WITH THE GERMAN ARMY IN THE FIELD, Oct. 1, 1938 (UP) -- Five gray-green columns of German troops poured across the Czechoslovak frontier this afternoon on a twenty-mile front.
Thus began the dismemberment of Czechoslovakia and the addition of some 3,000,000 people to Adolf Hitler's domain.
The uniforms, the guns, the mechanized engines of war were in contrast to the festivity of the scene. The cheering German inhabitants pelted the troops with flowers.
The first contingent crossed the frontier at exactly 2 P.M., the deadline which had been set. Colonel General Wilhelm Joseph Franz Ritter von Leeb was in command of the occupied area, which is on the southwestern border north of Linz, Austria.
Czech troops and police had withdrawn at 6 P.M. yesterday. The population of the area which I covered wildly welcomed the troops and displayed Nazi flags, which had been hidden, a few minutes after the soldiers appeared.
I entered the Sudeten territory with General Hartmann's column on the extreme left of the area occupied today. Tens of thousands of other troops were camped in the Bavarian forest, ready to advance on the next phase of the occupation tomorrow. By October 10 all except the areas to be decided by plebiscite will be in German hands, as decided by the four powers at Munich yesterday morning.
Tonight Czech troops and Germans faced one another only 100 yards apart on opposite sides of the River Moldau. The Czechs had not had time to withdraw and still were holding a new line of fortifications on the north bank of the river.
I heard that the Czechs had blown up a bridge across the Moldau and went to investigate. The bridge had not been blown up but was held by Czech troops.
At first they were suspicious, but on learning that their visitor was from the United States they permitted me to cross the bridge into their headquarters.
Their captain said:
"We are withdrawing now under orders, but we would rather fight."
About 100 men were there, dressed in uniforms copied from the American war-time uniform. They seemed down-hearted. They were loading oxcarts with equipment and barracks furniture.
The Czechs still were holding a line of massive, newly built cement pillboxes, about eight feet thick, camouflaged with tree branches.
There was no ceremony whatever at the actual crossing of the border. The troops had withdrawn beyond the river, leaving two Czech gendarmes.
General Hartmann stepped up to them and briefly discussed the conditions of entry. Then they, too, withdrew.
Immediately three heavy gray steel armored cars rolled across the frontier.
They were followed by six light armored cars, then a company of infantry.
The frontier at this point consists merely of a culvert with a red, white, and blue post, on one side of which is the German insignia and on the other a plaque with the Czech coat of arms.
Presently the post was decorated with about thirty Nazi flags. Some hundred peasants cheered the troops as they crossed.
As we penetrated into the country we came across large groups of refugees who had fled into Germany during the crisis and now were returning home.
I saw one group of fifty on bicycles. Others tramped along on foot, in wooden shoes. A few more affluent refugees were in automobiles, waving Nazi flags.
Just in front of me an old peasant woman ran up to her son, tearfully welcoming him back.
Immediately after passing the Czech customs barrier the Germans removed signs reading "drive left" and changed them to "drive right," first symbol of change in regulations.
One man tore down the Czech army mobilization order from the customs house and gave it to me for a souvenir.
Minute by minute the gray-green columns rolled across the frontier, grinning and waving to the Sudetens who welcomed them.