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Alois (Bud) Madl video interview on experiences in World War II (transcript)

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The World War II Years:

An Oral History Interview with Alois (Bud) Madl

 

 

Four dots (…) indicate an incomplete or fragmentary utterance. Three dots (…) indicate an interrupted utterance or the speaker’s self-correction.  Square brackets ([ ]) enclose questionable portions of the transcript or transcriber-added material.

 

 

Bud Madl:  We was raised a mile north and three quarters east, on the north side of the road.

 

Interviewer:  Kind of really close to Baldwin City, then?

 

Bud Madl:  Yeah.

 

Mrs. Madl:  Five miles northeast of Baldwin.  He went to school at the Prospect School.

 

Interviewer:  The Prospect school district?

 

BM:  Yeah, the one-room schoolhouse there.  Then we went to Baldwin High School.  Then we….  We teached to go into Baldwin grade school.

 

Mrs. Madl:  That was after we got married.  We were finishing school.

 

I:  Mr. Madl, when were you born?  What’s your birthday?

 

BM:  Sixth of February, 1926.

 

I:  And you were born right around in this area.

 

BM:  Yep.  One mile north and three quarters east.

 

I:  Was your dad a farmer?

 

BM:  Yep.  Yep.  Yep.

 

I:  Did he have cattle, or did he…?  What kind of crops did he have?

 

BM:  Everything.  Corn.  He trucked cattle to the city, then they shut all them stockyards up in Kansas City.  He’d go to sales.

 

I:  How did the Depression affect your family?

 

BM:  We had hogs and cattle, and we butchered.  We had chickens and eggs. 

 

Mrs. M:  In those days you raised everything.  Probably the only thing you bought was sugar and flour.

 

BM:  We had gardens.  We had strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, peaches, and apricot trees, and apple trees.  We had ’em all out there.  They’re all gone now.  We used to have apple trees and peach trees right here, too, on our place here.  The lightning got ’em all.   I’m too old now.  We used to have beautiful peaches, and we’d just give the peaches away.  We told ’em….  When people come, they said, “Can we have peaches?”  We said, “You can have all you want.”  This one man come up here….  He come up here, and….  Then we come back home, and they was goin’ out.  They picked all the peaches.  They’d ha[ve] had to sell them!  Yeah, we milked cows, and we had stock cattle. 

 

Mrs. M:  We had a dairy for 48 years.  That’s basically how we raised our children.

 

BM:  There’s a shed up there right now.  That David Browner, he rents my farm.  He lives over here about three miles.  A bunch of nice people, them Browners.  He’s got quite a few….  There was seven of them.  J.C. Browner, he was a….  [To Mrs. Madl]: Do you remember him in high school? 

 

Mrs. M:  Yeah, a little.

 

BM:  He went to high school with my sister—youngest sister, too.

 

I:  You met your wife in school, right?

 

BM:  Yeah.

 

I:  On the school bus.  Do you want to tell us the story?

 

BM:  Oh, I was ridin’ on the school bus, and, boy, I….  “Isn’t that a cute little gal!  I’m gonna kiss her and tell her, ‘I’m gonna marry you some day.’”  And I did, too.  And, you know, I’d come back home….  I was up here at Fort Leavenworth for ten months before I got out. 

 

Mrs. M:  You were a guard at the U.S.D.B.  [United States Army Disciplinary Barracks]

 

BM:  Anyway, this farm here was for sale.  Right here.  160 acres here.  Dad, he signed a note for me on a lot of it.  Then we bought it, and I paid off the note.  Dad did never did pay none of it.  I paid it all off.  We did.  Her dad loaned us….   And Mom loaned us money, too.  That helped out on this.

 

I:  So you went to Baldwin High School.

 

BM:  Yeah. One year.  Yep.  I had a lot of work to do. 

 

Mrs. Madl:  You started the second year, and then your dad wanted you to shuck corn.

 

BM:  Yeah, we had a lot of corn.  A lot of farmers, you know, they didn’t go to school.  I was about one of the last ones that….  Some of us boys my age, they didn’t even go to school at all—high school at all.

 

Technical Assistant:  Eighth grade was pretty much where a lot of people stopped, wasn’t it?

 

BM:  They used to.  Now they go to college, and they….  You send all your kids to some kind of school—beauticians’ school or bankers’ school.

 

Mrs. M:  [Unintelligible].  You went to Clark’s Business College.

 

BM:  Yep.

 

I:  In the days leading up to America’s entry into the war, could you see how the war was progressing, and could you see America preparing for war?

 

BM:  Yeah.  Yeah, they drafted one of my brothers when he was twenty years old.  He got hurt up here, and they give him medical discharge.  He was only in the Navy about three months.  He’s still livin’ over here.  But he never did see no war.  But he was up there in the Navy.

 

Mrs. M:  What did he do to his leg, Bud?

 

BM:  Well, I’ll tell you what, he got ruptured.  They was practicin’ with artillery, and it was icy on the ship, and he slipped and….  With this here shell, he ruptured himself, and then he jumped off a truck up there and broke his foot.  He had a bad foot on him for a long time.  Yep.  And I went later on, when I was eighteen.  I had to go through the draft board to get in.

 

Technical Assistant:  So did you get drafted?

 

I:  Yes.

 

BM:  I went through the draft board; I had to in order to get in, ’cause….  Anyway, we….

 

Mrs. M:  It was in the fall of what year?

 

BM:  Of ’44 [that] I went in.  August.  The last of August.

 

I:  Where did you go for basic training?

 

BM:  Fort Worth, Texas, down there by Fort Hood, Texas.  [I went] down there [for] my basic training.  When they brought us back here, they sent us to Camp Swift.

 

Mrs. M:  That was after you went to Germany?

 

BM:  Yeah, when we come back.  They was going to send us….  Of course, they dropped them atomic bombs, and they sent us up here.

 

Mrs. Madl:  After your basic training, you got to come home for how long?  Ten days?

 

BM:  Thirty days.

 

Mrs. M:  No, no, no.

 

BM:  You had to wait for ships, you know.

 

Mrs. M:  That long?  Not in the winter.  When you came home New Year’s Eve.

 

BM:  In the summer.

 

Mrs. M:  That was in the summer when you came back.

 

BM:  They sent our outfit….

 

Mrs. M:  That was when you came back from Germany you got thirty days off.

 

BM:  Yep.

 

Mrs. M:  But before you went overseas, they gave you—what was it, a week or ten days?

 

BM:  Six days!  Well, I’ll tell you one thing.  They throwed a….  The Germans, they throwed a big counteroffensive in there.  They call it the Battle of the Bulge.  [By the] time we got over there, there was a….  They had that Battle of the Bulge just about straightened out.  They had dead Germans, dead Americans layin’ there when we went up on the front lines.  Yeah.

 

Mrs. M:  After your six days at home, though, then you went to New York?

 

BM:  Yeah.  We went up there.

 

Mrs. M:  And you sailed for…?  Where’d you land?

 

BM:  Eleven days goin’ over, ’cause they had to turn the ship every seven minutes so the submarines couldn’t get ’em.

 

I:  What did you do on the ship for entertainment?  Did you play card games or anything like that?

 

BM:  No.  They had us on an old ship, and they had some boxin’ there.  I never boxed, ’cause I’ll tell you what: they had too many good boxers!  This one guy says, “I’ve been the….  I’ll box anybody [who] wants to box me.  I’ve been to the Golden Gloves, and I’ll box anybody that wants to.”  So I told another boy from Lawrence up there….  I said, “Miller—boxing!”  Boy, old Miller, he went in and boxed him and knocked that other guy down, and this other guy got up and knocked him down again.  And that cracked old Miller’s skull.

 

I:  Did they have any gloves, or were they just doin’ bare fists? 

 

BM:  Oh, they had boxin’ gloves.  Yeah, and then they had….  Oh, I tell ya, I didn’t want to….  They didn’t have much.

 

Mrs. M: Everybody got seasick.

 

BM:  Oh, yeah.

 

I:  You got seasick?

 

BM:  Oh, yeah.  Yeah, one guy, the next day he was in the…out of the porthole.  I grabbed him, and I pulled him back.  And I puked up.  Everybody was pukin’!

 

I:  A chain reaction?

 

BM:  And I puked some more.  Didn’t feed us.  But when we come back, we wasn’t seasick.  We was on a better ship, too.

 

Mrs. M:  It was called….  What was it called?

 

BM:  Marcella, or somethin’ like that.  It was a[n] Italian ship.  They caught ’em in the….  They caught this ship in the Panama Canal, and they made a troop ship out of it.  That was a pretty nice ship, and they fed us two meals a day.

 

Mrs. M:  Coming home.

 

BM:  Yeah.  Then they fed….  Later on they fed us some gettin’ home.  Goin’ over, we didn’t have hardly nothin’.

 

I:  When you went overseas, where did you deploy?

 

BM:  In Belgium.  We went through England.  We went from….  We went to Liverpool, and got off the ship there.  Then we went on a train to Southampton—through England.  Then they put us on another rickety old ship.

 

I:  A landing craft?  To cross the Channel?

 

BM:  Yeah, we crossed the Channel there at Le Havre, and then they….  We went to….  We went through France, and then went through Belgium.  The day I went up on the line all hell was poppin’ out loose.

 

Mrs. M:  He went out on the front lines on his birthday, February the sixth.  He was nineteen.

 

BM:  They took us across the Rhine River a little later on.  Boy, they rowed that Rhine River.  That bridge, they put in an extension on it.

 

I:  Was it the Remagen Bridge?

 

BM and Mrs. M:  Uh-huh.    

 

BM:  And it went down.  And all the….  We was back there about five miles.  I thought, “What’s a-holdin’… ambulance goin’ for?”   Just [unintelligible], and guys in them tanks, they went into 35-foot of water.  And, hell, they drownded.  They act like…. These war books act like they don’t…don’t even…didn’t hardly have no men.  But a lot of ’em were hangin’ up in there.  Then they….  They executed one of them German officers for not gettin’ that bridge blowed up. 

 

[On March 17, 1945, the entire Remagen Bridge collapsed into the Rhine.]

 

I:  The Germans did?

 

BM:  Yeah—their own officers.  Another boy….  He lived over here [unintelligible].  A Randall boy.  Did you ever hear of any of them Randalls?  Brownie Randall?  Orvel Randall?  Anyway, he and two other guys ran across that bridge—or, three of ’em.  Them there Germans were all drunk.  They didn’t get the bridge blowed up!  Oh, they was fightin’ like hell there, boy.  Anyway, they’d blow up them bridges.

 

I:  So the Americans couldn’t advance.

 

BM:  Yeah.  And they’d put roadblocks in.  They’d put trees in.  They had chainsaws and a lot of slave labor—French boys.  I never did see no big shots.  I never did see Eisenhower.

 

Mrs. M:  You saw President Roosevelt one day.

 

BM:  Yeah.  Up in…before we went overseas.  We was up there.

 

I:  In New York?

 

BM:  Uh-huh.  We had a day or two off there—till we got a ship there.  Oh, it was cold.

 

I:  Was he giving a talk?  Or was he speaking at a banquet?  Or what was Roosevelt doing?  

 

BM:  Oh, they had guys on a motorcycle, and they had a guard out there.  I said to that guard…. [I] and this other boy from Lawrence, we was up there.  I said, “That’s the President of the United States!”  Then after he went on, that guard says, “Yeah.”  That’s the only time I ever seen any big shot.  Biggest….  Oh, I seen majors.  I never did see….

 

Mrs. M:  Shoot, you had to guard the Gestapos down there in that….

 

BM:  Oh, yeah.  When we got over there in Pilsen, Czechoslovakia, they’re holdin’ their German generals there.  They took a bunch of us boys up there.

 

I:  And you had to guard ’em? 

 

BM:  Yeah.  Keep ’em in there to keep from somebody else from killin’ ’em.

 

Mrs. M:  In Czechoslovakia they would have liked to have put…

 

I:  In Czechoslovakia they had a lot of kids [unintelligible] and a lot of those old men.  You know, a lot of them Czechoslovakian girls—ladies—they took off their high-heeled shoes, and they had whiskey bottles that they’d just beat the hell out of them old Germans.  They was goin’ like this….  This M.P. was bringin’ ’em back.  All them little kids—thirteen, fourteen years old—they had ’em up there.  They was in front, and we didn’t bother them.  But, boy, them Czechoslovakian women, they beat the shit out of ’em!  You know why I was up there?  When I got up on top of the tank, I didn’t know what the hell was all comin’ on.  They was a-hollerin’.  This here M.P., he took his .45 submachine gun: [imitation of sound of submachine gun firing].  “Hey!  Hey!  Hey!”  He was tryin’ to stop ’em, you know.  Them women, boy, they musta [must have]….  They was mean, you know.

 

I:  Well, the Germans did some really mean things to the Czechoslovakians.

 

BM:  Oh, yes.  And we went up there….  When we got to Czechoslovakia….  We started there, and the women and the boys was all out there.  Little boys.  Boy, they had it in for them old Gestapos, I’ll tell you.  And beat the hell out of ’em.  That’s what they do.

 

I:  Did the civilians in Europe, whether it be France or Czechoslovakia, did they treat you very well—the American soldiers?

 

BM:  Even the Germans.

 

I:  Even the Germans did, too?

 

BM:  Even the German civilians.  Why, this one place, this here German mother, she took a…scrambled us a whole bunch of eggs, ’cause that’s all she had.  Then we had to go.  We had a bunch of prisoners in that garage—in that thing.  I said, “Give that to them.  We gotta go.”  She said, “Oh my!  Oh my!”  She had all them scrambled eggs.  She had a big pile of scrambled eggs for us.  And they give us eggs.

 

Mrs. M:  Actually, they were very hungry through the war.

 

I:  You were very hungry throughout the war?

 

BM:  Sometimes we were.  Boy, I’ll tell ya, they was sellin’ a lot of our food on the black market, and we wasn’t gettin’ it.  Then they brought ’em up there, and them guys, they was scared they was gonna be executed.  This one man…

 

Mrs. M:  For hoarding the food. 

 

BM:  They was sellin’ all that black market.  Hell.  Boy, I tell you, they got where they fed us better.

 

Technical Assistant:  Was it very cold at that point?

 

BM:  Oh, yes.  Snow.  Snow.

 

Mrs. M:  I think, actually, it was colder before he got there, though.

 

BM:  Yeah.  They had….

 

TA:  Did you have boots and an overcoat?

 

BM:  Yeah.

 

Mrs. M:  But you never get to go to bed, really.

 

BM:  And then we had a sleepin’ bag to get into, and we dug in foxholes.  I’ll tell you one thing: they was gonna throw a hell of a barrage, and they told all of us young boys, “Don’t get scared, ’cause they’re gonna throw a hell of a barrage tonight,” they said.  You know, we was on a big hill, and that hill wobbled three or four foot.  I told my sergeant the next day….  I said, “That hill wobbled three and four foot!”  He says, “You ain’t crazy.”  I says, “Was I crazy?”  “You wasn’t.  It did.”

 

I:  Do you feel that your training in boot camp helped prepare you for what you experienced?

 

BM:  Not…. Just learned how to fire a rifle and stuff.  The Germans, they had a burp gun that would just go “burp!”  They had machine guns that’d fire so much faster than ours.

 

I:  What was your rank throughout the war?

 

BM:  Pfc.  I never did get over that.  I was just a kid.  I was just a kid.

 

I:  Were you issued the M-1 rifle?  

 

BM:  M-1, and then the….   I got where I carried a Browning automatic rifle, but I liked that M-1 the best.  That Browning rifle I had, that son of a bitch, it was….  The spring was just wore out in it, pretty near.  It wouldn’t fire but about three or four shots.  My sergeant—from Durango, Colorado—another boy, and I, and our captain, we was on the first big old tank—Army tank.  In that one battle they….  Them Germans down there, they knocked out a whole bunch of our tanks, and then they….  We was ridin’, and then that captain….  He was already shakin’ like that.  Battle fatigue.  He went plum off in that one battle, and they had to take him to the hospital.  I never seen him no more.

 

Mrs. M:  He’d been in war too long.

 

BM:  He was in the Normandy invasion.  Them guys got slaughtered!

 

I:  Was there a lot of battle fatigue?

 

BM:  Yes.  They had one guy come back, sent him home, and he was just shakin’—shakin’ like that.  Then, hell, they didn’t even take him out another time.  Then another one, he had battle fatigue, and they sent him up there after the war was over.  That guy shook, and our lieutenant—from Wichita, out here—he was mean to that boy.  He was actually mean to him.  He was….  He was really bad.

 

TA:  I was wondering about your officers.  What were they like?  Did they know what they were doing? 

 

BM:  Yeah.  We had a major….  I tell you what: I didn’t….  I never did see Eisenhower or some of our other officers.  Or Patton.  Patton, he was…. He [unintelligible] up from…and raise hell.  And made the….  And then Eisenhower, he wanted to go in on the Russians, too.  Eisenhower got rid of him.

 

Mrs. M:  It wasn’t Eisenhower; it was Patton that wanted to go in on the Russians.

 

BM:  Yeah—Patton.

 

TA:  The people that were in charge of you, the captains and majors that were directly over you, what were they like?  Were they young guys?

 

BM:  Yeah.  And then they brought a guy in, and never did…never….  We had one guy, that lieutenant, he was our….  They called him “Tex.”  He was a good guy.  And then they brought the captain in, and this here one captain, he threatened to court martial us, and this and that.  You know what, they plotted to kill him, and they got rid of him.  Then they….  That lieutenant stayed for quite a while, then they brought another captain in.  I don’t know….

 

Mrs. M:  Did you tell ’em about the German boy that surprised you in the foxhole?

 

BM:  Oh, yeah.  I damn near shot him.  I didn’t think there was anybody around.  I told all the rest of the boys….  I said, “I’m gonna go out and check on the foxholes.” And, you know, I was [unintelligible] livin’ there.  I said, “Come on outta there!”  He was smokin’ a cigarette.  And my sergeant, he come up there.  He said, “You get rid of that!  Get rid of that cigarette!”  Then we had one boy, he could talk German.  He was a Jew boy from New York, and he could talk German.  I thought they was kinda mean to them prisoners.  And then I had a whole bunch of more of ’em come out of a barn up there.  One of them guys was old!  A lot of ’em were old—real old people.  Big, old, tall…and real old people.

 

Mrs. M:  They busted up their rifles before they came out of the barn.

 

BM:  Oh, yeah.

 

Mrs. M:  But he would have shot that boy; he would’ve been dead in nothin’ flat.

 

BM:  Oh, yeah.  Well, I ain’t gonna….  I didn’t…. I never did….  I don’t know if I ever did shoot anybody, but I shot at a lot of ’em.  I don’t know [unintelligible].

 

I: Well, it was so hard to tell because it was so far away.

 

BM:  Some people knew if they shot [someone].  Boy, it’s bad.  Then one of our boys had the head blowed off.  Boy, that’s gruesome, too.  That was gruesome.  Dead boys with their brains shot out, and police dogs eatin’ the brains.  God, I could hardly take that.  Americans and Germans both.

 

Mrs. M:  Then one day….  One time a shell took two guys, and they each one lost a leg.

 

BM:  Oh, yeah.  This here one outfit was wantin’ to know where their company was.  [They were] on a jeep, and two of their guys….  This one guy says, “Don’t go down there; there’s Germans!”  They just got done shootin’ at us, you know.  This other guy, he had blood runnin’ outta his ass from machine gun bullets, and he took and put some tourniquets on them boys to keep ’em from blowin’….  Anyway, I said, “I’ll go down there.”  Nobody else would go down there.

 

Mrs. M:  ’Cause these boys got their legs blowed off.

 

BM:  Anyway, I said, “I’ll go.”  But I said, “If I go down there, and I see any Germans, I’m gonna stop ’em, and I’m gonna shoot ’em.”  Oh, boy, I’ll tell you.  If you didn’t get wounded, didn’t get killed….  Everybody come an eighth of an inch from gettin’ killed, or wounded if you didn’t get killed.  God, a lotta people got killed!  And guys get hit in the tanks.  They’d come out and try to get outta that fire and then was burned to death.  They just burned to death.  Boy, that’s gruesome, boy.

 

Mrs. M:  Why did they burn so much in the tanks?

 

BM:  Oh, hell, all them shells explodin’.  Jesus Christ.

 

I:  So you went through a lot of countries.  Were you in Czechoslovakia when the war ended?

 

BM:  Yeah.  We was in Pilsen.  We was up there for a while.  But when we was up there to Leipzig, we linked up with the Russians there.  

 

I:  Did you have any contact with the Russians?  Were they friendly towards the Americans?

 

BM:  Yeah, they….  They come down there.

 

Mrs. M:  You didn’t have any trouble with them, did you?

 

BM:  No.  They come down there, and they….  We shook hands with them.  And old Patton, he was just crazier ’n hell.  And Eisenhower, he got rid of him.  Hodges.  Hodges. 

 

[General Courtney Hodges (1887-1966) became commander of the US First Army Division in August 1944.] 

 

BM:  I think he was….  I tell ya, I don’t know what general was we over [under] sometimes.  They change, you know.  I tell you what: it was just….  Boy, it’s gruesome, I’ll tell you. We was on this one tank, and them old Germans sittin’ down in the valley, they shot at us.  They hit the light pole and blowed that light pole all off.  And then they shot another time, and I know that shell….  I was on top of the turret, ’cause we was all crowded on that tank.  That shell didn’t miss me [by] two foot.  Then, this tank, he got behind a haystack.  Then we all got in ditches—down low.  Anyway, they shot into that haystack; they was tryin’ to get our tank.  It was two of them German Royal Tiger tanks. 

 

[Introduced in 1944, the German King Tiger tank was one of the most feared weapons of World War II.  It was heavily armored and carried an 88-mm gun.  The Allies had no effective means of countering these tanks.] 

 

BM:  They was big son of a bitches! They wasn’t scared of nothin’.  Them shells would just kinda come around and explode right by the tank.  They never got ’em.  Then they just went on up there to the…got in the timber.  Then they put two of us boys up there to guard ’em.  Then here comes a whole bunch of things with boats.  We had to go across the Elbe river over there.  We went across, and they had machine guns shootin’ way up there in some buildin[g]s to keep the Germans scared.  We got across, and they didn’t even shoot at us till we got up in there.

 

Mrs. M:  Was that when you had to wade across and hold your guns way up high?

 

BM:  No.  One time we went across the Ruhr River.  It was about this deep.  The water was cold.  March the fourth, [1945].  A whole bunch of guys got wounded, but nobody got killed.  Anyway, we had to go back off of the hill.  Our lieutenant, he told ’em to…asked the major to come down and look things over.  Well, he says, “It’s two-love for K Company.  Come on back outta there.”  And they….  Two at a time.  We got so cold; our feet got cold.  The snow was meltin’, and it was just kinda rainin’.  About that deep.  They had….  It was just….  Couldn’t even….  Hell, I took my overshoes off.  I couldn’t….  I was up that big old hill.  Couldn’t [unintelligible]….  I took ’em off, and I throwed ’em away.

 

I:  Did you experience any propaganda—like fliers, or radio broadcasts by the Germans or the Americans?

 

BM:  The Germans, they had airplanes.  They called ’em “Midnight Charlies.”  They’d come over, and they could tell where we was at.  All the time.  Even in the daytime, too.  And then there was this one German….  I told my sergeant….  I said, “That’s a German talkin’.”  This old German, he was drunk and talkin’ over there, and this one boy—one German—went up there and told [him], “The Americans are comin’.”  He says, “What?  What?  What?  What?”  I knew that.  I could tell a lotta that.  Anyway, he was doin’ a lotta talkin’.

 

Mrs. M:  [Somebody like you: he wanted to argue—just let the Germans walk by.]

 

BM:  Yeah, they was all comin’ in.

 

Mrs. M:  I guess they were wantin’ to…

 

BM:  Surrender.  Yeah.  Up at Leipzig, they was wantin’ to surrender, and then down there to Czechoslovakia.  And then they told Patton to halt at Prague.  He had four boys takin’ the prisoners.  In four days they come back.

 

I:  I was wondering if you could talk about the differences between the American tanks versus the German tanks.

 

BM:  I only seen five German tanks myself, ’cause I’ll tell you what: I wasn’t over there very long.

 

Mrs. M:  But they were bigger, and they were better.

 

BM:  Oh, some of them big tanks, they was big son-of-a-bitches!  We had some of them little tanks that they brought in with airplanes.  They had one of them in front of us.   And then this one….  They started shootin’ at ’em—shootin’ in this one brick house—and blew the legs off of that one German.  They had him in a chair, and put some tourniquets on those Germans.  Anyway, the medic, he asked him….  This boy who was our medic, he says, “Do you want me to take care of ya?”  He says, “Ya.”  He didn’t want to let him die.  He was takin’ care of him, and he wasn’t takin’ care of other boys gettin’ wounded.  They was a-hollerin’, “Medics!  Medics!”  They hollered.  Scream.  People screamin’ hurt.  It was bad.

 

TA:  What was the smell like inside a tank?  Did the inside of a tank smell in a funny way?

 

BM:  Well, I tell you what: we was on the go too long.

 

TA [misunderstanding]:  What’s the go-to line?

 

BM:  No, I mean we was on the move.

 

Mrs. M:  He was actually in the infantry.  You weren’t in the tanks.

 

TA:  You weren’t in the tanks?

 

BM:  No, no.

 

I:  You just rode on the tanks sometimes.

 

BM:  Oh, yes.

 

Mrs. M:  And run behind ’em for protection.

 

BM:  Yeah.  Yeah, we’d go across the field, and, boy, we’d run like hell.

 

I:  Was there any kind of signal that…when the tank was gonna go backwards when you were marching behind it?

 

BM:  They did run over some of the men.

 

I:  You just had to be careful, and watch out what the tank was doing?

 

BM:  Yeah.  And then they’d keep the tanks back.  I don’t know.  They’d shoot a lot of big shells.  Boy!  Different times. I’ll tell you, I was in so many battles, and then we was goin’ so fast.  The Germans was surrenderin’ so fast, and they was goin’ like hell and runnin’ out of gas.  They had just a few five-gallon tanks, and they needed gallons of gas.  They needed about four or five gallons of gas in it.  Anyway, they’d pour half of it….  One tank in it….  Then later on they brought up a tank-load of gas.  Then they was goin’ so fast they turned on….  This one time, they….  All these tanks were goin’ so fast, they turned on this brick street, and they….

 

I:  Flipped the tank?

 

BM:  The tanks went over.  They went over.  They dumped over.  Guys, their legs hurtin’….   About fifteen of the guys got killed on ’em—in the tanks.  This one man….  I was talkin’ to another boy.  He was a welder.  I knew him later on.  I said, “This one guy is just walkin’ real funny—like that.”  Then he went and sat down on the step in that town, and he died.  A lot of them guys had their legs hurt, and fifteen of ’em got killed.  Then they had us not to go so fast.  Anyway, them Germans could tell where we was at, even in daytime.  And then another boy….  We had four great big guns, about that big. They’d take them big guns and shoot twenty-some miles with ’em.  They’d put a big shell in.  Weighed 210 pounds.  And they’d put sacks of powder in back of ’em.  And know how far they’d shoot, up and down. Anyway, I was on.  They brought them tanks up there.  The Germans pretty near got ’em caught with that in the Battle of the Bulge.  They pretty near got ’em caught.  They just barely got out.  Anyway, one guy….  There was four of them big guns.  I helped them unload some of them guns sometime we was there by the Rhine River—close to the Rhine River.  Boy, I’ll tell ya: even after the war….  Another guy from Baldwin over here….  He married my cousin over here.  I said, “Who was he cussin’ down there?”  He said, “They was cussin’ me because I wasn’t gettin’ it zeroed in right.”  I didn’t even know he was there.  He was a boy from Baldwin.

 

I:  Was there a lot of looting going on during the war—people taking souvenirs and things like that?

 

BM:  Oh, I was.  I did when we was in Germany.  You know what?  If we wasn’t just shootin’ at the Germans, I was a chicken catcher.  I’d take and boil me a bunch of chickens.  My sergeant said, “Now, Madl, them women and them kids gotta have…  have…. That’s what they’re livin’ on.”

 

Mrs. M:  So you could only kill so many.  But they were [unintelligible].

 

BM:  I’d catch about six of ’em, and then some guys….  Oh, we butchered a hog.  I helped catch a hog, and this one guy, he knew how to take a butcher knife and stick it down the old…big, old, fat hog’s throat.  We had hog meat for us the next day.  They had to let it cool first, they said.   Otherwise, it could poison ya.  Then some guys butchered a big [unintelligible], and another one, he….  They butchered a big old oxen.  I said, “Well, you don’t have no salt or no lard to fry that in.”  He says, “I’m gonna fry it without no lard and….  No lard and no salt.”  Then he put it in his mess kit, and he got his fire, you know.  You know, he was a Mexican boy, and he was a fighter, too.  I was with Indians and Mexicans, and I’ll tell you: a lotta them boys, they were good fighters.  Uh-huh.  I’ll tell you what….  And I had quite a few Jews with us.  There was quite a few Jews in the….  A lot of Jews was on them artillery guns.  I don’t know.  They had….  Then they had niggers.  We was scared of ’em.  They brought a whole bunch of niggers in to haul us from up there at Leipzig down there to Czechoslovakia.  And, you know, I was scared of ’em.  I said, “By God, if you do anything, let’s just shoot ’em.” 

 

Mrs. M:  You didn’t hurt ’em.  You didn’t do anything to hurt ’em, though.  

 

BM:  No.

 

Mrs. M:  You grew up on a farm and was never around any black people, and you just didn’t know how to deal with ’em.

 

I: So how long were you in Czechoslovakia—from the end of the war until you got to go home?

 

BM:  Until….  The last of July we got to come home.  We come in….  When we went out on the ship, we seen the Statue of Liberty, and when we come back in, we seen the Statue of Liberty again.

 

I:  I bet that was a pretty good sight for you.

 

BM:  Oh, I don’t know.  All my neighbor boys….  All the Navy guys didn’t give us nothin’ to eat.  They all cleaned the ship all up, and they didn’t give us no bacon and beans and stuff like that.  They all left.  Anyway, then we got up there in one place, and they had a whole bunch of Italians—prisoners up there—kinda servin’ us.  They said, “Don’t be mean to none of ’em,” or else we’d have to do all the cookin’ and stuff ourselves.  We left them alone a little bit. 

 

Hell, when I was over in Germany, they had all them Germans….  After the war, in Czechoslovakia there, they had all these big rocks out on the street, you know, from the buildin[g]s that were bombed.  And them boys [were] picking ’em up and putting ’em in dump trucks.  Hell, I got in there with them boys and helped ’em.  They was all surrenderin’, you know.  They had the Red Cross for ’em there.  [We gave them] jelly and bread and….  I think we fed ’em good.  We fed ’em good.  Some of their babies [were] sick, though.  There were Germans in the road—in the mud.  We was goin’ up there on the front line.  Mud, and the dead Germans in there, and just run over them dead Germans.  Oh, boy.

 

TA:  Could you make any effort to bury the dead Germans?  Or they’d just run right over them?

 

BM:  Didn’t have time.  Oh, I imagine they got rid of ’em.  I wasn’t over there when….  I wasn’t in Africa or some place where the Germans and Americans were all dead, you know.

 

Mrs. M:  It was never hot where he was.  It was always cold.

 

BM:  It was cold, and we was on the go.

 

Mrs. M:  In some ways, if you’ve got dead people, you’re better off if it’s cold. 

 

BM:  Yep.

 

TA:  There wouldn’t be the risk of infection; they wouldn’t get….  They wouldn’t stink.

 

Mrs. M:  Yeah, they’d just freeze.

 

BM:  You know, I was shiverin’.  I got a pain in here, and I went on sick call when we was up there by the Rhine River, into this Japanese doctor.  He was a captain.  He was a Japanese-American.  He says, “You’ve got pneumonia.”  He says, “I’m gonna send you back to the hospital.”  I said, “No!  I want to stay and shoot Germans!”  So he says, “I want your sergeant.”  He says, “You come here.”  And he got….  He told that sergeant, “Give him pills.”  And he says, “You let that boy rest big, and everything.”  And I got better, but I was just shiverin’, you know.  I was….  From that Ruhr river: going across there, cold.  I was just a kid.  I only weighed 135 pounds in that picture right there.  Now I’m big and fat.  Anyway, I got better.  Then up here at Fort Leavenworth, when we got discharged, they held me over for a day.  They took my x-rays again in my chest, and he says, “I think you got a pneumonia scar there, or else TB.”  He says, “I want you to go get checked again about in six months.”  I did, and, hell, at home I got better.  Pneumonia.  [To TA, after she yawns]:  You look like you’re tired, little girl.

 

TA:  I am tired.  I’m not bored; I’m just tired—that’s all.  I wanted to ask you, did you ever get any time off—like, to go off on R and R, recreation?

 

BM:  On recreation?

 

I:  Like a pass to Paris, or something like that.  Or Rome.

 

BM:  Oh, yeah.  Yeah.  I didn’t go to Paris.  I went to Troy one day.  Then I about froze to death comin’ back.  Some of them guys, they was huntin’ ’em.  They….  I never went to Paris; I never seen the Eiffel Tower.

 

I:  What was Troy like?

 

BM:  Oh, just…just one of them towns.  It was….  Some of them places, the Germans….  Where they didn’t get bombed and everythin’, some of them Germans had a lot of nice houses.   We stayed in a barn this one time, and they had a lot of straw in there.  We lighted us a fire and put some wood in there and burned it.  This old guy come across the road—this old German—and he dumped some buckets of water over there.  He says, “I’ve built this all by myself, and I don’t want you to…”

 

TA:  He didn’t want you to burn his barn down.

 

BM:  No.  A lot of them houses, they just burned.  We….  Yeah.  You know, that old boy that….  That Mexican that fried that big steak….  You know, that smelt pretty good.  Without no lard.

 

TA:  Do you still remember your serial number?

 

Mrs. M:  He’s got it tattooed on him, if you can read it.

 

BM:  I can’t.  I got it done down in Texas.  Cost me three dollars.

 

TA:  How come you got it tattooed on you?

 

BM:  Oh, just….  People didn’t know what to do, and this guy was makin’ tattoos.  I put my name—Alois J. Madl—in my tattoo.  When we was in Czechoslovakia, in the town out there, some little kids come out there.  In Pilsen.  That little girl seen that, and she says, “Alois Madl.”

 

TA:  She could read it.

 

BM:  Uh-huh.  I suppose she was only ten years old.

 

Mrs. M:  Let me see if I can read that number.  Oh, boy.  Take your….

 

BM:  It’s faded now.

 

I:  Oh, I don’t know. 

 

Mrs. M:  That’s what happens to….

 

I:  Seven eight three five eight three two five.  That’s what I would guess.

 

 BM:  Yeah.  Well, you know, a lot of people up in that period [unintelligible], they had tattoos all over.  I was at the doctor’s….  Let me see.  I went to Lawrence up there, ’cause instead of goin’ to the Veterans’ Hospital I went up to Lawrence, and we had tests made—blood tests on us.  Then a week later we had to come back, and this other doctor up there, he had tattoos all over him.

 

TA:  It’s pretty trendy right now for people to have tattoos.

 

Mrs. M:  Yeah, but someday they’re gonna hate ’em, just like he hates his.

 

[Discussion of tattoos and of the TA’s sons.]

 

BM:  Oh, are you takin’ my pictures?

 

TA:  Yeah.

 

BM:  Oh, my God!  I’m too ugly to take pictures!  I’m just a[n] ugly old man!  Fat.  [I] weigh 260 pounds, and I like my beef!

 

[Discussion of filming BM’s picture.]

 

I:  So you came back [to] the States, and you were gonna be shipped off to…

 

BM:  Japan.

 

I:  To Japan.  But they dropped the atomic bomb, so you didn’t have to go to Japan. Where did you go from there?

 

BM:  Well, I went up there to Fort Leavenworth. 

 

[Interview ends]

 

 

 

Length:  62 minutes

 

 

 

 

 



Item Description

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