Interview with Earl Muck    (back to WWII Project)

EM: Vernis Earl Muck.

JW: And when were you born?


JW: And where were you born?

EM: Heavener, Oklahoma.

JW: And who was your mom and dad?

EM: Ollie Oliver was my mother, and M.H. Muck was my dad.

JW: And what did your father do for a living?

EM: He was a railroader, engineer.

JW: That's what he was doing over in Heavener?

EM: And then come to Van Buren.

JW: Did you have sisters and brothers?

EM: Yeah, I had seven, but got two sisters and two brothers that's dead.

JW: Where did you go to school?

EM: Heavener.

JW: Did you graduate from high school in Heavener?

EM: I lacked about a half year of graduating.

JW: I see. What did you do when you were growing up? Did you have any jobs or anything?

EM: I went to school, and after school, I joined a CC Camp.

JW: I see. Did they send you off somewhere?

EM: Yeah. I first went to Cody, Wyoming, and I came back. And then I liked the CC Camp real good so I went back again down at Smithville, Oklahoma.

JW: And what'd they have you doing at those places?

EM: Regular job, I drove a army truck for the CC Camp. See, they was sponsored by Army, fed them and clothed them, and the Forest Service worked them.

JW: So how long do you think you did that?

EM: Well, I was in two CC Camp for about a year and then I went from CC Camp into the Army.

JW: I see. What made you decide to go into the Army?

EM: Well, I was going to be in for one year when I went in first draft. I was going to get that behind me and then hire out over here on the railroad. Well, Japan hit December the 7th. From December the 7th to January 13th, I got my year in. So when Japan hit, why, we was in there. 2

JW: I see. Where did you go to boot camp?

EM: Went to Fort Sill, Oklahoma.

JW: And then where'd you go?

EM: Abilene, Texas.

JW: What were they teaching you to do?

EM: Well, what we done, we went to different places now. We took kind of a desert training, little old bushes, rattlesnakes and everything, it was really thick out there around Abilene.

JW: And this was all before Pearl Harbor?

EM: Yeah, oh, yeah. Lacked a month of having my year in, could've got out and got on the railroad.

JW: I think every guy that I interviewed that joined up like you did for one year, got caught just as they were fixing to get out.

EM: Yeah. I was going to get out and hire out, I thought I had it made.

JW: Well, they had some poor timing. Do you remember December 7th?

EM: Oh, yeah, I remember. I was in Abilene, Texas, there in the desert in the day room there when they announced they'd hit Pearl Harbor.

JW: They announced it while you were in the day room?

EM: Oh, yeah.

JW: Did you know your goose was cooked right then?

EM: I knew that right then when they hit Pearl Harbor, my goose was cooked.

JW: Well, what happened, what'd they do to you after that?

EM: We kept right on training. And after we got our training in there, we went to Fort Devens, Massachusetts. Then we took amphibious training making those ship-to-shore landings and things, we took training all up and down on Cape Cod and all up around Boston. And then after we left and got that all in, we went to Watertown, New York.

JW: What was there?

EM: It was pine camp. We took our winter training. See, they have awful bad winters up there. The day we left, snow was about six foot deep and forty-two below zero. And you'd take your hand and just rub ice off your face. We stayed out and bivouacked in that snow in them pup tents. And we took that, after we got that, we went back to Camp Pickert, Virginia, Blackstone, down south of Richmond. Then we took some more amphibious training, but we went down there for mountain training we took in the Blue Ridge Mountains. We were really trained.

JW: And some of the prettiest part of the country, too.

EM: Yeah, that's pretty up there. And we took some more amphibious 3 training and mountain training, and then after that, we set sail.

JW: Where did you leave from?

EM: We left from Newport News, Virginia, and went to Oran, North Africa.

JW: Do you recall the name of the boat you were on?

EM: I did know it, but I forgot the name of it really.

JW: I see. And where did you say it went?

EM: Went to Oran, North Africa.

JW: And is this like 1941?

EM: '43.

JW: '43. I see. Okay. What happened when you landed?

EM: Well, we went from North Africa into the Middle East. And then they loaded you us up from there and we got ready and we hit Sicily.

JW: What was your job? Did you have a specific job or were you just--

EM: No, I was just combat troops. I was in infantry, K Company, rifle.

JW: Did you have any action in Africa?

EM: Had some, yeah, but we didn't make D-Day invasion in Africa because the French already had it. But we went into Sicily, we hit it hard then, they was waiting on us.

JW: What do you remember from that first day of hard fighting?

EM: When we hit Sicily? We hit there, weather was really windy and bad and rough, and them big waves a coming in and going back out. Well, them boats would go in, they'd go up on shore and that water would go out, leave the boats setting there on the beach. Then the Germans go up and down that beach, strafing with them planes, bombing and strafing. Then had to go back out, farther back out, they pulled anchor and they moved us back out farther where the water wouldn't be so rough. Coming down them nets, you would come down, that boat would go way out and then when it come in, it just pin you against that ship. Lot of boys got killed before they ever got off that ship, got squashed with them boats coming and hitting them.

JW: That's terrible. Well, did you eventually make it onto the beach?

EM: Oh, yeah, we made it on the beach. Went right on in, pushed back and went to Victoria, Sicily. That was the biggest town right there close where we hit. Before we got into town, the Germans waved white flags and gave up, surrendered the town. Well, we went in the town and they shot five or six of our boys after we got in town under them white flags and that's when we really got down to really grinding them.

JW: Then you got them?

EM: Yeah. 4

JW: I don't blame you.

EM: Well, we captured 25 soldiers and the captain volunteered for guys to shoot them, and I think everybody in there volunteered. But after them giving up under white flags and then going in and killing them boys, that was pretty bad. But we lost a lot, some of my best friends I had was killed right there in the first four or five days when we hit Sicily. One boy from Talihina that I run around with, he got killed next morning. We hit that evening and hit next morning, he was killed. Tank come in on him and the Infantry behind our tanks, they shot him point-blank with one of them anti-tank guns. So it was pretty rough, that Italy was really rough. Sicily was bad, they had mountains, you'd take them mountains from the south of Italy, it was north, the mountains got higher all the way up. Well, everytime they'd pull back, they'd be setting mine fields all around the bridges and blow out, they'd zero the artillery in on them mine plains, and when we'd pull back and we'd get in there, then they'd let us have it, but we kept a pushing them on back though.

JW: Just kept on?

EM: Yeah.

JW: And so you went through Sicily?

EM: Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah, and captured them. And Patton made us a speech at Palermo, General Patton made a speech to us there.

JW: Were you attached to his division?

EM: Yeah. See, in Africa, we was under Patton in Africa and Sicily. And when we left Sicily and hit Italy, we was under Mark Clark, General Mark Clark.

JW: About how long do you think it took to get through Sicily?

EM: Oh, I don't know. I've got a book there tells you, I was going to let you take that book if you wanted to. It's got from the time we left, everything, towns, dates and everything in there and you can get everything you want off that book.

JW: That's real useful.

EM: That long, I can't hardly remember it, I'm 87 anyway and I can't remember back that time.

JW: Well, how did you get to Italy?

EM: Got to Italy, we was in them landing boats. We made our D-Day invasion on Salerno, made a D-Day invasion at Sicily, a D-Day at Anzio, a D-Day at Salerno after we left Sicily, Salerno we hit. Then after we left Rome, we come back and we hit Anzio and then we went on into Rome. And then when we got out of Rome, we captured Rome, then we got out of artillery range, they held us up and replaced us, we went back, took training and hit southern France.

JW: Did you see those big guns at Anzio that caused so much trouble? 5

EM: Oh, yeah, yeah, that Anzio Express. They had a tunnel up there on the railroad, up on one of them side of the mountain. From up there, they had this gun in this tunnel and they'd run it out and shoot four, five, six times, then run it back in that tunnel where our planes couldn't bomb it. And they'd shoot it, you could crawl down the barrel of it, they'd shoot it and about the time that first shell got up overhead, it'd go off again, had a booster. And boy, when that thing hit, it really tore things up. But same thing on southern France, we hit southern France, they had two big cement emplacement guns on the beach, and the barrels I guess twenty or thirty foot long, they was really big. And on about middle ways of that barrel, said Bethlehem Steel Corporation, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, wrote on them barrels.

JW: Well, that wasn't very good.

EM: And we had the Germans going through Rome so fast, they didn't even have time to tell the Italians good-bye because we put them right on through there.

JW: Kept going. You say after you left Italy, you went to southern France?

EM: Yeah, after we left Italy, got Rome in the clear, we went back and got replacements and trained them and hit southern France.

JW: And were the Germans still in southern France?

EM: Yeah, they was down southern France. Oh, they had lots of Germans down there. We kept five thousand one night, trapped them up there in them French Alps, cut the roads off and they couldn't get out. But then we went under General-- oh, could've thought of his name real good while ago, but we got another General when we went-- See, in the 7th Army in Africa and Sicily and the Middle East, it was 7th. And when we hit Italy, we went back in the 5th Army. We went to the 5th in Italy under Clark, then after we left Italy and went back to France, we went back under another General. We went to the 7th Army, the 5th Army and then back into the 7th.

JW: But by the time you got to France, was it 1944 or 5?

EM: It was about '44, I guess, around '44. Then we went up through the mountains and captured them big cities. Armor Division captured Nuremburg, that's where they had all them criminal trials; Dachau, that big concentration camp; and was in Munich the day the war ended, was policing up Munich, Germany. And the second day after the war ended, I was picked to come home. I was in the first bunch in our company that left to come home. I'd been over with it from when we went to Fort Sill until the war ended in Munich, Germany.

JW: You'd been in five years?

EM: I was in all of it.  Had holes shot through my clothes, everything else, and never did get a scratch.

JW: That's mighty lucky.

EM: Artillery shells hitting all around me, laying there in old 6 foxholes. Good Lord was with me, that's all you can say.

JW: Well, was there a big party the day the war ended in Europe?

EM: Oh, everybody was celebrating, German people and everybody. But tell you one thing, the German people treated us better really than anybody over there after the war ended.  See, the Germans was tied down, they was afraid to do anything, talk to anybody or neighbors, they couldn't talk, they was scared to death. Gestapo and SS would come down and get them and take them in. But they treat us better, take us in their homes, bring us something to drink, get ashtrays for us and food, they really treat us good.

JW: That's good to hear. Well, when you got out the day, must have been like May 9th or 10th, 1945?

EM: Yeah, '45, yeah.

JW: And they sent you home?

EM: Yeah.

JW: That's pretty fast service.

EM: Yeah, and I got out of the Army soon as I come home. Train come through Van Buren. I asked in the morning to go back to Van Buren and then I did, and when I got out there the next morning, they give me a pass to go home and stay until my number come up out there, then they called me out there and discharged me. I didn't even stay at Chaffee, I stayed home. They was giving me a pass to go ahead and stay home.

JW: And your parents were living at Van Buren?

EM: They lived in Van Buren.

JW: I see. How did you get home from southern France? Another boat?

EM: Oh, yeah. One went Marseille, France. We come up all the way through France, but when we was in Munich, Germany, when we captured it, the war was over, they put us on railroad and hauled us back into Marseille, France. That's down on the Mediterranean, big seaport. They had a staging area where guys come in and went, it was a big, big deal, shipped all the supplies in, rations, guns, ammunition.

JW: That wasn't one of those cigarette camps, was it?  It wasn't Lucky Strike or something like that?

EM: No, it was just a big U.S. Army staging area.

JW: I see. Do you remember the name of the boat you came home on?

EM: No, I don't. But I tell you what, when they sent us back, they was going to fly us home. But they had a ship loaded up, ready to come to the United States and bring us over. They had that ship loaded with Germans, they called it back in, unloaded it, fumigated the ship and we come in on the first ship that come across the ocean after the war. All other were convoys, big convoys. One we went over with, I guess there was fifty or sixty ships in it. But the one I come back over, it was first single ship to come back. By that time, the Atlantic was still full of submarines and 7 mines. They had those big mines floating around there, they had magnets in those mines. And they'd get up so close to a ship, that metal ship, that magnetic deal would draw it in. And we had several mine sweepers in there and destroyers and cruisers, because it was full of submarines. Just lucky I come through there like I did without getting a scratch, it was a miracle.

JW: Where did you hit shore when you came home?

EM: Hit at Newport News, Virginia.

JW: Where you left?

EM: That's where we left and where we come back to. Then they sent us down to a staging area and we stayed down there about a week getting all ready and then they put us on a train there and shipped us back home, back to Camp Chaffee on a train.

JW: Were you married at that time?

EM: No, I was single.

JW: Okay. So you got back to Van Buren and relaxed, I hope?

EM: Oh, yeah. I tell you what I did, I relaxed, but I got into Van Buren one day and the next day I went down and hired out on the railroad.

JW: That's not much relaxing.

JW: My nerves, I thought if I was working, I'd be better off, getting out of something like that and then getting out all at once. If I was busy, I'd be better.

JW: Did you have problems with that, did you have problems--

EM: I didn't have no problems of any kind.

JW: So you didn't come home and have a breakdown of some kind?

EM: No, no. I didn't have no trouble at all. Went right to work on the railroad.

JW: That's good. Did you continue to live with your parents for a while?

EM: I did until I got married. We lived right up on Log Town Hill there, just above Frisco Depot, and so I lived there. I got married in 1946, October of '46.

JW: Then you moved to a place in Van Buren?

EM: Yeah, rented me a place. And then I moved to two or three places over here and then I bought this place in 1962 and I've lived here forty-two years, had some awful good neighbors.

JW: Did you retire from the railroad then?

EM: Yeah, 1981.

JW: And did you stay retired?

EM: Oh, yeah. I ain't worked. I tell you the reason: 1976, I had 8 bladder cancer and I had three tumors on my bladder and they took it out and two of them was malignant and one of them wasn't. But I hadn't had no come back or anything since then. But riding that engine, them old engine's roughriding, so was bouncing around so much, I just went ahead and took my pension when I could.

JW: Did you and your wife have any children?

EM: No children. Just our neighbor children is all we had.

JW: If they're nice enough, that's almost better.

EM: She looked after me. I tell you, since my wife's been gone over eleven years, she's called me just about every day to check up and see if I'm still among us.

JW: That's pretty nice, pretty nice. I don't think my neighbors would do that for me.

EM: And Charles, I've knowed him, him and his whole family ever since he was that high, I guess, so he was like my own kid.

JW: Well, you haven't had another job since 1981?

EM: I tell you what now, I did when I switched over from steam engine to the diesels. It took an engine crew-- the steam engines had to have a crew operate it. Well, it takes six or seven of them diesels and one crew to operate. Well, I got cut-off, laid off. I took a job on the Van Buren Police Force and I worked up to Assistant Chief. Then I worked about four years, I guess, and then two guys come up there one day wanted to see me. I was out in the garage and asked me if I'd ever thought about getting a job with the Game and Fish Commission. I told them, no, I hadn't, and they said, well, I had a good reference and they'd sure like to have me if I wanted it. And I told them, well, I'd have to study about it. And he said, well, said you go home tonight, you and your wife talk it over, said we'll meet down there in the morning and have breakfast and you can let me know. Well, I decided to take it because I was going to stay with my railroad and hold my seniority; and working there at Van Buren, I wouldn't have to go off to work. And so I went to work there then until two guys I knew real well run for Sheriff and both of them wanted me to be their Chief Deputy. And I didn't want to campaign then, so I went and took about a month or so off. Then I come back when one got elected and I was Chief Deputy then until the railroad called me back. And then I worked for the railroad ever since.

JW: Well, you kept busy for a lot of years, didn't you?

EM: Yeah.

JW: When you were working for the police department, anybody ever take a shot at you?

EM: Yeah, I've been shot at, took guns off of them and everything else, had them to run, try to get away. 9

JW: I think I'd rather be a game warden or work for the railroad, if it was left up to me.

EM: When I was Chief Deputy, guy robbed a taxi, armed robbery, took his cab, pulled him out and took his cab and money and things, and took back to Van Buren, that was out east of Van Buren where they left him. In forty-five minutes or less, I had him in jail, that guy that robbed him, back to Van Buren. And I found him, he ditched that cab and got him a taxi and come to Van Buren and come over to the Branding Iron. And I got that cab driver that had him and I had the cab driver take me to the Branding Iron. And then when I went in the Branding Iron, I told that cab driver, "You stay here at the door and I'll go in." He pointed him out to me. And I went in, he was drinking with a lieutenant and I got him, just walked up behind him before he ever-- instead of having a big back-up with sirens and things, I just walked in and walked up behind him and took his gun out of his pocket and got him by the shirt collar and turned him around.

JW: Well, that could have gone badly.

EM: Oh, yeah. Something like that, if you blow them sirens and alert them, let them know and get ready and maybe take a bunch of hostages and all that. Well, he was there drinking with that lieutenant. He didn't even know me until I already had him sacked up. When I got through and started to leave, there was about three cars of Fort Smith Police drove up, but I already had this guy in my car. And they asked me if I needed any help and I told them, no, I already had him in the car. And they told me if I ever needed them to help me, to call them and I told them to do the same thing. I would've helped them, if they needed it in Van Buren.

JW: Who was the Chief of Police?

EM: Paul Russell.

JW: Russell?

EM: He was over there about twenty-five, thirty years. He was there a long, long time. And after I went on the game warden job, I still had a police commission. I went on the game warden job and that Chief, when he got ready to go get somebody, if he thought he was going to have some trouble or something, he called me to come go with him. Instead of getting his own police, he got a game warden. I'd go with him and help him. Boy, I had some close calls in Europe over there. Oh, I had some close ones. That artillery go through my clothes and things like that and I didn't get a scratch.

JW: Yeah, yeah. There was a lot of guys that didn't have your kind of luck.

EM: Yeah. And there was a little incident happen, was there in France and we was pushing pretty hard. And where we was at, the road went around a little point of a hill and come back. Well, our troops got pushed back about a half a mile. And I was up there with them, ahead of them. And there was artillery laid down, barraged this whole thing with artillery and I was lying in there. And when it stopped, I got 10 up and I could stick my thumb through my clothes, about up here where a piece of shrapnel went through there and me laying flat on the ground. Well, that had to bounce me up off the ground for that to go through there without touching me. And started to leave, I could hear somebody groaning and hollering for help and groaning. Well, about that time, one of our soldiers said, Earl, said you better get out of there, said our company's pulled back about twenty or thirty minutes ago and the Germans will be coming in there. Well, from where I was at, I couldn't get to this boy, on account of that cut on the hill. I went back and I was standing up there by an old fence rail and three guys standing there talking to me. I said, say, I think I know where somebody's hurt, one of y'all go with me and we'll go down and see if we can get him 'cause I couldn't carry him out by myself. And so one guy, Orville Leonard, said, Earl, I'll go with you. And we went down that fence row and went, looked over at that hill and seen about where he was at. Well, we cut through the fence and went over at the foot of the hill and walked right up on that guy that was wounded. And he'd been laying there all that time and blood all over the ground. And I heard some Germans talking and they was close as to you, I guess. But there was some old bushes in there and they didn't see me, I don't know how they kept from seeing me. But I picked that guy up and walked over and carried him back to that old fence and we went back out and carried him out and they didn't fire a shot. And they was all around us, we could hear them talking. Just that's a miracle to get out. It was a Jew boy, old Jewish boy from New York City, had a big gash there in his leg, but we got him back to the aid station. But I don't know whether he ever made it or not, after-- See, we was trapped there when we hit Salerno, we got trapped three days and nights, the Germans had us circled. We couldn't get out, we couldn't get food, rations, couldn't get our boys to the hospital for three days and nights. And finally, they broke in and got to us. But we held the Germans, they was wanting to take the highway and we had that highway covered and they had us circled. And them Germans in southern Italy, they wanted to get out, but they couldn't get out. We had that highway blocked and that's the reason they tried so hard to break through. And 34th Division got pushed back, and when they pushed them back, the Germans came right in behind us. It was something, but I was glad to get home.

JW: I bet.

EM: But I never did, lot of boys go all to pieces, they get shell shocked and I've been shell-shocked two or three times, but I'd get okay soon as I kind of come to. You couldn't see or I mean you couldn't hear or talk or anything, and when you come to, you was out of it until-- but I never did, didn't bother me. A lot of guys, even lieutenants, officers, they'd get sick at the stomach, couldn't eat and couldn't sleep. They just fall to pieces, have to get rid of them because they'd get you killed if you didn't.

JW: Well, that's something that I'm not going to get to do. The ones 11 who came back from the war and didn't do okay, they're gone, I'm not going to be interviewing them. And that's too bad because there's a story there that we all ought to know about.

EM: Lot of them went all to pieces. They say now, over there where they're at now in Iraq, by the hundreds they're just going all to pieces.

JW: Yeah, they're saying thirty percent of them.

EM: But I didn't have that. Lot of guys did, they'd get sick, they couldn't eat, sleep or do nothing. A shell would hit close to them, they just go all to pieces. I got hardened in, you got to get hard, you got to take it hard, and the harder you get, the easier it is on you.

JW: Evidently, yeah. Well, I always am surprised, you know, these guys eighteen, nineteen, twenty years old, never been off the farm and then suddenly they track all over Europe or the Middle East and all that for two or three years and see everything there is to see and all the good and all the bad, and then they come home and go to work at the post office. I think it would be jarring to come back to Fort Smith or Van Buren and just go back to work like nothing ever happened to you.

EM: But I made it back, got me a job on the railroad and I liked it, it was good. My dad and two brothers even worked on the railroad, there was four of us, all engineers at one time over there.

JW: That was a mighty good job.

EM: Back there then, but you had them coal burners and lot of times, you had to fire them with scoop shovels. And it's a hundred and sixty-six miles from here to Coffeyville, and boy, you shovel coal, if you don't shovel coal, you stop. So we had to keep a shoveling until you got there, so had to be pretty well solid. But when I come back, I was tough. I was in the Infantry over there a time and I walked a lot, there wasn't no fat on me at all. But I liked the steam engines.  Course, diesels was easier and better and everything, they were nicer, more modern. But it was more like railroading when you had a steam engine. Lost my wife about eleven years ago and I been here every day and every night since.

JW: I'm sure that was--

EM: We went places together and done things together and got along good and we just had a good life.

JW: Is there anything we need to know about railroading while we got a railroad man?

EM: Well, I tell you, they made so many changes now, they made so many changes and things, I haven't been over there around but I know what they've done. They took the cabooses off their freight trains and pulled the rear brakeman off and the conductor off the back. There's two brakemans, we had an engineer, a conductor and two brakemen. They pulled the two brakemen off and only got two men on the train, and the conductor rides on the engine with the engineer. 12

JW: All about saving money, isn't it?

EM: Saving money, cutting down, saving money. Now if that train'd break down, something go wrong with it, Sallisaw, Wagoner, some of them places, that conductor got to go all the way back to find out what that is and they'd work my radio. But lot of time, time he gets back and finds out what to do, them crossings in a lot of them towns'd be blocked a half hour. They kind of disregard the public, I think, on a lot of them jobs like that, to save a job pulling that caboose off. And they do things now that they would've fired us from doing back when I was working. Used to, that front engine had the number on the lead engine that was on my train orders. Well, now they changed that up, that lead engine, trailing engine could be your lead engine on your train orders. And now they go off and leave switches, main line switches unlined because they ain't got nobody on the back to line them up. They'll go off and leave that open until that train comes back, got to stop and pull that switch. Just things like that that they done a lot. I'm glad I'm retired. R. E. Gray was my train master.

JW: Is this Missouri Pacific?

EM: Missouri Pacific. R. E. Gray was my train master and he took out about couple of weeks before I did. I told him, though, he wasn't going to beat me very much retiring. He said, Earl, he said it's time for me and you to retire and let them younger guys have it. He said if I told you what they was going to do on this railroad, you'd think I was lying to you. And wasn't thirty days, there wasn't a clerk in that yard office, everything computers. Weigh bills for all them freight trains, all that stuff the conductor used to be in charge, had computer, they done away with them. They made lots of changes. I'm glad I retired.

JW: Back when you were working on the railroad, there were passenger cars?

EM: Oh, yeah, had four passengers on there, four passengers.

JW: I imagine that adds a little more trouble than if you're just hauling coal.

EM: Oh, yeah. I could work with my dress clothes on over there engineer, I'd wear Pendleton shirts to work and everything. On them coal burners, you get to running, you sweat shoveling that coal. And that coal dust flying around, circulating in that cab, I'd get home, I'd be more colored than this man next-door. This boy with coal all over, you can see your eyes about all you can see.

JW: I've had lots of guys tell me that riding a coal burning train was not pleasant.

EM: No, it ain't. And I tell you, you get hot, sweat and get hot and shovel that coal, you get up on your seat and rest, with that wind, breeze coming and hitting you, I don't know how them guys kept-- that's they reason so many of them had arthritis, getting hot and 13 then cold, getting hot and cold and cooling off. But the most of them, the bigger engines had stokers. They had three different kind of stokers. A stoker is a trough back through that coal bin where the coal is. That coal goes down in this deal, got a big auger, it grinds that coal up on your fire box, big box right inside the fire door that blows up on top of that plate and then got jets of air that blows it right up in your fire loft, boy, it fires them good.

JW: And none of that shoveling business? AM: Oh, yeah. Now, smaller engines, lot of times they put two of them together and run them as scoop shovel to Coffeyville. But after them bigger engines, they didn't do it unless it was an emergency. Time or two, I fired them from Sallisaw to Coffeyville, just be by myself firing them, but they don't really do that unless it's an emergency.

JW: I've been to Coffeyville once and I'm sure it's not like it once was because there's not all the train crews that there used to be.

EM: Oh, that's right.

JW: Was Coffeyville a fun town or just a place--

EM: It's about the same, it ain't too much. But that old building, the YMCA, that's where all the men stayed for fifty years or more, hundred years, I guess, they stayed at that YMCA. But they tore that all out now and got places where they go out and stay, pay for their motel rooms. It's a lot different, it's not really railroad like it used to be when there was steam engines.

JW: Well, eventually some day there may be trains without a single human being on them.

EM: Well, they're doing that now some of these big switching yards, remote control. See, now they come out of Wyoming up there, them big coal trains, maybe a hundred and fifteen, twenty cars of that coal, hundred tons a car. They put two of them big eingines on the front and they'll have one of them dummies, I call them, on the back, pushing. Have two leading and one a pushing, and that back one is operated by remote control. They could take that back engine and take all four or five of them cars on the back, and push them on the track, go back and nobody'd be on that other engine. KCS runs a lot of them too, we're running lots of them now on these coal trains. Good job back when we was working, paid good. See, our pay scale was -- all the whole United States and Canada, our pay scale was the same, national, I made as much here as I would be if I'd worked in California.

JW: That's why everybody here was so excited about getting a railroad job because there was nothing paying anything around here.

EM: Yeah, that's it. And this is the same as New York, California, everywhere's all the same. Because I was president of the engineers lodge over here for several years.

JW: Did you ever go to any of the reunions from World War II?

EM: No, no, I never did. I was working railroad and I just went ahead 14 and worked, I didn't hardly take off.

JW: That makes me want to ask, is there reunions around here for old railroad men?

EM: Well, not for old ones. They could probably attend these meetings they got. Now, Frisco didn't have very many trains running back then, and their men come over to our union, when we'd have meetings, they'd always come because they didn't have enough men here hardly to hold one and they'd come over and join our union. But it's something back over there to get over with and everything. That's the reason I was against them going over to Iraq. The first thing they done going in Iraq, they made a big mistake because I know from experience, when we captured a town, we'd circle that town and then we'd go in there door-to-door and capture them guys, and we'd have them and know who they was. But when they went over there, when they hit Iraq, they by-passed them big towns trying to get to Baghdad quick as they could. Well, soon as they'd get by them towns, well, them Iraqi soldiers'd take them uniforms off, put on civilian clothes and they didn't know who they was. Be a talking and some civilian walk up there and they'd shoot you. There was a lot of mistakes made that's causing things now. They'd captured them towns when they went, all them Iraqi soldiers, they'd have knowed where they was at.

JW: Well, since you went to war and you saw people bunged up and killed and every kind of misery, do you think that makes you less likely to be in favor of another war?

EM: Oh, I don't know. I don't think they'd have-- I've seen them big Army trucks, them big ones, have them soldiers stacked up just like wood, their hands, arms, legs and things'd be sticking out and their heads hanging down and it's bad. But I tell you what, I seen Colonel Darby over there about two or three nights on Anzio beachhead, he was our regimental commander.  And he knew I was from Van Buren, and he come back there three or four nights to see me and talk to me.

JW: I hear he was a nice guy.

EM: He was a nice guy I talked to. Course it was dark, I couldn't hardly see him, it was dark. Sometimes he'd stay back there an hour or so and talk. I liked him, he was really nice.

JW: It was sure a shame that he got killed right there at the very end--

EM: Day before the war ended. He was on Anzio beachhead with us, he was our regimental commander. Well, he took a thirty day furlough and come back home. Well, while he was back home, they made him Brigadier General. Well, when he went back over there, they put him in charge of the 10th Mountain Division, he was commander of the 10th Mountain Division when he went back to Italy.

JW: You weren't home when he got killed?

EM: No, I was over there. I didn't come back until day after the war was over. 15

JW: Well, were you still in his group of people when he got killed?

EM: No. After he come home and got promoted, they put him charge of the 10th Mountain Division.

JW: I see, I understand now.

EM: He got killed. And he didn't go to France, he stayed up in northern Italy with that 10th Mountain Division. Well, we went back to Salerno and then we went to France.

JW: Well, all the guys I've talked to, they all say that that Sicily and that Anzio and all that Italy, that it was just as rough as it could be.

EM: Yeah.

JW: It was just non-stop fighting for months and--

EM: See, we knowed who we was fighting. We was fighting Army to Army. Well, over there, there's no way, ain't no war, you ain't got no enemies, all civilians. That's what I said about the civilian clothes while ago. When they by-passed them towns, they took them uniforms off, put on civilian clothes and they wouldn't knowed me from Charles Bicker.

JW: Do you think we're going to win in Iraq?

EM: No, I don't. I think it will be a political situation. I don't think there's no win because their ain't no soldiers. See, they're you'll terrorists. And I think it will be a political settlement. We'll be there from now on, though. We'll be there for the next fifty years.

JW: Doesn't look good.

EM: I was against going, but I didn't have much to say about it.

JW: Nobody asked me either.

EM: Now, if they'd come over here and hit here, I'd be for hitting them. But we didn't have no business going over there, I don't think. There wasn't no danger to us, wasn't no-- bomb us, they didn't have them missiles, that was all propaganda.

JW: That's why I asked you that question. There's some people that have said that if the people in power now had ever been in the military, ever been in the service, been in a war, they'd have known better than to do what they've done.

EM: But Bush went ahead and signed this, got Congress to go ahead and sign this deal ahead of time. And then when they went, I think a lot of Congress was against it, but they'd already signed this bill to okay Bush to go ahead, and so that's kind of put them in a bind. But I think it's a different deal, I don't think we was in any danger, I think there's other reasons.

JW: Well, I guess time will tell. It's just terrible seeing all -- we just keep grinding them up every day over there. 16

EM: The UN is the one that should be over there instead of the United States. The UN should've been in there and they could get, all them other countries, they could stop that tomorrow. And I think sending more men over there is just going to be more for them to shoot at.

JW: Yeah, more targets.

EM: They ain't stopped them yet. They're hitting every day, they get three, four, five. The mines they're putting out, they're going to have to find where they're making them and cut their supply off. They got to get that supplies in there to make them dudes; and if they get their supplies, get them stop making them, it will help a whole lot.

JW: Well, they say that, you know, you fought in the last good war.

EM: Yeah.

JW: And I think that every war we've had anything to do with since, we haven't been real sure who the enemy is and we haven't been real sure why we're there and it hasn't worked out very well.

JW: They hit Viet Nam-- France was in there and they moved out, you know, raised them. Well, what they done on that deal, Congress and people was against it. And lot of them for it and had these resisters and all that. And what they done on that deal, our country was divided, and a divided house ain't going to stand. When they go to war, the whole United States ought to be behind it. Because I don't think, way they are now, they don't know who the soldiers are, where they're from or anything about it. And the people over there in that, they don't want us because that's a terrorist nation, and a terrorist nation don't want us in fooling with them. They want us to get out and go home. Yeah. And here we've lost three hundred and fifty something boys, I think. No telling how much money, several billion dollars a day, I guess.

JW: Well, I hope we all live to see the end of it.

EM: I do, too.c I think they'll settle it before too long, but I don't think we're going to win it.

JW: Well, I think a lot of people are expecting like Viet Nam, just say that's it and come home because they don't see any other way it can work. Unless we're willing to kill every man, woman and child there, then you can be sure that you've got the enemy. Until then, how do you know?

EM: It ain't no good to get in a no win war. But we knowed who we was fighting, they was out in front of us. But over there, walking past them, they're soldiers. They've had that training, they know what they're doing, only difference is got on different clothes. But they're trained soldiers.

JW: Well, the old Marines tell me that they're just mad as a wet hen because they're making Marines do what they've never done before, which is be an occupying force. You know, the Marines come in and blow everything up and the Army comes in behind them. And here, we 17 got Marines as occupiers and it just never worked that a way, in two hundred years it's never worked that way.

EM: Like the Airborne, they hit and then get things settled, then they go back. Infantry stays up there all the time. We was up on a day on there, over a hundred days at a time without even being pulled off that frontline. That's over three months. That's the reason lot of them guys broke down because it was too much strain on them. Because day and night, you don't know when a artillery shell is going to come in and hit you. And you can't do nothing about artillery, you can't fight it if they're back out of your way. It's kind of a bad thing.

JW: Well, is there anything else we need to know?

EM: That's all I know, I guess, about all I can tell you. But everything you can find right there in that book. It's got pictures of my medals. Hand him that book there. Got my medals, tells what they're for and everything and all the days. That's just a couple of little old pictures I had there.

JW: Yeah, this pretty much tells it all, doesn't it.

EM: It tells it all, it tells right there on the first two or three pages, it's really interesting. That tells about every objective we was assigned to, we took it. It's got medals all in it and everything. But I want to tell you one thing, if you take that, I want you to save that for me.

JW: Yeah. What I'll do is I'll scan it and bring it back to you. That way I'll have a copy of it.

EM: Because that's two years of my life and experiences and things, I wouldn't take nothing for it really. See, there's all them medals and tells all about them and what they are.

JW: That's good, because I don't know this stuff.

EM: And here's something, you won't see very many of them. That's the Infantry Combat Badge with a Silver Star on it right there. But can you read that there now? Kind of read that, that will give a little bit of experience of--

JW: "Battle record of the 45th Division under my predecessors, Major General W. W. Eagles and Major General Troy H. Middleton, is well known and it's brought honor and credit to the Division. Although my association with the Division is but recent, I was close to the 45th and saw it in action during the long months in the mountains of Italy and on the beaches of Anzio. I know its achievements and its capabilities. We stand today ready to go on with the task of destroying the German defense. That task has demanded and will continue to demand the utmost effort of all of us. Your record of achievement under great hardship promises successful accomplishment of the task before us. It will not be easy, but I am confident that the Division will continue to meet the demands placed upon it. I wish to congratulate the men of the 45th Division and attached units. Without the wholehearted cooperation and effort you have given to the 18 long hard fight, the Division's successes would not have been possible."  And it's Major General Robert Frederick, Commander. That's real nice.

EM: That there was a whole lot about the division that I couldn't just set here and tell you.

JW: Well, I'll scan this and bring it right back to you.

EM: That will be fine. I wouldn't take nothing for it, that's two years of real--

JW: That's great. You got any pearls of wisdom you want to leave somebody for fifty years from now?

EM: No. I really, really hadn't thought about it. But I was in it from day one of the start until it ended, day it ended. And I wasn't away from that Company but just two or three times. I went to the hospital with malaria. And had that two or three times then, but that's all, I was with the company the rest of the time. Just very few days I wasn't with them.

JW: You were there at the beginning and you were there at the end.

EM: That's it, all the way through.

JW: And came home with all your hands and toes and--

EM: Yeah, come home, wasn't even winded, not a scratch.

JW: That's great, that's great. Well, we sure thank you for what you did sixty years ago and thank you for taking time to--

EM: I'm still 87, my memory's pretty good and I'm still holding up pretty good.

JW: Well, the guys that are in good shape are the ones that just kept going. Rocking chair will do you in. But yeah, you're doing great.

EM: Yeah. Well, appreciate you coming by and talking. Old Charlie Beaker, he worked out at Hiram Walker and he retired here not too long ago.

JW: Well.  It's good to have good friends and neighbors.

EM: Yeah, I got good friends and neighbors. They look after me and check on me.

JW: That's great. Well, thanks a lot.

EM: You're sure welcome