May 11, 2006
Recorded by Ruth Ann Montgomery
Coordinated by John and Steve Ehle
Participants: John Haakenson, Melvin R. "Bud" Allen, Art Sands, Howard Norby, Claire Ehle, Bob Brunsell,
Gordon Kazda, Prent Eager, Vic Fuchs, Harry Roderick, Bob Helgesen, Roger Thompson, John Ehle, Richard
Eager, Carl Heinsohn
John Ehle: Total months in service exceeded 530 months. John called this a huge commitment for these men to
participate in the interviews.
John Ehle: What was the most difficult part of your job in the service?
Robert Helgesen: Staying alive, that was the most important thing, surviving. So many think we should not have
dropped the bomb. A history professor read through all of the documents available on the planned invasion of
John Ehle read from a paper Robert Helgesen had received from the history professor: With the capture of
Okinawa, the island served as a launching point for the planned invasion. Japan had never been invaded
successfully in its history. After Victory in Europe (VE Day), the U. S. planned to launch an invasion and conquer
Japan. An armada of allied ships was gathered for a November 1, 1945 invasion and 550,000 combat soldiers
and 10,000 ships were sailing from the Philippines. In July 1945, the Japanese knew of the invasion and told their
people to form a wall of human flesh to repel the invaders.
Robert Helgesen: We’d have all been there.
Claire Ehle: Were you there during the storm?
Robert Helgesen: It took us 3 weeks to go 600 miles from Iwo Jima to Saipan. We would have been in the middle
Howard Norby: We had a lot of damage on the air craft carrier. We survived.
Robert Helgesen: We thought we had the Japanese air force but they had trained frogmen ready to die and 1000
Vic Fuchs: I was at Camp Lucky Strike about a week from being there.
John Ehle: Were you aware of what was going on in the area, what was communication like?
Claire Ehle: I was in New guinea in 1942 and we assumed it would be a push over because of lack of
intelligence. I was a radio man, and we got the message, meet you in Buna tonight. Four and ½ months later we
were still there.
Bud Allen: I celebrated my 19th birthday as we were going in as replacements into Normandy.
Richard Eager. I was not in combat, so communications were good after the war.
Bub Brunsell: Christmas eve we got an order for riflemen to be on the parade grounds tomorrow. The men in my
unit were all truck drivers and mechanics, not infantry men. We had frozen feet, because we did not have the
right clothing for the cold.
Vic Fuchs: I was artillery man, a forward observer. I was assigned to the 591st and attached to the infantry. So I
was in the infantry. It was damm cold and there was no transition. I was in the front lines the morning when the
Battle of the Bulge began and it was really a horrible situation for two days that I remember.
We were spread out for 27 miles. The 28th Division had 25 miles to cover and the left flank was also spread out.
Hitler had 29 Divisions against us.
At 5:30 on December 16, the artillery barrage began and for two hours, talk about scared. My buddy was also
scared. Then when they start killing your buddies you get over being scared and you get mad. You know what
you have to do to stay alive and that’s what we done.
The first wave that came were kids that had SS non-coms. We fought them off that day and plastered them with
artillery. Talk about a bunch of bastards, from Hitler’s youth camps.
We were surrounded for seven days. There was no communication. I was totally blank for about five days. We
had radios. There were five of us with one radio and they preached to us that the radio cost $1,000. We were
surrounded and we knew we had to bust up the radio and get rid of it.
After the first couple of days I remember I was about totally blank on about five days. It was cold, rainy, and then
the snow came. No place to lay down. It was very cold and we did not have the right kind of clothes. In plain
English we almost froze to death and nothing to eat along with that.
I do remember when the 22nd Airborne came up behind us and opened a hole for us. Then we got out that
night. We finally got in a building and I remember flopping down on the floor.
The next morning about four o’clock a.m. a sergeant came in and said artillery up. I thought nobody could be that
cruel. But they needed us and we had to get up. We had artillery support for the 82nd Airborne. We got up and
left to get artillery for the Airborne. Christmas Eve we had an awful artillery battle going, the Germans were
shelling us and we were shelling them. I got to thinking this was suppose to be a silent night. It was a long way
from a silent night.
Richard Eager: Patton was always given the credit.
Vic Fuchs: He was about 3 days late.
Bud Allen: Patton went right through us one night. We were in Southern France and all the armour and trucks
went right through our lines.
Art Sands: My rank was Sergeant. We had a big map to show us where to go and we would put pins to show
where we thought Patton was. When the reports came in he was always way ahead of where the pins were.
Bud Allen: He was going so fast, no one could keep up with him. The Germans let him go through their lines and
then would close the ranks. They were afraid of him.
Art Sands: I remember Patton had 2 pearl handled pistols.
John Ehle: How were the wounded transferred out of combat areas;
Claire Ehle: The natives carried wounded back to the field hospitals in the Pacific. The natives would not go into
the combat zones.
John Ehle: What about medical support staff?
Robert Helgesen: Every Navy corpsman should have gotten a medal of honor. There were two corpsmen to a
platoon and they were always exposed. The Japanese wanted to kill corpsmen so the wounded would not be
Bob Brunsell: They were targets in Europe too.
John Ehle: How did medical support influence the men?
Bud Allen: You did not have time to get sick.
Robert Helgesen: The Navy had hospital ships and LST’s (Landing Ship Tanks) to take wounded to the ships.
There were 27,000 casualties in 26 days.
John Ehle: There were 10 support people for every person in battle. There was a lot of work behind the scenes.
Bob Brunsell: Prent and Bill Brunsell both came home on the same ship.
Prent Eager: That’s wrong, we met at camp. I came home on an aircraft carrier. About 20 guys threw up and the
Captain said don’t get near the edge.
Howard Norby. When I left in 1942, the U Boats would torpedo and send one ship flying into the air. We were in a
convoy and they didn’t pay attention that our engine went dead. We sat in the water for several days. We could
catch up because the convoy was zigzagging to avoid the U-Boats, so the Captain knew where the convoy would
be, so we caught up.
Robert Brunsell, I was born in Evansville, and lived there 80 years and now live in Stoughton. Enlisted Dec. 1942
and joined the 69th Infantry Division, the 271st regiment of which I was the armour officer in charge of all the
guns in the regiment.
I was not called up until June 1943 and sent to Aberdeen, Maryland as tank mechanic. Had one little tank with
radial engine and we had to learn to overhaul that. We might take out the engine and do a complete over haul.
We had a fellow in our outfit who came out of the hills of Kentucky and had never worn shoes and when we listen
to a radio station with hillbilly music and this guy from Kentucky, he’d say that is not hillbilly music, that is modern
folk music. Sent to New Jersey and then sent to training in engineering, thermo dynamics. I got to Miss. And it
was mud and jiggers and heat and they named us the three b’s Bolte, bivwac and bastards. I was in charge of all
the guns in our regiment and if the local company guys could not handle it, I came back to solve the problem.
Landed in England and went to France and got on a 40 and 8 and we replaced the 99th division that was torn
apart. We crossed the Rhine, after fighting the Ziegfried line and we got on the other side and took 40 or 50
towns and crossed on the largest pontoon bridge in the world. One bridge had collapsed and we went across on
LST’s and took our tanks. We fought all the way across Germany until we got to Leitzig and there was a great big
monument building and the walls were 10-20 feet thick and we had an awful time blasting in.
Shells bounced off the walls and finally they brought up the artillery and one day there was a recess. Both sides
stopped and took a time out so that they could take away their wounded. The war stopped for a few minutes
there. Then they started again.
One high ranking officer, a big Colonel from Germany, was captured and he went back in and he convinced them
that there was no way they could keep on fighting against the American forces that were out there. So they finally
We knew something was coming. Civilians and officers were coming in to surrender. They were trying to get
away from the Russians and did not want to get captured and sent to Siberia. There were a lot of soldiers killed
by civilians who were using sniper fire.
We went just East of town and there was a little river called the Elba River. One of the patrols in our division
crossed the river and ran into the Russian Army. So we had made the historic contact with the Russians. In
about two weeks they signed the peace treaty in Germany and it was over. So that was the biggest thing in my
life, that historic contact and the surrender which cut Germany right in two.
I went back and was assigned to a motor pool. They would bring in their trucks and ambulances and turn them
in. Mud was knee deep and I had about 50 Germans working for me. I went to Heidelberg. From there I only had
47 points and our 69th finally went home.
What is the point system? It determined who could go home. You got points from being in service and the higher
points got to go back to the states first.
Gordon J. Kazda: They also serve who stand and wait. I was trained from a hotel in St. Petersburg, Florida. The
drill grounds were the beaches of St. Petersburg. From there I was shipped to Greensboro, North Carolina where
I was sent to college at the University of North Carolina, in Raleigh, North Carolina and given a crash course in
math and calculus and trigonometry. The Secretary of the Navy had decided that they need 150,000 engineers
to rebuild Europe.
At the college there were 150 soldiers in the ASTP, Advanced Specialists Training Program. The closest point of
danger I had was a shoulder injured in a football game. I was never assigned to a branch of service. I had no
stripes and got $50 a month.
I was sent to Shepherd Field, Wichita Falls, Texas where I was told I was to teach majors, lieutenants, and other
officers weapons handling and gunnery. I was a private first class with one little tiny stripe. I taught a few classes
to returning high ranking officers. I got frustrated that I had no rank and so I got some stripes. I was made a staff
One officer came to me and said, “Young man I understand that you have some discomfort and if any of these
people give you any crap, let me know.” It was a cushy job, 8 to 5, and I never got shot at or had cold feet. On
the other hand, you had no choice about what you were going to do or where you were going.
I was sent to Fort Sill, Oklahoma and emerged as a staff sergeant, a handshake, and $200 and thank you.
Claire Ehle: Who decided officers needed additional training?
Gordon Kazda: The officers need weapons training because, in order to staff an office, they had to have
weapons training. I don’t know why I was chosen to train them. What they needed was teachers that knew
weapons. I learned that as a teacher you needed to stand tall and have a loud voice.
Harry Roderick: You go where you are assigned. I was assigned to be one of the reserve officers with four
captains, all World War I veterans. The rules in the war department about how you could be promoted.
Before the war, I was one of 8 officers to attend school in New Jersey. One of the other officers said that he had a
friend at the field where the Hindenberg was to land and we would have a chance to go aboard, after it landed.
We were some distance away when it crashed. I assisted in looking for survivors. Some jumped and lived. I still
had a couple of pieces of the Hindenberg. I helped remove the bodies. The German government did not want
anyone to take any souvenirs from the crash as they wanted to have the light weight metal returned to them and
melted down. He has given the pieces to his sons. It was a light metal.
I ended up a Lt. Col. I was a reserve officer from before the war, the ROTC and I went in and early in 1940 and
got out in 1947. I was pretty much ended up as an air defense officer involved in various active and passive air
defense roles. I was in the 1st, 3rd, 4th and 6th Air Force. When I was in New Orleans, I was the air defense
command and probably there, we had practically a German sea. The Germans had control of the Gulf Of Mexico,
there were so many German submarines in the Gulf of Mexico. They were sinking them off the mouth of the
Mississippi and in fact we had one come up and sack one of the boats right in the middle of the river. It quieted
down after the B-52’s began dropping bombs.
I was also in the air defense command in the Panama Canal. We had radar stations spread out across the area,
including the Galapagos Islands.
Claire Ehle: I went in the service April 15, 1941 and assigned to 32nd Division 3rd Battalion, I took basic at
Camp Livingston, LA and from there to Fort Devins, Massachusetts, and was shipped across to Fort Org, CA and
from there in a convoy to Australia. The first American Division in on convoy and ended in Australia in May 14,
1942. I was shipped to permanent camp in Queensland and had training there. We had no jungle training and
then Sept. 1942 we were shipped by rail to Townsville, North Australia. Our mission was Buna and Santayana.
We landed 65 miles east of Buna and had to walk through the jungles, mud, rain, and on 1/3 sea rations, canned
rations. The rations were one 8 oz can beans and 8 oz can of corn beef hash. Good tasting but not enough food
and we were rationed for one can every three days. If you ate an extra can you went hungry the third day. We
finally got to Buna and the General said, “See you in Buna tonight” Someone mis-anticipated the strength of the
We spent a lot of time there and there were a lot of casualties. Fighting was over in Feb. 1943. We were shipped
back to Australia. One army doctor said 60% of the men had fevers. We got more replacements and went back
to New Guinea and to Western New Guinea and the Netherlands East Indies. We got paid in Dutch money. That
lasted four or five months. My name came up in rotation. I went back to the states in Dec. 1944 and arrived in
San Francisco on January 2, 1945 From there I was assigned to a training cadre in Camp Gordon, Georgia. I
spent six months training troops in basic training. July 7, 1945 I was discharged.
We had a lot of WWI senior officers in our regiment. It was the 32nd Division from Michigan and Wisconsin.
The Australian families treated us very well. You could be standing on a street corner and wondering what to do
and someone would walk up and say do you need anything? Would you like to come home and have dinner with
us? Kathy and I went back in 1997 and made contact with a son who had a hotel in Australian. I still communicate
with him and I still have books that Mrs. Hemming sent to us, Australian nursery rhymes.
We stayed at this little hotel when we went to town and she never charged us. We paid for our own booze.
Prent Eager: I’m Leonard P. Eager, Jr., Corporal, in the 11th Air Force group. I was sent where I was suppose to
go. When I left home, I never got back home. My mother and father came to see me in camp. We were on our
way to Africa. We were told we had only food and other supplies. There were ships going down. I slept on the
On the way to Africa we landed in Casa Blanca. We all had to shine our shoes. We flew from there to Africa and
then to Tunis. We were serving out of Tunis and then going on to Italy. Probably the most vivid experience I had
was going from Africa to supposedly Sicily in a landing craft and the weather was sort of rough and we were not
sure we were even going to get there. They finally changed the orders and we went to Naples, skipped Sicily and
went on over the mountains. We were at Bari for the rest of the war.
We got home and we were glad to get home. I’m glad you all got home.
John Ehle: Were you in the reserve, National Guard Before? Yes.
Howard Norby: Always lived in Evansville. I enlisted in 1942. It was July 12, 1942 and in the Navy and they sent
me to the Naval training station and then to Lawrence Kansas to study machine shop and steam control for ships.
Then to Long Island New York where I worked in machine shop. Then they sent me back to the states and
assigned me to the U.S.S.Boxer that was built as an aircraft carrier and then we went on some shake-down
I served in the U. S. Navy in the Mediterranean and North Africa. Then we went to the Pacific for about a year.
We were in that typhoon you were talking about. We never knew where the planes were going.
We were sitting in Tokyo Bay when the surrender was going on. It was amazing how friendly the Japanese were.
If we went to the shore the Japanese came up and wanted Cigarettes.
I got out of the Navy in 1946.
John Ehle: Ever get seasick.
Howard Norby: No but I had to feed a few people who did.
Bob Brunsell: Guys were hanging over the side and saying they wish they could die.
Howard Norby. We called it Rail Call: let every guy through.
Art Sands. I got drafted. Before that I tried to enlist in the Air Force with Don Lawry. After I got drafted I got sent
to Atlantic City in hotels and I was on the 12th floor with no elevators. I went to N. C. to college and I couldn’t hack
that. I tried to get into the Air Force as a cadet. Then they sent me to Madison for radio school and finally ended
up in gunnery school in Laredo Texas. I wanted to fly. We went to Italy. I flew 14 missions and we did find a lot of
flak. We could damn near get out and walk this stuff. I was on a B24 . I was the nose gunner and got to see a lot
of country. We were in Southern Italy and we always had to fly over the Alps. I’d like to go back and see where
we were. We flew out of a town called Leece. The heal of Italy. We were the furthest ones down and we had to
go a long ways. We flew from Leece across the Adriatic. I’d like to go back.
My military affiliation was with the 15th Air Force in Italy with the 98th bomb group. I did fly 14 missions to places
like Vienna, Reagansburg, and Bruch.
I think one of the funniest thing I ever had was on a mission we flew on day we were test firing our guns. And one
of our life rafts popped out and it flew back and hit the tail. It put the plane in a nosedive and we finally got it
pulled out. The flight engineer and I went to the back in the waste and cut a hole in the side of the airplane with
an axe that we had in the survival kit. We had to reach out with a knife and cut away this raft, which was rubber.
We finally got rid of it. Of course, we had left the formation and we managed to make it back to the base. That’s
probably the craziest experience I ever had.
A B24 is not like a fighter plane. We flew at about 170. We flew all of our missions above 20,000 feet. It was cold
up there. It was quite an experience. I don’t want to go through it again.
Melvin “Bud” Allen: I was drafted into the army. I spent four months in Georgia taking basic training in the middle
of summer. I came home for a couple of weeks and I went to Fort Mead, Maryland and then shipped out from
Fort Mead, Maryland and I was sick seventeen days going across the ocean. Three weeks later we landed in
Liverpool to South Hampton and then to France. I went right up to the front lines. I was a PFC in the infantry and
I walked all the way across France and Germany and I ended up in Munich.
I was in a fox hole for 45 days and then we started moving after it had 45th Division. They had been all the way
down to Italy. I came home on delay in route and Norm Bone was home after 3 years being there. I listened to
him talk. And when I got over there. Here he came, in the same outfit.
I didn’t have enough points to get out and went to Texas. The 45th was disbanded in Texas and I was transferred
to the 2nd Division and we went to San Francisco for an Army Day parade. Then we went to Ft. Lewis
Washington and I was taking jungle training up there when I got enough points to be discharged.
Pretty much in Germany and France.
John Haakenson: I enlisted in the Navy Air Crop, ground crew, in 1942. I had a bed to sleep in every night and
was never cold. I was in Panama, and up and down the East coast doing submarine patrol. Went to
Chincoteague, VA. Then went to England. Then to Maine. January 1946 I got out. I was in a combat zone, but
never in combat. It was mostly loading bombs and unloading bombs and replacing them in the air planes. That’s
Carl Heinsohn. Born and Raised in Prairie View, Illinois It was a four house town. We were farm kids and there
were eight boys and my brother Henry was in England waiting for the invasion. I was in high school a senior.
They were drafting everyone and my 18th birthday came in January and I enlisted in the Air Corps and I took a
physical and they lost it and took another and in the meantime the papers came from the draft board and said I
had to take a physical and then got an invitation to go to Ft. Sheridan on May 15 and just sat there for the whole
week. I looked at the bulletin board and there was a sign asking if we wanted a three day pass and then the
reason. I said I wanted to attend my baccalaureate. Instead I spent the weekend in the barracks and my mother
picked up my diploma.
I got on a train and got down to Chicago and there were 2 railroad cards setting in the middle. One was a mess
car and one was me and two sergeants. More cars came in and all the weekend pass guys got in my car and we
were in the same railroad car for a week. We went around Kentucky, Mississippi and Alabama. I wound up in
Shepherd Field, Texas. My enlistment papers came through and I had to shove on to be in the Air Corp.
They sent me on a train to Childers , Texas and then finished my basic training. Then they sent me to Lubbock,
Texas and I was in the Air Corps. I was only in six months and five days. I was in the glider corps.
On the 4th of July 1944 I got an invitation to go for a ride in a glider. We were up in the air for a couple of hours.
We suppose to stay up there as long as well could. The sergeant told me to keep looking for a place to land. We
landed kind of hard in a cotton field. I ended up in the hospital. I heard that the sergeant got a foot crushed and
had to be amputated. I left the hospital . On the 20th of October I went to church and started to get sick. And
here I was bleeding internally. And I went outside the church and the MPs picked me up and took me to the
I was discharged from there with a medical discharge to Heinz hospital in Chicago. I kept bleeding and I wound up
in the Naval hospital at Great Lakes. Over the long haul, I’m still a disabled vet. After ten or fifteen years they
determined I had ulcerated colitis and had surgery.
There were only 9 boys in my class in high school. There were only three there to graduate. I did graduate from
high school. I took a bunch of tests and they gave my mother the diploma at graduation. I had nine days of high
school left and more importantly 3 baseball games.
I’m Richard Eager from Evansville. I graduated from college in 1942 and asked to go in the Air Force, but was
color blind. I was not called into service until 1943 and sent to Custer, Michigan and took infantry basic in Camp
Buehler, Georgia. They announced the ASTP program and I volunteered for that and was assigned to German
language study and was sent to Worchester, Mass and they got short of troops and there was some who did not
like the fact that all of these boys were in school. I went to a signal intelligence and was taught cryptology and
then went to Maryland and they were assembling everyone who could speak German or knew abut the country for
occupation. I went on the Queen OSS and they were not interested (the forerunner of the CIA).
I was in the Counter Intelligence Corp and assigned to the Kreis (county) Northwest of Frankfort and we were
responsible for the security in our area and we were primarily charged with arresting Nazis and the was a
Burgemeister and a Nazi who sat beside him and did the same work, a parallel government. It is interesting
comparing it with the situation in Iraq. We had no trouble with insurgents. I don’t think they had trouble with the
The first year I was there we were checking on the Nazis and the second year there was interest in the cold war
and we were asked to investigate the communists, but there were few there. I did do one interview with one. One
of the most interesting experience I had. We got a report there was a Gestopo man living in our area. Richard
Schnur was his name. I had a Dutch interpreter and I spoke some German. He had a perfect story that he
belonged to a regular army unit. I guessed and said, "If you don’t tell us we will turn you over to the French." He
told us he was with the Gestopo. He interrogated everyone in the jail and told me everything that was going on
He asked to be released and so permitted it and he returned, much to my satisfaction. Shortly after that we had a
call from Frankfort that they wanted him and it turned out that he had killed paratroopers in Northern France and
they took him back to Northern Germany to be tried for war crimes. He was tried there and was sentenced. He
asked for me to speak well of him. I said he had been helpful. The British sentenced him and he was hung.
I guess that’s my most interesting experience.
Bob Brunsell: Richard did you speak German.
Richard Eager: I had a couple years in high school. I learned it in 1947 when I became acquainted with my future
John Ehle; We lose 17,000 World War II veterans each year
Roger Thompson. I was late getting there I had 3 deferments. I worked in a factory and they kept giving me
deferments. I was drafted into the service and I choose the Navy. I severed on the S. S. Essex. I only had five
weeks of boot training and came home for ten days. Then they shoved us out to California and got aboard the
troop ship and went to Hawaii.
We came to the Island of Guam, and the new Hebrides Islands, There was little island called Magmag. Ships
could all anchor in this nice harbor. That’s where I caught the aircraft carrier that I served on. We got word the
Japanese fleet was looking for us so we had to go looking for them. The hanger deck was completely filled with
supplies and food.
There were also about 25 airplane motors. They were in the way so they took the crane and dropped the extra
engines in the ocean. That’s where they are today. We went out and we fought a couple of naval battles out
After a while they sent us out about four hundred miles and everybody knew that something was going to happen
and we got up and they had dropped the atomic bomb. Then they told us to go out again and they dropped
another atomic bomb. Then we got the orders to go home.
The day that I was drafted Walt Spratler, Bill Dixon, and Tronnes, also got their draft notices. We all went in the
same day. I had four brothers, all gone. All in the Navy. They advised me. Go in the Navy.
Bob Helgesen: I was in the United States Marine Corp and I had a lot of interesting experience. We had the most
sadistic drill instructor that ever lived. The more we hated him the closer the men become. There was another
man in my platoon and should never have been in the Marine corp. He was a hemophiliac. He wanted to be in
the Marine Corps so bad that they let him stay. They put us in a radio camp for four weeks. We were all farm
boys. After Higgins the LST and amphibian tractor people. That’s what I was in. During our advanced training we
had one accident. One of my best friends. I was just about seventeen when we got to Hawaii. We went to the
Mariannas. We never knew where we were going. After we were at sea they brought out the chartography and
told us where the beaches were.
In the morning of D-Day. They get you up at 2:30 and we had steak and eggs. They wanted a big meal for the
marines because they were not going to eat for a long time. We went to the railing and saw. We took in a 105
pack howitzer. They went in in the third wave with . Knocked the drive sprocket off and a mortar went off and was
a dud and the second one got us. I had shrapnel in the leg. We had about 8 ton of charges and ammo aboard. I
bet I could have beat the Olympics to try to avoid the motors. I tried to clean my rifle. The ammo dump blew up I
was in amongst the whole 8th marines.
Artillery set up on Saipan and the artillery didn’t have to move. We set up in a town called Sharoncanola. My
platoon leader was a lieutenant and a raider and he thought we ought to be raider’s too. He said we had to load
everything. So we loaded the goats and we had to throw the goats off.
Tienia was a perfect battle for us. But the beach could only take one amtrack and we had been going over mines
and didn’t know it.
We went back to Saipan and that was my first k-p and it was probably the first mistake they ever made. My
platoon leader was a mess officer. The chief cook was an old Marine. “I want you to find a case of minners.” He
meant sardines. At night I’d take a couple of sardines and crackers and go to the movie, open the sardines and
crackers and you can imagine all the
A beautiful plane went over us. You know you could see that rising sun symbol. He could have gotten us but he
was too interested in the movie
Iwo Jima. It was there they were assembling the fleet. We had one of the largest navy operations. I got ashore
and unloaded and the beach was so flooded with Higgins and others. There was no place on that island to land.
One of my friend’s tractors was in the way and he knew I had ammunition. And he moved aside and a shell hit him
and killed the whole crew.
At ten thirty that night the gunnery sergeant came and we were the last few tractors on board. He said they were
out of ammunition and they were expecting an attack at midnight. The skipper did not want to open the bow doors
because of the air raids. They let us out and the only orders were we had was to go to the island and head for
the blue light. There were tapes up through the mine fields marking the mines and the tapes were only about 15
feet apart and we drove through there, when the flares went up. That was when they shot at us too and we got
up to the front and unloaded and we made it out of there. IT was an interesting experience. Case was the
division commander on the front lines and it was interesting. We got nine bronze stars.
We needed anything that could move and hold a rifle. I was on the front lines only about four hours when I was hit
and they took me to an aid station and I was laying on a stretcher and they tried to take the worst wounded and I
had enough morphine and I guess my stretcher was full of blood and I got evacuated to Guam and when they
unloaded us in
Someone came up to us with food and said we don’t charge. You know Red Cross people charge for everything
and they said, “We’re Salvation Army. We’re home.” This cute little navy nurse said you need a bath so she
finished the bath and I was in shock and went to the head. The nurse and doctor were mad and they put me on a
tramp ship. The Seebees were not part of the Navy. They could not do enough for Marines. I got unloaded back
to Pearl Harbor and was at Naval No. 10 hospital.
There was a young lad in the bed next to me who had his foot blown off. Francis Cook was in the maintenance
unit. But I didn’t know that. There was a hole in the fence. We were not suppose to go to Honolulu but we did.
We only did that a couple of times.
I was in the last ward and I could look out at Honolulu harbor. I was laying there and woke up the next morning
and could see the Bunker Hill and the Franklin. They were salvaged because of morale. I was laying in bed and
Bob Hope and Bing Crosby were on the radio. They were singing when they announced that Franklin Roosevelt
had just died. Roosevelt was the Marines patron saint.
They got to Maui and set up camp. I went to the Royal Hawaiian Hotel and spent a month and a half. They had
the steam table set up any time of the day.
Then I went back to my outfit and got my tractor back and I didn’t get the stripes, but I got my unit back.
This friend of mine and I had detail and got gas to burn the paper off. All they had was four or five gallon cans.
We dumped it down in their head and they lit a match and then from then B Company’s head burned.
Then they dropped the bomb and I came home on the battle ship Colorado and we came through December 7,
Harry Roderick: A lot of people didn’t realize that prior to Pearl Harbor, the West Coast was getting ready in 1940-
41 and as a result a couple of commanders were sent on a boat. I was one of the Air Defense officer as part of
the exercise. I’d never been to California. We got in there on a Thursday and in early December. The weekend
everyone was looking forward. I was put on as duty officer and what happened was we had a group of Air Force
officers coming in and I was to give them a briefing. As I was leaving, I went across the street . We had little or no
radio. Each one of these telephone man says, "They are bombing Pearl Harbor." I’m going to eat my breakfast.
Go back go back you are wanted right away. Alert the Center. Go Full Blast. What happened the first day was
they had all of their fighters locked up and they found out the machine guns were not even mounted. They were
locked up and a fighter squad with no machine guns. There was only one individual with keys. The guy that had
the keys was refereeing a football game in Tucson. In the meantime they were shipping fighter planes to Russia.
We were reassembling some fighter planes. About that time the long range radar picked up a plane circling out
there. It came in slowly and we went through the procedure to get everyone to identify it. The Navy flies and
never calls in. The plane came and circled around the city and they had anti aircraft and they decided it was not
Navy and they shot at it. They knocked over a corner of the building. The plane circled around and went back
out to sea. Several years ago there was an article about a submarine that could carry two planes. I think it was
one of those scout planes.
Bob Brunsell; We went over on a Swedish ship built in Germany. The only excitement was the depth charges
being blown off. I had another one. When I was in London I had quite a time and everybody was at the window
looking out. They said “Where You Been” a “B” bomb came in blew out about half the block. They had sirens
going and I didn’t hear a thing. I had another one. When we were going through Germany we looked for a wine
cellar. We found a bank that had been blown up we found German marks and we paid for things with German
At the Battle of the Bulge we came across ordinance that were wooden tipped. I wished I’d have scraped up some
of those. Rifle size and they had a wood end on them.
Vic Fuchs: I’ve heard of them. They were suppose to splinter and cause infection. I’ve got one thing. We all
smoked. By the time they got over there the Red Cross charged us for them. Everything that we got from the
Red Cross was paid for and they gave us coffee and donuts and charged us 10 cents a piece. From then I never
gave the Red Cross a nickel.
Photograph of the remaining people taken by John Ehle.
Transcribed by Ruth Ann Montgomery.