob Webel (Luke Webel’s paternal grandfather), as an eight-year-old, was one of the “Volksdeutsche by the Dozen” who flew from Munich (Germany) to New York, arriving at Ellis Island, March 19th of AD1950.

Bob Webel’s parents—Jakob Webel and Katarina (née Schleicher) Webel—who immigrated to America with their surviving ten children, have repeatedly illustrated the phrase “truth is stranger than fiction”.

As noted before, Jakob Webel’s family belonged to an ethnically German evangelical Anabaptist church tradition, a group known as “Evangelical Rebaptizers”[6] — who lived in what was then called Yugoslavia.[7]  In Jakob Webel’s mind it was vitally important, when he selected a wife, to marry within his family’s faith tradition—it would have been unthinkable to marry someone of another faith.[8]

Jakob succeeded, marrying a kindred spirit wife, Katarina Schleicher, during the early AD1930s, before the world had learned that trying times would be forced upon the war by Hitler, Hirohito, Mussolini, and their ilk.

 After the Wedding, Married Life Began with Hard Work on the Farm

As time would begin to show, and as more time would continue to demonstrate, the simple wedding vows of young Jakob and Katarina (reported in Part One of this series) were not a mere matter of happy youthful enthusiasm or ceremonial tradition.  Jakob and Katarina were promised to one another; there was no looking back. It was unthinkable to consider separate lives thereafter:   these two young hearts were now truly “one” (see Genesis 2:24), loyal to each other (and also to their God), as later events would prove, again and again. The young German-speaking couple (living in what was then Yugoslavia) were faithfully committed to each other, before God and many witnesses (including themselves), and World War II’s horrors and deprivations would soon (and repeatedly) test that marital union.  But the couple at least got started, as a new family, before those horrific challenges confronted them.

In the transcribed interview, quoted repeatedly below,[9] the reader will notice that sometimes the replies of the Webel parents (“DAD” = Jakob; MOM = Katarina) don’t always fit the questions actually asked by the inquiring daughter (ROSIE). Notice also that Mom chimes in, frequently, to clarify (or correct) Dad’s memory on certain details.  At this point (following Part One of this series), Jakob and Katarina Webel are newlyweds, in Vinkovci, Jakob’s hometown.


ROSIE: Now surely you didn’t live your entire lives with Grandfather [i.e., Jakob’s father, Reinhardt Webel, i.e., the paternal grandfather of Robert Webel].

DAD: We lived with Grandfather [immediately after getting married] about a year and a half or something like that.

MOM: Yeah, the [i.e., that was] before Elsa [i.e., Elisabeth, child # 2] was born.

ROSIE: Oh, you mean you had Reini [Reinhardt, child # 1] there.

MOM: Yeah, we had Reini there [in Vinkovci] and we still worked in the fields and all the chickens and all the ….

(A discussion follows, about other relatives, who lived and farmed in Vinkovci; then the interview returns to Jakob and Katarina Webel’s life in Vinkovci, —  and their decision to move on to another town.)

DAD: And then when Reini [child #1] was born and then about 2 years later, we decide to move to different place and [have] the store, because I …

ROSIE: In the same town again?

DAD: No, no.

ROSIE: Different town, okay.

Dad and Mom Webel describe entrepreneurial activities as merchants in Marinci   —  juggling cashflow, inventory, using credit, barter, and family.

DAD: In a different village called Marinci, we opened not a grocery but a …

ROSIE: General store.

DAD: Yeah, general store.

ROSIE: How did you get the money to do this?

DAD: How did we get money?

ROSIE: Were you working for your father [i.e., for Jakob’s father, Reinhardt Webel] for money at this point?

DAD: We was working but there was no money almost.  We set up the store, the inventory, without what to sell.  Then we owed more, you know, then [we] owed already, then we bought the merchandise on credit with no money, that’s the way we start it.

MOM: They give us credit and they pay it nice, often get other credit.  More and more and more.

ROSIE: Did you have money to buy the premises, the building?

DAD: No, we rent it. We rented a house.

MOM: We rented a big house, the house, then we open a big store on that corner.

ROSIE: And you borrowed for inventory.

DAD: I borrowed as I did inventory, that doesn’t mean the shelf and whatever you need.

ROSIE: How many kids were born at this …?

MOM: Just Reini [child #1].

ROSIE: Oh, you moved out [from Vinkovci] before Else [child #2] was born.

MOM: Before Else was born.

ROSIE: How many kids were born at this house [in Marinci] with the rental of the store?  Oh, we’re not getting that far yet.  Okay.  You borrowed money for inventory, then you purchased on credit your stock items.

DAD: Yes, yes.

MOM: The store went very good.

ROSIE: How large was this town, Marinci?

DAD: That town, it was a 250-300 houses. It was not large.

ROSIE: Were you the only general store in this …?

DAD: No.  There was already 2 stores when we opened ours but theirs was very small space.

ROSIE: Was yours bigger? … [Were other stores] smaller than yours?

DAD: Oh, yeah.  Then when we open, the next year another man opened a large store.

ROSIE: Even larger?

DAD: Not larger but competition but so bad, we have then 4 stores and that was too much for the town.

MOM: Just you don’t say we had the yard goods.

DAD: Yeah.  Then we start that.

ROSIE: Oh, we’re going to get that, Mom.  I know all about that.

DAD: Then we saw it is…  I rented that house for 3 years.

ROSIE: Your lease was for 3 years?

DAD: Yes.  And then when the lease was over and the time was over, there was a church property with a house over the church and a man had a store, he was working with us and he insisted to be auction for the lease.

ROSIE: Option probably.

DAD: Not option, but operate from an auction sale, but a lease I gave her that much more rent, you give that much[?], who gives more for that rent.

MOM: Who give more rent.

ROSIE: That would be like a bid.

DAD: Yeah, like bid.

ROSIE: He wanted to bid for what you were renting?

DAD: No, he wanted to push me out, to make it, but then I insisted, okay, everybody whoever had to, had to put that much money, it not just a bid.

ROSIE: You wanted cash up-front.

MOM: Oh, yes.

DAD: I bid $10,000.  He would bid $1 more, and I don’t go farther, and then when I move out, he has nothing given, the building stay empty, so I said, you have to put that much money if you want it, and so we did.  Part one way, and they eventually sold, then that man withdraw.  He withdraw.

ROSIE: Where did you get that much money to lay on the table?

MOM: We get.

DAD: I had no money.  Again, I borrowed enough money in stocks form someone.  I borrow stocks to put.  But that man withdraw but soon we could get the auction, so I have found another man who came to bid against me.  So I found and I bought it, for if one came to bid against me too, so I get the house again.

ROSIE: For another 3 years.

DAD: Yeah, for another 3 year[s] I get one.

MOM: We get.

DAD: Yeah, it wasn’t important.  It was ’39, it was ’33, ’34, ’39 … 6 years.

MOM: In ’34 was Reini [child #1] born, we just moved in before winter when the first snow fall.

DAD: Yeah.

ROSIE: To your new store.

MOM: Yeah.  In this store, was usually.

ROSIE: You moved into this house [in Marinci] in the fall, near winter.

DAD: In the fall of ’35.

MOM: And then early ’36 April was Elsie [child #2] born.

DAD: Reini [child #1] was born in September of ’34, next year in ’35 we moved in, and when the first snow fell, you know the salt is white, you know, and he said heh (noise), not so salt we got, because salt always white.

ROSIE: Reini was just a tike and he thought [the snow] was salt.

MOM: It was salt.

ROSIE: Now his kids, if you remember when Paul first saw the snow, he decided it was sugar, not salt.

MOM:  He said, salt we got now.

DAD: The store we got sugar that much, but salt we got much, you know.

ROSIE: I want to talk about this store.  When you first opened it up, you had the normal things like nails and screws and …

DAD: No, no.

ROSIE: No hardware?

DAD: No, at first it was just grocery.

ROSIE: And what else?

DAD: Grocery.  Period.

ROSIE: When I talk grocery, am I talking fresh fruits like apples, lemons, cucumbers, what kind of groceries?

DAD: No, no, no.

ROSIE: You’re talking dry goods, flour, and sugar.

DAD: Coffee and …

MOM: Poppy seed.

DAD: And rice and salt and …

ROSIE: No vegetables?

DAD: No.

MOM: All colors what you painting, all the colors needed for house painting.

ROSIE: You had groceries and paints.

MOM: Paints, all kinds of paints.  Not like here is made the paint ready in big bucket…

ROSIE: This you had to mix.

DAD: Yes.

MOM: This was just powder.  We had to fun …

ROSIE: Furnace?

DAD: No, no, no.  To mix the oil paint, you have to mix that to be some kind of oil, not oil but they call it something like that, for to mix it.  And we got the water paint for the house, just make it with water, like…  you have to mix it with the oil.

MOM: For paint, for furniture you have to mix with …  we call it “Fearnice”.  “Fearnice” was oily and thick like here when you buy the ready-mix.  But then you put the color in whatever you want in.

ROSIE: SO your store was groceries and paint.  How long did you have that, groceries and paint?

DAD: Maybe 2 years.

ROSIE: And then you decided to expand?

DAD: And we had the wooden shoes, and the strings [harness] for the horses and cows and all those things.  It whatever the farmer needs.

ROSIE: Farmer supplies.

DAD: Then, little by little, you …

ROSIE: Did you have garden tools at this time?

DAD: Oh, yeah.

ROSIE: Hoes and things like that?

Not right away but we did have…

ROSIE: Shortly thereafter.

MOM: Yeah.  Hoe and rake and all kinds of strings [harnesses used by farmers].  What they need for this … for the barn and yards [pastures, fields, garden plots].

DAD: Little by little expanded.

MOM: How you said that … Here is grease job.  Over there for the wagon, what they use every day in the field and everywhere, they had to kind of grease, big can grease like here.

ROSIE: Oh, for the wheels and stuff.

MOM: For the wheels.  They call you in the morning early, they had to go in the field and they forgot to buy.

ROSIE: Yeah, wheel-bearing grease.

MOM: Yeah, thick grease, yellow-brownish.

DAD: you have to put the grease on the axle.

MOM: All the axle, whatever turns the wheel, this had to be with this thick grease.

ROSIE: You have that?

MOM: Yeah.  And cigarettes, matches and how you say?  Kerosene?  Every house had kerosene.

ROSIE: That’s the lighting you had, this kerosene lighting.

DAD: The kerosene light.

ROSIE: What did you cook with?

MOM: Cook, we with wood stove, with sticks under of wood.  We cook in the same stove.

ROSIE: How did you heat?

DAD: Heat?  Wood stove.

ROSIE: You had no coal?

DAD: No, no coal.

ROSIE: Did you buy your wood, or …?

DAD: Buy, sure, I buy.  But the wood was not far, you could find it.

ROSIE: Was there water?

MOM: Well.  We had well.  We have …

ROSIE: [To] carry it into the house?

MOM: Oh, yeah, sure.

ROSIE: And you had outhouses at this point?

MOM: Oh, yeah.

DAD: They build the house before Adolf was born.

ROSIE: Alright.  We [are] just a little bit past Elsa here, we’re not anywhere near Adolf.  Elsa was born in April.

DAD: In April ’36.

ROSIE: And Reini was born in September?

DAD: ’34.

ROSIE: I have all the information at home but I just thought I’d ask.

DAD: And then we rent on lease was almost over —  you know, for that house, that we bought, and bought an old house.

ROSIE: We’re talking the second time around.

DAD: Yes.

ROSIE: So that would be 6 years later?

DAD: Yes, it was 5, 6 years, maybe for … for rent that for 3 years.  Then we bought an old house, and tore it down and build a new one.

ROSIE: You bought the house, tore it down, and bui9lt one on top of it?

DAD: No, no.  We tore up the house.

MOM: Oh, make them level and then start building.

ROSIE: Bought old house, ripped apart, tore down?

DAD: Tore down and put a new house and new foundation [down].

MOM: And then it’s not built like here with bricks.

DAD: That makes a difference now.

MOM: Yeah, makes a difference with just the dirt – that thick.

ROSIE: Like the kind of stuff you’re talking that your dad used to make.

DAD: No, no, no.  You put like telephone post here.  Both side of wall that thick, then form, each side 2×8’s, put along, and then it’s filled up with dry dirt.

ROSIE: The telephone poles were for support, then you put wood in-between so that the telephone poles hold it.  And then you put dirt in-between.

DAD: In-between dry dirt.  And …

MOM: The ladies, the girls, they stomp it!

DAD: Stomp on that and then seal it up, and then you lift that board, both sides up and fill it again with dirt.

MOM: The wagon is bringing the dirt.

ROSIE: How did that dirt stay solid?

DAD: They stay solid when you put pressure …

ROSIE: All day long they do this?

DAD: On the corner they put … weeping willows or any kind of wood on the corner.

ROSIE: That you can bend a little bit?

MOM: No, no.  Hold all together that when this dry out, this is hard like cement.

DAD: And then they said the house is, all walls are put up together, the middle walls, all the walls, all up together goes up.  When they finished, before they’re dry, they have to take a hatchet hole and make a hole in it.

MOM: And the holes going to be the windows, doors.

DAD: They have to because these are later on becoming hard like concrete.

ROSIE: Is this similar to the adobe houses that the Indians built in New Mexico?

DAD: I never saw that, but that is …

ROSIE: Now, were the standard homes built that way?

DAD: The most.  The many, many.

MOM: The most, just very seldom with bricks.  This was not a solid house like the houses like they built here [in America].

ROSIE: What kind of a roof did you put on something like this?

DAD: Brick roof.  Thick bricks.

ROSIE: What kind of support did you have?

MOM: They had noses.

DAD: They put the wood rafter on.  How do you say that cross beams, that’s not rafter.

ROSIE: Braces?

DAD: No, no.  From wall to wall.

MOM: The “bulker”.

ROSIE: That’s a rafter, Dad.

DAD: No, the rafter you put after.

ROSIE: Tresses?  Beams.

DAD: Beams.  But the beams are about 6×6 or 6×8, and then the rafters are 5×5.

MOM: Oh, at least that.

DAD: And that rafter, and on the rafter are …

ROSIE: Grooves.

DAD: No, no, no.  From one rafter to other like that, but …   No, no.  But an inch by two, 1×2.  They nail from one rafter to other, and on that hangs the brick.

ROSIE: Shingle.

DAD: But that [was] like bricks.

ROSIE: Yeah, but hangs.

DAD: Hangs, yes.

MOM: Hangs like the fingers on this, closed together, one after the other row will come over here.

ROSIE: Is that similar to the tile roofs that you see in some old houses?  The half-moon tile roofs?

DAD: No, no.  They are flat.

ROSIE: Well, okay, but …

DAD: Yeah, yeah.  Just on that top is a half-moon to cover the …

ROSIE: The ridge.

MOM: This was my work when I was a girl making this bricks.

ROSIE: Oh, you made the bricks!?

MOM: I made the bricks when I was a young girl.  My father was this for the house.

ROSIE: He was a brick maker.  Yeah.

MOM: I and my sister, we had to work this …

ROSIE: Okay, Mom, when you built the house, who was born then?

DAD: Then we moved in.

ROSIE: How long did it take you to build this house?

DAD: About a whole summer, the whole summer.

ROSIE: And did you have your other store?

DAD: The other store?  We had brought the store.

ROSIE: You had the store?

DAD: Yes, yes.

ROSIE: Did you hire this work out?

DAD: Yes.

MOM: No.  All on one floor.

DAD: All on one floor.

ROSIE: Is this place still existing today?

MOM: Yeah.

DAD: Yes.

MOM: The building is still there.

ROSIE: And did you close out the other store at that point?

DAD: Yes.

ROSIE: Was it a gradual close-out or was it immediate?

DAD: I gradually close.  That’s how we could move.

ROSIE: You closed own.

DAD: We moved that first store down.

ROSIE: Who did you hire in this store?  Just you and Mom?

DAD: Just we two.

ROSIE: Just the two of you.  And who took care of your kids?

MOM: Nobody.  Nobody by themselves.  They have to be in the store and helping.  Even Reini know how to help and how to get matches and to give change.  He knows they’re good, some people they want to trick him, maybe give you, it’s not the right change what you give to me.  And he would look at you, and say, I give you the right change.  I know for sure.

ROSIE: He [i.e., Reini] sold matches?

MOM: Matches and he sold tobacco and cigarettes.

DAD: That’s a … like a brick you can eat, chocolate, and we cut them into pieces for that much money a piece.

ROSIE: Reini was like 8 years old here.

DAD: About that.

MOM: He know [what] he do.

DAD: When we moved in, he was 2 years, but in 4 years he already a good merchant.  He could give cigarettes, he could give yeast, if it was pre-packed, he could do.

MOM: Like now the pound of butter, the yeast is the same size it was a piece like a pound butter was it in one piece.

ROSIE: Did you have the flour in big sacks and you divided, you bought it in big sacks and they wanted to come in for a pound, you had to measure it out?

DAD: Yes.  Sugar, that way the sugar, that way the rice, that way everything.  Nothing was pre-packed.

MOM: Nothing.  Raisins, nuts.

ROSIE: Oh, you had raisins there, too, and nuts?

MOM: Oh, yeah.  Nuts and raisins and all kinds of things, plus you need for anything?

DAD: Before Christmas apples too, and oranges.

ROSIE: Where did you get all your produce from, or whatever?

DAD: In the grocery store.

MOM: Big city.

ROSIE: Big city in Yugoslavia?

DAD: In the … it’s a whole city in Vinkovci.

MOM: Yeah, he went to the whole city.

ROSIE: Did you go there and pick this stuff up and bring it back?

DAD: Yes, yes.

ROSIE: There wasn’t any delivery?

DAD: No, no delivery.  We hired a man with a wagon, you know, horse and buggy, to go there and bring it back.

MOM: All day.

ROSIE: Oh, you went with him.

DAD: I went with him. And I take the cash along to pay it and I paid last bill.

ROSIE: Last time’s order?

MOM: Always we paid the last order and get the other order.

DAD: And always at Christmas time, is always a big business time, and when Christmas time, after Christmas, with the Christmas and New Year, it’s day to day.  In that time I went there and paid all my bills and came home empty.  So on the New Year when they has [sic] to close the books, Jakob Webel owes nothing.  And after New Year, I go right away, you don’t have to do that, I stop to fill up the store again …  5 to 600 dollars …

ROSIE: Did you close the store?

DAD: No, no, no.  Then I had not everything …

MOM: Everything sold plenty, was not so filled everything, he wants to fill all shelves full.

ROSIE: Okay, you just went ahead.

DAD: Yeah.  You have no 100 pounds of sugar, and you have no have … you have only maybe 10 pounds of sugar now in that period.  Everything little bit, but you have everything.  Somebody could come there, you don’t have it. And when a customer came, ask something, you don’t have it, you mark it down that we have to bring it.

ROSIE: The next time you’re in Vinkovci.

DAD: Whatsoever the customer asks.  [notice the King James English! Jakob and Katarina learned the English language by using the King James Bible in America]

MOM: Keep supply, people don’t get them.

DAD: Whatever the customer asks, you know …

ROSIE: How far was Vinkovci from Marinci?

DAD: It was 20 kilometer, 20, 25, so what.     [i.e., about 14 miles distance]

MOM: And then so many time on the bike, you get stuff, the people was asking and we will not say we don’t have it in our store …

ROSIE: What is kilometers in miles?

DAD: Miles? It’s 160 kilometers is 105 [miles], that is …

ROSIE: So it’s less than 20 miles?

DAD: Oh, yeah.  Less than 20 miles.

ROSIE: Yeah. 80 kilometers is [about] 50 miles.

MOM: And the tobacco and the cigarettes are always sent on the bike, loaded on the bike, this is not heavy stuff, just these big packages and he bring them on the bike.  We cannot get in the same city where he get the groceries.  He had to go in the …

DAD: That is the state-owned, you know, cigarettes and matches.

ROSIE: Because of taxes and everything?

MOM: No, no, no, that you got the …

DAD: That is state-owned.

MOM: You cannot buy in the big stroe.

DAD: You get only the 5%, that’s all, the price is, let’s say $1, you paid that $.95, and you could not sell it higher.  You cannot put higher or lower.

MOM: Right.

ROSIE: In other words, you made no money on the sale of cigarettes.

DAD: No, but you have to have them because the customer wants [them].  And the same with the matches.

MOM: You had to go even [i.e., sell for cost – no profit on cigarettes and matches] in the store.  When you work in the kitchen, go in the store, he wants 5 cigarettes, is not worth nothing to go even in the store, wipe your hands, just you have to give it.

ROSIE: Give me [the] layout of your home, so I have an idea of what it is like.

DAD: Okay.  There was a store in the front, and one of the bedrooms beside it.  Behind the store was a magazine or a storehouse.

ROSIE: Is that where you had more stock?

DAD: More stocks and that dirty things like lime.  The people …  that lime means a stone, not [lime powder] dust like here.  Like a stone, and you put them in water, then [that] boils …

MOM: It gets so thick, you cannot even mix it, like cook.

ROSIE: I’ve seen it before.

DAD: That’s kind of stuff, and wood, coal, for ironing …

MOM: That’s why you say, how you say you would what you make the wieners, well, charcoal.  We had this, they put them in the irons, a little bit.

DAD: But we buy from a gypsy, not in a sack like here.

MOM: This is black and dustier, [in] big pieces.

ROSIE: You had a storeroom in the back behind the store.  What was behind the bedroom?

DAD: Behind the bedroom was a kitchen.

ROSIE: And that was it?

MOM: No, we had the other room too.

ROSIE: One more room?  Where was that?

MOM: And we had behind the store, first was, like this porch, a little, plus a window out.

DAD: Yeah.  Like a porch, maybe just a little, and there was a door here, and here was the stockroom.

MOM: And from there we go into kitchen and the kitchen was very big.  There was 2 beds in.

ROSIE: Oh, you had 2 beds in the kitchen?

MOM: Beds in the kitchen and we had the children’s beds and we had a couch in the kitchen.

ROSIE: Just like in Medina [Ohio].  You had a couch and a chair and …

MOM: Yeah, this was almost so big, big, and we had a big hutch where all the dishes are …

ROSIE: Cupboard, yeah.

MOM: Where all the dishes are, in the kitchen washing …

ROSIE [speaking to Dad]:  And the bedroom was yours and Mom’s bedroom?

MOM: We sleep in the kitchen.

ROSIE: What was this bedroom then?

MOM: For guests.

DAD: We sleep in the kitchen and children too.

ROSIE: Okay, now back to facilities, did you have indoor plumbing here?

DAD: No.

MOM: No well.

ROSIE: You had to go out and pump everything?

MOM: No pump.  Over there we had the wheel [i.e., water-well], you wind.

ROSIE: Well.  There was a big open water well and the bucket coming in.

MOM: Yeah.

DAD: Water well was enclosed and was closed and the roof on it and was a wheel and a big axle and the rope goes down with the bucket.

ROSIE: Did you ever get any animals in your bucket?

DAD: No.

MOM: No.  We put the watermelons in this bucket and put them down and the yeast [in order to refrigerate them].  Dad make a little box form wood, the yeast had to stay down cool, otherwise they spoiled in one day.  Just his house is not like this one, this is the thick wall, so thick walls.

ROSIE: How did you keep your food cold?  Did you have ice boxes?

DAD: No, no ice box.

MOM: No, no have.

ROSIE: How did you keep food cold?

MOM: Like this, hanging down in the well.

ROSIE: How did you keep milk [from spoiling]?

DAD: For one day only.

ROSIE: Did you have a cow?

MOM: No, we buy every day.

ROSIE: From the milkman?

MOM: No, not milkman.

DAD: From the farmers.

ROSIE: Did you have to go and buy it or did they come and deliver?

MOM: We can go and get them or she can bring it, whatever we want.

ROSIE: So it was a little town where you kind of exchanged things back and forth.

DAD: No, with the money.

MOM: For money, everything for money.

ROSIE: Tell us more about your store.

DAD: The store was everything all for money but the people had the chicken and eggs and then they can bring eggs and we give them grocery for the eggs.  We know that that much egg, than many eggs, what is worth …

ROSIE [or was this said by Mom?]:  This is this much and they exchange the eggs.

DAD: And then in the fall, they can bring flour, exchange for bread. And they could bring corn and exchange for candy, the children.  And when the fall is, the farmer brings corn, wagon full of corn, and the children are hollering “give me a cup, give me a cup, give me a cup”.  And they get a cup and they run with the cup in the store and candy for that.

MOM: They come, so many children …

DAD: And we put on the scale how much is it, so we give 1 candy or 2 candy, how much …

MOM: 2, 3 candy, how much is, how big, how many corns they have in cup, the children.  And the lady has no salt at home, she bring an egg and I show her how much [salt] she gets for this egg.  She has no money, she has egg.

DAD: Nothing is pre-packed then.

ROSIE: When did you start getting more things?  Did you ever become a hardware store?

DAD: Little by little.

ROSIE: As the customers asked for it or how?  What inspired you?

MOM: When we came in this new store, it was a lot bigger.

DAD: The new house.

MOM: A new house, this was now 4 times as big.

DAD: Then we started yard goods.

MOM: And all the lace for all kinds of when you want to have lace, and kind of lace.

DAD: And yarn.

MOM: Or like I crocheted the …

DAD: Oh, and also we had the yarn there for sale and to crochet, and people need that.

MOM: And then I thought to …

DAD: To pre-print for handiwork.

MOM: You know all this what you buy that was printed blue on white material.

ROSIE: Oh, that you iron on so you can embroider.

MOM: Yeah, that’s for embroidery.

ROSIE: Transfers.  You made those.

MOM: Yeah, I made this.  The people come in with the wagon, and bring lots of what they sell by themselves, woven.

DAD: Self-woven.

MOM: Self-woven stuff.  When I print it, they help me.  Evenings when we close the store and the children went to bed.

ROSIE: Just like that thing you made that Theresa has that you embroidered when you were a little girl.  You drew that.

MOM: Yes.  This was on paper and then I make this and the next day or day after …

DAD: Everything was to get money.

MOM: When other day or next day, I said then they can come and pick it up.  This was the good thing then they buy even the embroidery.  All this was standing there.

ROSIE: Did you draw this on their … to their size that they wanted on their material, where they wanted it?

MOM: Yeah, yeah.

DAD: We had pre-printed papers.  They came and look at the paper, I want that and that, and then from that paper we make it.

MOM: Put pattern onto skirts and on the bedspreads and on all kinds of things.

ROSIE: You made it to the size they wanted even though you only had a small picture to look from?

MOM: Don’t matter.  They was looking on a small picture.  But my pattern we enlarge it and do it how they want it.  We had this heavy …

ROSIE: Like carbon paper?

MOM: NO, it was heavy, to put this weight on the … and stretch it on this big counter, like a counter where we selling stuff.  And evening for it was quiet and then I can make it … make money.

DAD: Many times Mom made for [i.e., before] the fire, the stove is here, wood is here, and the meat is here, all the same, other, and a customer came, and customer came, and customer came, and fire goes out.

MOM: And chicken lays half-cleaned on the table, half of its feathers off lying, still there.  But Dad come home from the store, from the city, and I leave him then alone and I go in the kitchen and make us some food to eat, something to eat.

DAD: Maybe we just eat so-so.

ROSIE: What did the kids do when that was happening and they were hungry?

MOM: From one lap to the other.  They were carried.  Customer to carry one and then the other customer …

[Katarina Webel (“Mom”) remembers how babies were cared for during hours when the family store was open for business. Sometimes, customers took turns holding small Webel children while Katarina was attending to customer needs. Customer nowadays would be surprised if the store merchant expected them to hold or carry children during their shopping experience!]

MOM [continuing]: Then is leaving this customer, and give it to the other [i.e., transfer a small Webel child into the arms of another store customer], then they[10] [i.e., infants who were passed from one customer’s arms to the next] fell asleep.

DAD: The small children, we had a …

MOM: A wagon, have a wagon wheel [?].  …  [Wicker?] chair, a chair is just that way, and it put them upside-down and put them on the counter, and here is, and could not get out.  Our customers, they feel sorry, [so] they take this child from this chair out and carry around [inside the store].

DAD: The customer take the children.

MOM: Till they come on their turns, and then they give it [i.e., the small Webel child being held] to the next [customer who is waiting to make a purchase].  So Sometimes [the child] went asleep or they put them over there I their little carry or some are going one day to the other.

DAD: It was not easy, but a hard living.    [What an under-statement!]

ROSIE: What inspired you to have your own store like this?

DAD: Because only that way you could gain something.

ROSIE: By working for yourself.

DAD: By working for yourself.  In a store, you could gain in a 5, okay, in a 5 year you had a store, you owe no money nobody.  Otherwise you could work 50 years, you could not achieve to have your own house.

ROSIE: This is an example?

DAD: Example.

ROSIE: How old were the kids when you put that [child restraint enclosure] in?

MOM: 6 months only.

DAD: They start to walk, either way, when they start walking, then a little bit higher …

MOM: Then we tie a rope around.  Then they begin to walk around, higher, they have higher fence.

DAD: That is the …  a little bit more than that.

MOM: A little bit higher.

DAD: Little bit high, then we put a rope here so that when they get up, to not fall out.

ROSIE: Like a playpen only a lot smaller?

MOM: Lot smaller.  They have to sit there.  They get used to it.

ROSIE: You gave them a piece of bread to chew on, or something?

MOM: Yeah, a piece of bread, give them to chew on, or something else, always was something.

DAD: Homemade bread.  Then we had a bread form bakery too, from the town.  Bring it back for bread, selling the bread were exchanged for money or for flour.

MOM: They had to bring it so many flour, so many pounds of bread, was very good bread.  That … they had very good bread.

DAD: Very good.  Little by little the store [business] was built.  And then we had every other year another child.

ROSIE: Approximately it was every other year.

DAD: Year and a half, 2 year, another child, and then there came time Mom hired someone to wash clothes and do some kind of work, out in the store.

MOM: They come and shop …

ROSIE: A young girl?

MOM: No, ladies, they come.  They are very poor.

DAD: They can’t buy grocery, grocery, grocery without money.  They cannot pay.  They say, I work [in] your store to pay.

MOM: When I call them and I saw them on the road, when I see across the street, then they came.  Can you wash for me?  Or can you come over do something in my garden?  I have to hoe or send [sand?].  When you want to, whenever you can, just come and do it.  Okay, I will, and then they come and do it and then we …

DAD: Wiped her slate clean.

MOM: Then we say, your debt, we say, you owe us that much and that work is, that way, that we erase, oh, I need so bad that much money.  Okay, we give you the half for what your wages and the next day to work for that too.

ROSIE: You’d pay her sometimes in wages [money] and sometimes all for debt …

DAD: Till she paid off the debt she had.

ROSIE: Did you ever get into the hardware part of the store?

DAD: Oh, yeah.  We get little by little.

MOM: We have nails was almost from the beginning.

DAD: Then the tools, shovels, and fork [i.e., pitchfork], and rake, and screws …

MOM: Most time we got the farm stuff.

DAD; And then for the plow, what they need.

ROSIE: At this point was everything done by hand?  Everything was work horses and plows?

DAD; Oh, yeah.  Not big with the tractor.

MOM: How we say the platter or the plates or the bowls?

ROSIE: Oh, your bowls and your saucers and your cups and your plates.

DAD: Every house had a bowl where they wash the face.  And towel was hanging beside the kitchen a nail was here it was a towel for wipe up the hands and the face.  That was custom, every house had that.

ROSIE: So Adolf was born in ’39.  Next we have Theresa.

DAD: Yes.

MOM: Theresa, was in same kitchen born as Adolf.

ROSIE: Now Adolf and Theresa were born in this new house in Vinkovci.

DAD: Yes, and Robert.

ROSIE: Oh, and Robert was born there with [i.e., as one of] the twins and you were so sick at this point.

MOM: Yes, I was so sick; I had malaria.

ROSIE: You had malaria?

MOM: Yeah, then it came to prepare for war.

ROSIE: You mean news of war came?

DAD: Not just news but preparing.      [In other words, not just a rumor of war.]

ROSIE: Right after Robert was born?

DAD: Before.

MOM: Before.

DAD: Before Robert was born.


More adventures of the family of Jakob and Katarina Webel, during and after World War II, needs reporting (God willing), specifically world-changing events directly impacting the Webel family, triggering their emigration from Yugoslavia.

When Hitler’s ambitions reached Yugoslavia (in April AD1941), daily living became an unrelenting challenge to endure, a never-ending series of threats and dangers (including German Nazis, Croatian Ustaše, and Soviet Russian Communists, plus war-caused food shortages, property and relocation losses, illnesses and injuries, etc.), as a growing family of honest Evangelical Rebaptizers tried to survive long enough to hopefully, someday, rebuild a “normal” family life.

For two decades life was anything but “normal”, much less convenient and comfortable. Meanwhile the Webel family grew to include eleven children, though one died an infant in Yugoslavia (during WWII), leaving a dozen Webels.


How Jakob and Katarina survived the disasters and dangers and deprivations of WWI (and its aftermath) is a magnificent testimony, firstly to God’s providential care, and secondly to the Webel family’s persistent practice of survival skills.  All of those years, during World War II, as well as the refugee years leading up to March of AD1950 (when the dozen Webels successfully immigrated to America), are amazing chapters in the Webels’ amazing family history.  Meanwhile, the life of business – and the business of life – continued for the growing Webel family.  Hardships and heartaches would hover over the Webel family for years to come, as World War II and its aftermath ravaged the European continent.

Yet, in time, 12 of the 13 Webel family members would successfully migrate to Ellis Island, and from there to Ohio.  But the reporting of the next chapters (D.v.) must, for now, await another day. So, for now, this “chapter” rests with an appreciation that two native-Texan boys, Nate Webel (born in AD2007) and Luke Webel (born in AD2012), as well as their sisters, descend from German immigrant stock (“Volksdeutsche”) who trace back one ancestral line to paternal grandfather’s parents, Jakob Webel and Katarina Schleicher, whose early family life together included challenging years as merchants in Marinci, before the storm of World War II arrived in Yugoslavia.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:  Dr. James J. S. Johnson is a member of the German-Texas Heritage Society, and an occasional contributor to its Journal pages.  A lover and teacher of Providential history and geography, Jim has taught at 4 different Christian colleges (LeTourneau University, Dallas Christian College, Concordia University Texas at Fort Worth, and ICR School of Biblical Apologetics) in Texas, as well as aboard 8 different cruise ships. As a C.P.E.E. (Certified Paternity Establishment Entity, credentialed by the Texas Attorney General’s Office), Jim maintains a strong interest in family history documentation. After studying under many teachers, at many schools, Jim happily acknowledges that his best teacher (under God) was Chaplain Robert (Bob) Webel.

Below is a newspaper caption, dated 3-19-AD1951, with the “Volksdeutsche by the Dozen” Webel family, who immigrated to America.


Volksdeutsche by the Dozen AD1951

Also shown (below) is Chaplain Robert Webel (who was 8 when his family came to America), with his wife, Marcia, residents of Florida.


Chaplain Bob Webel provided information that supplemented and clarified his sister’s interview of their parents, “From Vinkovci to Medina”, quoted extensively hereinabove.


[1] The family history information in this article is derived from repeated personal interviews with Chaplain Bob Webel, mostly when he was visiting Arlington, Texas (during the summer of AD2012), and from the transcription of his sister (Rosie)’s interview of their parents, an unpublished family history titled “From Vinkovci to Medina” (which is further described below).

[2] “Volksdeutsche by the Dozen, Part One: Jakob and Katarina Agreed to Marry Before They Ever Spoke to Each Other, A True Example of Love at First Sight…and First Sound”, Journal of the German-Texan Heritage Society, 35(1): 25-32 (spring 2013), citing Rosalie Webel Whiting, From Vinkovci to Medina (unpublished Webel family history), supplemented by personal interviews with Chaplain Bob Webel (during August AD2012).

[3] Luke Webel was born during July of AD2012, in Plano, Texas.

[4] Nate Webel was born during November of AD2007, in Fort Worth, Texas.

[5] “Volksdeutsche by the Dozen” is the caption of an unidentified newspaper clipping, with a photograph of the 12 Webel family immigrants, who arrived at Ellis Island on March 19, AD1950, after a transatlantic trek that went from Munich to Copenhagen to Scotland to Greenland to New York City. The Webel dozen then were father Jakob, mother Katarina, Reinhardt (17, a/k/a Reini), Elisabeth (15, a/k/a Elsa), Karl (13), Adolf (12), Theresia (10), Robert (8), Rosalia (6, a/k/a Rosie), Jacob (4), Katherina (2), Daniel (2 months old).

[6] The Yugoslav-emigrated, German-speaking Evangelical Rebaptizers, when they immigrated to America, renamed themselves the “Apostolic Christian Church of the Nazarene”. (There is no ecclesiastical connection to what is popularly called the Church of the Nazarene).

[7] Like a violently erupting fumarole, the tragic history of Yugoslavia’s political factions is a series of internal fighting (dominated by Ustaše-led Roman Catholic Croats persecuting Eastern Orthodox Serbs, with Nazi and Russian Communists intervening with their own agendas), and that fighting is a major catalyst in this family history—as will be noted later, D.v., in future reports on this fascinating family history  (see, e.g., ).

[8] Certainly Jakob was thinking Biblically, on this point—see Amos 3:3 & 2nd Corinthians 6:14.

[9] Rosalie Webel Whiting, From Vinkovci to Medina (unpublished Webel family history, copy provided by Chaplain Robert Webel), pages 1-4, supplemented & clarified by personal interviews with Rosie’s brother, Chaplain Bob Webel, during July and August of AD2012.

[10] The small children eventually fell asleep, so they could be laid on a bed and thus no longer needed to be held by someone. The pronoun “they” refers to small Webel children who would fall asleep in the store, not to the helpful customers!  🙂