Veteran remembers WWII photo published in Life Magazine

“Huba-huba-huba and yum!”

That’s what one New York City newspaper wrote after Carus Olcott was caught on camera kissing German actress Marlene Dietrich on his return back from World War II — a photo that has appeared in Life Magazine and several other publications.

The photo shows Olcott leaning out of a porthole on the USS Monticello as four men lift Dietrich up for a kiss.

“She wasn’t coming down the gangplank, she was not coming to see me,” said Olcott who now lives in Myrtle Beach. “I was nothing, I’m still nothing. She was visiting a ship on this side of the wharf and we came in, the Monticello on the other side of the wharf. So I probably called her baby or some foolish thing, so they pushed her up to the porthole, which you can see wasn’t on the ground, and I kissed her.”

At the time, Olcott was 23. His ship was returning from Europe where the 2nd Infantry Division had fought in the Battle of the Bulge.

“I didn’t know, at 23, I didn’t know necessarily that she was the greatest thing in the world,” Olcott said. “They said she was a movie star, I was in the mood for kissing.”

At the time, the homecoming wasn’t a happy one. Soldiers on the ship thought they were being sent to Japan to continue fighting.

Shortly after their return, however, the Japanese surrendered.

The war

Olcott was planning on attending college when he was drafted for the war. As a farm boy, he wanted to learn more about agriculture.

The last thing he expected was to be a soldier awarded two purple hearts.

“I’m not afraid to talk about it because my purple hearts did not come from blood, it came from frozen feet as a first scout,” Olcott said.

Sitting in zero degree temperatures, Olcott, along with another first scout and two assistants, attempted to cross a river during the Battle of the Bulge. Before the U.S. troops could cross, German troops open fired, Olcott described.

“We’re on our belly, soaked to the water, zero degrees temperature, up under the bunkers and all hell broke loose,” Olcott said.

The three men sat in the river all day long, with smoke bombs flying overhead to try and weed them out into the open. Finally around 9 at night, Olcott was able to lead the group out.

Eventually, all four men wound up in the hospital.

“The other three boys, their feet were black,” Olcott said. “So I presume, I do not know, whether they had to have their feet cut off. But I was in the hospital for a couple of months and went back up again.”

But for Olcott, while he was stuck in the river he kept his feet moving, which he attributes as his saving grace.

“My life has been exciting from the start,” he said.

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