Interview with Warren Taylor    (back to WWII Project)

WT:  Warren G. Taylor, I was born (DELETED CONTENT).

JW:  Where were you born?

WT:  Van Buren. My mother's name was Millie M. Potts and my daddy's name was Allen S. Taylor. They were -- they were divorced. My father left my mother and seven children, and I never knew my father, very little. I graduated from high school here in 1939 and then went to junior college for a year.

JW:  In Fort Smith?

WT:  In Fort Smith, Fort Smith Junior College.

JW:  How did your mother support the family when you were growing up?

WT:  Well, she didn't have a position. My brothers and sisters who were older did most of it.

JW:  So the children worked and took care of it?

WT:  Yeah. And she passed away in her fifties, she was fifty-nine years old.

JW:  Not very old. Did you have a hard time?

WT:  Oh, yeah. Course everybody did, it was during the Depression, you know.

JW:  Right.

WT:  During the Depression and no one starved to death, everybody got along just fine. I remember that day. My mother lived in Fort Smith then, she lived over there. And I went down to Cooley Drug Store that Sunday afternoon, and I heard it on the radio, and it was unbelievable, see. And from then on, I think the country really came together. I could say later on in my military, I never heard of a draft dodger, World War II. When I attended junior college, I had a great friend over there, we became friends, we had the same interests. We wanted to be in the Air Force, wanted to be a fighter pilot, was young and the aerial warfare was our deepest interest. After a year in junior college, soon after that, well, he and I agreed later on, before we was ever drafted, that we would join the Air Force. And somewhere after that, before the 4th of July, somewhere in maybe May, a mobile unit for the US Air Force, US Army Air Force came. And he and I went and had interview, we took a test, a written test and a physical. We got through, the officer told us, now, when you receive a letter from us, he didn't know when, you can be inducted into the US Army Air Force, and you will then be sent to a flight station. That's all he could say. Well, that was good. So before the 4th of July sometime, well, Johnny, that's my friend, he--

JW:  What was his name?

WT:  Johnny, Johnny Stevenson, I believe, Johnny, fine man. He lived in Fort Smith and he found out there was a recruiting station, a Naval recruiting station in New Orleans. And he got in contact with them, and they told him they would take both of us. So he come, we talked it over. Well, he wanted to go. And I told him I'd rather go into the US Army Air Force, I'll wait for that. So he went on in, in the Naval Air Corps. And in August, I received a -- no, July, I received a letter from the draft board that said I'd be inducted August the 19th. And I was sent to Hammer Field in Fresno, California. From there, about six weeks of basic training, I get a letter from the US Army Air Force Mobile Unit, to report there such and such a date. So here it goes, you know, no, you can't, that was disheartening, said no. Then I was sent to Lowry Field in Denver, 2 Colorado, for some more schooling, training on turrets, machine guns, aircraft, more or less the aircraft system of guns and the bombs, shackles, how they hang from the bomb rack and all that. Then I get another letter when I'm at Lowry Field in Denver, telling me to report there a certain date. Take that to my CO and he said no. That was disheartening. Then I was transferred from there to Hamilton Field in Frisco, take some more training some more gunnery. Well, then I was sent, me and two or three others, up to Squaw Valley up in the Sequoia National Forest for two weeks up there, showing some gunnery stuff that they needed to know. Then they sent me back to Hamilton Field, still sad. And then they sent me back down to Hammer Field in Fresno. Then I got there and about the second day, I was in the mess hall and saw a large sign, poster on the war said, "Be an aerial gunner. Fifty percent more pay." I said, well, that looked pretty good to me. The next day, I filled out this application. And did you know, in days, in days I was escorted to Las Vegas Gunnery School, I mean days, that's how fast it was to go to aerial gunnery school. We was in Las Vegas, midday, and going down the street there, and Harry James and Betty Grable just got married, you know. And I thought, boy, she looks a lot better than he does, you know, but that was Las Vegas. That was the 4th of July in that year.

JW:  1942?

WT:  That's when it was. And I was sent out to gunnery school, an aerial gunnery school, that's eight weeks plus. Went all through that great environment, great, great, a great school, learned a lot in the aerial gunnery. Then I was shipped -- Course, that's a long story, too. I was shipped from there to Ian, Texas, Dalhart, Texas. It was an air base they just built nearby in West Texas, hot, dry. And I went there and I was assigned to a bomb group that was known as the Major Bar Provisional Group. They called it provisional group for a bomb group train -- would be trained for three months, we had our whole crew there, and the weather was hot. We started training. I remember, on August 15th, the 8th Air Force struck Schweinfurt, Germany. Schweinfurt had a ball bearing plant, they manufactured ball bearings for their whole military industry. They lost sixty-five B-17s, that's ten, that's six hundred and fifty men. Then that was August 15th. We was for our second month of training. Two months later, October the 15th, the 8th Air Force hit Schweinfurt again. They lost sixty-two or three B-17s then, and then besides couple of hundred B-17s that were damaged, was bad. Then we were just beginning our third month and we was ordered, gonna ship out and go to the air base in Omaha, Nebraska, to pick up our ship. But then they give us a five day delayed route, and I come home for five days. And first thing I did is call Johnny's mother. And she told me on the phone, says, "Well, it's bad news, Warren." Said, "Johnny was lost. He was a pilot, he was training recruits, and he had a trainee in the ship with him off the Carolina coast and he went down in the Atlantic Ocean, lost his life there." That was hard. Anyway, after that, the five days was up, we had to go back. We was on a bus leaving Garrison Avenue, on the bridge. Bruce Cox, boy from Fort Smith there, he was in the same group, and we left. Then as we was going up the bridge, he looked down Garrison Avenue and he said, "Well, Warren, take another good look. It's the last time we'll see Garrison Avenue." I 3 said, "No, no, we're not gonna do that, we'll be back."  Anyway, we went on back to our base and we flew to this air base near Omaha, and then we flew to Presque Isle, Maine, stopped at Detroit on the way. It was terrible winter, not even flyable weather. I mean that's how bad those two missions there in to Schweinfurt really met there with some big losses. It wasn't even flyable weather, very cold. Got in Presque Isle, Maine. There were fifteen, twenty foot snow drifts, it was terrible. And then we went to Gander Bay, Newfoundland. It was cold. Seemed like it was half day and half night all the time. And I remember how that was bitter cold, you wouldn't take off for anything. But we got ready to take off and there's not a blizzard going on, but high winds, snow. And before we went out on the apron there to get in these ships, why, the commanding officer told us, says, "Boys, we're gonna do two things new, never happened. We're gonna use 100 octane fuel in these B-17s," never had before. Usually 90, 100 octane, whatever that means. "Second, we're gonna fly the North Atlantic and it's never been done before." You don't fly Atlantic in the wintertime, see, they ice up. And that's what we had, forty-four ships, this Major Bar Provisional Group. Ordinarily, we were designed to go as a full group, but had so many losses, they told us we're gonna go over there, replacement, replacing all those losses over there. We had forty-four ships there, B-17s, and we took off. The first one got five hundred feet off the runway out there and it blew up and exploded. Then we flew the Atlantic, I remember we got halfway over there. The ship we was in just dropped almost down, and we wasn't four hundred feet from the Atlantic. Oh, it was terrible cold, almost went down. And put a search light on the wings, you could see the ice fixed along there. So we stayed low there until that ice about melted. Anyway, we lost four ships. That's five, that's five out of the forty-four. That left thirty-nine over there. And what I say from now to this part is it's unofficial, but it's pretty well known that of that thirty-nine then went in combat, thirty-one of 'em were shot down. Eight of 'em, eight of 'em was the only ones that finished their missions. And one of 'em was my crew, that's another story when I was -- that last mission I was on is when I was on another crew. But I tell you, got in England, it was terrible weather, cold. Still had to start right off with bad weather. I tell you, the mission, the mission, next to last mission, we went to briefing, for the briefing, and there's hundred and seventy-five, two hundred men in this briefing, whole group. There's two officers had a huge map up there. And we're right here, see, and they tell us where we're going, there's a orange string, you know, tells you right where you're going and why. February the 22nd, 1944, the greatest aerial armada of all time, the greatest. They told us there'd be ten thousand American planes, bombers, B-17s, B-24s, P-51s, P-47s. It's a great tribute and we wanted to show the Germans that the Luftwaffe, the Luftwaffe is gone. We're in charge now. It was a beautiful day and I remember, I remember I was a tail gunner and I remember such a beautiful picture, all this huge wave of B-17s, it was all over Germany, all over. You know, they used to tell us all, Germans has got rockets one of these days, you know. We know they'll have rockets. They'll also -- they said they might have jets. But jets, American, British and the Germans was in the jet business, but it 4 wasn't operable then. But anyway, the rockets, the British called 'em missiles, missiles. And on that day, our mission was to Regensburg, it's way down in the southeastern part of Germany, next to the Swiss border. Beautiful day that day. I was setting there, and way over on the side, I saw a streak, a light streak I'd never seen before. And about that time, one went this way, setting right over to our left. See, I'm in the tail with my back facing. The Focke-Wulf 190, that's a newer German, one of their new German fighters. It resembles our P-47s, it was their best. It wasn't ten feet under, a little bit lower, under our wing. I looked right at him, I could see the pilot dressed in black. He had black oxygen mask, black helmet, had his arm, everything in black on the stick, and he looked right at me. I mean now we're going about a hundred and seventy-five to two hundred miles an hour, and he's going about three hundred or three-fifty, that way. And I saw this streak, it was the first rocket. The streak was brownish, blackish, a little pinkish. And it was, I could see the streaks going.  He had fired probably from twelve o'clock lower position. And I saw him and I knew -- I can still see him. That was the first, first rocket. And he missed, the other one missed the whole formation. And I knew, boy, if he ever gets straight on out there, all I got in my sight, just one little short burst and he's had it. But he got up just a little past me and he went straight down, see, way straight down and he got out of it, see. And we was going, that was on the way there, going to Regensburg. We would look over the Swiss Alps, they was about as tall as we were. And to this day, I suppose that's the largest aerial armada of all time. It was a great success. Now, the next mission, that was an ME, that mission. When they woke us up, awakened us, well, usually at four o'clock in the morning, but it was three, they come around, wake you up, you know, you go up there early. ME means maximum effort, every ship on the base goes up, the next mission, and what we always been dreading Big B, Berlin. You see, at that time, the three most heavily defended targets the Germans had, Ploesti oil fields in Rumania, the 15th Air Force of Italy was striking it. Most of the 15th was B-24s, which was a great airplane. There was losses with Ploesti. Then Schweinfurt, about forty, fifty kilometers east and south of Frankfurt, and that's the ball bearing plant. That is one of the most heavily defended. Big guns, the Germans had hundreds of thousands of 'em, big 88s, they could fire artillery up there, that flak. Then the other one was Berlin. Now, Berlin was never a target for transportation or railroads or anything else. But we always worried about Big B, one of these days, we knew it'd be bad. And they awakened me on March the 3rd. Weather bad over there all the time. March the 3rd, they come in, awakened me. Another tail gunner called in sick. It was three o'clock in the morning. Our crew, two of em's in the hospital; one for a flak wound, other one for frostbite. So it was an ME, maximum effort. And this guy called in sick and I was called, awakened, to go on that crew. That's bad. You hate to leave your crew. Your crew is just like a family. We went to chow. We knew it had to be Big B, it's coming. I went on the flight line to get the ship number. I didn't know any of these crew members. It was dark, three o'clock in the morning, see. I fixed my guns in the position there. And I didn't know any of the guys. It was dark, didn't recognize them. That's bad, 5 too. But anyway, before we did that, we went to the briefing. This big map up there, had three S-2 officers telling us, you could hear a pin drop. There are two hundred guys in there and we was sweating it out. I was in the 381st Bomb Group, 534th Bomb Squadron, four squadrons in a group. We was located not far from Cambridge, England. And they had the little orange strings started up and, boy, I mean it was started across the North Sea, across into the Daily Strait area, and then all the way to the Baltic Sea, leaving the Baltic Sea at a certain degree out there. Our AP was north of Berlin, out in the Baltic and we go there, take a ninety degree turn, go south and hit Berlin from there. That's what we been expecting, it's gonna be bad. Well, then I got in position of the ship, and we took off some time, take thirty minutes, an hour flying around and everything, going every way to get in formation, your position, had certain positions. And got airborne, entered the North Sea and weather was getting bad, it was getting bad. We looked down and Zeider Sea, I knew that over there, I looked down and it was obscured. Weather was bad. We shouldn't even have taken off, they should've scrubbed the mission right then. We went on through, we was approaching the Baltic Sea, and the weather got worse. It was unbelievable. Time we got clear out in the Baltic, it was zero visibility. Flak was getting thick. No German fighters around. I knew then that the heavy flak -- Course, they knew where we was going, Germany knew where we was going. The flak was heavy. See, flak is bursts of artillery out there, see. Lot of heavy shrapnel in it. Knocked down a lot of planes, killed a lot of people. It was thick. And flying along there in the formation, had us spread out, couldn't fly very close. Up to our left, saw a B-17 blow up up there. I saw another one two minutes later, right under us to the left, that went over on its back, and I could see the hole, it went on down. And about that time, I felt an impact in my back, piece of flak had hit me. It wasn't real bad, but it's like someone hit you with a hammer, stung a little bit, course I knew it was a piece of flak. And then about that time, we got the 8th Air Force, called 'em back, said, well, they're too late now, out over the Baltic. Said scrub the mission. They was too -- Never get to the target, the weather. We left the formation, had one engine out. And then I heard the bombardier, navigator and the pilot talking, trying to decide we got to get rid of this bomb load, you know. After awhile, the navigator said, "Well, we're not far from the submarine pens." Well, they was arguing where, but anyway, then the intercom was shot out. I heard no more. I heard no more. Setting way back there in the tail, ordinarily on the B-17, you got two waist gunners. You got a ball turret gunner, you got the tail gunner. One of the waist gunners has to always be in contact with the tail gunner. You know, if you let your oxygen mask freeze up, the ice, you can just go to sleep, you know, you got to keep awake. He keeps in touch, and the other waist gunner in touch with that ball turret down there. Boy, that's a terrible position, that ball turret, that's worse. I didn't know any of those crew, none of 'em, and didn't hear from any of 'em. And they didn't drop the bombs, I knew that, I could tell when that was happening. There was three Focke-Wulf 190s in the area. I knew they was there because you could hear when they fire. They had twenty millimeter cannons, see, and like little shells that explode, like 6 throwing rocks on a tin roof, see, you could hear it. It was out there, and the weather was so bad, they didn't get very good shot. And then went on, and all at once, I felt a uplift, I flipped to the ship, I knew they'd dropped the bomb. And I knew it had to be somewhere in Germany, knew we was going toward the Netherlands, you know. Course, that's the shortest distance from where we was to get back to England, that uplift, and then I knew we was in the Netherlands. The weather began to clear up. I saw two more Focke-Wulfs out there, hole in the clouds, and then they'd disappear. To make a long story short, we already lost another engine. I didn't know how far we was over the Netherlands, but then we got over the -- I could look down and see the coastline, the North Sea and I wondered why the pilot, he needs to get away from that. If you bail out there and you get in that North Sea, you won't live long in that cold, that cold water. And looking, see that hole in every one of the engines. Leave it for a while and then get back right on that coastline. So I began to worry now. When you bail out now, you need to get out of that chute, you got this Mae West on, that's what we called the lifevest, we called it the Mae West. You had to get out of that parachute harness, see, before you hit the water if you can, because that Mae West can't inflate, see. So you got to get out of that chute. You got your weight hanging down, it's a male/female type of connection, you put it in and it holds, see, but you got to pull your weight down where you can do that. So I got to thinking, now, I've got to be sure and do that. I was worrying about getting out of that chute before I hit the water, 'cause you can go twenty feet down, see, and I was worried about that. And then I began to see a chute go by, two more chutes go by. Intercom's out, see. So I started. You can't just jump out, you got to get ready. You're hooked up; I got my heated suit, got to disconnect that; my system for your intercom, had to pull that out; and your oxygen mask, you had to get rid of that. We got a heated suit on and GI shoes. You have to tie them together and you better be sure, when you bail, you better take those shoes with you. So I turned around to see about those shoes and to get out. And then I got ahold of it, I couldn't move. I was just frozen, I couldn't move, all my strength, all my strength, I couldn't, I couldn't get out. You were in that position, I had a twelve by twelve one inch piece of arm plate in front of me, you know, kind of helps protect you there. Then you had your 250 caliber machine gun, you know, a great weapon. I didn't have a turret, they were a forty degree one way gold ring post sight, and I couldn't move. I knew what was happening. That centrifugal force, the ship must be turning. And I count eight, nine, ten, eleven, fifteen seconds, and all at once, why, they were leaving it. And I thought, well, I can see, I could see that it was a quick sharp turn, getting ready to. And I knew those Focke 190s would be out there and I thought I'd better look one more time because before I get out of here, they get the first shot in. I couldn't believe it. Was about five minutes before I tried to get out. I looked through there and I couldn't believe it. I looked through that sight there and I saw two Focke-Wulf 190s, six to eight hundred yards. That's just point-blank with a fifty caliber. Two of 'em, I saw the two of 'em. One of 'em was a little above, higher, little lower than the other one. And boy, they disappeared through 7 that hole in the cloud and I hit that trigger, one, two, three seconds, boy, and I fired just one, two, three seconds, could feel the guns going that way. And I don't know to this day, I didn't see the result because the cloud covered it. And I'd swear, when they covered that sight six to eight hundred yards, we could tell approximately about how high, how much they fill in the sight, I couldn't help but hit 'em both. Anyway, then I had to proceed to get out of there. And that thing was turning, it was on the way down, and couple more chutes went by. I had to get out of there fast now. And I unbuckled everything, got the GI shoes I done tied together, and then I had an escape hatch right down a little below myself. And I got to thinking, you supposed to check, check all your guns, but I never checked that. Oh, I told myself, I sure hope that'll open. Then I slid it back and it opened and I bailed out. And when I bailed out, you got to get clear of the ship before you pull that cord, and I did that. And I saw the ship had left, going way like that down. The chute opened up and it's coming back now. I was descending, looks to me like it's coming right back under me, and it did, and it got close to the ground and it blew up then, see. And when I saw the ground below me, snow covered, I didn't see any Germans around but I saw some civilians come out. Then I figured, well, maybe there won't be any Germans around, see. Course, they're bound to hear that explosion, you know, like senior citizens, you know, and also young people, they come out there. One man helped me out of the chute, see, they helped me out of the chute. Before we go any further, let me tell you about the Dutch Underground. The Dutch Underground was able to help rescue many airmen shot down over Germany that got to the Netherlands. One reason why they were able to do that, there's three countries that were neutral, Switzerland, Sweden and Spain. If we bailed out or landed in Switzerland or Sweden, you'd be in there for the duration. But if you get to Spain, you could go home. So the Dutch Underground was able to do that sometimes. And these people come out, so I knew for them to show themself, wasn't any Germans around. Now, this is March 3rd, 1944. One man come out, helped me out of the chute. He wound it up and he took off with it to hide it. Another one helped me get that heated suit off, you know, it was tied over there. That little piece of flak hit my back, it was a little painful, but he took it off and he showed me a little blood about that big around, you know. And there wasn't any flak, he didn't feel any, it wasn't bad, and he took off with that. And then I sat down there to get my shoes on. They helped me get my shoes on. Get that heated suit, all that away. But I tell you, it's really a sickening thing. You land right there, you're the only one, you're not free anymore, you know. The Germans, they're out there, so I had to hurry. I knew I had to hurry and move out of that area. So no one spoke English. But I didn't know where I was. We had an escape kit so I got up there. And before I left, they hid all the stuff they possibly could and began to disappear. They helped me a great deal. I needed to know where I was. So also I found a map, my silk map, knew it was there. But also, there was some concentrated food bar or something. But also, there was a packet of money. Of course, oh, what's the word, this is not official. I mean in the briefing, they didn't tell us there was a packet in some of these for fifteen hundred dollars 8 Allied currency in it.

JW:  Money?

WT:  They didn't tell us that. But one of the guys on the crew, one of 'em on the ground crew kind of dropped a hint. Now, someone may have one of these packets, fifteen hundred dollars in Allied currency. We don't know to this day if that was the practice, but I took that and they had told me -- now, it wasn't in briefing, that was not to be published, I suppose. So one of these fellows told us what they want to do, get to people in the Underground, you know. He can't, destroy or do something with it, don't let the Germans see it. Well, then most of these civilians, they were already disappearing. So I slipped on my -- I had a compass there. I needed to look on the compass and I needed to go north, see, not south. So I started walking that way. And I needed to let somebody find me, see. And I went, stopped at one house, flat country there, flat, had little canals all over the place. I went in that one house, and wasn't in there five minutes, they couldn't help me out. And I left there, went to another one. And after crossing another canal, I remember I could back up and run hard as I could, I could jump over it and probably just drag one of my feet in the canal. That second one, there wasn't anything. But the next one, stopped to rest on the edge of the canal, and this house sitting down there, and I could hear a little talk. And seemed to be some people, traffic going in and out that back door. You know, over there, their barn is attached to their garage, their house, like our garages are. So I went down there, in the back door, and I opened the back door, went in there, in the barn, there's a big stack of hay there. And there's about twelve, fifteen young people, twelve, thirteen years old, having a big time and just pulling sprouts off potatoes. I come in and they just shut up all at once, and I walked in and I said, "I'm American, do any of you speak English?" They didn't say anything. So I walked up a little further, and I got my map out. What I want to know is where I was. I took that map out and laid it up on top of this hay, and boy, they all run over then when they saw this map. Top of it said Netherlands, you know. And boy, they pointed, right there it is, that's where I was, you know, they knew that. They were jabbering, they saw the name of their village on that map there. It was in the north central part of the Netherlands, and I was going the right direction. They was jabbering. And all at once, they almost stopped, and I saw a lady coming from the house. She looked about fifteen years younger than me, maybe forty years old, had a print dress on. She came down there and I got up to meet her, she spoke perfect English, perfect English. She took me, said come with me. We got in her house, you know, and she said, "You don't have long here, you've got to go. First, I've helped many other American boys, just like you. You got to go now. My husband will be here anytime and he's not one of us." And I hesitated, and then she hesitates and she says, "And he is not one of us. Tell you what you do," went over to a big picture window and she pointed. "There's a little railroad crossing the street up there, street crossing the railroad, two, three blocks up," I couldn't see it from there, and one big bush supposed to be a tree. Says, "You go up there, and you wait, you wait. If two men come by," told me how they'd be dressed, be two to three hours maybe. Now, you know, when I 9 bailed out, also, that parachute drug me about over a hundred yards, had a high wind that took me from the coastline, and it just tore my wrist watch off and injured my whole left arm and wrist, it was painful. But anyway, she saw that. Said, "Well, you don't have time for that. But you go there and when these two men come by, don't you speak to 'em, don't say one word, ignore 'em, but follow 'em, follow 'em."

JW:  And you had your uniform on?

WT:  Oh, yeah, yeah. She knew what I was. She spoke good English. So I started following him, took her about forty, forty-five minutes. Course, first, it was about nearly two hours before they came by, cold, snowing. But when they did come by, had long overcoats on, a cap, and they ignored me, older men. And I started following 'em for maybe forty-five minutes or more. And all at once on the left, on the horizon, I saw two, three Germans, six or eight, ten or fifteen of 'em, all along the horizon, German soldiers. I knew they knew I was in that area, see. And they was getting closer, so I had to do something. There was a herd of cattle, it was getting later in the afternoon, four, five o'clock. Course, I'd been walking nearly all day. And I got in this herd of dairy cattle there. And one German, he wasn't within fifty yards of me one time there, I stayed with them. But the two men disappeared. Well, there went my chances. I left there, and nightfall and it was snowing, and I came to another house, little old tool shack in the back. I got in there, course, keep from getting in the -- so I warm up. Next morning, I got up hoping to get out of there. And weather cleared up a little bit, but then I started walking. I went to another house, and those people there slammed the door in my face, see, they didn't want anything to do with me. And then I had this packet of money. I got to thinking, this lady, I would have given it to her, you know; but she told me her husband was not one of us. And I was afraid if she wound up with that money, it might jeopardize her. That's why I didn't give it to her. But next time I got to one of those canals, I dug a hole in the mud and I put that down in there, and it may still be there. Anyway, people slammed the door in my face, and I kept walking. About noon, after noon, saw a character with a bicycle, pushing a bicycle. So I confronted him. Oh, he was real nice. He didn't speak any English, though. I kind of thought maybe he might, but he just -- Anyway, he pushed his bicycle, he motioned, I went with him. Took about thirty minutes to get to his home, he had a pretty nice home over there and took me in there. And his wife served me some black bread and some hot milk. They drink their milk hot. I wasn't even hungry, but sat me down there on a pallet on the floor. And I wasn't there about two hours when the door opened, two Dutch officers, Dutch policemen, with an old man, short man, he was a Gestapo agent. He said a little later on was with 'em. See, this, he called in and reported me, see. And, boy, he was jabbering down. I'll always remember seeing him, what a character he was. He took me in, I believe he could speak English, and he called the Gestapo, see. Anyway, they took me in, told me, said going to the car, he says, "For you, the war is all over." That's what he said. In this car, little ole black car, short one, it had a big tank, like a hot water tank on the side of this fender on his car, and two, three tow sacks full of wood chips. That car was running on that, that's 10 what they were using. He took me to the little town there in that area and took me to the City Hall, that place there. And you see, the German Luftwaffe and the (inaudible) was entirely opposite. I hadn't even been searched yet, that had to be done with the Luftwaffe. I was in the Air Force, the German, the Luftwaffe, I was their prisoner and they wanted to be sure I didn't have a weapon, but they didn't take anything. They put me in this little office, waited there about two hours. And I remember there was one step down, and then out to a double door outside. And I looked out the window and I heard this motorcycle and side car come screaming down the culverts on the street. It was two Germans. One of 'em had a burp gun, one had a Mowzer. They pulled up out in front, burst through there like they had Public Enemy Number One. Come in there to -- They were Luftwaffe. Come in there and the first thing they did was frisk me to see -- one of 'em had a burp gun in my belly and other one feeled around, see if I had a weapon. Then when I turned around, and one with the Mowzer, he took the butt of the gun and hit me in the back, knocked me about six or eight feet, see. Then later on, they put me in this side car, this motorcycle side car. The German didn't have his Mowzer, both of 'em had a burp gun. They put me in the side car and one of 'em driving it and one German sat behind me, he had the burp gun. And started traveling, and he had that gun in the back of my neck all the time. It was getting dark and we went all night. I knew, I could see the water on the left, knew it must be the coastline. And about every hour made a stop, and they had to check to see if what we were was not detrimental to their safety. In other words, there's a lot of Germans along the coastline, I think they was looking for the D-Day then, see. We went all -- I rode all night. Just about daybreak, we come into a city there, it was Amsterdam. I could see Amsterdam. They put me in that city jail there in Amsterdam. The walls about three feet thick, the door is hard and it took almost two men to open the door. Old, it was old. They put me in that cell, one little old small window at the top. And he didn't open it for two days, just put me in there. And third day, he come in there, give me a slice of bread with some looked like butter, honey, on it, you know. Give me that and a cup of ersatz, supposed to be coffee, made out of acorns, it's terrible. Anyway, that day then they took me out. And then the German air base, Luftwaffe base there, and I remember going in there. I could see tails of these ME 109s, I knew that's what they -- ME 109 Luftwaffe base. Took me in this big headquarter building, and there's a table there, a German officer across from me and a German Sergeant to my left, setting in a chair there. Set me down there. And then that's when I had to take contents out of my pocket. You see, when you go on a mission, they take all your personal belongings, and they put it in a little bag and if you don't come back, they send that to your home, see. Well, I had a comb, course, I had hair then. I had a comb, pocket comb, and had a lifetime Schaffer fountain pen in my -- forgot, and I left it in there, my sister had given me and, you know, little ink. And you get high altitude, it'd expand and the ink would leak, laid out there. And that German officer took that. They passed my comb around, you know, had two, three teeth out of it. All these women in there, must be a hundred of 'em in there, they looked at that and I asked that Sergeant, said what's so interesting about that 11 comb. And the German Sergeant told me, said, well, this thing had two or three teeth out of it. They say if that'd been a German product, it wouldn't have any of those teeth out of it. That's cheap, cheap American, you know. But this fountain pen was German. He was looking at it. And I didn't know what rank, but I asked this German Sergeant, well, what rank is -- This German, now they're real nice to me. I asked him what rank is the officer. He said, "Well, in your military, you have stars." "Yeah." He said, "He's one, one star general." He's setting there getting a train that will ship us in to a prison camp. Said lot of ruins on the way there, went to France was where it was. Took us to a place out of town, in the vicinity of Frankfurt, Germany. You know, back then, even today, you go to Germany, first place you go is Frankfurt. That had to be a distributing point was Frankfurt. Out from Frankfurt, there was a place called Dulag Luft. It was all airmen, British or American, especially all American airmen are sent there and interviewed, see. And they sent us to Dulag Luft. Went in there to a little room there, and this German officer, he had about three big black books up there. And he was nice, you know, he spoke good English, show me what all he knew. They told us about Dulag Luft, they told us about everything, what would happen, name, rank, serial number, that's all. Name, rank, and serial number. He opened that book. He told me, said you're Warren Taylor of Van Buren, Arkansas. You know, that's what my dogtag said, Van Buren, Arkansas. He told me about when you went in the service, you went to Little Rock, Arkansas. Told me I went to the West Coast, all that stuff there. Like they told us back at the base, they tell you stuff make you think they know everything. But then they want to know what's your signal. You know, we had Triangle L on our group. Wanted to know that, you know, certain things, and just name, rank and serial number. And he told me he lived in New York City, was a baseball fan. And when it's time for him to come home in the late '30s, when Hitler was calling everybody home, that's when he went back home. And he left and what I could hear next-door this, this guy in this next cell, next room over there, interviewing this guy. And that guy said, "Well, beats the hell out of me." Then they'd ask him questions. You supposed to tell 'em name, rank and serial number. "Beats the hell out of me." Said that about three times, and then they did, that's what they did, see. Anyway, also, they told us back at the base, near this Dulag Luft, there's a four story white building there. It's a chemical, some kind of chemical plant the Germans had there. They left it there 'cause they knew that the Americans wouldn't bomb, it'd be safe there, which it was, which it was. But there was one come over there, few bombs dropped nearby one day there, but it was not close. Anyway, they shipped us out, put us in freight cars. Now, see, that was December 3rd, '45, it was two, three days left. I found out later when the war was over, mission I was on March 3rd, it was weathered out. And the next day, they started and the weather was bad then. On March 4th, few of 'em got through, and then the 5th was bad. On the 6th, they hit Berlin pretty big, March 6th. And then when we left Dulag Luft, they put us in these railroad cars. I knew we was going east because they wasn't going north out of there. I knew the transportation, bombings on this railroad, that's why they always hit the railroad. And kept going. 12 The third day we was on that, and I saw a sign said Poznan, Poland. We was going into Poland. The railroad was in bad trouble, all the bombings. Some went the wrong way. Took them to a prison camp in northeastern Germany, Dulag Luft 6. It was right in the extreme northeast part of Germany, cold. We didn't know at that time, it was in Poland, that prison camp was in Poland, but we didn't know that then. That was a pretty new camp there, wasn't bad for a couple of weeks there. But while we were there, I'll just tell, I skip -- I been hitting the high -- told 'em we was hitting the high spots, lot of stuff in between. Lot of it, I forgot, and lot of it is secondary. Anyway, two things I remember about that. Latrine, course, everybody don't know what a latrine is. But they had started digging a tunnel, and the ones that were already there, but all of us had to take our turn going there. And they had one thin two by something, you crawled on the edge. And you can imagine all this, you could imagine the smell and stench in this right over that. Man, you better not fall in. They say you fall in, we're gonna forget you, fall in. Crawl down and they went through a piece of concrete eighteen inches wide, they go in through that hole and was digging dirt, maybe three, four feet, two, three feet out there. And I remember you get in there and fill our pockets full of it, dirt. And then you leave, and you put the dirt underneath. The buildings were on stilts, they was off the ground, could see under that. So what we did, you take that dirt and throw it under there because if you throw it outside, the airplane, they take pictures of that and see if you got some different dirt. Anyway, that's the only time I went there. But the other time, the incident that's worth mentioning, they put us in this building, pulled down the wooden hatch on the window and close you in there, turn these big dogs loose, see. And then you're not supposed to get out of there until they open the front door. One morning there, about the time to get up, we heard the shot. Guy was out there on the parade ground, laying on the ground. German from the tower shot him in the stomach from that tower. And the boy, I can still see that boy, I can still see him laying there. He was in pain. He tried to get up and he couldn't, shot in the stomach. He laid there for forty-five minutes and no one couldn't go, he laid there, it was sick. Finally, about an hour, though, they come picked him up. The next day, gonna have this funeral. And they went to the outside fence there, and Germans cut a hole in the fence and let six or eight guys go in there, and they dug the hole. And me and a half dozen other guys went in there after they got that, and they opened the wires up there and we got through there. And we had him wrapped in a blanket. The Germans had issued us all an Army blanket. We didn't have that, we'd froze to death without that blanket. We had him wrapped up in it, you know, go and had little services there we had for him, young kid. And I saw him, I can still see him laying there on the edge, young kid, and I said, that just could've been me, was just about our speed. He was laying there on the edge. And the Germans got raving mad. They told us take that German blanket off of him. And he was laying there and I saw his face before we dropped him in there. And I thought, well, his mother, his momma don't know, she don't know what's happening to this boy. Took that blanket off, rolled him in and covered him up. Well, we wondered why the Germans cut that wire. 13 We went back in there and they kind of wired it back up. But for a couple of weeks there, we could hear these guns, you know. When it's rainy, damp weather, the sound of guns were closer, they were louder. It'd clear up and they was fainter. Russian offense was in the making and they were getting closer. And the Germans knew we was getting ready to vacate that 'cause those Russians were moving fast. And so they told us they was gonna vacate that place. Now, there must have been four or five thousand in that and another camp near, of GIs, they had to get 'em out of there before the Russians got there. So they put hundreds of 'em in box cars. And then hundreds more, they started marching 'em. I had some of the dangedest luck, you know. I was one of the couple hundred of us, they put us in three box cars, I guess about two hundred of us. And they took us to Memel, Lithuania. Memel was where the base on the Baltic, one of the large ones at that time, way at the very end of the peninsula, jutting out in the Baltic Sea, Lithuania. And I wondered why just us. Rest of 'em loaded in box car or marched on the march and then two hundred of us. They go up there and I notice in this port, there's four, five or six pretty good sized ships anchored there. The German Kommandant was there, was getting ready to put us in an old coal miner ship that'd been shipping coal. Gonna put us in the hold of that ship. This German Kommandant told us, said we had notified American allied in Stockholm, Sweden, that this ship was anchored here. And if anything goes wrong, it's your country's fault, it'd be them. And then we marched in there single file. And I remember, that took about two hours to get in that. I'd never been on a ship before in my life. That's something like you see way back two hundred years ago in the Far East somewhere. Smell, the water seeping in the side, black stuff. Somebody said they used to haul coal from Smorlank. Anyway, it was nearly half full time I got there. And looked down that steep ladder, and it was a death hole. I got down there, and what I did, one of the posts, about a three or four inch steel post supported that ladder. So I wrapped my arms around that post there 'cause that opening up there was about four by six foot opening there. The guards up there. That's the only opening in the whole darkness. And I would wrap my arms around that and I thought, well, now I'll have a better chance, something happened, I at least know where that hole is, you know. That was terrible, most terrible two to three days I ever spent in my life, crammed 'em in there. And then there was no water, they had a big bucket of water they'd sling on a rope, sling water across there, you know. And you had enough to keep you from dying. They'd swing it back. And if you had to relieve yourself anyway, there'd be that bucket. But we didn't have any food, didn't have many BMs, didn't have nothing. But got where I couldn't tell night from day. That was terrible.

JW:  Would they cover the hole back up, where it was just pitch black?

WT:  No, it stayed open.

JW:  It stayed open.

WT:  There was two German guards, both of 'em had a burp gun. And no one to this day knows cause me and my -- of all the thousands, I had to be one of the two, I'd guess two, at least two hundred, maybe three, but I'd guess two hundred. And it got rough, water seeping in 14 there. I didn't know what day from night. And one time there, one guy went up, you know. Hour or two later, two more went up. I thought wonder where they're going. And then later on, about three of 'em went up. I counted about seven went up there. Gets sickening down there, you know. The thing was moving. So I thought, well, I'll go up there, so I climbed up there. Now, I know that I counted seven of 'em went up there. Those two German guards up there, each one of 'em grabbed hold of my arm and threw me down, just threw me down on the deck, you know. Boy, that deck, there was a storm going on, four, five story tall, those waves were. That ship, it's just like a cork. I started down that deck, sliding off into the sea. I knew that was it. I didn't have a chance, I knew that was it. And I reached up for something, there was a little old cord about big around as my finger. And I grabbed that and I went over just on the edge, part of the ledge went off, it held me. I found out later on, I looked on the Germans, they had that on both sides for their own protection, see, and that saved me. And I got back up and that ship, the deck, went the other way, and I held onto it coming back. Now, I wanted to get back down in that hole now, see. That ship was tossed around like a cork.

JW:  Was it anchored or was it moving?

WT:  No, it was moving.

JW:  It was moving.

WT:  Moving in the Baltic, moving down. And they grabbed me. It made 'em mad because I survived that. They threw me down, threw me to the hole. Still have a little -- My left shoulder hit that, and it was a muscle tendon and a nerve for a long time, that's where they threw me and I went on down there. Went through all that. To make a long story short, we docked down somewhere on the Baltic, on the German coast, on the coastline, and they put us in box cars again. They handcuffed us, coupled together, put us in that box car. I thought they was gonna take us out and put us in a firing squad. But we got in that box car and rode for all that day. Stopped. While I was in that box car, one of the guys, he found those old handcuffs, he found out how you open one of them things. We started opening them things up and the Germans got furious. We was all outside, all got outside. They got furious. They put those handcuffs on us, we got back in, you know, and waited there awhile, another couple of hours in there. Each end of the box car, they had a little small 30 caliber machine gun mounted there. Boy, I mean least little thing they wanted to use it, see. Then they hauled us out of the two, three box cars we were in, waited.  And they brought some German Marines, sixteen year old Marines with dogs. This was an ordeal, still in the history books and I was one of the two hundred. I handcuffed one of 'em, and then the German, these young with bayonets, marine bayonets, they started running the dogs, they started running. It was a three mile run, up through a pine forest. That was a horrible, horrible day. If one fell, drug you down. And that run up there, the dogs was nipping you, the German guards used bayonets on some of 'em. I counted three different ones in the ditches. I don't know whether they were dead or not. This guy I was with, he fell down in the ditch, almost drug me with him, I helped him back up. Went through all that ordeal, it was about a three mile run. And they put us up on the grassy slope up 15 there, and we laid around full hour. And a German captain, he was in charge there. Oh, he was mean. He'd gone home on leave and lost his family by American bomb, and he hated these Americans, and he was wanting a chance to kill 'em. And we couldn't get up off our knees. Every once in a while, they fired a 30 caliber machine gun over our head, kept us out there all night. And the next morning, what it was is right outside the gates of Stalag Luft 4, 4 was the base. And then they marched us in there, Stalag Luft 4. In mud, rainy, and they had tents in there, put us in those tents then. So that started the -- Stalag 4 one of the biggest, see. See, the 15th Air Force out of Italy, B-24s mostly, everytime you brought one down, there was ten men. 8th, the same way. There was a lot of prisoners-of-war from those two activities, see. Put us in Stalag Luft 4. I can say a lot that went on there every day. I forgot a lot of it, but what's important is when we got ready to leave there. The Red Cross sent parcels over there, but they didn't give it to us. But the day we marched out of Stalag Luft 4 was months later, well, there was a big stack of 'em, had about a half foot of snow on top of 'em, stacked outside. But what they did, they took one parcel, divided for three of us. I had a Camay bouquet bar of soap, and a loaf of -- not a loaf, but let's see, a bar of soap and some piece of cheese and I think chocolate. I think the GIs, Army GIs had in their mess kit, when they go in the wild, they carried it, it was a long, about four and a half, five inches long, a half inch thick. It was concentrated chocolate. That was real good, so I kept that. And this bar of Camay bouquet soap. And we left that and marched out of Stalag Luft 4, big stack of those. Man, we were starving. They never feed us nothing. And they let the civilians have them, too. That started on a eighty-eight day march that's known as The Black March, and I was unfortunate to have been part of that. They marched us out of there. And this was in the cold northern part of Germany. And was marching us up toward the Baltic Sea. And they put us on -- actually, they had a tendency to march along there where we wouldn't be rescued. But anyway, it was cold. We slept outside, in barns. And we marched along there. And if you find a barn, you want to get in that barn. If not, you had to sleep outside in the snow. Then the next day was another day. Where are you gonna sleep tonight. One night, it was so cold, Germans built a big bonfire, right on the coast, ice all along the coast of the Baltic there. Huge fire there. And I remember getting around that, they brought some Russian prisoners in there, they started out with six hundred of 'em, marching, left town, about sixty of 'em got there. They all died of starvation or freezing, froze to death. And if you had a leather belt, they'd eat that belt. And they'd be in, we was in bad shape, but not that -- they'd break a green limb off and eat that, see. That's how bad the Russians -- that was terrible.

JW:  Is this -- Is this winter of 1945?

WT:  Yeah, '44.

JW:  '44.

WT:  Let's see, '45, winter of '45.

JW:  It'd be like December or January of '45, February of '45.

WT:  It's like -- The weather there like up in International Falls, Minnesota, way up there. It was terrible. Marched along there. I 16 remember about twelfth or thirteenth day, you know, you get in a barn, and you like to get in the attic, if possible, but you take whatever you can get. Sometimes you get down there and somebody get in the attic. If they had to relieve himself, they couldn't get out of there they'd run over, they'd drip down on everybody, and it wasn't very clean. It'd make 'em mad, they'd holler back at them guys. Anyway, that's why you'd like to get up in that hay. And I remember about -- Oh, yeah. One, about twelfth or fourteenth day, I was out. It was getting dark and we got in this barn. And the Germans told us, I mean -- yeah. There was two barns, one here, one fifty yards over there, another long string hundred yards long, and a big four story farmhouse up at the end. Now, we're on this side, nobody gets over there. Anyone over there is shot. So that was about fourteenth day out, I remember it. I was standing out there looking over there. And there was a German guard on that side and one on this side. Was beginning to almost get dark and one of 'em walked out there and another one walked over there and they had one cigarette, you know. They'd set there, and then they'd change places. And a limey, English guy come up, I don't know where he come, he'd been with us. He said I'm thinking the same thing you are, I said that's right, what is it. Well, he said I been thinking about over there, another guy, GI come up there and he's from -- oh, I forgot where he's from, but anyway, we got to talking. Need to get over there, you know, we knew it was dangerous, might get shot but got a chance to escape, get out of there. So we watched those guys. And first one, they just take about a minute over there and they'd smoke. I run across there, got on the other side, waited for them. They run over, finally we all got over there. Just a long attic, this whole big, just like this thing there, big long attic at the top. So it's dark and we moved down next to the wall, all the way, run to a ladder, that ladder, went up in there, big hay barn up there. Boy, that looked good. We got up there, looked good. We got in that hay. And then, then as we settled down, well, it was pretty dark, we heard a German down below, we could hear his paraphernalia rattling on him, you know, his mess kit and everything. And he had a dog down there. And that dog, he come up there and got to fooling with this lantern. To this day, I may be wrong, he might have, he might didn't want to catch us and made out like he was trying to get this lantern on and it wouldn't come on. But then, he had a rifle, a bayonet. And he went along there and he touched on the edge of the straw. We was all right up back in the hay, you know, didn't move. He'd stick that, walk along there, jabbing that bayonet here and there, you know. We could feel, knew what he was doing. He went on about a half hour, we just held our breath, you know. Come back, then he gave up and he went back to town. So we got a good night's rest there. Next morning, we looked out through the cracks. Boy, they were moving out. We knew then we had it made. It felt good, real good. Felt real good. And they all moved on out. And about couple of hours later, coming down on the end of the barn, that loft there, and he was whistling some song, that limey, oh, that's a limey, that's a English, you know. He knew that song. So we piled out of the hay there. And it was an English prisoner there and he was working on that farm for his -- but he was a prisoner. He come in and he told us, said you guys now, 17 said, "They know you're here, you guys need to get out of here." And he told us, said, "You go out this, up that road about a kilometer or so and there's a cemetery there. You go, turn go up that cemetery and there's a little shack, tool shack up there. You go up there, get in there and stay put, and we'll take care of you." So he left. So it was about midday. So we ran out, got on the road and you can imagine what we looked like. You seen hobos and all that way back, we had long hair, had beards, had raggedy clothes on, we was emaciated, couldn't hardly tell what we were.

JW:  What were you wearing?

WT:  I had a flight suit coverall deal, it's tan, that we wore all the time, see, on a mission, tan. You didn't have a thing that showed you was American or anything. It had pockets in the knees.

JW:  That's what you been wearing all this time?

WT:  All the time. It was about wore out. And we started walking along, and hear that German convoy. They were retreating from the Russians, I mean the Russians from the -- the Germans moving out, Russians was in pursuit. Trucks of German soldiers, tanks going by, armored cars. We kept walking. Some of those Germans, I remember one truck went by and a German soldier in there, they'd point as they went by, they didn't know what we was. We got up there and I thought, boy, we are really, really got safe, I can't believe it. Got there and we turned at that cemetery there and we turned, started up that way. Come about halfway up there, we heard somebody say halt, halt, halt. And turned around, looked at him and it was a German soldier and a young Hitler youth guy with a couple of dogs. And I told 'em now just ignore that. And he hollered up a couple more times and we just kept walking. And boy, he turned those dogs loose, you know. They come up, the dog didn't bark, didn't say a word. He gave 'em some kind of signal, he got right in front of 'em and they just stopped, the dogs did, you know, until this German soldier came up and this Hitler youth, fifteen year old kid, he had a P-38, something like a Luger. And this German soldier, he didn't have any eyes, his face and hands were melted all over him, had a hole there for his mouth, and his ears was burned off. He been in a tank on the Russian front, and this German Heil Hitler youth was taking care of him. Well now, I hated to have to say that that kid, a blind man and a German kid and two dogs thwarted us, but they took us, put us in a truck and took us down a couple of miles and put us in a chicken house that's half underground, half rock, put us in there. And there's three German tanks parked there, and the crew was setting around there. And in this chicken house, there's all kind of foreign -- I never heard, I don't know what language, they had six or eight of 'em in there, I don't whether they was -- they wasn't German, I didn't know what they were, but I bet they had more lice than we had on us. But anyway, they'd let us out part of the day, a German guard around there, and these German soldiers in those tanks, they were rear guard for the Germans.  (Inaudible), they wouldn't be alive 'cause these three tanks, the Russians'd be up there, you know. And they was the rear guard, and knew they had some big tanks there, and they knew they'd inflicted a lot of damage to the Russians, but they'd be killed, you know. And they was setting around there 'til about the third day there. And then they shipped us out of there and left them there. And 18 brought us back, put us on the one group, see, we was marching and there was probably five hundred or a thousand men on this march, see. And they put us with a bunch, four, five hundred. And we get to a town that it was -- the Russians are coming and the civilians were in shock. Boy, they were trying to move outta there. It was this little town had a small train like a street car there, and then big freight trains along there and people getting off and getting on, and getting on and getting off, and a big crowd here. And we had these two German guards with us, the three of us. They didn't want to seat us in there. And these German troops, (inaudible) I just stepped over there and got set there with them and got away from everybody. These Germans, they put us in this flat car. I was out there with 'em. And they were young kids, sixteen year olds. They had German uniforms on, but I think they were Russians, some of 'em were Russian, see. The Germans was needing some rear guard action. There was cannon fire. They were going to the front line. It was snowing. And I was on the edge. And young guys looking around, they was looking at me and I was the only one didn't have a gun. I must have really stood out, but they didn't make any difference to 'em. They all crowded in just like sardines in that rail car, four, five of 'em. And I thought about, train going around thirty-five miles an hour, of jumping off. But I didn't know. I was afraid to jump off, no telling what I would hit, you know, where I'd wind up. We went on. And at this next stop, well, the Germans, they spotted me, they come and grabbed me, you know. And they put me me and another guy, didn't know him, in this truck, took me to where the other marchers were. And then I got on that march. Then it was a terrible, hungry. Made very little effort to give you anything to eat. If you had to have a BM, it was right along the side of the road. And you see some big, big mounds of dirt over at Germany. They stored carrots, kohlrabis, sweet potatoes, for the winter. They'd dig big ditches for storing 'em and dump all this in there. And I know if you could dig down about eighteen inches, you was hoping it'd be a potato. Sometimes it'd be a kohlrabi or a sugar beet, sometimes there's a carrot. But we, once in awhile, we got some food like that. And one time, we was approached on this march, there was a fire fight going on. I didn't know what a mortar was, I'd never seen one, but I heard mortars and heavy machine gunfire that day. The next day, we got up to that town. There was about five or six horses, dead, laying in the square and dead. And the Germans and the Russians had a fight there. These horses was in there dead. And one of 'em laying there with legs sticking out. They'd been dead twenty-four hours, see. That German guard, he loaned me his knife. I cut a -- you know when you plug a watermelon, you know, I plugged a pretty big plug off the hind quarter of that horse. It was wet, stuck it down there and, boy, it was standing up, it was slick, you know. And I pulled that up there and cut that off of there, pulled it up there and slit it and then put it in my pocket and give the knife back to the German, you know. And some of the other guys done the same thing. And we'd stop somewhere, get a fire going, try to heat that up, see. About the time you get it started warm up, we'd have to leave and wouldn't be done. But the next day, we'd chew on that all day, see. And for two, three days, chew on that. Never was done, have to eat it like it is, see. And another time, couple of us got in a loft there, 19 and there was a chicken, was dark, you know. We was all soft-hearted, hate to kill anything, but we caught that chicken, killed it. When you get hungry, desperate, you do. We pulled the feathers off, took that raw chicken, pulled it out, put it in our pockets. Now, people say you better put that in the freezer or it will spoil. We just put that stuff in our pockets, just like that. And tried to get a fire going on it and just get it warmed up, mostly raw. Did get to where some time, it didn't smell too good, see. But we ate we all, we ate all of it, see. But you know, that's every day for eighty-eight days. Like one day, the guys got ready for the march next morning. One guy, he was stiff as a board, he died right up in the loft. We carried him out over, you know, Russians had to -- I mean the Germans had to find a place to bury him, you know. He died right up something like that, see. But anyway, for eighty-eight days, there was something every day. But I'll skip it all and go down there close to the end, when we was marching down this road, and there was five P-51s. One of 'em stayed up there, and the other four went right over us, you know, then we knew that Americans was up there, these two P-51s. And going up there, there was a guy from California, he had a rag. He put it on a stick, throwed it over his shoulder, and we was going out the door. And the German weapons covered that, two, three German officers in it, that made them they furious, there. Were up there, jumped out of their vehicle, knocked that guy down in the ditch, went down there. One of 'em had a Luger, he had a tie. I mean made them so he liked to pull the trigger. American wasn't too far away, I guess he figured he better not do that then, but that's how furious they got about it. But you know, skip all of it, get right down to where we marched right into the 104th Infantry Division, American Timberwolves, they called 'em. And they were bivouacked there, fire fight. A German, Russian, mile or two away, but Americans are setting there. We marched right in there. And first GI I saw, he was standing in the middle of the road with a .45 in his hand. But what I saw mostly, above his head, behind him, was a Jeep there with a American flag on it. Boy, I tell you, that --

JW:  Was a great sight, to put it mildly?

WT:  Yes, it was. Anyway, most of the people don't know what that flag really is, they don't know. Anyway, we was hungry, you could smell something in a big building out there, had a bunch of lunch meat and he cooked it in a huge vat, liverwurst and all that. Boy, we barged in there. They wasn't done yet. I got about thirteen of 'em on my shoulder, you know, and it started out and they was swarming in there, and they was grabbing that. I got out of there, it was running all over the place and everywhere. I had about one of 'em left, but that -- those were really good. The GIs then took us, they was in a field, and they had a big bakery oven out of the German bakery, it was in the field out there. Now, you can imagine what we looked like. I weighed seventy-five pounds. There was some scales there and they weighed us. I weighed seventy-five pounds. That was half my weight. When I went in, I weighed about a hundred and fifty. I weighed half my weight. If a guy weighed two hundred pounds, he weighed hardly a hundred. Usually lost about half your weight. But them guys and GIs around there, we had to -- said, "Boy, you guys stink a lot, you boys really smell something terrible." We didn't smell it, we was immune. 20 I hadn't had a bath. I remember about three weeks before that, we was marching along this river, and it was a river that flowed between Poland and Germany. There's chunks of ice flowing down it. And I remember we all had lice. And someone had an old razor with a rusty blade in it. So, boy, got my clothes off. Shouldn't have, I'd never do that again. Took my clothes off and my shoes, and put 'em in a pile there. I shouldn't even done that 'cause you never know if they was lost or something, you're dead. But we went in this water and thought we could wash all those lice off. Trying to get that razor, it wouldn't work. We had -- full of lice. That's why you get a GI -- In the military, first thing they do, they give you a GI haircut, you know. So males don't take care of their hair like females do, see. And boy, you get them lice. That's why the military did it. Anyway, we took our clothes off, you know. And they took 'em and hung 'em up in this oven, and while we was waiting, closed the door. While we was waiting to get our clothes, these GIs come and spray us with a hand spray all over for the lice. Well, kept talking about how bad we stunk and smelled. I could not believe that. I didn't smell it. We was immune to it, see. And about fifteen, twenty minutes later, went to get my clothes out. I looked in, there was a mound, oh, about two, three feet high of roasted lice that'd come out of all these clothes. I didn't have any clothes. We was there a month living out in the field just like those troops were, see. And they treated us real nice. And later on, flew us out of there, and flew us to somewhere in France. Then we was to go to Lucky Strike, Camp Lucky Strike. It was up near LeHarve. And place there where you'd go and you get sixty days and build you up, you know, and clean you up and feed you up. And they put us on a train, GIs running the train down in southern France. And the first thing you know, we was supposed to be going up there, and that GI's going the wrong direction. We just about beat him. We're going back to Germany. And finally stopped it about fifty miles off course. Anyway, went up to Camp Lucky Strike, and we stayed for sixty days. We just there about three, four days when General Eisenhower came in. He came in there, we shook hands with him and he told us we're gonna be taken care of, how much he appreciated us all. And wanted to know if we were getting plenty to eat, oh now, really nice. But we wasn't allowed to eat very much. Anything we eat, it hurt. Doctor told us your stomach's about this big around. And so in our mess kit, you're only supposed to get so much. Then heard had German POWs on this -- Boy, that was the last straw. Everybody had a P-38 or a Luger. I had a .765 automatic. And we get along there, and the German prisoner -- only get so much on our mess kit, and we'd say mehr, mehr. So we'd just ram that in the belly and he'd pour it on there. And then, it hurt. And the doctor said that three, maybe four died during that whole time because you could only eat so much.

JW:  I've heard of that.

WT:  But they fed us good and we was there sixty days. And they put us on a ship to come home, only ship ride I ever took.

JW:  Do you remember the name of the ship?

WT:  No, I don't. But I remember was five days -- Oh, yeah, USS General Buckner, that's what it was, USS General Buckner. We got in the harbor somewhere, Virginia or somewhere. And you see, pull in that harbor, see that American flag there. Boy, that was something. 21 See a GI setting there, you know, and pull in that harbor and seeing that, a grown man that way, was on that flag was something else. Anyway, they took care of us. It was homeward bound after that. Not very many POWs had any medals or stuff. I had three Purple Hearts, but I didn't get a one of 'em. I had the flak wound in my back, had the arm and wrist. And I had surgery at the VA hospital in Fayetteville. And I had a shoulder injury treated at Fort Smith in the VA. My back, it healed up. I had three Purple Hearts, didn't get a one of 'em. There was POWs from that area over there, many of 'em didn't get, I knew a lot of 'em didn't get. We wasn't concerned about that. I had the Bronze Star, I had two of 'em, and didn't even know it. I didn't know what a Bronze Star was. One was on my service record, and then one year or two later, they sent a piece of paper, which wasn't -- it's too many, too many awards. There was only two worth anything. That's the Silver Star and the Congressional Medal of Honor, you had something. All these other -- Now, the Bronze Star, I found out later on, when I witnessed the first rocket, which I just happened to be lucky to be setting in the tail, and we was on the high echelon position of the whole formation. I was just fortunate to be in my place when that German went by there, and I looked and saw him. That was a Bronze Star, but I didn't -- that wasn't deserving. The other Bronze Star was the mission to Berlin, which we lost so many, lost some planes there in that bad weather and we survived that one, see; but that's nothing. Course, got the Air Medal. Anybody make so many missions gets a Air Medal. That's all right, I appreciate it. Then I got the POW medal and that's it. But none of us was ever interested in the war. It just wasn't interested. We didn't have anything to prove it anyway. But I'll tell you, it's in the history books, that eighty-eight day march, in the hold of that ship, and when those Germans run us all up with those bayonets and dogs. I remember when I was liberated, they said who do you have -- what you got to tell us, somebody mistreat you? I wanted to know what that Captain, I forgot his name now, I forgot a lot of stuff, you know. All I remember is these things which I recounted now. I can wake up in the middle of the night and remember those things that was life threatening. But it don't bother me, I mean it don't hurt. Sorry, I just remember 'em, see. But I'll tell you, I wanted to know who that was that ordered that march up there, those German marine and marine bayonets, those kids and the dogs. That was a three mile run up there. It was from the box cars we been in that three day hole there, see. And there's a lot of history. And not every POW went through all that. Some of us, like myself, was unfortunate.

JW:  Right.  And it was just for meanness?

WT:  That's what it was.

JW:  Yeah.

WT:  And they treated us badly. I remember when they put us on that ship. After the war, I found out Hitler was attempting to get a better deal. Course the Americans, that he killed fifty thousand of these POWs, stuff like that, see. But the German High Command didn't do that, see. But this S-2 officer that interrogated me after our deal was over, who was it, Pickhardt, yeah, that Captain Pickhardt, that was his name, this German Captain Pickhardt. He ordered that run up that, three mile run, dusty roads, all up through the top of that 22 forest. Those German marines, I can still see them with their marine bayonets. Sixteen year old, they was mean. The dogs. I remember seeing three GIs laying there, blood, but didn't know whether they was dead or not. It was bad. I asked this S-2 officer, well, he said, now, all you fellows the same thing, said I'll tell you what happened to him. We found out who he was. The Russians had him, must be a hundred miles from there. They found out who he was 'cause it was a pretty dastardly deed. It got all over everywhere, the Russians -- So this officer told me like he told everybody, he said this Captain Pickhardt was over there, Russians, and we knew he was over there, so we called the Russians. Asked the Russian officer about do you have him. Well, let me look and see. Waited a while. And then he come back. Says yeah, yeah, we've got him here. And American officer asked him, well, we'd like to have him, would you send him back, we'd like to have him over here. What did he do? The officer told me they told him what he had done. What you want to do with him? Well, we told him we'd take him, bring him to court, you know, and do all that. This Russian told him to hold on a minute. So he left. And that officer told me, he come back in a few minutes. Said, yeah, we got him, but we've already executed him. Well, we wanted him. He said we know how your American Courts are. Said you probably would have let him loose or something, we just took care of him here. So that's what he found out.

JW:  A clean end to a bad story.

WT:  Yeah. It just feels good to be alive and through it