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Interview on experiences in World War II

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Interview of Ralph Stenzel on July 18, 2006 by Lynett Stenzel





Interview of Ralph Stenzel, World War II Veteran



Interview transcribed by Ness City High School Audio-Video Technology Class. Interview conducted by Lynette Stenzel and Loren Stenzel on July 18, 2006.

LS: Today is July 18, 2006, and we are here to interview WWII veteran Ralph Stenzel as part of our oral history project for the Veteran's Memorial Park, Frank Stull, in Ness City, KS. My name is Lynette Stenzel. I will be doing the interview, and assisting me today is Loren Stenzel. Would you please state your name.

RS: Ralph V. Stenzel

LS: What's the date of birth?

RS: January 25, 1922

LS: Where were you born Ralph?

RS: In Russell, Kansas.

LS: And your parent's names are?

RS: Victor Stenzel and Olinda Stenzel.

LS: Would you be able to tell us if you have siblings what their names are?

RS: Vernon Stenzel is my older brother and my younger brother is Richard Stenzel.

LS: Okay. Ralph, did you, what was your schooling?

RS: I completed the eighth grade in school. In `38 I was in the CC camp and I got training in mechanics and in cement work and carpentry and I took photographic. We had in the CC camp we had school every night until ten o'clock. So I took every thing I could take. Leather work and photography was very interesting. We developed our own pictures and everything.

LS: What is a CC Camp?

RS: It conservation corporation, was developed during the 30s. I think it started in '36 during he dust bowl days and went on to '38 I think was the last year of it. I might have went in '37 probably.

LS: So you were approximately 15 years old?

RS: Yes.

LS: Where did you do this service at? Was it here in Ness City?

RS: No, for that I was shipped to St. Louis, Missouri and then from St. Louis, Missouri, I was shipped to Basin, Wyoming. It was a long trip.

LS: How did you get there?

RS: By train. It followed the rivers through the Colorado and on up. And it was very beautiful scenery.

LS: Was this the first time you'd been away from home then when you went to the CC Camp?

RS: That's correct.

LS: So when you were involved in the CC Camp you did not graduate from high school?

RS: That's correct.

LS: Is that what you doing prior to when you joined the military? And if not what were you doing before you joined the military?

RS: Before I joined the military, I was on the farm with my father and I worked the same way. They offered to, the government offered the schooling at Bazine and Ed Lewis's shop. Welding and overhauling motors and stuff like that. All mechanical work.

LS: Do you remember where you were when you heard that Pearl Harbor was bombed?

RS: Yes, I do. I was at Ferdinand Foos's house south of Bazine. We were eating dinner after church. We was invited out there and after church. And then at noon it come over the radio that Pearl Harbor was blown up.

LS: Do you remember what your thoughts were on that?

RS: Yeah , I was gonna be a glory boy!

LS: And what did you mean by glory boy?

RS: I was going to join the army or something.

LS: OK, you knew that you wanted to help with that.

RS: Right.

LS: OK, did you think at that time, which obviously you did, that it would affect your life?

RS: Oh yes, yes.

LS: OK, were you enlisted Ralph or did you get drafted?

RS: I enlisted.

LS: Would you like to tell us a little bit, do you remember about your enlistment?

RS: Yes.

LS: Would you like to share with that ?

RS: Yes. I was down at Bazine and stopped and the boys were down there where Elmer Erb was working at that time. We got to visiting and we both seen ads in the paper that there was gonna be an Ordinance Company to sign up at Great Bend at the Chevrolet Garage. We decided then that we would join. So then Elmer Erb, and I, and Wayne Schaben, and Harold Blemm, and then we went down there together and we all signed up. Did I mention Milford Schaben? Then when we come back from signing up down there with Captain Nichols why, and Cecil Schniepp happened to be there when we got back. So he said he was going down the next day and sign up. So there were six of us boys from Bazine.

LS: When you said down there, you maybe told me and I didn't hear, where was down there?

RS: Great Bend at the Chevrolet Garage.

LS: And how did you get to Great Bend?

RS: I image Elmer Erb had a car.

LS: Ok, would you like to tell us or describe the process of joining the service? What you did after you joined the service then?

RS: After we signed up we had, I think three weeks till we had to report for service.

LS: And where did you report for service at?

RS: Fort Riley, Kansas.

LS: I think you had kind of a story of your introduction if you'd like to share that with us Ralph. You can go ahead and read that for us if you'd like to.

RS: OK, well I got the Bazine boys which I told you about. The company was the 503rd HM tank Heavy Maintenance Company. August, the 31st day of August 1942, is when we signed up. We went to Fort Riley on the 19th of `42. Then we were shipped to St. Louis, Missouri where they gave us a lot of shots and physicals and clothing and everything that we needed. And them from there we was shipped to Camp Perry, Ohio. And that's where we got basic training. Basic training at Camp Perry, Ohio was on a lake. Right beside a lake. And it was a National Guard reserve before the army took it over for the training.

During basic training, we had what most all of us got was infantry. The full infantry training. And we fired out on the range thirty, 50 caliber machine guns and rifles. Also we fired tank guns that was on tanks. They were, 50 calibers, 30 calibers, and 75 millimeters, and three-inch guns that we had to have. And after that we had, went on full marches with full field packs. And they were heavy. Our pup tents and everything that we needed was in there. We had ten to twenty mile field packs. When we went on 20 miles we usually camped out one night.

From training there, about the only entertainment we got, I can't remember just how many weeks it was that we was quarantined. We couldn't go out or nothing from camp. We was isolated. Then finally when the time expired on that, we went to Toledo, Ohio, and they had USO shows that we went to and different things. And for an old farm boy it was something to see the night clubs they had and things that they had at these places.

The towns people at Camp Perry was really wonderful people. We were twelve miles from Toledo and all we'd have to do was go out and stand there for five - ten minutes and somebody would stop and take us in. So we had quick transportation both ways. But at that time if you was a soldier they'd pick you up and go in. So then that ended our stretch there with our basic training was complete.

So then we shipped to Camp Campbell, Kentucky. Camp Campbell is right on the corner where Tennessee is. If you go one mile the other direction you would be in Tennessee. After we got to Tennessee, I mean to Camp Campbell, we had more training. And after training there for a few weeks I was sent to Aberdeen, Maryland to school there for training in tanks and weaponry. Also in vehicles and we got to go to Washington D.C. by electric train. We had two and three day weekends every week while we was going to school there. So we got to see a lot of Washington, D.C.

At Camp Campbell, I was there about two months. They sent me to Flint, Michigan then to the General Motors School. And there we had GM diesel engines that need to learn about and other things. One thing that training in its diesel engines was very interesting. Then we had on trucks and pick-ups. When we got off duty the people there was another thing. Because there at just about a quarter of a mile away from where we stayed in a dormitory there was twenty thousand women working in a sparkplug, AC sparkplug factory. You'd step out of the door and a car would pull up. ``Where do you want to go soldier?'' They were wonderful. The people were so nice.

Then the other thing that I wanted to tell you about was a cousin of mine that I didn't even know existed but he knew the Stenzel name. And he was a foreman on the floor of General Motors there and he seen my name on the bulletin board. We had a big bulletin board and all of us had to sign that we got to school. When we first got there. He seen my name so he came in and asked for me and I visited with him for a while. His wife, he married a cousin of mine from Portland, Oregon. But he was working there and they moved there. So that was something to see because he took me all through the General Motors Factory and he explained everything to me. It was very interesting. And then after that why he invited me out to their house for Thanksgiving dinner. Which was really nice of him.

Then after I finished school there I went to. . . they sent me by train back to Camp Campbell, Kentucky. At that time, why, it was, I was there two weeks at Camp Campbell, Kentucky and they sent me for more training to Fort Knox, Kentucky. There the training was in firing the guns again on the tanks. Then they also taught us kaotic. Then they also took us out and showed us how to use all the explosives that they figured we need. The plastics and other explosives. From there after that ended there, that didn't last over , I don't think over, as I remember three or four weeks. Then we went back to Camp Campbell, Kentucky. We took a command car. The ones of us that went up there and drove up because that was not that far to Fort Knox. And when we got back in probably a week, we went on maneuvers. We had maneuvers in Tennessee. Belt Buckle, Tennessee, was the headquarters for the maneuvers. We were on maneuvers then and out there why, we didn't . . . at that time we didn't even have rifles enough for everybody. So they made wooden rifles and they called us the Belt Buckle Rifle Company. That we went out, and we would go out there on ten mile hikes and then stay over night and then travel again with full field packs. Ate C rations and I think the C rations were all dated back to World War I. They were old but that's what we had. Those C rations and had a lot of coffee and we slept on the ground and in tents. Roughed it like we had to learn to do.

Before we went on maneuvers, Captain Nichols stuck his neck out. He left 50% of the company. . . the orders were not to let over 25% of the company ever be on furlough at the same time. But he knew that we was going over seas before too long. So he let 50% of us and then after maneuvers was over he give us another furlough. The same way…again we wasn't allowed to have a full furlough that soon, so he'd give us three day passes.

After that we was getting ready to be shipped out when we come back from furlough probably two weeks. We were ordered to ship out to New York City. We done that by train. I really forgot to tell you that from Camp Perry, Ohio… we done that in a convoy. The convoy was broken up in two sections because that was too long of a convoy. So I was in the first section with the tanks. Then the next one had all the rest of the… behind it you know. I think we stayed four or five miles apart if I remember right, because it was a long convoy.

Then back one thing I forgot that was really funny. In our tanks and when we was on maneuvers why, one day, why two of the guys, Stoney and another guy, they was in a jeep. And that area is really full of small farms that raise watermelon, cantaloupe and all that. There was a truck going up a hill real slow and Stoney pulled up right close to it and the other guy, ole Nun, was his name. Nun, and he was a pretty tall, slender guy. He got up on the front of that jeep and started handing watermelon back. So he had that jeep all the watermelon they could put in it, time that. . . and the guy in that truck never even knew it. So we had watermelon for a few days. Then we got ready after we got back from our furloughs and we started packing and getting ready to go to New York. And that was another long convoy to New York.

LS: You mention that you got to have these furloughs because you were aware that you were gonna be getting shipped over seas?

RS: Right.

LS: You were trained. You were pretty sure you were going over seas.

RS: Oh yeah.

LS: Did you all leave to go over seas together?

RS: Yes.

LS: The ones that you talked about?

RS: Yes. We did.

LS: We were talking about your convoy to New York. Would you like to share with us what you have there about your experience as you left New York?

RS: Yes. When we got to New York we went to Camp Shakes, New York. They were closed being shipped over seas for the war. There were no more vacations or leaves at this time. The censorship was put into force. Lieutenant Bell and Lieutenant Jarvis was chosen as our censors. One of the soldiers wrote home in his letter indicating his family to sensors in Camp Shake. The soldiers were all told we would have a physical. Was held in a warehouse. There were four doctors seated behind footlockers. The men were instructed to take off their clothes and then put on their boots and raincoats. The men were to go into the doctors and they would check them out. One of the soldiers said the only thing they will be able to tell is if you're a man or a woman.

Then in New York we did get leave. We were there about a week and we got leave every day to go and do what we wanted to and they had buses to take us to New York City. There, I was very fortunate, I had a man in my platoon that was from New York and I thought he was sure stupid. He didn't know how to drive a vehicle. So I was the dumb one in New York because he knew everyplace to go. I taught him how to drive, and everything. To fire their weapons and so he said do you want to stay at my house while we're in New York? And I said yeah that would be great. So he took me to his house and his family. They had mercantile store down on the floor. The first floor. Upstairs they lived. He said if you left a car sitting outside. . . they never owned a car in their life. If you left a car sit outside, the next morning you got up it probably wouldn't have any wheels or tires or engine. If they didn't get it completely stripped they would come back the next night and get the rest of it. So then I was the dumb one because he'd say where do you want to go tonight? And I'd say wherever you take me. He says, well tonight I want you to see the Jack Demsey. . . some of the big bars. So we went to Jack Dempsey bar and mind you they had T.V. there on the wall. So we spent a lot of time going around and seeing sites. The main thing we really loved going to was Radio City Musical Hall. I got to dance with some of the famous actors at that place. It was a wonderful place and big huge place. We went there quite a lot. There was another place at the Radio City. We went ice skating. I think that was on the top floor. . . .ice skating rink. If you ever notice in New York City where they show it on New Years Eve where that streets come together and there's that one building that has a big sign on it all the time. Well that was a pepsi-cola sign at that time, And they had free pepsi in there for all the veterans. And it was a very busy place.

At New York we went. . . . it was close to Christmas. So we would walked the streets at night quite a bit and seen the wonderful things in the store because we, as I farm boy out here I never seen moving Santa Clauses and moving things like Walt Disney has now. You know they had it back it their stores then. Every store would have wonderful store fronts. I seen a lot. I probably seen as much in the week or ten days we were there then somebody else would have to spend a month to see. With the guide I had.

Well then from there, I'll have to look down to read this. That was Camp Shakes in New York and then we was ready to ship out. And one place I haven't given credit to was to the Red Cross and the Salvation Army. Wherever we went they was there with coffee and doughnuts. We had coffee and doughnuts before we got on the ship. We had our full field packs on. The equipment had already been loaded on another ship. This ship was the HMV Highlander Chief. It was an English ship. It was used to haul from Argentina to the New York. It'd haul meat in it. It smelled like it. They had all of our food stacked down next to a diesel where the diesel was. So we lived on pepsi-cola and candy bars most of the way over. There was four hundred soldiers on the ship. Besides they had some of our equipment on there too. It was a flat-bottomed boat. Then we left, and on that we were one of the. . . .at that time we was the biggest, most. . . I forget how many miles we were strung out. But it was the biggest convoy ever to be put together in the world to go over. We had seven submarines on both sides of us. We had all the destroyer ships and everything to protect us. And there was. . . we did see German U-Boats going over.

One of the fun things that I seen was seeing the. . . . there was a ship right next to us that had all WAACs on it. So we would take our binoculars and watch the ship. It was quite a lot of guys. . . on account of the food being so poor there was so many sick. I never got sick and my best buddy, Sam Garlets, he made fun of the guys. I never made fun of them. Because everyday I just thanked the lord that I didn't get sick. I told Sam someday you're gonna pay for this. I'll tell you later on about when he paid for it. We went over there.

LS: Would you like to tell us a little bit about that experience once you got to England?

RS: Yes. The whole convoy made it over without an incident. We never lost a ship. We never lost anything. We seen em shoot several submarines up but we never lost nothing going over at all.

We got to England. We was sent to Basin, England. We stayed there in round huts made out of metal. Half-round huts. We was trained there to go over to make D-Day. We did get a lot of passes. We got to go to London. London, there at the main building oh where the queen lives and stuff. That was a highlight of that. But that was just more training and more getting ready to make the invasion.

Then we went and was loaded up for the invasion for D-Day. We got loaded on an LST. I don't know whether it was two or three LST's that we were loaded on. But I was loaded on the one that carried tanks. Our tanks were fixed with deals behind the tanks so that the exhaust system could go up 12 foot in the air. And so we went in under water. But going over on D-Day we was suppose to go in on the 4th, or the 5th. It was too windy. The waves were. . . when the ship was down you'd look up. . .the waves were 20 to 30 foot higher then the top of the ship. Sam Garland paid his dues. He was laying on the deck on top of the ship sicker than a dog and the ship had a mascot of a dog that laid right beside him with all feet up in the air. So he got his repayment. Then we got. . . we made D-Day then and we unloaded and I drove a tank. It was all sealed. Everything was all sealed up in the tank. And we drove in under water like a submarine. And we prayed we wouldn't hit a hole.

And we come out on the beaches. After that why we was in the war. We got through there and up to St. Lo. At St. Lo it was so muddy. It rained for seven days. We had an experience there, or I had one. We dug fox holes. There was this airplane that had come over and we was ordered not to fire because we was under camouflage. And they said don't fire. So the first night we was there, why it was fine. The next night Sam and I was sitting or laying in our tent. We heard him come over and strafing. He didn't carry bombs. He was a messenger. He was just strafing. When he straffed us, I layed there and I looked up and I says ``Sam look there we got a hole in our pup tent.'' The bullet that come down just splintered our stock on our gun. The next night we said well what do we do? So when he come over we plotspots about a foot of water in the bottom of our fox hole. So the next night I said, ``Sam I'm gonna shoot that plane down tonight'', and Sam said ``Don't you dare or you gonna be in a lot of trouble if you fire that gun.'' I said ``That fifty caliber machine gun is got a tracer bullet every fifth shell.'' And I said I've shot jack rabbits on the road, I can shoot it down. I got up on the culvert and just waiting because you can set your clock by the time he was gonna come over. He came over and I waited till he just got over me and going away. I fired and got him down. So the next morning why we got up real early Sam and I and went down there. I took the nut off of the. . . the brass nut off of the propeller and took out some of the stuff that was in the. . . stuff. I said I'm gonna have a knife made out of this. Sam took some of the stuff he wanted. I took the clock out of it. Of course the guy that was flying it, he didn't need the binoculars so I took his binoculars and his P38 because he didn't need that anymore. That was my experience at St. Lo.

At St. Lo then about two or three days later, then it cleared up. And the sky. . . . I know you've all seen pictures of the skies covered with planes. I say I think it was even more then they got in those pictures. It was just. . . and St. Lo was a million people there, but not in it they were all gone because they were warned. There was only a church. . . part of a church steeple left out of all the. . .it was just leveled that town was nothing left of it. Absolutely nothing left of it. To get through there they had tanks that would push just back and forth this way so we could finally get through with our tanks. That was probably one of the worst battles we were in, in St. Lo.

From there on, why we set up and we went through France and different places and towns. We got to Paris. That was about the only town where we got any R and R. We did get to see Paris pretty well. The one thing that the ARMY was doing, I think right, was they was cleaning up as they went through every town. They would. . . the MP's and the reserved infantry. The infantry always had reserved infantry behind the line so the others could go up and relieve them. They would clean up all the guns and all the explosives. They would pile them up and poor gas over them and burn them. Then have us run our tanks over them. Well this one day I couldn't run over all those, and they was waiting to light it. I went out and got some guns that I brought home and put them in my tank. So that's where I got a collection. I didn't know how I was gonna get them home but from there we went on into Belgium.

And after Belgium we got to Holland. It was in Maastricht, Holland that we was in a china factory making dishes and all this. They had a big place that we could run tanks in and overhaul, put motors in. They had cranes. So we were there probably ten days putting tank motors in and stuff like that. At that time, some General. . . it had come out in the Stars and Stripes. Some General sent home Hitler's silverware. Our Captain Smith at that time called us all out and said, ``Boys I don't care what you got to send home, if you got a fraulein that you can put in a box and ship, I'll sign it. It took three of the big semi trucks to haul all the boxes out of there. We was able to buy or trade cigarettes for dishes. So, I didn't smoke so I had some some trading material. So I sent home dishes and then I built a box for my guns and sent them home. At that time and they all got through, except one. One box never did get through. That was a German accordion. It was a beautiful accordion but it didn't make it. But all my guns did make it.

From there. . . then after we left there we moved pretty fast on the autobahn. Before we got there in Germany we went on the autobahn. We traveled gee, quite a ways everyday because the Germans were really in retreat. They was going gung hoe. So then we got out of there, and we went to several, I don't know the names of the towns, but it was all German towns. . . Hemmerling. I got records of em but I can't think of all of em.

Then we went up through Germany. When we got up to Germany why they had all the cement barricades built there so we couldn't get through. So they had to explode them. We blowed them out with dynamite and stuff so we could get through. After we got through there, why it was going pretty good. It seems like the Germans there were all just running so fast. Then we found out later then when the Battle of the Bulge where they went. They all accumulated in that area. We were. . . I went over at Normandy with the first Army division and Then was kind of a company that if somebody else needed us we was beside em, they would move us. We was in the twelfth armored division and then we moved over to the third army. Then we moved moved down to Patton. We wound up with Patton, and then we went into just outside of Berlin, and we had to wait. Everyday Patton wanted to go but the higher ups wouldn't let him. We sat there and waited at Berlin until the Russians come in. We waited, I think seven days, if I remember right, till the Russians come in then. Then we went in and made them and so that was the end of the. . .. that was V-E Day.

Then after that why they come out with point systems. They didn't' know what they was gonna do with all of us. Come out with a 85 point system. Most of the married men got to come home. Because that give em enough points. If they had children they were the very first ones to get to come home. I didn't have enough points. So the ones out of our company and other companies then our company was just canceled. We were all divided up. I went down to Vienna. I was shipped down to Vienna. We had to get our tanks cosmolined and ready to be shipped out. And another company when we got them done, another company come in got our tanks and took em down to be shipped out. We stayed there till the war was over. We were right on a lake. And the Germany, the German people, or the German army had that for a resort for their troops. So there was motor boats and skies and everything there. At that time, we had a fun time. The Alp Mountains. . . I went to the office and got a. . . of course I got a promotion. Then I was promoted to Staff Sergeant. I went in the office and got some papers that said Uncle Sam owes you for whatever you wanted to get. I got acquainted with some people there and they said that those were German sympathizers. They had a Mercedes Benz in their garage. So I went and Oppidier and I was together. We went up and got. . . . give em a paper ---Uncle Sam owes you one Mercedes Benz, John Doe. We got a couple motorcycles the same way. We took it down in the shop and painted and put stars on it, and got it all legalized. So we was gonna use that to go up in the Alp Mountains. We did. Had it about a week and a general stopped in for inspection one day and looked at it. He said. . . . asked the clerk in there who owned that Mercedes Benz. They said Ralph Stenzel owns it. The general sent a runner out and told me to come in he wanted to talk to me. He didn't' talk much. He just said I'm gonna take your Mercedes Benz. So then an Opal. A green Opal. We went all over the Alp Mountains with that Opal while we was there. We didn't have. . . we had good food and at that camp but we didn't do . . . . after we got our cosmolined tanks and everything out of there. We didn't have nothing to do except have fun and that's what we did. We went to the shows there at the… I can't think of the name now, the camp. Vienna. That was a pretty place. The people were wonderful there too. All through the things, when we did have time off, on Sundays we'd go to church wherever we were you know. If we got away and met some awfully nice people. Holland and all through the area seems like. The only place we couldn't' mix with the people and enjoy it was in France. France was something else.

Then the bombs dropped and we were happy people.

LS: When that happened you knew you would be able to get to come home?

RS: Yes. It wasn't. . .I don't think it was over two weeks and they shipped us down to. . . no it was longer than that cause we had. . . it was probably a month or so that we got our orders because we had a lot of fun in the Alp Mountains and stuff. And we were, I guess I don't have the dates for that.

LOS: Your unit didn't get staged then to have to go over to the Pacific, some units?

RS: We were, yes, we were staged to go over but after the bomb dropped, we just don't. . . I don't know whether our equipment ever got loaded in the ships either.

LOS: Did you go through seasons in Europe? Were you there when it was warm and cold? How much time did you?

RS: From Normandy up to. . .well it was warm there. The season through France was warm. The people weren't friendly except some of them you know. But they really. . . I guess we blew up so much of their. . .done so much damage there or something. But then when we got to Holland, it was starting to get. . .the nights were starting to get chilly. When we got to Belgium it snowed. It was real snowy there. When we got to Germany it was real cold. At the Battle of the Bulge why it was snowed and snowed while the battle went on.

LOS: Did you have adequate supplies during that time?? Did you sleep in your tents yet then?

RS: Yeah. We slept in our tents, except a few nights different places in Germany. We stayed one night. . . we got baths. We stayed in a half blown out house. One side of it was blown away. There was no electricity but we had an electric unit that I connected up through the house breaker box and we had electricity that night. The bath, the water was able to be running yet. And the heater was still working. So we had hot baths. That was the first hot bath we had for I don't know when. Then, during that period of the Battle of the Bulge why there was no baths or no nothing. If we could find any cardboard boxes or paper we'd lay it down and then we'd lay our raincoats over that then we set up our pup tents. Then we had little heaters that we had. That we heated coffee on and we'd light them. Some nights we had em some nights we didn't. But you'd put on all the

clothes you could put on and that was it.

LS: Did you ever experience you know if it got that cold, you know like frost or a sickness or any thing from the elements?

RS: You know, you wouldn't believe it but from England to the Battle of the Bulge, I never had a sick day. I got. . . in Maastricht, Holland, well that wasn't the first time I got it. In Maastricht, Holland they were really pouring artillery on us. We were in this building, and the shrapnel. . .the roof in that thing was just tin. That night I got shrapnel that cut me in my. . . but just more or less a heavy scratch. It bled, but it wasn't. . .Used our own. It was only two times, that time and another time that I got some shrapnel.

LS: So you never experienced frost bite or heat exhaustion or anything like that?

RS: Nope. I think back I can't believe you can go through that long of a time and not have at least a cold. But I guess you just get hardened to it or something because I never had a cold or went to sick call.

LS: You were talking a little bit about your sleeping, you would sleep in pup tents and different things. At different times I'm sure you had to have different food experiences and different sleeping experiences. Was there anything that really sticks in your mind about like you said at one time you said the C rations were really old. Did your food ever, did you ever get to where you were comfortable with the food or did you always have C rations or?

RS: We, during that period of time we was set up that we had to work like in Holland. That we had a bunch of tanks that we had to repair. We would, we had cooks and they would cook us meals. But when we was on the move, it was always C rations or if we only stayed a night or two.

LS: Was there anything that was your favorite?

RS: Well, horse meat is awful good. It's red, you'd think you was eating ham. It's a little tougher than ham but it was good. No, we had some good meals too. Where it was warm we did get showers because our showers weren't ours but they had people with shower trucks and they would light these sprayers see. They'd come out there with a couple of those sprayers and they'd just pull those wings out and the showers and then they'd have these duck boards. That they laid out there for us to walk on on the ground so we wouldn't be on the ground. They had heaters on boilers on those things and it was a hot shower. So we got showers every once in a while. But then when it got cold they couldn't come anymore.

LS: Did you feel like the equipment you had was adequate?

RS: Yes. Yes. Back at Normandy, one of our guys, and I helped to design it. We designed a bulldozer for in front of our tanks. I marveled at that because the hedge rows they didn't have. . . .and the tanks that had em were big huge. They didn't really need those big huge bulldozers to bust through those tanks. They didn't have near enough. General Bradley visited our camp and Nises, Richard Nises was his name, he was the main welder. Him and I one night set down and designed a . . .just drawing. Our Captain called the General up and he came and took our design. Within four days our company was putting on a lot of bulldozers. The shops behind us, they'd take these machine shops or factories and take that design to them and have them make em, see.

LS: You were talking about that you trained a lot with a full pack. Do remember some of the things that was in your full pack that you had to carry on when you were. . . .?

RS: You had your messkits, and your bed roll, and your tent, and your rifle.

LS: Did you have a change of clothing?

RS: We had socks. Just socks. I think it weighed, I can't remember, it was thirty or I think forty pounds.

LS: You were talking about some of your training that you did and that when you joined your group that joined was aware that they were going to be in the heavy maintenance where you were. . . had some mechanic experience with that kind of stuff. Did you, kinda what was your job then when you were in the service? Did you drive the tank or were you more of a mechanic or?

RS: My job was mechanic and tank delivery. When I delivered tanks, say the twelfth armored division, for an example at the twelfth armored division we was up at the Argonnne Forest. At that time they lost a lot of tanks. And at that time we had reserve tanks. See they'd bring tanks up, new ones up to us and then we'd have em there until some company that would call for one. My job was to take that tank and deliver it. So then when we took those tanks up, if they were fighting we would take them up there and help em fight. That was the only time I had to be in the, really in the battle. But as far as fighting other than that, I wasn't in the battle. The battle, one thing that I seen when I took one up to the forest, I think we delivered three tanks because they called for more than one other driver was there too. And, from this company, the twelfth armored division, that was something else. They had twin boys in their outfit. They had captured them previously to the forest, they were captured by the Germans, both of them. The Germans took them out, was gonna shoot em all. They had a whole lot of prisoners. The boys run away in the forest. The one got away and the other got shot. He came back to the company, and then when we shot phosphorus shells. What that phosphorous does is it brakes up in little pieces and rains like rain and it'll burn you right through the clothing. It'll just, it would make everybody scream. We fired that over and there was probably two-hundred Germans coming out and surrenderd. Well this boy didn't forget what his brother went through. He mowed em down. And the punishment was R and R and a pack of cigarettes, a carton of cigarettes.

LS: What was your impression of your commanding officers?

RS: Oh, we had the best. Captain Nichols, to go a back a little, when I was at training up at Aberdeen yeah Aberdeen. They called in and said they needed more pilots. Whether we wanted to take a test for it. I thought, what the heck, I'll take a test. And I took the test, and passed the test to fly. So about three days after the test why they told me that I could get to go. So then after that, why, the Colonel called me in. Had a runner come out. The Colonel makes the call but some Private comes out and tells you. He says you've only had a high school or you didn't have a high school education. I said no I didn't. He says well you're amongthe first five that took the test, on the top five. But he said I can't pass you. Before I got that I had to have recommendations and I got it from Ben Shireman, and Wilhelm, and I can't. . . . I had to have three. I had those. And then I didn't get to go. But then another thing when I was training at Michigan. They wanted me to stay to be an instructor. After I graduated they wanted me to stay and be an instructor. This Colonel he says well I'm gonna keep you here for an instructor. I said no I don't want to stay. He said well I got the papers filled out for you and I said no I don't want to stay I want to go with my bunch. He said, I said well you'll have to get released from Captain Nichols and he said I'll get you released. A couple days went by and he called me in. He said I don't know who that Captain knows in Washington D.C., but he says he's got more say than I have.

LS: So then you were able to stay with that unit?

RS: Yeah. But he every so often he got a promotion. But he didn't take it. And he got a promotion and he didn't take it. Finally he got orders that he had to take it. And he jumped from a Captain to a Lieutenant Colonel.

LS: Then he was no longer in with your unit?

RS: No. Then Captain Smith took over. He was a Captain and he took over.

LS: Were there any officers or fellow soldiers that you felt like was significant in your service or that really stood out?

RS: Captain Jarvis, or Lieutenant Jarvis was outstanding. But he come up in the ranks he went to. . . . before war broke out he served in the army for two years. In two years he went from a Private to a First Sergeant. Then he went to O.C.S. for ninety days. He was interviewed by Captain Nichols and chosen to be our. . . he's the one I served under. You know our platoon, our whole unit was, as far as our tank unit and automotive, he was our Captain. Like Wayne was in some other group. Elmer was a hydraulic for the artillery. Those each had their own Captain. We only had one officer that we got that our Captain asked us if we liked him. We told him no we didn't like him. He had some Indian in him. And he wanted military. If you didn't salute him, you'd go to the guard house. We wasn't that kind of a company.

LS: Now you said that when all of you boys went over from the Bazine area at the same time. But maybe Wayne and Elmer and you were in different divisions or different whatever. But you did you still see each other and you followed all the way through.

RS: Oh yeah. We slept mostly in the same. . .during in the states, we were usually in the same barracks. But Wayne was in small arms. Elmer was in hydraulics on guns, on artillery guns. Then Cecil Schniepp was a tank retriever. He had a big truck with I don't know how many axils on it. It would haul tanks. He retrieved tanks like when we was in Holland, he'd went out and got the tanks that he'd pull on his truck and bring them in to us and then we'd put new motors in them. Replaced the old motors or fix up what we needed to on em to make em go again. That was his job. And Milford was in something, and I can't think what he was in. Finally Milford was switched to automotives.

LS:. Do you feel like you suffered home sickness.

RS: I never had homesickness. Never.

LS: Were you able to stay in contact with people from home?

RS: Oh yeah

LS: You got letters from home and you wrote home?

RS: Yeah.

LS: Did your, did anyone save and of those letters do you still have any of those letters that you wrote or?

RS: Yeah, I think so. My mother saved some of em. And than a lot of the Bazine girls. I never had a serious girl but I had girlfriends. Dolores Schenkle and I got a lot of letters from Dolores and Evelyn Belttz and who else, oh, Viola Timken. I'd get it once a month at least, once a month I got a letter from her.

LS: And were you. . . in your unit were you that were all from this area able to get together and share like when you heard something from home or whatever?

RS: O yeah.

LS: So you actually probably got to stay in contact with home more than maybe those that went and was the only person in their unit from that area?

RS: Right.

LS: Do you remember any the way you spent holidays or any special holidays or anything that you while you were in the service?

LS: Well like I said, we did go to church a lot if we was able to. And we'd always get invited out. Seems like we'd always get invited out. Whether it was in Holland, France, Germany. Holland, there where we stayed at Holland I think we was there about two weeks. I've got pictures of girls that we went to church with or met at the church and went to there home. Those people in Holland were immaculate clean. I mean they might have wood floors but they was washed white.

LS: Did you then like on maybe a holiday, any holiday, spend that holiday with them or did you get to have holiday meals or were you just eating C rations on holidays or?

RS: We would have, we might not have it on Christmas day, but we would have a Christmas meal someplace, sometime. And that's the way the others were. We would have, you know. I've got some deals of what they had. And I had at the states, when I got back to the states, we had a Thanksgiving dinner on the ship and a Thanksgiving dinner in Boston. We unloaded at Boston. We had, I had milk that I hadn't see for a long time and ice cream. Retracting back, on the ship, the LST that we went on D-Day. A Baker, a Baker from Russell seen my name on the roster. He had me come up and he was an officer on that ship and eat with the officers. And boy did we have a meal.

We on the ship. . .when we was going over to the D-Day, we went ahead and where we had our tanks sitting was right next to where their big ice boxes were where they had all their food stored. And then we loaded our tanks with food. They didn't know it but we loaded our tanks pretty well with food.

Now going in under water gave you a funny feeling. Cause you couldn't see out except water and you don't know you just used a compass to go in by. And it's a scary feeling.

LS: Would you be able to tell us a little bit about some of the recreation that you did get to do or where you got to go, things like that?

RS: Well, the main recreation that I went to was sight seeing in all the places I was at as much as I could. The USO shows were great and that was one thing that we took in a lot. Like I said at New York the USO shows there I danced with Carman Miranda and other movie stars. It was, I don't remember all their names, but it was fun anyway. The USO's were always a lot of people. I danced a lot with jitterbug and round dancing and everything. The other thing, that was the main thing whenever we would go see something we would go see it.

LS: When you were at the USO shows did they have policies that they had to follow?

RS: Yes. It was very strict on their policies. You could make dates for there if you wanted to or if you met somebody and they wanted to, or invite you out to their house. Sometimes you would get invited out for a dinner. Then they had strict. . .the girls that were there were escorted home so there wasn't no get togetherness other than at the USO. The girls would sit down. They were kind of, I think timed too. They would sit down and have a drink or coke or something with you why they couldn't sit and talk all night with the same guy. They had to maneuver around.

I can't remember about smoking, I really can't. But there was no alcohol or any beer served in there. It was pop and lemonade and they had cakes, and snacks and cookies and what have you, you know.

LS: Now is this, I've heard of doughnut dolly's. Is this where the doughnut dolly's were or was that more the Red Cross?

RS: That was more the Red Cross. Then they had some places in smaller towns, what they called the Doughnut Houses. And they were ,I don't know how. They weren't really USO I don't think. But I think churches in small towns or something kind of got together and would have those. But the Salvation Army, they were. . .after you get in the East, New York, they outranked. I mean there was more of those there then there were Red Cross.

LS: Do you remember what your service pay was?

RS: My first check was twenty-five dollars for the month. My second check was fifty-five dollars because it went from the old army pay that month and that was the first month that they come out with a raise in pay.

LS: What did you do with your money?

RS: I had a twenty-five dollar war bond taken out every month. Then if I was lucky and made a little money on the side I sent it home.

LS: How long did you end up actually serving in the army?

RS: Lacking two months of being four years.

LS: How long did you serve in the states before you went over seas? I mean approximately how long were you over seas?

RS: Two years.

LS: Do you remember where you were when they said the war is over?

RS: Yeah. Vienna. You mean V-D Day in Europe when the war was over.

LS: When the war was over you said they bombed and then the war was over.

RS: Yeah. We was down on the lake.

LS: And how did you hear that.

RS: Radio. Oh yeah. Radios blasted all the time, you know. We'd hear that. . what did they called that lady from Japan?

LS: Tokyo Rose.

RS: Tokyo Rose. Yeah. We'd listen to her all the time.

LS: What kind of stuff did they broadcast over the radio?

RS: Oh. You're wives are stepping out on you and you're just. . . trying to break us down you know. Late at night when they had music on and stuff, just to hear we'd turn on that other station the foreign station you know, listen to it. We were one happy bunch because we knew where we was heading for and we was celebrating.

I come home on the Queen Mary. I got to come home on the Queen Mary. I got to sleep, if you've ever seen the Queen Mary, I got to sleep in the swimming pool. They had that fixed during the war with nothing but bunk beds on top of each other. I think they were eight high. They had ladders if you fell off, it would be bad.

LS: Did all of you that went over at the same time come home at the same time?

RS: No. That point system see, we were all everybody didn't have points. It was a lot of the guys that got over there that didn't serrve for six months in the service. I was wishing I had a wife.

LS: When you got back to the states where did you come back to?

RS: Boston.

LS: What happened when you got to Boston?

RS: I had a Thanksgiving dinner. The second one that day.

LS: How long were you in the Boston area then?

RS: Not very long. I'd say five days maybe. We didn't get to do anything there really because they put us up in a one of those camps, Shanks. Anyway we went and had physicals and more shots. Then they book us a . . . we was anxious to go home so they done all the booking you know where we'd be shipped. See I was shipped back to Leavenworth.

LOS: Did you come back on trains then?

RS: Yeah. Yeah. And furloughs, furloughs was something else. At that time when we come back on furloughs. . . we'd buy cars down there at Camp Campbell. You could buy cars down there and back home here they were really high. Used cars. So we'd chip together and buy a car. And Elmer Erb was our promoter. He knew who he could sell them to when we got home before we bought em. We'd buy a car and chip together and pay for it and then when we got home why Elmer would get the money or the check. Then we'd get our money back plus we would make enough to pay for our transportation back to camp again. We did that a few times.

LS: And this was before you went over seas?

RS: Yeah

        

LS: How did you get back to Ness City from Leavenworth?

RS: On the train.

LS: How far did the train take you?

RS: LaCrosse. When we got, the first time we was home we went over to Brownell and they had a flag to stop the train you know. Then when after the war was over we had to get off at LaCrosse. They wouldn't drop us off at Brownell or Ransom.

LS: So was somebody from your family there at LaCrosse to pick you up?

RS: Yeah. My parents were. It was odd when we went back from furlough, Gene Roth and I walked on the train together at the same time.

LS: To go back to?

RS: To go back to wherever he was going.

LS: Do you remember how it felt to get home?

RS: Good! Dad, when I got home, Dad said do you want to farm? And I said I'd like to. He said you can have it. The machinery is all worn out and I run out of baling wire. I can't tie up anything.

LS: Did they visit with you or talk to you about the rationing?

RS: Mom would write in the letters you know what they couldn't get and what they could get and things. Then in the dirty thirties, that's why I didn't go to high school was, my folks didn't have enough money to put me through high school and buy the books and stuff at that time. So I went to, see they got thirty dollars a month and I got five dollars a month and they got the thirty dollars a month that I sent home. I figured after I come back I'd go to finish high school. But then I don't know, why I didn't really, but I would be with different classmates, I was older. I guess that was the reason.



LS: And it wasn't abnormal during that time not to finish school? I mean there was a lot of kids that weren't able to go to high school?

RS: Right.

LS: Because of the economic times and?

RS: Of course. That was one mistake that I made, when I went to service I should have had a school education. I should of told them, I found this out later, I should of told them that I had some military service in the CC Camp. I found out that I would of went in as a sergeant instead of a PfC.

LS: What was the highest ranking that you did get then?

RS: Staff Sergeant. But my discharge didn't even show my highest rank as a Staff Sergeant because I got that down from another company and so it doesn't show on there.

LS: Do you, did you get any special awards?

RS: I was awarded the good conduct medal, army service medal and a ribbon, American Theatre Medal Ribbon, EST Ribbon, American Defense Medal, Four Bronze Service Battle Stars, Belgium, France and Holland Ribbons, Bronze Star, World War II Victory Medal and Ribbon, Normandy Commendation Pin, Normandy Medal of Jubilee of Liberty of France, Unit Citations, Two Unit Citatons and Performance, Basic Training Badges: Expert Infantry, Small Arms Medal, Gun, 30, 50 calibers, 75 millimeter, Three inch gun, tanks gun, and all kinds of explosives.

LS: These were all awarded to you while you were in the service?

RS: No. Those are what I earned. I didn't even get all of em when they was. . . they was discharging so many, I didn't get the Bronze, yeah the Bronze Star till about five years ago.

LS: When you were overseas did you get to attend any USO Shows while you were overseas?

RS: Yeah in England. In England we did. I guess they had a big USO Show, but I can't remember who was all there, at the Palace. We all went out to the Palace. That was a story I should of told you too. When we went to England, we checked in at a motel or a hotel. A big hotel. We checked in there. They had buses running there for us veterans to take us out to the Palace. They got a grand, great big, I call it an auditorium, its called something else but we went out there for the dance that night. The sirens went off because there was buzz bombs coming over. Germans were bombing and we were all together. Wayne and I and I don't think Elmer was with us but Wayne and I and Mil were together. We got done there and the buses come back and they stopped about a block away from our hotel and it was on fire. A buzz bomb had hit it. So we lost our clothing that we had with us and our knapsacks. So we went back to the bus and the bus driver says well all I can do, he says I don't think there's a place around here except out here there's some big building that I think maybe they got a place they can put you in, kind of like an auditorium. And he drove us out there. And they did. They had army cots sitting you know, one next to the other in that whole building. That's where we slept that night. The next day, we looked around. I think we felt we had a place, and then we went there the next night they were full up. It was built, that building was built with walls that thick. So on the window sills, Wayne took one window and I took one and Milford took the other one. That was something else.

LS: Did you have an opportunity to meet any of the higher ranking officials at that time?

RS: Yes. I got to meet General Bradley. General Bradley came to our company to give us citations. He, first time he was there. Then the second time he come out, General Bradley, our Captain Smith made him a stainless steel knife in one of the shops. He presented that to General Bradley. When General Bradley left, he was about a quarter of a mile away from our campsite. You could see him down the road, and he got a direct hit from artillery. And that jeep when up in the air about twenty foot in the air the way it looked. He was killed.

LS: Did you have occasion to meet anyone else?

RS: Well, at London we got to see General Eisenhower give his farewell to us.

LS: You said when you came back you went into farming?

RS: Right.

LS: Do you feel like any of your wartime experiences contributed to that or was beneficial when you came back to the farm?



RS: I don't know why, I just wanted to be out at the farm. I had enough of being around all men for a long time.

LS: So you have seen enough of the world?

RS: Right

LS: Did you form any close friendships that you have stayed in touch with after you got back?

RS: Yes. The 503rd was originally all Kansas boys. When we got to Camp Perry, Ohio, the higher ups said we had to many high rated people with too many skills. So they said that they were going to break us in half and make another company. And it's called the 304. Anybody that would shift over to there to this outfit would get one promotion. From the promotion they had then, they'd get another promotion. Us six boys got together and Harold Meyers was the only one. See, he enlisted separately when we didn't know it until we was down there at Camp Perry that he was there. Anyway he took it. He took the promotion. But us other boys got together and decided we'd just stay together and not transfer. So then we got mostly Ohio and Indiana boys. At that time, they were also picked by Captain Nichols through a deal where they got together. So that's why we had Indiana, and Cleveland and Ohio boys.

LS: Does your unit have reunions?

RS:. We planned a reunion in five years after we got out of the service. We had it at Wichita at Joy Land. It rained and then we moved to Goddard. Two of the boys there were from Goddard. One of them was the mayor of the town so he got us a place to have it. We voted to have it every year and we have had one someplace every year since we got out of the service.

LS: Are you or were you ever a member of a Veterans Service Organization?

RS: I was in the legion before I got home. My dad said you are in the legion and you've been in the Legion for three years.

LS: Your dad was in the service in World War I?

RS: Right. World War I. Loren was a Vietnam Veteran.

LS: And Loren was your son?

RS: Yes Loren is my son.

LS: So you had three generations in the army?

RS: Right. I'm a life member in the Legion, life member in the VFW.

LS: And you're a member of The Sons of the American Legion?

RS: Right. I have a lot of pictures and I even got them in books now, finally.

LS: You still have your uniform?

RS: Yes, got my uniform, got my medal, got a piece a shrapnel that hit me in the service, a lot of the money from over there from Germany and France and all through. I got a swatstika flag, and I've got my guns. Well I thank God everyday that I made it home.

LS: Felt good to get back on that American soil didn't it?

RS: Yes it did. Yes it did.

LS: We want to think you for your service.

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