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  • They Say There Was a War

    They-Say-There-Was-a-War-CoverThis collection of World War II Oral Histories is available for purchase from the SVC Bookstore. General Editors: Richard David Wissolik, Ph.D; David Wilmes; Eric Greisinger; John DePaul
    Editors: Erica Wissolik; Barbara Wissolik; Katie Killen; Rick Claypool; Srdn Smailbegovich; Gary E. J. Smith; Michael Cerce, Almaan El-Attrache
    Introductory Essays: Mark Gruber, O.S.B., Ph.D.; John DePaul, Eric Greisinger, David Wilmes, David Zauhar
    Book Design and Artwork: Michael Wilkey; Michael Cerce; Richard David Wissolik, Hank Stairs.

    The drama, tragedy, brutality and macabre humor of total warfare during World War II is nowhere more apparent than in the personal experiences of those who were there. The stories in this book represent the recollections of men who provide detailed accounts of their wartime experiences. Over 200 vintage photographs, drawings, posters and maps enhance the narratives. Readers who venture into these pages will be richly rewarded with insight into the experiences that changed a generation of young men and women.

    There have been many books like this over the past five years, but They Say There Was a War trumps them all. First of all, the stories are truly incredible. From the stories of survival by the prisoners of war, to the everyday courage displayed by all these veterans, this book enriches one's knowledge of a war we as a nation have often thought of in too glorious terms. The honest accounts of these veterans, given in their own words, puts to rest any notion of World War II being glorious. They Say There Was a War is an important book from a historical perspective. It contains a number of significant photographs and accounts any historian would cherish. There are two accounts of survivors of the attack on Pearl Harbor. One of these veterans contributed a number of photographs taken of Pearl Harbor and its surroundings prior to the attack. Another account has photographs taken of Nagasaki a short time after the dropping of the atomic bomb. The story of the Bataan Death March survivor and the account of the British doctor, who gives the reader a very detailed description of the fall of Singapore and four years of captivity working on the Thai-Burma railroad, are both historical treasures. They Say There Was a War holds the reader's attention. The stories give some wonderful sketches of what it was like growing up during the Depression and also often colorful narratives of these veteran's first jobs, their family life, many of whom came from immigrant parents, and their thoughts and feelings of leaving home and going to war. In short, one truly gets to know the veterans in They Say There Was a War and their stories come alive on the pages. Anyone can relate to these stories, and learn from them.

    Angelo Barone, “I Got My Ass Shot Off!” (80th Division, 317th Infantry Regiment, Company L, POW): “Lieutenant Ferguson asked the German who was questioning him to get us out of the barn because American artillery was going to hit it. The German said, ‘No, the Americans aren’t that good a shot. They’ll never hit the barn.” The lieutenant said, ‘Well, the next shell is going to hit the in front of the barn. Get us out of here!” No sooner he said that than the next shell did hit in front. He said, “Get us the hell out of here! They’re going to hit the barn!” No sooner he said that than a shell hit the barn, killed the lieutenant, the German, and quite a few of the other guys. I dove under a cow before the shell hit, and shrapnel killed the cow. I was covered with blood. I looked a mess. They said they didn’t know if I was alive or dead. They carried me out of the barn. Twenty-nine of us wounded, nineteen seriously.”

    Clarence Brockman, “Where’s the Booze?” (80th Division, 317th Regiment, Headquarters Company): “He put them on the front of the Jeep, and they’re holding on to that freezing steel with their bare hands. He drove that Jeep as fast as it would go. Down at the PW camp there was a barnyard where we kept prisoners of war. The barnyard was surrounded with a stone wall. Instead of going through the gate, this Wyoming guy headed straight for the wall and slammed on the brakes. Both Germans flew off. The private went over the wall, and the SS man hit it square.”

    Ben Byrer, “Let’s Go Join the Marine Corps.” (3rd Marine Division): “Once we got off the beach, we went into the high country. There wasn’t much opposition. I got up on a mountain and saw green fields and little houses below. It was a beautiful farm scene. It was a place we had passed before we climbed. In fact, the whole island was beautiful. When we were going through the jungle, I was a shaft of sunlight coming down through the trees and shining on a beautiful, orange flower. I made a painting of it, years later.”

    Dale Allen Bullock, “We Had Visions of High Adventure.” (United States Navy, Chief Pharmacist Mate (Ret.), U.S.S. Rotanin (“Named After a Star”): “Of course, with all the monotony on board ship, a sailor starts thinking about getting liberty in the next port. It had been a long time since we had liberty. Well, that’s how the famous Fiji Islands incident occurred. The Rotanin docked there and the captain granted the crew liberty. This, of course, was one of the stories that developed into Tom Heggen’s screenplay for the movie Mr. Roberts. Tom Heggen as an assistant communications officer on the Rotanin. His experiences on the Rotanin and another ship he was assigned to became the inspiration for the book and later the movie. The character of Mr. Roberts was in many ways modeled after many men on the ship. But more than anyone else, Don House was our ship’s Mr. Roberts.”

    Martin Burke, “My Mother Didn’t Know a Thing.” (94th Infantry Division, 301st Regiment, Company G) “One tank passed very close to my hole. The tread seemed as close as six inches. Any­way, part of it ran over my rifle. After that it was useless. After the tanks passed, I got out of my foxhole. The foxhole in front of me and off a little to the left had two soldiers in it. One of the guys was our radioman. He had a hole in his back you could have put a soft ball through. The other guy had half his face blown off. They were both dead. Today, I still think about that situation and how our sergeant probably should have had me with two others in the same foxhole."

    Thomas R. Cable, “Get This Thing on the Ground!” (Fifteenth Air Force, 456th Bomb Group, 744th Squadron) “One fighter was boring right in on my window. He had a set of canons mounted on the front. Of course, he had a better range, and I couldn’t touch him with my .50 calibers. I saw his guns firing alternately, boom, boom, boom. I saw the rounds ex­ploding just like anti-aircraft rounds, coming closer and closer, and all I could do was stand there. It was the oddest feeling in the world. I wasn’t scared, but I knew I couldn’t do anything about it. Then he veered off. All he had to do was fire one more shot, and that would’ve been the end of us.”

    Ronald Colflesh, “We Didn’t Dig No Foxholes.” (83rd Infantry Division, 736th Tank Battalion) “Everybody was scared. You were so nervous at times that you could’ve just cracked up. I never did, but I tell you, my nerves were in pretty bad shape. Once I stuck my head out of the tank, and a sniper shot at me. The bullet hit the turret and there was some splash off of it. The bullet more or less just went to pieces and I got hit with some of that splash. Wasn’t enough to put me out of commission, though.”

    Sante “Sandy” DeMarino, “Just Because They’re Marines, Don’t Mean They’re Not Human!” (4th Marine Division, 24th Marine Regiment, 3rd Battalion, L Company) “Well, I’ve seen guys crack up and charge pillboxes. They just got ma­chine‑gunned down. They’d charge a pillbox with only their M-1. They really cracked all together! Then there were the guys who would crack and would eventually come back to the outfit. They’d be taken off the line and given treatment. Where they treated them, I don’t know. I’ve heard of guys giving themselves self‑inflicted wounds, but I never saw that happen. Then there were stories of guys who cracked up and killed them­selves. We heard about that on Saipan. Just because they’re Marines don’t mean they’re not human! People think Marines are made out of steel. That’s bullshit!”

    George Clark, “You Shot What Sucker Down?” (United States Air Force, 366th Fighter Group, (Republic P-47 “Thun­derbolt) “We carried rockets, as well. We were especially interested in train move­ments. Those locomotives would just about disappear in huge clouds of steam and smoke. Every now and then a guy would see a farmhouse or some other building that looked sus­picious we’d go in and strafe it. Sometimes there were very big explosions. They were probably ammunition stores.”

    Thomas Dix, “Our War Had Just Started.” (United States Navy, U.S.S. Minivette, U.S.S Heminger, U.S.S. Pana­men) “The water was cold, and the air was cold, too. I think the air was worse than any­thing else. I held onto a piece of floating debris that was about ten-feet long. There were other guys holding onto this piece of the ship. There was one fellow who crawled on this debris. He hollered for me to help this other fellow. He had blood all over his face. I swam out and helped him up on this piece of wreckage. One of the officers was there, and he said, ‘Who is that? Get away from me!’ He was a little crazed. He didn’t want any of the enlisted men near him. Another fellow said to him, ‘We’re all the same out here now!’”

    Thomas J. Evans, “That War I Was in Was An Ugly Thing!” (United States Third Army, 4th Armored Division, 704th Tank Destroyer Battalion)“That evening, Patton came with Colonel Clarke and they stood up on that hillside. Looking down at the carnage from my CP, Colonel Clarke said, ‘Captain Evans was in charge of this shootout.’ Patton asked me what kind of ammunition we were using, and if we had enough of it. I said, ‘We had plenty of ammunition, we’re in good shape.’ Patton said to me, ‘This is the kind of thing that’s going to end the war quicker than anybody had hoped.’ And he turned around, walked to his Jeep and took off.”

    B.J. Fleckenstein, “You Yellow Sonofabitch! Take These Guys Back In.” (4th Marine Division, 3rd Battalion, 25th Regiment) “No one will ever know what war is like, unless he fights one. Take every Fourth of July fireworks show you ever saw and multiply it by cannons going off at your rear, and things exploding over you head, and your buddy holding his guts in his hand. That’s war. That’s not the fun part.”

    James Foley, “What Did I Get Into Now?” (4th Marine Division, 24th Marine Regiment, 2nd Battalion E Company) “There was a new and awful odor that mixed in with the sulfur and cordite. The closer we got to the front, the worse the smell got. The smell made me sick to my stomach, but chewing gum helped a little. When I lifted my head and looked up the path, I found out what the smell was. It was coming from dead Marines lying on stretchers. They hadn’t had time to bury them.”

    Joseph Folino, “Maggie’s Drawers” (691st Tank Destroyer Battalion) “Many Italians condemned me when I came into contact with them. They said, ‘You’re Ital­ian! How can you fight your own people?’ I replied, ‘I am an American soldier, you started the war I didn’t, I was sent here.’”

    James A. Forster, “All I Got was Some Aspirin.” (2nd Infantry Division)“On 16 December, the Germans broke through the Ardennes Forest, and the Battle of the Bulge began. We were sent to Elsenborn. During our battle there, several men came walking toward us with the heavy olive-drab coats and helmets our troops wore. The one man had a cigarette hanging out of his mouth and he came up to me, never said a word and motioned with his hand, to light his cigarette. I lit his cigarette, and that was it. He and his buddy and maybe four or five others passed going in the opposite direction. I remember asking a buddy of mine, “Why are these guys going in the opposite direction? The fighting’s the other way!” After we were told that there were English-speaking Germans posing as American soldiers all through the area, I started to wonder who those guys really were.”

    Michael Gates, “If I’m Gonna Get Killed, I’m Gonna Get Killed!” (4th Marine Division, 1st Battalion, 23rd Regiment) “One time we were to clean out a pocket of resistance. Our Lieutenant Walker got wounded in the advance and got pinned down in this big crater that was about twice the size of a house. The Japs were coming up over the crater. I got to the top of the crater with my BAR and I just kept shooting the whole way around it. Some of the Japs I shot fell into the crater. Others were in the crater coming out from holes, or tunnels they had built for protection. I killed everybody that was in that crater. It was like a nest of them. My buddies said I must have been crazy for standing on top of that crater with those Japs. Next to some of the dead Japs you’d find empty bottles of Saki. They were drunk when they got killed. I got the Silver Star for that crater battle.”

    Hubert “Butch” Gower, “Butch! Where Are You?” (5th Marine Division) “My real introduction to the Marine Corps happened on the parade ground. We were lined up and the DI came up. He was all man. He tapered exactly four inches from his shoulders to his waist. Under his arm was his swagger stick, two thirds of a billiard cue. He walked up to us and said, ‘Ha, I never saw a more ragged-assed bunch of ragged-assed militia in my life. You people are feather merchants, yard birds. I can whip any one of you, any one of you I can whip. If you think I can’t, and if I can’t, I got a friend down the way that can help me out. Sell your soul to God because your ass belongs to me. You’re going to do what I want you to and your going to do it, so you may as well do it and like it.’”

    Robert M. Johnston, “After a Time It’s All Just Hell.” Unites States Air Force, 340th Bomb Group, 488th Squadron). “I had a little guy in the tail-gunner position that day. I had handled that plane so violently that I ruptured his kidney and spleen. When we landed, they rushed him right to the hospital where I had always thought he died. Forty years later, my wife, Elaine, and I were at a reunion. She got talking to a guy whose story sounded like the tail gunner’s. She said, ‘Who was the pilot?’ He said, ‘R.M.’ R.M. is what everyone called me. She said, ‘He thought you died.’ She came and got me, and we met up again after forty years. They had done surgery and rebuilt everything that had ruptured. For forty years I thought that I had killed him.”

    Clarence Kindl, “War Was the Farthest Thing From Our Minds” (7th Air Force, 46th Pursuit Squadron, 15th Pursuit Group, Pearl Harbor 7 December 1941,Wheeler Field, Oahu, Hawaii)“We were at church on December 7, 1941. After church, three buddies and I went to the mess hall to see if we could scrounge up some late breakfast. When we got there, they were cleaning the place up. The mess hall was an old, one storey, wooden building. We sat down at a table. The guy on KP asked us, “Would you all mind moving over one table?” We moved, and because of that we owed that guy our lives. As soon as we moved, there was a big explosion outside. I said, “What the hell was that? There’s no flying today. Maybe something happened out on the line, a gas explosion or something.” Then there was another explosion, then another, then another. I walked over to the door and looked out. I saw a plane go by that had big, red balls on it. ‘Christ,’ I said. ‘There are Jap planes out there!’”

    Robert Knorr, “We Were Treated Like Dirt” (5th Marine Division, Fleet Marine Force) “After the war was over, I joined the Marine Corps League. Three years ago, we took a trip down to the Iwo Jima memorial. We were wearing our uniforms. It looked just like the real thing I had seen on Iwo. I stood there looking at that like a kid looking at a candy store. All of a sudden a voice from behind me said, ‘That’s quite a thing, isn’t it?’ I said, ‘It certainly is!’ I turned around, and there were two Marines in their blues. One was a major, and one was a lieutenant colonel. I guess they were in their late thirties. I said, ‘Yes, Sir. I was there the day it went up.’ They took two steps back, gave me a salute, and then shook my hand.”

    Chester Lapa, “We’re Just Rookies.”(63rd Infantry Division, 90th Infantry Division, 357th Regiment) “After they took Mooney back, I came across a dead GI. He was lying on his back. On his chest was an open wallet. There was a picture of his wife and little girl inside. We wanted to take the wallet for the address so that we could write to the wife back in Ohio and tell her how her husband had died. We decided against it, because we didn’t want someone to think that we stole his wallet. We hoped that Graves’ Registration would do the job for us. We marked where he lay by sticking he rifle in the ground, bayonet first, and putting his helmet over the butt stock.

    Joseph LaValle, “It Was Enemy Territory. It Was Awful.” (United States Third Army, 17th Field Artillery, POW) “We started walking. “We walked all night, and we walked right into an ambush. Boom, boom, boom, the Germans started shooting, and all hell broke loose. Our guys were dropping like flies! God was with me, because when they opened up and oh my God, I just hit the dirt and all I got was a little flesh wound. Every time I think of it, it hurts. It really hurts. Seeing all my buddies, lying there dead and wounded, nobody doing anything for them. It was enemy territory. It was awful.”

    David Locke, M.D., “The River Ran Like a Snake.” (63rd Infantry Division, 263rd Combat Company Battalion, Headquarters and Service) “Three days later we started to cross the river and begin our introduction to what we trained for. I didn’t realize what was happening until I met a dead body.”

    John Martino, “Little Crow, Little Crow!” (81st Chemical Mortar Battalion) “All I heard was guns shooting. I was numb, scared. Praying to God I wouldn’t get hit. I had my face buried in the sand. Everybody was a hero that day on Omaha Beach in Normandy. Everyone was my brother. We all helped each other. It was a feeling that nobody will ever understand except the ones who went through it.”

    Nicholas P. Matro, “We Got Used to the Night.” (Twentieth Air Force, 6th Bomb Group, 313th Wing, 39th Squadron Boeing B29 Lucky Strike) “We lived in tents for a long time and each crew had their own tent. Our tent was at the end of a line of tents. Prior to our getting there, the Army or Marines, I don’t know which, had hung, from a tree near the tent, about twenty Japanese skulls painted different colors like Christmas tree ornaments. They swung back and forth in the breeze. We saw them everyday, and never thought a thing about it."

    Hal Mayforth, “The Rest of the Story.” (United States Third Army, 4th Armored Division, 25th Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron) “In early August, a French paratrooper named Tony augmented my unit. How he happened to join us remains a mystery. We just adopted him. Tony had been raised in England, and his unit had jumped into France about a month before D-Day to do as much damage as possible to bridges and communications. Tony was absolutely fearless. He parents had suffered from the German occupation, and his sister had been raped. Thus, Tony fought under a Vendetta, and he took no prisoners.”

    Harry McCracken, “We’ll Put You in the Medics.” (99th Infantry Division, 395th Regiment Medical Detachment, Head­quarters Aid Station) “As a medic, I usually had people around me all the time, but if I was in a foxhole, most of the time maybe I had one guy to talk to. A lot of times, I was alone, wondering what was going to happen in the next five minutes, but, really, I just lived from day to day, because I never knew what was going to happen. I never thought of being adventurous. I was trained to do a certain job, and I figured, ‘Hey, I’m here to do it the best I knew how.’”

    Peter Messer, “May I Volunteer for the Airborne?” (Assistant Military
    Attaché, U.S. Embassy, London, England; 17th Airborne Division, 155th Glider Anti-Tank Battalion “When our glider hit the ground, the pilot shouted that we were headed straight toward a tree. We bounced and scraped along the ground straight into that tree, taking about 6 feet off the wing, but at least we landed successfully. Once on the ground and operating, I came across a bunch of German soldiers who surrendered to me. They had just been standing around in a field and I just said, “Come on,” and they followed as prisoners of war. I made them pull this trailer up to some houses where all of our guys were gathered. To the Germans I must have looked like some mean, mean commander, with all those guns and everything. I don’t think I could have shot anybody, but those Germans didn’t know that.”

    Alexander Robert Nelson, “The Flag is Passing By” (Fifteenth Air Force, 449th Bomb Group, 716th Squad­ron, POW) “An American captain told us just to stay put because the battle was con­tinuing in Moosburg. As the captain spoke, one of our guys goes: ‘Hey there goes the American flag!’ And we could see the tower over in Moosburg, kind of the county seat. Our flag was going up. The German flag was going down. Well, you can imagine! I mean all at once it was Fourth of July, Christmas, New Years Eve, everything all at once! We were free men again!”

    Fielder N. Newton, “Thumbs Up, Yank! We All Can’t Go!” (Eighth Air Force; 389th Bomb Group) “A typical mission would start the night before. They alerted us that we would be flying in the morning. So we got to bed as early as we could and fell asleep as quickly as we could with the things that were on our minds. It wasn’t always easy.”

    Orlando Pietropaoli, “Are There Any Mines There?” (629th Engineer Light Equipment Company) “When I was over there, it never ever entered my mind that I would get shot. It was like I just had to do a job over there and I did it. One time when our planes were bombing, this one fellow, was under the tractor with us, he was shaking, crying, he had matches in his pocket they were rattling. Me and my buddy didn’t think nothing about it, just another day.”

    Antonio (“Tony”) Martin Priolette “I’d Better Get the Hell Outta Here!”
    (Sixth Army, 24th Infantry Division, 21st Infantry Regiment, 3rd Battal­ion, Company I) “The next day, our Jeep boy, the one who drove the captain around, was going down to the field hospital on an errand. I asked him to find out about Sergeant Sliven. He came back and told me, ‘The sergeant can’t talk too well. I had to put my ear right up near his mouth, but he said he was, okay.’ Then he told me that Sliven had the whole side of his jaw blown off below the ear by shrapnel, that all he could see were Sliven’s eyes, nose, and mouth. The rest of his head was bandaged. He also told me that the docs were going to take a jaw off a dead man and try to use to replace the one Sliven lost. He said that Sliven kept saying, ‘It’s okay. It’s okay.’”

    John Paul Priolette, “What Did I Need a Gun For?” United States Navy, Task Forces 37, 38, 50 and 58, Northern Carrier Group; U.S.S Monterey) “One day I developed a tooth ache, and went to the dentist for it. It was a wisdom tooth. He just got through pulling it out when the battle station bell went off. He stuffed some cotton in my mouth, and I got up to the deck. The sky was black and red with flak and tracers. A plane was headed right for the ship. I got so excited I swallowed the cotton! The pilot let his bomb loose too soon and it exploded in the water. Then the plane got hit and got blown all to hell.”

    Michael Rudy, “Clyde Ain’t Coming Back” (200th Field Artillery Battalion (Replacement Unit), 83rd Infantry Division) “After basic, we went back to Fort Meade. This was 11 May 1944. We still weren’t part of any unit. We were going overseas as replacements. After a couple days, we boarded the USS Whitfield. There was a lot of hollering going on. I couldn’t figure it out. Then I saw them bringing guys on board who were tied down on stretchers. They didn’t want to go! I was eighteen-years old. What the hell did I care?”

    Ross Saunders, “I Figured I had Bought the Farm.” (66th Infantry Division, 262nd Regiment, 3rd Battalion, K Company) “The HMS Brilliant came alongside our ship again and with a bullhorn the captain told our Colonel Martindale that the ship was sinking and he should have his men abandon ship. The ship was listing badly, and I went into the water by sliding down the side. I told my friend, Fred Walstrom, to stay close to me because I couldn’t swim. Then some­thing, a steel net or something on the side of the ship, caught my leg and rolled me under water. I was under water and figured I had bought the farm. Next thing I knew I was going up, up, up, it was like I was going to heaven. I thought, you know, is this the way I’m going to die – after all the training I’d had.”

    Leroy “Whitey” Schaller, “Today Is Our Day, Tomorrow May Be Yours.” (28th Infantry Division, Pennsylvania National Guard, The “Keystone” Division, 110th Infantry) “Most of the rooms were empty. The Germans came upstairs twice, but on both occasions they did not look into the room we were in. We were not as lucky the third time, when they came up again. We heard them head back downstairs, or so we thought, but not all of them did. Our door was like a shallow closet door. It opened, and I knew it was up! We couldn’t do anything. It would have been foolish to shoot. His first words were, ‘Good morning, Gentlemen. For you the war is over!’ As they marched us away, he turned to me and said, ‘Today is our day, but tomorrow may be yours.’ He must have known that this offensive of theirs was their last attempt at winning the war. War is strange, indeed. We later discovered that he had been educated at the University of Pennsylvania.”

    Joseph (“Sam”) Seanor, “We Could Have Been Good Friends.” (106th Infantry Division, Field Artillery) “The 106th was caught in the middle of the Kraut attack. Little groups of the division would hold out in a firefight for a little while, and then down they would go. Some lasted two or three days, but they had little ammunition, no heavy guns, no supply, no nothing. The 99th was on our left, and the 9th armored was dug in all around us, and they damn near all got wiped out too. Those jerks had their goddamned tanks dug in and they froze in the ground and couldn’t get out."

    John S. Slaney, “My Dear Boy! Are You All Right?” (Royal Air Force. Hawker Hurricanes, Hawker Typhoons, 535 Squadron, 247 Squadron) “We went past this place that I’d just shot up, and it was a shambles—body parts and bodies all over the place. I concentrated on not looking too satisfied with my work. I could feel this corporal press the Luger harder into me. He was obviously under some emotional stress, passing his dead buddies the way we did.”

    William R. Smith, “Sometimes We Didn’t Need the Dog Tags.” (28th Infantry Division - “The Bloody Bucket” - 110th Infantry Regiment, Pennsylvania National Guard; 63rd Infantry Division, 2nd Battalion, Headquarters Company) “When people ask me, ‘How many Germans did you kill?’ I answer, ‘I didn’t kill any!’ I didn’t draw up on a man and shoot at him. I fired the rifle a lot of times, but I don’t think I hit anybody. I didn’t always see what I was shooting at. ‘You see guys shooting and getting shot in the movies though,’ they say. And then I say, ‘I know, but I wasn’t in the movies!’”

    Antonio Spanish, “I Was Gone a Year.” (Merchant Marine) “One night, Joe, another guy named Al Bakeoff, and I were in a restaurant spiking our coffee from a bottle of booze. There were three or four girls there, and we got to talking with them. Then a couple sailors came in and broke into our conversation. We were quickly at war. We turned tables upside down, and just about tore that restaurant apart. The police and the Shore Patrol came in. We were in civvies, so the cops took us away, and the Shore Patrol took the guys in uniform. One of the cops got me down on the ground and hit me over the head with a billy club. They threw the three of us in jail. We slept on the concrete floor. The next morning we had a hearing.”

    Marvin R. Spencer, “You’re Not Going to Make It.” (80th Division, 317th Regiment, 3rd Battalion, Headquarters Company) “When I jumped over trees, you know, I saw the biggest German that I had ever seen waiting for me. He was on his knees, just waiting for somebody to come over. He caught me in the stomach with a bayonet and it slit me about five inches up. Well I caught him and got rid of him. The battle lasted a long, long time and when it was over you couldn’t take three steps in any direction without stepping on a dead German or a dead American.”

    Ralph Sperber, “The Days Didn’t Matter Any More.” (United States Fifth Army, 10th Mountain Division, 616th Pack Field Artillery, Headquarters Battery “The days didn’t matter anymore because guys were getting their arms and legs blown off right in front of me. We fixed up Jeeps to carry the wounded. It they were badly wounded, chaplains would ride with them. Some guys died in those Jeeps.”

    Henry M. (“Hank”) Stairs, Jr., “We Were Still Kids” (66th Infantry Division, 30th Infantry Division, 28th Infantry Division, Korea) “While we were still in Repo-Depo, we were on a bivouac on a hilltop, and another group was to our rear. They had arrived just after sunset after a long hike and were too tired to dig in. Almost every night a German recon plane flew overhead. We called him “Bed Check Char­lie,” and we had a very firm rule not to fire on him. Somebody did. Charlie made a big circle, came back over, and dropped a load of anti-personnel bombs on the newcomers. I was about five feet from my hole when I heard him coming. I dove headfirst for cover. My rifle flew in another direction. The bombs plastered those guys, killing and wounding scores. Among the dead, we later learned, was a chaplain. Several of my buddies visited the hilltop the next morning. I wasn’t that curious. I figured I would see enough later, and I was right.”

    Lewis Jacob Steck, “It Was All Luck.” (2nd Marine Division, 2nd Marine Regiment, 3rd Battalion, L Company) “I saw a lot of people get killed. I saw a lot of people get wounded. It bothered me more when the person was wounded real bad than if the person was killed out right. You don’t forget about them. I’d see a Marine who was wounded real bad I’d wonder, “Is he gonna make it? Is he even gonna make it back to the ship before he dies?” A lot of times the fellas who I thought were wounded real bad were taken off the island. Later on they came back to the outfit! It was like a reunion! Then there were the times when I’d never see them again. A lot of the stuff has come back. I never talked very much about it, and a lot of the things that happened I just let go by, and I didn’t even want to think about them. In the war, some of the best people were the ones that didn’t come back. And I often wonder how the world would be if they were all here.”

    Earl Vincent Stratton, “Hellfire and Damnation All the Way” (United States Seventh Army, 63rd Infantry Division - “Blood and Fire”, 254th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Battalion, Company H) “I could tell that he cold-blooded killed this German even though he meant to fire over his head, or so he told me. I could tell that it had shaken him up a little. The other German prisoners just stood as still as they could. I waited with that kid for what seemed like hours. There was never any word about that dead German. It was war which meant hellfire and damnation all the way.”

    Jim Takitch, “Who Knew All This Stuff About War?” (United States Navy, Destroyer USS Kidd) “I went back to watching the dogfight. Another Japanese aircraft was close to the ocean deck, looking like it was going to crash into the Black, but the pilot gained altitude, dropped his wing tanks (the after battle report suggested that he did that, hoping to set the Black on fire), and headed for us. The pilot dropped down close to the water. We couldn’t use our five-inch guns because the Black was in the line of fire. The Black gun crews weren’t as considerate as we were. They opened up on the rear of the plane. Then we opened up with our smaller guns. The plane came on, and I had the feeling that it was targeting me! My first reaction was to throw my arm up over my eyes. I peeked out and saw the pilot firing his machine guns. A bullet tore through my lower left jaw, took out part of my jaw bone, knocked out two teeth, and because my arm was over my eyes, the round lodged in my upper left bicep. I lost con­sciousness very soon after I was hit.”

    Peter Talarovich, “We Weren’t There for Love.” (Third Army, 26th Infantry Division, 101st Infantry Regiment) “We came upon these dead Germans in a barnyard. This one was a giant of a fellow. He had his whole rear-end shot off. Must’ve been a direct hit. One private looked at me and said, “You know, his sergeant must have really chewed his ass out.” I mean that’s the type of humor you found. I guess it’s about the only thing you could find in a place like that.”

    Steven Richard Vella, “I Was Just More Of What They Wanted” (101st Airborne Division, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, Com­pany D) “I only weighed 112 pounds. I wasn’t very heavy, but I could outrun just about anybody, and I was a good shot, too because on the farm at home I shot a lot. I was just more of what they wanted.”

    William Wachter, “It All Seems Like a Dream.” (Eighth Air Force, 452nd Bomb Group) “Over there, we had a standing deal where there would be dances for the officers and non-coms. They alternated, the officers one week, the non-coms the next. The same girls would come to each dance. The only time I went to one of these dances was the time I witnessed an unfortunate circumstance. Our wing commander cut in on a lieutenant, took the lieutenant’s girl, and went dancing around. The lieutenant went up to him, pulled him back, and knocked him out. Everybody just kept on dancing. Then the executive officer came up and the lieutenant knocked him out, too. There were the two of them laying side by side, a general and a colonel. Everybody ignored them, and kept dancing around. I thought that the lieutenant was going to be court martialed and shot the next morning, but nothing happened. In fact, they got those two guys off the floor. They got sent home, and never came back.”

    Robert Wasson, “I’ll Be Back in a Year…” (34th Combat Engineers, Headquarters Company) “Army pay was twenty-one dollars a month. When we got paid we said, “The eagle landed and took a crap.” Pay came in a little brown envelope containing was a ten-dollar bill, a five-dollar bill, five ones, and a quarter. They held back seventy-five cents for laundry. That was twenty-one dollars pay for getting shot at, and for taking orders. After getting paid, most guys headed to the Post Exchange or a gambling table.”

    Harvey Waugaman “We Never Forgot Those People.” (United States Third Army, 87th Division -“Golden Acorns” - 346th Regiment) “When it was time for bed, the family gave us their beds to sleep in. It was the first time months we had seen a bed. We slept between clean sheets, under feather ticks. We were in Heaven! When we awoke in the morning, we found that the family had washed and dried our clothes. Before we left, even though their food was in short supply, they gave us breakfast. All they had was eggs. Off we went, again. We never forgot those people, and I’m sure they never forgot us.”

    Terance Arthur John Wickham, MD, “I Came from A Long Line of Soldiers.” (Royal Army Medical Corps, 8th Indian Infantry Brigade, Field Ambu­lance Corps, B Company, Prisoner of War (India, Singapore, Malaysia, Thai-Burma Railroad, Citation for Member of the British Empire (Military Division) Central Chancery of the Orders of Knighthood St. James Palace, London) “The end came. The Japanese came into the Civil Hospital. They were so confident that everything was going to go their own way they only sent one Jap. He couldn’t have been much taller than five feet, and he had a very boyish face. He must have been about sixteen or seventeen. He was in full kit, and helmet. I went out of the operating theater and he was coming down the corridor and I waited until he got up to me and showed me quite proudly his bayonet with blood on the end of it. ‘Chinese,’ he said pointing to the blood. ‘Chinese.’ Then he kept on walking. I hate to think what happened in the Chinese quarter of the city.”

    Robert “Boomer” Woomer, Jr., “We Can Say We Shot at the Enemy.” (23rd Naval Construction Battalion (Snug‑Tuggers) “Seabees” Company A) “The bombers released their bombs and bracketed a ship. Huge geysers erupted around the ship and we thought that it had actually been hit. Every gun on the island opened up. The guns were mainly 90mm 105 mm. A formation of four airplanes came over us, but the 105mm’s broke it up because the planes risked being trapped in their pattern. They dropped several bombs as they broke up including one that landed in an army barracks near by killing one soldier. That was the only casualty that day. Of course, with our 20mm we couldn’t reach the planes, but we sure shot a lot of rounds at ‘em! The gun crew all took turns firing at them. I got my shots in. We can say we shot at the enemy!”

    Robert C. Yowan, “Your Son Was A Ball-Turret Gunner.” (Eighth Air Force, 487th Bomb Group, 838th Squadron) “A phosphorus round had hit the turret. I could smell my flesh burning. That odor is still in my mind today. I had no idea how I was going to get out of the turret, or how badly I was hit. Somehow, I succeeded in getting the ball turret lined up with the fuselage, which it had to be, and I ran the guns in the down position so I could open the door. I ripped my oxygen hose off, and dis­connected my throat mike. I came up into the waist of the plane. There had been no response from anyone. I didn’t know where the waist gunners were, or the radioman. They should have been there, either there, or right adjacent to me. When we, the survivors, talk about it today, no one is sure who left the plane first. I found out later that the navigator and the bombardier and the flight engineer got out from the front. The fighters that came in at twelve o’clock high killed Kenneth the pilot and Howard the co-pilot. The waist gunner was killed. The radioman was killed. Five of us got out.”

    John M. Zubay, “We Ate the Rice, Bugs and All” (803rd Engineer Battalion (Aviation), Headquarters Company Philippine Defense Force, Bataan Death March, Camp O’Donnell, Cabanatuan Prisoner of War Camp, Hirohata Prisoner of War Camp) “Then they interned us at Cabanatuan Number 1, a hell hole of a place. I was there from July 1942 until October 1943. They captured some Filipino guerrillas outside the camp. They cut one guerrilla’s head off, and then they hung it over the gate on a piece of rope. It stayed there three days, dripping blood. When we went out on a woodcutting detail, we had to walk underneath that head. One Filipino tried to escape from Cabanatuan. They tied him to the front gate. They left him there for days. Every time the Japs walked by him they kicked and beat him. It was hot and they didn’t give him any water. Finally they killed him. Three officers in the camp tried to escape. They caught them, made them dig their own graves and then they shot them. They made sure the whole camp watched that.”