On the morning of May 4, 1945, the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division moved out to take a new objective, the Bavarian mountain town of Berchtesgaden. Nestled in the Alps, the quaint little town had been the playground of the Nazi elite. They discovered Reichmarshall Goering’s wine cellar containing 16,000 bottles. Major Dick Winters of the 2nd Battalion, 506th PIR would later recall making the discovery of Goering’s 10,000 bottle wine cellar.
Captain Lewis Nixon of the 101st Airborne wakes up after a night of celebrating courtesy of Goering’s private liquor, wine and champagne collection, Austria, May 1945.
On May 7, the day Germany signed the surrender agreement, the contents of Goering’s wine cellar were distributed to the companies of 2nd battalion, one truckload each. Captain Lewis Nixon had already selected five truckloads of booze for himself and the other officers of the battalion. The party that ensued was legendary.
Throughout his service in World War II, Nixon never fired a single shot in combat, even though he experienced intense fighting on the front lines. Nixon was remembered as always having a source of whisky no matter where the company was, and in particular for his love of the blended whisky Vat 69. This is what Dick Winters had to say about Nixon:
“Captain Lewis Nixon and I were together every step of the way from D-Day to Berchtesgaden, May 8, 1945 – VE-Day. I still regard Lewis Nixon as the best combat officer who I had the opportunity to work with under fire. He never showed fear, and during the toughest times he could always think clearly and quickly. Very few men can remain poised under an artillery concentration. Nixon was one of those officers. He always trusted me, from the time we met at Officer Candidate School. While we were in training before we shipped overseas, Nixon hid his entire inventory of Vat 69 in my footlocker, under the tray holding my socks, underwear, and sweaters. What greater trust, what greater honor could I ask for than to be trusted with his precious inventory of Vat 69?”
Dick Winters (left) and Lewis Nixon (right).
Dick Winters, Lewis Nixon and Harry Welsh in Austria.