• Stuart Hodes,
    New York cityMORE...

    My name is Stuart Hodes, originally Stuart Hodes Gescheidt. I was born in Manhattan on November 27, 1924. I grew up in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn. My father had trouble with his ears and went to a warmer climate. I think he and my mother just were happier apart. I attended PS 98 for elementary, then Brooklyn Technical High School, which was all boys. I didn't like that. But I loved the things we studied, which included every kind of shop - sheet metal, woodwork, forge, foundy... I enjoyed working with my hands.

    I was aware of the war as far back as 1938. I was fourteen then. I remember the day of the Pearl Harbor attack very well. My brother and I were in the kitchen of our apartment in Flatbush, and we jumped up and down in excitement. We both wanted to get into the war.

    I wanted to be a pilot. I'd read the ads in the paper and in 1942 I went to a recruiting office in Times Square. I was almost eighteen by then. I asked about it and they said, ''Well you're going to be drafted in a couple of months anyway.'' They gave me all the papers. They told me that once I was drafted I should turn them in. And I was drafted into the Army Air Corps in March 1943 - we didn't call it the Air Force yet. We wore army uniforms. I went to Camp Upton in New York.
    I spent basic training at Miami Beach, where I'd spent a year as a child. I was able to visit my old house. I had planted a palm tree after a hurricane and there it was, all grown up. From there, I went to Sioux Falls, South Dakota in June for training as a Radio Operator Mechanic. I submitted my papers there. I was halfway through the course when they sent me to pre-pre-flight training.

    I went to pre-flight itself in August, in Santa Ana, California. Ten weeks of tests. They tested us for everything. We had color blind tests. We were put in a room with tear gas. All the stuff an army recruit went through. One of the tests was to see if we could swim. We went to a pier and were told to take off everything except our shorts, so we left our clothes in piles and walked a few blocks away. They were going to count to ten and anybody not in the water by then was going to get washed out. I'd been a competitive swimmer, so I was pleased to lead the parade back to our clothes.

    Each stage of training took about eight weeks. When it came time for assignment, the cadets there were going to either become a pilot, a navigator or a bombardier. My first training was in Wickenburg, Arizona. Everybody wanted to go to Oxnard because Jimmy Stewart was an instructor there. I got Wickenburg, a desert training facility.

    And I loved it there. I had an instructor, one of the best teachers I ever had of any kind. You were allowed to get about ten hours of training, then you had to fly solo. I soloed at about nine hours. The instructor got out of the plane and walked away. He told me to take it around and land. No sooner had I gotten the plane off the ground when it hit me that I loved flying. I loved being in charge of the machine. Entering a new dimension. I was absolutely crazy about it.

    I flew around and from then on I wanted to fly every single second. After we had our daily hour - we had a lesson two or three times a week - we would have to sign out a plane and practice. I would sign out a plane and after the hour in the air, I'd come down and ask if I could get another plane. Most of the time, they assigned me another.

    Then I went to Bakersfield. I discovered a town about sixty miles away from there called Selma. I was in love with a girl with that name, so I'd fly over the town and at the end of my flying, I would always do a turn onto my back. Right into Selma . . . very Freudian, I was aware of that.

    Another moment of truth came when I graduated. You had to go to school for multi-engine planes, bombers, or for single-engine planes, which were fighters. I was sent to a twin-engine school because they needed bomber pilots. Part of the reason you wanted to be a fighter pilot was the glamor, but the secret was that they were also safer. The casualties were fewer than bombers. We weren't fire-breathing Top Gun types. We wanted to survive.

    I was in the air one day, practicing. Being a co-pilot in the right seat. My instructor gave me a skill building exercise. You put it into a climb and give it a little more throttle. You put it into a dive and you pull back throttle. The idea is to keep it at exactly the same speed. The cruising speed was 140 knots and the instructor showed me how. The needle moved slightly. And he told me to try. When I did, the needle didn't move at all. He said, ''Wait a minute. . . let me take it.'' He thought the gauge was broken. He was a wonderful guy and I was real lucky. He said, ''I'm going to make sure you go to first pilot school,'' which he did.

    I almost missed the war. When I got to Italy, we were two months from the end. My high point as a pilot was flying the Atlantic. We left from Labrador to fly to one of the Norwegian fjords, but it was socked in with weather, so we flew to the Azores instead, and from there to Morocco. The flight to the Azores was very nice, very thrilling. The reason we didn't go to the fjord was that a storm passed overhead. We were cancelled. The next day we passed through the same storm. This was when I put all the theory to use. It was a large front, six hundred miles each way. So you find a saddle and you go through it. I went through at about 12,000 feet and we were smashed around. But we came through fine and spent the night in the Azores with the rain coming down. The next day we flew through it again. But this time it wasn't so bad and I went through low. We stopped at Marrakech and the storm passed over. The next day, on the way to Italy, we passed through it a third time but now it was weak. We landed in Cairo and spent the night. From there to Foggia in Italy, not far from the spur of the boot.

    We were given tents. I guess we flew about two missions a week. I flew seven of them. One night I'm looking up and they're shooting flares and that's how I found out the war was over. Because I only flew seven, I wasn't qualified to return home early.

    Another mission, we were sucked in. The target was covered by clouds. We were allowed a Target of Opportunity. I think this was my sixth or seventh mission. We looked for a bridge. We were over the Alps. We found one and bombed it. I turned the plane on one side because I wanted to see if we'd hit the target. That was the first time that I got a real sense that I was maybe killing people.

    I was reassigned to the army during occupation. But first there was a project to fly troops back to the USA on their way to the Pacific Theatre, which turned out to be a lot of fun. We were transferred near Naples, to a town called Pomigliano. About two or three times a bunch of soldiers would climb into a B-17, which was a very bad transport plane. It couldn't hold many. The bomb bays took up too much room. There were thousands of planes sitting on the ground, millions of gallons of gasoline, why not use them? We'd fly across the Mediterranean, past Sardinia, along the coast of Africa, then we'd turn through the Straits of Gibraltar, drop our soldiers off and fly back. It was a two-day thing. I don't know how many of those I did.

    But on one of them, flying to Italy, I heard on my telephone that the Japanese had surrendered. It was Victory in Japan Day. I told the soldiers, ''You're going home now. You're not going to go to the Pacific.'' By the time we landed in our field they were all too drunk to walk. That was a nice day.

    Not long after that, I was sent back to Foggia for the occupation. Instead of a tent, we lived in a very nice building. That's when I discovered I had no job. They didn't need pilots anymore. I was being assigned dreadful tasks. Officer of the day, latrine inspection, god knows what. Someone asked me if I'd like to join a newspaper. I said, ''Sure.'' ''Well you'd be our pilot because we have stories in Rome and in Pisa.'' I said, ''Well, fine.'' So I joined and I got out of all the other stuff. They began to let me write articles. That's when I discovered I loved writing.

    We had press cameras and we had our own jeep. We had a dark room and all the film we could conceivably use. What they called the Class 10 Warehouse. The size of an airplane hangar filled with lab equipment. Cameras, enlargers, the works. We interviewed people like Padre Pio, who's now Saint Pio - we wanted a picture of him holding his hands up with the stigmata showing. But we didn't dare. That turned out to be one of the best years of my life.

    We were offered a chance, some of us, to go to college in Zurich or Lausanne. I could have gone to either one, but I wanted to get home, so I did in the summer of 1946. It was great to come home and see my folks and go back to college. I went to Brooklyn College, attending to be a journalist or a writer.

    But then an odd thing happened. My first job was as a publicity director for a summer theater in Bennington, Vermont, where an actor friend of mine - I'd known him from college - told me that he was studying dance with a woman named Martha Graham and I went back to college with her name in my head.

    One day I was down in Manhattan and I looked her up in the phone book and found that her studio was very close. Lower Manhattan on Fifth Avenue. I signed up for a month of lessons. Long story short I became a dancer, a foolish thing to do. I stayed a dancer most of my life. Until I was eighty-five. I don't know why except that I enjoyed it. And this, people don't quite understand... it's like flying. When you fly, you're magically taken away from the everyday world. When you dance, the same thing happens only you're still on the ground. But you're really in another place. I guess I liked that.

    I stayed with Martha Graham for eleven years. I started doing Broadway shows. Some roles I was a replacement and some I was there from the start of the production. I started doing night clubs because it was extra money. I did television between shows. Then I started teaching and I worked for a while for the New York State Arts Council, which I liked. When I was offered a job running a dance department at NYU, I took it.

    I was in my late sixties when I stopped dancing, and I was deciding I would try to write again. I wrote a couple of books and one was published in 1996.

  • Jack J. Diamond,
    Miami, FloridaMORE...

    My name is Jack Jerry Diamond, which is not my birth name. My birth name was Udell Moishe Diamond. I was born in Brooklyn, New York on June 23, 1925. I grew up as a kid in Brooklyn and then my dad bought a property on Long Island. He was building us a home outside of Huntington. My dad learnt about the automobile business during WWI, when he was in the army. However, my father was told to enter the gasoline business, and he listened to this advice. Therefore, he bought another property in Brooklyn at the entrance of the Brooklyn Bridge. He built a gas station on that property. Unfortunately, my father got killed by a drunk driver when I was only 8 years old, on Feb 1, 1934. At that time, we were in Huntington. After his death, we moved back to our grandparents' home in Brooklyn. We also had family in Miami, Florida. I had an uncle in Miami and he got us moved into his partner's apartment building on South Beach.

    The Second World War started when I graduated from Miami Beach Senior High School. My uncle sent me to join the Riverside Military Academy in my senior year. I enlisted in the army before I turned 18. I ended up in the 106th Division and we were stationed at Camp Atterbury, Indiana. We provided close support to the infantry. Our field position was on the frontline. I spent a short time in a military school in Indiana, ranked as an army private (PVT). We left from New York on a ship known as Aquitania, and landed in Scotland. We were stationed for some time in a small town outside England. Our division crossed the English Channel and landed in France where we went to our first combat position in Belgium. And BOOM! It was the time after D-Day and there were not many Germans left in France as the battle moved to Germany.

    The Battle of the Bulge was our first point of combat that was happening in a small town called St. Vith in Belgium. Our division got wiped out by the Germans, practically all, and I became a German prisoner of war. We spent approximately 19 days in combat, and the Battle of the Bulge was completely unexpected. Our division had no prior experience of any real combat. However, we destroyed all the evidence that the Germans could use against us before we got captured by them. I was a Jew, so I told them that I was a Jew and an American, so take me as I am. A person is a person no matter what kind! There were two German armies: the Wehrmacht who were trying to wipe out Jews, and then there was the SS who operated under Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party.

    I was captured as a PFC (private first class) and it was during the coldest winter in Europe. I was wearing my galoshes, but my feet already got frozen, and it sucked! The Germans knew about my feet and two of them took me to the hospital. But there was nothing the doctor could do as I had no boots. However, there was a German officer who made sure that I didn't have to walk on the woods with other prisoners without putting on my galoshes. There was not enough food for the Germans themselves, so they gave us next to nothing to eat. All Americans were treated this way, not only the Jews. There were all types of prisoners there, but they segregated us. For instance, the Americans were in one part of the prison and the Canadians in another. I was never segregated on the basis of being a Jew, but a dogface will be a dogface no matter what army he is in!

    The U.S. Army also sent a telegram to my home stating that I went missing in action in Germany. The telegram was received by my sister who was 13 at that time. She did not want to tell this news and upset my mother as she was a widow. So my sister never told my mother that I was missing in action and she kept it to herself. My mother came to know, however, when the army sent another telegram stating that I became a prisoner of war. At least she knew that I was alive. Later, we got transferred from the St. Vith 2A camp to another camp in East Germany. I stayed there the whole time until the Russians came along, and that was several months later. I was freed from the camp by the Russians in May 1945. The Russians came through East Germany.

    Ah! It was like moving from a German prison into a first class hotel in Paris. But the food didn't get any better with the Russians. We stayed there and helped the Russians. A few Americans came later in the combat trucks and took us back to America through France. Luckily we got shipped back from France directly to - guess where - Miami Beach! I was stationed at a hotel about three blocks from my mother's apartment. My mother did know that I was a prisoner of war from the communication sent through the American Army. However, she did not know that I was back in Miami. So I went to visit her, but she was not in the apartment. She was visiting our relatives in New York. Later, she came back from New York quickly when I notified her that I was back in Miami.

    We were examined by doctors as soon as we landed in America to identify what shape we were in. I must say that nobody was in good shape. I was then sent to New York on a leave. I was in the army until we dropped the bomb on Hiroshima, and then the war was over. I was discharged from the U.S. Army at the Miami station. I did not want to go someplace cold to continue my education because of the memory of my frozen feet in the war. So I thought of southern California, but that was approximately 3,000 miles away from home. So I decided to earn a degree from the University of Miami in general education. After getting my degree, I knew that I wasn't going to move towards the northern part of the US. Therefore I had to do something in Miami.

    I loved the ocean and there was a club, the Riviera Cabana Club, which had cabanas and a pool. I had a concession stand at the back of that club. Therefore I got into this beach stand business. I had another stand in a hotel in Miami Beach. At that time, my uncle was in the nightclub business and he also had a liquor store. I ran his liquor store and I learned that business as well. I also learned about the surfing business. I got my name registered in the local phonebook as South Beach Surfers. I used to rent surf boards to the surfers at the beach. Apart from working in the food and entertainment business, I was also working at the dog track at night. I also used to give the beach weather report over the phone to people calling my surfing business. This was because sometimes it might be sunny in the town, while at the same time cloudy at the beach. I gave the best weather and surfing reports. No BS!

    I got married to Julie on March 1, 1978. Julie is the love of my life, though she is not my first wife. We did not have any children together. But I had two children with my first wife, a boy and a girl. Julie has two kids, too, and she had them from her own first marriage. I am very involved in the American Ex-Prisoners of War Organization. When I stopped working, I started volunteering at the age of 62 at the Miami VA Hospital as a service officer. I helped people get compensation from being prisoners of war and for injuries they had during the war. In 2014, I had 24,000 hours drawn for charity and I was the volunteer of the year at the VA hospital.

  • Richard Overton,
    Austin, TexasMORE...

    I was born in Texas. Between Fayette and Bastrop. St. Mary's Colony, down toward Houston. It was alright growing up. When I was twelve, I knew what to do for myself. I worked on bridges. I built houses. I picked cotton. I pulled corn. Hauled trees, hauled shrubbery. I did all kinds of work.

    I didn't want to go to war. Uncle Sam picked me, he enlisted me. I didn't have a choice. I went to the army in 1942. The South Pacific. I went to Iwo Jima. I was part of 1887th Engineer Aviation Battalion. The lucky men got killed, that's what I remember. I got back here safely. A lot of them didn't get back safe, a lot of them didn't get back at all. I lost a lot of friends. Everybody in the army was my friend. I did regret going, but after I went, I was glad I went. I learned a lot.

    We'd leave one island, get on to the next island. Get on a ship and move. I joined the war in 1942 as a Private, got back home in 1945 as a Sergeant. I did a lot of shooting, a lot of fighting, a lot of running, a lot of work. I drove the officers. I was treated well. We were fighting. I loved to shoot.

    I was a hundred miles out of Japan when the war ended. I didn't think I was going to go to Japan. But we were fighting them. They were nice people.

    Coming home was the brightest memory I have from the war.

    After the war, I came back home. I went to see the people at the furniture company I worked for before the war, and they wanted me to start back to work the next week.

    I got one eye. Doctor put one of my eyes out. I used to go to the range. I don't shoot anymore. I still can shoot. You have to know how to hold your gun.

    I drink whiskey like everybody else. I don't get drunk. I drink it like I do medicine. Put it in your coffee, good medicine. I don't take medicine. I take whiskey.

  • Max Boimal,
    New York city, New YorkMORE...

    My name is Max. I was born on August 6, 1929 in Poland. I was raised in a small village with about 60 Jews. We didn't have much, but we made ends meet. My parents would go to the flea market in the larger villages and sell different meats and fruits. I had a pretty carefree childhood, and I went to school faithfully. I had three brothers.

    In 1939, tensions were high in Poland. The war was looming, and my parents were worried about the future. Shortly after Germany invaded Poland, Jews were sent en masse to labor camps and ghettoes were created, we knew that it's time to run. There were people smugglers who would help the Jews flee to Russia. One night my parents took my three brothers and myself to the Ukrainian border, and we were smuggled into the Soviet Union for about 25 zloty.

    From there, we were all on our own. After we crossed the border we met some men who were helping people like us find work. My brothers and I were advised to go deeper in Russia to work in a kolkhoz - a collective farm. It took a few days to travel through Russia on a horse wagon. My brothers were split up, and I was taken to a town near Stalingrad. It was a dark night when I got dropped off and the smuggler pointed me in the direction of a farm to work at, and from there I was all alone.

    Luckily, farming was a big industry in Russia, so I had a stable income. It was very hard work on the farm. I can remember pulling the potatoes out of the grass for hours at a time in the hot sun. But we were treated fairly, and most importantly - we had a place to live in and food on the table. At that point I feel like it was just an animal instinct to survive knowing what was going on in Europe.

    There were a lot of other Polish people on the farm. While I was working, I thought about missing my family, especially my parents. I later found out they were murdered at Auschwitz.
    As hard as it was to cope, I frequently convinced myself how blessed I was. I was alive, I was healthy, and I was making a decent living for myself. I'm sure the children back home weren't quite as lucky. On the farm, we would hear rumors from back home about entire villages being callously murdered by the Nazis.

    Perhaps the feelings of happiness I felt were forced, and I was no different from an animal that left his parents in the wild. I was forced to fend for myself without my parents or brothers. All I had was my uncle who lived in the United States.
    I worked on the farm for two or three years. After the war was over, I returned to Poland to see what was left of my country. I managed to make a decent living for myself. I was married in Poland, and had a son. We came to America in 1949 on a big boat. Passing Ellis Island was a beautiful experience.

    When I first got to America, I worked in construction. My time on the farm instilled a certain work ethic in me. My uncle was a tailor, but I liked blue-collar work. From construction, I started working at a Canada Dry factory in Long Island in 1950. From there, I went to a bigger factory in Maspeth, New York. I retired 12 years ago.

    I've often tried to figure out what happened to my brothers, but I could never find much information. I have no idea about their fate after we said our goodbyes on that dark night somewhere in Russia. Records weren't kept well. It's heartbreaking to think about all of my uncles, aunts, cousins and more that I lost just because of war.

    These days, I don't do as much as I once did. I have money, a nice home, a loving family and my cat. Most importantly though, I have my health.

  • Coleman Magrish,
    Cincinnati, OhioMORE...

    My name is Coleman Magrish, and I was born May 19th, 1925 in Cincinatti, Ohio. I grew up without a father, but still managed to have a pretty normal childhood. I took an interest in Electronics, and later went to school to prepare for a career as an electrician.

    There was heavy sentiment that we would soon be engaging in war, but I thought less of it. I felt we proved we were too strong of an Army for other countries to test us. It turns out I was wrong, as the Japanese soon bombed Pearl Harbor. I still thought they were going to apologize for their mistake, but things didn't go that way. The war soon commenced.

    I was still in college, but I felt duty called. I was prideful in my country and wanted to avenge that horrific attack. On July 17th, 1943, I enlisted into the Army.

    After enlistment, basic training began in Ohio. I don't quite remember the name of the base, but it was an unforgettable experience within it. During camp, I was properly conditioned and mastered our artillery. Our superiors also trained us how to operate tanks, which I did particularly well. At the time, our regiment had M4 Sherman Tanks. Each tank carried five men: the tank commander, the driver, the assistant driver, a gunner, and a loader. Our tanks were good, but they weren't quite as well put together as the Russians'.

    I soon graduated and became a member of the 14th Armored Division of the US Army. From the name alone, you could tell we'd be heavily involved in combat. The infantry was transferred to the Brooklyn Navy Yard in New York, then flew out to France. We flew across the great Atlantic Ocean, landing in Marseille, France on October 29th, 1944. The primary thing I remember upon landing was the decent weather for late Fall.

    The 14th Armored was assigned to the US 6th Army Group on November 1st, and the Seventh Army on November 10th. We were under the command of General Albert C. Smith. General Smith ordered us to the docks to unload our supplies and tanks from Navy Ships. The tanks had accumulated a little wear in the trip overseas, so they had to be tested, cleaned and loaded with ammo. This process didn't take long. The tanks were soon ready to go, and we manned them for a trip up the Rhone River Valley in France. We were propelled right into the war, in pursuit of the Germans.

    There were fierce battles going on in the Gertwiller, Benfeld, and Barr areas of France. The Allied Forces were getting the better of the Germans in France, so they retreated towards their home country. They crossed the border before we could catch them, but we continued in our chase. By December 17th, we had crossed the Lauter River, and were in Germany.

    In the early morning hours of December 31st, 1944, the Germans broke out with a huge counter-offensive, Operation Nordwind. The Germans mounted a strong attack on the 62nd Infantry and the Task Force Hudelson. They had advanced ten miles on us. The Task Force did a tremendous job of holding the Germans until they were able to get reinforcements. Once the 45th Division blocked any further advancement by the Germans, so they attempted to breakthrough elsewhere. The Germans came into Hatten and Rittershoffen and unleashed a huge offensive right.

    We engaged them in combat from January 1st, to January 8th. There was such chaos that I didn't know who was winning or losing during the operation. As a tank Operator, all I knew was to attack when I saw Germans. For over a week, there would be moments of searching for them interspersed with tremendous gunfights. We controlled the Western part of the villages, whereas the Germans had buildings in the Eastern portion.

    They seemed to be getting the better of us, and resupply was increasingly difficult day by day. Our perimeter was shrinking, but we safely withdrew from the villages and joined the rest of the Army. We had killed many Germans, but there were many dead on our side, and many lost resources. We put up a valiant defensive against an overwhelming number of German soldiers. Even German col. Hans Van Luck gave us credit in his book.

    We rehabilitated from the battle for a couple months, then by March we got back on the offensive.
    By this time, Germany was purely on the defensive, desperately retreating towards Central part of the country. We stormed through the Siegfred line, and fought through five towns before liberating three Stalags: Oflag XIII-B, Stalag XIII-C, and Stalag VII-A. We also discovered and freed forced laborers and prisoners of concentration camps. It felt good to know all the violence was ultimately for the cause of freeing people from Germany's oppression.

    Ultimately, we reached a town called Landshut, where Germany finally gave up. When we advanced on them they literally had their hands up in surrender. We showed mercy on them. I get the sense that the country was split on Hitler.

    I came into contact with civilians, and they frequently said "(Hitler) is no good" and other Anti-Nazi rhetoric, but at the same time I saw hundreds of pro-Nazi signs strewn throughout Germany. I never saw any revolts from citizens, through they apparently were against what was going on. I felt that many Germans were living a lie, in denial about the presence of Nazis in their country. Maybe the civilians who said they were anti-Hitler were just scared of us and saying whatever they thought we wanted to hear.

    That wasn't always the case though. I remember a time we were dealing with German POWs who were tasked to pick up trash and other duties. There was a specific soldier who got upset at us about wanting to eat more. He was causing trouble and refusing to work. Somewhere in the midst of the argument one of my partners told him "go to hell!" He arrogantly said "will do." We told him "if you don't work, you don't eat." Ultimately, he relented. He had no other choice.

    In Landshut, the infantry moved into civilian houses in until we got further instructions from command. I can recall we were also stationed in Czechoslovakia for a bit, milling about the town. It was pretty boring, and we were soon transferred back to Germany.

    August 15th, 1945 started out as a quiet day. There I was, in the house with my other soldiers when we heard a giant "hooray!" bellowing out from another camp. We instantly realized the war was over. Soon, another infantry came and took the Germans prisoners we had, transferring them to another prison.

    I thought the carnage of the war was over once we got to Camp Lucky Strike in Cherbourg, but it wasn't quite done. One day, I was walking along a coastal road near the camp with Sgt. Walter Arp. Walker. Some new Army recruits were canvassing the area. The war was over, but we were still shipping in replacement soldiers for our camps in France. While I was talking to Walter, we heard a deafening boom, which was the unmistakable sound of a landmine.

    A soldier then came out of the woods, wounded. He told us two of his partners were badly injured. Luckily an Army bus passed by and I hopped on to get some medical help, as well as mine detectors to safely traverse the area where the wounded soldiers were. By the time I got back, I saw one of the soldiers on the ground being attended to, and Walter standing there with a blood soaked jacket. I asked him what happened, and he matter of factly told me he carried the soldier on his back through a minefield. I was incredibly impressed.

    Walter was 38, had just been through the war of a lifetime, and had a newborn baby to come home to. He still risked it all to climb a barbed wire fence and cross a minefield while carrying a wounded soldier on his back. Unfortunately, the third soldier was fatally injured, but without Walter's help, the gentleman he saved could have been as well.

    Soon after that, we finally go the order that we were being shipped back home. I happily boarded a train through France, before flying back home.

    When I got home, I applied for a job as an electrician at the WLWT TV station. I had been reading a book on television throughout my time in the War, and I felt I had gained an expertise. The station agreed and hired me!

    Although I had a job, I didn't completely retire from the service like some of my comrades. The country needed Army Reservists, so I joined the Air National Guard and applied my electrical expertise to the service. I traveled to Korea, servicing Chinese and Russian planes, then later there was a scare in Germany that we attended to. There was talk that the Russians were going to invade Germany, so we went to protect Germany. The irony!

    These days, my fellow comrades have been dying out, which is too bad. I've been holding on pretty well though.

  • David West,
    Williamsburg, MA, USA MORE...

    I'm David E West. I was born and brought up in Haydenville, Massachusetts. In 1943, at the age of 18, I was drafted into the service and became a member of the 66th Infantry Division and was assigned to the 870th field artillery battalion, Headquarters Battery. The 66th division was activated in Atlantic, Florida on April 15th, 1943.

    From Florida we went to Kent Robinson, Arkansas where we did our maneuvers. After 8 months in Arkansas we were sent to what is now Fort Rucker, Alabama. It was then called Camp Rucker. There, they prepared us to go overseas. After 8 months in Alabama we were called. After being down South for nearly 2 years, in November 1944 they put us on a boat and sent us to Europe. We spent 13 days in an English luxury liner that was converted to a troop carrier. We landed in South Hampton, England 18 days later.

    We boarded a train and were sent to Down House camp which was somewhere in England. On Christmas Eve, we were preparing Christmas diner and got the call that they needed us in Europe. The Battle of The Bulge was going on that time and they needed us there. We gave the dinner to the English people in the area and boarded our boats.

    Some of the infantry was put on the Leopoldville, a Belgian liner converted into a troop carrier. I was on a Landing Ship Tank. The Leopoldville was right beside us. About 5 miles out of Cherbourg, France, the Leopoldville was torpedoed by a German submarine. An SOS distress signal came through that they'd make it to shore but that never happened. The boat was sunk and we lost several hundred men. 800 men went down with the boat on Christmas Eve, and Christmas was not a very happy time at that particular stage. We landed in Cherbourg on Christmas morning, not knowing where we were going or what we were doing.

    They sent us to an airport where we camped. My friend Jake Derrick and I found a bomb-hole and we set up camp in there. We were there for a couple of weeks. It wasn't too bad. It was winter, but we had enough equipment to keep us comfortable. From there we received orders to go to Saint-Nazaire and Lorient pockets on the South-West coast of France. There were up to 80,000 Germans in those two pockets, and there were submarine pins in both of the towns.
    We relieved the 94th division. There were only 7000-8000 soldiers left out of my division, so we moved in there. The 94th moved up to The Battle of The Bulge. We settled in and set up our artillery. I was the 105 outfit, and the Headquarters Battery was communication primarily. I was in the wire gang and was a switch board operator.

    We stayed there for 133 days and nights. The Germans fired on us constantly. The day before V-Day, the Germans surrendered. We went in and marched them out of the pockets. How many there were I can't tell you, but there were many. They had plenty of ammunition, they could have fired on us for another 133 days but they where out of food and had no way to get it into their base. The men were starving, and that's why they quit.

    After a few days cleaning up we were sent to Baumholder, Germany to process Russians that were going back to their homeland by the hill. They called it the Fort Sill of Germany. They emptied out the Red Angel hotel so we'd have a place to live and it was quite interesting. You didn't understand Russian and you didn't understand Germans and you just had to go by motion. The Burgomaster could speak English so we were able to communicate pretty well with the Germans. We'd get these people together and they'd be inspected, and you'd put them on a truck and take them to the railheads and send them back to Russia. The Russians were starving. While we were stationed there the Russians would sneak around Baumholder and take chicken or food from any source just to stay alive.

    The Germans, they were trying to clean up their land. We would take 4 or 5 Germans and march them out to the field to clean up the debris from the war there. It was a mess. Baumholder was an appropriate name for that town because it was loaded, bomb holes everywhere. It really was a nice little town.

    The people there accepted us for what we were trying to do. We were helping them and we helped the Russians go back home. The Germans didn't care about the Russians being there and I don't know if they cared about us being there, but we were doing a service for everybody there.

    We were in Baumholder for a month or so then we were transferred to Arles, France to process our own troops that were going to the Pacific. We thought our chances of making it home were pretty slim, but we had great hopes that this was the end of this war, the warring business in the world. Enough was enough. We had our orders to go at a certain time and my hero Harold Truman had the orders to drop the atomic bomb. That was 3 days before we were to go to the orient, so that meant if you had enough time served you'd be on your way home.

    Everybody says they should have never bombed the Japs but the Japs didn't have any problem with Pearl Harbor, and the Germans were running all over everybody so I don't think the atomic bomb was a bad thing. I know it wasn't a nice thing but when it comes to war there aren't any nice things. If they'd just sat down and talk things out, and work things out we'd be a whole lot better off.

    I was in a chorus that was formed in the field artillery back in basic training in Florida, and after the war was over they called us together and sent us on a tour to entertain troops. We spent time in the Riviera. I played on the same stage in Nice with Bob Hope and Jerry Colonna and Francis Lanford and all the old timers. Maurice Chevalier came out of hiding and joined the entertainers, and we performed at hospitals in the field. One program we had 50,000 people in the National Amphitheater in Southern France.

    We went to La Havre, France and we were to entertain there, but I was beginning to feel the effects. I went to the captain and 'I said I cant take it anymore, I'm not sleeping, I'm not eating, I need some help' and they put me in the hospital and that was the beginning of my trip home. I was in hospitals throughout France, then I was sent on a train to Cherbourg to board the Francis White Slanger ship, named after the first American nurse killed in the war, in Europe.

    Seven days later we were in New York and I was entered into Mason General Hospital. I was given a free call home so I called Tucson, Arizona and they didn't know where my folks were. I didn't know where I'd be sent, and being in the army you go where they tell you to go. After a week I was sent on a hospital train and that was going to San Francisco. On the way I asked the Red Cross girl to see if she could locate my folks and she did! By the time we got to Salt Lake City, I got news my folks were in Preston, Arizona and still doing OK. We went to San Francisco, then I went to Menlo Park into Dibble General hospital, where I stayed until December.

    In December I got my discharge and some back pay and some travel pay to Massachusetts, which wasn't much in those days. I met a friend who had a taxi and he took me out to the main highway and I thumbed my way down to Glendale where I had some friends. I had a friend who grew up in Haydenville, his folks had moved to Glendale and while I was visiting there for a little bit my friends sister came in with her husband and I told them my plight. They said they'd drive me to Preston and I was one thankful vet. I really felt that this was a godsend. We drove day and night, it was probably 500 miles and I got home. My kid brother was in the service too, I don't know where he was stationed but it wasn't long before he came home to Preston as well.

    I've kept in touch with a good many of my fellow soldiers. Every September we'd have a reunion as long as we could, we always would do something. There aren't many of us left. Two of my Sergeants put together a newsletter. They put out the newsletter on a regular basis, probably 3 times a year and kept track of all the guys that were in our battery, but they've since passed away. I haven't been in touch with hardly any of them since. I do have contact with one person down in Pennsylvania, Sgt. Wendell Roberts.

    My best buddy, the one I went all the way through with, Jake Derrick signed up in the reserves after the war. They put him in the Air Force and he made good connections there and became a staff sergeant. They sent him to Korea in the Air Force. He married a French girl before they left France during the war. They moved to California. I got word from his sister - Jake went to work one day and came out after work, got in his wagon and keeled over. Dead of a brain tumor at 44 years old. I kept in touch with his family.

    It's kind of heartbreaking but many of these guys are in their 90s. Down to one person that I knew. With transfers and such there were probably 200-300 in my outfit. Where they are I have no idea.

  • Dominic Mangialardi,
    Westchester, New YorkMORE...

    My name is Dominic Mangialardi. I was born in Bronx, NY, on September 3, 1924.

    In the summer, we took frequent walking trips to the zoo, which was a couple miles from our house. In those days it was a pleasure to walk around the streets. You had no problems with other people. I had two brothers. My father was a barber. He came from Italy as a young boy. He opened a barber shop and did very well.

    I was with some friends in a diner in my neighborhood when we heard on the radio that the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor. I guess I was about fifteen. It didn't quite register. I'd never heard of Pearl Harbor. I met my wife at that time. She was a drum majorette. I was playing the drums in the band. I used to know her brothers. They were neighborhood people. So we all knew each other. In fact, we used to march in all of the parades together. I got my draft card when I turned eighteen. I volunteered for the navy because I didn't want to go to the army. I heard stories that they would spend weeks and months in the woods eating out of canteens and all that stuff. Going to the bathroom in the woods. I said, this is not for me. I heard that in the navy you had cold and hot running water. Cold and hot food, a bed to sleep on. I often tell my family, as young people, we really didn't think about what was going on. We thought more about what our parents were fearing. That we weren't home with them.

    I reported for duty on March 26, 1943. I met with a few fellas from the neighborhood and we took the train down to Penn Station. At the recruiting office, they assigned us to a group. They put us on another train and we went up to Pennsylvania, up New York state, almost to the Canadian border. I think it was Geneva, New York. Sampson Boot Camp. After our long ride, they took us for breakfast. What was our breakfast? Beans. Navy beans. Who ever heard of having beans for breakfast? They made us shower and they gave us clothes. We had to go through a line and the guy would just look at you and he knew your size. That was the first day. That was Sampson, New York.

    We'd get up at 0500 and we'd run around the track. Maybe a mile or whatever it was. Then we'd have breakfast. Then we went to a documentary orientation. I spent three months there. I remember a few guys there, but I didn't keep in touch. I lost contact with everybody after the war.

    We were all assigned different places. I was assigned to the Philadelphia Naval Hospital. I worked there for a few months. After that, we went to Lido Beach for a few days before disembarking. I used to come home at night, because it was right by the Long Island railroad. The night we learned we were going to leave the next day, I went home and didn't tell my mother. I left my keys on the refrigerator.
    We sailed out on the Queen Mary without an escort, because she was supposed to be the fastest ship on the water. There were thousands of men on the ship. Army guys and navy guys. It was mostly army, because they were preparing for the invasion of Europe. We ended up in Scotland. We stayed for a couple of weeks. I was assigned to a construction battalion. I was with them for a while. We visited Glasgow and Edinburgh. I have a picture of me in a kilt. We visited London and some other places in England. I never worked with British soldiers, but I did meet them when we went into town. Officers read your mail so you couldn't give any information away. As D-Day neared, we were given orders to return to the United States.

    I came back to Boston, where stayed a week or two until we got reassigned. We all got leave to come home. As we were on the train coming home from Boston, I was with five or six guys from my area and we were comparing our leave papers. My papers said thirty days leave. Another guy's papers said a little longer than that. So I said "I'll come back with you." We all met at the same time, the same day. Sure enough when I went back to Boston, they grabbed me at the door because I was over leave by one day. They said, "Look, you come back when your papers say to come back. And not when your friend's papers say to come back." I was restricted to the place for a while.

    They reassigned me with another group of guys to pick up a new landing ship outside of Chicago. While we were there, most of the guys had gunnery practice in the Great Lakes, shooting targets in the sky. Naturally, me being a medical man, we weren't allowed to carry a firearm.

    We had to go down the Mississippi river with the ship partially built. From Chicago to New Orleans. There, they assembled the rest of it. Then we went to Mobile, Alabama, then out into the ocean for a shakedown cruise to check the ship out. We came back to Mobile and they loaded us up with ammunition. We sailed to Panama and they kept us in the bay because we were carrying ammunition. When they saw a clearing for us they gave us an okay and sailed us through the canal. They wanted us to go through as fast as possible. Roosevelt died during that trip.

    We had time to kill and our captain took the ship fishing on the way. We were headed for Okinawa. Guam was our first stop. We used to sit up topside in the evening, smoking cigars. Once it got dark there was no light outside of the ship. It was like a cruise. Somehow, before we got there, I got orders to return home. I never made it to Japan. In that period of time, the war ended.

    They put me on another ship back to San Diego. I was going home on leave. I said, "I'm never going back to California, the war's over." Sure enough, after thirty days, I went to the navy yard in Brooklyn and they gave me orders to go back to California. I picked up another ship there. We went up and down the coast. That's where I spent the last days of my service. Then they sent me to Lido Beach, Long Island, where I was discharged on March 6, 1946.
    When I came home, thousands of guys were out here getting jobs. There were really no jobs for guys like me because I got out late. I applied for a couple of schools. I couldn't get in. It was crowded. Everyone went for the GI bill in those days.

    I found a few jobs temporarily. I did side jobs to make a few extra bucks. I worked as a taxi driver. I worked in the garment district in New York. I worked for another man who was making office cabinets. Finally, a friend of my brother's told me they were looking for butchers. I wasn't a butcher but I'd worked in butcher shops for a long time. I went and they hired me and sent me to their school, and that's where I ended up.

    I kept in touch with Nancy. We were going out. That was 1946. I used to go out with this gang of guys and she used to go out with this club of girls. We used to go out Saturday nights with them. We danced to jukebox music. We used to meet once a month. One guys house this month, another guy's house the next. Before you know it, each one of us was getting married. We all started having families. My oldest daughter was born in 1950. My second daughter was in 1955. My son came later. I have three kids. My oldest daughter is a Catholic school teacher. My son is a lawyer and he's in the New York State guard. I retired in 1989.

  • Dr. Roscoe Brown,
    The Bronx, New YorkMORE...

    I'm Dr. Roscoe C. Brown Jr. I'm from Washington, D.C. and I was born on March 9, 1922. I graduated from Springfield College in Massachusetts in 1943.

    Many people are not aware today that the military in this country was racially segregated. Most black troops in the past had been laborers and quartermasters. But because of the desire of many African-American youths like myself to fly airplanes, we were able to enter the Tuskegee Airman, after the NAACP and the black press pressured the president to establish a flying unit for African-Americans.

    My training occurred in Alabama, where there was a famous black university, the Tuskegee Institute. I graduated as a fighter pilot in March, 1944. I left to go overseas and join the 332 Fighter Group at Ramitelli Airfield. I flew my first mission on August 21, 1944. Because we flew B-51s with shiny red tails, we were known as the Red Tail Angels.
    We lived in tents all through the airfield, which was about 5,000 feet long, going right down to the Adriatic Sea. Many of the Italian civilians worked with us and brought us eggs and chickens and so on. And we would give them a little money to help clean up our tents.

    When missions were scheduled, you would have to get up at 05:00, go to the briefing where they told us the target and you'd take off around 08:00. Then you'd fly the mission and come back around 12:30 and go to a debriefing. Then you would rest, play a little poker. Have dinner. Go to bed. The next day you were flying again. I was there almost a year. Every day you knew you were going to have to fly. After you flew four or five missions you'd have a day off, and after you flew about ten or twelve missions you'd go to a rest camp in another part of Italy. I flew sixty-eight combat missions until the end of the war.

    Our missions were memorable, because you were sitting in a single-engine plane for five hours, flying over enemy territory, escorting the bombers. But the most dangerous missions were strafing missions, where you'd come close to the ground to shoot up airplanes or tanks on the ground. That's where we lost most of our pilots. Once, I got too low shooting at a train and hit it, and bent up half my wing. But I was able to control it and flew the 500 miles back to our base and was able to land it.

    On March 24, 1945, I was one of the first American pilots to shoot down a jet plane. I shot down an Me-262 over the heart of Berlin. Near the end of the war, we went there to bomb a tank factory on the edge of the city. We didn't know we were going to meet any enemy fighters. Then we heard them. They had jets coming out to attack the bombers. I flew down beneath the bombers, turned away from a jet so he didn't see me, then turned back and blew him up.

    We flew our last mission in April, 1945 and stayed another few months before getting transferred back to the United States.

    I resumed my academic career and earned a PhD in 1951, and became a professor at New York University. Later, I became the head of the Institute of African-American Affairs, which was one of the first black studies programs in the country. In 1977, I became the President of Bronx Community College, where I served for sixteen years. Presently, I'm Director for the Center for Urban Education Policy at the CUNY Graduate Center. I think it's important for people to realize that World War 2 was a watershed. Not only fighting fascism, but racism. We became aware of the fact that an African-American can do anything anyone else can do. And all of us knew we'd made a sacrifice. We had the G.I. Bill, we went to college, we got degrees, we started businesses. That began, in a sense, the Civil Rights Movement.

  • George Dellon,
    The Bronx, New YorkMORE...

    My name is George Dellon. I was born on August 9, 1921 in Kings County Hospital, Brooklyn. My childhood was very dull and as I got into my teens I was becoming athletic. I specialized in handball and because of that I met my wife, believe it or not. My handball partner was my future wife's cousin and that's how we got together. Happy days!
    After finishing school, the war broke out and I got drafted in 1942. I had my basic training at the Atlantic City and it was very nice - fresh air, the ocean! We were staying in a hotel and I was sharing a room with another G.I. It was a wonderful room with private bath. We were getting all our training done on the boardwalk, it was like a vacation. Well, just with rigorous exercises.

    I was then sent to a replacement depot in Salt Lake City, Utah. There, I was assigned to the B-17 group as a gunner and went to Washington. We spent a few weeks there and then moved to Great Falls with the 20th squadron. It was a small town with couple movie theaters, few bars, a main street and once we arrived - quite a few soldiers. The population was only around a thousand people. We performed various kinds of exercises there. I was in Great Falls with the 20th squadron, whereas the other squads were in Glasgow, Lewistown and Cut Bank, Montana. We all got together at a particular place and carried out our training assignments

    And after several months of training our squadron was sent to North Africa, believe it or not. In 1943, I ended up being in Morocco. We stayed there for a month or so. The experience in North Africa was great for me as I haven't seen such things in the United States. When we were staying in Morocco, we saw different kinds of people, mostly Arabs, who used to travel on donkeys. It was like a vacation to me. I got to meet people who were very unlike me and who were totally different form the people I grew up with. But, the Arab people were always looking for something to steal. Particularly in the evenings - there would always be an Arab thief walking around the camp area. They would get shot occasionally by the guards. And one time, I heard yelling and I got out of my bed. I saw an Arab that was shot on leg and the doctor was trying to remove part of clothing from his leg. But, there were layers and layers of clothing. I don't know if that fellow ever took a bath.

    When traveling in North Africa we sometimes would buy meat off Arabs. One of our guys would go into a village or a market to get some meat from the Arab stands, which were usually pretty dirty and full of flies. Also, we had no refrigeration system so we would dig a big hole in the dessert. We'd put the remaining of the meat there to keep it a little cool for the rest of the day. That was the best we could do in order to have relatively fresh meat. Everything else was canned food.

    From Morocco, we travelled to Algeria in a town called Aïn M'lila. We stayed in various towns for another 6 or 7 months in Algeria and then moved towards Tunisia and ended up in the capital, the city called Tunis. In Tunis it was very interesting as our 5th Bombardment Wing Headquarters was in the city. I met a few Jewish people in Tunis, but sadly they lived very much like the Arabs. I was very impressed to see them as they were poor and you know, they didn't speak my language, I didn't speak theirs so we couldn't really communicate. When I met them, I only said "hello" and they gave me couscous to eat and that was it. There were also a few French people there. There was one French family and they invited us for dinner one night. They made couscous, it was very good. I wish I had a picture of this French person as he was wearing knee-length pantaloons and slippers that night. He used to operate the salt mines. So, I have met people like that whom I would never come across before.

    We stayed in Tunisia until we were finally able to get into Italy. Once we got into Italy we started flying air missions. I was a gunner on a B-17 plane. We'd have 3 air rides a day sometimes. The Battle of Monte Cassino was happening at that time and the Germans were holding an abbey on the top of the mountain. We started bombing the peak of the Monte Cassino and we hit them 3 times, couldn't get them out of there. Eventually the infantry had to take them out by hand. It still remains a very famous battle.
    Our base was in Foggia, a city in Southern Italy, and there were many, many airfields in this city. One time, Mussolini conducted a phony air show there and brought all his aircrafts to one place so that people would get impressed by the quantity of planes and the size of his air force. When we were in Foggia, our group was flying so called "shuttle missions". We used to take off from Foggia, bomb a target in Romania and land somewhere in Russian. We would spend a day and a half in Russia, and then do the same thing again - take off, hit the target and land back in Italy. One thing impressed me about the Russian base - the guards were all women; tough ladies, heavy drinkers.

    We remained in Foggia until the war was completely over and we carried out all missions from there. We also hit Berlin which was a long trip for us, many hours coming and going back.

    We lost several lives and it didn't bother me when I was young. But in my late seventies, I began to get bad dreams about it and I could hear people screaming as they were going down.

    Towards the end of the war my boys flew our 500-th mission; there was a reporter with a photographer and everything, I think it was more of a publicity thing. But I wasn't there for that because I right about that time I got hospitalized.

    I ended up in the headquarters because I couldn't fly anymore as I had contracted several diseases. I had dysentery, which put me out of commission for some time. I was out from the hospital in a month or two and then I contracted yellow jaundice. When I came out again from the hospital, I was grounded from flying and that's how I ended up in the headquarters. My last commanding officer was General John D. Ryan, also known as Three Finger Ryan. He later became the seventh Chief of Staff of the United States Air Force.
    After the war was over there, people were being rotated and sent back to the United States based on the number of points. There was a system where points were assigned for everything including time in service, rank, evacuations, missions etc. I was among the very first groups coming back to the States. At that time, the war with Japan was still going on. I came home on the Liberty Ship and we docked in Newport News, Virginia. We got there at night and in the morning the band there began playing "Welcome home". We went to the shore and we were served fresh steak and milk. It felt really good when they were asking how we would like our steak done, rare or medium! I was home! Everybody went crazy as we were also able to have hot showers. Back in the wartime, we could only bathe ourselves with water we could get in our helmets. It was good, really good. But, I still had the orders to report to Rapid City, North Dakota for reassignment into as the war was still going on in the Pacific.

    Luckily (or luckily for only some people), the A-bomb got dropped my re-assignment was to stay home. I was in Fort Dix for two days and they wanted me to stay longer. I told them I could stay if they would give me payment and rank, but they declined. I said, "Let me out then", and I got out just like that in two days. That's how much I wanted to get out! My parents threw a party for me after being released from the military.

    I started working soon and realized that I did not have that many skills so I was floundering between jobs. Worked in a store, tried my hands on insurance, but that didn't last. I ended up operating at the parking facility and made my living from that.

    Now, we like to spend a lot of time at Riverdale Y Senior Center performing activities with people like ourselves. Sometimes, we even go there for lunch. We also get busy with our grandchildren. I am having a little difficulty walking these days and I walk with a cane. My wife is a big benefit to me and she thinks she is my mother. We have been married now for 66 years.

  • Harold Dinzes,
    Passaic, New JerseyMORE...

    My name is Harold Dinzes. I was born December 24, 1916 in the back of the old Opera House on East 36th Street in New York City. I was raised in Brooklyn. We lived on New Jersey Avenue, in East New York. My father built office partitions, then the Depression hit. I was fifteen. My father went to work for my uncle, for practically nothing, so he could keep food on the table. One Sunday, I was over at a friend's house in Clifton, NJ and we had the radio on and we heard the announcement that the attack on Pearl Harbour had happened. Both of us got into the car and ran it to New York. I don't know why, but we went there. Everybody was up in a dither.

    In June 1942, my number got drafted. I was sent to Fort Belvoir, Virginia, to the engineering school. For some particular reason or another, I was interested in explosives. I took a liking to the instructor and paid attention to what was going on, eventually got the chance to go to officer candidate school and took it. Before I knew it, I was a second lieutenant.

    When I first got into the service, I was in the 169th Combat Battalion and all of a sudden they changed everything around and created the Air Force. My outfit became the 164th Aviation Battalion. I started teaching about demolitions and booby traps. I went all over the country to different forts, camps, teaching and learning. Because I was good at what I was doing with explosives, I gave lectures to all the officers that were way up in the line, including, once, a general. I taught everything I knew. I like to believe that because of the lectures, I saved an awful lot of lives on our side.

    I was stationed at an airfield in Tallahassee and was going with a girl from the Tallahassee State College for Women. One night, we were out on a date and she started crying. I said, "What's up?" She said, "You're going overseas." I said, "What are you talking about? I didn't hear a damned thing. How did you find out?" And she said, "You know, what's-his-name's girlfriend, she works in the offices at the base." Sure enough, we shipped out within a couple of months. They boxed up our equipment and sent us to the West Coast. This was 1943. It took over a week to get across the country, on a tube train that had been in use since 1918, from the days when they had "40&80." Forty horses and eighty men. In a goddamn boxcar.

    We boarded the ship at San Francisco, if I'm not mistaken, and sailed across the Pacific in about three weeks, unescorted. Japanese subs were all over the place, but we didn't use evasive tactics, we just went as fast as we could. On the way there, they told us we were going to New Guinea. There must have been, I'm guessing, eight thousand troops aboard that ship and I bet maybe ten people on the whole ship knew where New Guinea was, or what it was. I happened to know because I had always been interested in faraway places and read about them all the time. I lectured on where we were going, but it was impossible to tell these guys we were going to the jungle because all they could think about was exotic girls, all the rest of the stuff, you know, the hula girls. They were sadly disillusioned when we got to Milne Bay. 

    The jungle came right out to the waterline. I got off the ship and stepped on land and there was a native there, standing with his bow and arrow, his spear. He looked at me, I looked at him and it was like we were from different worlds. I had studied the books they gave us on the language, Pidgin English. I still have the books. He was shaking like a leaf. I asked him, "Where is your house, where do you live?" And he looked at me like where the hell did I come from? From Mars. They have no concept of time. He tells me his house could be ten days or ten years. You never could tell where they live or where they are. After a while, I got to be pretty fluent.

    We got put to work helping with the airfields that were in the process of being finished. At the time, I had about 166 men underneath me and I had to keep them fed with the rations we were getting from the service, as well as stuff we were getting from Australia. We never starved to death, but it wasn't the kind of food you'd like to eat. To enhance the meals, we would do some fishing. With hand grenades. The fish would float up and the natives would tell you which ones you could eat. Soon, the fighting was going our way.

    The Japanese had some very high class marines who had seen previous combat, but they had to pull them out because we had the Australians there, who were also very good fighters. From that point on, it was the Japanese backing off from island to island, and you know what happened then, the history of the war. I can't praise the Australians enough for the fighting that they did. Once, when the Japanese marines were coming through the jungle, every one of our available men, whether sick or wounded, dying, it didn't make any difference, went up on the line. They came across one of the airfields and we had all our guns lined up, shooting with no obstruction whatsoever. And they kept charging across. The massacre was so great, we buried six hundred men in a common grave, with a bulldozer. We couldn't take the time and give them a courtesy of a proper burial, because after one day in the jungle, everything started to rot and pop apart. Six hundred in one common grave.

    Even after that, there were still Japanese in the jungle. There would be enemy fire and we'd get there and wouldn't know where they were. I got sick and tired of it, so one day I requisitioned two .50 caliber anti-aircraft guns on mounts. Bullets that would take your arm off if they hit you. And we put them in the jungle and opened up, sprayed the place to hell. I didn't care who we killed. I never knew whether the Japanese were in there or not, but we didn't get bothered too much after that, after we sprayed the place. We also sometimes sent the natives out as scouts, to find someone to interrogate, and they would bring back heads. I told them I couldn't talk to a head, I had to get some information. When the first Japanese POWs came in, we put them to work. There were so few that gave themselves up. It was so uncommon, people actually showed up from hundreds of miles away to see one. They just never gave up. There would still be soldiers out there, refusing to stop, decades after the war, some of them.

    Anyway, there was a demand for aviation engineers to different places because we needed airfields badly. I got alerted. We didn't know where we were going to go. You got an alert, you have so much time to load up, get your equipment ready. They sent us off in convoy, on a ten thousand ton steamer. We went up the coast to Manila and I'l never forget when we got to the harbour, which was a deep sea harbour where ships could come right up to the land. The whole bay was scattered with blown up ships, all you could see was the mast sticking up, a funnel here and there because it was a big ship. The captain of our ship was an old Dutchman who had been a Navy man, he'd been called back to service, he threaded that ship through there like he was driving an automobile. I stood on the bridge and watched him maneuver the ship into the bay, and I thought he was going to blow us the hell up. He got us in safely.

    There, the Japanese had taken bodies, dead animals, refuse and thrown it all in the reservoir. They knew what they were doing. It would occupy nine or ten people to take care of a single person in a hospital. Not just wounded, but sick. The diseases that were going around, people were dropping like flies. Everybody in my outfit had malaria, myself included. The pill for it tasted horrible. An order had come down to stand there while my men swallowed it. I'd line the guys up and give them the pill and make sure they took it. But a guy would swallow it and the moment you'd turn around and go on to the next person, they'd spit the damned thing out.

    We had filtration systems set up. But it was so hot. They'd tell you not to drink the water. When you're dying of thirst and there's so much of it...

    Eventually, I got injured and got an infection in my ankle. I couldn't get it fixed where I was, so I found an outfit nearby that had an army doctor. An overweight man in his forties. I asked what he was doing there. He had volunteered. The bone was beginning to stick out of my foot. He gave me a concoction he himself had created, and it worked. He put a bandage over it and told me to keep my foot dry. But the minute I stepped out of the tent, there was water waist deep. You couldn't keep dry. It was impossible to do.

    When the war was ending, I was at a field hospital. I had my bed on the veranda outside, because there was no room inside. There was a medical captain to my right and an eighteen year old from a Filipino combat outfit that had been fighting against the Japanese. The kid came running up to where we were one day, saying, "Captain, they just said on the radio they dropped a bomb equal to 15,000 tons of TNT." I said, "Get the hell out of here. Go back to whatever you were doing and don't come bothering me like that." When I used TNT in the service, the most I ever used was ten or twenty pounds at a time. To blow up a bridge. To mine something. Set traps. This was an unheard of sum. He ran away, then he came back and said, "Sir, they're saying it all over again on the radio." So I went there. I didn't know what the hell an atom bomb was. I couldn't conceive of anything that powerful. Nothing like that existed. It couldn't be. But it was, of course. 

    The day, that night, when we thought that was going to be the end of it, one of our ships full of ammo blew up in the harbour. Everybody started firing their guns. The guys were going crazy, thinking we were being attacked. Bullets bouncing off the embankment. We got under our beds. I was praying, thinking "it's a hell of a time to get killed," you know. Fighting's going to be over and one of our guys is going to kill us. Finally, the MPs got control of what was going on. They took the weapons and got everything calmed down.

    About six months later, everybody started going home. They prioritized people by how much combat they'd seen. How far you'd been overseas and where. I was in the Philippines for almost two years. I remained there for several months after. This was 1944. McArthur's Manila.

    One day, I got a call from the officer in charge and he told me to get dressed because I was being considered for promotion. I had no nice clothes, I'd been out in the field. I dug into my duffel bag and found an old uniform, put it on and went there. I rode in a coupe with some others who were up for promotion. Everybody was dressed clean as a whistle. I was sweating like a pig, I was nervous as hell. I hadn't seen that much brass since I got out of the States. All the sudden, we're at attention and a two-star general walks into the room. He tells us to be seated. "Don't worry, the guy you're going to see is not that bad, he's a nice fellow." He put us at ease. Because my name started with a D, I was one of my first guys called to be interrogated by this group of army officers that was there. The general was sitting in the middle of them. He asked me questions pertaining to mathematics with the engineering we were doing, which was so basic that a kid in high school could have passed. He was smart as a whip. He knew I was jumping. And he says, "That'll do, Captain." He was telling me I got promoted. Right there.

    I was also put in for an award by a commanding officer. He put me in for the Bronze Star, without my knowing it. Eventually, without my knowing it, I got it. The army works in mysterious ways. I am now 95 years of age. I still have trouble with my injury. I'm a disabled vet. The army has taken care of me with the problems I've had since. I've got stories. I could tell stories till I'm blue in the face.

  • Irwin Rosenzweig,
    Ambler, Pensilvania MORE...

    I was born in Philadelphia on August 17, 1921. For the first three years of my life I lived in my grandfather's house, in the Kensington section of Philadelphia, then we moved to Poplar Street, which was the inner city. It was the worst slum in Philadelphia, but there was a veneer of Jewish merchants along the street. I went to Central High School.

    When I lost my virginity, I must have been sixteen years old. It was two dollars. You got a towel and a condom. I knew the condom, I could figure out what you did with that. She was lying on the bed on her back and I got on top of her and she was saying to me, "Don't just lie there, you have to go up and down." I said, "I am going up and down. Your hips have to go up and down." She taught me how to get into sex. I had a very good professor, a two-dollar high yellow in Atlantic City in a back alley, somewhere with really red lights. The whole street lit with red lights. I was sixteen. I was very impressed. Now I know I was a little shit, but in those days I thought I was a big shot.

    Before the war I was going to the University of Pennsylvania. I was in the second year and they were getting pretty close to my draft number. I wasn't too eager to be in the army, but I knew I had to be. There was a war on. I left school and I went down to Washington, D.C. to work in the Pentagon building, where I worked for two years. I enlisted in the army, into a training school for fixing radios and airplanes. We moved around. One part of it was a semester at Johns Hopkins University, and then I finally went into the army at Fort Mead, Maryland. From there I was sent to the army airbase in Columbia, South Carolina, where I did my basic training.

    Then I was shipped overseas. It took us five weeks to cross the Atlantic, because we were zigzagging to avoid submarines. We always had airplanes flying over us, looking for them. Luckily, none got near us.

    I was stationed in Norfolk, England for two years during the war. I was attached to the 8th Air Force B-24 Bombers. With other guys in my unit, I took care of the radios. The planes had to speak to each other. They had to speak to the tower. And they each had a magnetic radio, so they could find their way home.

    We must have had thirty or forty bombers out on the field all the time. Every morning at 0500, they would start making a formation and by 0800 they would start on their way to Germany. The Americans bombed in the daytime. The English bombed at night.

    There was no oxygen in the cabin. They all wore oxygen masks and there was no heat. They wore sheep lined jackets. Each guy on the flight wore a parachute in case there was a problem, they could jump out and parachute down.

    I stayed on the ground. I admired those guys, but I wasn't one of them.

    I never flew in combat, but I flew every chance I had. Sometimes the pilots would fly up to Scotland to buy Scotch and I would go up with them. When I flew it wasn't dangerous.

    They had to do twenty-five missions and then they could go home, back to America. I would say 70% went back.

    One time, our planes were coming back and there were some Messerschmitts that had followed them back and were shooting at them. One plane must have been hit, because the guys in the plane all jumped. I saw these six or seven fellas coming down in parachutes. I always used to think that the parachute would billow down side to side, but they were coming straight down. I knew they had to break their legs when they hit the ground. That's the only time I saw our men parachuting.

    If a plane was damaged there was a large runway where planes that had been hit could come down because they didn't have all of their equipment. Often, when our planes came back, there were ambulances waiting for them. They had radioed ahead they had people in them who were injured.

    On several occasions, the Germans came over at night with flares and they lit the base up so they could see what was going on. We felt kind of helpless. They were at a high altitude and we couldn't reach them, and they dropped flares and took pictures.

    Finally, I was discharged and went back to Washington, where I had been working before the war. I matriculated at the American University School of Law and was there for one year, before transferring up to Philadelphia, where my family was. I graduated from Temple Law School.

    I met my wife when we were working on a political campaign. We knew each other, but not all that well. One day I took the train up to New York. I'm walking down the aisle and I see a young lady sitting there. From the back I didn't know it was Frieda, but I slipped in beside her and it turned out to be Frieda, and we were talking and she told me she was going up to northern New Jersey to dump some guy who had been a date. I figured any girl that would go that far to dump a guy must be pretty nice. Any time a girl dumped me, she called me up and said, "Listen, we're through." We had two-hours to talk to each other. When we came back to Philadelphia, we started dating.

    We were married for sixty years and we had three children and seven grandchildren. I had a general law practice. I did everything from adoptions to tax matters. After two or three years, I started to make some money. We were able to move out of a little house we were in, into a bigger house in Elkins Park, which is a nice neighborhood. I practiced law in Philadelphia for thirty-five or forty years, running from courtroom to courtroom, trying to scrape out a few bucks for my young family.
    Anyhow, I did alright. I came up from nowhere.

  • Jerry Berk,
    New Rochelle, New YorkMORE...

    My name is Jerry Berk and I was born on September 1st 1922 in Manhattan on the Lower East Side. I grew up in Brooklyn though, and I went to high school there too. I then went to Brooklyn College and spent three years plus before joining the Army. I asked for an early deployment because in those days if you chose to extend the draft date you were not able to choose the type of service to go into. So I chose the Army Air Corps because I wanted to become a meteorologist; I had studied some of that in school. I was inducted into the Army Air Corps on Dec 23rd 1942, and I reported for active duty on January 1st, 1943.

    I was in Kearns, Utah for my basic training when the meteorology program was closed before I could join. Instead of being discharged and then possibly drafted into the regular Army I chose to stay in the Air Corps. I became a medical technologist and from that point on I was in various station hospitals throughout the United States. There was a great need for personnel back then because the Army was expending a great number of troops in Europe. Because I spoke a little French I was put into advanced infantry training, and then they sent me with an evacuation hospital unit headed for France.

    So we went overseas and were the first ship to go directly from the United States into Le Havre, France, bypassing England. From there were traveled to a place in Germany called Bad Kreuznach where we occupied an Army hospital. We stayed there for quite a time until we were deployed into the south pacific through Marseille. Our unit was then shipped to Reims in France where we stayed for awhile.

    In Reims my cousin was in a nearby camp, as a major, and we took advantage of the proximately to Paris by going there quite often. We visited the Louvre one day and I saw something so amazing, a coincidence that was unbelievable. When I was a sergeant in Bad Kreuznach, and the war was winding down a lot of French slave laborers, holocaust victims, etc were being released. I was asked to go aboard the trains and pick out those who were in poor health for commitment to the hospital in Bad Kreuznach. All of these people were housed in forty- and- eights destined for Paris. A forty-and-eight is a boxcar; filled with straw to accommodate either forty men or eight horses. The train stopped in Bad Kreuznach for our surveying. On one occasion, one of the squad members came to me and said there's a woman who doesn't want to be sent to the hospital but is obviously sick. She was crouched to the corner, sitting on hay and trying not to be recognized. She was tremendously emaciated and looked like she was on her last leg. I went over to her and I said in French, "We'll have to put you in the hospital because you're quite ill." She said to me, "Sergeant, I don't want to go. If I'm to die I want to die in France and not Germany. I couldn't refuse that plea so I let her go back with the rest to Paris. When we were in Reims and visiting the Louvre that day I spoke about, my eye caught something that was unbelievable. There sitting was this woman, who had refused to be put into the hospital, painting a copy of the Mona Lisa. She was no longer emaciated but recognizable and I looked at her and she looked at me and we smiled. But I never spoke to her because I didn't want to renew old hatreds.

    After that we were deployed to Marseille and awaiting deployment to the south pacific when the war ended. That was May 8th 1945. We were all excited about it of course. Our hopes were that we would not be shipped to the south pacific and sure enough we were not. It was a great excitement, great joy. But the war in Japan was still going on. So we were on one hand thrilled that the war in Europe had ended, but on the other hand people were still dying. It was mixed feelings.

    I was young going into the war. I was twenty, I was pretty immature, hadn't been around much, hadn't been overseas and to me it was a big adventure. I never thought of any danger involved because you always feel that you're not going to be the one that gets it. So I was looking forward to the experience and to the different people I would meet. It was never a question of getting hurt or getting worse than that, killed.

    We landed in Newport News, Virginia when we came home. I was struck by the fact that in the camp, well fed Germans with well-pressed uniforms was serving us. This seemed a little odd to me because here was a group of guys who had suffered under terrible conditions being met by these prisoners of war who were sleek and well fed. It was a little frustrating for us to see this.

    After I was discharged inFort Devens Massachusetts I got a job in a small pharmaceutical plant in Manhattan for forty bucks a week as a chemist. Shortly thereafter I married my high school sweetheart, Jean. She had waited for me while I was away. I continued to work at the plant until I became part of a small pharmaceutical factory in Mt. Vernon. Once retired Jean and I joined a group called the IESC, the International Executive Service Corps. It sends executives with a certain expertise aboard to help companies in developing countries grow and prosper. We went to various parts of the world, maybe 30-40 countries. We were the first IESC people to go to China. It was right after the Cultural Revolution, and we made some good friends there.

    I was an immature kid when I went into the Army and it changed me. Some of those things I saw and heard and smelled made an impression that was lasting. You can't get rid of it. Every once in awhile I think of it. The pictures have dimmed over the years but we've changed; every one of us has changed.

  • Leon Lebowitz,
    Austin, TexasMORE...

    My name is Leon Lebowitz. I was born October 18, 1921. I grew up in Waco. My father had a clothing store in East Waco, called Dave Lebowitz Dry Goods. My mother also worked in the store, which meant that as a youngster I was raised in the store until my two younger sisters were born and my mother stayed home more. My folks had an apartment to the side of a very large house on 5th Street. I went to Waco High School.

    I went to Baylor Law School until 1942-43. I was in the Army Reserve, otherwise I'd have been drafted to go into the service much earlier. I worked in the library of the law school, as an assistant to the law librarian. I was called into active duty in 1944.
    I reported to Fort Walters in Mineral Wells. From there I took basic training at Fort Riley, Kansas. It was an old army cavalry base, and there were still some horses there. I attended advanced training in Forte Meade, Maryland. From there, we shipped off to North Africa, going from Casablanca, Morocco to Algiers and Oran in Algeria, eventually ending up in Naples, Italy.

    After some difficulty with the Germans, we occupied Rome. We were in relatively small groups. I remember visiting different parts of the city. The Vatican, the Coliseum. I got to see a lot of the relics the Romans had left behind. There were some Italians that were glad to work with us while we occupied. They got rations, food they otherwise might not have had.

    We went back to Naples for more training, then took part in the invasion of Southern France. We came up through the Rhone Valley, to Alsace-Lorraine. To Germany. I was in Nuremberg when the war ended. I read about it in the Stars and Stripes. I was excited to get home. By that time I was First Sergeant of my company. I got along well with my men. I returned once the war in Europe ended because I was in the reserve unit. I was discharged at Fort Riley in December.
    They had closed the law school I attended because of the war, and it reopened when I returned. I got a teaching job there. I helped put the law library back together. I taught classmates of mine who went into the service and were finally returning to finish their education. I got married and had two children. I taught for fifty-five years.

  • Lev Kaganovitch,
    Carteret, New JerseyMORE...

    I was born in Kirovograd on September 25, 1926. We lived there till 1941, and then were evacuated to the Rostov oblast, to Golubinka kolkhoz. But by the end of 1941, the Germans was already approaching Rostov oblast. We left for Stalingrad and were living near the Volga River on a boat. Later, in the winter of 1942, we moved to Pugachev where our uncle lived.

    Five families were living in one room there, four occupied the corners and one was in the middle. I was in my sixteenth year so I started to work with my mother. There was a water mill in town, and a generator. So I found work as an electrician's apprentice. And my mom was working at a spaghetti factory where they made noodles for hospitals. I worked at the mill till 1943, and then I turned seventeen, which was the draft age in the Soviet Union. So on October 1 I was called up for service.

    We were brought to Saratov. We were outfitted there and sent to the Rifle Regiment 534 outside Stalingrad. We only caught the tail end of the Battle for Stalingrad where the Germans were encircled and destroyed very soon after our division arrived.

    After Stalingrad, we were sent to Primorski Krai, to the town of Voroshilov-Ussuriisk. Then we walked 70 km to the Japanese border. It was pretty quiet there; no one tried to attack us. We were building defense lines, digging trenches. We had few alarms and a couple of close calls but really nothing to tell about. The Japanese were occupied fighting the Americans in the Pacific and the English in India then, so we were not their primary interest.

    In 1945, the Great Patriotic War as we call it, ended. Some people call it the Second World War, but for us it has a different meaning. But the war with Japan was still going on. On August 8, 1945, there was a regimental formation and the commander read out an operation order that on August 9 at 4:00 a.m. we were to set out against Japan, because they had taken over the whole of Manchuria.

    With the nightfall we arrived at our starting points. It was raining very hard and I had never seen such a downpour before. The water was running right along the trenches, and we weren't allowed to unroll our coat rolls. You would lie on one side till it got cold, and then you'd roll onto the other side. At four o'clock sharp there was a green rocket, which meant get up and go! We passed the frontier posts: all the Japanese soldiers were taken care of - our reconnaissance worked well. The order was not to touch anything and just pass by.

    Then we reached a frontier town, which we had to storm. The entrance into the town was a tunnel. Japanese soldiers were waiting for us and the attack was not successful. We didn't get through and we lost a lot of men there. We were withdrawn before nightfall and during the next night our artillery and aviation started their part. They did their work there, and in the morning we came in again. Everything was clouded with smoke. There was no one left in that town already, but there were these pillboxes where the samurais were sitting and waiting for us. They were offered to surrender but they didn't agree - I heard that the Japanese almost never gave up, for they were very proud people. So we did what we had to do.

    Then we proceeded to Kharbin in Khabarovsk Krai where there were a lot of Russians meeting us with bread and salt. All the Japanese soldiers retreated. We moved to the Yangtse direction where the Kwantung Army had their headquarters. On the way there we faced serious resistance from the Japanese, a few fights and a lot of casualties. I somehow managed to get away without a scratch, even though I never hid behind the backs of my fellow soldiers and was proactive in every fight.

    We passed by the Khingans, and there were only mounds and hills further on. One day we were marching through a hilled area and it was very peaceful and quiet, and then suddenly a machinegun started firing from somewhere. We were ordered to take the position, and figured out where the fire was coming from. We stormed the hill where the enemy was, and when we got to the top we saw just one samurai chained to the rock who was shooting from his machinegun. He got killed, of course. I guess his comrades had left them there to die.

    We finally reached Kwantung Army headquarters. It was September 3, and they didn't know about the capitulation of Japan yet. We were informed but their army commander didn't know anything about it. So we wanted to inform them about this before engaging in a fight, hoping they would surrender. We dispatched a few people to come to their outpost to talk it over. So they did, but the Japanese commanders didn't believe us, saying that there is no way Japan would surrender - and if they did, wouldn't the Japanese Army know first?

    Our guys were smart and said "We are giving you one day to contact your authorities. You are surrounded and don't stand a chance in a fight. But we don't want to kill you, for your country is lost and there is no need for more people to die." The next day we got a message from the Japanese that they got in touch with their people. And so, they surrendered. The whole Kwantung Army surrendered to us without a shot fired. I was happy we didn't have to kill anyone.

    We took over their headquarters and their food and weapons. We took them as prisoners of war, and later they got transported to a camp in Primorski Krai, somewhere in the Ussuri taiga. I know that some were sent home and some remained in various labor camps. Many died in camps as they weren't used to the cold.

    I got demobilized later, and proceeded with my life. Many things have happened since then, which I'm not particularly keen on talking about right now. The biggest event was that I moved to the United States with my family and I really miss my home now. That's all I want to say.

  • Mickey Ganitch,
    San Leandro, CaliforniaMORE...

    My name is Mickey Ganitch. I was born November 18, 1919 in Mogadore, Ohio, which is a little town just outside of Akron. I graduated from high school in 1937. Due to the stock market crash, jobs were very scarce. I came to California in 1939.

    I joined the navy on January 21, 1941. When I went to boot camp in San Diego, they asked me what I'd like to do. I became a quartermaster, whose job is steering the ship and helping to navigate. They assigned me to the USS Pennsylvania on August 15, 1941, which was a battleship at Pearl Harbor. I also joined the ship's football team. We trained at sea during the week and stayed in port during the weekends. In December, the Japanese attack came while we were dry-docked because of mechanical issues with the propeller. We had a game scheduled that afternoon with the USS Arizona, for the fleet football championship. We were scrimmaging in the morning when the phone rang.

    My battle station was up in the crow's nest, about seventy feet up in the air. I didn't have time to change clothes. I had all my padding on except my helmet and spikes, and up I went. By the time I got there, planes were buzzing around, buildings were burning, ships were burning, everybody was shooting in all kinds of directions.

    During the second attack, they hit us with a five-hundred pound bomb. It came between me and the smokestack and missed me by about forty-five feet. It went through two decks before exploding. Had it exploded on contact I wouldn't be sitting here talking to you. We lost twenty-three men, with many more injured.

    Later, in the Philippines, there was a whole fleet of ships because the invasion was going on. A kamikaze hit one of the destroyers and it set off the torpedoes. I had one hand holding on, another hand trying to turn the ship. One torpedo went right underneath us. When it went off, the ship was tilted enough that it just missed.

    By the end of our time in the Philippines, our guns would no longer shoot straight. They sent us back to the States to get refitted. We were back for about three months. In the meantime, we got ready for the invasion of Japan. On August 12, 1945, after both bombs were dropped, we arrived in Okinawa and that same night, a Japanese plane aimed its torpedo at my ship. It hit the propellers on the right side. Twenty-six quartermasters died that night. The next morning, the Japanese asked for peace. We were towed to shallow waters so that if we sank, we would just sink in the mud instead of any further down. We were able to stay afloat. Then they towed us to Guam. The war was over.

    We started having problems with one of the remaining propellers on the way back to the States. We stopped the ship and put divers over the side to see what they could do for it. Then sharks surrounded the ship and we pulled the divers back out of the war. We put marines with rifles in boats to keep the sharks away from the divers while they worked on the propellers. They got them fixed so we could get back.

    The military wanted to see what effect the atomic bomb would have on ships. There were plenty of damaged ships from the war to use for tests. This was September, 1946. We operated on a skeleton crew at that time. We scheduled two tests. One in the air, one underwater blast. They put us in the harbor and we anchored the ships and they told us to look away from it. Even with my eyes closed, I still saw the flash. After testing on ships, they wanted to know what effect it would have on animals. I'm a farm boy, so they put me in charge of the animals. Pigs, goats, mice, sheep. We put them various places throughout ships and spread the ships out. We put an atomic bomb at the middle of all the ships, under water. We watched a big wall of water go over the ships. I took inspectors aboard to show them were all the animals had been. After that, they told me to throw away my clothes and take a good shower. That was all the protection I had. Must not have affected me too much because I have all these grandchildren, great-grandchildren, great-great-grandchildren. In 1948, they decided our ship had become too radioactive. They ended up torpedoing it.

    That same year I was assigned to the USS Mt Katmai, an ammunition ship. Our job was to supply other ships so they wouldn't have to come back to port. I was on that for sixty-eight months. This one day, the lookouts reported a floating mine dead ahead. We had eight-thousand tons of ammunition. We steered and the wash of the ship had pushed the mine aside. We had nowhere to go. I could count the spokes on it. We were very fortunate it didn't go off when we passed through it. We set it off with rifles later.

    I married my first wife in 1953. I adopted her three kids. My first wife died in 1961 and was single for two years. I met my second wife when I was recruiting. I married her in September, 1963. I retired from the navy a month later.

    Those last couple years I was in the navy, I worked in a bowling alley in East Oakland. One of the bowlers there asked me to come work for him. He was a fishing net manufacturer. I worked for him for twenty years. After I turned sixty-five, I ended up working security in the naval air station in Alameda. I worked there until they closed in 1996. I've been on the unemployed list ever since.
    I've been to Japan many times since the war ended. They were our enemies once, now they're our good friends. To me, it's like a football game, like a sport. You're enemies on the field, maybe you'll go out to supper after. I have no animosity whatsoever. I drive a Japanese car. What is done you can't change. You look to the future.

    Now I'm associated with the Fleet Reserve Association, the American Legion, the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the Masonic Lodge, the Disabled American Veterans, what's left of Pearl Harbor Survivors. I've been the head usher of my church for forty-six years. I'm a volunteer at a VA clinic in Oakland.

    Beyond that, I don't do much of anything. I just goof around.

  • Mortimer Sheffloe,
    Sun city, TexasMORE...

    My name is Mortimer Sheffloe. I was born in Crookston, Minnesota on November 27th, 1924. I had 5 siblings, all girls. My youth in Crookston was a pleasant time. Mothers didn't worry about their kids, we could do whatever we wanted. Us kids enjoyed that freedom.

    My father passed away when I was in 10th grade. My cub scout master looked out for me and helped me find jobs. My mother was working, and I needed to as well. I had worked a newspaper route as a kid, but our family needed more income. During High School, I got a job with the gas company as a meter reader. I used to miss about a week of school a month on that job.

    I also worked with the telephone company on toll patrol, and during my senior year I replaced our school janitor who was drafted. I wasn't very competitive or athletic in High School. I played football but was only 138 pounds, which even then made me pretty small. Academically, I was about in the middle of my class.

    In April 1943, I took a test administered to boys throughout the country to determine qualifications for the A-12 Army College Training program. I took the test, and four weeks later I learned that I passed and was able to enter the Army.

    After entering service, 35 of us were put on a train at Fort Snelling, Minnesota, headed for basic training in Texas. We got to Dallas, then took a bus to Camp Fannin in Tyler, Texas. At the camp, we had four companies of trainees, with 4 platoons in each company. We spent 13 weeks of training in the heat of a Texas summer, from July to September 1943.

    When training finished, the entire battalion was put on a train to Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas. We all would have rather gone somewhere like Southern California. Texas A&M was an all boys school at the time. We were enrolled as army students in their basic engineering program, and took general classes with the rest of the student body.

    I went to the theater one Sunday evening for a movie. They had a long newsreel on the Marine landing on Tarawa, which was a horrible battle with a lot of casualties. After seeing the destruction, I wanted to get out of the program and leave school altogether. I didn't ask for a discharge though, I just quit studying.

    When my roommates were studying in the evening, I silently read magazines at the latrine. That lasted for 3 weeks, and my grades suffered. In January 1944 I was extracted from the program. They placed me in a temporary basics program. We served my former classmates and washed dishes.

    We were then sent to Camp Polk, Louisiana but never got on the base. We were trucked out to the woods of Louisiana, where our platoon unloaded the truck and made a bonfire. We spent two days around the fire until we joined a company headed for basic training in Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri.

    When we assembled in Missouri we realized we were extremely understaffed. Undergoing basic training all over again was a hassle. In March 1944, the battalion was granted a seven day furlough. I went home to Crookston for two days, then headed back to Missouri. When I returned, I found out our base had received members of the Air Force. They were overstaffed while our Army base had a dearth of members. Anyone in the Air Force who was deemed less useful came to our infantry. I was sleeping among some unhappy people.

    The Air Force had minimal basic training, so we once again started training. The training didn't last long though. They shipped all of us who had already been trained to Fort Meade, Maryland. We were there for five days, four of which I spent in the hospital with food poisoning. From Maryland, we were shipped to Camp Shanks in New York.

    On May 10th, 1944 we sailed from Camp Shanks to Glascow, Scotland. From Scotland, we took a train to Bristol, England. Our company trained every day in a huge training facility. On the morning of June 6th, while on the field after breakfast, someone asked me if I had heard the planes the night before. I hadn't heard them, but our Sergeant then told us D-Day had occurred.

    We stayed at the depot for a few more days then were shipped to another camp in a place called Yeoville. At that time of Summer the sun was out until 11PM in England, and we wanted to take advantage of all the daylight. We would go out into Yeoville and talk to the young ladies there, but us corporals had to be in early. One time I got the bright idea to sneak out past my curfew and put silver foil on my helmet to pretend I was a Lieutenant. If I was a Lieutenant, they wouldn't mind me coming back later. It worked, but it was too risky to try again. In another instance, a guard caught me and another soldier sneaking back into camp and made us spend a night in Army jail. We had to do some scrubbing as punishment, but it wasn't all that bad.

    On July 10th, they placed our battalion on a train headed to Southampton, where we were loaded onto a ship. We sailed to Utah Beach and headed to our camp south of Saint Mere-Eglise, France.

    We drove to what was called a replacement depot and dug foxholes to protect us from potential enemy fire. In the foxhole, one person slept while the other would sit guard. We switched every hour. Our food was packed for us in small cardboard boxes. When we got toilet paper, we stuck it in the lining of our helmet to protect it. I spent two months in that foxhole.

    One morning, we were all urged to assemble near a truck that had just shown up. The officer in the truck assembled 12 of us and took us right outside Saint Mere-Eglise. We ended up being distributed among several platoons. I made it to the 121st regimen of the 8th infantry division, in the 8th core. Our different companies were spread out throughout the area. None of us knew what the other companies were doing. We were all busy preparing for Operation Cobra.

    We relieved the 82nd infantry on the 4th of July. On July 25th, the United States mounted about 3,000 airplanes to attack St. Lo and bomb enemy positions. That began a period of Germans retreating, and our platoons chased after them. I had the job of 2nd scout on the night patrol. We would go straight out for 500-1000 yards looking for Germans. We never met any resistance.

    Our infantry was rolling through Normandy, 6-7 miles a day until we made it to Coutance, France. In August, we were taken to a battle in the Brittany Peninsula, where there was a pocket of Germans. Along with the 83rd infantry, we enclosed the German's pocket day by day. They finally surrendered, and we were trucked to Denain. We then continued West.

    One time while I was on patrol, we ran into a French woman who was washing her clothes in the river. She told us she was visiting family at a nearby house, and our six man crew went to their house and partook in a festive atmosphere. They were grateful for us and certainly showed it with wine and kisses.

    We continued West along the peninsula. On September 10th, 1944, my platoon arrived at Ft. Bouyon at around noon. It was an old, battle-worn fort with rifle holes and bomb craters. We were there for about ten minutes when our Lieutenant was shot. I was in the vicinity when he was shot, so he gave me his maps. We moved out 100 yards alongside the fort, and word came from our Lieutenant to maintain our positions.

    Our Lieutenant asked me to bring the squad back together. In the process of making sure everyone was going back, I was shot through the back, in the lung and liver. I had a "sucking wound". With every breath, I was making a gurgling sound, which was extremely frightening. It felt like someone swung a baseball bat in my ribcage. After being shot, I fell 8 feet deep into a bomb crater.

    I still remember the sound, and looking up from the bomb crater. In the next crater was the aid man. He came over with rocks and gravel. He cut off my shirt, field jacket and undershirt and put compresses on my wound. He covered me up with my raincoat, and put my helmet on. Four hours later, two aid men came in. They got me out of the hole, and got me to the Battalion Aid station, which had doctors and trained aid men. I was there for a half hour, where they gave me gauze, taped me up and took me to an ambulance.

    At 10PM that night, I reached the field hospital. I had surgery that night to clean up the wound, then had to stay there for seven more days. I took my first Airplane ride in a C-47 aircraft to Yeoville. The replacement depot I was at had become a hospital. I had major surgery there. I stayed there for about 3 more weeks, then was transferred to another hospital that specialized in lung/chest cases. I stayed there until May 1945.

    The war was over May 8th, 1945, and on the 10th I sailed back to New York. When I returned to New York, I went to Halloran General Hospital in Staten Island. I spent a week there, then took a train to an army hospital in Walla Walla, Washington. After 10 days there, I got a 60-day convalescence. I then took a train to Fargo and hitchhiked home to Crookston for the summer. My furlough was up August 14th.

    We dropped the atomic bombs, and it became a tenuous time. I tried to get an extension on my convalescence but was denied. I set out to return to Walla Walla via train. When I got off the train in Spokane, Washington, the cars were driving down the street honking horns. It was V-J Day!

    I was discharged on August 31st, 1945, categorized as 100% disabled. I went back to Crookston to work for the telephone company. I left there, enrolled in the University of Minnesota to study electrical engineering. I graduated in 1950 and found work in the telephone and toll industry for the next 30 years. I had many positions, moving all the way up to Engineering Supervisor for a telephone company in both Dakotas and Nebraska.

    I retired in February 1982, then came out of retirement to work for Aramco in Saudi Arabia. Working for Aramco was a great experience. I came back stateside and found a job as a systems superintendent for a realty company. I moved to Sun City, Texas in 1999. I've traveled to Europe numerous times, including Normandy about 10 times. I was in Normandy for the 40th and 50th anniversaries of D-Day. I'm physically limited, but socially active.

  • Morton Rosenberg,
    Summit, New JerseyMORE...

    My name is Morton Rosenberg, and I was born on April 22nd, 1917. My father was born in Lithuania, and my Mother was born in Massachusetts. When I was a young child, my parents moved to Thomas River, NJ where they built a commercial poultry farm. I grew up on that farm until the age of 17, when I enrolled in Rutgers University.

    In 1941, I was enrolled in a doctoral program at the University of Wisconsin Graduate School. When Pearl Harbor occurred, I left school the next day, went to the Great Lakes Naval Station and enlisted. I thought we had been attacked in such a cowardly way and had to defend our country. I didn't even wait for a draft. Not only was I outraged, I felt it was my duty to defend my country as a familial obligation. My Father always said he thanked God he could raise his children in America. He came to the US at 16 years old and he understood the blessing of liberty and opportunity.

    My 4 years in the military service moved in a direction I would have never anticipated. As a pharmacist I was sent to the San Diego Hospital Core School as an instructor. Because of my teaching ability, they suggested I apply for an officership in the hospital core.

    As it turns out, there were no positions available and I was ordered to reintroduce my application as a line officer. Coming into the service did not wish to be an officer because I didn't want to be responsible for the lives of other people, but I became one regardless. Without any training I reported to a Naval station where I served as a personnel officer. I was sent to the Amphibious command, where I was assigned to an Landing Ship, Tank. We were actually the first crew to utilize that particular ship for combat.

    Our core proceeded from Boston through Atlantic waters and the Panama Canal. We ultimately reached the Pacific, where we were in a number of engagements over a period of 22 months.

    From the time we deployed, we moved continuously West. First we moved to Pearl Harbor, where we were loaded for the invasion of Guam. We were totally unprepared for the invasion - lost our stern anchor, which was designed to keep us from turning sideways and getting stuck onshore. None of us had any real experience on an LST. Only three of us had ever been to sea. We had never performed any of the functions that involved landing.

    Our Captain misjudged the distance onto the shore of Guam. We had 900 feet of anchor and ran it all off the ship. When the captain came to me and asked how much anchor we had placed ashore, I jokingly said "1,200 feet". My captain replied, "there's only 900 feet", and I quipped "but the bitter end is 300 feet of stern." He didn't find that very funny.

    During our time at sea, we had very little contact with the enemy. The nearest we came to them was an instance where a ship behind us was torpedoed in the midst of our convoy leaving the shore. We heard the explosion in the dark and received a message to drop out and standby. We ended up towing that LST 15,000 miles, ultimately dropping it off at Pearl Harbor.

    We came closer to combat than the professional Navy, because we hit the beach, whereas they were always beyond the horizon. It was truly the Army and Marines who did the grunt work though. I felt guilty when we'd hit the beach, the military dropped down, and we'd leave them. It felt like they were carrying the bulk of the war.

    The soldiers we picked up from Guam were pretty shell shocked, most suffering from dengue fever. They had been through a horrendous experience of personal combat with the enemy for 21 days. They told us a tactic the Japanese used of asking an American soldier for a cigarette in English then shooting the soldier as he reached for them. During the time the operation was completed and we were taking the soldiers back to the Guadalcanal, we were ordered to never approach them from the rear, because they were very likely to turn and shoot.

    After that there was invasion of Okinawa and the coral in the water had destroyed the bottom of two small boats we used to unload ammunition. After continuously dropping them into the water for a 24 hour period, the propellers were destroyed by the hard coral.

    When we got to the Guadalcanal our Captain told me to get two replacements for them. We had a vehicle on the ship we stole from Guam, which I drove around the canal looking for small boats. I eventually came upon an Army depot with a bevy of beautiful boats. I asked the captain running the depot for a vessel, but he said wouldn't give it to me because I was in the Navy and there was too much paperwork involved in the transfer.

    He then invited me into the depot for lunch. We were eating spam, and I could tell he didn't like it. I asked him how long it had been since he had fresh meat. He rolled his eyes and said he didn't know when. I offered him 12 cases of turkey, which we had stolen from a food locker in Guam. The Captain acquiesced and gave me a small boat for the turkeys.

    We participated in 4 additional D-Day invasions: Leyte, Mindoro, Luzon and the Philippines. Each time, we would return with additional material and personnel. The most interesting missions were the D-Day invasions. Our ship was never struck by any fire, but did take one shell, a portion of which hit a spot on the deck I was standing in just two minutes prior! I was very lucky to go through five invasions and find myself in imminent danger only once.

    We were rarely near any combat or members of the enemy. I remember one time, a Filipino ran toward us and said "pesos for sale". My fellow soldiers wanted to buy some as souvenirs. They crowded around him and gave him American Dollars for pesos. At the time the Peso was worth 50 cents on the American dollar, so he was making a 100% profit off of us. I couldn't help but think about how stupid we were, but we wanted the souvenirs.

    It was a very brutal war. I didn't leave the military with any sense of regret, I was just glad to go home. I was away from my family and friends for four years, and I wanted to get home and continue my career.

    War is the most horrible experience that anyone can be subjected to. It's full of unintended consequences. There's no campaign that's carried out as it's planned. It distorts personalities and brings out the worst in us.

    I came home and resumed my graduate studies four days after. It took me three and a half years to complete my doctoral work. When I graduated, there were only three jobs offered to me. All the good positions had been taken by Canadians while we were at war. I took a job at the university of Hawaii and stayed there for 24 years, where I ultimately became Dean for 17 years. I married my wife two days after a blind date in Washington State, and she came to Hawaii with me. I retired from the university at 55, because I wanted new horizons in my life.

    I moved to New Jersey in 1972, where I've been for 40 years. I use my time doing things for others, particularly family. I'm primarily involved in living a good life with my wife.

  • Robert Benett,
    Englewood, New JerseyMORE...

    My name is Robert Bennett, I was born Beno Benczkowski in the Free City of Danzig on March 15, 1933. I lived there with my parents and my sister and in 1939 Mr. Chamberlain gave Danzig to Hitler and it became very uncomfortable for us so we moved to Lodz where my family was from originally.

    My father started his business in Lodz and was doing pretty well for about a few months when the Germans came in and we were forced to move in the Lodz Ghetto, where we all lived in one room with my father, my mother, my sister and my grandmother. In the Ghetto we worked in a factory that made uniforms for the Germans. I was at the time 7 years old and I worked on a buttonhole machine.

    We didn't have much food, but the whole family was together. Every so often they would clean out the Ghetto. My aunt was a pharmacist, so she had a special pass, and she was able to get in and out. She sometimes would put a lock on our door from outside. That's how we survived many of those clean-outs-the Germans thought that there was no one inside the room, since it was locked from outside.

    The life went on, we managed somehow. But in 1944 we decided that we can't keep on living like this and the Ghetto was almost empty, so we went to a meeting with this German officer, who gave us a German word of honor that we are going to this other place that will be much nicer, where they will give us clothing, better food, we'd be getting a new job...

    And that's how we wound up going to Auschwitz-Birkenau. When we got off the train they separated us-men to one side and women and children to the other. They told us we'd be getting in a shower and getting new clothes, which I thought was a shame because I had this really nice coat on. I figured they wouldn't let me take a shower with my mother, so I stayed with my father.

    Finally we got to this man, who I later found out was Mr. Josef Mengele himself. He asked me how old was I and I for some reason said - twenty-one. I didn't look anything close to twenty-one obviously, but I did speak perfect German and maybe that's why he let me go by. Then everyone needed to be examined by a doctor and by that time we were all completely naked. Out of a sudden a Capo pulled me from the line to the right, to the other side where the people who already went through the doctor were standing. I never found out who this person was but he saved my life; I'd never make it through the doctor, as they were looking for the strong, able men for labor - all others were sent to the other side.

    Of course, we didn't know anything at that point. In fact, when we were going through all that mess I smelled something in the air and to me it smelled like, you know, when my mother used to clean out the chickens and she would burn up the feathers. I asked my father, "What's that?" and he said, "Ah, they're probably cleaning up the chickens to cook." But it was burning hair from the chimneys.

    Then the night came, we wound up in this hangar. And every few minutes we heard "Whoever has gold, diamonds, whatever hidden - drop it, because we will x-ray you and find it". And sure enough, there was stuff laying on the ground. That went on all night long. Finally they gave us uniforms and we went to the barracks.

    On that morning, they lined us up. I was in the first line because I was the smallest kid. The officer that was doing the count had it in for me. When he got close to me he swiped me with his hand, and he broke my nose.

    My father applied for all kinds of jobs because we knew that if we didn't get out of Birkenau we would end up in the ovens. But they didn't want to take me. Finally came a guy from BMW, and my father told him, "Yes, I'm a mechanic"-which wasn't true-"and my son has golden hands." I guess that man was a nice guy, and he accepted us together.

    On the way to the train we passed... We passed the women camp and someone recognized my father and called my mother. That was the day I saw my mother and my sister for the last time. It took me a long time to find out what happened to them. Eventually I discovered that they were sent to Stutthof concentration camp and that's all I know.

    We were on a train and ended up in Gorlitz, Germany. And same thing - there was a camp and the officer who was in charge was this little Czech guy. From the signs on his uniform we could tell he was a criminal, but he was in charge of the camp. Anyway, they lined us up and he was walking along the line and once he approached me, he looked at me and guess what, he hit me in my nose. Again!

    In our camp we were working at the Messerschmitt factory, and I was working on the landing gear. Particularly on the pump, my job was to put a leather sleeve on the pump. This pump would close up on me, so in order to avoid that I would put a wrench inside to hold the pump and then take it out. One day I forgot to take it out.
    Two Gestapo guys came and said "Sabotage". They took me to the head of the factory who happened to be the guy who interviewed my father in Aushwitz. So I explained the situation, thankfully being able to speak perfect German, I told him what happened and he said - Yes, he's right, it wasn't a sabotage, just a mistake. That only got me 10 lashes, which was better than being killed.

    That headmaster saved my life twice. First when he took me and my father out of Birkenau, and this second time with the wrench. Later I was trying to locate him or his family, I wrote to BMW and they said that the factory was completely destroyed along with all of the records. So I never was able to thank him.

    The guards at the camp were Ukrainians, some of them were nice to us, some of them weren't. We only got a piece of bread in the morning and soup during the day and sometimes the Ukrainian guards that didn't finish their soup would give it to us. But some would just throw it away. I used to be on the cleaning duties at the dining room and as a matter of fact, on the first day a Ukrainian soldier came to me, nodded and smiled, made some motions with his hands mimicking the mopping of the floor that I was doing and then later that soldier came to me and gave me his whole soup. There were also some Russian soldiers and some Russian women among the workers and a Russian woman would give me a potato once in a while. So there were some nice people.

    One day in May we heard the noise and we saw silver planes zooming over. Someone said - Americans. Soon after that day, one morning we wake up and there is no one there, all the Germans are gone. We cut the wires, but were afraid to go outside because we didn't know what was outside. We finally decided to go outside of the barracks when the guards started to shoot at us. Got me right here, under my left arm, but I ended up escaping anyway.

    When we were in town and Germans started inviting us in their houses, saying "Come on, we'll help you". At the same time Russian planes were flying very low, barely over the roofs of the houses. We stayed in the basement of a German who said that he was a communist. Out of a sudden, all Germans were communists.

    Next morning the Russians entered Gorlitz and, oh boy, they were in a rough shape. The first Russian I saw was on a bicycle with no tires and he didn't have any boots on, just some rags tied around his feet.

    Anyhow, my father, myself and two other guys took over a house and stayed there for couple of weeks until we were recuperated enough and then we started to march back to our home in Lodz.

    There was no transportation so a lot of people were marching in every which direction. We had a little wagon on which we put a lot of scraps, food and stuff we took from the Germans and there were a lot of incidents along the way, as you can imagine. Everyone was afraid of the Russians now, because they were all crazy for 3 things - bicycles, motorcycles and women.

    When we finally got back to Lodz we started looking for our relatives. We couldn't find nobody, except one cousin. There was only about 500 Jews that left out in the Ghetto. And those 500 were made to dig graves for themselves, I guess Germans didn't want any witnesses and wanted to clear the Ghetto. But the Russians came just in time. That grave is still open as far as I know, and those 500 were lucky not to be in it. Among those 500 there was a friend of mine. I saw him shortly I got back to Lodz, and what was funny - we were the same size when I left the Ghetto and now he was twice as big as me. But I gained weight and strength soon enough.

    So we went back to Danzig for a little, but there was nothing there for us. We then went to Prague and from there we worked our way West to Paris. There my father got in touch with my aunt who was in America. She wasn't able to get us visa to the States but we arranged a Cuban visa. We were in France for about three months waiting for the visa to get approved and then we wound up going to Cuba. We actually went through New York and spent about a month here and what big mistake it was, not just staying here. But we couldn't think about doing something illegal like that, so after 30 days we went to Cuba.

    It took us 5 years to get a visa to get to America and finally December 31, 1951 we arrived here The Korean War was going on, and five or six months later I was drafted into the American army. I was in the army for three years. I got back in May, and in September I got married to my wife. I was working as a cutter. Later I started my own business, Superior Pants. I started with making pants, then leisure suits, and later tuxedos.

    I miss my work. I try to play some golf; I go to the gym every day and play with my dogs. I have my family: one son and three daughters. I got fourteen grandchildren, and as of yesterday I have my third great-grandchild. My family today is twenty-four people. Just imagine if out of these six million that were killed, an average person would have a half of that-how many Jews would there be today.

  • Ronald H. Quadt,
    Fort Lauderdale, FloridaMORE...

    My name is Ron Quadt. I was born in South Amboy, New Jersey on July 1st 1924. When I was eight years old my dad gave me a .22 rifle, and we used to shoot out at my grandfather's garage. So by the time I got in the army, fourteen years later, I was a very good shot, and I was afraid actually that I'd be called as a sniper, which isn't that great a job ya know. But I was always in the top 500 shooting.

    In August of 1942, I was drafted and took a train down to Mississippi for training. From there I went to Camp Kimer in New Jersey. It was about six miles from my house, so every night I would hop over the fence to go home. After camp we took a ferryboat to New York and from there we got on a ship to go overseas. Because no one was sure about when we were going to begin the D-day landing, I was given ammunition to practice my target shooting. Probably shouldn't tell you this but I was having little fun sometimes during those days. When the captain and no one else was looking, I'd shoot at these big buzzards that were always flying around. It was a lot more fun, and like I said, I became a very good shot.

    Finally in February of 1943 we landed in France and trained until our captain received the plans for D-day landing. Luckily we didn't go in early but came after noontime. I remember we had to climb down the rope sides to the landing boards. I was standing close to the front when they dropped the front down. I was one of the first ones into the cold water where we passed by a lot of dead bodies that hadn't been picked up yet. When we got to the beach there was a home about a quarter of mile up, and we spotted a sniper hiding behind the chimney. Our captain in charge brought up a tank and I fired at him, bringing him down, the chimney down, and everything else with it. That was my first shot fired.

    The next day the lieutenant assigned me and another guy to go into the hedges of a road and stand guard at night. During that time we always had centuries out keeping guard. So I was keeping watch and I was about forty feet from the road when I saw a pair of boots sticking out of the row. The boots had little cleats all over the bottom so I knew it was a German. I was waiting for him to come out with a machine gun, but with everything running through my head at the moment I couldn't wait, so I fired. I clipped the top of his helmet and he gave up right away. So I took the first prisoner on our second day there. It was scary but you gotta do what you gotta do. It was something interesting everyday.

    Sometimes we kept guard in long holes covered with big branches and a small opening at the end to squeeze in. When it was time to relieve the two fellows on duty in the hole one night, I said to my buddy, " Well we got a couple of minutes, let me finish my cigarette." As I finished my cigarette a couple of 88s came in and hit the hole where we were going to relieve the guys... they got taken care of. That's why you didn't get too friendly with anybody. It was tough.

    So that was the beginning. We continued to travel along at night, jumping from one town to the next town. And every time we would set up our guns, each about a hundred and fifty yards apart. We ran telephone wires along them so we could talk to each other. One night we didn't run the lines and we heard a tank coming down the road towards us. It stopped by our first gun and nothing happened, and then it came down near the second gun, and as it was coming down a guy in the tank shot a flare up in the air. Well we're in position, but we can't just get up and move the gun because this guy is going to see us. So everybody is quiet when the tank comes down to the third gun. And then our sergeant, who is on the third gun, gets up and hits the tank with his bazooka, and we managed to get a few shots in before ten to twelve Germans took off. When the morning light began to come in we spotted a tank coming down the hill. I threw a shell in the gun and tapped my gunner on the shoulder, signaling that we were ready to fire. He fired, and evidently, the tank fired at us at about the same time because his fire came within inches of hitting me. He fired again and hit our tank's gun. I went about fifteen or twenty feet up in the air before landing back on the ground. I was just glad I was in one piece, but our gunner lost his arm. We all ran for cover through the countryside, and I found four or five SS troops. I took them prisoner, and luckily I didn't fire because soon a jeep full of even more German troops pulled up. They would have killed me if I had fired. So what are you going to do? You gotta give up at that time.

    The SS troops pulled me in a smaller tank and began firing towards the American lines. After a while it became a plateau because the Americans were far out of range. So they got the idea to push me out in front. So I'm out there leading the Germans, but the American troops - they must have seen me in my uniform - didn't hit me. Their bullets whizzed by me. After getting pushed out front three times I was taken in to meet their officer in charge. He spoke English, was educated in California, and he saved my life. He stopped a kid from shooting me in the head. I really thought for sure I was going to get it at any second. When this happens things go so fast through your head, such as when you were a kid that you're not even scared anymore because you know you're going to die.

    Well this German officer, he was losing a lot of guys so he gave me a white towel to go wave. I went outside and waved it and of course the Americans stopped. Once they surrendered I took my field jacket off and told the Germans to put their pistols on top. I collected thirty pistols in all and brought in fifty-one prisoners. When I got back to my guys I said, " Who wants this? Who wants that?" I had some nice ones including a really nice luger. Before taking the prisoners, however, I wound up getting shot in my heel, and my ankle was as big as a balloon tire once back at camp. So I spent a few days there after an operation on my heel. The King Sisters came to visit the hospital once. One of the sisters sat right in my bunk and sang to me. All of the guys were hooting and hollering. It was real nice.

    After about five days I was flown back to Paris to be admitted to the general hospital there. That's where I stayed for my ninety-nine days. I don't know how true it was, but there was a saying that if you had to stay more than ninety-nine days in the hospital they flew you home. Well I had three doctors and two of them wanted to amputate my foot, but Dr. Howell, the head doctor, said no way. She came up with exercises for me to do instead and I healed quickly so when I got out of the hospital I was put into the Labor Supervision Company, supervising German prisoners. For a couple of months I was assigned to mess sergeant. I didn't want the job at first, but it was nice because I didn't have guard duty. The engineers pulled all of those duties; I only had to pick up the food for the German prisoners.

    After about three months though, a whole gang of us were sent back home on a liberty boat. We left for home and came into Camp Myles Standage in Boston, Massachusetts. I stayed at the camp for about three or four days before I got a train back home. Everyone was glad to see me. We had a big bake out to celebrate, and my aunt took down the star that hung from our window. My neighbor was a headman at an ironworker place, and every morning when he'd come out and see me he would offer to put me to work. I said no because at the time I was collecting twenty percent disability every month. So finally one morning he came out and asked me again. I said, "What do I need?" He said, " Well you're going to need pliers, a six inch ruler, and a pair of gloves. Come down to Union Hall and I'll put you somewhere." And that's the way I started work; I did it for forty years. My first job out was on open steel, three stories high. It was scary at first, but by noontime I was running across everything.

    In 1946 I got married. My wife and I actually went to school together, but I didn't know her then. The day I was discharged I went out to a really nice bar, under this hotel, with three other guys. We wanted to have a couple of drinks. There were three other girls on the other side of the bar, and the guys dared me to go ask one for a dance. I refused. I didn't want to get married yet because I just was getting out of the army. Anyway, a couple of drinks later I walked over and asked her to dance. We had a good time, and the next thing I knew we were going dancing every month. We would go to these ballrooms and dance to big name bands, and she would wear flowers in her hair that I bought for her. We were married for 63 years; she was the greatest girl and my soul mate.

  • Roy & Jack Vanasco,
    Brooklyn, New YorkMORE...

    I was born Rocco Vanasco, January 5, 1926, in Fort Green, Clinton Hill in Brooklyn, at my grandfather's house, at 178 Clermont Ave. My brother Jack, who's here with me, was born on March 5, 1928, he's two years younger. We were five brothers and grew up there with my mother and father, my grandfather, my grandmother at that house. It was a quiet neighborhood.

    I attended the local Precinct Community Council's Police Athletic League, and I learned a lot about boxing, it was an enjoyable time. I graduated from the John Jay High School. But before that, I was a member of the New York National Guard, 27th Division, with my brother Jack, my brother Joe, and about a dozen friends of ours. When the war broke out in December 1941, we all joined the Home Guard, which later became the National Guard. But we weren't old enough; we lied about our age when we joined. They wanted to ship us out to Hawaii with the Home Guard, and all the parents on the block and in the neighborhood, whose children lied about their age, all stormed in to see the general, and the general reprimanded the mothers: "You never should've signed the papers to enlist your sons in the Home Guard." But he gave us all honorable discharges, one is up on the wall there, and my brother Jack has his.

    I graduated from high school in January 1943, and enlisted in the Navy. As I joined the Navy, I left home, and I headed up to upstate New York where we trained. I have to say, being trained with the Home Guard gave me a huge advantage and once my superiors found out about that, they made me a supervisor on the floor that we were on. And it was a little easier on me, I didn't have to wash the toilets and do all that, because I was busy helping the newcomers like myself, still suffering from leaving Brooklyn with getting accustomed to the new settings. As for the most of us - it was the first time we ever left Brooklyn. Maybe we went to New York to see our uncles or something, or on vacation some place up in the Catskills, other than that, none of us really got out.

    Some of them were pretty downhearted, someone cried. I was good. I comforted a lot of guys. We had all kinds of nationalities: black, white, Hispanic - all coming from Brooklyn. And we enjoyed the two-months training. It made a man out of you right away. I mean, you weren't mamma's little boy anymore! You did your own washing, you took care of yourself, you protected yourself. And my brother Joe who was Master Sargent in the Home Guard with us, he always said: "You always gotta fight for yourself, and never take any bullshit from anybody, no matter how big or small they are - you gotta fight." I was a boxer in the PAL, and I learned how to fight from my brother Joe who was in the Golden Gloves. There were a couple of guys who were rough, and I wouldn't take anything. I always remembered: "Fight back, fight back. Don't sit back and take any bull crap from anybody, no matter who they are. But you gotta be right. You gotta be right." I always thought about what my brother Joe told me and always fought back.

    After we trained upstate, I got on the train and went to California, where I waited to be shipped out to Hawaii. At San Diego I was put on the first carrier, which was a baby carrier. I had my seabag and all my stuff. There were no bunks at that time so we had to use our hammocks. After being out in the Pacific for some time doing routines I got transferred to another ship, the aircraft carrier 70 Fanshaw Bay. There I caught pneumonia and ended up in Balboa Park hospital. I stayed there for some time and was cured. People in California were real nice to me. They invited me and other sailors to visit, because their houses were empty, all their kids were away, except the girls, their daughters. And that was great for a sailor, you know.

    When I got over pneumonia, I ended up going back to San Diego and getting on the DE-164 Osterhaus. It was a destroyer escort. We were at the Admiral Halsey's fleet most of the time, protecting battleships, aircraft carriers. It was our duty and our main purpose was to protect the fleet. It was our job to weave in and out from the outside in case the Japanese let go of any torpedoes. That was the job of destroyers and destroyer escorts. We always traveled in groups of six destroyers. We were a team.

    So, when we left San Diego, we went out on a shakedown cruise, and everything was good, we came right back, and then about a week later, we finally left. We went underneath the bridge in San Francisco, and we headed for Hawaii. And that same night I was sea-sick. I was sea-sick for five days. And the guys who were good seamen, helped me with crackers and things like that, but I had to carry a bucket so if I had to, you know, relieve myself, it was in the bucket, not on the deck that I had to clean. In five days I was cured, I was a real seaman, I was a real sailor now. We had our tour of Hawaii and all that, we were there a couple of weeks. We had to load up the ship with food, and that was another job of somebody new who got on the ship. We would find any food that we could load up on the ship to go out for months. And that was the job of young, 18-year-olds. The older guys, the 25-years-old - they were old. Thirty years old - oh god, they were old men. We were 18 years old, so we had plenty of energy.

    And from Hawaii we just went from one island to another. We had a lot of encounters with the Japanese, but no hits. There were plenty of kamikaze planes. When we were in a convoy, they hit ships: aircraft carriers, the Hornet, the Essex... They were looking for big ships, the big carriers, but they hit destroyers too. And once they did hit a destroyer in our convoy, and almost 250 kids got killed right away. Our own ship was never hit.

    One time we were in a convoy with USS Franklin, that's an aircraft carrier. And it was hit. They said it was going to capsize and sink, but it didn't. So, as a convoy, we took it - in case the Japanese would try to sink it - we took it to another island where they were going to repair it. And it got there safely. We were like the Coast Guard, you know.

    I liked being on a small destroyer, rather than the aircraft carrier, because you only had 250 guys there. On the aircraft carrier, that baby aircraft carrier, you had 2,500. And I didn't like the fact that on the aircraft carrier you had to wear dress blues at dinner. On the destroyer, all you had to do was wear clean clothes.

    My own job was below the deck, on the bottom of the ship, which was technically speaking a diesel electric destroyer. I had to take orders from the captain; he would send the signal down to where I was, in the engine room, on the electric board, with meters and all that. And I would repeat the numbers that were sent down to me on my board. This would rev up the diesel engine, just like in happens in a car. These were Rolls Royce engines, and they were 20 feet, 30 feet long. That noise! 24 hours a day! They were run by diesel, but the electric was on the board, that's how it ran.

    I was below deck and didn't know what was happening up there. I mean we had our headphones on, so the captain could inform us, but other than that we could only guess. So when the Japanese would attack we had no idea what was happening. We had to take orders and there wasn't much time to think about anything else. You were frightened when you first heard the whistles and all that. But I got used to it.

    Towards the end of the war the kamikaze planes became very dangerous. When we saw what they did to some of the aircraft carriers, and some of the other transport ships that they sunk... And there were submarines everywhere too! We were lucky not to get hit.

    About ten islands we hit, before we went to the island where the war ended. My last island was Miriam Island. And that's where the B-29 took off. The one that broke the war - the Enola Gay. And we were protecting that island when it happened. They took off at night, very early morning. We heard them, but we didn't see them. We didn't know that the planes are gonna drop the A-bomb. You know, as sailors, you didn't know anything. Scuttlebutt, it was called. Everything was always scuttlebutt. We were going to Japan, we knew that. But we never did end up going. In a few days we heard our captain on the loudspeaker, and told us what happened. He said: " The war is over". Everybody was dancing, yelling, screaming, crying... The war was over. It was a great day. The war was over, we were going home. We were gonna go home. The war was over. Most of us cried. Patted each other, hugged one another. And I still cry, as I remember that day.

    When I got home, well... When you come home after the war, you gotta cry. You're home, you're alive. My older brother was alive, my other brother was alive. We were four brothers in World War II, and we all came home! Jack just got in towards the end of it, he was drafted in 1945 and was in the tank corps. He ended up in Japan working for General McArthur's headquarters. My brother Terry went through the war, Joey went, I went, Jack went, we all went. Tommy didn't go because of his ear perforations.

    When I got back we docked in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, two blocks away from our home. It was unbelievable, I just walked couple blocks and there I was at my house - my mother was happy, my father was happy. And I started a new life. It wasn't easy, because you could be home, in your house, and you could be happy that you were alive. That you lived, that you survived the experiences you had with the Japanese Navy, Japanese kamikaze planes... But thousands of kids got killed. We lost about 15-18 of our friends. We lost a lot of our friends that we grew up with. I had a close friend of mine who went on an island and got killed right away. He was in the Marines. His name was Ernie Marino. I played second base, he played third base, we grew up together. He died getting on the island. He didn't even have a chance. He was my next door neighbor, we played softball together...

    My brother Joe was the one who got discharged because he hurt his back in the Army. He passed away due to a health problem he had, but essentially he died from penicillin. We lost Terry some years ago, and we also lost Tommy. So it's only Jack and I who are left.

    After the war, I got a job, training for Genuine Refrigerator Company at 203 Atlantic Ave, where my brother Tommy was already working as a refrigerator mechanic, and I learned the trade and became Tom's assistant. I stayed there for a while, I learned every trade, and then I went to work for General Electric as an outside repairman on Northern Boulevard, and my father brought up the idea that I should open a business. So I looked around on Myrtle Avenue, and I found a place at 595 Myrtle Ave, and I opened up a business. This was a tuxedo store, the man passed away, his wife wanted to sell it, and I bought it for, you wouldn't believe it, $5,000. Which is now worth millions of dollars, after I bought the property next door from the city of New York. And this is where I am, and I'm proud to say, people have heard that we're leaving, and they come into my store, and they say: "Roy, you took care of my mother, my grandfather, they always talked about you, we used you..." - it made Jack and I really feel proud. That people came into the store, and they come here, one by one, they're hearing that we are selling and there's not going to be a store around where they can get stove parts, refrigerator parts, to fix their own appliances. There are no other stores in downtown Brooklyn or anywhere else! And all this that you see, all these photographs, all the years going back fifty years!

    I became the 57th district leader. I opened up a Republican club, and I ran for the assembly, I ran for Congress, I ran for state senator as a Republican. When I was chairman of the community board, I was one of the first people to ask to remove the Brooklyn elevated train that used to run right above our store. I made the train come down and made the neighborhood change the way you see it today. And as chairman of the community board and the one who began the Myrtle Avenue Merchants Association, whatever you see on Myrtle Avenue today, it's the result of the Association's work, and I was its chairman for over forty years.

    Another thing is that Jack and I have given our life to Brooklyn War Memorial. This is something very important to us. The Brooklyn War Memorial is a building that was built over 25-30 years ago, and hardly ever used. There are names of 2,500 soldiers inside this building, which is never used... So Jack and I took it upon ourselves to try to reopen the Brooklyn War Memorial on Fulton Street. The NYC Parks Department was trying to do some work there, and they didn't have any money to do it, so it started to deteriorate. But now we are finally going to get the money, and it's going to cost us $5 million to fix it. We've been pinpointed by the Parks Department to get this place open, Jack and I. That's what occupies my mind and time these days.

  • Thomas Blakey,
    New Orleans, LouisianaMORE...

    My name is Thomas Blakey. I was born in Nacogdoches , Texas on October 22, 1920. I was raised in Houston, Texas and schooled there too. I went in the army early in 1942. I went from basic training in Mineral Wells, Texas, through jump school in Fort Bennett, Georgia, and went to England in the latter part of 1943 and I joined the 82nd airborne division in late 1943.

    England was a fun place to be, we did a lot of training there, we did a number of practice jumps during training. We knew we were going to Europe some place, some time. The weather was lousy in 1943 - 1944, it was a bad winter, a lot of snow and quite cold and that had some bad dealings with our training but we made it work. Everybody was doing about the best they could and it worked out well in the end. We were a very good outfit. We were sharp, everybody wanted to make this jump into Europe.

    There was only 2 ways home: a bad wound, or a trip through France and Germany. Nobody wanted a bad wound but everyone wanted the trip through France and Germany. We didn't know when it was gonna happen, but we figured it was gonna happen in spring of 1944 some place and it did.

    We trained until D-Day came along. The Original date for D-Day was June 5th. We loaded planes on June 4th. Some were in the air on the way to France when they were called back and put away for 24 hours.

    Everyone went to the station, and it was a down feelings. Nobody felt good about it. Weather was bad. We didn't know how long it was gonna be bad. There we were sitting on the bus waiting to go again. It was very bad morale, but we made it through the night, made it through the next day and that evening we got back in the planes and started off.

    We didn't know if we were gonna make it or not because the weather was not that good again, but we made it all the way to France. At that point the front had gone through the beaches, but it wasn't quite through where we were.

    When we jumped it was about 1 AM in the morning of June 6th. It was raining, everybody was cold and wet. I would guess the temperature was in the low 50s, mid 40s. But we made that work too. We went to where we were supposed to be, which was 10 miles from where we were dropped. Our mission was to secure this one bridge over the Merderet River. We got to the bridge early daylight and it was full of Germans.

    The thing affected me the most was this little man, a German fellow I shot. I saw him standing from far away and aimed right at his chest. I couldn't see above his chest to his face, so I couldn't tell he was a young man or an old man. But it didn't make any difference. The Germans moved closer and I pulled the trigger. He leaned back, threw his hands in the air and dropped his rifle. There I knew, I killed him.

    In a couple days he showed up in my mind for a few seconds. I was afraid that some of my guys will think I was a coward. In fact, I couldn't find a reason to tell anyone about it. And I haven't for years. The little man kept coming back and haunting me.

    I was mad for no reason, I was critical of my family. I did things to them, which I shouldn't have done. Because of that little man.
    Anyway, We cleaned those Germans out and took this little bridge. And we held that bridge for four days. In that period we had 500 casualties. No MIA or POWs, only wounded or dead. But we kept that bridge and therefore we kept the Germans from getting to the back of Utah Beach and the back of Omaha Beach with their tanks.

    We went from there through little towns and secured the road that was going from Cherbourg to Paris. We cut that road to keep Cherbourg from being reinforced with new German troops. The 4th division was on the other side of the Peninsula going up to take Cherbourg, and we were there to make sure ne German is leaving or coming.

    In July, General Lewis H. Brereton took over the airborne troops in Europe. I was pulled out of the 82nd and went to his staff and I spent the rest of the war on General Brereton's staff. We followed the 82nd then 101st a great deal.
    One of the most shocking moments of that time was this prison camp we took over. It was a German prison camp called Wobbelin. And there were a lot, a lot of dead people stacked up like corn. The people that came out of those huts were just skeletons with skin hanging from them. At that moment I knew - this is why we are here. This why we need to end this war. But I was just shocked, couldn't say a word.

    My mates did what they could for these poor people. Medics would take it over. They needed to be medicated and had to have their strength built back up with food. But we had to move further. We went on.

    I had no sympathy for the German soldiers; even though we knew they were young like we were and were doing the same thing for their country, but that didn't make any difference. We had seen some massacres up to that time and we had no problems killing Germans. After we saw Wobbelin we had even less problems with it. We took a lot of German forces. We didn't let them misbehave. After we were in Normandy for 30 some odd days, we were sent back to England to get re-equipped and refitted with men. Then we went to Holland on September 17th, 1944. We were moving and shooting. I took part in Operation Market Garden, Battle of Ardennes and bunch of small fights. It was cold, snow, ice and death. During the Battle of the Bulge I got called up to go to Paris with General Brereton and stayed there till the end of the war.

    In the beginning of May 1945 General Brereton's aide Major Joe Givens called us on the phone and told us Germany had surrendered. Champagne flowed freely, everyone was celebrating. It was finally over.

    I was aware of the fact that all of us may wind up going to Japan. Somebody had to go. There wasn't enough over there to take it. With time I got to know what their plans would have been if we did a land invasion. And was supposed be a great occupation. They were going to use 5 airborne divisions to go in there.

    And every Japanese person on the island would be an enemy. Six year old kids had a bamboo stick with a poisoned sharp point to stab in your leg. So that kid would be an enemy. I'm afraid if we had to take Japan, if they had not surrendered, we wouldn't have a living Japanese person on that island.

    I was discharged in September of 1945, and January of 1946 I moved to New Orleans, Louisiana to go in business for myself in oil. It was very successful. I did well, got married, had a house and had children. Business was good. I moved an office to Lafayette, Louisiana and from there I moved to an office in Houston, Texas, so I had 3 offices at one time.

    I sold my business in 1975 so my wife and I traveled a lot, played a lot of golf and spent time with our children. We went back to Europe several times. My wife had a stroke in 1988 and she passed away in 1994.

    I went back to Normandy on June 6th 1994 for the 50th celebration of D-Day. I enjoyed that, came back, and ever since I've been here in New Orleans. Ever since the D-Day museum was open on June 6th 2000, I have been a volunteer there and seven years later several senators changed it from the D-Day museum to make it the National WW2 Museum.

    It has been astounding. We have a tremendous place now, we've expanded into a number of buildings and we're sill expanding. It's a wonderful place to be. I'm still working there. I have obtained close to 13,000 hours in volunteering and I have enjoyed every day of it and I'm still enjoying it. I'm doing what I can do, it's made my older life far more pleasant and fun.

    But as long as I live I wanna go to that bridge one more time. Though I can't make any long time arrangements any more.

  • Wallace Eugene Snelson,
    Georgetown, TexasMORE...

    My name is Wallace Eugene Snelson, and I was born on March 28, 1923. My friends call me Pete, and it has been my nick-name for many years. My hometown is Grandfalls, Texas, where I went to public school prior to going to the Texas College of Mines at El Paso. My parents were involved in ranching and farming for many years. There were six boys in my family, and five served in WWII and one in the Korean War. We all got back home safely from different parts of the world. I enjoyed my time at the Grandfalls school where I participated in events such as the establishment of a newspaper published by our school body. It got me interested in becoming a newspaper reporter. Therefore I enrolled to study journalism at the University of Texas at El Paso. While studying, I got an opportunity to achieve my dream of becoming a sports editor for the El Paso Times.

    When WWII started, the spirit of love for the country bubbled up in the U.S. and it made me decide that I wanted to defend my country. In 1943 I joined the U.S. Army and enlisted in the Reserve Corps which was specifically for students. Serving in the Army Reserve enabled students to continue studies until they are needed in the service. However, we were all called up to active duty in May of 1943. After completing my basic training, I was sent to the University of Nebraska to study the German language in order to become professional in the language and to learn as much as I could about the culture and history of the country.

    After completing my work there, I was assigned to the 44th Infantry Division within the New Jersey Army National Guard. I completed my training in Camp Phillips, near Salina, Kansas, before going to Europe. In May 1944, we were dispatched to Normandy and we were the first group of soldiers to land directly at Normandy from the United States. We entered combat by relieving another division which had been on the defensive position at the frontline. I'll never forget our first night on the frontline, it was on a Saturday and the Germans had a tank moving across the frontline broadcasting messages such as, "Welcome to combat!" Their major purpose was to encourage us to surrender, have fun and play games instead of fighting back. Certainly this wasn't something any of the soldiers would be willing to do at any point. But it was an interesting technique that the Germans used.

    On the second night we were informed that some Germans wanted to surrender, and it was my turn to go to the borderline to welcome these Germans. However, none came that night when I reached the border, but two days later we had a few Germans who surrendered. On November 13, 1943 we were on active duty in a town where Germans attacked us, the result of which a soldier friend of mine was killed. I also got wounded in the same attack in that town which was close to the Vosges Mountains near Sarrebourg. I was taken immediately to the field hospital and then shifted to the General Hospital AmeriCorps France where I spent almost three months recuperating from my wounds.

    I was then assigned a replacement and was interviewed to join Counter Intelligence Corps (CIC). I was selected as a Special Agent for the 307th CIC detachment at the 7th Army Headquarters to serve in Germany. Our main responsibility was to de-Nazify the Germans and we had various assignments to protect the security of our forces. We had developed a lead on Josef Spacil, who organized the German Hitler Youth that consisted of young men between 17-18 years of age. Therefore we knew the Germans would try to harass the American forces.

    In order for us to find out the details about this there was a young German man who volunteered to assist us in trying to prevent future violence and to prevent the path of further destruction. We named him "Mouse," and it was a code name for him. He followed the leads and was very helpful in providing us with useful information to prevent violence. Eventually we got him a U.S. passport in appreciation for what he had done for us. Later, I came to know that this person "Mouse" had also served as a professor at Northwestern University, but he never disclosed his identity to anyone in the U.S. Anyway, we came across a lot of different people in Germany who had been guilty of war crimes. We encountered all kinds of stories and excuses for the war crimes. But most of all it was so sad and terrible to see the things we saw in the concentration camps.

    I was assigned to a camp in Dachau in 1945, and after reaching there I was in great shock! I thought to myself how ironic it was that hundreds of human lives were perishing there in the camp. It is hard to describe in words but it was as cruel as anyone could imagine. I didn't get a chance to interact with any of the prisoners, but we had a team who did interrogations about what had been happening in the camp. I also had an opportunity to meet Dr. Klaus Schilling, who was famous for his research on malaria by experimenting on humans in concentration camps. My duty was to bring back Dr. Schilling who was the head of medical research in Dachau. He told me that he was able to find a cure for malaria but he wasn't able to record the cure in his book. He also asked us to go by his house and bring some books, which we did. He was a man who could think of anything gross as he used thousands of prisoners as guinea pigs to test his malaria cure. We took him to Augsburg where our interrogation headquarter was located. In 1945, Dr. Schilling was tried for his criminal activities and executed in 1946.

    Therefore I was in Augsburg when the war ended. After the war, I remained in Germany for six months participating in denazification programs. At that time, there was a great deal of interest in locating any valuables such as artwork which might have been displaced during the war. As a result of that, everyone was on the search for any documents that could be of historical value. One of our agents had an informant who indicated that he had some important information about such documents. He told our agents that there was a trunk containing a lot of these documents supposedly buried, and we found it with his help. This trunk contained a lot of valuables, which was worth probably a million dollars, including Hitler's uniform when he got wounded in July, as well as a sterling set of silver, photograph albums, stamp albums and other valuables. The photo albums contained photos of Hitler and Eva Braun. There were also a lot of photographs of a child, and the speculation was that it was Hitler's kid.

    We felt a need to preserve those albums for the future. I had the trunk with me for a few weeks until we decided to send it to Frankfurt to our headquarters. In December 1945 we all came back to the U.S. feeling victorious. I went back to my hometown in January of 1946. I worked as a history teacher at Grandfalls High School, as it was too late for me to take admission at that time of the semester to complete my remaining degree. It was an interesting experience being in a classroom with young people. I was discharged from active duty in March 1946, but I remained active in the Reserve Corps. I was named a commander of the Counter Intelligence Corps at Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas.

    After teaching History for a semester, I completed my degree at the Texas College of Mines and decided to continue my career in education. I got my journalism degree in September 1946. I was then employed by the college in El Paso to become a director of sports activities. In 1948, I enrolled in the masters of journalism program at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. After receiving my master's, I chose to enter the advertising agency field, and continued for the next 30 years. At the same time, I started becoming active in political affairs at the state and national level. As a result of which, I was selected to be elected as the state representative for West Texas. Four years later I was elected as a member of the Texas Senate where I stayed as a senator for about 20 years. I had the opportunity to participate in various major activities of the Texas legislature. I am proud of my service in political affairs. At the same time, I am proud of the opportunity I had to serve in World War II.