Note: Ellipsis (...) indicates a fragmentary or introductory utterance. Square brackets enclose information such as [unintelligible], the transcriber's best guess as to what was said, or editorial notes from the transcriber.
I: ... signature on this top line. Alright. I can take care of the rest for you real quick.
MJ: A couple preliminaries I might tell you. I go by L. Martin Jones. In the military, I had to go by first name, middle initial, and last name. So, I was Lloyd M. Jones in the military. Unless you are like General H. Norman Schwarzkopf [laughter], you have to use your first name and middle initial, But the generals get to get by with something else. [laughter],
I: Sure they can.
MJ: And the other thing is, people are amazed that I can remember the dates and details of some things. But the reasons, while I was a prisoner of war, I kept some notes. And much of the time, I was walking along the roads, under guard, a prisoner of war, but walking almost every day. And I kept a list of the little villages and things we went through or where we stayed overnight and things like that. And I have read everything I can get my hands on about the Battle of the Bulge, where I was captured. And I have been inteiviewed a number of times [laughter], written my experiences, and, so I have gone over this quite a few times.
I: Good. Okay. Well, Mr. Jones, today is Friday, March 2nd 2007. My name is Brian Grubbs and I would like to thank you.. .to get things rolling by thanking you for doing this interview today. And I was wondering if you could give me a little bit of information about where you were born, your birth date, and growing up.
MJ: Alright, I am L. Martin Jones. Lloyd M. Jones in the military service, and I thank you for doing this interview. I was born in Osage City, Kansas, about 50 miles southwest of here in December 1922. I went to elementary and high school at Osage City high school. My family consisted of Mother, Father, and my two brothers and I. There were three boys in the family and all three of us were in military service. And all three of us in the Infantry, and all three of us in difficult finding in Europe, I graduated in 1940 and I came to KU in September 1940 to start school.
The war in Europe had been going on for a year at that time. The starting date was September 1st, 1939 officially, when Germany invaded Poland. So the war had been going on and I visited with my parents and though President Roosevelt had promised we will never send American boys to fight on foreign soil, my parents and I thought, probably we are going to get into this thing before too long. So, when I came to KU as a freshman, I decided to enroll in ROTC. That's Reserve Officers Training Corps. Because I thought I wanted some choices to where I served in the military. So I enrolled
in Coast Artillery Anti-Aircraft ROTC at KU. I wanted to stay out of the infantry if I could. I had three years at KU of excellent training and education and in my junior year, in October of 1942 the fourteen KU students in my ROTC class were given the option of enlisting in which, case we could probably finish that Junior year in college, or being drafted immediately. I think all fourteen of us decided to enlist under those circumstances. I enlisted in October 1942 and was allowed to finish my Junior year at KU.
And our fourteen member class in Coast Artillery, Anti-Aircraft, went to camp Wallace, Texas in May of 1943. And we had Basic Training in Coast Artillery Anti-Aircraft Artillery. We fired 90 millimeter guns. We would pull the guns down to Galveston Beach, and set up our guns on the north end of Galveston Beach and practice firing at targets pulled behind airplanes from nearby Ellington Field. Now these targets were long, rectangular kinds of things, pulled on cables behind the airplane, perhaps 200 yards behind the airplane. And one day, one of the cables was cut, severed right behind the airplane. And apparently, someone was tracking the airplane rather than the target. We had very beginnings of computers sort of. I looked through glasses on a big square box and turned cranks that sent signals through cables to the guns where men sat on the guns and matched "bugs" we called them. I controlled one of those bugs from what I did, turning. They were supposed to match another bug with it and go wherever it went around here. And that changed the elevation and the azimuth of the guns. Well, that was in the summer of 1943.
One of the most significant things there was a hurricane struck... struck the area and the Air Force people were smart. They flew their airplanes to the interior. The Navy, stationed in Galveston, got out of there as best as they could. But our commander said, "we are tough, we are going to show them. We are going to stay right here." And the camp, Wallace. W-A-L-L-A-C-E was built on seashells that had been pulled out of a bay nearby there. And the buildings were up on stilts about 15 inches high all of them built up. Well, the wind reached 125 miles an hour in Houston which was about 40 miles inland. And the next morning after that, there was about a foot of water all over the camp. Fortunately, the buildings were sitting up on stilts about 15 inches [laughter] high. Well, we completed basic training in August and were awaiting vacancies at Infantry Officer Candidate School at Fort Benning, Georgia where, excuse me, we were awaiting vacancies at Coast Artillery Anti-Aircraft Officer Candidate School in North Carolina.
I: Oh, I see.
MJ: And we were sent for a few days to Grinnell, Iowa where we lived in a college dorm on the campus there. But then lo and behold we got orders to report to Fort Benning, Georgia to Infantry Officer Candidate School.
I: When you were at Wallace, did you receive regular Infantry Basic Training in addition to the Artillery Training.
MJ; No, we had no Infantry Basic Training. I: So this was...
MJ: We fired 90 millimeter guns, not rifles while in basic training. But we were sent to Camp Wai... Camp Benning, Georgia Infantry because the military people decided Germany was not likely to reach our East Coast and bomb the East Coast so they didn't really need any anti-aircraft artillery men anymore. What they needed was infantry men, So, we went to Fort Benning, Georgia, and when I got to Fort Benning, Georgia, I had never seen a Browning Automatic Rifle, or a mortar. Neither 60 millimeter mortar or 81 millimeter mortar, both.. .all three of these weapons are basic weapons of the infantry. I had never seen one until we got to Fort Benning Georgia. But we had excellent training there. And, for example, the 60 millimeter mortar, each of us shot about two rounds. It's about this big around, and about this long, two and a half feet long and sits on a base plate. You hold it between your legs and drop the projectile in the open end of it. It goes down there and it comes back out when it hits the firing pin down there. So we shot about two rounds apiece, okay, next!
I: Did the cylinder get really hot?
MJ: Oh yes, it got pretty hot. But anyway, we had excellent training and... well.. .in September, when we finished basic training, we went to Grinnell and then awaiting these vacancies, we were sent back to KU for a little while. So, in the fall of 1943, the fourteen members of our class arrived after classes had already started, and we were pulled out before classes ended that semester and sent to Fort Benning, Georgia. So I have one and two thirds hours credit on... and two and one fourth hours credit in something or other [laugher]. But anyway.. .Basic Training was excellent training, but very fast. And the group I was with, had had no training in the infantry up to that time. But we were commissioned 2nd Lieutenants in the infantry on June the 20*, 1944. And after a 10 day delay or something, we were sent to various infantry divisions all over the country. I was sent to the 106th Infantry Division at Camp Atterbury, Indiana.
Now, before, I joined the division along about April 1st, the division had completed Tennessee maneuvers. And this was the last step before going overseas. It was war-like conditions you know. You stayed outdoors in the woods and so forth. But after the division completed those maneuvers about the first of April, the division was sent to Camp Atterbury, Indiana, and the Army immediately began pulling trained, experienced men out of the division and they sent them overseas as individual replacements. One or two to this division, three or four to that division, ten to another division, spread out. Some of the men were even taken out of the 106* division between April 1st and May 15th or so, and they participated in the invasion of Normandy on June the 6th, 1944.
TA: Wow, that is amazing.
MJ: So, I had never been on maneuvers when I got to the division about the first of July, 1944. And lo and behold, we weren't up to strength because men had been taken out and sent overseas and in August, the division suffered a really hard blow. Almost all the rest of the men who had excellent infantry training were taken out and sent overseas as
replacements. And in August and early September the 106th Division received 80 percent new men. Nothing wrong with the men, but they just hadn't had any infantry training. Many of them came from a college program called Advanced Student Training Program (ASTP). This was for men. My younger brother, for example, was in ASTP in Indiana at Ball State University. He was pulled out about that time and sent overseas. So we got 80 percent new men in August and September of 1944. And many new officers too. I joined the division about the first of July and of the six officers in the company I was in, two of them came after I was there. So, we had very little training, not time to do much training because we were shipped overseas in October 1944.
We.. .1 was... had a number of very interesting experiences, unique. Almost everybody in the service did, I know that. But I went overseas on the Queen Elizabeth, the largest ship afloat. It had been brand new when the war started. Its first voyage was to take Australian soldiers from Australia to North Africa. It was never used in the commercial trade until after the war was over. But it made thousands of miles of trips carrying troops. 'When we.. .when I went overseas with the 106 l Division in October 1944, there were between 15 and 16 thousand men on the Queen Elizabeth. And during October of that year, the Queen Elizabeth made two round trips from England to the States, back to England, back to the States, another 16 thousand, back to England all during the month of October. Because the Queen Elizabeth was the fastest ship afloat at that time, except for little PT boats and things, we went without any accompaniment. No ships accompanied us. We sailed a zig-zag course, because the only way the German U-Boats could sink the Queen Elizabeth was to anticipate the course and lie up ahead in wait and fire torpedoes. So the Queen Elizabeth sailed a zig-zag course to make it impossible to anticipate the course the ship was taking. To my knowledge, we didn't see another ship in the four and a half days it took us to cross.
I: Were you worried about that as you were traveling?
MJ: Pardon me?
I: Were you worried that you would encounter German U-Boats.
MJ: No. Worried? I didn't know what was going on. [laughter]. I'd had no experience, [laughter]. No, it was kind of a.. .a unique experience. Half the men, approximately eight thousand, were below decks for twelve hours at a time, when the other.. .while the other eight thousand were up on the decks. Twelve hours and then we shifted. And those below decks, during their twelve hours, ate a meal shortly after the start of that twelve hour period and just before that twelve hour period ended. And they went topside for twelve hours, and the others were downstairs. There were Navy-type canvas bunks, 6,7,8 deep in the lower decks of the Queen Elizabeth. So, and the exterior of the Queen Elizabeth had been repainted camouflage. It was several shades of gray and white, and no straight lines you know, just a mottled, of dark gray and light gray. So it was impossible, or it made it more difficult to see in the mist of the North Atlantic. But the interior was just like it was when it was completed. Beautiful wood dining rooms now. I was a 2nd Lieutenant, having been commissioned at Fort Benning in June. The officers ate in the Captain's Dining Room which is a beautiful dining room. The men, that is
sergeants, corporals, and, you understand, 2fld Lieutenant is the lowest rank of commissioned officer. Sergeants and corporals are called non-commissioned officers. But we went overseas in four and a half days. Nothing very exciting happened so far as I know, [laughter]. We landed up near Glasgow, Scotland. We went in the Firth of.. .which is that Clyde or... ? I forget. One Firth waterway comes in from the east of Scotland and one from the west.
I: The Firth of Forth. Is it the Firth of Forth?
MJ: The Firth of Forth comes into Glasgow, Scotland. We went, not all the way to Glasgow, because the Queen Elizabeth was so large, it could not turn around in there. It would have to, I guess, back out very slowly and they didn't want the German aircraft to find it and destroy it. So we did not go nearly into Glasgow. I'd better refer to my notes here so I get some more of these things in the right order. I've written a story of my experience beginning with my enrollment in ROTC at KU and ending with... substantially with my discharge from the Army in January 1946.
On October 22nd, we sailed into the Firth of Clyde, docked at Greenock, Scotland and in the morning we disembarked and loaded onto a train. Really, it was still dark. And we took a train ride to.. .to the northern part of the Cotswolds. The sheep hills. Beautiful country in England! Cotswolds. And we camped on the grounds of a manor house. Toddington Manor, among huge trees and.. .beautiful setting. We had metal Nissan huts that we stayed in on the grounds of this manor house in England. While we were there, we had few opportunities for training. We had movies and lectures. I gave some lectures, but we had no opportunity for work in the field. Only one time... .We were in England from October the 22nd until December the 1st, about six weeks. One time, we went to a firing range and fired our rifles. One time. So these new men who came from advanced student training programs most of them, and some of them from cooks and bakers school, and some of them, men who had washed out of the Air Force, came to us in August and September, went overseas in October, fired their weapons once, and went across the English Channel on December 2nd, to France. If I forget to mention this later, I will mention it now. The first several authors who wrote stories about the Battle of the Bulge said the 106th Division had no Esprit de Corps. About the sixth author who wrote said, "of course they had no Esprit de Corps. They had no opportunity to develop Esprit de Corps". We weren't together long enough. I hardly knew the names of the men in my platoon!
Well, we crossed the English Channel, on December 2nd, which was my 22nd birthday. We slept out.. .1 can't say camped, because we just slept on the ground, about four days and it rained all the time. It was a mud hole before very long. And then we boarded Army trucks and we started a two day trip from near the coast of France, We anchored, by the way, in the harbor at Le Havre, France, But the harbor had been completely destroyed by the Germans before they withdrew from it. It was not very useful as a harbor at all. And the Germans had destroyed other harbors along the coasts of Belgium, Holland, and France.
So we v/ent two days, I'd say. It snowed heavily. And we crossed the border between France and Belgium, up into Belgium. And we slept out one night in about a foot of snow. I had three squads of men under my supervision, twelve in each one,
headed by a sergeant. And in addition to those thirty six, I had a runner and a platoon sergeant and so forth. Well, I got the sergeants spread around to have the men dig in as best as they could, and then I went and cleared off an area and set up my pup tent. And then I went around to check on the men and three or four sergeants were all in one pup tent! Sipping schnapps! [laughter]. And they invited me to have a swallow, probably, maybe feared I'd report them, but I had a swallow or two, and went back to my... .They had taken care of their men properly and everything, but I don't know how so many of them got in that one tiny tent, [laughter].
The next day, we went up to the front lines, which was right along the border between Belgium and Germany. Very quickly, the allies invaded the continent on June 6th. And after some terribly hard fighting early on in France, they broke through and pretty much moved rapidly up to the German border. But I mentioned the harbors were destroyed by the Germans, so all the supplies came by ship across the channel, unloaded on trucks, and these trucks raced up to the front lines, to deliver, food, ammunition, medical supply, and then rushed back to get more. It was called the Red Ball Express. And the truck drivers who drove those trucks with the big red circles painted on them had the right of waty anytime. Get that.. .those supplies up to the front lines. But as the allies moved across France, up to the German border, the supply lines got longer and longer, to the point that it was impossible to keep the front line troops supplied. So, in late September, basically, the front lines came to a halt. They were right up to the German border, in France and in Belgium, and in southern... The Netherlands. But northern Netherlands hadn't been liberated yet.
Well, this area of the German-Belgium border, rather short distance, is the Ardennes Forest area. And we moved up there in December and relieved a division that had been then; for some time. We were told it was a quiet area. No, not much activity here, a few patrols back and forth but that was about all. So we moved up and replaced that division. The general hi charge of that division had twice requested permission to move two regiments of his division, back about four miles to better defensive positions. These two regiments were in Germany, beyond the Siegfried Line. Maybe just a few hundred yards at times. Furthermore, they were up on the front side of some hills. Ardennes area. Schnee Eifel Mountains. Snow mountains in German, Schnee Eifel. They are not mountains like the Colorado mountains, but they were substantial mountains. Furthermore, the roads were limited in this area. The.. .the hard surfaced roads were limited, because it is a forested area and hilly. In Belgium, there is an important road junction called St. Vith, and the border was about ten miles east of there. And these two regiments were out there east of St. Vith, and there were two good roads that joined a short distance east of St. Vith. One coming from the northeast to a little place called Schonberg and another coming from the northeast. They made a V which met at Schonberg and then like the base of a letter Y, one road coming back to St. Vith, which was important road junction. Well, these two regiments were between those two good roads that met back of them at Schonberg. We replaced them, that division, foxhole by foxhole. Command post, by command post. Some of the positions were well dug in. But when we took over on December 10*, our division commander requested permission to move those two regiments back about four or five miles to better defensive positions, and he was denied permission to do that. Everybody recognized that those positions would be extremely difficult to defend. But the.. .Eisenhower and his staff said, "we
fought and died for that, and we're not gonna give up one foot of it without a fight." So two regiments, of the 106th division took those vulnerable positions up there.
Now, I must say some more, kind of general..., The allied general staff had two things they were convinced of. Both were misconceptions. The first one was that the Germans were licked. They did not have enough of anything to mount a significant offensive. We had pushed them clear out of France, back beyond the Siegfried Line, into Germany. So, they were convinced that the Germans did not have enough to mount an attack. Furthermore, the generals said, "even if the Germans do attack, they'll not do it in the Ardennes section of Belgium because there are no strategic targets back in Belgium that they want." Well, the Germans.. .the allied generals forgot their history lessons. Because in World War I, where did the Germans attack?
MJ: Right through Belgium! On May the 10*, 1940, where did they attack? Not against the French Maginot defensive positions. Through Belgium! They actually came through Belgium and attacked the French positions from the French rear, some places. So, the allies made a number of decisions based upon those two misconceptions. They spread out two divisions, the 106th Division and another division, far too thin along the front lines.
I: I think you were covering what, 21 miles? You had 21....
MJ: Each division had something like 22 miles to 24 miles to defend.
I: And normally it is what, five miles?
MJ: I had just come from Fort Benning where we learned that five miles was the maximum you should ask an infantry division to defend. Two divisions side by side had about 22 to 24 miles. The line wasn't even a solid defensive line. There were gaps in it. You couldn't,.. furthermore I'd learned that you always keep a third of your forces in reserve to use anyplace they're needed. Our division was spread out so thin that the division put only one battalion in reserve. That's one ninth of your strength. There are three battalions in each of three regiments. We had one battalion in reserve. Furthermore, they took all the re... other reserves out of that area and sent them down south to join Patton who was getting ready for a big push into Germany, down to the south.
The other big, huge problem was one you have read about recently. And that is, our intelligence was poor. Our intelligence was poor before we invaded Iraq. That's nothing new. US intelligence has frequently been poor. It was in World War U in December. Because the.. .the allied intelligence lost track of a complete German armored division. The armored division had been up north along the front line and it pulled back and went east. And the allies though it went east all the way to Berlin. But it went a short distance east, a short distance south, and a short distance west and were up on the front lines k the Ardennes section, and our intelligence didn't know they were there. Now I have said patrols were back and forth. The lines hadn't moved much for two
months or so, but patrols were out both.. .both ways. And US patrols reported several times that the Germans were amassing tanks opposite the Ardennes. And the allied intelligence pooh-poohed that. One report we got one day from Paris where Eisenhower was headquartered.. .now I think Eisenhower was a great general, did a tremendous job, but he made some mistakes, that's what I am saying. We got a report up on the front lines that the Germans didn't have as many tanks as we were reporting they had up there. Because Germans did not have the wherewithal to mount it. So, furthermore, there were plenty of reports, several from civilians, that Germans were amassing tanks opposite the Ardennes area of Belgium. But the allied intelligence refused to believe it.
So on December 16th, about 4:30 in the morning, Germans opened up with a tremendous barrage along about a fifty mile front. That barrage of artillery went on for some forty minutes. Now the Germans had occupied this land for four years. They knew every bend in the road, every building, because they had been pushed out of it rather recently. Another significant point was that at that time, in World War II, even late, we depended almost solely for communication on telephone lines. Telephone lines run from division headquarters to regimental headquarters, from regimental headquarters to battalion headquarters, battalion headquarters to company headquarters. Well, the German barrage destroyed most of those telephone lines. So, there was no way to communicate. Communication was extremely difficult. Now after that tremendous barrage, Germans, tanks and infantry, attacked. The German Infantry outnumbered the US Infantry in that fifty or sixty mile area about four or five to one.
I: Was this your first combat experience?
MJ: This was the first combat most of us in... all of us.. .most of us in the 106* division had seen.
I: And when you were talking about this.. .this offensive that the Germans first mounted, that is at St. Vith, correct?
MJ: Yes, a big dagger, or part of it aimed at St. Vith. They needed that road junction. The German attack depended upon bad weather. Germans got a report that the weather was going to be horrible for a week or so. That played right into their hands. 'Cause our Air Force would be grounded in England, they wouldn't have our Air Force to contend with. Secondly, it depended on speed, surprise. Thirdly, the Germans had to get some of our oil dumps. 'Cause they didn't have enough oil to go to the English Channel. Their goal was to go to the English Channel and cut off the allied forces in northern Belgium and Holland, from those to the south of that line, [coughs]. Excuse me. So they depended upon speed to get those oil dumps. Well, I mentioned the infantry ground troops were outnumbered four or five to one. It was even worse than that in terms of tanks, because the allies had only a few tanks attached to each regiment. During.. .well, the Germans jumped off. And of course, they came down these two major roads. The only black.. .blacktop roads in the area. They couldn't go through the woods with those heavy tanks. So, they concentrated on those two good roads and the allied generals did not get word of the attack until the evening of December 16th. It started about six o'clock in the morning.
Now I don't know whether this had anything to do with it or not but Eisenhower had been given his fifth star and they were having a party in Paris to celebrate Eisenhower's fifth star. British Montgomery was planning to go home for Christmas. They got word of this German attack and General Omar Bradley, the evening of the 16th, described it as, "a near..." I can't think of the word now that he used. I might think of it later. Kind of a disturbing action you know, not much to worry about. Well, I must credit Omar Bradley, because the next morning, which was the 17*, the Sunday morning, when it started to become clear what was going on, Bradley was the first one to say, "Where in the hell did they get all these tanks." There were three or four armored divisions of German troops in that fifty, sixty mile area, attacking which amounted to one and a half US Infantry regiments.. .uh.. .Divisions plus a few men [phone rings] of the sixteenth armored.. .if that doesn't bother we'll let it ring.
TA: Maybe I'll just stop it.
I: Are you ready?
MJ: Germans were attacking...
I: Yes, the Germans...
MJ:... in the Ardennes where they would never attack according to the allied generals.
I: Of course not!
MJ: And, the German tanks traveled those two hard topped roads and joined up at this little village of Schonberg the morning of the 17th, the second day of the battle. Now, our first orders were to hold our positions at all cost. Hold our position at all cost. Well, we held them until it was too late to get out of there. We were promised air drops of supplies and ammunitions and water and food but because the weather was so horrible the Air Force was grounded in England. I like to razz my Air Force friends [laughter] about staying in their bunks where it was warm and dry when we needed their help. But I would have been there with them if I had been in the Air Force. So, we got no supplies dropped of any kind.
We were told that the 7th Armored Division would move down from the north to St. Vith and then out to Schonberg, or out that way to relieve.. .help us. The 7th Armored Division sltarted south on snow and ice covered roads, and it took them two or three times the length of time anybody thought it would to get to St. Vith. When they got to St. Vith, the Germans had already joined up at Schonberg and headed west toward St. Vith. So when the 7th Armored Division got to St. Vith and headed east, they ran head in.. .head long into miles of German tanks.
By the way, the 3rd Regiment in the 106th Division was not surrounded and they got out and helped in the defense of St. Vith. But these two regiments, holding our good positions up there.. .and then on about noon of the 18th, the third day of the battle, we'd been sitting there in the woods firing rifles at tanks as they went by on these roads. And that is ineffective. And the Germans didn't worry about us much, they had to depend on
speed of their tanks. So [we'll] have to sit there. They surrounded us, closed us off, and threw artillery in every thirty minutes or so to keep our heads down. But they joined up at Schonberg, went on. The 7th Armored and one regiment of the 106th Division and some other units put up a heck of a fight in defense of St. Vith before they had to withdraw. Now credit Eisenhower, on the first night of the battle, he started making plans what to do, and sending in additional troops, which they did very quickly. But not quick enough for two regiments of the 106th Division.
Well, about noon, we were out of ammunition.. .noon of the third day, we were out of ammunition, water, we hadn't had any food for four days, we needed medical supplies. We received orders to attack back to the west towards Schonberg, causing as much destruction as possible. The order said, "your mission is of grave importance to the nation." And when I heard that, I figured they'd given up on us. We were to fight backwards, to the west, towards Schonberg. Now the Germans had been joined up there with hundred of tanks for twelve hours before that and headed to St. Vith. But anyway, we turned around and started walking through the woods back towards St.. .towards Schonberg, little tiny German and Belgian village. It had been in Belgium and then the border was changed and then it was in Germany and then the border was changed and it was back in Belgium, [laughter]. At that time, it was something like one mile from the German border, in Belgium. So we started to sneak out, and we thought we'd maybe sneak out that night, the third day of the battle, the Monday. But the regimental commander of the regiment I was in was a man by the name of Colonel Cavender. And we had maybe tliree trucks and a couple tanks left with us yet. And he didn't want to leave those for the Germans. So we tried to cross a little stream, and we spent several hours that night trying to get those vehicles across that little stream. Maybe if we had kept moving,, we could have gotten to Schonberg, but the Germans controlled it. These two roads, we were coming up in the middle. But we were trying to sneak out and then here were these two vehicles, roaring their engines trying to get through the mud and slime of that little stream. It was not secret at all! [laughter]. 'Cause we had.. .the Germans threw in artillery every once in a while. Well, the next day, fourth day of the battle, we continued now, walking through the woods toward Schonberg. And the Germans still threw in artillery every twenty minutes or so.
I have read that some of the men of these two regiments actually got on some high ground where they could look down into Schonberg. I never did. I couldn't see Schonberg front where we were. But we had had no ammunition for a day and a half. And this Colonel Cavender had been in private infantry in World War I. And he communicated with the Colonel who was in charge of the other regiment that was trapped, and Colonel.. .they either together or independently, I have read both ways, decided to surrender what was left of the men. So, we got an order from Colonel Cavender to destroy our weapons and stay where we were. And he sent.. .the last radio message he got out,. .he had some radio, was something like this, "We have ceased to be an effective fighting unit. We have suffered casualties, and I am not going to suffer anymore casualties in a hopeless situation. I am ordering my men to surrender." Now, it was certain that we were not an effective fighting unit at that time. I rather doubt that we ever were, because we had inadequate training.
I: How were your men able to hold up with their lack of training during this entire barrage of overwhelming power from the Germans.
MJ: Well, it was terribly hard, but I didn't... I just thought that is what combat is like maybe. This was my first experience in combat you know. It'shell, I knew that. And we had fired all of... of our ammunition. But one bad... one bad break we had, the second morning of the battle, we had started digging in at.. .The battalion I was in was this one-ninth in reserve. For six days, I slept in a bed in a home in Belgium about eight miles back of the front lines. Terribly cold bedroom, with another officer, Earl Brown who now lives in California. But we had four or five blankets and we kept warm. The morning the attack started, we were ordered out and up to the front line, toward the... one of these roads that was coming in where the Germans were pouring in there. We were ordered to go up there. This was on the re.. .the division's left flank, and try to make contact with these armored cavalry men that were supposed to be up there. There were just a few of them, they had something like ten miles of front. ..or six miles, they just had a few men in each of several little villages. They didn't have a line of defense either. Well, I made contact with them personally. Captain Murray, we got up there, and he said, "Jones., take your platoon across this stream over here." Freezing cold water. "And see if you can contact this mortarized cavalry outfit that is supposed to be there." So we waded, waist deep, through that stream, over there and started to dig in and I took a couple men and we found some of these guys. They were really well dug in! They had been there for a couple months. They were dug in and had logs over there holes you know. But they were getting out of there. Because they were in.. .they couldn't defend that area and they weren't supposed to do that kind of thing. But shortly after midnight, I got an order from Captain Murray to come back across the stream and join the battalion. We were going up on this road where the Germans were pouring in. So, we waded again across that stream. And I think that is where my badly frozen feet started. But we went up there in the middle of the night, and started to dig in. The ground was frozen and we had these little shovels about this... about two feet long, with a blade that switched you know, and a handle. You couldn't begin to dig a hole in that frozen, rocky ground with those shovels. But we did the best we could.
But at daylight, just a little sideline here, Captain Murray said, "Jones, take a couple men ami see if that high ground up there is occupied." And I said, "Is that all you want to know?" He said, "Yes, I want to know if that ground up there is occupied." And I said, "Well, I can tell you from here it's occupied." [laughter]. Well, he and I were there kind of arguing, and he was my superior. I might have been court-martialed, but while we were standing there, they Germans opened up with everything they had. We ran! Oh, that was the last of that conversation! I went back to the little foxhole I started. I had hung my field coat up on a snub of a limb on a tree about five feet off the ground. A little tree about... and my j acket was hung up... my coat. Well the German 8 8 rounds went right over my head and blasted that tree and blew my coat to bits. But the worst thing maybe.. .1 wasn't injured, my ears rang for a while, but I wasn't injured, but each pi...each squad...
I: Can I stop you for...
MJ: Now each platoon had one squad that had a bazooka in it. A three man team. A bazooka about five feet long, about three inches, two and a half inches in diameter. One man put it on his shoulder, the other loaded it from the back and connected some wires and when the guy aiming it pulled the trigger, that sent that projectile out to the front to bounce off tanks. They generally bounce off tanks. You had to hit the very vulnerable part of the tank for it to do any good. But the Germans went right down the line, those bazookas were sticking out of the ground because they couldn't get them all down in and they didn't lay them on the ground, and they knocked them out bing, bing, bing, just like that. So...
TA: Gotta switch tape. I gotta stop and switch tape. I gotta stop and switch tape. MJ: Okay. [End of tape 1]
MJ: So, from the early morning of the second day of the battle, December 17th, we had no anti-tank weapons, just rifles. I had a carbine, which was a little, short, rifle-like kind of thing. And when we surrendered, I was the only one in my platoon who had any ammunition left.
I: I wanted to ask you a question about the M-l Rifle. It.. .if I remember correctly, whenever the clip was completed, it had this ping sound to let you know that the clip was empty. Was that helpful or was that discouraging? It seems like to me, it would be discouraging to let your enemy know when you were out of ammunition to recharge. Did that... was that going through your mind or your soldier's minds?
MJ: No, that didn't go through my mind. I don't know that that ping could have been heard by the enemy a hundred yards away but.... The M-l Rifle was a great weapon in that it was simple. You could drop it in the sand and clean it off and it would just go on working. It was a wonderful weapon, but it was limited in its range of course. Well, so from the... morning ofthe 17th, we had no anti-tank weapons. We were trying to get back to the village of Schonberg when Colonel Cavender decided to surrender what was left of the regiment. We hadn't suffered very many killed as a matter of fact. We had some injured, but not many killed. Because the Germans bypassed us mainly, they were in such a hurry. But we were told to destroy our weapons. Now all you do you there.. .we had been taught to destroy the firing pin. The firing pin was about 2 inches long, small, about like a lead pencil that went up and hit the back ofthe cartridge and sent the bullet out the front. So at least you could pull out those firing pins and throw them away in the woods. And the weapons were useless without them. And we'd been taught all to do the same thing. One didn't want to throw away this part and another one this part cause they'd [the Germans], put them together and have a weapon. So we threw away our firing pins and waited in place.
And in thirty minutes or so, some Germans, troops came in, told us to line up, two abreast zwei Mann in German. Officers at the front, enlisted men follow. Now during that thirty minutes.. .twenty, thirty minutes or so we had, some men tried to escape. And I gave it a little thought, but I had no idea what was going on a hundred yards beyond where I was. I didn't even have a compass. As I say, I didn't know what the situation
was. I didn't know how.. .which direction I would have gone, except to the west. Now, my friend who now lives in California, 1st Lieutenant Earl Brown tried to escape with another second Lieutenant. They were captured two days later and the other officer was shot through the side when they were captured. So, we started walking out of there, out of the woods, tOAvard Germany. And just a few.. .little bit, we were into Germany. And in just a little bit, we came to the first German village, called Prum P-R-U-M. Umlaut U. And there, our guards, put two men on a town pump to prevent us from getting water. So we marched through Prum. And there, also, some of the American prisoners of war were spit on by German civilians who came down, watched us walk through. We were cold, hungry, dirty, dispirited, a motley crew you might say. [laughs]. We walked the rest of that day, the 19*', from afternoon about 4, 4:30 in the afternoon when we were captured. And we walked all the next day in heavy snow, very cold weather. And on that day, I slowed down and dropped back in the column to see which of my men I could find, from my platoon. And when I got back, I found a number of them including Staff Sergeant John Parchinsky, wonderful gentleman, who had 16 years of military experience when I came in and became his superior. Can you imagine that? But he helped, he was very helpful. But, I found a number of my men from my platoon and I was really glad I had not tried to escape. Because several of them said, "Lieutenant, we are really glad to see you. Captain X went off and left us." That is what they thought of these officers who tried to escape.
I: Being an officer, had they given you training beyond destroying weapons, and what to do in a situation where you would be captured?
MJ; Oh, yes. Give only your name, rank and serial number. We were never supposed to surrender, officers. But I had a direct order from the colonel to surrender, also. So a bit of a dilemma. But I decided, partly because I did not know anything that was going on, to stay with the men. And I was really glad I did that, when I saw how happy they were to see me on the second day of our walking.
I: I bet. Did you, could you speak any German or understand German beforehand?
MJ: I had one five hour course in German at KU. [laughter]. So I could speak a few words and I understood some. Came in handy a little later.
I: I bet.
MJ: Well, we walked to a little German village called Gerolstein, where there was a railroad. A^id the morning of the 21st of December, we were packed in boxcars, German boxcars, only about half as long as our boxcars. The German railroads turn so sharply, that they need shorter cars. Our long cars would go off the track on some of those sharp turns. So we were packed about fifty to sixty men in a little boxcar, and locked in. The morning of the 21st of December, terribly cold. Oh, by the way, when they put us in the boxcar, they gave us four little crackers and a little triangle of cheese. And that is all we'd had, all I'd had since December 19th. The last meal we'd had was December 15th. I had a chocolate bar in my pocket while we were fighting. And when we were told to
surrender, I was afraid that the Germans would take it from me, so I ate it on the afternoon of the 19th. It was not until the morning of the 21st then, that we got these crackers and cheese and put in the boxcars at Gerolstein.
I: You are going through all this without a coat on correct?
MJ: Without a... I had a... a field jacket which was hung down about ten inches below your waist and had a pull string around the waist that you pulled up and tied. That is important later for something I say. We had never been issued really, winter gear. There were special overshoes and so forth that you were supposed to have. And Omar Bradley, again.., or took the blame... he said there were times when he had to make a choice of getting ammunition or winter gear to the front. And he chose to get ammunition. So we had no official winter gear. We had the wool uniforms you know and jackets, and helmets and irtufflike that, but not the heavy winter gear.
Well, we traveled all day, the 21st. And by the way we reached the Mosel River Valley. You familiar with Germany?
I: A little bit.
MJ: The Mosel River starts in Luxembourg, I think. Flows through Trier, Germany and flows into the Rhine just south of Koblenz, Germany. And is a beautiful river valley. Grapes all up the hillsides and everything of the Mosel River, just like the Rhine. We...and at the bottom of the Mosel Valley, it is very narrow. Just the river, a train track, and a road. And then the pretty steep hills where they grow grapes. So we snaked along that river valley and the 22nd we were in there all day. The 23rd, we were still in the boxcars, and late in the afternoon of the 23rd, we crossed the Rhine River on a railroad bridge just south of Koblenz and went about 20 miles to the east and stopped in a huge railroad yard at Dietz, Germany. D-I-E-T-Z. Which is just west of Limburg an der Lahn River, the long river. Well, there were a number of trains carrying prisoners of war into Germany. And almost all of them went through this railroad yard. Huge marshalling yard, Well, the train I was on, pulled into that railroad yard on the evening of the 23rd.
Now I mentioned that the weather was bad, horrible for a week or so, and Hitler counted on that. He launched his attack so that the Allies would not have air support. Well, the morning of the 23rd...now see, this was a week or so after the battle started...dawned bright and clear and cold as the [dickens]. Crispy, cold, bright, sunny day. Well, the Air Force had spent a week getting all their planes in shape. So when the air cleared on the 23rd, every plane they could push off the runway, took off for Germany. Now the Allies generally bombed during the day, and the British bombed at night. And while this railroad train I was in was sitting in the railroad yards near Limburg an der Lahn, the British Air Force decided to bomb the railroad yards. They didn't know the train had pulled in there of course. But I have an after battle report from the British Air Force that says that 52 Lancaster Bombers, bombed that railroad yards that night, dropping among other bombs, 25 two and one half ton bombs. Now a two and one half ton bomb shakes you up quite a bit. There were probably other trains filled with prisoners in the railroad yards, I don't know. But one railroad boxcar suffered a direct hit and most of the Allied prisoners in that car were killed. But the greatest loss of life came
when one of those two and one half ton bombs hit a building next to the railroad yards. A building in which Germans housed American prisoners of war, some eighty five or eighty six of them arid they used them to repair the railroad tracks after each bombing raid. So they were stationed, housed right next to the railroad yards in a big building. And all but two or three of those men were killed in that raid on Dec.. .December 23rd. It was the most hopeless feeling I had anytime. There was not room for many of us to sit down at a time. We'd been in there two and a half days with no convenient bathroom. You probably seen pictures of the Jews being transported, and throwing out urine and waste from buckets and things. Well fortunately, we weren't going to the same place they were, but we traveled the same way. Except we didn't have any buckets or pans in the car that I was in. It was filthy! We were cold, dirty, downhearted, and here we were with no protection and the British...we didn't know it was the British I suppose, but being bombed. We couldn't even hit the ground and lie flat. We were up in this boxcar. The tracks we were on were damaged in that raid, so we spent all of December 24th, sitting there locked in the boxcar while they repaired the tracks. Then on Christmas morning, December 25th, they let us out of the boxcar, we walked over to the edge of the rail yards. There was a little kind of grassy park there about 40 yards before you got to a street which was a little elevated and a sidewalk along that street. And while we were relieving ourselves, Germans were standing up there, making fun of you know...[unintelligible] know.. .but gawking at us.
And then we were put back in the boxcars, and we were given one British Red Cross parcel for every six men. It was supposed to be one box for each man. But we got one for every six, so we counted all of, you know, six of us got together and drew straws and the first man maybe took the little can of meat, and the next man maybe took the chocolate bar, maybe the next one took the cigarettes, maybe the next one took powdered milk, maybe the next one took a little can of cheese. We all had something you know, but we had one 6* of what we were supposed to have for..
Well, the train continued and we rode Christmas Day and the 26* and the 27th and in to the 28th before we arrived at a prison camp called Stalag IX-B at Bad Orb, Germany. Now this had been a spa and a vacation spot before the war. There were warm baths I guess, there and so forth. We didn't see any then. And the camp was terribly overrun. The Germans could not possibly take care of the number of prisoners they had. I was in a room with about fifty men. There was one toilet in a corner and it did not work. And there was water all over the floor down toward that end of the room. It was filthy! And we had to go out each day, had to go out and get a little bowl of soup which consisted of dehydrated vegetables that had gotten wormy. The dehydrated vegetables they fed to the soldiers I think, but when they got wormy they fed them to the prisoners of war. And that was really a hell hole! My feet were just paining me something terrible. And this is when my buddy Lynn Kessinger, he and I were together throughout the prisoner of war experience, helped me. He went several times to get my bowl of wormy soup. And I sat with my right toes up in this knee joint, try to get them warm, and then this one the same way. But it was terribly cold. Several times we had to get up and line up and be counted. And the Germans would say, "funf Mann, five men deep, five men." So we'd line up five men deep and they'd count you know. Another guy would count and they didn't get the same number. So, they'd start over. "Vier Mann, four Mann. Line up four men deep now." And they'd count...we stood out there in the terribly cold weather, in the snow
while they tried to count how many we were. Didn't make any difference whether it was 702 or 708 it went....
Well, on January the 10th, I had been there about two weeks, the Germans moved the officers from that camp. I was a 2nd Lieutenant, the lowest officer grade.. .commissioned officer grade, and we were locked in boxcars again. And just one overnight trip this time to a prison camp near Hammelburg, Germany. And the poor enlisted men had to stay in that camp at Bad Orb. Later, the Germans came in and took a bunch of men there who had names that looked like they were Jewish. And they took them to work in a mine and about 75 percent of them died. Some of them weren't even Jews. They first asked the commander to give a list of the Jewish men. He refused to do it. So they took the men who had names that they thought were probably Jewish. And as I say, most of those men did not survive.
Well, the officers went to this camp at Hammelburg. The camp was up on a kinda high hill, just over the crest of the hill. You couldn't see the camp from the town or the town from the camp. There is a winding road you know.. .it's the.. .up this mountainside, and as we were walking up there, I got really worried because I tromped on the toes and arch of one foot like this and I couldn't feel a thing. And the other one, couldn't feel anything. It was like I was walking on stilts. So I was really concerned about keeping my toes and feet. But this camp was somewhat better than the other one. I was among the first Americans in this camp. There were about five thousand Serbs and Yugoslavs who had been there for five years, since September of 1940.. .39. They were delighted to see Americans. There was barbed wire between the two compounds. We weren't supposed to mingle. But every morning, the Germans found holes in the barbed wire fence. And they'd rant and rave and so forth, and repair the fence. Next morning, holes someplace, [laughter], It was... in... almost like [Hogan' s Heroes], if you saw them. To a certain extent.
We had a little stove in the middle of a room, about fifty men. We had double deck...double deck wood beds, cots. We had a half a blanket apiece, they had literally cut the blankets in half, and a straw tick about an inch thick. And that was our bed and bedding. We had this little stove in the middle of the room. We got about eight or ten little briquettes a day for that stove. And by the time the stove would start to get warm, we were out of briquettes. So the stove wasn't worth much. But my buddy Lynn Kessinger, who now lives in southern Illinois, could coax more heat out of that stove than anybody else, so we put him in charge of the stove detail,
Now there, we got rather regularly, a little bowl of this wormy soup and about the equivalent of two slices of bread. We got that pretty regularly. But our bread came from Wurzburg which was about fifty miles away, the guards said. So, the guards would say, "Nichts Brot. No bread, Wurzburg kaput, boom, boom, boom, you, your people did it, no bread." I can't believe there wasn't a bakery closer than fifty miles in Germany. Every little place has a bakery. Anyway. So we didn't have bread every [time].
And it warmed up a little. I got there on January the 11th and significant things, we had Bible study classes. One of the biggest problems was boredom. We were so hungry all of the time, that food was the number one topic of discussion, I had just come from KU where, well, women were the principal topic of discussion [laughter]. But not in the German prison camp. They slipped to third or fourth. Surviving was about number one. Food was extremely important. Many men kept records. We exchanged
ideas. Men from Nashville, would say the best place to eat such and such in Nashville is so and so. Best place in Seattle to get shrimp is so and so. Best place in Kansas City for steak is Stockyards, you know. Well...that place called? Anyway. The best place iti New York they said for cheesecake, the best place in the world for cheesecake was Lindy's in 'New York. Well, I didn't know what cheesecake was. I had never had cheesecake before.
We had exercise, some exercise. A colonel came into camp and in a sense told us, "you've got a choice to make here. You can give up and quit or you can keep fighting and come out a better man then you were when you went in," And he really impressed most of us. So we had exercises and roll call and some things like that.
I: Did you have a job that you were asked to do on a regular basis?
MJ: No, the officers, the commissioned officers, by the Geneva Treaty could not be forced to work. The enlisted men could. And the enlisted men at that camp, there were some, got more food than the officers got, but I don't know how it balanced out. Most of the men in the camp though were these Serbs and Yugoslavs. And my buddy Lynn Kessinger and I went to the barbed wire and visited with a couple of the men several times. And. they said, "we are delighted to see you, so delighted we want you to come over. We are going to throw a party for you! [laughter]. We're going to bake a cake!" Well, they had gotten Red Cross parcels, and earlier in the war gotten parcels from home. And they had stashed away all kinds of stuff. So one night, Kessinger and I went through the hole in the fence. They met us on the other side, and took us to their barracks, these two men. And the barracks was filled with Yugoslavs and Serbs. And they baked what they called a cake. It looked more like pudding than cake. While we were there, two German guards came in. And Kessinger and I fortunately were away from the door, and we just sank down behind the men in front of us. One man took a little walk around about ten steps and looked around, you know, like this, and they turned around and went out. And Kessinger and I finished our party and we went back late at night and climbed through the hole. And the next morning the Germans were irate. Someone cut a hole in their fence again!
Well, one of the worst things I...besides the lack of food and cold, we could get out and walk around. The latrine, the bathroom, was about two blocks away, but we were supposed to run when the air raid sirens sounded. Well, I was out near our barracks when the air raid sounded and I ran in and looked out the front window, and a man with whom I had just made friends, Lieutenant [Weeks] from Chicago was at the latrine, and he came running back, and just before he turned into the sidewalk leading into our barracks, he slowed down and started walking. And a German guard shot him in the back. Killed him. Apparently for not running all the way, getting in fast enough. The ranking Colonel complained, but nothing ever came of it. I saw him shot in the back. Another man was shot. I didn't know him or know anything about it. But a number of men died there. The Serbs would tell us, They were the burial detail and they were also...brought the food, the soup. But they would tell us every other morning or so, "we buried two of your men yesterday." Because there was no medical help, no medical supplies. If someone was injured, good luck. If someone got a cut or.. .1 got a little cut that didn't heal any of
the time. It never did amount to anything, but didn't heal either, because we didn't have any food to speak of.
I: What about your feet? You mentioned your feet were so cold. Were you able...how were you able to take care of them at this new camp?
MJ: I rubbed them with my hands, gently. And they began to get better. The weather warmed up. Let's see...let's move on to March the 28th. By the way, early in March, about four hundred prisoners of war came walking into camp from a camp in Poland. The Russians had gotten close and they got them out of there. And they had spent about a month in the coldest of the weather, walking. And they got to Hammelburg in early March. Well, 'General Patton decided that he would send a tank outfit to relieve the prisoners at Hammelburg. Hammelburg was 60 miles deep in the...beyond the front lines. And Patton said he did not know that his son-in-law was there.
MJ: But they turned up a letter that Patton wrote to his wife in which he said, "I think I know where Johnny is." That's all he said. But December 27th, about 60 vehicles, tanks and about two hundred and four or five men, jumped off about ten o' clock at night from near Aschaffenburg, Germany. That's south of Frankfurt. They expected to reach Hammelburg by daylight, sixty miles. Well, they had not gone thirty minutes until they started through a little village and the Germans gave them a heck of a fight. And the Germans knocked out a tank or two on this narrow street. The rest of the tanks couldn't get by, they had to move those tanks, [tape flaw?] Well it was that way.. .that way... [tape flaw?] every step of the way. At one point, this tank outfit.. .they just blasted their way, as fast as they could go. At one place, they shot up a bunch of engines or something on a German railroad and kept going. And they lost some tanks and some men every.. .every once in a while. Then they came to a river they had to cross before they could get to Hammelburg. And when the first tanks started out on this railroad bridge, Germans blew it up. So Baum, that was his name, Captain Baum, B-A-U-M, the Baum Raid it is called, had to find some other way to get to Hammelburg, so he was detoured. He had to go fifteen, twenty miles up that river before he could find a stone bridge heavy enough to get the tanks over. But he did. And then he came back down and got into Hammelburg and had a fire fight there because a train had just pulled into Hammelburg with some brand new Germans who had completed the equivalent of basic training. But the tanks shot their way through that. Came up this hill, shooting their...[laughs]. They got up, and, the top American officers, including John Waters, Patton's son-in-law, got the camp commander to agree to send out some men to tell these tankers that there were prisoners of war here you know. They already knew it but... .So four or five men went out the gate to meet these tankers and Patton's son-in-law was shot in the hip so badly that he was taken to the hospital in the prison camp, and was there until he was liberated. But these tankers came on up there, plowed through the barbed wire, and we prisoners of war went nuts! Liberated! And Colonel...or Captain Baum then, said, "follow the tanks". And they left the prison camp and started back to the west. Well, he had only about eight or nine of his sixty vehicles by this time. And he had way less than two hundred... maybe it
was three hundred men. I think he had two hundred or so. Anyway, he stopped in the middle of the night. They tried to go this way and they ran into German troops. They tried another route and they ran into German troops. So he pulled back and said, "we are staying here for the night, and at daylight we are going to try to fight our way out of here. But we can not take all of you." He expected three thousand prisoners...American prisoners of war. There were about fourteen thousand American Prisoners of war by that time. He said, "We can't take you." He made a speech from his tank, "We'll take as many as can get on our vehicles. I suggest the wounded and sick go back to the prison camp. The rest are on your own."
So Kessinger and I decided to try to get away. We didn't have any idea which way to go or anything like that, but we decided to go south and get out of that hot area, maybe. So, about midnight, I suppose, something like that, Kessinger and I took off in the dark. Sixty miles deep... [laughs] no weapons, no food, no nothing. But about... oh, before daylight, maybe four or five AM, we were recaptured, Kessinger and I. And by the time the Germans got a group together, there were about one hundred and fifty American prisoners of war in this group. And the guards started us walking to the southeast, away from the front lines. One large bunch of prisoners went to Hammelburg for some reason and they were taken by train to another camp at Nuremburg. But Kessinger and I were out here in the woods, re-captured and started walking. And we walked almost every day from March the 28th to May the 2nd, under guard, still prisoners of war. The first several days were terrible to walk. We were emaciated. I had lost between thirty and thirty-five pounds in the prison camp. Roughly from one hundred and fifty five to a hundred and twenty. Because we had a shower one time in the prison camp.. .the Germans took us into a little room.. .oh, no bigger than from about here to the window, room, with one shower head up above. They packed us in there, naked, turned on the shower head for a minute, turned it off for a minute. We were supposed to have gotten wet, soap up...and turned it on for a minute and supposed to rinse, that was the shower. When we put our clothes in another room, there was a German, I mean a British scale that was graduated in stones. British stone is a way to measure, about fourteen pounds. Well, I weighed just barely over eight stones. So I weighed about a hundred and twenty, hundred and twenty two something like that. I had weighed about a hundred and fifty five.
Well.. .but we.,. we were walking now with this group, about a hundred and fifty. We walked near Schweinftirt for example, where the ball bearing factory had been bombed several times. Our guards turned out to be mostly older men who, some of whom were sick of the war themselves. Sick of it. A couple of them had sons who were prisoners of war in the United States [laughter]. And they admitted they got pretty good treatment over here. The food was good they said. I think one of them complained, his son said they had to work pretty hard. But at Camp Atterbury, I saw Italian and German prisoners policing the area, picking up cigarette butts, that is about what they did. They worked in the kitchens too...but anyway...We walked, and our guards took us backwoods country. They did not like the fanatical SS troops, so if they'd planned to stay in...Moosburg for example and we got there and there were some SS troops, we'd just keep right on walking through until we got to someplace.
And; we'd stay at night in fields or many times in barns, farmyards. And after a day or two of walking, slow... a little at first, and eating better than we did in the prison
camp, because we could steal potatoes almost everyday. And we could steal something like a sugar beet that they fed the cattle over in Germany. It was something like the sugar beets that they used to raise out in southwest Kansas, purplish red on top, changing to white on the bottom. Big, this tall and this big around. They fed them to cattle over there but we could steal those. They didn't have much taste but they were.. .they had a lot of moisture in them. And I spoke a few words of German, so Kessinger and I worked out a plan. We would plan to be up at the head of our column, about a hundred and fifty men walking column of two, one on either side of a little gravel road. So when we stopped, the guards would lay out a perimeter for us. "Can't go beyond that fence, those houses", so forth and so on. Kessinger would head for the farmyard. He grew up on a farm in Illinois. See if he could find eggs, or anything to eat, I would usually go to the house frau and beg for bread. Now they didn't very often give it to us, but several times they did. One place we stole potatoes, and we took them to the housewife and asked her to boil them for us. And she boiled them for us and gave them back to us, and a little later her husband, I think, was complaining that someone stole his potatoes, [laughter].
So we, we ate better and we were getting exercise, some walking, so my spirits looked up. But the first night out there, that walking was about the worst.. .1 mentioned that being bombed in the boxcar was the most hopeless, this...or helpless. That first night out when I dropped on some hay in a barn, I didn't think I'd be able to get up. But after six, seven hours of sleep, I was able to get up and get walking again. So it was day after day like that. Little tiny villages. Except that we had to go around Nuremburg. And while going through the outskirts of Nuremburg on April 5th, the US Air Force pulled off the last one-thousand plane raid of the war, April 5th, 1945. And we started watching the black smoke pour up from Nuremburg, razzing our guards, "Nuremburg kaput". And then the bombs starting falling right were we were. And we just hit the ground like the three of us would lie down here... or a whole bunch of us, and bombs fell right in us, right among us. And when the bombing stopped, my buddy Kessinger took a swipe at the side of his head, and looked at his hand and he had little bone chips, and blood, and flesh.. .1 will never forget the look on his face. He thought the side of his head had been blown off. But the man right next to us had both legs blown off just above the knees. And I think it was his bone and flesh. Well, Kessinger had a bad.. .about a two inch cut up above his head here. I cleaned him up. I wasn't injured, I was kind of buried under some dirt and debris, but brushed that off. Got Kessinger fixed up, used a piece of my shirt I think to hold on his wound up there after I got it cleaned out. And about twenty eight or thirty of the American prisoners of war were killed in that raid on April 5th And the German guards chose a chaplain, and about three men and a German guard to stay behind and bury the dead right on the site there. And that US chaplain had the good sense to take off one of the dog tags from each man. We wore two dog tags. You were supposed to take one off and leave one to identify the body. Well, before he turned those dog tags in, he made a list of all the names, next of kin, and home addresses. And when he got home, he wrote to all those families and told them how their sons, fathers, uncles whoever it was, had died. And he sent me the list of them. Well, the rest of us got up and started walking some more.
I: What about the wounded?
MJ: The injured, including Kessinger, were walked to a nearby hospital and the rest of us starting walking. I was going to skip this little detail but you asked about it. It is a good point. About midnight that night, I was awakened. Kessinger was shaking my shoulder. He said there was no medical help at that hospital, no supplies, they couldn't do anything for the injured men. So those who could walk, like Kessingef, walked and caught up to our group after we stopped that night. So some of the injured rejoined us, including Kessinger. And we started walking some more.
And a number of interesting things, but on April I61h, I think it was, we came to the Danube River at a little place called Weltenburg. And there was not a bridge across the ri.. .river for some distance in either direction. But a man ran a raft like ferry across the river. He rigged up a cable from a little mountain over on one side of the river to a high tower on the other side of the river. He'd rigged up a triangular shaped pulley, a triangular shaped piece of metal that had two pulley wheels at the top. And they ran back and forth on that fixed cable. From the bottom, he had a cable that ran down to his raft on the river. And he had a big paddle about like a kitchen table or something. He'd be... set the paddle this way and the current was coming from you to me, it would slowly pass...push that raft across the river this way. Quietly, and smoothly and slowly. And he'd set it the other way and push it back the.. .to the other side of the river. So we, it took two trips, and we went across the Danube River at Weltenburg that way. Some years later, when Phyllis and I visited there, the river had a little curve in it, and a blacktop path along the river down to a...to a church building or school or something. Phyllis and I started walking down that path. I told her this story many times. She said, "Martin, there is a cable across the river." [Laughter]. That guy or some guy was still operating...this was about 1988, and the next morning we drove our car down a little ramp, put it on his ferry, there was room for one car, and he had seats on either side so people could sit there, and we crossed the Danube. And he saw a camera hanging around my neck. He said, "Photo?, Photo, I Photo." So, I handed him the camera and he took a photo of Phyllis and me and our car on that raft out in the Danube River. And we pulled off the other side and continued our drive. That was interesting.
Then, we stayed.. .one night.. .we were walking across the town here.. .1 will just mention it now. A little tiny place, only about a dozen huge German homes, stone you know. The Germans hook the barns and the cattle and everything around, right to the big houses, frequently in a U shape with a big manure pile right out in the middle. Well, we stayed in various places. We came to a place called Margarethenried. And that night, it was pouring down rain. This.. .there was a little Catholic church there that.. .by the way, after the Nuremburg raid were in about a hundred and ten in number by this time. The killed and wounded cut us from about a hundred and fifty to a hundred and ten. All of us could just barely squeeze into this little Catholic church, out of the rain. It was a beautiful Catholic church, the center aisle, pews on either side. Little short pews, about five people in each one, about ten to a row and maybe ten rows or something,
Then we kept walking and we passed near a huge prisoner of war camp at Moosburg, Germany, that is up...that is near Munich. And we talked the guards into going over and seeing if they could get some Red Cross parcels there for us. And they agreed, the men came back and said, "boy be thankful we're not in that place. That is really bad." It was terribly overcrowded, they had no Red Cross parcels, so we continued walking. On May 2nd, we came to the Inn River. We were getting close to Austria now.
And about noon, we stood on high ground looking down on the Inn River and a little town called Gars am Inn on the near side of the river. Some of the buildings had red crosses painted on the roofs of the buildings we noticed, while we looked down upon the village. And while we were standing there looking at it, German troops blew up the bridge across the river because the allies were getting too close. So the German troops withdrew across the river and blew up the bridge. They blew it up at the middle, dropped it down into the water like this. It was a huge steel superstructure. It dropped down in the water like that.
So, we walked on down into the village and learned that that was being used as a German hospital town. That is why the Red Crosses were on the buildings. And it was the... more of a town than anything we had seen for days and days. And we walked into the town square which was about a block from the river and our guards said we could walk downstream about five miles and cross single file on a dam. And if we did that, they'd give us a good, hot meal that night, Well, we'd heard that good hot meal routine before. And we'd never gotten it, never caught up with it. So the ranking American colonel told the guards, "forget about it, we are staying right here. This is the best looking place we have seen. With those Red Crosses on the buildings, we don't think either the German or Allied Air Force will raid this place. So we're staying here. You can walk down there and cross if you want to, [laughter] but we are staying right here." And he told us prisoners or war, about one hundred and ten of us, "spread out all over town, and even if I give an order to assemble, you can ignore it. So Kessinger and I took off and walked the equivalent of a couple blocks and went up and knocked on the door of a German house. And the housewife came to the door and we asked if she had Brot. Haben Sie Brot? Some of the German words I could say were haben Sie Brot, haben Sie Eir, haben Sie [Spek], haban Sie Milch? Have you got eggs, bread, meat, milk. She invited us in, heated some water in her kitchen and made motions like this to wash. So Lynn Kessinger and I washed up in warm water which felt wonderful and had... she gave us some bread and jelly. And we went back to the town square and learned that the guards had disappeared, they had taken off. They probably threw their weapons in a haystack and started walking home.
I: So, it sounds like from your tale, that the guards really didn't have an end destination for you, they were just kind of getting away from the war themselves by walking you somewhere else.
MJ: I think that's right. I don't think we had any destination when we were walking except get away from the approaching lines. 'Cause we didn't go straight, when we... we zig-zagged and everything. Mainly to get to country roads I think.
So the guards had disappeared and that night about 7 PM or so, May 2nd, 1945, American tanks started rolling into town. Came down that same hill we walked down into town. So not a shot was fired. We worried always about what happened when we were caught in no man's land, being allies on one side and Germans on the other, firing at one another. But I was very fortunate not a shot was fired. The tank people, tank men, threw off rations, ten in one rations, that is supposed to be one meal for ten men, in a wooden box at that time, And we ex-prisoners of war now, did not use good sense. We
couldn't keep anything down on our stomachs. So we vomited most of what we tried to eat for a day or two.
But the next day, American trucks came in. We loaded up and we went back to this prison camp at Moosburg, which was terribly overcrowded, and now it was even more overcrowded. We were there a few days with very little to eat. And then trucks came in and they moved us to an airfield at Ingolstadt, Germany, and we were there for two or three days. And one day, one transport plane landed there, and took a load of prisoners [unintelligible], one plane. But the next day, the planes lined up coming in. Planes delivered supplies to the front line troops. The war was still on.. .well, no the war ended May 7th, and by the time I was at Ingolstadt the war had ended. They were taking supplies though, up to the troops and stopped back and picked up prisoners of war and they flew us back to hospital camp on the coast of France, near Le Havre. And there was where we first really got some good food again. They started feeding us six small meals a day. We took off our clothes and threw them in a fire because our clothes were lice ridden, itched something terrible, couldn't get rid of the lice. And I'd not had a shower in six mon.. .1 had just that one shower in six months. Wore the same clothing all the time, and I had washed my socks hi streams and so forth. So we had showers, we started eating small meals, we had medical inspections, we were there for a few days, and the men were divided into three groups. The worst injured and sick and so forth were taken to hospitals in England. Some who could be treated there, stayed a few days. Others were declared ready for shipment home immediately. I was in the latter group. So we took a truck one day to...back to Le Havre, and boarded a Navy transport called a...called for some reason...it was a Navy transport...but called USS General Gordon and we headed for New York. But shortly before we got to New York, the ship went south and went to Trinidad to unload some Air Force men who were not prisoners of war, just being transferred to Trinidad for some reason or another, and they took priority. So we spent a day in Trinidad with the beautiful...blue Caribbean and so forth, around the end of May, and then we headed back to New York. And on June 4th, we headed into New York Harbor, past the Statue of Liberty...
I: Bet that was a sight.
MJ:... Which we had passed on the way out, back in October. And several.,.a couple ships of bands came out to meet us. One was an Army band I think, and some other kind of band. And the firefighting ships that spray water into the air on the ships burning at sea and so forth, came out to meet us, sprayed water into the air. The bands playing military tones and so forth. So we pulled up in the Hudson River at a pier unloaded, I was at Camp Shanks, New York for several days. And I remembered that those men in the prison camp said the best cheesecake in the world was at Lindy's in New York. So the second...June 5*, I had half a day free or so. I went into New York and went to Lindy's and had my first cheesecake, [laughter] And I have loved cheesecake ever since.
Well, then we were...we were finally paid a little. We had...needed money before but we were about eight months behind on pay by this time. So we were paid a little and put on a train and headed to Fort Leavenworth and we were processed pretty quickly there and paid some more. And I had orders to report to Camp Robinson,
Arkansas via Little Rock... [correcting himself] via Hot Springs, Arkansas. But I had 60 days delay before I had to get there. So I spent 60 days at home in Osage City and met Mrs. Jones at that time, [laughter]. She was teaching music there at that time. She knew my younger brother Harold who played in the summer band that she conducted in the summer of 1943 before he went into service. By the way, my younger brother Harold was a sergeant in the Infantry. He was wounded and awarded a purple heart. My older brother Warren was a [???] with the Field Artillery attached to Infantry. And he received two Bronze Stars for [Gallantry], and I was a prisoner of war, so it was a very hard time for my parents. Three sons, all of them over there. But we all came home, and lived productive lives. My older brother died three years ago, but Harold is still living in Lawrence. Well, I had this delay, then I went to Hot Springs Arkansas for the baths and for dental inspection and so forth. And then after a week or so I was sent to Camp Robinson, Arkansas where I became a company commander with a company of recruits who... [end of tape 2],
I: Alright, we're rolling., So, you are back in the United States. Back, going down to Arkansas.
MJ: Yes, I was...Hot Springs, Arkansas and then to Camp Robinson Arkansas where I was a company commander with troops who were training and they could not understand why they had to stay.. .remain in service. The war was over, both in Europe and Japan. But I was there several months and promoted to 1st Lieutenant while I was there. Then I received notice that I'd be...my discharge would be effective January the 8*, 1946, but I had leave and I came home on December 1st or December 2nd, December 2nd, my 23td birthday. Phyllis and I were married December 28th that year and I came back and went to school in the spring semester of 1946 while she continued teaching music at Osage City High School. She came up and joined me when the school year was over. I completed a Bachelors Degree that summer of 1946 and a Masters Degree in Business Administration in the summer of '47 and started teaching accounting in the school of business in the fall of 1947.
I: Had you studied business before you went into the service, or what were you studying?
MJ: I was in the school of business my Junior and Senior years, yes. I taught and worked in administration for forty years at the University of Kansas. The last twenty years I was in administration in the chancellor's office and I retired as director of Business and Fiscal Affairs for the Lawrence campus, in 1986. I've been retired more than twenty years now.
I: Now, when you were captured, were your parents sent a...an MIA letter? Had they known you were missing in action or... ?
MJ: I was captured December 19th, 1944. About January the 10th, 1945, my parents received a telegram from the War Department that I was missing in action. And about a
month later, they received a telegram that I was a prisoner of war in Germany. And they actually received several letters that I wrote from the prisoner of war camp.
MJ: A couple of times, we were given flimsy stationary and I wrote letters home several times and my parents received two or three of those. Then, I was liberated on May 2nd, 1945 and on May 3rd, I wrote a note to my parents and gave it to one of the tank men who had liberated us,, and he mailed it for me. And when they received that, that was the first word they received that I had re... no longer a prisoner of war. And then a week or so after they got that letter, they got a telegram from the War Department saying I had returned to American control. I got home in June then, of 1945.
MJ: I got home sooner than most men because I had been a prisoner of war. My two brothers, older brother got home in December of '45 and my younger brother in March or April of 1946.
I: Do you remember where you were when you heard about the victory over Japan?
MJ: Yes, I...In August, I had gone to Wichita to take an examination to become an Internal Revenue Agent, [laughter], I just wanted to do that and see what it was like. I knew I was going to return to school at KU. But while I was in Wichita, the War in Japan ended. And I went directly from there to Hot Springs^ Arkansas, and camp Robinson.
I: You mentioned earlier about the string around your coat and how it would play an.. .an important role. Do you want to touch upon that?
MJ: I had this; field jacket which is a...comes down about ten inches below the waist, and at the v/aist has a drawstring that is used to pull it up tight, and tie a knot there. I kept notes while I was a prisoner of war, It was strictly forbidden, however I kept some notes. I had a pencil and scraps of paper. And I was afraid the Germans would inspect me sometime, and find those and confiscate them, so I rolled up little pieces of paper, almost like the size of cigarettes and pushed them in that place around the waist where the drawstring was, thinking that if the Germans patted me down, they would not feel that paper, but only the drawstring. So, as soon as I got home, I typed up my notes while things were still fresh in my mind. Dates and things like that. And then, as I said, I have read everything I can get my hands on the Battle of the Bulge. I have made a number of talks about the Battle of the Bulge, and my prisoner of war experience and written my.. .about my experiences a couple of times.
I: So, you mentioned overall, that the Army had not done a very well job of preparing you for... in training.
MJ: Yes, the division that went overseas I think was inadequately trained, including myself. I had been to Infantry Officer Candidate School, but I'd had no basic training or any other training in the Infantry. So, my experience training in the Infantry was very good, but very fast, at Camp Benning. And many of the men with whom we went overseas and into combat had had no train.. .little or not training in the Infantry.
I: So, what they'd prepared you for was nothing like what you experienced?
MJ: What they'd prepared us for, I have read, was to be the.. .in the Army of Occupation after the war ended, not for combat. But we got in one of the biggest land battles of World War II. The Battle of the Bulge, where each side lost approximately 800 tanks in five weeks or so. And that was a critical blow to Germany because they could not replace those tanks. The Allies just sent 800 more tanks [laughter] or a thousand more tanks over to take the places of those others.
I: When you were a prisoner of war, were.. .were you mostly surrounded by Americans or was there British forces with you there too?
MJ: During my time as a prisoner of war, there were no British forces or any other except the Yugoslavs and the Serbs in the prison camp at Hammelburg.
I: Now I know you were stationed in England for a little bit before you crossed the Channel. What was the relationship between the American and British troops like.
MJ: Well, I was stationed in England from mid October to the end of November in 1944. We had almost no communications or anything with British military, and very little with German... [correcting himself] British civilians. I did get a four day leave, and I went to England and visited the usual tourist sites like St. Paul's Cathedral, Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace, and things like that.
MJ: When I visited St. Paul's Cathedral, there was a German bomb still in part of the building. It had come through the roof, but not exploded,
I: Oh, my goodness.
MJ:..,And was all boarded up at the time I was there in St. Paul's Cathedral. But that was a wonderful visit. Visited Piccadilly Circus and all the sites. And Mrs. Jones and I have enjoyed going back. We've been to England, Scotland, and Ireland, I guess, five times in the last 27 years. We made our first trip overseas in 1980. That was to England. By the way, the KU carillon [in the Campanile, a bell tower constructed as a WWII Memorial on the University of Kansas campus] was cast by the John Taylor Foundry in Loughborough, England. Frank [Godfrey] was the designer of the carillon and the man who oversaw casting of the bells, and construction of it. He came over with
the bells. He supervised the installation in the campanile at KU. And for four years, Phyllis was office manager for the World War Two Memorial Association. Most of the money had been raised or committed by the time she became office manager. So she got involved in spending most of the money.
I: [laughing], The fun part.
MJ: But one of her biggest jobs, that concerned her the most, was spelling the names of the Veterans who had been killed in the war, correctly. Because their names are, many of them are cast on the bells, with the bells. There was no changing them once the bells were cast. And she had a number of communications with Frank [Godfrey], especially about the spelling [laughter] of these names, to be sure they were correct. And to this day, we know of no errors that were made...
MJ:..,onthe spelling of the names. So she breathed a good...big sigh of relief when she finally concluded that they were.. .the names were all spelled correctly. But she enjoyed that very much. The carillon and campanile were dedicated in 1951. And Frank [Godfrey], came over to Lawrence for the dedication. He and Phyllis and I sat out on the grass near Potter Lake and listened to the dedicatory program that was played by [Anton Breiss] who was carillon at the famous Lake [Wales] carillon in Florida at that time. And I'll never forg;et Frank, kind of leaning back and saying, "sure is a wonderful feeling to feel that you have been a part of something that makes such beautiful music."
I: Yeah. You had mentioned being in...having several friends that you served with throughout the United States. Do you keep in regular contact with them?
MJ: I keep in regular contact with Earl Brown, who was a fellow platoon leader in the company and regiment and division that I was in. He leaves.. .lives in California. I keep up with Lynn Kessinger who was a 2nd Lieutenant in another company, E Company when I was in G Company, we see one another about once a year. I keep up with Lee Darby who was one of the Sergeant Squad Leaders in my platoon, and with the wives of two of the other Sergeant Squad Leaders in my platoon. One was Ivon York, Billy Moore was another, he was from Louisiana. I keep up with Mrs. York, Mrs. Moore, and both Lee Darby and his wife who live in Acworth, Georgia. Those are the only men I met in the service with whom I have really stayed in contact over the years.
I have stayed in contact with Johanna Theissen Serexhe in whose home I lived for six days just before the Battle of the Bulge started. And I keep up with her now through a nephew of hers who speaks English very well and acts as translator for Johanna and me when we exchange E-mail letters or other letters. And Johanna as I mentioned, was 26 in 19...in December of 1944 when I was 22. And the first time we visited her home in Belgium, there was a painting of a young lady on the wall in her living room. And I
asked her who that was. And Johanna could not tell me very much for crying except that it was her sister, Gertrude. But later, we visited with Johanna, and she told us that her sister, Gertrude, was the first civilian, Belgian killed on May 10th, 1940, when Germany invaded the Low Countries, and France. Her sister had just been married and her husband was in Brussels, Was a policeman in Bru.. .Brussels, I believe. And Gertrude was visiting at her parents home near St. Vith, Belgium, when they learned that the Germans had invaded Belgium. 'Course, they were just eight miles from the German border or so. She called the railroad station to see if the train would be going from there to Brussels. And as Johanna tells us this story, her sister Gertrude made a mistake, she thinks and gave them her maiden name. And the Theissen family was pro-American and British and had turned, well.. .on May 10th, her sister Gertrude was driven to the railroad station to take the train to Brussels to get out of harms way. And as soon as she stepped out of the car at the railroad station, she was shot and killed by German soldiers. The invasion came early in the morning and she was killed early in the morning, something like 7:30 in the morning or something like that. So that's why Johanna had difficulty telling me about it and the reason later that Johanna was pro-America and British; Johanna's father had actually moved from Germany, he was a German. He'd moved to Belgium in 193!5 or something like that, when Hitler was getting going strong, He didn't like what was going on and he moved to Belgium. But he was German I've heard. Johanna had a brother who was confiscated and put in the German Army. He didn't want to be in the German Army, but they forced him in the German Army, and he was serving in France during the occupation.
MJ: And he went AWOL from German Army and when I was enjoying his home in Born, Belgium., in December of 1944, Johanna told me that he was hiding out in the woods and she would take food out to him every four or five days. Because the Germans were coming to their home regularly, looking for him. And they wanted him back in the army.
I: Sure they did.
MJ: And when the Battle of the Bulge broke out on December 16, 1944, Johanna, her mother, and her brother took off to the west on their bicycles. It was snowy and icy, and extremely difficult to ride bicycles. But being so close to the German border, when Germans invaded a second time in World War Two, they headed west. Their mother could not keep up. So they dropped off their mother at relatives in a little village called Recht. R-E-C-H-T. Johanna and her brother continued riding their bicycle/s. They didn't know what was going on anymore than I did. And unfortunately, they just kept ahead of the advancing German Army. They took a route that the Germans took for the deepest penetration the Germans made during the Battle of the Bulge. They didn't know it of course. But finally, Johanna and her brother, got close to the American lines, some thirty five miles west of their home. And they, she told me that they crawled under tank fire from both German and US tanks to reach the American lines and the tanks there. And the Germans had placed so many people, even in US uniforms, behind the lines to disrupt
everything..,English speaking Germans were dropped behind the lines, wearing US uniforms.
MJ: And one thing they did was change the roadside., .the town signs. If the road sign said St. Vith to the left, they turned it so St. Vith pointed...
I: To the right.
MJ: South or straight, or to the right or something like that. That was so common, that the US troops they reached, after their long bicycle ride and crawling under the fire, almost threw them back out into no man's land. And Johanna and her brother thought that if they were captured by the Germans, they would certainly be killed. Because they had already killed her sister, and her family had turned their sawmill over to American engineers to make bridge timbers for future bridges. But just before... about the time the Allies...the Yartks, were getting ready to throw them back out into no man's land, a Lieutenant who had operated her sawmill, her family sawmill at Bom, happened upon the scene. He vouched for them and got them sent back to the Red Cross in Brussels.
MJ: Now, his platoon of engineers operated two sawmills. One in Born, Belgium and one in another nearby village. The sawmill in Born was water driven. They had diverted a little water from a stream nearby, ran it under their house. Their sawmill was in sort of the basement, although it was ground level on the back of the house. And when the Battle of the Bulge stated, he and his men took off to the west from Born. I took of from Born and went east, [laughter). To the Ger...to the fighting. But about 1988 or '90, Johanna asked me if I could find the tall, blond American officer who had saved her life and the life of her brother. She said, "I knew his name at one time, but I can not remember now what it is. Can you find him for me?" Well, there are probably only about three million tall, blond American officers, [laughter],
MJ: But my brother subscribed to one of the service magazines at that time, and he put in.. .in a note, "need to contact person who operated sawmill, Born, Belgium, November, 1944. And from that, I got one response. It was a man in Colorado who said, "I was in a engineer platoon. I was not in the group that operated the sawmill that operated the sawmill in Bom, I was in the group that operated the sawmill in this other little village." But he said, "Our platoon leader, was Archibald Moore...[correcting himself]...no Archibald Taylor, Archibald Taylor." I said, "Was he tall." He said, "Oh, yes, he was about six-three or so." So, this man in Colorado, said, "I have not heard anything about him for ten years. But the last I heard about him, he was a postmaster somewhere in North Carolina. So I went to our postmaster in Lawrence, who gave me the addresses of seven administrative offices in North Carolina. I wrote to each of the seven. I got
answers from five, but none of them knew Archibald Taylor. But one of them suggested I contact the office of the postal historian in Washington, DC. So, I contacted [laughter] the post office historian in Washington, DC. He called me one evening and said, "There was an Archibald Moore...Archibald Taylor rather, Archibald Taylor, who was postmaster in North Carolina. He retired ten years ago. But his telephone number and address at that time were such and such. He gave me the name and address...or the telephone number and address of Archibald Taylor in Oxford, North Carolina. So, I called that telephone number, and lo and behold, I talked with Elizabeth Taylor, [laughter]. Not the Elizabeth Taylor...
MJ:... but Mrs. Archibald Taylor, who was named Elizabeth. I.. .1 asked to speak to him but she said, "he is hard of hearing, and he refuses to speak on the telephone [laughter]. And I said, "Well, I.. .you can put several questions to him." I said, "Was he an engineer lieutenant?" "Yes he was." "Was he tall and blonde?" And she said, "Well, he'stall, he is over six feet tall. He's been bald most of the time I've known him." [laughter]. But she asked him questions and relayed them to me, and sure enough. He didn't like to be called Archibald either. He wanted to be called Arch. Arch Taylor. So I visited with Elizabeth Taylor, [laughter] and learned that indeed, that was the Arch Taylor whom Johanna wanted to contact and thank for saving their lives. Now Arch Taylor did not remember the incident, but he had a platoon of men for whom he was responsible.
MJ: And all he did probably was say, "Oh yes, I know those people, they are alright, take care of them." That was a rather minor incident to him, but Johanna credits it with saving her life and the life of her brother. So, I had the pleasure of putting Arch Taylor and Johanna in touch with one another. And a couple years later, Arch Taylor and Elizabeth, went to Belgium and met Johanna and had a wonderful reunion with her.
MJ: And that's.. .that kind of good things come out of the war. There are a few good things, but they do not offset the terrible loss of life. More than sixty two million people lost their lives in World War Two. More than twenty million Germans, more than twenty million Russians, and more than twenty million of the English, Italians, Australians, Canadians, US, Dutch people, Belgians, everybody. And not to even mention the destruction of schools, bridges, homes, churches, everything. But some good things came out. There were some important advances in medicine and the jet engine came out of World War Two and changed the way we travel completely.
I: ...We live today, yeah.
MJ: And several medicines were experimented with in World War Two.
MJ: And another couple things...good things that came out of it, based upon the bad things unfortunately, were the Berlin Airlift, when Russia put down the Iron Curtain, the US and Britain continued to supply Berlin by air. Dropping thousands of tons of supplies into Berlin and saving those people. The people we had just defeated. And another wonderful thing was the Marshall Plan to help those countries. Still another was the GI Bill of Rights. The Topeka VA Center is named Colmery-O'Neil. The Colmery, C-O-L-M-E-R-Y, was a man from Topeka who was president of the American Legion near the end of the war. And he was in Washington. He and two or three other people wrote the GI Bill of Rights in one day or so. And that permitted millions of young men and women to get college educations that had.. .would have never gotten college educations before.
I: Did you capitalize upon the GI Bill when you went back to school?
MJ: I did. The part of a year that I finished my undergraduate degree. But not after that. And...millions of young people whose lives had been disrupted and had gotten behind where they thought they oughta be in their lives to purchase homes with low-cost loans. Those good things, and some relationships like mine with my military friends and Johanna Serexhe in Belgium.
My younger brother met some people in Holland. His outfit was taken off the line and sent back to Dutch villages for recuperation. And I guess they were just told to find some home in town where you can stay. Because he knocked on the door of a home next to a school I think and asked if he could stay there. They took him in. Now he claims he did not know that they had six daughters, [laughter] but I.. .1 am not convinced yet that he didn't have some tip off to that. They had six daughters and a son. He got acquainted with those people. He introduced them to us. We have stayed in their home in Holland on two trips we made to that area.
And on one trip, two couples of our Dutch friends, Phyllis and I, took two cars and drove to Johanna's home in Fleron, Belgium, where she lives now. She took all of us to a wonderful meal at a wonderful restaurant in [Schofontain], Belgium, and then we took a three-car caravan. Johanna drove her car in the lead, with one of the Dutch friends, one of the Dutch friends drove their car, and I drove our car. And the one... seven of us, visited a couple sites in Belgium, and then Johanna especially wanted to take me to the military cemetery at Henri Chappelle, Belgium because some men from my outfit are buried in that cemetery. It is a beautiful place on a high hill, meticulously cared for by the Belgian people. Every Memorial Day, or Dec...Memorial Day in May, they put flowers on every grave in that cemetery. And there was one American director there. All the other employees were Belgian people. And they adopted graves and would communicate with the families of those people here in the states.
Then we got in the cars and Johanna told us, "now you don't need to talk at the German border, let me do the talking." Because the...the Cold War was still on at that time. So we come up to the German border at the checkpoint and Johanna talks with them and they wave the next two cars on through. We went and visited a famous German village, Monschau, Germany which is on a little stream and then we drove to a restaurant on a little sitream out in the country. Johanna*s uncle... [correcting himself], no Johanna's
cousin and his wife operated this trout restaurant on a stream in Germany near Hofen, H-0-F-E-N, Gsrmany. The restaurant was closed, but Johanna's cousin and his wife opened it and served a trout dinner to the seven visitors plus the two of them. And Phyllis and I had a wonderful evening. They talked French and German so we were not in the conversation very much, [laughter]. But they all spoke with such animation. German and French mixed up.
Now, Johanna had not talked with her cousin after the war for some years because he was in the German Army and she was for the allies. But they had gotten over that and were back on speaking terms. But Phyllis and I sat there listening to them and at one time, one of our Dutch friends turned to us and said, "We're talking about politics". [Laughter]. And then he turned back and carried on again. But they were talking politics and they were very animated! All talking. It seems to me, the Dutch people, tend to talk at once and eat well. The,. .our Dutch friends told us that they differ from the Belgians particularly in that...The Dutch live rich and die poor...no, [correcting himself] no, the Dutch live poor and die rich. The Belgium people live rich and die poor, [laughter]. They loved Belgian restaurants, much like French, lighter food. The Belg...the Dutch food is heavier and more like German food, I think. But these Dutch friends were wonderful. They took us into their home. The first time we were there, they had ordered from the baker's shop nearby, a huge one layer sheet cake. It must have been two and a half feet long and two feet wide. It was written across it, "We love Americans" and it had an American flag and tulips on it.
I: Wow. A, lot of the Veterans that I...I've talked with have all mentioned how...the...the Belgians love for the Americans and everything that they did to liberate Belgium. They had a... a great deal of respect for them even today.
MJ: Well, these Dutch people of course are almost as old as I am. They were teenagers, most of them during the war. And one little girl was about ten when the Germans invaded so sshe was about 10-14, and she had so.. .they had so little to eat that she did not grow properly. She was very small. When the war was over, she was sent to recuperation centers in Great Britain where they had them for the children who needed... she is still a real tiny lady but she is still alive and a wonderful lady. But these Dutch friends said, "We love Americans." And this is at a time when people called "Greens" G-R-E-E-N-S, over there were saying, "Yankee, go home." But these people said, "We'll never forget what the American people did for us. Those young people shouting "Yankee go home", don't know what they are talking about." So they respect the Americans. In fact, these Dutch people, a couple of the girls, sewed an American flag from scraps of material. And when American tanks liberated their village in south Limburg, Holland, The Netherlands, there father jumped up on one of the tanks waving this Amer.. .homemade American flag while bullets were still flying around.
They say their mother was really upset with him. [laughter]. But he got out there with that American flag on one of the early tanks that came in [laughing].
MJ: So they certainly love Americans. And the Belgians do to, and I think about everybody do except the French don't have too much love for Americans for some reason or another.
I: Yeah. Well, Mr, Jones, I would like to thank you so much for doing this interview today.
MJ: You are certainly welcome Brian, I have enjoyed visiting with you, and I hope that people in years...in the future can... will this be on tape?
I: Absolutely. We are going to keep it on archive at the.. .at the museum and so it will be... it will be kept in... in the permanent collection.
MJ: Well, I hope people will hear it and learn from it, about those years. Because most of us veterans are gone, we are dying at the rate of, I have read 12 or 13 hundred a day.
MJ: My younger brother Harold, what is he, he is,. .he will soon be 821 guess. And he was one of the youngest ones. He went in the service when he was 18, was a sergeant overseas at age 19. [Laughter]. You know, that is another thing about that.. .the war. It gave young men experiences and made us grow up rapidly.
MJ: He was a sergeant and in charge of twelve men in combat at age 19. Now I was in combat and responsible for forty men at age 22. A lot of the pilots were 21, 22, 23, in charge of a crew of 10 and a billion dollar piece of equipment [laughter], risking their lives. Those were times. I wouldn't want to go through them, the military experience again, but I wouldn't give anything for the experience either. It taught me a number of things. To be tough. I learned that the human body can really take a lot of punishment and still come through.
MJ: And, at the same time, to be part of a larger group and cooperate with a larger group. And in a way, to be patient. And probably some other things. I've.. .let's see, what other experience. Oh, I did, not get on the tape...
I: You want me...okay, or do you want to keep it on the tape? MJ: Yes. I: Okay.
MJ: One of the little villages in which we stayed while we were walking through southern Germany was called Boganhausen. It is a tiny village of about 12 German homes. And when Phyllis and I were driving around, visiting those places, I stopped at a restaurant in Pfeffenhausen on a Sunday noon. There was a couple and a small boy finishing their dinner. So I told them, in German, that I had been a prisoner of war there and so forth and so on, and asked where is the road to Boganhausen, And the man said, " [Ein, Moment, ein Moment], wait a minute, just a minute. When they'd finished, he got up and motioned Phyllis and me to follow him. His wife and child stayed there, he went out in the parking lot, got in his car, motioned for us to get in our car and follow him. I thought he was going to tell us, go this way two kilometers and turn right you know. He asked us to follow him, and he drove us to Boganhausen. It was only four or five kilometers away, but he drove up to the sign on the edge of the village, it was hardly a village even, that said Boganhausen. He got out of his car and came back. By this time we had pulled up. And he stood there, pointed straight down to the ground and said, "Boganhausen, Boganhausen". [Laughter], We thanked him and went back to his family. And that is not the only time we received wonderful help. We got lost several times when I was driving of course, [laughter] that worried my wife a little, [laughter] But I always tell her some of the most interesting experiences come...
I: Oh, yeah.
MJ.. .from those situations where you are lost and visit with somebody. I pulled up to a pub out in the country to ask the way to someplace. I pulled up and I parked with the front of the car next to the side of the stone building. I went in, there were about eight men drinking, and one of them said he'd show me. So he went out. I couldn't get our cars... our rented cars started. So we pushed the car back a little, he was...had had a few drinks, but he was going to pull us with.. .on a cable to a garage nearby. Well, this cable turned out to be only about as big as your index finger, covered with rubber or plastic. And it was only about 15 feet long. It had a hook at either end, and those German cars all have places in which to hook, So we hooked in to his car and he took us on a wild ride through a cornfield.. .the farmer's drive through a cornfield at one place, [laughter]. We came to a little village where there was a stop sign. By the way, I told Phyllis, "keep your hands on the dashboard, I may have to stop suddenly anytime." He took off from that stop sign like he would normally, and his chain broke. So he tied it. [laughter]. Now this got it down to about, you know, 12 feet long. And we took off. Well, he finally pulled us up outside a garage on the edge of a little village, and he stayed there until they got the car fixed. I tried to pay him something. He refused to take anything. I said, "you've got to buy a new cable at least." "Oh, no, no, no." He wouldn't take a thing, just refused to take anything. And I was a little surprised, the mechanics at the garage couldn't fix the car right away it seemed, but finally one of them stood up on the edge and stuck his head down into the motor and hammered real hard on something or other, [laughter], I couldn't see what it was. But lo and behold it started.
MJ: So, we said good bye to all of them when we took off and continued our driving. And we drove the car for two or three or four days after that. And Phyllis asked me, "are you going to tell them when we turn in the car about the car trouble." I said, "What car trouble, it has been running fine for three or four days!" [laughter]
I: That's right,
MJ: We were with a group that left from Munich, but we stayed a week and rented a car and drove around. Visited Gars, where I was liberated and so forth. Took the car back to Munich and flew home from there.
I: Good. Well, alright.