Interview with Wendell Foran    (back to WWII Project)

LO:  March 20th, 2006.  And we're at Wendell Foran, it's Libby Orendorff and Joe Watson.  The address is (DELETED CONTENT), in Van Buren, Arkansas.  Just to get us started for our records for the Historical Society, we have your birthplace as Cincinnati, Iowa; right?

WF:  Right.

LO:  And your county is Appaloosa?

WF:  Appanoose.

LO:  Appanoose.  Okay.  And could you give us your mother's maiden name, her first and last name.

WF:  Mary Ellen Foran, or Smith.

LO:  Mary Ellen Smith.  And your father's name?

WF:  William J.

LO:  Okay.  All right.  And just to give a little history, you grew up in Iowa?

WF:  Yeah.

LO:  And you worked on the farm with your father after school and during school?

WF:  Yeah.

LO:  Okay.  When did they draft you?  I notice you have that you were drafted.

WF:  I reported for active duty August 4th, 1943.

LO:  All right.  And at what age were you?

WF:  I was eighteen.

LO:  So you were eighteen and just out of high school?

WF:  I'd finished eleventh grade.

LO:  Okay.

WF:  I hadn't gone to senior year yet.

JW:  Would you tell us your birthday?


LO:  And where did you go for your basic training?

WF:  Camp Hahn, California.

LO:  Camp Hahn?

WF:  Yeah, H-a-h-n.

LO:  And that was in the Army?

WF:  Yeah, that was south of Riverside.

LO:  Okay.  And when you finished with basic training, was it six weeks or --

WF:  No, it was longer than that.  I don't remember how long it was, but it was an anti-aircraft outfit, had the automatic weapons.  We had the fifty caliber machine guns and forty millimeter anti-aircraft guns.

LO:  And then you also had the fifty millimeter --

WF:  Yeah.

LO:  Now, the fifty, was that like on a machine like gun?

WF:  Yeah.  It was on a tripod similar to that.  But later on, we got the quad-fifties, it was on a four wheel trailer, the wheels set fairly close together about the center of the machine.  And there was a turret with guns stuck out like this.  The operator sat in the middle and had his sights, guns were zeroed in to converge up certain.

LO:  The same as those that were on the naval ships?

WF:  Yeah.

LO:  Okay.  So, when you left basic, where did you go? 2

WF:  I stayed there.  We was there for sixteen months in California. And we would go out to what is now Fort Irwin, it was Camp Irwin at that time, for firing range.  All we could fire there at our base camp was .22 caliber rifles which is pretty small.

LO:  I want to step back for just a minute.  How old were you when Pearl Harbor happened?

WF:  Well, let's see, that was '41, I was sixteen.

LO:  And what were your thoughts about Pearl Harbor?

WF:  Well, everybody in school, I was still going to school then. And in a month or two, it'll be over with.  We didn't realize that we didn't have a battleship that was operational.

JW:  Do you remember the minute you heard about Pearl Harbor?

WF:  Yeah.  It was on a Sunday afternoon, about one o'clock.  And we lived about a mile and a half outside of Marshalltown.  And we went to church that morning, came home and ate dinner and I went in to town.  And I hitchhiked in to town 'cause we was right on a main highway, and a truck driver picked me up and told me about it. That's how I found out about Pearl Harbor.

LO:  Were you shocked that they would actually invade our country?

WF:  Yeah, yeah.

JW:  When you got to town, was the town just alive with --

WF:  No, not so much.

JW:  Everybody just stay home?

WF:  Yeah.  Well, there was kids around town and we had a soda shop, candy and sodas sold.  And that was a great place to meet kids and have a good time.  Go in there, play the juke box and drink Coke and just have a nice meeting place, and that place is still operating.

LO:  Did the boys that were like eighteen and then the young men in your area, did they rush to enlist?

WF:  Some of 'em did.  The ones that I knew wasn't old enough yet. Some of 'em enlisted in the Navy as getting close to seventeen and they, well, go on in, their folks knew that they might as well sign for them at sixteen as wait a couple of months and have 'em go anyway.  But a lot of 'em wanted to finish out their schooling, at least that year.

LO:  Did you have brothers that went into the service?

WF:  No.  I had two brothers; but one was disabled, he had something wrong with his legs, and they wouldn't take him.  And the other one was married and had couple of kids.  And he had something wrong, I don't remember now what it was; but they turned him down.  But he joined the State Guard, it was off-shoot from the National Guard, you know.  They took the National Guard guys, but they had a State Guard and he joined that.

LO:  How was it like when you left home?  I mean this was probably your first time to leave home, wasn't it?

WF:  Yeah, just about.  I'd maybe go visit friends for couple of days, something, but it was the first that I was really gone.  It was hard.  Where I lived, I could hear the -- I was about a mile from the railroad tracks.  And the train, City of Los Angeles, City of San Francisco and the Portland Rose, all went through where I lived.  We was on the main line with the Chicago Northwestern, which run from Council Bluffs to Chicago, and UP used that line for their passenger trains.  And I was in Barstow, California, one night, and I heard one 3 of those trains.  That was the homesickest boy you ever seen for a little while.

LO:  I bet.

WF:  I wanted to go get on that thing.  I knew I shouldn't.

LO:  Was boot camp rough?

WF:  No, not really.  There was some parts that was rough and the officers was pretty understanding.  We had one guy, he was a Lieutenant just out of West Point, and he was out at the obstacle course one day.  And I don't know whether you know what those are like, but they got the pole across two poles and you're supposed to jump up and go hand over hand over 'em.  Well, I couldn't get up to 'em.  They're about twice as high as I was.  And I'd go up and jump up and try to grab it, and course, I'd miss it by three foot anyway, and I'd just go on.  And this Lieutenant, he was bound and determined that I was going to stay out on that obstacle course until I got up there and went hand over hand on it.  And finally, a Sergeant came along and he says, "Sir," he said, "he will never get up there.  Look at the height of him and the height of that pole."  He said, "He can't jump that high."  "Well, he can get up there."  Said, "The only way he can get up there, there's only two ways, somebody lift him up there or get a ladder."  And finally, the Lieutenant finally decided, well, 'cause I'd try it and I couldn't come anywhere near close to it, and finally he decided that I couldn't do it.  But Sergeant told him, he said, "If you get him up there, he'll go, he can do it."  But he said, "That is too high for him."

LO:  Out of your reach?

WF:  Yeah.

LO:  So how long, you said you stayed sixteen months close to where you had boot camp.  Where did you go after that?

WF:  I went to Camp Miles Standish at Taunton, Massachussets.

LO:  Camp what?

WF:  Miles Standish?

WF:  M-i-l?

LO:  M-i-l-e, Standish, S-t-a-n-d-i-s-h.

LO:  Is that one word?

WF:  Yeah.

LO:  Okay.  And that was where?

WF:  Taunton, Massachussets.

LO:  How do you spell Taunton?

WF:  I'd have to look it up.

LO:  Oh, that's okay.  I'll look it up.  I'll make what it sounds like.

WF:  It's T-a-u-n-t-o-n, I think.  And from there, I was there about a week and we went into Boston, got on the troopship, been a luxury liner before the war, New Amsterdam.

LO:  So did the troopship that used to be a luxury liner, was it still luxurious?

WF:  No.  They went in and tore all the wood out of it, compartments and everything, made just big, big rooms.

LO:  And so you went to Amsterdam?

WF:  No, that was New Amsterdam.

JW:  The name of the ship.

WF:  Name of the ship.  And we went to Greenock, Scotland. 4

LO:  Okay.  Well, tell us what you did while there in service, while you were over in the European area.

WF:  Well, that was in the Medics.

LO:  You were in the Medics?

WF:  Yeah, and I was a dental assistant.

LO:  Okay.

JW:  You got to Scotland.  What did you do there?

WF:  We just got off the ship, got on a train and went to southern England, town called Bournemouth, it's down right on the ocean.  I don't know whether you classify it as English Channel or the Atlantic, but it was right down, clear down about as far as you can get in England.

LO:  So by then, it was into the 1944 year, right?

WF:  Yeah.

LO:  Okay.

WF:  Yeah.  I shipped out of Boston, oh, it was about the 10th, 12th of November.  And I got into --

JW:  1943?

WF:  1944.

JW:  1944?

WF:  Yeah.  And got into Greenock, Scotland, the 19th of November, day before my dad's forty-fourth birthday.

LO:  Once you got there, what did you do?

WF:  We done a little bit of everything, training and moving, and they couldn't decide where they wanted to put us.  We'd be in one camp during the night, get up the next morning, they'd move us someplace else.  Maybe afternoon, they'd move us to another place.

JW:  How was Scotland for an Iowa farm boy?

WF:  I don't know.  About all I seen was water and the railroad station.

LO:  So you were on the coast?

WF:  Well, Greenock, there's a waterway that goes in Greenock and Glasgow, and Greenock is a little farther in.

JW:  So you barely touched the ground before you went someplace else?

WF:  Yeah.  We got off, the barge came out to the ship, got the guys, took 'em in.  Got off the barge into a train, and when the train -- when they got all unloaded, why the train took off for southern England.

LO:  When you got to England, did you find England in a bad shape?

WF:  Yeah, it was pretty bad, it was bombed out pretty good.  And people, I wouldn't say they was hungry, but they sure appreciated a candy bar, candy bars and chewing gum.

LO:  That was their favorite?

WF:  Yeah.  You could get just about anything you wanted for a Hershey bar.

LO:  How did you feel when you saw how bombed out they were and knew that we weren't?

WF:  Thankful.

LO:  We were lucky.

WF:  Yeah, yeah.  Knowing we was -- nothing wrong back here, you know, nothing destroyed.  And even though we had rationing, there was stuff you could get.  Maybe not the day you wanted it, but be maybe two weeks or a month, you could get it, such as sugar and candy and 5 cigarettes.

LO:  So did you administer dental health care to the citizens there?

WF:  I cleaned the teeth, and assisted the dentist.  Have a cavity, I'd make up the amalgam to fill the cavity.

LO:  And y'all took care of the British citizens as well as the servicemen?

WF:  No, no, just the servicemen.

LO:  Just servicemen.  Okay.

WF:  And I had to keep the records.

LO:  So during that time, you were, like, in a town, you weren't on the front?

WF:  No.  We was in the camp, just big barracks.  And we'd have one barracks for the medical department where the dentist was and the doctors, that come in sick call, that's where they examined 'em.

LO:  Walk us through your experience from that point on while you were over there.

WF:  Well, I got to go into London one weekend.  And while I was in London, I was on one of those two tier buses, one of those double- deckers.  And one of those V-2 rockets hit in the town, and it was ahead of us where it hit and it must have been, oh, probably a mile away anyway, approximately.  But the front end of that bus kind of raised up from the concussion because it got hit in the street or close to the street that we was on and the air just come right down that street from it.

LO:  That had to be frightening.

WF:  Yeah, make you wonder where's the next one at.  But there was quite a few of those rockets that came into London, but there wasn't too many of 'em that I was around.

JW:  One would be enough.

WF:  Yeah.  Our barracks, our outfit was stationed out close to Stonehenge.  We never got to see it, but we was in that general area.

LO:  So did you go into Germany?

WF:  Oh, yeah.

JW:  I assume you left England after awhile?

WF:  Yeah, yeah.  In January -- We spent Thanksgiving and Christmas in England.  And in January, we went over to France on an LST, and we was at a camp outside of a town called Reims. I don't know whether that's a regular pronunciation of it or not, but it was R-e-i-m-s, something like that, way it was spelled.  And we was there for a week or two, and then went up to the front lines.  We was in a little -- We was in a French military camp for the Maginot line that they had in there.  We was stationed in one of the little barracks buildings.

LO:  They did dental work on the front lines?

WF:  No, not too much.  Because we tried to keep up with the guys, and we'd know when they was due for checkups and stuff, and we tried to get it all caught up before we got up to the front.  All my job was is keeping records straight.  And if we had some guys that needed checked, we'd notify the companies and they would make arrangements for the guy to be off for the day or something, you know, somebody else take his place on the gun crew.  And come in and check him over and do what needed to be done that way.

JW:  So it'd be fair to say that when you got to the front lines, you were a soldier there to shoot someone, not to fix someone's teeth; 6 right?

WF:  Right.  Course, in Medics, we had a big white circle on our helmets on four sides with a red cross that made a beautiful target.

LO:  That's what I was thinking.

JW:  So that didn't help you out any?

WF:  Well, it did some.  Now, if you was around an SS troop, it wasn't any help at all.  But the regular Army, they would pretty well honor it.  There'd be somebody that wouldn't, but they'd pretty well honor it 'cause they knew if they got hit and a Medic was there, we'd try and do what we could for them.  And I helped, I've helped save a couple of the Germans.  But your SS troops, they didn't care.  As long as you was an enemy, why, you was fair target for them.

LO:  Now the Germans, the Germans weren't in France, were they, when you were in France or were they there?

WF:  Well, they was mostly out.

LO:  Outside of France?

WF:  Yeah, because this was in February and March when I went in to the front lines, and they had been pushed out of most of France. There was a little territory was in France, that the Germans was in France.

LO:  Now, was it the U.S. troops that pushed them out of France?

WF:  Yeah.

LO:  Okay.

WF:  Well, it was all Allied troops, depending on where you was at on what troops it was 'cause the northern part of France, that's where the English went.  And then southern part was the Free French forces. But we went in to the lines there, oh, last part of February, first part of March of '44 or '45, and we was down around Nancy, France. And the Saarbrucken, no, it wasn't Saarbrucken.  I can't think of the name of that town, but when we jumped off to take the Rhine, we went through Karlsruhe and Darmstadt, Germany, across the Rhine at Worms and then started moving east.  And when we got into central Germany there, we was moving every day because the towns, come up to a town, they'd surrender.

LO:  Oh, they didn't fight?

WF:  No, there was no fight left in 'em.

JW:  So you didn't necessarily fight your way up to that point?

WF:  No, no.  We got jumped off of the Rhine, why, it was move about every day.  Now, there was one week that we didn't move at all.  We was at Aschaffenburg, and I cannot tell you how to spell it.  But the anti-tank outfit went in and the town surrendered to 'em.  It was right at meal time, and they stopped at the center of the town, a little park, to eat their lunch.  And a nineteen year old German girl got ahold of a German bazooka, got up in the third floor of a building and fired down on 'em, killed a couple of GIs and ruined the anti-tank vehicle, set it on fire.  Well, my outfit was guarding corps artillery, 15th Corps Artillery, which was attached to the 7th Army. And General Hodges was a general of the 7th Army, he called down to corps artillery and said, "I want you to set up around that town. And when we take it, I do not want one casualty have as much as a splinter."  We sat around that town for a week, shells going into it twenty-four hours a day.  And during daylight, there was two fighter planes up above all the time because if they'd see anybody, any 7 movement, they would down-strafe 'em.

LO:  That was caused by a nineteen year old girl?

WF:  Yeah.  She thought Hitler was the greatest thing since I don't know what.

LO:  Was she killed?

WF:  Yeah.

JW:  When you all went into the town, was there anything left?

WF:  Rubble.  They just about had to take a bulldozer and go down the street so a truck could get through.

LO:  Where'd you go from there when you left that town, where'd you go?

WF:  On down toward Sternburg.  I think it was Erlangen was the next place that we stopped at.  And we got in there the day that President Roosevelt died, that was April 12th.

LO:  How did that affect y'all?

WF:  Well, we hated to hear that he had passed away but we knew that our job wasn't over with.  Some of the Germans thought that since he passed away, why, the war was over.  We said, no, it ain't.  As long as Hitler's alive, the war goes on.  We sat there for about three or four days near Erlangen, then we went on down to Nuremberg and Munich.  When we was outside of Munich, we heard about Dachau internment camp being taken and some of us went to it, and it's the worst thing I ever seen.  It was box car with dead bodies in it with nothing but skin and bones.  And there was men and women and children, all died from starvation mostly.

JW:  These were all dead people in the box car?

WF:  Yeah, yeah.  They put 'em in box cars, take 'em to a crematory. And I seen a guy fall in a rut about, oh, five, six inches deep that a truck would make in the spring.  He didn't have the strength to crawl out of it, he had to have help to get out.

LO:  You went inside the camp?

WF:  Yeah.

LO:  Were there still the --

WF:  There was still prisoners in there.

LO:  Inside the buildings or were they out in the yard?

WF:  Well, they was out in the yards, they was in the buildings and just wherever you wanted to find 'em.

LO:  How did they greet you?

WF:  Open arms.

LO:  Did you have food for them?

WF:  No, but they got food right away.  It was one of those deals where, you know, you need food, but you don't have it or what little bit you do have isn't gonna help 'em any because you'd have one can of K-rations and you didn't even pull it out because there was so many people there that there wouldn't be a bite for each one.

JW:  Just be teasing 'em?

WF:  Yeah, just be like you said, teasing.

LO:  What could you do for them?  I mean they're bound to have been in such bad shape.

WF:  There wasn't much we could do because we knew that most of it was just starvation, but we didn't have the material or the methods to do much.  So we got medical help in there, take care of the sick and injured, and they got the Red Cross in there. 8

JW:  I'm sure it was a sign to them that help was on the way.

WF:  Yeah.

LO:  That had to be awful good.

WF:  Yeah.  They walk up to you with arms out like this and want to hug you.  One guy was strong enough to take a rifle from one of the GIs, and he pumped eight shells into a German guard.  He said, "He'll never do that again to me."

LO:  What did y'all do when he took that gun and shot that guard?

WF:  Nothing.  Just wishing we could have been the ones doing the shooting.  But we had to -- supposed to have honored the Geneva Convention.

LO:  Did it help him when he did that, you think?  Could you tell if it was --

WF:  Yes.  Yeah, it helped him, you could tell that.  I don't know, psychological probably most.

LO:  I had read that some of the camps when the troops, our troops got close, that the Germans started marching them out.  Was there signs of that at this camp, that they had taken some out?

WF:  No, I think we surprised 'em.  I think didn't know that we was getting that close to it.

LO:  Did the guards just give up the camp without fighting?

WF:  Oh, yeah.

LO:  They did?

WF:  Yeah.  What's a camp gonna do with rifles, when a tank with a .37 millimeter cannon on it or .75, I mean, on it, pulls up to the gate and goes right on through the gate.

LO:  What kind of treatment did the guards get?

WF:  Well, they got treated as prisoners-of-war, but it wasn't party pleasant for them 'cause they was liable to get a rifle butt in the face or the other end of it.

JW:  Just human nature.  You look around and see the suffering and then look at the guys who, at least, helped the suffering continue, it'd be awfully hard to have any kind of compassion for them.

WF:  Yeah, it would.  Look back now, why, you say, well, they was following orders.  Yeah, they were, but they could have done something.  They didn't have to be as cruel as they were.

LO:  Did they have the ovens there or was this strictly a work camp?

WF:  It was more or less just a work camp.  They didn't have the gas ovens, but some of those was bad, too.

LO:  Did you go to any of those or was this the only internment camp you went to?

WF:  That was the only internment camp I was at.

LO:  That was probably more than you wanted.

WF:  Yeah.

LO:  What do you say to the people today, you know, there's this group of people today that says that the Holocaust never happened, it's just imaginary.

WF:  I worked with a girl in Colorado that was born in 1943 in Wurzburg, Germany.  It was break time one day and I walked up to the table where she was setting with some other women.  And I don't know how the conversation came about, but anyway, she was telling, she said, "Well, you know, the Holocaust never happened."  She said, "There wasn't people in internment camps like that."  She said, 9 "That's all American and British propoganda to turn the people against the Germans."  I said to her, I said, "Helga, you can tell these people that but don't tell me that."  I said, "I seen Dachau prison camp.  I seen the bodies, dead bodies, nothing but skin and bones in box cars.  I seen a guy that was so weak he couldn't crawl out of a rut that a truck makes, had to have help."  I said, "Don't tell me that didn't happen."  And she looked at me she said, "Well, yeah, it did," but she said, "You know, the twelve million people they claim was killed, half of 'em was Germans."  I said, "Yeah, German Jews."  I said, "It doesn't make any difference what nationality they was from or what race."  I said, "One is too many." She had to agree with me.  We was friends even after that 'cause I knew that she didn't have anything to do with it.  I know her grandfather or her uncle or whatever that she had to go back to Germany to see, her relation, I knew they was Nazi because they had a lot of money.

LO:  The Nazis actually benefited from taking the Jews because of their financial wealth.

WF:  Oh, yeah, yeah.  And when they died, they would examine their teeth.  If they had any gold in it, they'd take the teeth out, take the gold out of their teeth, rings off their fingers.

LO:  What did y'all do with the boxcarload of the dead?

WF:  I don't know.  Shortly after, I was in that probably an hour, and then I went on leave into Paris.

LO:  That was probably a big change?

WF:  Yeah.

LO:  When you went on leave to Paris, though, was Paris still able to be the grand city or was it, because of the war --

WF:  Well, it was pretty well a grand city.  See, it had been declared an open city so there wasn't very much damage done.  Some on the outskirts where your factories would be, but in the town proper, there wasn't any damage or very little.  Most of the damage was done by the Nazis when they was there.

LO:  So did you ever go back to visit Germany and France?

WF:  No.  I'd like to have at one time, but I don't think -- I don't want to go now because it has changed so that I could walk down the street that I knew real good back then and not even recognize it, I know that.

LO:  Well, you know, you said the Germans, the Jew Germans, that were in the camp, they welcomed you with open arms.  But the German citizens outside the camp that weren't Jewish, how did they treat you?

WF:  Well, they treated us fairly good.

LO:  Did they?

WF:  Yeah.  But they would always say that they were Nicht Nazis, they weren't Nazi, they was just German and didn't belong to the Nazi Party.  But you'd find pictures of 'em standing along the street waving the Nazi flag at parades and stuff.

LO:  So they had been Nazis, just not Nazis now?

WF:  Yeah, yeah.  Yeah, they was one of these types that, well, they -- I don't know what you call 'em, but they was Nazi on the one side and not Nazi on the other.

JW:  Depending upon which way the wind blew, is that what you're 10 trying to say?

WF:  Yeah.

LO:  You know, they said that Hitler wanted to have this white race, blond, blue-eyed race.

WF:  Yeah.

LO:  Was that what you basically saw in Germany?

WF:  Yeah, you seen a lot of that.

LO:  Lot of that?

WF:  Yeah.

LO:  Didn't see the dark headed or --

WF:  No.  Now, you'd see a brown, light brown; but there was no -- you didn't see anybody that was Jewish or anybody that was black, they didn't know what a black person was.

LO:  Really?

WF:  Yeah.  Because the blacks, when they got over there in Germany, they told the German people, this was after the war, that they had been given shots to turn their skin dark for night-fighters.  And, well, how come that guy is real black and this one over here is brown, you know.  Well, his shots are wearing off.  This other guy got the shots couple of weeks ago.

LO:  I had read somewhere that they told some tales, you know, to explain the color of their skin; but that's amazing, shots for night-fighters.  So did you stay the rest of the time in Germany until you got out of the service?

WF:  Well, when the war was over with, I was in Salzburg, Austria. And we was there for awhile, we was guarding a prisoner-of-war camp there.  And we had one guy that he had been raised in Germany and came over to the United States, him and his folks, before the war started, and he could speak perfect German.  His job was to put on a German uniform and just mingle with the prisoners out in the camp, listen to 'em, what they was saying.  And this one guy was bragging about the job he had in the Nazi Party.  I can't remember just what it was, I think his name was Speck, something like that.  And anyway, he had been one of the designers of the Party, you know, planners or something.  And he had got ahold of an Army uniform, private, private's uniform, put it on so they wouldn't recognize that he was one of the big shots in the Nazi Party.  And that's how he got caught, and he was tried at the Nuremberg War Trials.

LO:  Really?

WF:  Yeah.  And then we was down there for awhile.  And then they sent us back to Ludwigsburg, Germany, which is outside of Stuttgart about fifteen miles, and we guarded political prisoner camps there. And one camp was nothing but women and we had the Beast of Buchenwald as one of the prisoners.  That doesn't ring a bell, does it?

LO:  No.

WF:  Well, she was the wife of the Kommandant of Buchenwald that had the prisoners parade by her, naked.  And if they had some nice tattoos, they were skinned.  She made lamp shades.

LO:  Oh no?

WF:  Yeah.

LO:  And she was known as the Beast of --

WF:  Buchenwald.

LO:  How do you spell Buchenwald? 11

WF:  Well, the way I'd spell it, I couldn't tell you; but I got a little map maybe.

JW:  I knew a girl one time, she had some barrettes in her hair that were very unusual.  And I was trying to flirt with her anyway, and I said something about her barrettes.  And she said they were bones of Jews that my father brought back from World War II, somebody had made these barrettes.  Anyway, I left her alone after that.

WF:  I don't see it in here.  I don't see it on this map.

LO:  I can probably find it on the Internet to get the spelling of it.

WF:  Yeah.  Look up under concentration camps and you'll find it, it was one of the most notorious.

LO:  So you had your fill of concentration camp and people then?

WF:  Yeah, yeah.  See, the war was over in May, and we went up there, Ludwigsburg, oh, probably around the first of June.  And I was there most of the time until December, I went on leave in Switzerland.

LO:  That's in 1945?

WF:  Yeah.  And got back from that.  I went right away to Berlitz, France, to school for six weeks.

LO:  What kind of school?

WF:  It was college courses, but I took up farm management because I wanted to be a farmer.

JW:  You say the war was over in May.  That was VE Day?

WF:  Yeah, May 8th.

LO:  So course, your outfit wasn't concerned about Japan?

WF:  Not right at that time.

LO:  The point I'm trying to get to is, in your mind and for the people you were around, the war was over in May?

WF:  Yeah.  Yeah, we knew it was still going on in Japan.  And it wasn't long 'til we found out that the outfit I was in, all the guys that was below a certain number of points, you had to have so many, I think it was eighty-five points, you could go home and get discharged right away.  And then they dropped it down about probably five points each month of shipping 'em home.  Well, the guys below say fifty points, they was all transferred out of that outfit into another outfit.  And the guys out of that outfit, came into our outfit we was in because they had enough points to come home, but we didn't. And we was scheduled to go to down to the Riviera, fire the big guns that they had, which was  ninety millimeters, ours was forty, and get familiar with the guns and how to hit a target.  And then we was to come back to the United States, get a thirty day furlough and be reserves for Japan, Invasion of Japan.  But the day that we transferred was the day Japan surrendered, so that saved us.

LO:  How did you feel when you found out that Truman ordered the atomic bomb to be dropped?

WF:  I felt it was the greatest thing since women.

JW:  So do you remember, was VE Day a big day where you were?

WF:  Yeah.

LO:  Did you all holler and scream and jump up and down?

WF:  Yeah, and guns a going off in the air.  I don't know how somebody didn't get killed 'cause they was out drinking, had all kinds of beer and whiskey and stuff.

LO:  Women?

WF:  No, not so much women 'cause it was against the law to 12 fraternize.

LO:  Was it just the soldiers that were celebrating or was the people?

WF:  It was just soldiers.

LO:  Just the soldiers celebrating.  I wondered how the people where you were at reacted to it.

JW:  If you'd been in the middle of Paris, it might have been different.

WF:  Yeah, yeah.  Yeah, see, there for quite awhile, we couldn't even speak to the German people unless it was official business.  And course ordinary GI wouldn't have, probably wouldn't have official business talking to Germans unless he's asking directions to someplace.  And you didn't do that because you didn't know whether he was telling you how to get there or what you was gonna run into when you got to where he told you.

LO:  You know, the things that the Japanese did were horrible, just as what the Germans did.  But the Japanese were never taken to these war courts where they were tried for their treatment.  How do you feel about that?  Because you saw what went on in Germany.

WF:  Well, I think it was a mistake.  I think we should have -- they should have hung Hirohito and some of the others, but that was out of my realm, you know.

LO:  Well, you know, I've read that we didn't for financial reasons, you know, get tough with Japan, and that we actually went in and rebuilt them.

WF:  Well, we've rebuilt Germany, too, Marshall Plan was -- And I think that was right.  Well, I think part of it is because we have so much and a lot of these other countries don't.  But I think that most of the countries that we helped after the war, appreciate it.  Now, there's France, which they don't want to admit that we saved their necks twice in fifty years or less.  But the English, the people of France, I think they appreciate it, the officials don't.  And Austria, Germany, and all the other small countries over there, like the Netherlands and the Russian people, we helped them, too, they really appreciate what we done for them.  Same way with over in Japan and Taiwan and Malasia, those countries down there, those small countries, they know that we went in there and helped rebuild 'em, and they appreciate it.  But take like Iraq and Iran and some of those other countries in the Mid-East, all they can see is that we support Israel, and to them, Israel is the devil.  I think it's that more or less, the boundaries of your religion.  Where your Christian religions are for the U.S., the Islamic and those religions are against us.

LO:  How do you feel like the media handles things today, compared to how they handled it during World War II?

WF:  Well, I didn't have too much contact with the media in World War II because I was busy doing what I was trained to do.  And course, we didn't have the television like we got now.  We did have the radios and the commentators, which whatever they said, that was fact.  I don't know whether it was true or not, but to us, it was the facts. And today, something happens, I don't care whether it's a tsunami in the South Pacific, or the Hurrican Katrina, or something that happened over there in Iraq or someplace else, all the news just covers that one subject.  Now, I know Katrina was important; but do 13 they have to have it on ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, and all the other channels, all the same thing?  One camera setting up here taking a picture over there, another one setting there beside him taking one over here.  I can't see that.  There's something going on in the rest of the world that they could be covering.

LO:  Do you feel like what they tell you is the truth, the news?

WF:  Well, I think most of it is.  I don't know whether it's really the truth or not, it's what they perceive as being the truth.  But just like today, our President was on, and I don't know how long he was on, but he was talking about the war over there and what great progress they're making, and I can't see where they're making any. We've lost over two thousand boys since the war was over, according to him.

JW:  Two thousand three hundred and fifteen as of yesterday.

WF:  Yeah.  And it was less than -- I think there was less than three hundred killed during what he called the war.

LO:  What did you do after you got home from the war?

WF:  I helped my dad on the farm for awhile.  And then I got a job in town, job in a factory and I worked in the factory for a little while, and didn't like it and quit and got a job working in a print shop.

LO:  So you didn't take advantage of the GI Bill?

WF:  I took advantage of it some.  I wanted to be a pilot, and I used some of it for that.  I got my private pilot's license.  And I got married in March and my wife was --

JW:  Of what year?

WF:  '47.  And my wife wanted me to quit flying.  She was afraid it wasn't safe.

LO:  So you gave it up?

WF:  Yeah.  I got a picture up here of that same plane that I flew.

LO:  I wondered if that was --

WF:  My oldest son sent that to me for Father's Day this last summer.

JW:  And exactly what kind of plane is that?

WF:  Piper Cub.

LO:  Piper Cub, I was gonna guess that.

WF:  J-3 Model.

JW:  Did you see the one that they used to have at Phoenix Village Mall?  You know, we have an airplane museum.  That's not the right word for it.  That was out at Phoenix Village Mall, and somebody had a Piper Cub, the same color and everything, and they kept it in the mall.

WF:  No, I didn't see that.

LO:  I don't know if it's still there or not, but it's exactly like that.

WF:  It's been quite awhile since I've been out to Phoenix Village.

LO:  There's not much reason to go.

LO:  How do you think your life was changed by going in service and having to go to war?  If you hadn't done that, how do you think --

WF:  Well, my dad, he rented a farm, he had a hundred and ten acres. And then there was two guys that lived next to us that had forty acres apiece.  And they had told me, before I went in, that when I got out of the service, I could rent their farms, because I wanted to be a farmer.  And when I got out, I got out the middle of April, and 14 farming started in March.  But I went to see 'em and they both decided that, well, they was gonna farm another year, and I could have it after that.  Well, I told Dad and Mom, both, I said, "They'll both be on that farm 'til they die." Well, I was fifty percent wrong.  One guy had a stroke and laid in bed for several years before he passed away, so I was wrong on him.  But the other guy was milking a cow one morning and fell over with a heart attack, died.  They didn't find him for quite awhile because he was out doing chores.  And finally, his wife wondered why he hadn't come in for breakfast and stuff, went looking for him and she found him in the barn.

JW:  So did that put an end to your wanting to be a farmer?

WF:  Yeah.  Well, it didn't put an end to it, but it put an end to the possibility.  I helped on farms, besides putting forty hours a week in a print shop, get out of there, say, four o'clock in the afternoon, go work on a farm for three, four hours of a night and on Saturdays and Sundays, stuff like that.

LO:  Hard to get it out of your blood, isn't it?

WF:  Yeah.  I still like it.

LO:  That's the way my husband is.

WF:  Before we go, I'll have to take you in the other room there and show you a collection.

JW:  So did you spend your life as a printer?

WF:  Yeah, yeah.  I worked in Iowa for let's see, a little over twenty years.  Then I went to Colorado and I worked out there for twenty-two years in a big print shop.  You might have heard of it, Current Incorporated.  They made greeting cards, stationery, wedding invitations, Christmas cards and posters.

JW:  Great big outfit.

WF:  Yeah.  And I worked there for almost twenty-two years before I retired.

LO:  Was your wife your childhood sweetheart?

WF:  No, we met when I was home on furlough in 1944.  And she had just graduated high school and that's her picture up there, her and I, taken about, oh, fifteen, eighteen years ago.  And it was on a Saturday night, and it was after the stores closed. Most of the stores had closed, but some of 'em was still open there in town.  And I seen her going up and down the street once in awhile, and I decided that I'd ask her for a date, take her home or something.  Her and her girlfriend went into this little soda shop that I was telling you about, went in there.  And they were setting in a booth and I got to talking to 'em and took her home.  And after I went back to the service, why, we wrote.  And then I came home again few months later, and we talked about marriage, but we didn't get married.  I didn't think it was right to get married and take off and not know when you were gonna get back or if you was gonna get back.

LO:  So you didn't do one of those rushy wartime marriages?

WF:  No, I didn't believe in that.  And she passed away just over two years ago, complications from diabetes.  And she's buried out here in the National Cemetery.  I've made arrangements to be put there with her.

LO:  So you've been alone for two years?

WF:  Yeah. 15

LO:  Your children live close?

WF:  No.  I got one child in southwestern Nebraska, one in Pueblo, Colorado, and the other one is in Idaho Falls, Idaho.

LO:  Did you make any close friends when you were in service?

WF:  Yeah, I made a couple of close friends.  One's in Wichita, Kansas, and then he's a lawyer now.  And another one that was from Hutchison, Kansas, his dad and he went into the business after he got out of the service and college, funeral home.

LO:  So you kept up with 'em?

WF:  Yeah.  Well, I kept track of -- I haven't seen 'em for quite a few years, but I know the one is in Wichita and the other one had a funeral home in Hutchison, his dad had it.

LO:  Does your batallion have reunions that you go to?

WF:  No.

LO:  I know some do and some don't.

WF:  Now, the batallion that I took basic training with, they broke it up; because towards the end of the war, they didn't need that much anti-aircraft because Germany didn't have too many planes and neither did Japan.  And they broke it up, and some of us went to Germany, went into units that went to Germany, and some went Pacific.

LO:  To you as an individual, what was the most stressful thing about the war for you?

WF:  Being gone from home, I guess.

LO:  How do you think our country, or narrow it down to a community, has changed in the sixty years, sixty plus years since the war started?

WF:  I think we've grown closer in some ways and further apart in others.  Closer because we've got more news coverage, we know what's happened the other side of town this morning; where otherwise, we'd have to wait 'til -- before, we had to wait 'til the newspaper came out or a radio news came on.  Where now, something that happens that is really newsworthy and subject to everybody, they'll break in on the program and tell you about it.  Like a storm coming, it's crawled across the TV screen.  And where before, it was you had to look out and see if there was a storm coming or not.  What can you see?  You got a house right across the street from you.  But I think that's the most significant thing that's different now. And then before the war, you didn't have very many hard surface roads.  Now, I know the town, Marshalltown, where I was raised at, U.S. Highway 30 went through there.  Of course, that was paved.  And the government would pay these cities to pave out couple of miles out of town, each direction.  Well, the State Highway run north and south through there, 30 run east and west.  Well, 30 was paved all the way; but 14, which was a State Highway north and south, was paved two miles outside of town and that was the end of it.  From there on, it was gravel, and same way going north.  They did get it paved on north before the war; but going south, they didn't pave anything until after the war.  Then they went in and done different things, and relocated some of the road, straightened out some curves and stuff and paved it.

LO:  What do you think makes democracy work?

WF:  Voting.

LO:  What do you feel about our voting turnout in the United States? 16

WF:  I think it's a shame that the people don't turn out better. Look at Iraq.  Seventy-eight percent of the people voted when they was threatened to be killed if they voted.

LO:  I know.  I sat in front of the television and cried, watching those people that were so thrilled over the right to vote.

WF:  And here, if you get fifty percent, that's about average.  What was it?  Fifty-two percent in the last election.

LO:  And that was a big percentage for us.  How do you feel about those that gripe about what's going on in our country or gripe about our officials and they don't vote?

WF:  Well, if they don't vote, I don't think they have any right to say.  Now, if they do vote, they've got all the rights in the world to express their opinion.  I don't agree with Bush on a lot of things.  And fact, I don't agree with very few things; but I did go pull that lever.  And so I feel I've got the right to state my opinion.  And I seen something on TV the other day, made me so mad I could have choked somebody.

LO:  What was that?

WF:  American flag on the ground with a girl walking on it.

LO:  I saw that today.  They're protesting and holding up those awful signs for our soldiers being buried that were killed in Iraq.

JW:  Is this that crazy religious group out of Kansas?

LO:  Yes.  Do you think that would have ever happened in World War II?

WF:  No, I don't.  I think if they'd have done that in World War II, they'd have been run clear out of the country.

LO:  I do, too; I do, too.

JW:  You know, the crazy thing about that group, I've studied up on 'em and I'm not saying that this is a hundred percent the truth, but what it looks like to me is they do all of that hoping that people will attack them so they can then turn around and sue 'em.  It's all about being able to sue.  They live off of money that they get from court cases because regardless of what you did, if I haul off and hit you in the face and it can be proved, chances are you're going to win in court because you're not supposed to hit someone.  And that is what these crazy people, that is what they're hoping will happen when they go to these funerals and they do these things is they want to be attacked, they'll have it on film and then they'll sue you.  You'll get a lawsuit next week.

LO:  I don't know how people can help but attack 'em.  I don't know how they refrain from it.  I was so proud to see those Veterans on motorcycles that brought American flags to shield, so that the people coming out from the funeral could not see that protest.

WF:  I think it's -- I feel they have the right to protest, but do not desecrate our flag.  We've had too many men and women give their lives for that flag, clear back to the 1700s.

LO:  And because they gave their lives, these people have that right.

WF:  Yeah, they've got the right to do that.

JW:  Well, I just wish they were actually protesting.  I wish it wasn't about money and a lawsuit.  That makes it even twice as bad. I wanted to ask one thing, get back to something.  Were you still in the service when Japan surrendered? 17

WF:  Oh, yeah.

LO:  Where were you, what happened that day?  How did you learn about that?

WF:  That day, I was moving from Ludwigsburg, Germany, to I think it was Fulda, another town in Germany.  That's when we was transferring from one outfit into another outfit.  And then right after we got the transferring all done, we was supposed to go down to Riviera and fire those ninety millimeter guns out over the Mediterranean, the targets out there.  And then come back to the United States for thirty day leave and then be reserves for Japan. And I think Truman was the smartest man in the world to drop those atomic bombs.  I've heard people say well, look at the two hundred thousand people that those bombs killed.  Look at the two hundred thousand men that was not sacrificed on the invasion of Japan.  They figured over two hundred and fifty thousand people would be killed, troops would be killed, and another seven hundred and fifty thousand wounded.

LO:  Did you feel that Truman was a smart man when Roosevelt died, also?

WF:  Oh, yeah.

LO:  So he had a good rapport before?

WF:  Well, my mother had a sister that lived in Independence, Missouri, and that was, might say, Truman's hometown.  And so she knew Truman, and she knew how he had got into the, quote, politics, through --

JW:  Pendercast.

WF:  Yeah, Pendercast, there in Kansas City.  So she didn't think much of him, she was strictly Republican.  But I had heard about him that way.  And I figured well, if he's smart enough to be Vice-President, he's probably smart enough to be President 'cause I think Roosevelt knew that his days was numbered when he run for the fourth term.

LO:  He had to know.

WF:  Yeah.  And I think that he was smart enough to know and I'm sure he pondered over that long and hard.

LO:  He had to be tough and brave to have made that decision.

WF:  But that's one thing that the people, a lot of people don't realize.  That the officials predicted a million casualties to invade Japan.  And I've talked to guys that was in Japan after the war.  And one guy yesterday, said he was at Yokohama Harbor.  And, well, you heard him.  All around the harbor was big guns.

JW:  It was just -- To hear those guys talk on Saturday, it was just one armed camp ready to go on 'til the end of time.

WF:  Yeah.

LO:  They said even the women were prepared to fight.

WF:  Yeah.  They was armed with pitchforks, scythes, anything that could do harm to a person.

LO:  If you could share one piece of wisdom with a young person today, what would you say?

WF:  I don't know.  The country's changed so that what I've experienced, I hope nobody else has to go through it.  And you know, it's something that I couldn't say what.  It would have to depend on what they was talking about.  But as far as the war, I think tell 'em 18 to go do their duty, what they think is right, and stick by their belief, whether I agree with it or not.  If they think that they're right, that's what matters.

LO:  You saw the boxcar full of dead people in Germany.  Do you think that what our soldiers found in Iraq, all those mass graves of dead people, do you think that compares the same?  Because that's simply because they belonged to different tribes.

WF:  Well, it doesn't matter whether you was starved to death, gassed to death or machine-gunned, death is death.  And anytime that you wipe out a certain group of people or a part of 'em, it's wrong.

LO:  So you can understand when they come home after seeing that, the horror of that, how hard it is to pick up with the threads of their life and keep going?

WF:  Yeah, yeah; but there's another side to it.  You can't erase what you know is truth.  And all you can do is say that it's wrong, let's do better, let's be better next time.  That's all we can do.

JW:  Do you think going to war and seeing war, do you think that that makes you naturally more pro-war or against war?  I didn't quite say that question right.  I hope you understand what I mean.

WF:  I think I know what you mean.  I would think that by seeing the horrors of war, you'd be against war.

LO:  Less apt to jump into another one?  That's the way I should have put it.

WF:  Yeah.  I think a person would be less prone to jump in to it. Like Viet Nam, I thought that was all wrong; but I had to honor the guys that went because they done -- they done what the government asked 'em.  Now, whether it was right or wrong, why, we'll let history decide that.  Same way in Iraq.  I think we got to let history decide on who was right and who was wrong. On the weapons of mass destruction, they didn't find 'em; but they're finding 'em now, aren't they.  Two thousand boys killed after the war.  That's weapons of mass destruction to me.  And here awhile back, they showed a cache of weapons that they found, whole stack of big shells, grenades, rockets.  Too bad we couldn't have destroyed all those right then or before.

LO:  That's true.  Is there anything you'd like to tell us that we didn't give you the opportunity to?

WF:  No, I don't think so.

LO:  Well, I can't express to you how much we appreciate your allowing us to visit with you about this, because I know it's difficult.  But it means so much to us because World War II is not even taught in the schools, you know.  And it was such, the people from that generation are so great, and yet our values have changed.

WF:  I've got that Tom Brokaw book, the Greatest Generation.  In fact, I think I've got two, could be three copies.  Got two grandsons, got a grandson that's in the Navy.  He's stationed on the U.S.S. Ohio, which is a sub, nuclear sub.  And it's in port right now getting retrofitted from the nuclear missiles to the tomahawk missiles.  There are twenty-four tubes in it.  Twenty-two of 'em has got the tomahawk missiles in.  There's seven missiles to a tube.  The other two tubes are for SeaBees, the Navy Seals, to get in and out of the sub.

WF:  Looks like quite a machine. 19

WF:  Yeah.  My son went -- My grandson was stationed at Groton, Connecticut, taking training.  My son went up there and he said that out at the gate, there was a great big arch about forty foot across. And inside it hung one about two, three foot across, circle, and he couldn't figure out what it was.  And after he got hold of his son up there, they went out off-base to look around, you know.  He got up there at the gate, he said to his son, he said, "What the heck is that."  The son said, "Well, that big one is the size of the sub today, but the other one is the size of the first sub."  Says that's miraculous how big, you know, here's something two and a half, three foot.

JW:  Well, I'm glad your grandson is on what sounds like a safe place during a time of war.  I don't think it's gonna come into play with a nuclear sub.

WF:  No, I don't think so.  But it depends, he could be sent over there.  He's stationed at Bremerton, Washington, so his area is the Pacific right now, but you know the service.

LO:  Let's hope he stays.

WF:  I do, too.  I got his --

LO:  Is that him over there on the television?

WF:  Yeah, this is him, and here's the sub.  Well, this is background.

LO:  Now, how old is he?

WF:  He was twenty-one the 4th day of December.

LO:  Now, is he going to make the service his career?

WF:  I don't know.  This is another grandson and he lives in Pueblo, Colorado, and he's a trained fireman and EMT.  But he is working for another company now.  And he was working for Wal-Mart and he was in sports, the sport department.  And they got slow one day, they put him up on the cash register in the front.  Well, that was all right, he was checking people out.  And came time for his lunch break and there was a whole line of people waiting to get checked out.  He said I got to stay and do it.  So he was, oh, maybe five minutes late or ten minutes late getting to his lunch break.  And when he came back, he was three minutes late coming back, and the manager is standing there.  Said to him, said, "You're three minutes late."  Kid said, "Yeah, I know."  He said, "But I was ten minutes late getting out of here."  He said, "There was people in line," and he said, "I wasn't gonna walk off and let 'em stand there until I came back,'til somebody else came up."  And he said, "Well, that don't make any difference, you're fired." So he left and went to another company there and got on, a factory, and he was drawing sixty cents more an hour than what he was at Wal-Mart.  Well, he worked there for awhile and he happened to be going someplace, I don't know just where.  But anyway, the manager of the factory came by and got to talking to him.  He said, "Say, we're gonna start a safety committee.  Would you consider being on it?" Kid says, "Yeah," he said, "You know, I'm a trained fireman and a trained EMT."  Guy said, "You are?"  He said, "Well, what are you doing here?"  He said, "Well, there's no openings on the fire department, I can't find any around close that need help."  Guy says, "Well, you know," he said, "Since you're an EMT and a fireman, we'll put you in charge of the safety department." 1