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Interview on experiences in World War II

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Ellis County Historical Society


Ellis County Historical Society

Veterans of WWII Oral History Project


Interview with John Logsdon *

April 5, 2006


Conducted by Judy Walker**

*Hereafter referred to LOGSDON

**Hereafter referred to as WALKER

WALKER: It's Judy Walker at the Ellis County Historical Society on April 5th,2006 and we're here with Mr. Logsdon. Sir, if you'll give us your full name? Your full name?

LOGSDON: John R. Logsdon.

WALKER: And your address?

LOGSDON: 2705 Hillcrest, Hays, Kansas 67601.

WALKER: And where were you born Mr. Logsdon?

LOGSDON: Born in Chickasha, Oklahoma, 3 November 1916.

WALKER: And who were your parents?

LOGSDON: William J. and Dorthea Haddix Logsdon.

WALKER: And where did you go to school?

LOGSDON: Chickasha high school.

WALKER: How much schooling did you have?

LOGSDON: I had a high school graduate and I took some accounting courses from the University of Kansas after I came back from the service.

WALKER: Are you married?

LOGSDON: Yes I am.

WALKER: If so how did you marry your, how did you meet your spouse?

LOGSDON: My spouse? In Wichita, Kansas.

WALKER: Do you have any children, sir?

LOGSDON: Two boys.

WALKER: And their names and ages?

LOGSDON: William John and Michael Logsdon, He's… How old is he?

MRS. LOGSDON: Born in '47, Richard Bruce was born in forty….

LOGSON: Bruce Dick Logsdon was born in '48, '49.

MRS. LOGSDON: Dick was born in '47, and Mike was born in '49.

WALKER: Okay, what branch of the service were you in, sir?

LOGSDON: Army.

WALKER: Okay and what was your rank?

LOGSDON: Captain.

WALKER: Where did you serve?

LOGSDON: Europe. ETO.

WALKER: ETO, okay. Were your drafted or did you enlist?

LOGSDON: I was drafted.

WALKER: So they drafted you into the Army, you didn't have a choice?

LOGSDON: Uh, no.

WALKER: Do you recall you first days of service?

LOGSDON: Yes. Of course I had to go into basic processing at Leavenworth, Kansas. And it was just scurry, scurry, hurry, hurry, and that all there are to it.

WALKER: How old were you when you were drafted?

LOGSDON: Twenty-four.

WALKER: Twenty-four, okay

LOGSDON: See I spent three hitches, or two hitches in the National Guard as a kid so I was not, I understood what was going on.

WALKER: What year was it that you were drafted?

LOGSDON: `42.

WALKER: Okay do you remember any of your instructors? <LOGSDON shakes head no> After boot camp what happened?

LOGSDON: Well I was assigned to basic training in Fort Knox, Kentucky with an Armored school.

WALKER: And what did you train on?

LOGSDON: Well we at that time had very little equipment. We had tanks there and we'd train on the tanks and with the tanks and generally speaking it was just boot camp and did what you, you did what you was told to do.

WALKER: Okay, after training where did you go then?

LOGSDON: My first assignment was the desert, Mojave Desert with the 4th Armored Division, which I stayed with that time until the war was over.

WALKER: And what did you do at the Mojave?

LOGSDON: We trained out there on the desert because of the war in North Africa and the only place you could use tanks.

WALKER: Okay, what was your specific job with the tank?

LOGSDON: Well I started out as a Second Lieutenant as a Platoon Leader and that was five tanks. And then I during, after I got overseas I was promoted to a First Lieutenant and then a Captain and after I was a Captain I took over the whole company, Charlie Company, C Company, 35th Tank Battalion, 4th Armored Division, Third United States Army under George Patton.

WALKER: So how many tanks were under your command?

LOGSDON: Fifteen plus the service unit. Be about hundred and twenty people. When you're on full strength, which wasn't very often.

WALKER: Did you see combat?

LOGSDON: A lot of it. Five battles in Europe and North Africa. They consolidated the North Africa with the European so there all five battles, I was in every one. From start to finish.

WALKER: So did you begin combat in Africa then?

LOGSDON: No, no, no. We made the invasion of France, D-31. That'd be thirty-one days after the invasion. They learned quick if it was tanks, was not supposed to go in on an invasion. We lost a lot of them out there in the water. So we went in D-31. We were a highly mobile unit. It was a streamlined division and we had about ten thousand people in our division but we had a square division of infantry, you have fifteen thousand plus. So we were highly mobile. We had half-tracks that brought the infantry with us, we had our own artillery, we had our own medical, we had our own recon, we for all intents and purposes we were self-supporting, self-standing. We didn't, just so we had gas and food that's all we needed, that and what's said is, this outfit, our outfit of, the Third Army can travel on empty bellies but they, if they get hungry they can eat their belts. He was a great man.

WALKER: Did you meet Patton?

LOGSDON: Oh indeed. In England, he came down to the motor pool one Saturday morning while we were working on the tanks and cleaned them up, and this, that, and the other. He walked into the motor pool and my Sergeant said, ``Here comes the old man.'' I said, ``Well, I saw him at breakfast.'' He said, ``No the big old man,'' He came down and asked me as a greenhorn Second Lieutenant, ``What do you know about these tanks?'' I said, ``All there are to know about them, sir. What do you want to know?'' He said, ``I was in tanks before you were born.'' He walked off. What a guy. He was a wonderful speaker until he really got wound up. Then he could spit out more profanity <laughs>.

WALKER: Any memorable experiences? Where to start, I know.

LOGSDON: Well yes, we as you saw on this map here, excuse me a minute. Everyplace on this map where you see a star is a battle, I mean an engagement. So we started up here in France on Utah beach and the first thing we hit is Coutances and Avranches and on down to, I can't read this.

WALKER: Moved on down to the South of France, That's all right.

LOGSDON: Moved on down but we were engaged here pretty heavily. The great thing about the Armored Division is they can't stop, they can't stand still, they've got to move. They're no good in defense. They're to support the infantry of course. But we got down here and someone in headquarters way above us the division decided we were going over to Nantes, in France here. Well, that was a seaport for the German ships, we got over there and they just, I was in reserve at that time, my battalion. They just got the, creamed good, they lost a lot of people and lost a lot of, because you turn those guns around and it. Why they ever sent us over there I'll never know. France, Germany's over here, so they finally got us turned around and we had, we hit a, at that time we were able to get fifty to a hundred miles a couple days so we just as fast as we could and got to Orleans and on down. There's one interesting spot here that on the way, Captain /McGlamour/, he was in our division, he was in our outfit. He took his company he started, ``What the hell are we doing,'' he said, ``Paris is over here, I'm going to take off.'' And he did, took his company off. And he did get up there and they finally stopped him. They were going to court-martial him and our division commander said, ``Like H-, you're going to court-martial him.'' Said, ``I need all officers that good.'' So they didn't do anything to him, put him back in the line and then we moved on. But each one of those stars are major engagements.

WALKER: So you were on the, at the very front all the way through, your whole experience.

LOGSDON: Oh yes. There was nothing ahead of us but the Germans. That's why an armored division is a breakthrough division. The, we always said the safest thing for a tank outfit was behind enemy lines. And that's not, that's true.

WALKER: And that would be because, why?

LOGSDON: Well the behind enemy lines, you look down the muzzle of a gun, usually soft spots back there. We got up to, right on in, my division was right up there on the German border there, ready to go into Germany and they pulled my battalion out of the battalion I was in, not my battalion but the battalion I was in, they moved it back because they, we only had eight tanks out of the fifteen. We had to lick our wounds and the other battalion came in, took our spot. That's the way it works you have to shift them around. We were out in the snow, I have a picture somewhere in that book, out in the snow changing a tank treads, putting new engines in one tank and snow was, oh, I`d say eight inches deep. These kids were out there doing that kind of maintenance, and about 9:30 the one evening, that evening, we got a call from Battalion, we had a runner come into the company headquarters there and said, ``There's an officer's call in twenty minutes.'' Well the headquarters of our battalion was not very far back. They always had to stay forward. They broke the news to us that we were moving out at 0400. And we're going to Bastogne. And where was Bastonge, we, you know, we didn't really know and with only eight tanks and two of them down, I sounded off. I was not the company commander at the time, I was executive officer, First Lieutenant. I said, ``Colonel, how in the hell are we going to do that? Only have eight tanks and two of them are down.'' He said, ``Logsdon, we're going to move out at 0400 with or without you.'' I said, `` Yes, sir.'' <laughs> That was one of the interesting thing, and the Colonel and I were really close after the war, stayed in touch, through conventions and that sort of thing and every now and then he'll remind me, ``Logsdon, you move out?'' We moved out, and the snow was deep, the roads were terrible, in those days they had little trails down, can you imagine putting a division with, on those little roads through the mountains or through the hills over there, criss and turn heading for Bastogne to relive the 101st Airborne? Which we did. We were the first division in there to relieve the 101st Airborne that was surrounded by the Germans. There is a picture here somewhere, I don't, its in the book I guess, they blew the bridges out in front of us and it was a big canyon down there, must've been fifty or eighty feet. You couldn't get over it, the bridge had to be there. Can you imagine trying to get the engineers up there with a tread-way bridge and all the roads were blocked? All the roads are full. Those small roads over there in this area, one tank is, you might get a jeep by it but trying to get a big truck by it is really a mess. But we got in there and relived the 101st Airborne. We came back and licked their wounds for a while and this is where we were, defending it, and the ones that really took a beating were these doughboys. Each tank has a squad of infantry and it was a written law, almost written, you take care of your infantry and they rode on the backs of the tanks a lot of times, during combat. You'd get off and hit a town, why they'd get off. Taking care of them out in the field like this, you had a little Coleman stove made over here in Wichita, and we had gas burners we could heat water and coffee and some times the rations would come where we could heat them but, you never did have enough rations to take care of the infantry, we didn't. We had five men in a tank and we had just five, rations for five men, a couple of days' rations but we took, the best we did, we took care as we could. Then we'd move on out of that area and crossed the Rhine. There's two or three rivers in here this, and crossed the Rhine on tread-way bridges. It, Ohrdruf, no not Ohrdruf that's wrong, just below Frankfurt and took went into Frankfurt, then moved on, on up to, into Germany and wound up our at /Helane/, /Zarah/, and /Zakow/, that was on the main line of Dresden. I was in the lead, my company was in the lead that time and they stopped us.

WALKER: They being the Germans or Command?

LOGSDON: Command stopped us. We met the Germans, the Russians back in that area and the Russian Army came to us and then they moved us down to Czechoslovakia in the Redoubt area and that's where we had out assembly area after the war. So we met at /Strekeney/, Czechoslovakia, is where the war was over.

WALKER: Okay. You want to tell us about your Purple Heart, sir?

LOGSDON: Yes. Which one?

WALKER: Yes. tell us about those.

LOGSDON: I got a Purple Heart. My tank hit a land mine and they had a grouser, what we called a grouser on the tank ,on the face of the tank if we needed it to get more traction you'd put those on. We never did have time to put those on, but they were up there and one of them was loose and flew by and cut my eye, took my glasses off and that was a Purple Heart. Others we just ignored, I got some shrapnel in my back, forget it, don't need another one and went on. This is a Bronze Star and that was for an action that I was in.

WALKER: Tell us about that.

LOGSDON: Well, my tank was knocked out, completely knocked out and I had to, had to have a command tank so I took my Sergeant's tank and continued in the mission of that time, I only had five tanks at that time, four tanks. And the mission was completed with four tanks and we trapped a bunch of enemy back in there and cleaned them out. This is a Presidential citation. There were just a few units in all of Europe that got a presidential citation. Now that's not an individual citation, that's a division, Captain. Same with the Croix De'Guerre there in the corner there, that's a unit citation from the French government to the whole unit and this is the five campaigns. We got a little bronze star in there that's five in Europe and these are all ETO and European Theater of Operations. There were a lot more I could put in there. The Battle of the Bulge is a not government issue but they do make a medal and do make a medal for it and two or three other engagements they made a medal for I didn't get. These are issue, these are government issue.

WALKER: Okay so you were in the Battle of the Bulge?

LOGSDON: Indeed I was.

WALKER: You want to tell us, list the battles for us? If you can or maybe you have other things you'd like to share?

LOGSDON: Well, no, that's a good question. The Battle of the Bulge was probably one of the cruelest and meanest things that I was ever in. The snow was deep as you can see on this picture, it was even deeper and falling all the time. We had no air support. The Armored need air support and that's one thing that we always had when the sun was shining and they could fly, we had those fighters up there. Any time we were called on, we got a bad situation, a town that was fortified and we could get into we called the Air Force in and a matter of a few minutes or a few hours, why, they were there, but there was no way to get the Air Force up, it was cloudy, snowing and miserable weather and they had defenses, the Germans had their defenses set up and they were good, and we just had to pound our way through. It was cold, as you can see these kids in the trench here holding their position, it was a miserable fight, that was one of the worst battles I was in. There were others too, but, how I got through from the beginning to the end, I've said to myself and to my wife, I'll never know.

WALKER: How did you stay in touch with your family?

LOGSDON: Beg pardon?

WALKER: How did you stay in touch with you family?

LOGSDON: Oh, by letters.

WALKER: Okay, V-mail?

LOGSDON: Yeah, V-mail.

WALKER: You mentioned liberating Buchenwald.

LOGSDON: Yes I did. That was a mess. There were over, they were, I was told and I believed there were twenty thousand people there of all countries, all religions particularly the Jewish people. They had a crematory there, they had a big, you've seen these silos in this part of the country? They had those running for three hundred yards with bodies thrown in nude. It was a worst place I've ever been in and the stench was horrible. We took that camp and had another division on the other side coming up from the other way, and they shared taking that side of the camp. But after we had it secured they was looking at all these people come down the road and they had a collection point down there for them, women, didn't see any children, but old men, young men, everything, Egyptians, that is something that I'll never, never forget. And when somebody says, ``That didn't happen, they didn't have concentration camps,'' I want to hit them right square in the teeth.

WALKER: Did you have any idea what you were, what to expect, when you came up, when you liberated Buchenwald?

LOGSDON: Yes because we'd take Ohrdruf, and that was a small one, that was a little one. We'd taken Ohrdruf and the bodies were piled in the streets but the bad part of it was the people who guarded these things could hear the tanks coming and people that guarded these took off. Rarely did we get any of those, if we did the infantry took care of them. I don't remember, I didn't see it.

WALKER: So all the guards, all the German Military were gone?

LOGSDON: Oh yeah, you bet they were. And one story there, is a lady came down the road, the tanks were right on the road, right at the gate maybe a hundred and fifty yards from the gate, they was marching, they weren't marching, they were just going on their own out. This lady stopped at the tanks there and said, ``Where are you from.'' Perfect English. She said, I said ``Were you in the camps?'' She said, ``Yes, don't I look it?'' I said,'' Yes you do dear, are you hungry?'' She says, `` I've been hungry for months.'' And I told the boy, ``Bring some C rations out,'' and so we gave `em, gave `em we had a chocolate bar that was just concentrated so bad, and I said, ``Now, don't eat very much of this at a time, you take it easy and we broke out, and we, the boys and my crew said, kept telling heat some water and give her some coffee or something and I said, ''no,'' I said, `` we're going to move.'' We had time to do that but we didn't, she, had a conversation with her. She was a professor in a college. Very intelligent lady and perfect English, and I said, ``Well, what are you going to do now?'' ``She said, `` I want to come the United States and teach.'' There's where I made the mistake, I didn't get her name, I didn't give her my name or anything, I would loved to have met that lady in the United States and at that time I could've helped her do anything she wanted to. But she'd lost her family like all the Jewish families. Concentration camps are nothing but pretty sad. But that's one thing that I wished I had done, I look back now, I have hundreds of times.

WALKER: That's amazing. So how long were you there? You said you ended up you had time you could've heated water and everything but how long did you guys stay there?

LOGSDON: Not very long. We were there just, see the Armored had no business, see once you liberate something you have to move. So we were back on the road by evening and I can't remember just where we went after that but it's on the map here someplace.

WALKER: You just kept moving?

LOGSDON: One time we made, we hit the autobahn, they had autobahns out there, you could use it but they were deadly. Any outfit come down there, they were defending it very well. But one time we made over a hundred miles in one day.

WALKER: Using the autobahn?

LOGSDON: On the autobahn. They just had some area there that wasn't defended. And we had gas and that was...

WALKER: Keeping gas… keeping your supply lines open was?

LOGSDON: Yes, one little bad thing packing that, and I'm talking about a high, high demand. We were right at the edge of Germany and had the power, had the ability to move on in, but Eisenhower pulled the gas and the ammunitions from the Third Army completely, we were dead in the water, and they gave it all to the Brits. The British and Montgomery now, Montgomery commanded a lot of our troops up in that part of the country and I'll tell you the GIs in my department, you could hear them scream and yell cause they were, they knew that was wrong and nothing to do about it, and Monty up there, Montgomery, fiddled and fooled around instead of using the Armored, he'd send the infantry out first, well my God.

WALKER: They needed the Armored.

LOGSDON: They needed the Armored out front, of course. Montgomery was a stupid ass anyway.

WALKER: We've heard that said.

LOGSDON: Eisenhower made that mistake. Maybe it was politics above him, I don't know. I know that even the dog-faced privates in my outfits were just screaming and yelling. You know you stop a division and you're vulnerable. You stop an Armored Division, you are very vulnerable. But we had our own infantry they surrounded us and helped us. I have a list here, I had a silk escape map of Europe, I mean the area that we were in, sewn in the back of combat coat. Well when the war was over needless to say, the lining came out and I got my map.

WALKER: You knew it was there the whole time? Can we open it up?

LOGSDON: Sure. It's dirty. I've got a clean one at home, but I wasn't going to bring that one.

WALKER: Now did all, all of your people in…

LOGSDON: Officers.

WALKER: Just officers?

LOGSDON: Just officers that I knew about. No enlisted man had one that I was aware. We came in from Europe, from London right here. Just a minute, but this is a silk escape map. <holds up map for camera>I never had to use it.

WALKER: Thank goodness. Never got lost?

LOGSDON: No it was in my jacket all the time.

MRS. LOGSDON: Tell about the nurses.

WALKER: Nurses?

LOGSDON: Yes, we had nurses way back they were in a, on a high moving situation like we. They were mobile also. But they were set up to take casualties back there and oh I think about twenty-five or thirty straggling Germans stumbled on the hospital somehow and took it. We were moving fast and when that word came over to the division, the division stopped. Now I never heard any orders, just stop, but the whole division stopped and said, ``We're going back.'' Well they finally got us out of that, but they took the hospital, and a good friend of mine was in there, a Lieutenant Colonel, with some wounds. He just said, ``What you do is just lay there,'' he told the guys around him, ``Don't talk, don't say anything, don't answer any questions, nothing,'' that was where he could talk to. They were all on low cots, and CCR, which is in reserve came up and took care of that,

WALKER: Took care of the Germans?

LOGSDON: Oh, yeah. Don't mess around with our nurses.

WALKER: Well you needed them. Now you said you had shrapnel. Did you have the shrapnel removed in the field?

LOGSDON: Yeah, it was removed in an aid hospital there. We had our own battalion surgeon, each battalion had it's own doctor. So yeah, Dr. Greenburg pulled it out, put a band-aid on it and said, ``Get out.''

WALKER: And back you went?

LOGSDON: I didn't hardly get out. No, I went right back.

WALKER: Do you keep in touch with ay of the fellows?

LOGSDON: Yes I do. My executive officer, Irving Heath, at Knowlesville, Indiana, we visited back and forth, and know his family, he knows mine. I've stayed at quite close with Irv. Irv, he's a real tall man, and he was in, he shouldn't have been over in the light tank company, battalion, but he was wounded and the sent back him to England and they were going to send him home and he said `` Like H- you are, I `m going back to my unit.'' When he came back they had no place for him in over in Charlie Company I mean D Company, Dog Company so I got him. I needed an officer and he was good, he was a good man.

WALKER: And you've kept in contact. How long did you serve?

LOGSDON: I went in '42 and got out in the end of '45, December of '45. That was time. And then I had, of course, I had two hitches in the National Guard, which counted on longevity and so when I came back, went to Wichita, went to work and stayed in the reserve and helped organize the reserve men. We didn't have any at that time, the 35th Infantry Division in Wichita.

WALKER: Did you keep a personal diary?

LOGSDON: No, that was, told not to, but a lot of them did. A lot of senior officers kept personal diaries. We were told not to and it's a good thing because you know you have no place to keep it unless you put it on your body and I had enough, I didn't need that garbage to carry. Some of them, some of the senior officers did, but we were told not to. But I had no interest in a diary. When I got out I was out and that was it.

WALKER: You mentioned you were on the job except for five days they sent you to Paris.

LOGSDON: They took all the company commanders at the end of the war. Almost, I mean we were a couple months before the end of the war. Colonel called us, Colonel Alden, said you guys are, been in this line a long time, some of us hadn't been but he said, ``Turn your companies over to your executive officers, your footlockers with class A uniforms will be here in the morning and six-by-sixes will pick you up and take you to rail head and you're going to Paris for R and R.'' And we did. Had a beautiful old time there in Paris. We were in Paris not too long ago, Twila and I and I can't remember the hotel, the name of it, it's still there, I wanted to take her over to it.

WALKER: So what did you guys do when you were in Paris?

LOGSDON: What everybody does. <laughs> Glad to get out of that mess for a while. Back to civilization. At that time, you know, Paris was never hurt very much, at that time, you never, the officers, the German officers in charge of that was told by Hitler ``Burn it'' and he would not do it and he moved on out. But Paris was a beautiful city. I told Twila, I said, ``Someday I'm going to take you to the most beautiful city in the world.'' It took a long time but we made it. We went to Paris with some friends for a week.

WALKER: Wonderful. Did you ever use the GI bill?

LOGSDON: Yes, I bought my home in Wichita with the GI bill. I sure did.

WALKER: Now when you came back besides organizing the reserves, what did you do?

LOGSDON: I went to the department store field. That's where I worked for the Penney Company, before I went into service down in Anthony Kansas. When I came back I went to Wichita, worked there for two or three years.

WALKER: Do you attend reunions?

LOGSDON: I have off and on. Lately I have not, the last reunion we planned on going to was over in Myrtle Beach, that was the day September the 11th when they hit the towers so there was no flying that day. They're still having one, this past September but I didn't go. It, this sixty some years after the war is over there's very few guys left, and what do you do then after you say hello. They've lived their lives, I know nothing about them so, I didn't go and I haven't been back since.

WALKER: But you do have the good friend that you keep in contact with?

LOGSDON: Oh indeed, yes indeed.

MRS. LOGSDON: Most of his other buddies have died

WALKER: Yes.

LOGSDON: The five officers or so here that I have on these picture why at that time Stan /Niece/ was company commander and there four of them dead out of the five officers.

WALKER: Well, how long have you lived in Ellis County?

LOGSDON: I came here in 1975 from Wichita, January 1.

WALKER: Did your military experience influence your thinking about war or the military in general?

LOGSDON: Well yes towards the end, after the war was over we were in the Redoubt area down by Munich and my whole outfit, whole division, and they had an opening for officers, come in, be interviewed for permanent rank. If you were a Captain they'd bust you down to First Lieutenant or Second Lieutenant and use you in the regular Army. Three of the officers, yeah three of the officers in the whole battalion, stayed in. I elected not to because I didn't have a college education and I was only a Captain and I'd've probably stayed that way until they started busting them back, and they did, they started moving them back. They just didn't have the place for them. No I decided to get out.

WALKER: Enough was enough.

LOGSDON: Mmhm.

WALKER: Is there anything else you'd like to add that we haven't covered?

LOGSDON: No, not that I can think of. Probably a lot I've missed.

WALKER: Well we do appreciate this.

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