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Interview on experiences in World War II

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I rent another farm on my own and with his equipment I farmed that


This is a Flint Hills Oral History Project World War II Veteran's Series interview with Mr. Raymond Milton Brown, who resides at 2623 West Ridge Court in Emporia, Kansas. The interviewer is Loren Pennington, Emeritus Professor of History at Emporia State University. Today's date is April 8, 2006, and the interview is taking place at Mr. Brown's home.

This is tape 1, side A.

Loren Pennington: Mr. Brown, I should note here at the beginning that you and I had never met until just a few days ago when we arranged this interview. Nevertheless, we will try to keep it on an informal basis using first names and this sort of thing. I would like to have you begin with a sketch of your life before you entered military service in 1942where and when you were born, who your parents were, what they did for a living, where you went to school, and what you did before you entered the Army.

Raymond Brown: I was born April 23, 1915, on a farm three miles south of Olpe, Kansas. My parents were Mathew G. Brown and Emma K. Trier Brown. We lived on a farm; we were diversified farmers. We had cattle and crops and hogs and geese and sheep and chickens of course. The whole bit. When I was six years old, I started to school at St. Joseph's school in Olpe. I went there for twelve years and I had Franciscan nuns as my teachers the entire time. After graduation, we were in the middle of the Depression and by the Dust Bowl area. I helped with my dad on the farm all the while I was growing up, starting by milking cows when I was six years old and in the field with my own team of horses when I was ten.

LP: This would have been in the 1920s when farms were going pretty good. Was that the case with your family?

RB: Yes. The twenties were good years but the crash of 1929 changed the whole complex.

LP: With all of these animals, I take it they were marketed?

RB: Right, or used for food, either way.

LP: Did you ordinarily raise cattle and hogs for market?

RB: Some.

LP: Where did you market these animals?

RB: We marketed some locally. There was a packing house south of Emporia at that time, Morgan Packing Company. We marketed our hogs there some; otherwise we would ship them to the Kansas City market with our cattle.

LP: How did you ship those cattle?

RB: At that time the Southern Kansas Santa Fe Railroad was still in operation and they had a station with stockyards called Roots Station not far from our farm. Railroads would accommodate the farmers by taking one animal, ten animals, or a full carload. We took advantage of this. Sometimes we would have fewer than a carload of cattle. Lots of time we would have maybe more than a carload. These were extra cattle that we raised on the farm in the pastures and so forth.

LP: I take it you were prospering pretty well in the twenties. But of course in 1929, we get to the crash and we get into the Depression years and I presume things changed for you on the farm there.

RB: Not noticeably for the first years, as I remember [it]. After 1931, we started the drought era. Then in 1934 was a fairly good year and markets were bad. There were no jobs. The soup lines were starting in the cities. In 1935, we had terribly terribly dry weather and very very little grain raised, [only] enough feed to keep our cattle and animals going through the winter. In 1936, we had the worst drought year and very hot. I think the high that year was 116°, and often 90° at midnight. In addition to that we had the grasshopper invasion which took the leaves off of a lot of the corn fields and so that restricted our feed output also.

LP: Did you have any problems with the dust storms?

RB: None locally, but we had dust drift in. I remember in Olpe the streetlights had to be turned on in the daytime in 1935. The Panhandle Eastern Booster Station north of Olpe started construction there in 1936. I worked there for two months after going to the gate for two weeks or more waiting to be picked as one of the laborers as they were increasing their forces. They would point out one or two or five people and the rest of us would go home until the next dayyou had to be there before the time to go to work. So I did get employment there at 35 cents an hour and worked for two months generally. This was the base ground work. After that they cut the forces, and of course I was one that was laid off.

LP: I take it that all of this was after you had completed high school at the local school in Olpe. You were, I presume, still working on your parent's farm as well as working for Panhandle Eastern?

RB: I was 21 years old in 1936. As I said earlier, there were no jobs to be had. There was no work. The WPA started at about that time. My parents were too proud to participate in that. Only heads of families qualified.

LP: How about yourself?

RB: It never occurred to me. I was busy helping my dad on the farm. I knew things were tough. The farmers then were losing their farms to the mortgage companies, to the banks. This worried my family very very much. It was quite a decision. In their mind it was a disgrace to lose your farm. So this was an extra burden for them. In 1937 Panhandle Eastern enlarged their plant and I got a job there again for six weeks or two months in the early spring. After that I could see that there wasn't enough work on the farm, so I went westwestern Kansaswith my neighbor who had an automobile. We looked for jobs out there. We slept on the ground in the roadside parks and so forth. Finally we got a temporary job helping build a drilling rig, the base of a drilling rig. Eventually there was a steel-laying gang on the Santa Fe railroad and we went there and they put us to work. I worked there for a while. This is where I encountered the first face-to-face dust storm. Our families thought we were pretty good at predicting weather. Well, these big black clouds showed up in the west, and I said, ``Boy we are going to get it now. This is going to really rain.'' It was nothing but dust. It was too dusty to work. We couldn't see the track it was so dusty. We were living in bunk cars, making 35 cents an hour, and paying the contracting company who fed us and so forth a dollar a day. So that left us a dollar eighty a day. You could write your name on the cake at lunchtime. You could turn your plate over and see where the plate set on the table it was so dusty. There were days we couldn't workit was too dusty. I could see no future in that. So I went back home.

I started farming with my dad again. He lent me horses and his machinery. Then in 1938, I rented another farm on my own and with his equipment I farmed that. In 1939 my brother was due to move off of the farm where he had been renting. He rented a river bottom farm on the Cottonwood River southwest of Emporia on Lockerman Road. This farm was the Kretsinger Farm; 306 acres, all in one body. The river was on three sides of it. I went with him to farm. 1939 was a fairly good season. 1941 was pretty good, too, but with some low-water floods. The market was low. In 1940, we had a low-water flood; it didn't cover the wheat but it rained and rained a lot. The wheat, before we finally harvested with all the mud, had sprouted in the head. I remember we sold our wheat for 39 cents a bushel. That wasn't getting very rich. So in 1941 we had a big flood in the falllet's go back before that. I was drafted in September of 1941 and I was helping the farmers locally for two dollars a day filling silo and so forth and whatever until our crop was ready to harvest. They got me a deferment from the draft. I didn't know until I got the notice that I had been deferred because I was on the farm.

LP: You mean you were called in the draft but you didn't actually go?

RB: I was deferred, yes, by their efforts. They knew the draft board. They wanted me to work for two dollars a day for them, I guess. Anyhow, I was still farming and the farmers got deferments then. So that fall we had a big flood. I drove my car up on the hill on Lockerman Road just south of Emporia. Finally I said to my brother, ``I'm going to see if I can get a job with the Santa Fe Railroad repairing washouts or whatever they've got to hand me up there.'' I remember I waded out up the highway to my car. It was over my ankles, halfway to my knees. So I went to the railroad. Someone suggested that I try the mechanical department, which I did. They gave me a job. So I started working in the mechanical department, which was the car department. I was richmaking fifty cents per hour.

LP: When we paused here for a moment you were talking about 1941 and going to work for the Santa Fe Railroad. You want to pick up there?

RB: Yes. This was in October of 1941, the third to last working day in OctoberI'm not going to give you the exact date. But [I was] in the car department as a laborer for 50 cents an hour, which was a good job at that time. In two weeks, I got my first pay check for three days work. I immediately went to the store and bought a new pair of work shoes because my others were pretty well used. Things were going well for me in the railroad. I was getting promotions. I was moving along. In July I was notified by the draft

LP: This would be 1942?

RB: 1942that my expiration date of deferment had lapsed. I was called up for the draft, which I knew would happen if I left the farm.

LP: Before we get into that, let me back up and ask you a couple of things. One of the things that we are interested inobviously in the latter years especially of the 1930s, Hitler is on the rise in Europe, the Japanese in the Far East. Did you and your family pay much attention to foreign affairs and what was going on in the world?

RB: No. I'll say no. We were concerned about survival.

LP: Of the Depression?

RB: Of the Depression. The Emporia Gazette was the only paper that we got. Maybe we got the Kansas daily Drover's Telegram which was a stock paper. We had no electricity, so we had no running water and no radio and no lights. We had kerosene or coal oil lamps.

LP: This was on the farm?

RB: This was on the farm, yes.

LP: Before the days of rural electrification?

RB: Rural electrification came through while I was in the service.

LP: Let me ask you another question here. You remember Pearl Harbor day?

RB: Yes.

LP: What were your thoughts when you heard about this Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor?

RB: Pearl Harbor was on the 7th of December. December the 7th was a church day in our parish. I heard this after church. The townspeople who had a radio heard it on the radio. I thought, where is Pearl Harbor? Never heard of Pearl Harbor. Generally our family had the same thoughts. Otherwise, it was something that happened. It was something terrible along with the Depression and the drought and so forth.

LP: What was the general reaction in your family and in the Olpe area to this Japanese attack?

RB: I don't recall at my age. That wasn't a big problem in my life when you are 20-21 years old or less, or 22 even.

LP: You are about 26 at this time.

RB: Yes. By going through the Depression, the hard work, the long days on the farm, the dust era and the anxiety of not having enough money to do what you wished to do and going in debt deeper and deeper. That was a minor problem probably.

LP: Pearl Harbor?

RB: Yes.

LP: It was another bump in the road but not the big picture?

RB: Yes. As far as the reaction around town, we saw the people at church on Sundays and that's about the only time that we, as young people on the farm, ever got to talk to anybody in the town. We didn't know much of the reactions there. I'm sure a lot of people, people in the service, were very much concerned.

LP: In the middle of 1942 you are called up in the draft and you ended up in the Army. How or why did you end up the Army?

RB: I was called by the draft board and sent for induction to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, which was a distribution fort actually. I was assigned to the infantry. My thought was, since I'd worked with a bunch of men and lived in bunk cars in western Kansas in 1937, I didn't like the idea of living with a bunch of men in a barracks. But I decided then I would take whatever the Army could give me or whatever I could get out of the Army, if that was honorable.

LP: You were going to take what came?

RB: Take what came. I didn't pursue a transfer or really volunteer for much. I said I'll just jump in. I'll do what they want me to do and go from there.

LP: So where did they send you from Fort Leavenworth?

RB: They sent me from Fort Leavenworth to Camp Swift, Texas, which was near Bastrop, Texas. With pass privileges we enjoyed Austin.

LP: There you were in basic training?

RB: Basic training at Camp Swift, yes.

LP: I take it in the infantry?

RB: That is correct. The 95th Infantry Division. It was just activated at that time.

LP: You were training to be in a particular infantry division. You were not what we would call replacements or anything like that. You were all new men.

RB: All new man except for the cadre and so forth.

LP: How did you take this basic training? How did you feel about it the first couple of weeks you were there?

RB: It was not easy because it seemed to me like some of the things you did were physically hard, very hard. Were they physically necessary? What you had to learn was that they were necessary. The adjustment had to be made there. The adjustment is bad. I'd never been away from home and to tell you the truth, I got homesick. I wrote letters when I could. At Camp Swift we had thirteen weeks of basic training. We were not allowed to go to town through those thirteen weeks. So it was all on the base. We had very little leisure time for one thing. If nothing else they'd call us out and we'd police the area for cigarette butts. Anything just to keep us busy.

LP: It sounds to me that you were a little disillusioned there for a while?

RB: Not disillusioned, but they were very into instilling discipline in us. You don't say no or why, you do it. If somebody says you attack, you go over there and you do it. You don't say, ``Well I'm not going to go.'' You don't do that. Instilling discipline is really what they were doing. It was a very learning and very growing up situation.

LP: As you look back on it, do you think it was an effective process?

RB: I absolutely do. I have every respect for all the military and especially the infantry. I'm close to the infantry, but I respect all the branches. One thing I noticed down there, there were all kinds of people, all varieties of life. We had illiterates. We had lawyers. We had business people. We had rich people who worked for good companies if they had a job. Many of them had no job when they came. Some were fat, some were skinny. The Army made those who were skinny put on weight. The fat ones took weight off pretty fast, pretty quickly.

LP: Did this have anything to do with the food?

RB: Food, a balanced diet. You didn't always get all you could eat. When you are 26, 27 years old, you are hungry; you could eat twice what they gave you, but you didn't need that much. Of course, when you are in basic training, too, you go without food. You are out in the field for six days at a time without any breaks at all. You get a breakfast in the morning, maybe in the dark, and a sandwich for lunch. And a canteen of water and then you'd get rations of some kind in the evening. They would get those to you somehow, generally.

LP: It sounds to me as if you were saying that while you may have at the time said, ``What am I doing this for?'' In retrospect, you could see why you were doing it.

RB: Absolutely. I can see that. We are going on further here in a while. It didn't end there. It continued from there on also in similar situations and more extended ways.

LP: What happened when you finished your thirteen weeks of basic?

RB: The first thing we did, we went to town and drank quite a bit.

LP: This was your first time in town?

RB: My first time in town. After that, it was late in the summer or early fall. Shortly they transferred our Division to Fort Sam Houston, Texas, which is just outside of San Antonio. We had good quarters, very good quarters, and access to San Antonio when we were on leave. From there we maneuvered or marched to outlying tent cities for further infantry training.

LP: This was kind of advanced infantry training?

RB: Yes. Coordinating all the units, the signal department and the communications in the rear echelons; this was to be communicated to everybody.

LP: The 95th Division was in the process of being created then.

RB: It was created but it was being coordinated. It was being coordinated and was practicing for war.

LP: How long did this go on?

RB: The thing that stands out in my mind, we were to go to this camp city, I don't know if its necessary to give you the names, but we started at midnight as a platoon, as a company, walking for 35 miles to this Camp Cibilo, a tent camp. This was unusual. Some people didn't make the march. They just didn't fit the land. They didn't have the physical ability to do that.

LP: Did you make it?

RB: Absolutely; I did everything they asked me to do.

LP: Well, it appears that your training then continued on through the winter into the early part of 1943, which is what we are up to now. So what happens next?

RB: After playing war in Camp Cibilo with a lot of wet mud and so forththe city streets were all wet and muddythey took us to, it must have been June of 1943, the Louisiana Maneuver Area, where we practiced war, fighting the enemy and fighting another division which was our enemy. We were the blue and they were the red. We were going without food; sleeping under a raincoat, if we got any sleep, on the ground; wet most of the time if not from sweat then from the heavy dew at night as you tried to get some rest. You fought off the ticks and the mosquitoes and tried to get by on a quart of water a day and brutally took punishment.

LP: What do you mean by brutally took punishment? Certainly you were not physically punished?

RB: You get tired, you get worn. It just wore you out. You get to where you do what they ask you to do without even thinking of opposition. You understand?

LP: Yes.

RB: This is in my memory anyway. I don't mean to exaggerate, but that is what my memory says. You know after sixty days or whatever maneuvering in Louisiana they took us to Camp Coxcomb on the California desert near the Salton Sea where we did desert maneuvers. They were preparing us for whatever theater of operation wherever we might be sent, whether it be the Pacific or the mountains of Italy or South Africa, or North Africa. We maneuvered there until February of 1944. That's where we are now.

This is tape 1, side B.

LP: You were talking about going out to California in the spring of 1944. Where do we go from there?

RB: We did our normal, I guess, three or four months, maneuvers there. Then we were shipped to Indiantown Gap, Pennsylvania. That was the name of the camp, near Harrisburg. We got oriented there and we got replacements. At Indiantown Gap we reorganized, got settled in our barracks, and we received a group of ASTP men (Army Specialized Training Program), and our battalion formed a cadre. I was one of the sergeants on the cadre who gave these people infantry basic training. I remember I was elected to give the bayonet training, which took some physical efforts and some meanness. Anyhow, after that they took us by truck to West Virginia mountain maneuvers where we forded rivers, rappelled mountain cliffs and whatever you want to think about, and slept out on the ground and chased bears out of our camp and helped build bridges across the river and just whatever you do in mountain maneuvers, and got wet and cold and dodged rattlesnakes. Anyhow, this lasted probably from February until June 1944. We went back from mountain maneuvers in West Virginia to Indiantown Gap where we prepared for our embarkation center, which was Boston, Massachusetts. This was in the fall of 1944. After being in camp there for several weeks, we finally boarded the ship, which was the SS America, a former luxury liner. I remember my bunk was number five, stacked five high. I was in the top bunk. It was cold wherever we were. Most of the men in thereI think [there were] around 12,000I think that's right. Does that sound right?

LP: Most of you were on that one ship?

RB: On that one ship.

LP: That seems a little high to be on one ship.

RB: I know it does. They had sent an advance guard go Europe to lay out our landing, where we would go there, so that cut down quite a bit of it. But the trip across the Atlantic took us nine days, and every thirteen minutes the ship would change course. This created a zigzag line across the ocean, supposedly to keep a submarine from zeroing in or sighting in on us. We landed at Liverpool, England. I don't know the date exactly, but it was in the fall of '44, maybe August, I guess.

LP: Late summer or early fall?

RB: Late summer. From there we went to Camp Miles Standish in England and waited for the crossing.

LP: To France?

RB: To France.

LP: Of course the invasion of France had already taken place.

RB: Oh, yes. So we crossed the Channel in infantry landing craft and landed on Omaha Beach. It must have been about late August.

LP: I think you said at one time you told me you landed at D-Day plus 100.

RB: D-Day plus 100.

LP: D-Day was in June, so July, August, you landed probably in September.

RB: Okay. That was scary. That was the real thing. Time and dates meant nothing to me.

LP: You would have to move up from Omaha Beach. The Allies had already broken out [of Normandy].

RB: Yes, oh yes. From there it was kind of foggy for awhile, but we billeted in Normandy in an apple orchard. We lived in our pup tents while part of our unit volunteered to run the Red Ball Freight Line, it was called.

LP: Red Ball Express. Truck drivers.

RB: The front was moving so fast, they were running out of supplies. These people drove day and night, two people in a truck to relay the supplies up to the forces ahead. After this was done, they moved us on.

LP: Were you yourself a part of the Red Ball Express?

RB: No, I was not. They asked for truck drivers and I'd never driven a truck. So no I was not.

LP: Now, at this time, as I understand it, you were with Company F of the 379th Infantry, 95th Division, 3rd Army under General Patton.

RB: Yes.

LP: You had moved up to the battle line. Can you recall your first day in battle?

RB: This was early in the morning. They moved us into holding positions, replacing another unit, and the day that we met our baptism of fire was in late October. Our first battle was to try and capture or annihilate a huge, huge fort which we could almost see from our position. Other units had tried to enter it, but failed. This fort was self contained. It had its own electrical system, its own kitchen. We found [this] out later, of course, and [it] was manned by 80 to 90 men at different times. It had concrete alleys running out from the fort where they could fire and this is what happened when we attacked the fort. [It was] early morning, [and the Germans] threw a flare. We started shooting; they were shooting. We were shooting, and we kept moving and they eased their fire. They ran back into their fort. I was a squad leader at that time and when we moved forward; my officer was wounded; my platoon leader sergeant was killed; his platoon guide was killed; the other two squad leaders were killed; and I was in command, unbeknown, unasked for command, because I was the ranking person from that platoon. We lost a number of others, but we did bypass the fort and reached our [objective] on what we always thought was a hill. But when we reached this hill, we had lost contact on the left and the right. There was nothing to do but wait for replacements or for orders or whatever else to do.

LP: By this time you were approaching a big American objective which was Metz. I'll let you take it from there.

RB: From our so-called isolated hill we had no contact left or right, so we waited. By that time, of course, we were wet, cold, snow on the ground. Our feet were wet. Our bodies were soaked. Our clothes were soaked, and [we had] no communication except our artillery observer, so we dug holes, dug in, and the artillery observer called and dropped artillery around our position; which made us feel a little safer. If anybody stirred at night, he was dead. A German came into our area, and he didn't make it out. We had orders to shoot anything that moved. Otherwise, we waited, and after two days we finally got contact from the flanks and moved on into Metz across the Moselle River, I think that's right, into the city of Metz itself.

LP: At this time the Americans are moving forward quite rapidly, though on the broad front which was the Eisenhower strategy, and you were part of this, and I suppose, eventually, you're going to run into the Battle of the Bulge, but between Metz and the Battle of the Bulge, what can you tell me?

RB: From Metz we moved on toward Saarlautern. We went through small towns up that way, farther away up that way, until we got to Saarlautern, now called Saarbrucken. It's a bigger city. I remember waiting outside the city while our bombers softened up the city before we entered. We had a lot of resistance there until we got through Saarlautern and secured it. It is on the Saar River. We stopped at the Saar River while one of our units secured the bridge across the Saar which was a big, big thing for the whole 3rd Army because it left a passageway to the next move. The next morning early, we attacked the suburb town of Saarlautern Roden. This was across a flood plain, at least 1,000 yards where the earth was absolutely flat with shell holes with water and ice on them. We would jump into [these shell holes] to catch our breath a bit. We did marching fire as we went across that and got into Saarlautern Roden; we encountered strong resistance there also and lots of confusion and so forth.

LP: Now in this advance that you are making into Saarlautern and into Saarlautern Roden, how were your casualties?

RB: The casualties were very, very high. I would say at least 50%. In fact, the company, our division, our regiment had over 100% casualties either killed or wounded through the entire war. So we got lots of replacements and this was another thing. There were people who came to our platoon and I never did know their names. They lost their lives before I ever got acquainted with them. Anyhow, back to Roden, we captured quite a group there. I think it was 78 Germans, we captured there in one of their fortresses and from there we tried to take the city which was house to house. We went through the walls, the ceilings, the basements from house to house. If you were to go outside the house, you were dead. Eventually, with the artillery, and our machine guns and our artillery and mortars, in two days we had captured this small place with a lot of small forts around it. A thing of note, when you're in the infantry, if you stay close to the enemy it really, in a way, is safer than some other place because artillery is going over you both ways, from the enemy and ours also. This is just a note. From there on we went forward up through Nancy, and, I'm quite sure, to Trier. From there I know we went through Hamm.

LP: We have been talking about this advance through Trier and Hamm and on up toward Dusseldorf. Somewhere along this linewe've talked about the heavy casualties you were given a battlefield commission. Was that the result of these heavy casualties?

RB: Definitely, because in this process thus far, two or three months, whatever, in fact the 95th Division was in the line for 105 days without a break. This means we had contact with the enemy, [though] there were lulls in the fighting, so we did have some rest time along in there. But, going back to the casualties. We would get a replacement officer, and he'd be either killed or wounded. I don't know, I'm kind of like the Energizer bunny, I guess. I just kept going and going and finally the Company commander [asked], ``Brownie, how'd you like to be an officer?'' I said, ``[If] I'm going to get killed, I imagine my folks would be a little more proud of me if I was an officer.'' So I was awardedI was not given, it was not earnedI was awarded the battlefield commission of 2nd lieutenant.

LP: You mention that because you reached 1st lieutenant, did you not?

RB: Yes, later on a month or so, I got the promotion. This is beside the point; it's something that somebody who is still over there is responsible for any of these citations that I got. I take no credit for that.

From there we were up near Luxembourg and very thin in strength. The Battle of the Bulge was in progress, and we were slated to go to the Bulge, but we were too far under strength. We didn't advance from our holding position until later on when the Bulge was reversed; then we went through the Battle of the Bulge battlegrounds and on into Germany. This would be on the west side of the Rhine. We got, I guess, near Wessen, and from there they trucked us across across the Rhine to Munster, Germany. From there we fought back toward the Rhine in what was called the Ruhr Pocket. This was the climax because we went day and night. In seven days, I got something like 6 ½ hours sleep because we did not stop. We'd take a unit or town or small area and go on to the next.

LP: In the Ruhr Pocket you captured a huge number of German prisoners.

RB: This is in the Ruhr Pocket which was created by pincer movements by 3rd Army units. You would bypass, and so these had to be annihilated. From there is where our war ended right then when we got reached the Rhine. I think that was pretty much where our war ended.

LP: When you got back to the Rhine?

RB: Yes, yes, yes. So I think that pretty well takes care of it

LP: Were you at all wounded in any of these actions?

RB: Yes, I was. I was shot through the rear end with small arms fire.

LP: This got you a Purple Heart?

RB: That got me a Purple Heart. Going back to Metz, when we got there we were out of ammunition almost. They brought up ammunition, and I was opening a box of grenades that had a steel band around it and when I cut the band, it flew and cut my forefinger on my left hand, and peeled enough of the skin of my knuckle away. The medic happened to be handy and he patched it up, put sulfa powder on it, and a splint, cut the finger out of my glove, and I went on with my one finger sticking out in the air. So that's a rerun right there. That's enough digression. Otherwise, [there was] the one small arms fire through the rear end which hit no bones. They just ran a patch through the wound and bandaged on each side and I went on. That's the only wound I got really.

LP: You were never out of service?

RB: Never missed a minute with our Company or Division. No, I did not.

LP: In all of this fighting that you were engaged in, how much stress did you feel?

RB: I think I told you yesterday or the day before that I was not afraid, but there were a number of times, many times, when you're confused, when you're really really confused. I'll admit that I called for help from upstairs, tooseveral times during these battles, real battles, bad times. Going back to the Dust Bowl, the farm days, no moneywe're going back againbut anyhow, we were hard, we were tough, we were ready for stuff like this. Even the kids from the city, they had no jobs, they were on soup lines and they knew what it was to suffer. So I think we were the right people at that time to be in that situation, and I have no regrets except for the loss of my friends. That's the only regret I have. It did wonders for me in my life to witness this. Nobody else could ever experience what I did; and I'll add this too, if you don't mind, I'm dead against the Iraq war. I see these guys in the streets out there going from house to house. I did that and I don't think that'speople should be nicer to each other. That's my theory. So I think I've probably talked long enough.

LP: Well, we'll come back to that. When do you finally get home?

RB: I came back on a Liberty Ship they called it, a small one. I had good quarters coming back. I got to Olpe on the 4th of July, 1945.

LP: 4th of July, 1945. So you weren't there for very long after the war ended?

RB: We were one of the later divisions committed over there in Europe, so we came home early to go to the South Pacific. After a thirty-day recuperation we went to Camp Shelby, Mississippi, in preparation to go to the Pacific.

LP: So you were among the early returnees after the end of hostilities because you were going to the Pacific?

RB: That is correct.

LP: That is because you didn't have enough points to get out?

RB: Otherwise, those who had gone ahead of us stayed there for occupational service.

LP: And got home later than you did?

RB: Yes, they did, yes.

LP: About the time you go back from leave, the war in the Pacific comes to a sudden end?

RB: We were in Mississippi for several weeks before they dropped the bomb. [Ed. note: impossible; the bomb was dropped on August 6.] My error, but we were at Camp Shelby, Mississippi, before they dropped the bomb over there. We still were slated to go as occupational people, but McArthur cut the occupational quota.

LP: So you did not go to the Pacific?

RB: We didn't go to the Pacific.

LP: What was your reaction to that sudden end of the war with the use of the atomic bomb?

RB: Mostly jubilation. We could see, well we've got a chance to live, you know. That was my thought.

LP: That you weren't going to have to fight your way into Japan?

RB: Yes. Everybody was ready to go home and be people, instead of just animals.

LP: Did you think that use of that bomb was the proper thing for President Truman to do?

RB: Absolutely. Absolutely.

LP: If you had been in his place, you would have done the same?

RB: Well, I can't say.

LP: I mean you certainly approve of what he did?

RB: Absolutely. Yes, I do.

LP: Which brings me to some other questions. I'd like to ask you about America's war leaders. [Take] President Roosevelt, what was your opinion of him?

RB: Well, he was the President for so long. I have no reactions. I had no reactions. I didn't know anything about politics or its operation then, but as far as I'm concerned, he was a good leader. I think that's why he was elected three different times.

LP: Four different times.

RB: Well, elected three different times, wasn't he?

LP: No, he was elected four times, but he only served a short time the fourth. What about President Truman?

RB: Truman was crude; I thought the presidency should have a little more dignity, but, darn, he's a hero. I guess he was all right.

LP: What about General Eisenhower, who was your European commander?

RB: As far as I know, he was a super guy. As far as I know.

LP: Did you ever see him?

RB: No, I did not. Never did. No, I did not.

LP: He saw many troops, I thought possibly.

RB: I never did see General Patton either.

LP: Of course, General Patton was a man who was very controversial and you served in his 3rd Army. What was your opinion and the opinion in the 3rd Army of General Patton?

RB: Our opinion was he was a rascal. He was an egotist and just didn't care how many people he lost to do what he wanted to accomplish. We found out that he was the right general to follow because the Germans were so afraid of his 3rd Army. That made it a lot easier, I think, for the 3rd Army in a way than for some of the other armies.

LP: So I take it, you gained respect for him as you served under him?

RB: Yes, we did.

LP: How do you think this wartime experience that you had affected the rest of your life? What do you think was the affect of that wartime experience?

RB: It made a tremendous difference, a tremendous difference. I learned so much in the service. I learned to communicate with other people, to realize their infirmities and in the social part, I gained a lot of social ability, I think, and confidence. You know, I'm just a different person, I'm sure, than I would have been if I had stayed at home on the farm. I tolerate other people's errors more. I really think I do that all the time. Everybody has a right to their own character, their own way of doing things. The military is a great thing. I think it's a little too soft right now for some of us, some of the military people. I'm thinking about the National Guard. I know some National Guards whoit just isn't organized or whatever. I don't think I should be saying this, but anyhow that's my view.

LP: Along that same line, let me ask you this one. What is your view, growing out of your experience, of what America's role in the world should be? Obviously we went through this period from isolation to where we were heavily involved and are still heavily involved in the world. What's your view of America? What should be America's role in the world?

RB: America's role should be friendship. It should be friendship instead of hostility. I think we'll destroy ourselves if we keep going like we're doing. You can't fight the whole world. You've got to get along. You've got to. I think we'd do a lot better, if some of this money we're spending over there in Iraq should be spent before going there and trying to help their finance or otherwise. I don't know where this is going to end, and who's going to pay for all of it.

LP: I take it you are not a supporter of what America is doing in Iraq at the present time.

RB: Absolutely not. No, I'm not. I might be a loner on this, but I absolutely am not. In the first place I don't think we were authorized or had any business declaring war. We were not attacked by Iraq.

LP: Well, we have come to the end of the war, but I would like talk to you for a few minutes about how the world has gone on for you since that time. I take it you were discharged from the Army. You did not consider staying in the reserve?

This is tape 2, side A of the interview.

LP: You were talking, Raymond, about coming back home, and we pretty much finished talking about the war. Let's talk about since then. We haven't said anything about your family. Tell me about your family, your wife, your children.

RB: The family is my life. Definitely my life. I married M. Janet Rossillon in May of 1944.

LP: While the war was on?

RB: Before we embarked for Europe. I was anxious to get home, I hoped to be a father, a dad, and a husband.

LP: Did you have any children before you got home?

RB: No, we did not. We had three daughters after I got home. I had my job with the Santa Fe Railroad. I got promoted to the top of the craft. This enabled us to send our three daughters to St. Mary College in Leavenworth, where they got their various degrees. They married. Now I have seven granddaughters, and six of those are married. I have two great granddaughters and one great grandson. So I have a lot of women in my life. They try to control it, but I enjoy it. They are my life; there's no question about that.

LP: You spent your career with the Santa Fe Railroad?

RB: Yes

LP: In what capacity? Tell me a little bit about that.

RB: While my craft was known as carman. We are to railroad freight and passenger cars what machinists are to engines. That's the best way I can describe that.

LP: You're supposed to make those cars run down the track.

RB: It was our duty to make sure that when the train left Emporia it was safe to reach its destination, mechanically-wise, safety-wise, airbrake-wise. So we inspected every car that came through Emporia when it changed crews, which they did here, for bad wheels, bad journals, anything.

LP: This would be any train that came through?

RB: Every train that came through.

LP: But I see sometimes some trains go straight through without stopping?

RB: They've changed that since they've eliminated the terminal; now they run straight through.

LP: The inspection is done elsewhere?

RB: Before when the terminal here, that was the law of the American Railroad Associationthat every car on every train would be inspected.

LP: Every train then stopped in Emporia?

RB: Every train would stop. Some of them changed engines. Some of the engines went to the roundhouse and another one came back. When the engine got on and the airbrakes were pumped back up to normal, then we tested every car for the brake set, brake system see that it's set and released. That was the duty in the Car Department and if a car had some defect, it was switched out and sent to the repair track where we repaired that car. That was duty of the carman.

LP: When did you finally retire from this?

RB: I took retirement when I was 60. I retired when I could, 1975, I retired.

LP: So you've had a 30 year retirement?

RB: Yes, I have.

LP: What have you done with all of that retirement?

RB: I've enjoyed it. As I stated earlier, from the farm when I started milking cows when I was eight, in the field at ten, and all I did was work and all I did was being abused, body-wise in the infantry, and I said I wanted to play awhile. And I did. Of course I did for my kids. My kids, my girls were through college then, and I had the permission from my wife to retire and I retired. I coached Little League baseball for seven or eight years. I hauled the high school golf team, the boys team to the spring meets, the girls team in the falls season.

LP: How long did you do that?

RB: Three or four years.

LP: You may have hauled my son. He was on the golf team.

RB: What was his name?

LP: Pennington

RB: Rob?

LP: Yes.

RB: I do remember Rob because I hauled John Poole.

LP: John Poole was my son's closest friend.

RB: Yes, yes, I did, no question. Actually I started the youth program, golf program, for the Recreational Commission.

LP: Do you play golf?

RB: I love the game.

LP: You play golf?

RB: I play.

LP: I play golf, but I'm not a golfer; you know how that is. You don't have to be a golfer to play golf.

RB: No, you don't. There again was a big learning experience. Working with youths was all volunteer for the Recreation Commission. Playing golf you had the camaraderie, I did, that I didn't have after I left the service. You know, I think men need men. I found that in my association on the golf course.

LP: Have you been much involved in veteran affairs?

RB: No, I have not. I belong to both units here, but I have not.

LP: Is there any particular reason that you haven't taken a greater interest?

RB: Well, I probably shouldn't say why.

LP: That's one thing about this interview; if I ask you a question, you don't have to answer.

RB: Yes, well, that's another thing I've learned to do.

LP: I see.

RB: Yes. I better not say anything.

LP: Is there anything that we haven't talked about here that you would like to add in this before we close?

RB: Yes. I think of myself as a good soldier. I read that I had the posture and the size and the rhythm, you know, to look good in marching, although I did not like garrison soldiery. I was a lot better field soldier than I was a garrison soldier.

LP: Do you think that's part of your temperament?

RB: I think it's a part of my growing up from a family of nine and I'm in the middle, so I get it from both sides. I think I learned to give and take in the family.

LP: For instance, you made that very interesting observation to me that you were never afraid. I have been in a couple of funny situations myself, not in the Army, when, as I think back on them, they were very threatening situations, but I was not afraid. But if I look back, I wonder why I wasn't because when I think about those things, I should have been afraid and would have been afraid, but when the situation actually came along, I wasn't. I wonder if that's similar to what you [have described]. Did you ever think that I should be afraid, but I'm not?

RB: No.

LP: I've thought that many times.

RB: I never hesitated; I never hesitated at all.

LP: I didn't hesitate at the time, but as I look back on it, I say, ``I wonder why I didn't?''

RB: One thing that sticks in my mind very, very strongly is, and we've mentioned going into the town of Saarlautern, I had a lieutenant then, Lt. Mullins, and I was a platoon sergeant. He said, ``Brown, you take the squad down this street, and I'll take the other two squads around the other street and we'll meet at the intersection.'' I said, ``Well, okay, Moon.'' It was only maybe three blocks or so to the intersection. We could see down that way. One of the squad leaders, a sergeant, [was] there, and I said, ``Okay, Sack, this is your baby. You take off.'' I was going to be second in following him, because he had people behind me, a pretty near full squad which was twelve men. He just stood there, and he had the awfulest look on his face. I said, ``Okay, let's go.'' I started in the lead, and in just a short while there was movement on the intersection, and before I knew it, I can still see this red streak. The Germans had set up a 40mm anti-aircraft gun for flat fire. A shell hit the tree right behind me. Sack was right near, and it just knocked me on my back. I found myself on my back in the street and you couldn't see anything what with all the dust and the smoke and everything. I thought it had killed everybody because Sack was lying there, and he had no head. That sticks in my mind, and you know that's just one of the extreme instances. Another time we were going down one of the streets, I think maybe it was in the same townI'm not sure which town. A mortar hit in the street and part of the squad platoon on the other side of the street were over there walking in single file. There was a big explosion and this kid fell to the sidewalk and he tried to get up. Shrapnel had cut his throat and his jugular vein. He was trying to breathe, which was why he was struggling, and in about thirty seconds he just fell down and just died in his own blood. That's why I'm so against wars. Just stuff like that. You see your own people. I can take all that, but you don't forget those, you know. One forms a lasting opinion.

LP: Well, anything else?

RB: I think I talked more than I should have, but that's okay, I guess.

LP: I want to thank you very much, and we will get this in typescript for you and we will get you a tape.

RB: That's going to take awhile, isn't it?

LP: That's going to take awhile. We are able to transcribe at the rate of about six a month and we are about ten behind.

RB: Well, that's not too long.

LP: No, that's not too long. Well, thank you very much, again.

[Interview ends tape 2, side A, count 158.]


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