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Don Otto video interview on experiences in World War II (transcript)

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The World War II Years:

An Oral History Interview with Donel (Don) Otto

 

 

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.  Some comments by the interviewer and technical assistant may be abridged.

 

 

Interviewer:   Today is July 26th, 2007, and we’re in Baldwin, Kansas.   I am Deb Pye, and I am speaking with Mr. Donald [Donel] Ott—sorry, Otto—today.

 

Don Otto:  Yeah, don’t miss that.

 

Interviewer:  Mr. Otto, could you start by telling us what your birthday is and where you were born?

 

Don Otto:  I was born in….  My birthday is January the twentieth, 1920, and I was born in Lawrence, Kansas.  Well, I guess that’s about it.  I lived there for….  In Lawrence I lived, well, just for a short time, I guess.  Then we moved.  Our family moved up to North Lawrence about…something like seven or eight miles up north.  We lived there for quite a while.  I went to the Belleview School one year, I think.  [Looks for his papers]  I can’t see without my glasses.

 

Technical Assistant:  Is Belleview on 24 Highway?  Belleview School?

 

DO:  Belleview School is up in North Lawrence about eight miles.

 

Technical Assistant:  Towards McLouth?

 

DO:  Yeah, it’s up in that neck of the woods.  Yeah.  I had the wrong papers.  Yeah, it was up in North Lawrence about….  I said Belleview.  It’s Knowledge Hill.  But I forget.  It’s kinda a long time ago, and we was only there till I was in the first grade.  Then we came back to Eudora, Kansas.  Then I went to Belleview School for one year, and then we moved to Clearfield, and I went to Clearfield till the eighth grade.  After the eighth grade, why….  I don’t know if you want to know then?

 

I:  I do want to know that.  Absolutely.

 

DO:  Well, times was pretty rough back in them days, and me and Oather Johnson, we used to cut hedge in the wintertime to make some money.  Then in the summertime, we’d do anything we could do to make a buck.  By then, why, the World War was brewin’, so on February the 24th, 1942, I went to Lawrence.  My brother, Carl Otto, lived in North Lawrence.  I stayed with him that night, and the next morning got on a bus and went to Leavenworth and joined the Army.  [I] was in the 576th Signal Company, and then went to Camp Crowder, Missouri.  Then [after] three or four weeks I was sent to Los Angeles, California and was stationed along the ocean for two or three weeks.  [Then I] boarded a train and come back to New York and stayed in New York a couple or three days in Coney Island.  And went to messin’ around there some, I guess. 

 

Then [I] got on a ship and went to Iceland.  Took eighteen days on the water.  At that time, why, we were not [in] too good a shape for [unintelligible], and the Germans were using Iceland for their submarine base.  They had their submarines stationed in Iceland, or we didn’t know it, and they was a-knockin’ a lot of our ships out as we’d send them over there.  All along the coast, why, it was nothin’ to see, just….  It was busted-up ships all along the way, where the submarines had hit ’em.   We got to Iceland, and it wasn’t a very nice place to be.  I guess it was just a lot of cold and snow and what have ya.  Well, we’d had….  The Americans did send us a ration of beer and cigarettes.  They also sent whiskey, but the officers took all the whiskey.  I saw where they put it one night, so we took it.  We went and took it all, and they were awful mad.  They didn’t need it, anyway. 

 

There wasn’t much to do up there, and I [did] nothin’ but play cards.  I don’t know.  Let’s see.  It’s dark in the….  Winter is dark all the time, and in the summer it’s light all the time.  So it’s kind of a funny country to be in, I guess.  We stayed in Iceland for eighteen months, and we got awful bored up there.  We was wantin’ to leave, and, of course, the Icelanders didn’t care too much about us.  They liked the Germans because the Germans done a lot of work for ’em.  They went and piped a….  They had a lot of hot springs, and they piped all the water into their cities for ’em.  So they was kinda friendly to the Germans, and they wasn’t too friendly with us because we run the Germans out.   So they didn’t care too much about us, but in our history books….  When I come home I was readin’ in the books where it said in our history books that the Icelanders just loved us.  That wasn’t true, ’cause they didn’t like….  If one of their girls would be caught with 

A soldier boy—American soldier—why, they’d shave her hair.  [They] shaved her head, ’cause they branded her that that was not what….  Women [was not supposed] to do that, you know. 

 

After we was there for eighteen months, they come around, and they said….  Well, they was gettin’ close to one [unintelligible] goin’ into France, I guess, and so they was wantin’ men.  They asked for volunteers for combat duty, and we could leave there.  So they didn’t have any trouble getting’ all the men they wanted.  They was ready to go.  We volunteered to go, and my ship—the one I was on—went to Ireland.  We stayed in Ireland—oh, I don’t know—two or three…three or four months.  I had a…. I was stayin’ one Christmas there.  We done a little of this and that.  I don’t know; I can’t remember everything.  Of course, I’m a young boy, and I get into all kinds of [unintelligible], I guess.

 

TA:  What was the name of the ship you went to Ireland on?

 

DO:  I can’t remember.  I can’t remember names.  Now, when we went to [Ireland], the ship was just a….  They were just small.  They called ’em there Freedom Boats or somethin’ there at that time.  They was just small boats and [would] make you sick.  I mean, they was a hard ride.  They were rough.  No, I couldn’t remember no names, because—I don’t know—to me, it didn’t interest me.  All that I was [was] wantin’ to go.  So as far as the names is concerned, I didn’t pay no attention.  We got in Ireland and stayed there for two….  Oh, I don’t know—maybe three or four or five weeks or so.  I don’t know for sure how long.  But anyway, they was getting’ ready for the big push in Normandy.  So the boys all….  We just went….  Well, we crossed over into England, a bunch of us boys.  They just….  We was on our own.  Of course, the English, they didn’t like us too well, anyway, ’cause they was a little jealous of us.  They thought we had everything.  They’d always say, “You Yanks is so lucky you got everything.”  If we were ever in a beer joint, why, we’d just get in a battle with the English.  We fought with the English more than we ever did with the Germans.  Finally we got to England and got ready to go into Normandy.  Then I was assigned to the 35th …33-5-73 Quartermaster Truck Company.   I was trained to drive trucks.  That’s what I went….  When I went to school, that’s what I went to—truck-drivin’ school.

 

I:  When did you go to the truck-driving school?

 

DO:  In Camp Crowder.  Camp Crowder, Missouri.  How long it took, I don’t know.  We was trained to drive trucks.  When we was goin’ into Normandy, then, why, our trucks was designed so they could go into water.  So the boats that we were on, why, we just drove the trucks right off into the ocean, ’cause they didn’t have no docks over there.  We just drove right on into the ocean and then drove right upon the shores.  We could go into, oh, six, seven, maybe eight foot of water with the trucks.  They was designed so they could go down in the water.  They used our….  Well, when we first hit Normandy….

 

I:  Did you know that Normandy was gonna be a big, big invasion?   Did they tell you what to expect?

 

DO:  Oh, we knew there was somethin’ big, yeah, but we didn’t know what.   They was….  Yeah, it was rumored that there was somethin’ big comin’, but we didn’t know what.  They didn’t tell us that.  And if they did, we didn’t pay no attention, anyway, because a young, twenty-year-old boy, or a twenty-one….  They ain’t got no fear.  They think they….  They think the whole world is whatever they made it, you know.  So, no, it wasn’t botherin’ nobody.  Yeah, they knew there was somethin’ big a-comin’, but they didn’t know what. And, of course, they always….  Well, when we was in Iceland, why, they taught us…or had films of the Germans crematin’ the Jews and usin’ their skin…skinnin’ ’em  and usin’ their skins for light shades and stuff like that—just to build up our morale when we hit Germany so we knew what we was supposed to do.  So when we got to Germany, yeah, we…[corrects himself] or when we got to France, yeah, we knew that there was stuff comin’ all right.  I don’t know; myself, I….  My mother, she always prayed for me.  I knew that, and I felt at ease.  I didn’t feel like it was no danger.  You know, I just kinda felt at ease, thinkin’ “Well, you know, it could happen to somebody, but it’s gonna be the other guy, and it won’t be me.”  

 

Our first job when we got into Normandy, we had to….  Our place where we were supposed to camp—our company was supposed to camp—the Germans still owned it yet.  So we had to bivouac with another outfit.  The first night I was on guard, why, I stayed in the foxhole most of the time ’cause the snipers were shootin’ in my direction, and I was scared.  So when at midnight my relief man come to relieve me, I had my big mouth goin’.  I had to tell him about all the excitement I had, and he was more afraid than I was, so I had to [unintelligible].  You have to watch your big mouth, I guess, what’s goin’ on, you know.  The first big job then was we had pick up the 82nd  Airborne paratroopers.  They were out in a big pasture playin’ football with a German head.  They was bloody from….  Their clothes were just blood mostly, dried blood.  This one old boy, he was from the South.  We got ready to go, and he said, “Well, let’s pee on the fire and call the dogs and go home.”  So we loaded him up and loaded ’em all up and took ’em back to a place where they could go back and start all over again at somewhere else. 

 

Then after that, when that job was over, then we….  When the Germans first went in… [corrects himself] when the Americans first went into Normandy, they split the Germans in two.  A lot of ’em was by the coast, stayed around the coast, so they just left them there.   They didn’t bother nobody, I guess, for a while, and so we had to….  They had some boats come in.  It was a small port on the west end of Normandy, and we had to go and unload those boats—supplies.  While we was there, why, the Germans, I guess, heard about it, too, and they was wantin’ supplies, so the French—who told us that they was a-headed in our direction….  We just had a small truck outfit—maybe four or five trucks was all, and maybe thirty or forty men at the most—so we was kind of a little bit nervous when they was headed for us.   So we just bunkered down along the shores and prayed that somethin’ would happen.  One of our armored outfits was close by, so they got a-hold of them, and they come in.  They captured the Germans and turned ’em over to the Free French.  The French, they had their armies over there, too.  So they turned ’em over to them.  All night long, why, they marched by us there, takin’ ’em somewhere.  We asked ’em where they was gonna take ’em, and they said they was gonna take ’em down the road and cut their throats.  But we don’t know what they done.  We didn’t care.  We went ahead, then, the next mornin’ and finished unloadin’ the boats.  Then we headed on back to where we… to our home base, back in Normandy again.  I’m not good with names.  I wasn’t payin’….  I couldn’t remember names.  I never did.  I drove all over Europe, and I never did get turned around even, and lost, but as far [as] remember names, I’m just not good at it.  I never was.

 

I:  But you were given the compass coordinates, so you knew where you were going.

 

DO:  I knew where I was goin’, but I didn’t know the…didn’t pay no attention to the names—you know, the little towns.

 

I: They wouldn’t mean anything [to you].

 

DO:  Didn’t mean nothin’, no, and most of the little towns was pretty well broke up, you know.  We hit ’em pretty hard with the planes.  Then we got back then to where we originated coming in on, a little town.  Well, it wasn’t a little town.  Pretty good-sized town.  Germans was on one side, and we were on the other.  They was gonna get the airplanes.  They was gonna bring the airplanes in to hit the Germans, so they throwed flares up in the air.  The wind caught the flares and blowed ’em back over on our side, too.  So it hit us about as much as it did the Germans, but by that time we had a lot…we was bringin’ a lot of men in there, and we had a lot of people butt in.  So they got the Germans on the run again, and then they started runnin’ ’em towards home, I guess—Germany.  When we first started….  When we first got ’em goin’, they had a lot of horse-drawn equipment.  They was kind of a….  You know, they wasn’t as modern as we were, I guess.  And we controlled the skies.  The only time they’d come out….  It was only at night.  So when they got ’em on the road, why, our planes just slaughtered ’em.  For a while there, the roads was littered with dead horses and dead people—both sides, as far as that goes.   It kinda made me a little nervous, ’cause I’d heard ’em sayin’ about diseases and stuff.   I’d heard my mama my talkin’, and I was thinkin’, “Boy, [with] all this goin’ on, all this disease, we’re gonna get somethin’ here, and it’s gonna kill us all.”  But in a few days they got things kinda cleaned up a little, and then we was headed on to…kept goin’ again.  [He pauses for a drink of water.]  I’m nervous—nervous as a cat on a hot tin roof.

 

TA:  Back to the very beginning, when you was talkin’ about the trucks [that] could go in the water.  How did they make ’em waterproof?

 

DO:  They just had….  Well, they had things over all their ignition systems and stuff, and they had pipes up in the air.  Big pipes up in the air, so that they could get their air—breathin’ from the air up above, you see.  About quite a ways.  So they could go into seven or eight foot of water.

 

I:  So they’d be going along the bottom?

 

DO:  Yeah, just on the bottom.  No, they didn’t float.  Just big trucks.  Just big two- or three-ton trucks.  No, they just had ’em fixed so that the water wouldn’t hurt ’em.  They had all the ignition stuff….  Well, I didn’t do that part.  I was just hired to drive ’em!

 

TA:  Did they have large tires?

 

DO:  Oh, yeah, they were big trucks.  Big two- or three-ton trucks.  Yeah, they had big tires.  Yeah.

 

I:  Now, were these the “deuce and a half” trucks? 

 

DO:  Ton and a half.  Two or three tons.  Our trucks was just big trucks, is all.  Just like they would be here, only they was fixed so they could go into water, is all.  They wouldn’t float, no, but they just….

 

I:  I was interested in what you said about the 82nd Airborne.  Were they more bloodthirsty than other outfits?

 

DO:  They was a fightin’ outfit, yeah.  They was good.  Of course, when they went in, why, it was bad.  When the first bunch went into Normandy….  Yeah, we didn’t go in till….  We was D plus thirteen [thirteen days after the initial landing], is when we went in.  When they first went in, their orders was [to] take no prisoners.  So if you take no prisoners, you know what you’re supposed to do.  Yeah, they were a tough outfit.  You wouldn’t want no sissies in there, I guess.  But they were….  Well, when we taked this outfit up, they was….  Pfc’s was in charge of some of the companies.  I mean, they just knocked ’em out that much.  No, they was hit awful hard when they hit.  They lost a lot of men. And they was [unintelligible].  They was [unintelligible].  But back then, most of the boys….  I don’t know: you never seen anyone….  Most of ’em volunteered to go, anyway.  Most of ’em was a volunteer army.  They volunteered to go.  I mean, they didn’t know what they was gettin’ into, maybe.

 

I:  Now, when you went, did you volunteer for the signal corps?

 

DO:  Yeah, I volunteered to go in the Army, and then I volunteered….  When I was in Iceland I volunteered for combat duty.  That was the only way we could get out of there right away.  Of course, later on, why, they probably took ’em all.   Well, I heard later on the 76th… [corrects himself] or, the signal corps I was in, we was knocked out.  When it went into France pretty much knocked it out, see.   So it was just like all the time everything was in my favor.  It just seemed like one thing right after another was in my favor.

 

I:  Could you tell us what they called you when you were in Iceland?

 

DO:  They called me “Toad.”  I got fat just sittin’ around eatin’ that good food.  Well, I didn’t have too much….  [There] really wasn’t too much to do in the wintertime.  It stayed dark most of the time—all the time.  Never did get light.  Of course, there wasn’t too much to do; we just sat around.  I don’t know; they didn’t try to push the boys too much in Iceland, because they….  I don’t know; they just didn’t try to push ’em too hard.  They just told ’em to rest and be ready when the time comes.  So that’s what we did.  Now, we want to go on, do we?

 

I:  Yeah.

 

DO:  I forget where I’m at.

 

I:  You went back to your base, your first base in Normandy.

 

DO:  Well, yeah, we went back to this town.  I can’t even remember the name of the town.  That’s when they throwed the flares up, and the wind carried the flares back over on…about on us, too.  Of course, we got hit just about as bad as the Germans.  But we had….  Well, we had better men than the Germans.  So we got ’em on the run as soon as we got ’em goin’ again.  When we got started again, why, we was….our outfit was haulin’ supplies.  When they’d come by in the evenings….  We’d always try to get back behind the infantry before night set in, because we always figured it was a little safer if we could get in back behind the infantry.    But when we was with General Patton, why, we was….  He was a goer, and he wanted to do it all hisself.  When he started, why, we went seven days and seven nights without stoppin’.  Most of the guys got so tired they couldn’t….  Well, they just started fallin’ asleep drivin’, and they had to slow down then. 

 

This one night we come back.  We’d camped in a big pasture.  It was out in the open, and it didn’t look like nothin’ goin’ on and no enemy around, so they told us to dig foxholes and kinda put a top on ’em.  It was hot, and we thought, “Well, that’d be silly.  Why would we wanna do somethin’ like that?”  So a lot of us didn’t do it.  Some of us did, but a lot of us didn’t.  About as soon as dusk come, why the sky just lit up.  We was camped by a[n] airfield.  We didn’t know it.  The Germans would come in at night and try to destroy the airfield, so they had a lot of artillery around there.  Of course, as soon as the planes come in, why, the artillery put up all that metal in the air.  We didn’t have no foxhole or nothin’ to get into, [but] we had our big trucks.  We got under our trucks, and we were all right then because our trucks was heavy.  But you could hear that metal hittin’ all around ya.  So the next time, when they told us [unintelligible], we done it, ’cause we figured that we knew more than they did sometimes. 

 

Another time, we was headed to a supply depot to get supplies.  We had about twenty trucks, and one had a flat tire.  Ordinarily, why, we would just leave the one and go on, but this one time, this morning, we said, “Well, we’ll just wait.  We’ll just wait and fix it.”  So we fixed the tire, and then we went on to the depot.  When we got into the depot, why, people was walkin’ around with blood runnin’ out their eyes and ears.  While we was fixin’ the flat, why, a V-2 come in and hit the depot.  We was just lucky that we was fixin’ the flat.  The Lord was with us, I guess.  The Germans had a V-2 rocket, and they had a buzz bomb, and then at night they would fly over.  They had what they called “butterfly bombs.”  They would drop ’em, and they would get down along the roads and stuff, and then as soon as you’d come by ’em, why, they would explode.  They just kept you on your edge all the time—kept you nervous.  And we just kept movin’ on and movin’ on, on the big...Patton’s deal.  He was….  Well, he….  I dunno know, he went pretty good.  He had a tank outfit.  Of course, we was haulin’ his supplies for him, and he would….  Sometimes we’d get ahead of the tanks, and we’d drive into the German camps, and we’d see what we did.  Of course, we startled ’em as much as they startled us.  Well, it didn’t take us long to get back out of there.

 

I:  Was gas a problem?  Did you have enough gasoline?

 

DO:  Oh, we had gas.  The Germans didn’t have it, but we had plenty of it.  We had plenty of it, yeah.  But when we was in Iceland….  Oh, I didn’t tell ya about that.  In Iceland, why, we didn’t have much material, and when we was trained we had wooden guns.  All over Iceland we put big stovepipes up to make the Germans think we was well fortified, you see.  And we didn’t have nothin’. They could’ve come in any time they wanted to, but we just had big stove pipes.  We let the Germans come over and take pictures of ’em, and of course they made it look like they was real and everything, you know.  Yeah, we didn’t have nothin’ there when we was in Iceland, but then things changed as we went.  We started gettin’ stuff.

 

I:  That was pretty clever to put up the stove pipes.

 

DO: Well, [it was just] somethin’ to make ’em think that it was well fortified so they wouldn’t attack us, ’cause we didn’t have nothin’.  Of course, [unintelligible], that’s as good as any.

 

TA:  Did you ever personally meet General Patton?

 

DO:  Well, I was in his outfit.  Yeah, I’ve seen him, but not to talk to him or anything.

 

TA:  Do you have an opinion of him?

 

DO:  Yeah, he was….  Well, “Blood and Guts,” that’s what we called him: his guts and our blood.  That’s what we used to say.

 

I:  Did he really carry the cowboy-type guns?

 

DO:  Him?  Oh, he had a pearl-handled gun, yeah.  And, of course, me, I was cocky, and I had me a….  I didn’t have a pearl-handled [gun], but I had one that I painted.  I put a plastic handle on it, and then painted it so it looked like it was a pearl handle, but mine was a .765 German gun.  Of course, I had to try to copy him, you know.  Yeah, he was the big man; he was there to do the job, and he did it, too.  He was good; he was good.  Yeah, he had trouble lots of times.  Well, he didn’t know where he was at, he was goin’ so fast.  He’d travel some days maybe a hundred miles in a day, so he was hard to keep up with.   That’s one reason why we was runnin’ into the German camps and stuff, ’cause we didn’t know where he was at.  He was a goer, and he wanted to win the war hisself, I guess.

 

I:  Did you think the war was going to be over soon, at that point? 

 

DO:  No, we knew we had the upper hand, [but] we still had the Battle of the Bulge yet.  So, no, it was a long ways from bein’ over.  No, after he pushed ’em back quite a ways, then he slowed down.  Then I really don’t know what happened to him.  We were just transferred to different places—wherever they needed us.  At that time, when he was makin’ his big push, why, we was transferred to him.  Soon as he made the big push, why, then we was pulled off and went in somewhere else, see.  We was just used wherever they needed us the most. 

 

After the big run on his deal, then we drifted into the Battle of the Bulge.  We were somewhere in the Battle of the Bulge.  I don’t know just where; it was some little town we was in.  At the time, it was real gloomy.  I mean, you couldn’t see, and it was wet.  It was snow and everything. Our trucks couldn’t operate no more.  I don’t know what we was even in there for, really.  I guess they needed somebody new.  It was rumored that our outfit was supposed to destroy their equipment and walk out, because we couldn’t drive out.  The roads were so bad, you couldn’t see or nothin’.  Our commander, he didn’t….  He told ’em to go to heck.   But at the time we was there in the Battle of the Bulge, why, the Germans, they were….  Well, it was pretty close to their territory, and they knew where everything was goin’ on.  We had about twenty German prisoners.  The prisoners, there they’d be yakkin’ away; they knew somethin’ was up, too, but I don’t think they wanted to go back to Germany, because they was pretty sure the German war was gettin’ pretty well over.  I’m sure they didn’t want to go back, just [from] the way they act[ed]. 

 

As we was here in this little town, we had one guy that went berserk on us.  We all carried .45 submachine guns, so he took his .45, and he emptied twenty rounds right through the floor, right in between the Germans, and scared ’em to death.  He just went crazy, and they sent him back somewhere.  They got him outta there.  He got a section eight.  He just went crazy, I guess—the weather and what have you.  It was enough to make some people go crazy. 

 

But the Germans was….  They was all around, and they could talk English better than we could, as far as that goes.  They probably went to a better school than we did.  They would come around askin’ questions [like] “What is goin’ on?”.  I think they could’ve took our end of the outfit anytime they wanted it, if they wanted it, I think, because we just had a small truckin’ outfit—about twenty trucks or somethin’ like that.   Of course, they didn’t take us.  But as soon as…. Well, it was so bad that they couldn’t put no planes in the air.  Of course, some of the boys, talkin’ [about] how bad it was and all….  But our outfit, we was holed up in a too-little town, and….  But we was in good shape, as far as that goes.  As soon as the….  A general, I guess, he called in all the ministers and stuff in the Army and had ’em come in to pray for the weather to change.  In about a week, it did.  It changed, and as soon as it changed, why, they got the airplanes back in the air.  As soon as they got the airplanes back in the air, why, it wasn’t long till they knocked the heck out of the Germans, then.  Well, we had…. At that time we had a lot more stuff than they did.  Of course, that was gettin’ to the point where they was…. Oh, they was gettin’ enough of it, I guess.   They were gettin’ the worst end of it, I guess. 

 

We just kept pushin’ right on through, and we sorta….  Then we….  Well, let me tell about the….  After the Battle of the Bulge….  Yeah, okay.  Well, our outfit, they sent us back in behind the lines again, and they gave us two weeks—two to three weeks—off then.  We could do whatever we wanted to, so me and my buddy, why, we’d cross the Rhine.  We was very close to Germany, anyway, and we’d cross the Rhine at night and go over into Germany and go see their busted-up towns.  That’s where we got the money and stuff, over there, when we was goin’ into Germany.  We’d just go in at night.  They was all busted up, you know.  They was still….  Well, nobody around, I guess.  I guess.  I didn’t see anybody.

 

I:  How’d you cross the Rhine?  

 

DO:  They had pontoon bridges by then.  They’d just set up a big pontoon bridge, and we’d cross that pontoon bridge just like anybody.  My buddy….  I had a buddy that….  He was pretty [helpful] on this stuff.  He come from Denver, Colorado, I guess.  I never did know his last name, but we always called him “Lucky.”  He had a [unintelligible] of colonel’s stamps, so we could go about anywhere we wanted.  He’d just use that colonel’s stamp, you know.  We was goin’ after somethin’ good, you see.  We could just about go wherever we wanted to go.  We decided we wanted to go into Germany, so we’d go, you see—just for hellin’ around.  Like young people…young boys do.  At that time, why, things was gettin’ about over, as far as the Germans was concerned.  They was slowed way down. 

 

Then we got over and started haulin’ prisoners in outta….  We went in on the autobahn road.  It was a wonderful, wonderful road from what we was used to.  We was haulin’ prisoners.  We’d go along in the daytime, and here’d come a bunch of soldiers comin’ up outta the timbers, flaggin’ us down—German soldiers—and wantin’ to surrender to us, but we didn’t have time.  We was haulin’ prisoners.  We didn’t have time to mess with ’em.  We’d just tell ’em to just keep walkin’, and somebody’d pick ’em up.  We just kept goin’.  We went as far as Frankfort, then, in Germany.  The war was pretty well over by then.  Our outfit, they wouldn’t let us go any further.  They had to wait till the Russians come in and take Berlin.  So they held us up at Frankfort. 

 

About that time, why, they was needin’ an Army to go into Japan and finish Japan off.  They went by the point system.  Anybody [who] had less than 75 points, they was pickin’ ’em up and takin’ ’em and puttin’ ’em in the Army to go into Japan.  Our outfit, of course, when we was a-goin’ like that, our records was way behind any of ’em.  We didn’t have no records with us at all, so as far as they was concerned I had nothing—no points at all.  So I was one of the first they grabbed, and they grabbed a trainload of us there.  They had a machinegun on the front of that train and one on the back.   It wasn’t to fight no Germans; it was to keep us on that train.  We was on the train then, and we went back into France.  I had to go take training all over again.  So then we got the training done, and I was just gettin’ about ready to….  They was gettin’ about ready to go.  I was assigned to some outfit.  I got it down somewhere.  292nd Battalion.  It was an armored outfit, and I was assigned to that.  We was gettin’ ready to go to Japan.  They was already under orders to load the boats, and then finally my….  Our records finally caught up with us.  I had 95…93 points, so I had plenty of points.  So then they let me come home, and I was….  [They were] gonna let me come home.  Of course, we had a long time gettin’ on the boats to get home.  I was tickled to death.  I’d had about enough of…oh, enough whatever, and I was ready to come home.  I was thankin’ the Lord that….  It seemed like everything was coming [in] my favor.  I don’t know; I kinda believed that the Lord was on our side.  It seemed like it, in a way.  So I come on home and come back to Newport News and back to Leavenworth and back to Kansas City and back to Baldwin.      

 

I:  Did you know what you wanted to do at that point?

 

DO:  When I got home, I come home, and I….  I wasn’t gonna farm no more, ’cause I left the farm.  When I left, why, they had just horses, and it didn’t look good to me.  But when I come back, why, they had tractors and stuff, and I went, “Well, that looks pretty good.”  So I thought, well, I’d go back.   I went back, and I started farmin’ with my dad.  I had saved a little money.  They paid good, the Army did.  We got 21 [dollars] a month when we went in, and then when we got overseas we got overseas pay.  I mean, combat duty.  That was fifty-some…54 dollars a month, and it was pretty good.  So we saved a little money, and when I got home, why, I started farmin’.  And been doin’ it ever since.   There ain’t no end.  Once you start, you can’t quit.

 

I:  When did you meet your wife?  We’ve gotta get her in the story!

 

DO:  Oh, yeah.   That’s right.  We gotta get her in there.   That’d be a good enough story.  I come home, and I got tired of goin’ back and forth to seein’ somebody.    So I told my buddies around Clearfield….  I said, “I’m goin’ to….”  I said, “When you see me, I’m goin’ to get married.”  I said, “I’m going to go get me a woman, and I’m going to settle down.”  I told my dad, and my dad….  We was farmin’ together with my dad.  I told him….  I said, “Take care of the place, ’cause I’m going to get me a woman.”  So I went to Olathe, and first thing I do, I found this beautiful little girl.  I got a-hold of her, and I wouldn’t let go of her.  I hang on, and we….  In about three or four days we got married, and I come on back to Clearfield and lived there happily ever after.

 

I:  You got luck there, too.

 

DO:  I’ve had luck all my life.  It just seemed like I couldn’t ask for a better life.  Everything was beautiful.  I got to see the world; didn’t cost me nothin’; got paid for it, and then after I come home, why, then they had the GI Bill of Rights, where you go to school to learn to….  I went to school to learn to farm.  They paid us a hundred dollars a month and schooling.  So then I went on the….  They gave you four years, and if you graduated in the four years, then they gave you an extra year, see, and I graduated, so I had five years of that, which wasn’t bad back in them days.

 

I:  Where’d you go to school?

 

DO:  In Lawerence.  I went to school at Lawrence, yeah.  I can’t name the school.  It taught farmin’.

 

TA:  Was that where Central [Junior High] is?  It was Lawrence High School.

 

DO:  Yeah, I went there for five years.  It was good.  They paid us a hundred dollars a month and taught us how to farm.   Back in them days, we learned how to farm with….  Well, it kind of saved the land, I guess, and stuff.   Now these chemical jockeys, why, they took over, it’s altogether different farmin’.  So, actually, our farmin’, it’s kinda….  Well, it’s kinda obsolete, I guess, as far as the thinkin’ of the rest of the country.  Well, I’m still out there, and I’ll probably stay out there for a while yet, as long as the doctor’ll take care of me there, if I quit thinkin’ how old I am.  I knew I was 87 years old, but…. 

 

I:  Well, you look a lot younger than that.

 

DO:  Thank you!  Thank you!  I’ve had a good life.

 

 

Length:   56 minutes



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