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Wayne Schaben video interview on experiences in World War II (transcript)

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Interview conducted by American Legion Auxiliary Volunteer Lynette Stenzel on April 11, 2007. Transcribed by Ness City High School Audio-Video Technology Class.



LS: Today we are interviewing Wayne Schaben, originally of Ness County who is a World War II veteran. I am Lynette Stenzel, and also with us today is Ralph and Irene Stenzel as well as the World War II veteran Wayne Schaben. Wayne, would you please state your full name?


WS: Wayne Schaben


LS: And when were you born Wayne?


WS: I was born in Bazine, Kansas at the family home in Bazine in July the 29th, 1918. 


LS: What were your parents’ name?


WS: John and, and Berta Schaben.


LS: And did you have any brothers and sisters?


WS: I had two brothers, one older and one younger.


LS: And were either one of them in the military Wayne?


WS: I was the only one in the military.


LS: Okay. Did you attend high school?


WS: Yes.


LS: And where did you go to school at?


WS: In Bazine High School.


LS: Did you graduate from high school?


WS: I graduated in 1936 with 36 members.


LS: What were you doing before you entered the service?


WS: Well I went. . . after I got out of high school, ’36, I went to Fort Hays State for one year, then I went back. . . went home, helped on the farm that summer. Then I got in the Wichita Business College.  I went there for two years, worked in a hamburger joint for two years to… for two dollars a day to make my food and my residence and my tuition, ever, all the payments. Then I got out in 1940 and went back to the farm

 I… I helped on the farm in 1940 to ’41. At that time we knew the war was coming and we would be drafted. So Cecil Schniepp and I on Thanksgiving morning decided to go to California to put a winter and work. That was in ’41.  After three days of hard driving, we made it to California. And there was a number of people from Bazine were living in California at that time and working and…so on December the 6th we were all gathering at the Oceanside Pier in Oceanside, California where the… waiting for the Navy to come in.  Cause some of the women’s husbands were coming home for shore leave. There was no ships come in that Saturday night, and nobody knew why. So about twelve o’clock we all decided to go home to different places and we did. Well about four o’clock the next morning, why the, the whistles were blowing and all the lights were out, and said that Pearl Harbor was being attacked again.  So to this day I always said that instead of being a sneak attacked, this was kind of a prepared attacked to get our Navy all together in Pearl Harbor. 

So then we decided in about ten days we would come back home, and we did. Drove back and got home by Christmas and we enrolled for mechanic’s classes at the Bazine High School night classes. Knowing that… if we got in service we would rather be in mechanics. Well during that time, a lieutenant by the name of Byron Nichols came through to enlist farm boys to be in an ordinance and that’s where I got in the ordinance company for service and that was in ’42.  So in 19…well then we had trouble with the draft board and Melford and I went to Fort Riley and got sworn in the Army in August. And already… we were… to stay with the ordinance company. So then in September the 11th, we were given orders to go to St. Louis, Jefferson Barracks to be issued further orders and got our, our clothing.

So on…we were there a few days then got our orders to be shipped to Camp Perry, Ohio, by train, and that’s where we took our basic training Camp Perry, Ohio, that’s off limit. So Camp Perry was a good place. We went on a rifle range for shooting, other people went to training at different, different cities, specializing in mechanics. Then in September, no, then in November we were shipped out of Camp Perry to Camp Campbell, Kentucky. Another train trip.  We took more basic training in Camp Campbell. Then we were sent to Tennessee maneuvers and were there until approximately November when we got our orders that we, that we was gonna be shipped out for overseas duty.

So on Thanksgiving Day we ate dinner in New York, then we loaded on ships, Armada of several ships going over to Europe at that time. Sixteen days on the water and we got to…oh we got to England. I can’t recall the name right now. And so we were in camp there at about 40 miles west of London. Then in the spring, we were getting our… our warmer machinery ready for the invasion of someplace. We did not know where.  No we didn’t know when.  So that happened on June the 6th and we went on Omaha Beach on about the 12th of… or 14th of June, so we were in France then.

We were pinned down for 15 or 16 days or more. The Germans put up quite a fight. Through the hedge rows, but then finally we was broke out of St. Lowe, and we started on our mission.

So during August, that was July, during August then we were, we were still in France and working our way, gaining our way towards Paris. So the first part of September we got about 20 miles from Paris and had camp. So five of us guys wanted to go see Paris. So we got in the jeep and away we went to Paris.  And we got there and there was not one vehicle on the street, there were no human beings on the street. But anyway we went on to Eiffel tower, turned around and headed back to the camp. So that was the only time I got to Paris but it was a good trip. Something I’ll never… always remember. 

So at this camp was the first time that one of the German buzz bombs come, and it exploded about a mile from our camp, that was our first experience with a buzz bomb. So we kept going on the…it was the 19th Corps, and we got almost to, to the border of Germany and we run out of gas. So the whole shaboodle was shut down and the people that delivered gas by truck got in the black market and sold our gas to different people and so we didn’t have any. That was finally solved and we made a… went on to Belgium. Went to Belgium, and got to Heerlen, Holland, and that was in. . . probably about November. And first time we got inside the camp. Anyway, we were there quite a while when the Battle of the Bulge came, and that was in December. We were lucky, we were north side of it and didn’t have to, to fight in that part. We were a Service Company that stayed behind the first line, served troops on the mainline, and if they needed equipment we furnished new equipment for them and repaired the old equipment.

So then we went spent the winter, moved on the Aachen, Germany. I don’t know what month that was but we were in Aachen for quite some time. And then we ended up in Clinewoncleven(?), on the Elbe River, 30 miles from Berlin. And they would not let us go to Berlin as Roosevelt and Malta agreement, the Russians were to take Berlin. So we sat on the Elbe River probably months before any Russians come over and got there. And that was as far…as close as we got to Berlin. 

Then, there was no activity except they began to break our company up and sent us to other companies to recover war material and, and haul it in to collection points.  So that was my job all over Germany and quite an area of hauling equipment to the depots. Then orders come to us, we should leave, break camp and go to La Havre, France to be on our way home. So, time our…we could be loaded on our troop carrier, it was almost Thanksgiving. But anyhow,  I made it to New York again by Christmas. And that’s where I was sent back to Ft. Leavenworth and was discharged. That was in 1945.


LS: Do you remember, we’re gonna skip around a little bit here but, do you remember when you said you got discharged you got to New York and then you went to Ft. Leavenworth, how did you get back and forth?


WS: Train,


LS: okay


WS:  Always by train.  We rode millions…a million miles on a train.



LS: When you left Ft. Leavenworth to get back home, did you go by train that way?


WS: Yeah we went, we went to Kansas City, I don’t remember, but I think, I think we were bussed to Kansas City and got on a train and came home, on Missouri Pacific. 


LS: Did your parents come meet you or get you… or?


WS: Yes, at that time the train was not stopping, only in Hoisington.  So they came to Hoisington and, and met me and…we, oh… I don’t think, I didn’t anybody was with me, I think I was by myself. Anyway, they weren’t gonna let me drive home, and I insisted. I said well there ain’t nothing’wrong with me, I can drive. So finally they let me drive home.


LS: We’ve, we’ve talked about this a little bit, but were there others from your area that you served with or went to the service the same time you did?


WS: Yes, there was six of us boys from Bazine that had gotten with this ordinance company and stayed together for the three years, we were together. 


LS: Can you tell me who they were?


WS: There was myself, Elmer Erb, Cecil Schniepp, Ralph Stenzel, Melford Schaben…


WS: I can’t remember it.


LS: And you said that you guys joined this ordinance because you were farm boys?


WS: Yes, when Lieutenant Nichols come out, he… during the campaign, a war in Africa or in, in a desert south of Italy, they could not keep them, the trucks and machinery working, they had no mechanics. So this Lieutenant some way got the priority that if he could get a couple of hundred farm boys to do mechanic work, they would let him have priority on having, getting repairs. Being that he was with Chrysler Corporation, he had the authority or got the authority to do all this. So there were a hundred of us Kansas boys and a hundred Ohio boys all mostly farm boys, got together. And then they filled them in with some New York draftees, which weren’t worth shootin’… so he got rid of ‘em. He, he was a man that looked out for his men.  He gave ‘em about anything they wanted. He . . .we had more furloughs and, and trips then anybody in anyplace. But we were more, more or less a labor group.  We were not very much military. 


LS: Ok, how long did you have to train? How long were you in basic training before you went overseas?


WS: Oh, basic training was mostly in Camp Perry, Ohio. That was about three months. Then we were mostly in school and doing. . . we were specializing in certain fields, and that’s what we did the rest of time until we were shipped overseas.  We continued the same, the same trade all the way through. 


LS: Did you get to pick that trade? Or did they assign you what you were going to do?


WS: We got to pick our trade, I did. Anyhow.  I got to…I, I chose small arms. I didn’t want the heavy work, so I didn’t take the artillery or automotive.


LS: Okay.


RS: You might hit on the maneuvers a little bit, that was some fun time.


WS: How’s that?


RS: The maneuvers, down on our maneuvers in...


WS: Tennessee?


RS: Yeah, the maneuvers we went on.


WS: Yeah.


RS: You might tell about that a little, that was a fun time.


WS: Tennessee was so doggone hot in the summertime.  Humidity so high that we hunted the shade trees everyday. But we did practice on our mechanics and what we were training to do.  It was a… a learning effect, again, before we were sent back to Campbell in about September. So we was on maneuvers probably four months. Which was good training, it was good training anyway.


LS: Earlier you said you were more of a mechanic and a labor group, did you also have to train for combat before you went over?


WS: Well… yes and no. We were trained in some respects of combat, but not too much of that. That was… And we were just more or less to do our job of mechanics.


LS: Did you feel like you were well supplied when you got overseas? Did you have the equipment that you needed and the repair parts that you needed?


WS: Were well supplied for what we needed, most of the time. Right.


LS: Now I’m gonna ask just a little bit different, how did you feel like your living conditions were? What kind of living conditions did you have?


WS: Really, I think our living conditions were pretty good. Our food, most of the time was pretty good.  We had the same cooks and they provided pretty well under the conditions that…I hear so much about K-rations.  I don’t think we, we could count too many on K- rations that we ever had. We usually, we usually had a meal.


LS: Okay, earlier you had mentioned this Captain Nichols?


WS: Yeah, Captain Nichols.


LS: Was he your superior officer then or like your leader?


WS: Well he was the main leader. Then he was advanced to Major and one of the Lieutenants, captain or Smiss…Lieutenant Smiss, our main Captain and he was Chief of our company then.


LS: Did you get along with him okay?


WS: Fine. We had good officers, so we can’t complain. We had good officers.  They…I think that reverts back to Captain Nichols that he maintained that the men come first. 


LS: So you feel like he was probably, Captain Nichols, was probably your most significant officer that you remember the most that you had respect for.


WS: That’s right, yeah.


LS: Okay. Did you get to stay in contact with home when you were overseas?


WS: Yes.  We had fairly good contact at home.  There was not much we could write and not much…they could write what they could.  We had fair conditions, fair communication with home.


LS: Did you ever get homesick?


WS: No.  No I never got homesick.


LS: Do you remember any of the holidays that you spent while you were away?


WS: Well yes.  Oh I had better holidays when we were in Camp Perry.  Some of the boys that we were in camp with were from Cleveland and they took me back with ‘em to their homes most every weekend. And I got acquainted with quite a lot of people and we had good entertainment that way.  But Camp Campbell, no we didn’t have that…the main thing we did…we, we got furloughs and got to go home. 


LS: When you said that you had some entertainment, did you have time, when you went overseas, did you have any time for any recreation? Did you guys get to take R&R’s or go see other things; you said you went to Paris?


WS: I never got a vacation or a furlough.  I guess I did after the war was over because I got to go to the. . .a ski resort in Bavaria which was quite, quite a sight at that time. But that’s about the only furlough I got during the whole time besides what was home… and what was in the states we did get home quite often. 


LS: I asked you a little bit ago about how you got home, what did you do when you got home, Wayne?


WS: When I got home, I was so tired of being away from home that I said I was not gonna leave home again, so I planted myself out on the farm and that’s where I stayed for the first two years.  Helpin’ gy dad farm and whatever come, come handy to do, that’s what I done. Well then Dad decided he wanted to quite farming and wanted to move to town, so he drawed up his plans to build a new house in town and for the 1947 and 8, we, we built him a house in town. He finished that in ’48, and I was on the farm where he lived, him and my mother lived, and I stayed there until ’49.  At that time I got married and in a round about way, my brother had been married earlier and had a family, so we traded places, and where he lived, there was no electricity or nothing modern.  So I pursued to put a bathroom in the old house. Electricity come in, in 1950, and we stayed in this old place until 1966, at which time I had bought another quarter of land without a house.  Had bought a house and moved it in, and got it fixed up.  And so we lived in our own home in 1966 until I was getting to be 78 years old and it was time to get off the farm, and all the kids had left and nobody around.  But the oldest girl had married a young man at Sterling, Kansas, and they were farmers.  Having been down here a number of times, I had liked the, the territory, and decided, me and the wife decided that if we could find a place, this is where we would go. 


LS: Do you feel like anything that…when you were on the farm you brought that farm with you, while you were in the service did you ever feel like you were ever gonna get away from the farm do anything other then farm?


WS: No, I…that was my whole life was get back to the farm. And that was my enjoyment, my work was with the farm. 


LS: Do…so your wartime experience didn’t really give you any reason to go…I mean you didn’t really do… create a career from your wartime experience? You already had your career started before you went to the service.


WS: No, never… there was no place that I had seen in our war trips, anyplace that I wanted to be…that was in my back of my mind was to get back on the farm.


LS: OK, you said you were with the 503rd, what was that…was that your unit?


WS: Heavy Maintenance Tank Unit. We worked on artillery, small arms, radios, watches, you name it, we, we did it. We worked on most everything. 


LS: Have you stayed in touch with people from your unit?


WS: Yes, we…when we got home… ’45.  In ’48 there was a gathering of some of the 503rd in Wichita and decided that they would have a reunion every year in Wichita, which was very entertaining, a lot of the guys come back for that. Then it was decided to try to get the Ohio boys to get together. So the man and a lady, his wife, that was in charge of these get togethers made contact with the Ohio people. So we had reunions at different places with all…with the Ohio and the Kansas boys together.  I made a trip, me and my wife and family went to Ohio to the first reunion they had, had a great time in Ohio. So from then on we had a reunion every year and I think two years ago we had our last reunion and our seven members that gathered at Wichita and so there’s not been any further get togethers. I think that’s it…


LS: Okay.


LS: Did you bring home souvenirs with you and photographs?


WS: Yes, I got one good souvenirs, I got a new shotgun, a twelve-gauge shotgun. Browning Automatic from Liege, Belgium.  They let us sign up for guns.  A Lieutenant went back to get ‘em to see what was available, and I was the only one that they filled the order with and I got two shotguns. So I kept one and sold the other one to Melford Schaben and I still have mine which my son will have and that was a main souvenir that I did get back home from Germany.



LS: I’m gonna have Ralph come over and I’m gonna get a picture of you two on the camera together.


WS: Oh.


LS: And if I’m correct, you and Wayne and who else is still…. and Cecil are the only three that’s left in your group from this area.


WS: Yeah.


LS: Ok, so if you wanna come over here we’ll get a picture of you guys together, you can be shaking hands or doing something.


RS: His voice, singing voice is like mine. Why you wouldn’t ask, you wouldn’t ask that.


WS: And we have with us…


RS: Ralph Stenzel.


WS: Wayne Schaben.


LS: And what unit were you with?


RS: 503rd.


WS: 503.


LS: Alright.


WS: The best in the west!



LS: Alright, thank you.


WS: Ok.

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