1928 - Alderson High School - 1968


"Wire" Grimmett
John McCurdy '04

            In the 1960's, Bobby Withrow and his wife Phyllis came home from Europe for their annual vacation trip. Bob had transferred from the Prison Service and the Atlanta Penitentiary to the State Department and was assigned to the Spandau Prison in Berlin where the German War Criminals were housed under the joint custody of the Russian, British and American authorities. 

            Having Diplomatic Immunity and thus not subject to inspection upon entering the country, Bobby, like any prudent Alderson boy would have done, had filled his luggage with good booze from the duty free PX's and commissary's of the American forces in Berlin. To make a long story perhaps more interesting; while in the course of a short night of trying to drink it all up, followed by a long and sick day of trying to recover, Bobby and I made some career decisions for me! Withrow convinced me that the move I needed to make was to transfer from the Federal Prison Service to the State Department and Spandau Prison in Germany. The next day after my recovery it still seemed a good idea, (unlike many of our ideas cooked up under similar circumstances)! I applied for the transfer and the story immediately made the rounds in Alderson that it was a "done deal"!

            A few days afterward, I receive a telephone call from "Wire" Grimmett, who was, of course, one of Dave Gwinn and "Pap" Pence’s better customers! Wire asked if he could come up and talk with me in a few hours. Mystified, I told him he would be welcome.

            About six o'clock, Wire appeared in a suit and tie, sober and clean- shaven as a regular citizen. Invited in, he said he preferred the back porch. After a minute or so of small talk, he got down to business. He said he had been told that I would be transferring to Berlin, Germany and that to get to Berlin I would have to pass through the Russian controlled section of Germany; then he began his story.

            As a GI during the advance into Germany, and during a time in which his unit had gotten far ahead of their supporting forces, Wire said he had came into a possession of something of great value although he was very vague about just how he had obtained that possession. 

            The next day or so he was severely wounded in battle and was inadvertently left behind by his fellow GI's! After spending the night alone, he realized he was not likely to die from his wound in the immediate future but he that was unable to walk! He also knew that no matter who reached him first, either counter-attacking German troops or rescuing Allied forces, he was very likely to lose his treasure and perhaps even his life!

            He determined that he was in the southeast corner of an apple orchard located near a very large stone church and that the corner of a stone wall he was near would very likely continue to survive the conflict it has thus far endured! With his bayonet, he dug a hole about a foot deep in the ground in the corner of the wall, in it he deposited, what he did describe as, a leather pouch containing many cut diamonds as well as some uncut stones! His hope was that he could, if rescued or even captured, perhaps one day, be able to return and retrieve his lost treasure.  However, rescued by advancing American troops, he was taken, nearly unconscious to the hospital in the rear, and then back to the United States. He was never able to secure the funds to get back to Germany. 

            His proposal to me was that I stop along the highway to Berlin, climb the chain-link fence that was now in place along the entire length of the highway and retrieve the long-lost pouch from the corner of the wall where he had buried it! There were a number of very good reasons I didn't think that was a very good idea. 

            I knew the Russian Military patrolled the highway both by motor vehicle, and from the air, and that traffic was timed from one end to the other, very good reasons for not stopping to climb fences, especially in this tense time in Russian-Allied relations! The best reason of all was that I would be flying into Berlin and not anywhere close to the lost jewels. With little regret, I declined Wire's request.  

            In the years since then, and especially at Wire's funeral, I wondered if his problematic life after discharge was not a result, at least partly, of his "Lost Fortune" and what "might have been". 

            Several years later flying in and out of Berlin, I thought of Wire and his dilemma with sadness.