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C. M. (Bud) Geis video interview on experiences in World War II (transcript)

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C. M. GEIS (BUD)

 

WORLD WAR II ORAL HISTORY INTERVIEW

 

[This tape begins with Mr. Geis talking.]

 

Mr. Geis: My mother was German….

 

Suzette:  Oh, when did she come?

 

Mr. Geis:  When she was 16 years old.

 

Suzette:  If your mother came over when she was 16, did she go through Ellis Island?  Was that still operating then?

 

Mr. Geis:  (Must shake his head yes)

 

Suzette:  Wow!  Did she talk about that?  Was it frightening?

 

Mr. Geis:  A lot. 

 

Suzette:  Must have been an experience.

 

Mr. Geis:  She come over on a cattle ship, the way I understood it.

 

Suzette:  Really?

 

Mr. Geis:  And then she married somebody from here.  She had some relatives here.

 

Suzette:  If she came over on a cattle ship, does that mean you share quarters with the cows?

 

Mr. Geis:  I don’t understand that, what you mean by that, but it was not a very nice ship to come over on.  It wasn’t first class.

 

Suzette:  What were her passengers?

 

This is Suzette McCord-Rogers and Peggy Stanton, and we are interviewing Bud Geis, at his home in Holton, Kansas, at Grand Village.  Can you tell me where you were born?  Your place of birth?

 

Mr. Geis:  It’s Durham, Kansas, Marion County.

 

Suzette: Is that out west?

 

Mr. Geis:  No, it’s 3 miles south of Abilene and 60 miles north of Wichita, on 16 Highway.

 

Suzette:  Oh!  What was your date of birth?

 

Mr. Geis:  8-30-11.

 

Suzette:  Wow!  Well, congratulations!  What was your branch of service?

 

Mr. Geis:  Army.

 

Suzette:  And do you remember your battalion, your division?

 

Mr. Geis:  The 4th Infantry Division.

 

Suzette:  Was there anything else other than 4th Infantry Division?

 

Mr. Geis:  The 1st, the 4th, and the 29th went in on D-Day.  I wasn’t quite with them yet at that time.

 

Suzette:  You hadn’t transferred into that unit yet.

 

Mr. Geis:  Yeah.

 

Suzette:  I’ll bet you were glad.

 

Mr. Geis:  I joined them after D-Day in the hedgerows in France.  I was in the Battle of the Bulge.  You know, that was his last thrust at trying to whip us and he pretty near did.

 

Suzette:  It was a tough battle.

 

Mr. Geis:  Everybody had to get out.  I had a better job than that when I got called over to fight.  I was an interpreter, I speak German.

 

Suzette:  Oh you do?  Oh, so you were an interpreter?

 

Mr. Geis:  Yes.

 

Suzette:  I understand the hedgerows in France were something that our army was not prepared for.

 

Mr. Geis:  It was quite hard for anybody to fight in that area.

 

Suzette:  It took a lot of fighting and you could only advance a few feet and a long time to do this.  What was the highest rank that you had?

 

Mr. Geis:  Sergeant.

 

Suzette:  And were you enlisted or were you drafted?

 

Mr. Geis:  I was called by my friends and neighbors!

 

Suzette:  You were enlisted?

 

Mr. Geis:  No!  I was drafted!  That’s what the thing said.  I want you to put that in your answers.  I was selected by my friends and neighbors to be in the Army!

 

Suzette:  I didn’t know that!

 

Mr. Geis:  By the draft board.

 

Suzette:  That’s the first time I ever heard that!

 

Mr. Geis:  We make a lot of fun about that!  You know, you could enlist if you wanted to, but I was getting up in the age where I shouldn’t anyway, you know.  But they needed somebody in the army, so I was drafted.  I call it by the friends and neighbors because that’s what the thing said.  “You are selected by your friends and neighbors to join the U. S. Army.”

 

Suzette:  How clever of them!  When were you drafted?  Your service date when you entered?

 

Mr. Geis:  April 10, 1942.

 

Suzette:  And when did you get out?

 

Mr. Geis:  12-22-44.  I was trying to get home for Christmas, so it would have been ‘44.  A little less than three years, does that make it right?

 

Suzette:  Did you get drafted with other friends?

 

Mr. Geis:  Yes.

 

Suzette:  And, were you living in Durham, Kansas, when you got drafted?

 

Mr. Geis:  I was living in Hutchinson.

 

Suzette:  Hutchinson.  And had your family moved there?

 

Mr. Geis:  No, I was working there.

 

Suzette:  Did you go to high school?

 

Mr. Geis:  Yes.

 

Suzette:  Where did you go to high school at?

 

Mr. Geis: Durham.

 

Suzette:  At Durham.  What did your family do?  What did your father do?

 

Mr. Geis:  A farmer.

 

Suzette:  And did you help your father when you were growing up on the farm?

 

Mr. Geis:  Very much so.

 

Suzette:  And what did you grow?

 

Mr. Geis:  Wheat, corn, milo.

 

Suzette:  That’s kind of wheat country out there, isn’t it?

 

Mr. Geis:  Well, it starting there.  The farther you go, the more wheat there is.  But we always had about 100 acres and blew the straw into the feedlot and fed cattle.

 

Suzette:  From the wheat straw?

 

Mr. Geis:  And it would be a nice place for the cattle to lay down, you know, and they would eat some of the straw and that would make a lot of manure and we hauled out a lot of manure.

 

Suzette:  For fertilizer?

 

Mr. Geis:  Before we had any spreaders.  We did it by hand.

 

Suzette:  Oh, you did it by hand?!

 

Mr. Geis:  Yeah.

 

Suzette:  I never thought about that.  I always thought the spreaders were kind of primitive, because you got to load those,..you’d put it in a wagon, and then spread it by hand?

 

Mr. Geis:  Shake it so everything doesn’t stick.

 

Suzette:  Oh, what a lot of work!!

 

Mr. Geis:  Oh, I mean, until my father’s father bought us a spreader.

 

Suzette:  I’ll bet you were happy.

 

Mr. Geis:  Yes, very!  They don’t do it that way now. 

 

Suzette:  No, I think they have chemicals they spray.

 

Mr. Geis:  They have tractors with a scoop on ‘em, load it in the spreader, and hook onto it and spread it.

 

Suzette:  So, did you have brothers and sisters?

 

Mr. Geis:  Yes, one brother and one sister.

 

Suzette:  And did they help on the farm also?

 

Mr. Geis:  Yes.

 

Suzette:  Did you use horses and mules back in those days?

 

Mr. Geis:  Yes.  We had both, horses and mules.

 

Suzette:  And did you use the mules for heavy work, was there a difference?

 

Mr. Geis:  They did the plowing and the listing and everything.  Had no tractors for a long time; finally got one.

 

Suzette:  When was it you got your first tractor?

 

Mr. Geis:  Oh, gosh, I don’t know.

 

Suzette:  Was it before the war or after?

 

Mr. Geis:  It was before.

 

Suzette:  So you were raising then, pretty self-sufficient.  You were raising your horses and mules, did you have cattle?

 

Mr. Geis:  Cattle and mules and horses.

 

Suzette:  And you had to feed them all?  And did you have a garden?

 

Mr. Geis:  We had a pony too, a riding pony.  And we raised oats, cattle and hay.  We were just farmers, dirt farmers we’d call ‘em.

 

Suzette:  So growing up you helped your dad do this.

 

Mr. Geis:  Yes.

 

Suzette:  And from there…

 

Mr. Geis:  And we milked cows too.

 

Suzette:  And you milked cows.  How many cows did you milk?

 

Mr. Geis:  Oh, 12, 10, 12, something like that.

 

Suzette:  That’s quite a few!

 

Mr. Geis: By hand.

 

Suzette:  What time did you guys get up in the morning?

 

Mr. Geis:  Pretty early.  If you were going to school.

 

Suzette:  And you went to bed pretty late?

 

Mr. Geis:  Yeah, of course, the folks made us go to bed.  I used to tell my mother I would go to bed but I won’t go to sleep.  She says I barely got up there and I was asleep.

 

Suzette:  Gosh, that sounds like a really hard day.

 

Mr. Geis:  You know, it was kind of rough back then.  Most times.  You didn’t have a lot of stuff. But we always had food and clothing.

 

Suzette:  So if you’re milking 12 cows and how many were milking, two people?

 

Mr. Geis:  On what?

 

Suzette:  On the cows?

 

Mr. Geis:  The cows, 2, generally.

 

Suzette:  How long does it take to milk 12 cows?

 

Mr. Geis:  Oh, I’d say about 15 minutes.

 

Suzette:  It isn’t as long as I thought.  Did you sell butter or cream?

 

Mr. Geis:  We separated.  We had a separator and sold cream and that left the milk for the calves.  Before you separated it, you’d take the milk for your own living.

 

Suzette:  And the calves got milk too.

 

Mr. Geis:  And the calves, instead of sucking the cows, why they’d get their milk but it wouldn’t have the cream in it.  And likewise, now, my wife always, we always had 2% milk.  That’s what we drink. Maybe that’s why I am 96!!  My wife was a home ec major and she watched my diet.  I give her credit for my age.

 

Suzette:  You know I think people probably do eat much healthier back in those days and they certainly worked harder.

 

Mr. Geis:  We had to.  And when we went to a function we would park away from the front door so that we had to walk a little bit first.  And you always found a parking place away from the door.

 

Suzette:  That’s right!!  When you were growing up, did you have a car?

 

Mr. Geis:  Car?

 

Suzette:  Uh huh.

 

Mr. Geis:  Yes.  My dad bought me a Model-T Ford to go to school.

 

Suzette:  When you were in high school?

 

Mr. Geis:  Yes.  That was the kind that had the magneto to unlock the battery.

 

Suzette:  Was that a big brand new introduction there?

 

Mr. Geis:  Yes.  Very much.  I had a sister and when I didn’t want her to drive I would take one of the magnetos out!

 

Peggy:  You were mean!!

 

Suzette:  You were supposed to share your car.

 

Mr. Geis:  Great big tires, three and a half inches wide, and 30 inches, 30 by 3 1/2,.  You didn’t do that?

 

Suzette:  No!  No I didn’t have a magneto on my car.  My sister is a little bit younger than I am.  When did you graduate from high school?  What year did you graduate?

 

Mr. Geis:  ’29.

 

Suzette:  ’29.  What did you do after you graduated?

 

Mr. Geis:  I worked for a gasoline company, hauling gas to farmers and then later, after a couple of years, I had an uncle in Hutchinson, Kansas, that had a clothing store.  And I, he wanted me to work for him.  So I went there and worked there about 12 years.

 

Suzette:  And that’s where you were living when you got drafted?

 

Mr. Geis:  Yes.

 

Suzette:  And you said you were drafted with friends?  Where did you go from there?  Where did you report after you got drafted?

 

Mr. Geis:  Leavenworth.

 

Suzette:  You went to Leavenworth.  And when you got there, did you get to stay with your friends, or did they separate you out?

 

Mr. Geis:  They separated us.

 

Suzette:  Did you want to be in the Army or did you want to be in another service branch?

 

Mr. Geis:  I wanted to be in the Navy, but my wife didn’t want me to.

 

Suzette:  Were you married when you were drafted?

 

Mr. Geis:  Yes.

 

Suzette:  And you had met her in high school?  Or how did you meet your wife?

 

Mr. Geis:  High School.  No, after high school.  I met her, she came to Hutchinson.  She was a home ec major from K-State.  She came to Hutchinson to work and that’s where I met her.

 

Suzette:  Did you have children when you went into the service?

 

Mr. Geis:  Yes. Just one.

 

Suzette:  You had one child?

 

Mr. Geis:  Well, I had one while I was in the service and I didn’t get to come home, you know.  The first one.  We have three boys.

 

Suzette:  You didn’t get to see the first one as a baby.  How come your wife didn’t want you to be in the Navy?

 

Mr. Geis:  I guess you know there’s not much chance to live if something goes wrong out in the ocean.

 

Suzette:  I guess you just sink.

 

Mr. Geis:  Well…I just waited to be drafted.

 

Suzette:  So after you were at Leavenworth, where did they send you for training?

 

Mr. Geis:  I was at Camp Roberts, California.

 

Suzette:  And that was your basic training there?

 

Mr. Geis:  Yes.  That’s where I got my basic training.

 

Suzette:  How long were you there?

 

Mr. Geis:  Well, I got my training in, ordinarily you would be shipped out, to either go to the South Pacific or to the European theater.  For some reason they kept me there to be a, I helped train.  I had no idea why I was kept there and I helped train soldiers.  I stayed there for about seven or eight cycles.  I mean went through the same thing.  Finally, I had a chance to live off the post and my wife came out, so we lived together and I went to work everyday, of course.

 

Suzette:  That must have been nice.

 

Mr. Geis:  It was kind of rough.  We had to do the same thing the trainees were doing all the time, carrying full packs all the time when they did, see.

 

Suzette:  You did?

 

Mr. Geis:  And we had a lot of 30-mile marches.

 

Suzette:  Ooohh!  So you were constantly in boot camp!

 

Mr. Geis:  All the time!  And sometimes you felt like you would like to do something else.  Well, it finally came to us that we could go overseas.  We were eligible to go over if we wanted to.  And of course, I wanted to go.  I was shipped to the coast and went overseas.

 

Suzette:  From Camp Roberts you went overseas?

 

Mr. Geis:  Yes.

 

Suzette:  Did you apply to get transferred overseas?

 

Mr. Geis:  Yes.

 

Suzette:  Because you were tired of marching?

 

Mr. Geis:  On the way home from Camp Roberts, I stopped at my home.  They gave you that time. My neighbor was in the Air Force flying those P-38s and he already was home.  And he said come over to Sedalia, Missouri, and I will take you as far as I can go to the east coast.  So I did that.  I went home and he said to come over to Sedalia.  He said I’ll tell my outfit that I need to get some repairs or something and I’ll take you as far as I can.  And he took me to Dayton, Ohio.

 

Peggy:  In an airplane?

 

Mr. Geis:  In a C-47, he was flying then, a cargo plane.  When we got there, he was ready for me, and three Navy boys in the plane already and they had parachutes.  And when I got there, they gave me a parachute, and we got in the back, and those boys were using theirs as pillows.  Of course, I did that too.  And then, after a little while, the bail-out bell rang. 

 

Suzette:  Oh, no!  And you’re sleeping on your parachute!

 

Mr. Geis:  And these Navy boys somehow took their parachutes and went like that, and they fell right where they were supposed to, and I was looking at mine.  I didn’t know anything about it, but I was looking at mine.  The door opened and he was smiling at me.  He played that trick on me!!  This neighbor of mine that took me!!

 

Suzette:  Oh, I see!

 

Mr. Geis:  And he said he would take the co-pilot back and have him sit back there where I was and he wanted me to come up and sit where the co-pilot was.  And then we were going over St. Louis about that time and he said, “I’m going to tell ‘em that I’m lost, and you listen.”  I listened.  He said I know where I am, don’t worry.  And so they told him all kinds of stuff, I can’t remember what it was.  They thought he was really lost.  And then we finally got to Dayton, Ohio, he went on back and he said there’ll be planes here that you can catch a ride farther to New York.  And we met two officers.  We asked them if we could ride with them back to New York as they were going that way.  They said yeah, that would be fine, so they said, do you have your Army equipment.  And we said yes.  And then they said, I can’t.  We’re overloaded now. I can’t do it.

 

So we got on a train and went to Schenectady, New York, and then down the Hudson River to New York City.

 

Suzette: Was that pretty?

 

Mr. Geis: Oh, my, yes.

 

Suzette:  I’ve heard that it is.  And so you went to New York, and from there you shipped out?

 

Mr. Geis:  No.  There’s a little story to this.  I had another guy that was with me at the time, and we went to Grand Central Station and then we went over to Penn Station and went to the downtown New York area.  We had to buy to Fort Meade, Maryland.  And I was watching another group of soldiers load to go overseas and I was all cleaned up and everything, and they were loading, and there’s always somebody missing, you know.  And so the captain turned around and said, “Any of you boys want to go?”  And I said, “Yes, I’ll go.”  And I didn’t tell this to my wife because I didn’t know if I was going to get back or not.

 

Suzette:  Did you?

 

Mr. Geis:  I made it back.  But I actually said I would go.  I told her later.  So we shipped out.  So we left from Boston, not Fort Meade, on a pretty large ship, it was the USS WEST POINT.  The two big ones were the QUEEN ELIZABETH and the QUEEN MARY and this one was the third largest.  We had 10,000 soldiers on it. 

 

Suzette:  I didn’t know that was called the WEST POINT.

 

Mr. Geis:  Converted.  Yeah. USS AMERICA, or USS WEST POINT was the name of the ship, third largest in the Navy class.  I had a place to sleep in H compartment, a, b, c, d, e, f, g, h.  I was that far underneath.

 

Suzette:  Were you in the very bottom?

 

Mr. Geis:  Well, no, there were still some.  And I got to thinking about that. Well, if torpedoes hit, they shut off compartments so they still could go, you know.  So I got to thinking about that and I took my bedding and slept on deck!  And we started out, and of course, the war was still on.  We zigzagged, I forget how many days, six days it took us.  You went 15 minutes this way, and then we’d shift, 15 minutes that way, zigzagged all the way across to Liverpool, England.  You know, the Germans had submarines in there, and it took a little bit longer than 15 minutes to get trained on you, they said. 

 

Suzette:  Were they following the transport ships?

 

Mr. Geis:  Yeah.  We washed our clothes on the ship by putting a rope on them and washing them.

 

Suzette:  Off the side of the ship in the salt water?

 

Mr. Geis:  They were kind of stiff and everything, but they were clean.

 

Suzette:  You know, I’ve often wondered how people washed their clothes.  That is interesting.

 

Mr. Geis:  From Liverpool we went on trucks down to Southampton.  That’s along the English Channel. And we went across; we were going to go to Cherbourg, France, across the Channel and when we got down there, we couldn’t land at Omaha Beach because an ammunition dump was still on fire.

 

Suzette:  Was that a German ammunition dump?

 

Mr. Geis:  Yes.  And so then we went down a couple of miles or so to Utah Beach and got off there.  And then came on back around.

 

Suzette: What was it like when you did that?  How long before you landed did D-Day happen?  Was it a month, or two days..?

 

Mr. Geis:  My outfit, the one I had to join, was in on D-Day.  Of course, when we got down to the Cherbourg area, the place where they landed, the 4th Infantry Division, there was ships that were split in the middle all around the harbor there.  I finally found out that was to make it so there wouldn’t be too much waves on soldiers when they came in.  They kind of made a harbor.

 

Suzette:  They kind of sunk ‘em in there to catch the waves.

 

Mr. Geis:  Yes.

 

Suzette:  OK.  It’s not because they were washed out.

 

Mr. Geis:  No ships were sunk there and that made it better on the other side, you know what I mean?  It’s amazing really.  Then we got on to some what we call 40 and 8s.  That’s 40 men or 8 horses, the railroad car was called that, 40 and 8. 

 

Suzette:  40 men or 8 horses?!  It sounds like the horses traveled in more comfort than you did.

 

Mr. Geis:  I’ll tell you we weren’t very comfortable in it.  I wondered if they did would do that to make you mad enough to fight, I think.

 

Suzette:  Did you have to stand up?

 

Mr. Geis:  Oh, you could sit down.  But you’d touch somebody else and they wouldn’t like it.  It was so crowded.

 

Suzette:  And how long did you have to travel like that?

 

Mr. Geis: We went to several different towns that way near the Cherbourg area where we were to land.  We were trying to catch up with the 4th Division.

 

Suzette:  They had actually preceded you on D-Day?

 

Mr. Geis:  Yes, Yes.

 

Suzette:  So you’re traveling through areas where major battles had been fought?  Were there still remains of these battles?

 

Mr. Geis:  Well, the Battle of the Bulge was just starting.

 

Suzette:  And that’s where you were headed next.

 

Mr. Geis:  Yes.

 

Suzette:  When did you go through the hedge rows?

 

Mr. Geis:  Well, shortly after we got to Utah Beach there.  There start right back there in the hills.

 

Suzette:  Oh, I didn’t realize that.  And how long were, were you fighting in the hedge rows then?

 

Mr. Geis:  Yes.

 

Suzette:  And how long were you engaged in those?

 

Mr. Geis:  Well, I was there for I don’t know how many days and I got kidney stones.  And they got me out and took me to a field hospital.  I was getting better, I think I passed the stone, getting better, and I said I would go now and join my outfit again.  And they said, “No, you can’t. You’ve rested too long.  You need to build up again.”  That’s what they told me.  So they took me across the Channel again to rest at a hospital there in England, and I was in the hospital there for, I can’t remember how long it was, and then finally I was taken up.  They had found that I knew German, you know, and another guy and I, a man by the name of Schwartz and I, were told to get ready, we were going to take a trip.  We were not told what we were going to do or anything. But he and I got into one of those, we called ‘em trucks, and had to go quite a ways and we finally came to a place where there were a thousand German prisoners…

 

Suzette:  Was this in England or in France?

 

Mr. Geis:  In France.

 

Suzette:  OK. And this is after you came back from being in the hospital?

 

Mr. Geis:  Yes.  We were supposed to sit in on the meetings.  They weren’t getting the orders correctly and they weren’t doing what our officers wanted them to do.  We found out that their interpreters wouldn’t tell them correctly what to do.  We found that out.  And then the real Bulge started and we all had to go fight.  I mean, the cooks, and the bakers, everybody, it took all of us.  They pretty near beat us.

 

Suzette:  Yeah, it took everybody and it took a long time.

 

Mr. Geis:  They had some pretty good equipment.  I taught 30-caliber machine gun, water-cooled, 30-caliber machine guns in the training center.  And I finally got a hold of one of their 30-caliber, and it’s air-cooled, and it fired, our water-cooled one to change a barrel in it took about 20 minutes, and theirs, you pushed a little lever and the barrel came sliding out, took 3 seconds to change the barrel in theirs.  And our slightly great of speed was about 500 rounds a minute, and theirs was 1500 rounds a minute.  I mean, they had better equipment.

 

Suzette:  It sounds like they had almost three times better equipment.

 

Mr. Geis:  It was pretty sharp.

 

Suzette:  This prison camp was like outside of Cherbourg…

 

Mr. Geis:  Yeah, it was farther in.  I can’t remember what area it was.  We drove quite a ways.  And he and I, this Schwartz and I, looked at each other…..Schwartz is German, you know, and mine had a “t” on the end of it at one time, Geist.  Holy Ghost—that’s the same thing in German.

 

Suzette:  Geist is Holy Ghost!

 

Mr. Geis: Heiliga Geist.

 

Suzette:  Heiliga Geist!  Oh!  That’s neat!  So where along the front of the Battle of the Bulge did you, you were called into the Battle of the Bulge, and where were you located on that front?

 

Mr. Geis:  We were, of course, the Germans had been over our area where we were, had everything measured, the distances for the different places that we would probably be, they’d been over these.  We got on a tank, on top of a tank, the driver let us get on top of the tank, and lord, everybody ahead of us, see, and we went to this, we were supposed to take this little town because the Germans had it once before.  We were told that there were just a few Germans in there and we were to get ‘em out, you know.  On the way to this little town, there was a crossroads there, and when we got part ways through the crossroads, our tank man got off and went over the fence and on around, like that, not at the crossroads.  When we would have got to the crossroads, shells came in on that.  He knew that, see.  And then we got into the edge of town and there were shelling the town at the time and one shell landed close to us, but there was a rock fence along there where we were going.  And we had to take cover cause of the shrapnel.

 

Suzette:  That must have been lucky.

 

Mr. Geis:  Oh, man, you better believe it.  And we got in, and the first thing I saw.  The first corner we came to, in this little town of Verdorf(?), there was a jeep there and a soldier half way out of it and his foot caught inside and his head was down by the tires and that was the first that I saw.  We tried to get that town; we found out that there were a lot of Germans in there and more than they had told us, you know, and we had to fight a long time there in that town.  We had to go, we couldn’t go up the street; we had to go between the buildings.

 

Suzette:  Oh, it was urban warfare, building by building, kind of like when you went hedgerow by hedgerow.  That must have been a very different kind of training for you.

 

Mr. Geis:  We had a tank that got caught down in the main street and they were pouring gasoline on it down in the street from where we were watching it, you know.  And it finally ran and run and run and finally went off on two cylinders and finally died and it took quite a while.

 

Suzette:  That was a German tank?

 

Mr. Geis: (didn’t hear answer)

 

Suzette:  Now, were you trained to do urban warfare or was this something new for you?

 

Mr. Geis:  Oh, we were just forced to clean the town out.  And get ‘em back, push ‘em back farther.

 

Suzette:  How long did that take?

 

Mr. Geis:  Well, it was a week or so in that town.

 

Suzette:  Pretty tough resistance.

 

Mr. Geis:  I don’t know; it was not a big town.  I know the name of it; it was Verdorf.  But it was Belgium; we were in the Belgium area then.  It would have been north of Luxemburg. In that particular area.  And I know that at night we would try to find a place to sleep and there were some farm homes, you know.  We went to one of them, the farmer there, an older man, was in the barn. And we went, I kind of visited with him a little bit, you know.  He went and got some wine, and said, “Do you want a drink?”  And I said, “Well, you drink first.”  See?  We didn’t know whether he was for us or not, or against us.  He took a little swig and so I did too.  I guess it was all right.

 

Suzette:  Well, you’re still here!!

 

Mr. Geis:  Yeah!  I’m still here.  And then we were in a house, and I know now why they like young kids rather than old men fighting.  We were in the house and the town was being shelled, by the Germans, you know, and they didn’t have to zero in cause they’d been over that area and they knew exactly what the distance was.  So their first round would hit were they wanted to.  We had to zero in on ‘em, long short, long short, you know, and we had two kids there in that particular house, young fellas like 19 or 20 years old, it seemed like, and they were upstairs and puttin’ on ladies’ clothes and hats and stuff!  I was in the basement where the potatoes were just scared to death!  I mean, I was older see, than they were.  I really believe that!

 

Suzette:  What were they doing putting on women’s clothing for?

 

Mr. Geis: Just oneriness, full of pep.

 

Suzette:  You don’t think they knew any better.

 

Mr. Geis:  Yeah, well, I think that might be.

 

Suzette:  And you are down in the basement with the potatoes!

 

Mr. Geis:  And that’s some of things I do remember.  And there was another thing in that little town.  We were supposed to guard the approach up the street there and they had that manure pile outside of the place that we were, and we’d get behind that and trade off from our place in the building to the manure pile.  One time, while we were trading and a shell came in and well, we was inside making the trade why a shell came in the door and there was no manure place any more. 

 

Suzette:  It blew it up?

 

Mr. Geis:  Yeah.

 

Suzette:  Man, you were lucky you weren’t there!

 

Mr. Geis:  Oh, my.

 

Suzette:  So how long were you, this was in the same town you had tried to liberate and they were shelling you?  And how long were you there?

 

Mr. Geis:  Oh, we kept movin’ on as we could, you know. And sometimes it was pretty slow, of course, we had on each side of us, soldiers tryin’ to move ‘em back.  ‘Cause they were throwin’ everything at us that they had, the last stand, you know, that was why they called in the Bulge and it bulged out into us, you know.  We tried to keep ‘em back, you know.

 

Suzette:  It was winter, wasn’t it?

 

Mr. Geis:  Yes. 

 

Suzette:  Was it very, very cold?  Did you have adequate clothing for winter?

 

Mr. Geis: Well, how do you mean?

 

Suzette:  I mean, did you have warm winter coats and boots and things?  Were you protected from the cold?

 

Mr. Geis:  I can give you one example.  We were marching, walking in a wooded area and it was real warm and we had heavy overcoats and stuff.  And you got so warm that you just threw, left your overcoat and kept going. 

 

Suzette:  You threw it on the ground?

 

Mr. Geis:  Yes, I mean, I did mine.  That same night it snowed!

 

Suzette:  Ah, I’ll bet you were sorry you threw your overcoat away.

 

Mr. Geis:  I needed that overcoat so bad, I mean….

 

Suzette:  Gosh, why did you do that?

 

Mr. Geis:  I don’t know, you just get so hot, you know, and they were heavy.

 

Suzette:  Well, what did you do?

 

Mr. Geis:  Well, I just had to go through it.

 

Suzette:  Just were cold?

 

Mr. Geis:  Yeah.

 

Suzette:  That is so hard to believe.

 

Mr. Geis:  The overcoat, now, I’m talking about.  And they were heavy, you know.

 

Suzette:  Did you get frostbite?

 

Mr. Geis:  Not really, but it was pretty chilly.  But you can stand a lot of stuff that you don’t think you can.

 

Suzette:  You know, I think that is true.

 

Mr. Geis:  Does she want a _____?

 

Suzette:  No, she’s writing your name on the DVD so when we finish we’ll have it.  So, did you go out in this field past this town as the Germans were pushed back and moved forward?

 

Mr. Geis:  Yes, we were having pretty good luck toward the last there and we were shoving them back more all the time. Like I told you, everybody had to come out and help, even the cooks and the bakers and everybody.  We just had enough men and new men came over and joined us and we kept ‘em from coming our way.

 

Suzette:  I heard that the Germans had this bulge and they would take a town and then we’d take it back and they’d come back and take it back from us. 

 

Mr. Geis:  Yes.  They had been over there before but we were shovin’ ‘em back all the time.  They had all the distances measured……….

 

end of tape!!!

 

Suzette:  Did you pick up German guns?  Did you pick up there equipment and use it while you were in the field?

 

Mr. Geis:  No.  I just got a hold of this one after we pulled around one of their positions.  A machine gun of theirs was the same caliber as ours and that’s where I found it.

 

Suzette:  Ummm, but they had better equipment but your army didn’t pick up their equipment.  Did they use different bullets?

 

Mr. Geis:  We were too busy tryin’ to go ahead.  I don’t know whether any body did or not.  Oh, later on, after the war, you’d be goin’ someplace and you’d see a tank that was disabled here and a gun over in this side of the road that was disabled and left there.  I know when we were going down from the German area there, we went down after we thought the war was over, why we went down to Marseilles, France.  And I knew an outfit had come over from the States and some that didn’t have enough points to come home and I was one of the oldest.  I lacked two points, another month, to be able to go home, and they put me with that new outfit that came over that was slated to go to the southwest Pacific. 

 

Suzette:  I’ll bet you were happy!

 

Mr. Geis:  I was happy, I was happy.  I just needed another month to pass and that would have given me enough time.  Well, anyway, they put me with them and so they loaded the ship with their equipment and I was along with them.  I presume there were other ones too.  I felt like I was the only one.  There were quite a few on, over 5000, we had equipment that they brought too that went on.  We went out Gibraltar and went on the Atlantic, down through the Panama Canal Zone, and went through the Panama Canal, and then we started going to the northwest instead of toward the southwest Pacific.  And I said, well, they know I’m on there, they’re going to go up to Los Angeles and let me off!  You know!  You do think that!!

 

Suzette and Peggy:  Chuckling!

 

Mr. Geis:  And I found out later, I asked one of the sailors there on the ship, why didn’t we go back northeast.  He said they were performing an appendectomy and he says its smoother going that way than the way we were going! So that explained it.  So pretty soon we went.

 

Suzette:   Oh!  You were hoping maybe you were getting off!

 

Mr. Geis:  Oh, I thought they were going to let me off.

 

Suzette:  Now, was the European war still going on when they put you on this transport?

 

Mr. Geis:  It was supposed to be over.

 

Suzette:  Had they declared the armistice?  They had actually surrendered?

 

Mr. Geis:  Yes. Yes. 

 

Suzette:  They didn’t waste any time. 

 

Mr. Geis:  Naw, it was considered that we had won over there, but not over here yet.

 

Suzette:  Yeah, I didn’t think that they transported people that quickly.  So anyway, you’re en route, so what happens when you get there?

 

Mr. Geis:  This outfit was in France for quite a little while, this one that they put me with.  It was a tire repair outfit, ordnance. 

 

Suzette:  What was its number?

 

Mr. Geis:  Uhh, 480th tire repair.

 

Suzette:  Why’d they put you with this tire repair outfit?

 

Mr. Geis:  I had never even changed my own!!  You know!

 

Suzette:  Ha ha!!  480th tire repair ordnance?

 

Mr. Geis:  Uh, huh.  480th tire repair ordnance.

 

Suzette:  I thought they gave you aptitude tests and everything.

 

Mr. Geis:  And so, we were going in the Pacific, and when I was in the grade school, the teacher told me that about 4/5 of the world was composed of water.  I thought you don’t know anything; that isn’t right!   And after I was on a ship for 45 days straight, I thought it was an understatement!  It’s 9/10 of it.  There is a lot of water.  We got out there in the Pacific a couple of times and of course, when we had to cross the International Date Line, they have a little ceremony performed there, and it seems like after that in a little while later they had us all go below because the waves were so high.  They were coming over the top of the ship.  And so we had to go below for a while until they told us we could come back up. 

 

Suzette:  This must have been a big ship if you had 5000 soldiers on it.

 

Mr. Geis:  Well, yeah.  I forget the name of it; I thought I could remember it but I don’t.  It wasn’t near as big as the Queen Mary and Elizabeth and USS West Point or USS America was.  They had two names for that for some reason. And we went to the Philippines.

 

Suzette:  You went to the Philippines?

 

Mr. Geis:  We seen on the way other islands that we could see and not knowing what they were.  One place we stopped, at one place, we took on some fuel, but we didn’t know what place it was.  Nobody told us.  And then we got over there, and we unloaded from the ship.  There was no harbor there at the Philippines; it was in the northeast part of the Philippines from Manila.  I don’t know if you’ve heard of those ducks that go in the water, or on the land, both places, and so we got off on rope ladders, and into these ducks, and they took us through the water and up on the beaches.  Because there was no harbor there.

 

Suzette:  Oh, amphibious, um..

 

Mr. Geis:  Yeah.

 

Suzette:  Where were you?  In the Philippines?  I thought they had a harbor there?

 

Mr. Geis:  Well, I mean I don’t know why they stopped there, there wasn’t much camping area there.

 

Suzette:  Uh, huh, and that’s where they unloaded you.  Just for the night or were you getting ready to proceed inland?

 

Mr. Geis: There was somebody expecting us.

 

Suzette:  Was the Japanese expecting you?

 

Mr. Geis:  No, well, they were around, you know.  We were supposed to be careful for that, but they had done quite a bit of the fighting already and go them to retreat, you know.  While I was over there, I guess that would have been, uh, well, the second day out I was eligible to come home from Marseilles, France, you know.  Another month went around and I was, had enough points to come home.  And then we got over in there and I couldn’t come home because I didn’t have a way to go! 

 

Suzette:  See how sneaky they are!

 

Mr. Geis:  So there was nothing to do, they didn’t seem to have any books to read, and it was really kind of bad.  Finally, an officer told me that he was going to get me a ride with the 37th division, they were coming home.  And it was during about that time that the war was over there too.

And all the rest of the large states were army of occupation and it put me with the 37th division who was coming home.

 

Suzette:  You got out of the 480th tire repair!!

 

Mr. Geis: I was in the office most of the time.  In the 480th.

 

Suzette:  Did you ever have to go into battle when you were in the Pacific?  When you got to the Pacific and the Philippines, did you ever have ever to fight again?

 

Mr. Geis:  No, huh uh.

 

Suzette:  The temperature must have been different.

 

Mr. Geis:  It was just going to be occupation because the war was over while we were on our way over.

 

Suzette:  Oh, it was.

 

Mr. Geis:  Yeah, we had heard that.

 

Suzette: What was the response when you heard about the atomic bombs being dropped?  Did you feel that that saved American lives?

 

Mr. Geis:  Yeah, much.  But my outfit there had to go to China for occupation.

 

Suzette:  In China?

 

Mr. Geis:  Yeah.

 

Suzette:  See, I forget about China.

 

Mr. Geis:  Yeah.  Japan, they were the ones giving us trouble.  And I got on this ship and we got comin’ home and I remember being on the upside, they call it, on the ship, you know, when we went under the Golden Gate Bridge.  And you could just ahhhhhhhhhhhhhh, everybody was so satisfied to be getting home.  Then of course, rumors always come out that we are going to be quarantined.  They always come out and I was trying to get home for Christmas.  In ’44.  And I was trying…in San Francisco, they took us north there to a place where they had room for all of us to stay and everything and that’s when that rumor came out that we’d stay there for months, you know.

 

Suzette:  Was the temperature different in the Philippines?  I mean, here you were in winter in Europe, and suddenly you are in the tropics.  Was that hard to adjust to?

 

Mr. Geis:  Yes, it was.  It really was.  We got to the southwest Pacific and there wasn’t….we didn’t have to wear hardly anything, you know!  When I came home, I always teased my neighbor lady all the time, and I would be in shorts or something, and she said, “I don’t like to see you in shorts.”  I told her, “Don’t look!”

 

Suzette:  Ha Ha!!

 

Mr. Geis:  Because we were used to not wearing much clothing because it was warm.  I never will forget that.

 

Suzette:  So when you were in the Philippines, were you able to talk to the local people that lived there?  Or were you pretty much isolated?

 

Mr. Geis:  No.

 

Suzette:  You didn’t get to meet the local people?

 

Mr. Geis:   No.

 

Suzette:  Did you form friendships when you were in the service that you maintained afterwards?

 

Mr. Geis:  This 480th outfit, for years after they had gotten home, went to have reunions.  And we had I don’t know how many, 10, 15 different…and each man that was in a different place had to have it and prepare for it.  So we’d been to all the different places.  We’d been to California, Los Angeles, and we’ve been to Texas, couple towns in Texas, we had it here in Kansas, the first one was in Cincinnati, and we had one in New York City, and one in Billings, Montana, that’s where these folks lived, you know.  I had mine in Wichita and one in Kansas City and I had to get everything ready for it, you know.

 

Suzette:  Wow!  I’ll bet that kept you busy.

 

Mr. Geis:  Well, your wives can help you, you know.

 

Suzette:  Oh, you put them to work.

 

Mr. Geis:  Yeah.

 

Peggy:  How many came to the reunion?

 

Mr. Geis:  Oh, it would vary, oh gosh, 10, 15 and their wives.

 

Suzette:  Plus, you had to do two of ‘em, you had to do Wichita and Kansas City.

 

Mr. Geis:  We had to start over.  We had two of ‘em in Cincinnati, that was where the first one was.

 

Suzette:  So you maintained your ties.

 

Mr. Geis:  Yes.  We had one in Kansas City and we had one in Wichita.

 

Suzette:  You guys write back and forth and still see one another?

 

Mr. Geis:  Oh, very much.  We had a letter that went around too.  I still have some of the programs; I need to throw them out but I haven’t done that yet at home.  In fact, our house is still like it was.  I stopped there yesterday and got a few winter clothes.

 

Suzette:  Yeah, it’s upon us!

 

Mr. Geis:  It’s gonna be time for that.

 

Suzette:  I’ve got to start looking for mine.  So you thought military was important for forming friendships for you later in life.

 

Mr. Geis: Yes, yes, there were dandies, some real good ones.  We showed them around to different things that we had around here.  They would show us..we went to the studios in California, to movie studios, and things like that.  And there’s one down in Texas when we went down there.  They have a prison down there, they took us to the prison, and I mean, I forget the name of it, it’s a pretty well known prison down there, and we went through that.  Oh, we were in Florida for one and this guy took us to the different places there.  And he’s kinda of, well he had quite a little money, he had lots of property around there and he took us to the different places that he owned and stuff like that.  And his house was pretty nice.  He lived on the bay.  He had his boat tied up back there.  It was that close to the water.  And he would always come to the reunions. And we had one from New York, he always dressed up like a cowboy and came to the reunion.  We’d go pick him up and he’d have some cowboy stuff on; he wasn’t no cowboy, he was a teacher! 

 

Suzette:  Were you a cowboy?

 

Mr. Geis:  No.

 

Suzette:  When you came back from the Army, you were coming back to your family, and what were you going to do when you came back?

 

Mr. Geis:  Before I left, I married a lady, a home ec major from K-State, and she was at Hutchinson and she was working with the Gas Service Co. and I was going to be a bachelor and I was eligible and they’d get new, the Gas Service Co. would get these new girls in, and they’d call me.  I knew the Gas Service people, you know and they would call me and say, “Let’s go out to eat.  We’ll go to a movie and show this new girl around.”  And I was the one who was supposed to take the new girl.  I remember two of ‘em from Iowa State, and the third one came from K-State and that was my wife.  I’d take ‘em all home to my folks, my mother, and she’d get behind the door and say, “Is this the one?  Is this the one?”  I told her no, and she said when I got Virginia and she asked that, I wouldn’t answer her.  She’s quite a woman; she was everything I always wanted.  And she was a banker’s daughter.  And so she didn’t like that; but we lived through that.

 

Suzette:  And you had a baby boy that was born while you were overseas.

 

Mr. Geis:  Yes, yes.

 

Suzette:  When was the first time you got to see the baby boy?

 

Mr. Geis:  Well, it was…how old was he?  She came out…I had permission to live off post when she came out and we got a room, you know.

 

Suzette:  And this was in when?

 

Mr. Geis:  And this when I was with the 480th.

 

Suzette:  I thought the 480th stayed in the Philippines?

 

Mr. Geis:  Well, no, yeah, wait a minute, it wasn’t the 480th either.  It wasn’t the 480th either.  The 480th stayed in the Philippines.  You’re right. I had permission to live off post then, because I had a place there, because I was a sergeant.

 

Suzette:  And you had come back to the States then.

 

Mr. Geis:  Yeah, yeah.

 

Suzette:  But you were still in the military?

 

Mr. Geis:  Yes.

 

Suzette:  So she joined you and you got to see your baby boy.

 

Mr. Geis:  Yeah.

 

Suzette:  And what was his name?

 

Mr. Geis:  Clifton Jr.

 

Suzette:  Clifton Jr.  How old was he when you first got to see him?

 

Mr. Geis:  Oh, gosh, not very old.

 

Suzette:  So he didn’t have to get used to you very quickly.

 

Mr. Geis:  Um, I’m trying to think.  She drove out there with the boy, and I’m not sure how old he was.  We have 3 boys; two of them are doctors.

 

Suzette:  Oh, you must be quite proud of them.

 

Mr. Geis: Well, really am.  I’ve got one M.D. and PH.D.

 

Suzette:  Oh!

 

Mr. Geis:  And I’ve always been proud of them. Their mother was so smart!

 

Suzette:  Not you though!

 

Mr. Geis:  Naw!

 

Suzette:  So when you came back to the States, your wife and son were able to join you, then you came back to Kansas.  How were you going to earn a living?  What was your job?

 

Mr. Geis:  They needed somebody in the bank.

 

Suzette:  Oh!  Your wife’s bank.

 

Mr. Geis:  Yes. So I’ve been a banker all that time; I’m still in the bank. I’m chairman of the board of directors.

 

Suzette:  of the Farmers State Bank?

 

Mr. Geis:  and we had a monthly meeting yesterday and I went to it.

 

Suzette:  And that’s how you know Alice Ash?  Did she put in a good word for us yesterday?

 

Mr. Geis:  Yes, yes.

 

Suzette:  We’re going to interview her brother too.  I didn’t know we had another banker.

 

Mr. Geis:  He’s a pretty good and she had an artist too.

 

Suzette:  So you were banking in Hutchinson?

 

Mr. Geis:  No. I was working in a clothing store.

 

Suzette:  OK, so when you came back to Kansas, where was your wife’s family from?

 

Mr. Geis:  Circleville

 

Suzette:  Oh, Alice Ash’s bank.  Was it the Farmers State Bank then?

 

Mr. Geis:  Farmers State Bank then.  And we built a new one here in town.  We have a new one.

 

Suzette:  Then how did you meet your wife?  Is she from Circleville?

 

Mr. Geis:  Yes.

 

Suzette:  Now where did you meet her?

 

Mr. Geis:  I met her at the Gas Service Co. in Hutchinson.

 

Suzette:  That’s right and you are the one that took them out to wine and dine them.

 

Mr. Geis:  She was the demonstration agent for the Gas Service Co. and used their stoves and put on meals for different groups, you know.  And always used the gas, you know.

 

Suzette:  I remember you telling me that, but I thought she was from Hutchinson.  She’s from Circleville.

 

Mr. Geis:  She got the job there at the Gas Service Co.  She also was in St. Joe for awhile at the Gas Service Co. And she also was in Topeka for a little while, as I remember.

 

Suzette:  She was quite enterprising.

 

Mr. Geis:  Yes.

 

Suzette:  Did you ever use the GI Bill when you came back to get an education?

 

Mr. Geis:  No, I should have.

 

Suzette:  Were you aware of it?

 

Mr. Geis: No, really. We talked about it a lot, I should have done it right away.  I got out..well, we had banking holidays, we had dust bowls, and we had everything during the time that I would have liked to have gone to school.

 

Suzette:  Yes.  So you just came back and went to work right away.  Did you ever take advantage of the GI Bill to get a loan to build a house or to buy a house?  Were you aware that that was available?

 

Mr. Geis:  Not really.  Didn’t know anything about it.

 

Suzette:  OK.  Do you take advantage of any VA benefits, like for medicine?

 

Mr. Geis:  I do that.  I didn’t seem to know about it until oh after I had spent a year buying my own.  I spent over $7000 for medicine that one year and I told the doctor that, and he said you could have taken your wife on a nice cruise, couldn’t you?  And then I petitioned the VA and they have helped me ever since.  I have taken a lot of medicine.

 

Suzette:  Now do you see their doctors, or do you see your own doctor?

 

Mr. Geis:  No.

 

Suzette:  Oh, I forgot.  Did you receive any medals or special service awards?

 

Mr. Geis:  You know I have a doctor. 

 

Suzette:  You do, yeah. 

 

Mr. Geis:  And I have him in the bank already.

 

Suzette:  Is he on call?

 

Mr. Geis:  He’s the one that picks me up.  See, I’m not driving anymore.  He picked me up yesterday and we went to the bank meeting all day and we stopped to get some winter clothes.  He married a nurse.

 

Suzette:  Oh, he did?

 

Mr. Geis:  Yep.  So I’ve got a nurse too.   My other boy in Kansas City has a….people are going to hear this….they should, shouldn’t they?

 

Suzette:  I don’t know.  Should we stop this?

 

Mr. Geis:  I’m bragging on my family.

 

Suzette:  You’re not bragging!  You should be proud of your children!!

 

Peggy:  That’s fine!

 

Mr. Geis:  The other one married a lawyer, and the third boy has a pretty good education.  He has a master’s degree in political science and international law and he’s got a lawn service.  And I think the guy with the lawn service makes more than the doctor does!!

 

Suzette:  I didn’t think anybody made more money than doctors!

 

Peggy:  I don’t doubt that!

 

Suzette:  Have you received any medals or special service awards when you were in the Army?

 

Mr. Geis:  Oh, no.

 

Suzette:  You probably got ones for the Pacific and European arenas.  You know, they have a medal for both of those.

 

Mr. Geis:  I was eligible for both of those.  I don’t know if there’s one when you’ve been in both theaters or not.   I never did check it out.  I wanted to be home.

 

Suzette:  You wanted to be home!!  Well, when you came back did you join the American Legion or the VFW?

 

Mr. Geis:  Both of them.

 

Suzette:  Both of ‘em.  Did you feel it was important to be with other people who had been in war or was it a social function?  Did you attend regularly?

 

Mr. Geis:  Yeah.

 

Suzette:  Were they, did they also do community service?  The Legion and the VFW, were they doing community service?

 

Mr. Geis:  Yes, they did.  Every year they put out the flags during …..

 

Suzette:  When you first came back, did you attend regularly because you could be with other veterans?  Did you talk about your experiences or did you have a baseball team or did you do anything that you remember?

 

Mr. Geis:  No.  In my time in Jackson Heights area, I was on the unification board, where they unified all the schools.  I had the north section of Jackson County—Soldier, Circleville, Netawaka and Whiting.  That’s school district number 335 and I helped put that together.

 

Suzette:  You didn’t have a lot of time to go out and be involved with volunteer things.

 

Mr. Geis:  But evidently they noticed that you’re doing something, somebody did. Because I got an award from the Chamber of Commerce here.  I mean for that area.

 

Suzette:  Well, that’s wonderful.  Do you have anything else you’d like to add or share with us?

 

Mr. Geis:  Oh, I have a baseball field named after me.

 

Suzette:  You do?!!  Where is it?

 

Mr. Geis:  Circleville.

 

Suzette:  In Circleville?

 

Mr. Geis:  Big sign up under lights.

 

Suzette:  I’ll have to go drive by and look at your baseball field.  We met a lady banker in Hiawatha too that was in the Army, she was an Army nurse, in World War II.  It’s kind of interesting that we have 3 bankers.

 

Mr. Geis:  And we, my wife and I, went to Jackson Heights functions, we’d go to all the athletic functions, and we also went to the plays and musicals and everything.  And the kids would come over and say afterwards, “Boy, it was nice of you to come.”  And then we would go back.  They were using psychology, you know.  I mean, really, that’s true.  I took care of the track funds all the time.  I’ve got a sweat shirt with my name on it and from the school kids.

 

Suzette:  Mr. Geis, thank you so much for your interview.

 

Mr. Geis:  I don’t know if I want anybody to hear this or not!

 

Suzette:  It’s so interesting!  And we will let you review it once we get it typed.  Thank you very, very much, Mr. Geis.

 

Mr. Geis:  Thank you.

 

 

 



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