Bill Konze served int he US 88th Division in Italy.
Of the Division, which accounts for the KIA’s and the wounded. And so we wound up with about 1000 at our first reunion, as you’ll see in that paper I left with you. It was at the Commodore in New York City, which is now a Hyatt. And the second year was down to 800, and we held pretty well between 700 and 500, depending on where we had our reunion. We were successful this year I feel, because I’ve said all along, location, location. And, course, there’s so much to do in Washington, and then we had these two ceremonies going on so people could really
So you had a really good time?
But I think you’re right, I think after the War a lot of people just wanted to forget about it, didn’t they?
Oh, yeah. Well, we see this, James, all the time. Course, the membership Chairman was a young soldier and he wound up in the occupation up in Gorizia, so a lot of things he, of course being a younger man, doesn’t know. So members write letters – now, they’re 80 to 85, I’d say – you know, â€œI never got my Purple Heart, I never got my CIB, – you know, Combat Infantry Badge – and I’ve got one on my desk that I found when we got back from Cyprus that Fred sent me where an 82 year old, who is not mobile any more, wants to get the Occupation Medal that he was entitled to because he did duty in Gorizia. Now that’s a tough one! Because they were very scared. They wanted to make sure that those soldiers actually served in Gorizia. So in order to get it you have to write to St Louis and send a copy of your discharge which proves that you were in Gorizia.
Right. And then you get it.
And then you get it. Now, normally it’s speeded up a bit but oh, I guess maybe 10 years ago you had to wait maybe 6 months, they were that busy. I’m sure you wouldn’t have known but the Army had a terrible fire in St Louis in ’76. A lot of records were obliterated, and if it weren’t for the (warning) reports that are in Carlisle they wouldn’t have been able to reconstitute many of these guys and say, â€œHey, we don’t have a record of that.
Carlisle’s fascinating, actually.
It is. Have you been here before?
Yeah. And I’ve been up to Carlisle before, but I’ve got to come back in the new year.
By the way, while we’re talking about that, my wife wants to apologise, but as she said, â€œI’m not going to have anybody in a dusty house. So the next time you come let’s plan to get together.
That’s very kind. Tell her not to worry, but I’m sorry not to have met her. But the potted history you gave me of your military career was very helpful, but I was wondering if I could ask you to go right back to the year dot and ask you about where you were born and brought up and that sort of thing.
Absolutely. You ask the questions and I’ll answer â€˜em. Okay, I was born in Hamburg, Germany in 1914 on the 13th of August. My mother and I came to America in 1923.
Really? So you were born German?
Oh, yes. 8 ½ years old when we came over.
What happened to your father?
Well, my father was gassed twice in World War 1. He was a sapper for the German Army. So between hospital and a contract, he was into animal husbandry down in (Fuldoch), which is south of Frankfurt, and he felt he needed to do that to have some money when he got here. And so he didn’t get here until March of ’24, and 4 months and he was dead, got pneumonia in 3 days. Well, you know, weak heart, the lungs practically gone.
Because of the gassing?
Yeah. But my mother – in those days immigration, the uncle that sponsored us to come over here, he had skipped ship in Guatemala, because he didn’t believe in what Kaiser Bill was doing, so he sponsored us to come to America.
Oh, right. He just jumped ship, did he, in Guatemala?
In Guatemala, and worked his way up to the United States. Open borders! Very brilliant man, really.
And you left, presumably, because Germany was the wheelbarrows of money and that kind of thing, you know, economic meltdown?
He was a young businessman and somehow he saw Germany’s defeat coming and, of course, he knew that he was of military age and so he escaped two things; number one, duty, and number two, the (devil corps?). So, anywho, yeah, my mother and I arrived here
Can you remember the trip?
Oh, sure. See, I remember – 8 ½ , you know, I was in the 2nd grade in school – and so, course, I remembered when we got here the first time I saw automobiles, because back in Hamburg it was still carriages, trolley cars pulled by horses. I saw Army trucks, I remember that. The children were sent to the country and I remember that, I was in the country. Never really did get to know my father because, of course, he was in the Army. But
And it was just you? Did you have brothers and sisters?
No. The War came and of course it took 5, 6 years out. When my mother and he got together again he was so weak. And my mother – by the way, I believe in guardian angels, cause through this you’ll get that – my mother had studied to be a governess, so she had a smattering of English and French.
But presumably you didn’t speak a word?
In those days my uncle had to certify that my mother and I would not be burdens on the Government. He had to sign that he had a job for my mother. So when we arrived there was a job in Newark, New Jersey, where they lived and where he found a family that wanted a governess, not an American governess, a hoy-polloy type of thing. So she had a job, that first one, and they tell me Oh, back to across the ship; my mother, I don’t think, ever got out of her bunk before we left the Elb River. She was not a sailor. When she got up on the 5th of February, when we came near (Bedrose) Island, she was going to see the Statue of Liberty if it killed her! Course, I lost my hat in the wind.
So you can remember seeing it, can you?
Oh, sure. Again, back on the ship, in those days if you can imagine no intercoms or anything like that. I got to ring the bell to =wake everybody in the ship up by going up and down the galleys. One of the other things I remember is there was a well-dressed gentleman, goatee, white goatee like my great grandfather, and the tables in the ship, because they didn’t have stabilisers, had an edging, okay? I couldn’t tell you which day obviously, but we were well into the Atlantic when it was rough, and the first course, of course, was soup. Need I tell you more? The soup is served, the ship (tips a lot), and of course I was on the other end, the elders didn’t want kids near them, so he got a soup bath! But, yeah, I do remember the trip and primarily because I was ringing that bell every morning, every day, for breakfast lunch and dinner. So on the 12th of February I was in the American School – guardian angels – the first grade teacher, I had to go back to the first grade, and the first grade teacher had just finished a contract for 3 years teaching in Germany. I sat next to her reading â€˜The Little Red Hen’. By the time my father came over they tell me I wouldn’t speak German to her. In America – at least on the east coast here – German was a bad word in 1923, and understandably, so the first effort from my family’s standpoint was the less German spoken to William and in William’s hearing, and the more English exposure, the better off we’ll be. So hardly ever a word of German was spoken when I was around. Every once in a while I would sit on the steps when I was supposed to be in bed and listen to what the family was talking about.
Can you still speak German?
No. Ich habe alles vergessen. I can tell you toward the end of my thing a little story about that. So they sent me to school, to Maine, for two reasons; New York and Brooklyn, you know, and part of New Jersey, â€˜foyst’ and â€˜thoyd’, and they didn’t want that from William. So they sent me up to Maine. So I came home from school, â€˜ruff’ and â€˜rud’ instead of â€˜roof’ and â€˜road’, but good education.
So that was like a fee-paying school, was it?
Yes. Moderate, because I was an only child, so they
And you had to board at the school? Stay at the school?
Oh, lived there, yeah. The campus was 2500 acres next to the Kennebec River. We swam in the all together. Yeah, and it was good training, absolutely. Great discipline, and I credit that really, in part, to my early success in the Army. You know, â€œYes, Sir! No, Sir! And, â€œStand up! Etcetera. Anyway, so one of these uncles – all of them very successful, the one that sponsored us
So you had more than one uncle over here?
The other ones were American, but related by blood, you know, 1st and 2nd generation Americans. So the first job I got after school was being a (soda jerk?), you know, in a drugstore, and that was fun. And I loved ice cream! Then, to get something more permanent, one of those uncles was in charge of the New Jersey Emergency Relief, you know, after the depression. And so here I was, an 18 year old, interviewing fathers who had lost everything and why they should get food stamps and general help. And that, I knew that was going to blow. Just my mother and I in an apartment so college, per se, was out except night school. And so I got a job again from the sponsoring uncle in New York with a major corporation in the auditing department, and I liked that because clean fingers! And I thought, â€˜Well, you know, this is great.’ I liked arithmetic so why not grow up to become an auditor? And PriceWaterhouse was the auditing firm for that company and I got close to those guys, and it seemed like a good life. So everything went well. And then, all of a sudden the Japanese, of course, did their thing. Oh, by the way, in the mean time, the draft. I had a low number, 236, and I would have been one of the early guys for that years training. And it just occurred to me that Hitler would not be stupid enough to try to do what Kaiser Bill did, you know, after Europe and etcetera. So I went to the Draft Board. Unfortunately the Chairman of the local Draft Board was my barber for about 10 years, so I pleaded to him about 6 when he wanted to shut down. I came in, I told him I didn’t need a hair cut but I wanted to talk to him. So I told him, â€œHey, I don’t believe Hitler is going to do this and I can’t see giving up a job for a years training, upsetting everything, and guaranteeing that if things get bad and we get involved I’ll be the first to answer the call. Give me a deferment. A week later I got the card, â€˜Indefinite Deferment’. So when Pearl Harbour came I thought, â€˜Well, I got to keep faith’. So I went down to Church St, New York, that’s where the Army had it’s recruiting, and I told them I’d like to get in the Army Air Corps. And things were going swimmingly until they examined my eyes. And the Captain, I believe it was, said, â€œMr, we can’t use you. You have a stigmatism and that would not help. And, you know, it never occurred to me at the moment to say, â€œWell, you might have things on the ground I can do, like (clodding). But anyway, they were very gracious, so I went on over to the Navy, because of the accounting and stuff, and I allowed to them that I’d like to be a Purser on a ship. Well, I had a conversation with a couple of junior Navy Officers, and finally I think it was a Commander who said, â€œMr Konze, we thank you for coming in, but you must realise we have pursers on all the ships and they’ve had accounting experience out the kazoo for years. But thanks for coming in. So I decided, â€˜Well guys, come in and get me’. But in the mean time, of course, I went to the barber and said, told him what I did. And so
That’s how you joined the Army.
I just wanted to ask you one thing; when you were leaving Germany, did you have any regrets about it, or were you just excited to be going to America?
Oh, it was the excitement of youth, you know. I was
You weren’t sorry to be leaving your friends and that sort of thing?
No, not really, because again, what you must remember, that during the War I was away from my parents so I didn’t have any fast friends in that regard, and school was a little different than school here. You sat at a desk – and I know you’ve seen those – 3 kids at the same desk, and when you walked in the teacher was at the door and you showed your slate, both sides, you know, the cross marks on one and the lines on the other, and she felt the sponge and it better be clean. You went to school and I do remember the teacher had a long stick, and William liked to talk. â€˜Swish!’ â€œWillhelm! (Haus now?). I can remember those things. Shut your mouth! Basically, then you’d go home. I have to honestly say I don’t remember playing on the street in Germany at all, like the American kids which I quickly found. So, no.
So you adjusted to life in America pretty quickly then?
And picked up English pretty quickly?
Yeah. At 8 ½ you do that, you know, and if you concentrate on the native language of the country that you’ve come to before age 10 you don’t wind up with an accent. Course, my mother had her accent throughout, my cousins had their accents throughout â€˜cause two of them were born in Germany and came to America after. So they were, yeah
And you stayed in your apartment and your mother stayed in your apartment in New Jersey all the time?
So whereabouts in New Jersey was it?
Okay, so literally just across the river.
Yeah. Which became a disaster area just before I left. You know, the Mayor was in jail and all this good stuff, but that’s other history!
And when it came to the War coming and having to sign up, you didn’t have any qualms about the possibility of fighting against Germany?
No. No Which In 1939 I got a very official piece of paper – and by the way, in the mean time my mother and I had moved 5 times. Of course, I had been in school – but directly to the address we were currently living, which shows you how the German embassy, the German Government, and they believed in dual citizenship, which told me it was my (class) to come in for military service and when I should report.
Over in Germany?
Oh, yeah. And, you know, it was signed by somebody. It wasn’t Himmler or Hitler. But anyway, I paid no attention to that. I wasn’t about to get into anything like that. About 6 months later I did get another parchment, very fancy, signed by Hitler! Which I still have, which said
Actually signed by him?
Oh, well you know, it’s his signature. â€˜If you ever come to Germany, since you didn’t obey the orders, you will be thrown in gaol and maybe spend the rest of your life there.’ But the interesting thing to me on that is, as I say, we moved 5 times, my mother and me, and that was directly to the apartment where we were. So anyway
You do hear of stories of people who were born and brought up in America, rather like you, born in Germany, and then happen to be travelling in Europe or Germany and then just get caught and end up in the German Army, but completely American, you know.
Location, location, location! Well, and then came the manila envelope with greetings from President Roosevelt, not signed by him, that I was to report to Camp Dix on the 10th of February in 1942.
And that’s for your basic training?
Yeah. But guardian angels; here was this big camp, smoke coming out of every tent, (soft coal), a mess, stunk. I was assigned to a tent along with the others, you know, the cable and the training diagram, and there was a chap with a heavy Polish accent who was keeping the file. Now, to me that was obvious almost immediately. Nobody wanted a guy that could hardly speak English, but he spoke enough English understandably. And the first day there, I happened to be the second person in the tent, so he introduced himself and said, â€œWhy don’t you take that bunk, then you’re away from the flap and all that. And he said, â€œYou know anything about the Army? And, â€œNo, absolutely nothing. â€œOkay. Don’t go out after breakfast when the whistles blow, because you wind up being a latrine orderly or marching all day. He said, â€œWhat you do after breakfast, you take the newspaper and you pick up a mop and you go into one of the stalls in the bathroom and don’t come out until nine o’clock. So for the week at Camp Dix I didn’t march. It was just about a week and one of the fellas in the tent said, â€œWhere the heck were you? They called your name. And I said, â€œOh? So, course, I went to the 1st Sergeant’s tent and some things you don’t have to learn, you know, â€œI had a bathroom that I had to attend to so I missed the formation. â€œWell, get your gear because you’re going down Fort McClellan, Alabama, for basic training. So the overnight train, overnight, 41 hours because freight takes priority during the War, right, so we were on sidings, ran out of food. But in any case, the south, Alabama, all I’d read about the south was sunshine, warm. February, low quarters, got off the train and into red mud! Assigned to a Training Company. The second day there, because for some reason they got disciplined, you know, â€œAbout face. Right turn, left turn. Left flank, right flank. Like water off a duck. So second or third day there I was an acting Corporal, which meant that instead of ever going to KPE or those kinds of duties I had to read the manual for what was going to be taught the next day, so in case my Squad screwed up, I’d know what to tell â€˜em to shape up. Second month I was Acting Sergeant. No more pay that 21 dollars but I had the 3 stripes of Sergeant. That training was over Oh, mortars. We didn’t have 60mm mortars, we had stove pipes. But they did have the sighting, you know, so I could do that. I came out and excellent machine gunner on the heavy machine gun.
Was that all from your basic training?
Yeah. Aside from, you know, starting to march and get shots and all of this, and put on those damned (leggings) every morning, keep â€˜em on all day, yeah, you went through a regular routine, which of course included several visits to the firing range. And we started out with the 0-3 rifle, the bolt action, and I’m left handed with things like that. Well, I had a General standing behind me and they couldn’t understand how but I passed. But a machine gunner, of course, that’s all together different. But you went through all that basic training, and the gas mask. That was an interesting go, you know, they get you in a room and then open that gas and you had to put on your mask before you got out of that room, and there were some sick bunnies!
So they did put in some certain kind of gas?
Oh, yeah. When the training session was over, that 3 month basic training, they wanted to keep me there as an instructor. So the rest of the guys were gone, I was kept on.
Were you happy with that?
Oh, yeah, at the moment. Hey, this puts me further away from North Africa or Europe, at least for a time, and it gives me an opportunity to earn the stripes and the pay. But that didn’t work out. So I was put on a train and given a manila envelope – and this always bugged me – and wasn’t told where the train was going, wasn’t told to open that envelope, but the conductor would tell me when to get off. And it was a sleeper, so I knew I was going somewhere, and I wound up at Wright-Patterson Airbase as a Of course, that was our big base and I was assigned to the 18th Air Depot Group, and I had a 2nd Lieutenant, charming young man, didn’t know his ass from 3rd base, but you know, came out (ROTC), which is really supposed to teach you things. But anyway, there in that detachment I was the only one who had any college. By the way, in the mean time I was studying accountancy at Peace College, which was across Broadway from where my office was.
Right, so that was night school?
That was night school, yeah. And so I was made the Acting 1st Sergeant of that detachment. Shock number 1. Pay day, the Lieutenant doesn’t want to get involved with money, never handles money. So I pay the troops. Well, about half way through the line of soldiers here are 4 and 5 stripers, Staff Sergeants and (the next). Oh, and one thing, very (tricky). Now, you had to be very careful and sign within the lines. If you went over the line, no pay. Never understood that either. If they could read our signature, I thought that was the important thing.
What a bizarre rule.
I guess what finance was afraid of, that somebody would sign in the middle and who actually got the pay. Anyway, here’s a guy makes an X. I said, â€œHey. Signature. â€œI can’t write. â€œYou can’t what? â€œI can’t write. They were telephone line men, experts. They were brought into the Army with this rank because the Army needed that type of expertise. So here are three guys in a row with 4 stripes that are legitimate with the pay, and I have 6 stripes but I’m getting a Private’s pay. So I call finance, you know, I stop things right there, and I can’t tell you exactly what I did but obviously somebody, probably the Company clerk, I shoved the .45 – And you had a .45 that was loaded, it was right here, the body is here – clerk, I got on the phone and called finance and said, â€œHey, I got 3 guys in a row that can’t write. What do I do? â€œYou certify the X. So I did that. So as I think I said in my letter to you, after a couple of months there, 1st and 2nd Lieutenants stopping by my desk and borrowing money from me to keep a date out and dating and not really doing a decent job in the first place. I thought, you know, I could do much better than them so I applied for officer training. Actually I tried that at McClellan and they told me don’t be stupid.
You got to be assigned to a unit.
So now you were assigned to a unit you could.
Sure, 18th Air Depot Group. And in those days you couldn’t just apply for one thing, you had to put 3 choices, and one had to be combat. And I thought, â€˜Well, I’ll put accounting Finance, Artillery, Infantry.’ So Finance, I got the same thing I got from the Navy, you know, â€œWe’ve got a million people, Private, you know, forget it. Oh, they didn’t call me Sergeant â€˜cause I had those Acting stripes. The second one, Artillery, the Major’s question – I’ll always remember him – â€œHow come you picked Artillery second? And I said, â€œA math background and I knew you needed to have some expertise in arithmetic and understand (laying). â€œYeah, well, we got enough guys. So the Infantry, a Major I’ll never forget, the Major said, â€œI see by your record that you were born in Germany. What does your father think of Hitler? And of course I blew a stack. It’s on there that my father died in 1924 and so I looked at him and I said, â€œMajor, I don’t think my father gives a damn, because he’s been dead since 1924. And the Chairman of the board said, â€œThank you, candidate. And I walked out and, course, the real Sergeant said, â€œKonze, you blew it. But 15 days later came the orders to go to Fort Benning, you know, (offending school for boys.
In Georgia. And that’s where I got my Commission.
And what did you have to do to get your Commission?
Well, you went through an Officer’s training course.
And was that pretty efficient, do you think?
Yeah, it was good training. There you got into map reading, of course every day you got into drill leadership, you know, voice and command and all that. Yeah, it was thorough training you know, I felt confident when I got out of there to be an Infantry Officer. And I got my Commission on the 24th of December.
1942. So with 10 days leave I was home for Christmas. My assignment was to the 86th Infantry, the Blackhawks, down in Camp Howze, Texas. And so when I got down there I was assigned to the 3-43rd Infantry.
And was the 86th a new division as well?
That was a new division, right. But not draftees. It was a conglomerate thing. So my introduction there was, you know, I saluted the Colonel, a full Colonel, and he looked at my record and the accountancy was there – and he had a bellowing voice – and again, â€œNorris! Get your ass back in here! Quote. So Major Norris came back in, my introduction to Major Norris, and Colonel (Blumquist) said, Here’s your 3rd Battalion S4. I’m not going to have some pencil-pusher running a platoon! So here I am, I’m now a member of Service Company or Battalion. Well, I forgot one thing; McClellan. It would have been the second month of training when there was going to be a general inspection, and the 1st Sergeant called me in and said, â€œKonze, I need some help. The laundry money is all screwed up. â€˜Cause that was taken out of your pay, you know, and he said, â€œI’ve got to have that straightened out. And he said, â€œThen something that let’s these guys know in their tent what we have and what we don’t have. And then he said, â€œHow long is that going to take you? And I said, â€œWell, the Company laundry account won’t take but about a half a day at the most, I said, â€œUnless things are absolutely I don’t know what. But, I said, â€œTo make the kind of chart you want I’m going to need the day room, clear the ping pong table, And I said, â€œThe guys are going to hate you and me. And I said, â€œI need wrapping paper, about 6 feet of it, from the Quartermaster, and a ruler, blah, blah, You know. â€œYou need all of that stuff? I said, â€œSarge, if you want something that they can look at and understand. â€œOkay. So the laundry account was as I said, you know, not that difficult. What I did with that chart; up here the items were over here, those that were on hand, and what was deficit. So that worked. The General liked the Sergeant’s chart. The next Saturday after that I knocked on the screen door and the first soldier said come in, and I said, â€œI’d like a pass to Aniston. And he said, â€œKonze, you spend too much god damn time in here! That’s training. Now, back to Fort Benning. It was good training. Well, Camp Howze, this is an area where bitter cold, you walked from your barracks to the mess hall to your office, if you had an office, (back up) with a sweater, a jacket, it’s so cold. By noon you want to get down to your tee shirt.
This is winter in Texas?
Yeah. Well, you see, it’s January, and you better not get caught in that tee shirt, not by George Blumquist. And the reason I went back was one of the first things I did because I was the last of the three S4’s in the Regiment, you know, 1st Battalion, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Battalion, I made my chart of what people were supposed to have, what was on hand, etcetera, put it behind me. I’m the last kid on the block, I didn’t ask anybody, but this time I went to the Quartermaster myself and got stuff, made my chart. Maybe two weeks later the Old Man came through for an inspection and of course not only have I I’m the last kid on the block, I’m the SOB. The first thing Colonel Blumquist says to Major Norris is, â€œWhy don’t the other two have a chart like that one? I like it! So that was I think the end of two months again, the Regimental Motor Officer, who was a real nice guy, and in those days Regimental Motor Officer had a Warrant Officer who was the technician, yeah, so the Captain – of course, he was still a 1st Lieutenant, no, he’s still a 2nd Lieutenant, we were all still 2nd Lieutenants – all he was doing was the administrative work. Well, poor Brady, who’s name I’ll never forget, Blumquist comes round to make an inspection of the motor pool, and poor Lieutenant Brady couldn’t tell him how many of the Regiment’s vehicles were in base maintenance and how many were in local maintenance, you know, Warrant Officers take So he finishes the inspection and obviously gets back to the office, and I get a call from the Adjutant, and McGovern says, â€œThe Colonel wants to see you. I couldn’t figure out what I screwed up!
You were expecting the worst?
Oh, you always do! So I went up, saluted. Colonel Blumquist says, â€œKonze, you’re the Regimental Motor Officer, effective immediately. To which I answered, â€œSir, I don’t know a thing about motors. Colonel Blumquist says, â€œI didn’t ask you a question! I’m going to send you back to Benning for the Motor Maintenance course He said, â€œThe first thing I want you to do is the type of chart you had for the 3rd Battalion. You do that immediately for the Regiment, and the next time I go down there I want you to be able to tell me how much is where and what. â€œYes, Sir! So I became the Regimental Motor Officer.
Very useful, motor maintenance.
Oh, yeah. And of course it was a dream assignment because basically almost every one of those drivers Well, all of them had had driving experience and some of them had been truckers, so they knew their vehicles, they knew GMC engines backwards and forwards. I didn’t even have to know where the distributor was, these guys would tell me. But, yeah, to go back a moment; Part of this I benefited basically from Colonel Blumquist’s untoward bursts, and I could see that. Colonel Blumquist had been an instructor at Fort Leavenworth for the Deputy Commander, Brigadier General Pope and Major General â€˜Iron’ Mike (Malasky). Now he is subordinate to these guys, the senior Colonel, almost, on the circuit. In any case, things worked out fine for me except that my class from Fort Benning are all promoted to 1st Lieutenant. Not all of them but 90%. But Bill Konze isn’t one of them.
Is not one of them?
I was not one of them. So I steam up to McGovern, the Adjutant, and I said, â€œWhat’s up? McGovern said, â€œBill, don’t blame this on Colonel Blumquist. We had nothing to do with it. You’ll get promoted but we can’t tell you why it’s been delayed. So I go back and that night, of course, there’s a big celebration at the Officers’ Club. At first I wasn’t going to go, and I though, â€˜Well, hell, everybody’s going to know I’m still a 2nd Lieutenant, and sooner or later they’re going to find out why.’ Well, about a month and a half later I got my 1st Lieutenancy and, you know, ceremony in Blumquist’s office and he apologises, not his fault, etcetera. What held it up, James, was the FBI had mountains of paper to go through to investigate
Sure, because of your German background.
Well, and the many others, you know. My mother finally told me one of the things that probably held it up was two nice elderly ladies had the apartment on the first floor, and they apparently told the FBI, â€œWell, he seems like a nice young man but we often wondered what he was doing out 2 o’clock, 4 o’clock in the morning. Course, the FBI has to look into these things.
What were you doing at 2 and 4 in the morning?
Of course. How funny.
Well, at the time it wasn’t. And of course I’ve always maintained, though it might not be true, you know, that set me back to get my Captaincy, Majority, Lieutenant-Colonelcy and obviously
And did it? It knocked you back the whole way, did it?
Oh, yeah. Because even though I was promoted earlier to Major and a little earlier to Lieutenant Colonel, it didn’t cover that span to full Colonel. You know, I like to dream about Anyway, so I kept that job. We went to manoeuvres.
And what was that like? Were you doing manoeuvres with tanks and artillery?
Oh, yeah, the whole bit, the whole nine yards. There are divisions that are the Red Army and, you know, Blue Army. So we came up with the red and blue an awful long time ago, but we flat-ass flunked every problem in Louisiana. Not surprising. So we trained in Fort Livingstone, Louisiana, which was not a long trip. And by the way, Camp Howze, Texas, by boat to the Louisiana manoeuvre area. I got (high box), you know, the Regiment train doing it’s work. Anyway, 41 of us were very fortunate. The loudspeaker said, â€œDon’t unpack, you’re going to Fort Mead for further assignment. So, of course, we got on the train and
Why do you think you were one of the 41?
Uh, we were the ones that had the better ratings, you know, for the year. So Fort Mead, a casual company there. I think there were 4 casual companies, (Forward), 2nd, 1st, and Captains, run by Captains who must have pulled their hair out. First there’s a guy like me. Fort Mead is 2 ½ hours by train from Newark, and they have no idea when I can get orders, so I told the Captain, â€œHey, I can be back here in no more than 3 hours, I mean 4 hours, if there’s a call. How about letting me go home? So I went home. I was home for about a week I guess, the call came and I went back. But in the mean time there was a picnic! If you were going to go to North Africa you had your gear in a mattress cover. If you were going to go to Europe, England, you had a footlocker, and this went back and forth, and the Captain of our Company finally said, â€œPut the god damn mattresses in the footlockers and then leave here what you don’t want. So I sent a footlocker home and took a footlocker
Did you know that you were going to be shipped overseas at some point?
Oh, sure. The fact that you went to Fort Mead meant that in all probability that you were on your way overseas.
As a replacement?
Yeah. The question was: North Africa or Europe? And Europe in those days meant England, at that time. So the call came and I went back to Mead and made the train down to Hampton Roads, Virginia, and there on a liberty ship, 500 enlisted men in the hold, none of whom we’d ever met before. And then we joined a 225 ship convoy.
Wow. That’s a big one.
Yeah. A liberty ships, you know, didn’t have too much navigational instruments, and our Captain who had
So how many were on the ship?
Well, 11 Officers and 500 enlisted men.
So it wasn’t a huge ship?
Oh, no. Liberty ships weren’t that big. These poor guys, you know, I felt sorry. I only went down there twice.
Did you get your own cabin?
Oh, yeah. With another chap, another 1st Lieutenant.
Who you’d never met before?
Never met before, no.
Were you still worried about u-boats and things at that time?
It was in the back of our minds, you know. I know we discussed how lucky we were to be above deck in our cabins so that if something happened at least
You could get off quick.
Yeah, we could grab something and float.
So when did you learn you were going to be going to the Mediterranean?
Oh, when you were out at sea?
Oh, I’m sorry. We didn’t Again, you know, the envelopes, we didn’t learn that we were going into the Mediterranean until 2 of the ships – one that was ours – were told to make the right turn, the flanking movement. So our drunken Captain, instead of landing in Naples wound us up in Augusta, Sicily, and then turned the ship around at about 2 o’clock in the morning and ground the back end. But we made it to Naples.
He really went to Sicily by mistake?
Oh, yeah. He had no idea. I think they had bad maps in the first place and then you have a guy that drinks too much, who’s in Command of the ship.
Amazing. So how long did that hold you up? Just a day or two, presumably?
Seven days, yeah, because obviously there had to be some communication between him and Naples, and radio in those days between ship to shore was
Or a mountain. Anyway
And that was your second time at sea?
Yes, yeah. And of course being a good sailor, it didn’t bother me at all. But we had some sick soldiers, obviously.
But how did you feel about heading overseas?
Well, I knew it was coming and my first thought was, you know, we studied geography in my day and my first thought was how lucky I am to be going to England – because I thought it was England, not the Mediterranean – rather that North Africa and face those people in mountains in Northern Africa.
So this was February 1944?
Yes. Yeah, the inevitable. You knew you were going to go overseas sooner or later, and it would depend on where and what, so
But in your early military career you’d tried to avoid getting into the Infantry, so were you..?
Oh, yeah, I didn’t want to get shot at, of course.
Yeah, so there was certain apprehension about Can you remember saying goodbye to your mother and that sort of thing?
Oh, yeah, it was a tearful thing for her because her younger brother got killed on the 18th of November in World War 1. The word hadn’t come to these outlying units and of course she never got over that, and now her son is going over with the idiot sticks, you know.
So she was very worried and upset about it?
Oh, yeah. But as I told her, you know, that we have to face it and I look forward to seeing you when we get back home, they’ll tell me when it’s got to be over. In any case the ship is run – a liberty ship was run Of course the seaman and the Captain was a civilian. There was a Major on board who represented the Army between any friction. He was the guy
Who’d sort things out.
Right. He was also the guy responsible for the discipline etc, etc. So approaching Naples finally, he got us all together and gave us assignments, and (Lovelace) and I were assigned
Lovelace was a friend of yours?
No, he was the guy I bunked with, the 1st Lieutenant, who came from the 9th Division. He and I were assigned to do the checking off and the head of the gang plank, name, rank and serial number, make sure they have their duffel bag and stuff like that. So the ship lands, the gang plank is A bullhorn sounds off and says, â€œLieutenants Lovelace and Konze, debark immediately! So you can imagine the fit that this Major’s in. He’s got all these assignments and now the people that he’s responsible to make sure got off that ship, nobody to check â€˜em! We got off with out duffel bags and whatever else we were carrying – I think I had a dispatch case – in a sedan, and we wind up at the Peninsula Base Headquarters which was run by a General (Ambold) who was about 5 feet 4 to a grasshopper and obviously a gentleman who had listened to the FBI in peace and war. You know, in those days you had to be a lawyer or an accountant or both was (preferable). Lovelace was a lawyer, certified, and I was studying accountancy. So we reported to General Ambold and we were assigned, attached, to the 55th Military Police Company in Naples, Italy, to help break up the black market, which $350,000 a day – in today’s money you’re talking multi-millions – and it was getting worse. Of course, that was between the Italians and American deserters.
And you had no police training at all, did you?
None. Absolutely none. We were put up in the Terminus Hotel on the 8th floor. Nice room. As usual, you know, marble floors, facing the port. We could see everything that was going on. And of course the black curtains were there. (Bedcheck) Charlie, as we called them, you know, the single German plane every night coming over the port. When they’d hear him, why, that was a sign to draw the curtains and all that. Well, what Lovelace and I used to do is we convinced the Italians that every afternoon we needed a bucket of ice between the two beds. The first night we were there and the sirens went off we started down into the (recover roll), and between garlic, children who hadn’t been changed, and just, you know We decided we’d rather die on the 8th floor of the than lie down. So what we did was we’d quick-mix a drink, put our black curtains on the windows and open â€˜em up, all the door windows on the balcony, and we’d get on the bed and watch the plane go round. And we did that from February until 17th of May. But it was interesting and
Because Naples was a mess, wasn’t it?
Oh, yeah, all the way around.
No water, no this, no that.
Yeah. Well, there was water, you know, enough, however in the hotels, so we didn’t suffer from anything in the hotel.
But the Italians were suffering, weren’t they?
That was obvious, was it?
Yeah. Yes, very much so. The only real big break that Lovelace and I got; if you can visualise the (Quistora), the Police building, of course again marble, you know, and over to the side is the whorehouse, on this side is a barbershop. So that was convenient. The other place, you know, was off-limits, particularly to us. Anyway, we, Lovelace and I, were partners at the market place and we used to go out about 10 o’clock at night and work until 5 in the morning, the market and the
And what did you do, arrest people and things?
Well, we tried to. Go through the market place and it took us about almost a week to catch on. We’d go in the market place and, of course, our insignia was inside our collars but we did have the American uniform, and it was obvious we were officers because we had the belt and the holster, but the Italians started waving the onions and, â€œBuy your onions! And that went up the market place. So everybody, the gamblers, the ne’er do wells, they were out of the place.
So that was a sort of warning sign, was it?
Yeah, it warned everybody. And the Italians are great gamblers, and what they had was, you know, the 3 bean thing or the 3 So not much success there. But the biggest one we had was Lovelace and I decided to get a haircut, and we were waiting our turn and there was this constant stream of soldiers going into a back room. And of course there were a lot of people waiting to have their hair cut, and we looked at each other and sort of signalled and we told the barbers we’d be back, something came up. When we got out we said, â€œYou know, something is going on there in that barbershop and we’d better find out. So we went back to the Police Station, told the Desk Sergeant what we needed and would he do that right away, the back end of the whole area, MP’s, and no pistols, just have your I’m having a senior moment. Not the rifles, the carbine, the carbines, because they were more accurate and easier to handle than that damn .45. So we went back to the barbershop and instead of sitting down we headed directly to this back door, opened the back door, and here were about 8 or 10 GI’s getting their payoff from the Italians. And the Italians had Lira stacked like that. So we told the GI’s to get out, picked up the money from the Italians, took them with us back to the Police Station with the money, and the interrogation between the Italians and the GI’s before they got locked up was obvious. I think you can imagine. These Americans were so clever. They had stolen companies’ worth of 2 ½ ton trucks, 49 trucks from Quartermaster Truck Company. They had somebody at the port who had the information of what ship was coming in and what it was carrying and who was supposed to pick up the goodies. So what these guys And of course plenty of paint, right? So they obliterated the numbers and designation of the Company, the Quartermaster Company that was supposed to pick the stuff up, and put the new numbers on. The Italians were made out correctly, MP at the gate lets the convoy go in, pick up the goods, on the way out the guy leaves the tally (slipped) legitimately in there, a truck load of rations, a truck load of post exchange, cigarettes which of course had Combs, toothpaste, whatever, anything. So the same thing with the gasoline. When the ships came in they stole tankers and would go get the tankers filled. And of course they sold both on the Italian economy. Did we catch any of those people? Hell, no. Their timing was beautiful, you know, somewhere they got the word and, you know, it had to be from the 55th MP Company, at what time we were going to be out there watching for the Truck Company. They were either Well, they were always early. So then finally, on the 16th of May, we got the call, anonymous, â€œPut on your pistol belts and get your ass up here! You know, Caserta up to (Couchiano’s) Milk Farm, which was a replacement depot. Did I mention that?
So we got there about noon, you know, it wasn’t that much of a trip from
So you weren’t sorry to be MP’s (no longer)?
Not really, because you know, we knew it was a waste of time on our part, We were really not in any way helping the War effort except a few things that we did pick up, you know, that didn’t amount to a hill of beans. So yeah, the inevitable. So we got to Count Ciano’s Milk Farm about 11 o’clock in the morning and one of the first things I did – one of the clerks, a Lieutenant, still a 2nd Lieutenant, that I was at Fort Benning with. The poor guy was a straight shooter, he was short, he was nowhere near the top o the class, and this was his 4th replacement depot. North Africa and Count Ciano’s Milk Farm. Well, as I said in my letter, we weren’t assigned to a billet at all, we just, you know, put your stuff down wherever. We quickly learned that there were about 1500 2nd Lieutenants, 1st Lieutenants, Captains, of all branches living there, and I really don’t remember if it was 6000 or 60,000 troops – but 6000 is good enough for you in my numbers – that were enlisted men that were marching up and down every day, awaiting reassignment. So we had lunch in one of the cow barns, you know, the eating trough, and the wire obviously had been live, these guys had been living in a hotel, you know, pick them first, which as far as Lovelace and I were concerned was alright with us. So early in the afternoon we were on our way in a truck, up forward.
That’s a very quick turnaround.
Oh, yeah. Particularly when you consider here were all these other guys
Who’d been there before you.
And no enlisted men, just Officers. So by late afternoon we got to Division Forward – uh, Rear, and we were assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 349th. So by jeep we went to their supply dump and
And where was that?
You know, I don’t really remember except that it would have been about 15, 25 kilometres north of
Yeah. So there, this would have been maybe 5 o’clock in the afternoon, and the mule train was almost loaded. So we were told there, â€œYou two, 3rd Battalion, 349th, go with the mule train. And so we did. And going over the mountains, after midnight came across an area where the mule train the day before had been ambushed, and that was our first taste and smell of animal and human blood, and that I think was my biggest shock.
You suddenly though, â€˜This is for real’.
Yeah, you know, you know now that you’re in there somewhere. So about 4:30 in the morning we reported to Lt-Col (Jaeger), and the first thing he said was, â€œGet your asses down before you get shot! And that was in little pine scrubs between Itri and Fondi.
Itri and Fondi?
Yeah. What the Colonel said was, â€œGive me your names, what you did in the States. And of course Lovelace had been a Platoon Leader in the States and I was the Regimental Motor Officer and so he told Lovelace, â€œL Company. And Konze, you go back with the mule train. You’re my Motor Officer.
You were happy about that?
Oh, sure, you know, reprieved for the moment. But then he asked, he said, â€œHow many enlisted men did you bring up? And we said none, and I’ll leave out the expletives.
He was not happy.
Because a couple of the Companies were down to 65 enlisted men.
Yes, because the summer offensive had opened, it had already started, and I think the 88th were next to the French, weren’t you?
Did you ever have anything to do with them?
You never saw them or anything?
No. The Brazilians later on up north we had some contact with but never the French. The Goums, yes.
Yeah, I’ll tell you my story on that. So in any case yeah, see the offensive had started on the 15th of May, or was it the 16th?
The 11th. It started on the 11th of May.
11th of May, you’re right. So anyway, I went back to the motors and everything went smooth. With the S4 and his assistant, the 3 of us would take turns taking the rations up to the (force).
So as Motor Officer it was just your job to organise the transport of supplies up to the Front?
Right. But the main thing is normally this was a jeep or a mule train. You know the reason for the jeep, of course, was the more (might) cans of hot food when you can do that. And as I say, the 3 of us took it My principal job as far as the enlisted men were concerned, and obviously the Colonel, is when they got a chance to get out of their fox holes and go back to a rest area, get clean socks, clean uniforms, a shower, you know, the amenities we could offer, and running that convoy, being on time, getting out, getting them back. That was the principal concern. Colonel Jaeger, you know, knew that the rations would get there. So I would say that it was in It was still south of Rome, and the Regimental Motor Officer called a meeting. And those meetings were always called late at night so you drove with the blackout lamps, and I was on the road in my jeep and all of a sudden I saw this dark hand up and a rifle I didn’t recognise and I stopped. And the next thing I knew there was a Goum sitting next to me who hit me on the shoulder and signalled me to carry on. No words passed. When we got somewhere near obviously his destination he hit me on the shoulder, took off in the dark, and I took off. That was my first and only French connection.
Last week I was in Italy and I was in that area, sort of between Frosinone and the coast, and I was right up in the top of the mountains there and I was talking to this old peasant woman, farming woman, and she remembered Americans and Frenchmen and Goums coming, and in fact on of the French Goums raped her, as it happened.
That was a big trouble. General Clark of the 5th, you know, because it happened in 5th Army, no distinction made, it wasn’t the Americans and it wasn’t the British It was a rape by a soldier of a civilian, irrespective of age.
So did you hear about that going on at the time?
We knew I don’t think I heard so much but we knew it went on and of course having been with the soldiers, some of them you know can’ t keep their zippers up so, yeah
Were you aware that American GI’s were doing that sort of thing as well?
I knew it The rapes?
No. All I knew and I think most of us knew was rapes. Basically, yeah, it was the French Goums that were doing it, you know, because the one thing we were told, not to be shocked, is they don’t get paid. Their pay is the loot that they can pick up where they go through.
Is that so? Wow.
Mmm. And of course part of that loot obviously was taking advantage of the women, irrespective of age. That was the terrible thing.
But they looked pretty fearsome as well, didn’t they?
I mean they looked like almost medieval warriors half of them.
Yeah, and I would swear to you even today that there was an odd odour which is something you and I would not care for, turn away from, sitting next to me. Because obviously that close I knew that he was one of the reputed Goums and I felt, â€˜Well, at least he let me keep my jeep!’ So then we The entry into Rome, which I have to remind my Battalion friends who continue to say that we (were fourth), I have to tell them, â€œHey, ours was the first Infantry Division into Rome, but we in the 3rd Battalion, 3-49th did not go into Rome until the 5th. And then we went north
And what do you remember of Rome? Was it exciting?
Oh, it was exciting.
The Romans had had a tough time, a lot of them were starving.
Well, of course this was the 6th day and one of the interesting things on that was when the Army went through a major city, so that following convoys wouldn’t get lost, the engineers would put down white tape, a route to follow. Well, on the 5th there were a few tapes missing. But the groups, you know, you could hear the shouting so you followed the principle route.
What did you make of it?
Oh, it was great. I got more kisses, all kinds of scratches from roses because of course I was sitting in the front seat of my jeep, my driver and my convoy behind me. Oh, yeah, it was great, absolutely great.
Nice to be victorious?
Oh, yes, absolutely.
And were you just straight through or did you..?
We had to stop a couple of times because still some of the fascists, obviously, we still on the roofs of some of the buildings firing at the convoys. So every once in a while we were stopped. My convoy didn’t suffer any shots. We heard them but
But all the Italians were very pleased to see you?
Oh, absolutely. They couldn’t be sweeter. And you know the interesting thing, James, is Alice and I were in Rome for the 60th anniversary of the Liberation, and those people, young and old, are as sweet as the day we liberated Rome, you know. Not only in Rome but in Anzio, just fantastic. Anyway, we went north of Rome to protect the bridges, and the second day we were sent back south of Rome to Albano where we spent 15 days for rehabilitation, retraining, etc, etc.
Was that the whole Division?
Just your Battalion?
Just our Battalion. So we had a great time there, and just a vignette; the Colonel decided that we ought to have, the Officers ought to have a party, so he said, â€œKonze, take C rations, a trailer, and go in and get a trailer load of wine, red and white, but pay for it. You know, either rations or Lira. And the reason he sent me in 2 reasons, of course, I had the jeeps. My cousin ran the Casino de la Rosa in Rome for the enlisted men, so he knew I had a contact in Rome that could get ladies. So the first thing the driver and I did when we got to near the centre of Rome – Oh, by the way, my driver was Catholic so his question was, â€œCan we stop at St Peter’s before we start looking for wine? So we did that. So I would imagine that we were among the first to really stop at St Peter’s and, you know, in those days there wasn’t all this stuff, we drove right up to the steps of St Peter’s and of course I had a life long friend as a result! So, the next thing when we left the Vatican City and went back toward the centre of town, the first gendarme we saw, put him in the back of the jeep, cigarettes and all, and make it clear to him that what we’re looking for is morte vino, and pointed out that we could pay for it. Within a half an hour we had the jeep full and no more C rations in the jeep trailer. The we stopped at Casino de la Rosa and I told my cousin what I needed, and she said, â€œWell, would you trust â€˜em? And I said, â€œDorothea, I wouldn’t come here if I didn’t! I said, â€œOur Colonel is a straight arrow and if one of our guys gets out of line he’s red meat. And I said, â€œSo you don’t have to worry. And I said, â€œThe thing he said was Red Cross girls or American nurses. And I said, you know, â€œWe don’t know the nurses, we’re not near a hospital. So I said to dotty, â€œWhat I need is 15 ladies who are willing to come to Albano, music, food, drinks, no hanky panky. She looked at me, she said, â€œOkay. But she said, you know, â€œDon’t worry. Well, two days later my convoy of jeeps went into Rome and stopped at the Red Cross Headquarters, and you couldn’t ask for more charming ladies. Some of them were married. As a matter of fact a brunette that just struck me like this, I pointed to her and I said, you know, â€œNome? And she said, â€œTina. And I said, â€œTina, you sit there! So we put the ladies in the jeeps. Oh, and there was a blonde with Tina who was charming-looking, put her in the back seat.
And were these American girls or Italian girls?
No, they were all Italian.
As Dotty, she was there and she said, â€œBill, there are 3 Red Cross girls, the rest of these ladies are friends of theirs that they’ve known and I’ve promised them nothing would happen. And nothing did. So we had a delightful evening and took the ladies back, and I told the drivers no stopping back to Albano unless you’re invited, but be there by chow time. The blonde lady happened to speak English. Tina didn’t speak English. Her husband had been killed in North Africa. So anyway, the next day the Colonel got a call from – I don’t know the blonde’s name, I don’t remember, anyway, she called, got through Central some way and invited the Colonel and me for lunch the following day. And he sent his apologies through the interpreter that was in Headquarters and said that he would send me and one of the other Lieutenants if that would be alright. And then they decided, no, just me. So I drove into Rome, again to the Headquarters, and there I got – I’ll call her Lydia – Lydia’s address. Beautiful apartment. Went up there and, of course, Tina was there, opened a cabinet and it had more American liquor than I’d seen since I’d left America. And the conversation came around about the fascists, and they were honest. One of the first things she said was – poured the scotch on the ice, of course – â€œYou know, Bill, if we weren’t fascists in name we wouldn’t have even lived in Rome, let alone have these apartment and have this life. You have to be a fascist. So that was delightful.
But they certainly weren’t sorry to see the Allies, or anything? They weren’t really fascists?
Oh, yeah, they were glad to see us. Of course obviously I took my PX ration, most of which I didn’t I don’t like beer, so I had plenty of beer, chocolate, Hershey chocolate bars, so I left all of that with them.
And they were very happy with that?
Oh, yeah. So the question was when would Tina see me next? So they took me over to Tina’s apartment, which was almost as sumptuous as Lydia’s.
So they were quite well-to-do then?
Yeah. Well, Tina of course, having been the wife of an Italian Captain who lost his life for the country, so they were taken care of, yes.
How old was she?
She would have been early thirties.
But she didn’t have any children?
One child, yeah, a daughter. And I would say the daughter was about 6. So I got into Rome a couple of times and I took her to the Excelsior Hotel. You know, in those days the dining room, dinner, 35 cents per person without wine, 45 with wine. So of course I was a hero, and of course more chocolates that I bought her. So that was delightful. And I got to tell you, I would say it was during the last week in Albano that I was invited to a party from Tina, a party that an Italian Intelligence Officer was running whose apartment was right on the Tiber. And the food and wine you wouldn’t believe, you know, if you were just in the apartment and paying attention and looked at the beautiful scene he had, you know, the Vatican City and all that, no War going on.
Where did they get it from?
In Rome before the Allies arrived there were people starved to death.
Well, I have always thought that all of these people had black market contacts.
Clearly. They must have done.
They had to. And this party wasn’t just 3 or 4, there must have been a dozen people there, and when it got about 2 o’clock in the morning and I aloud said, â€œI’d better get back to camp. The Captain looked at me and he said, â€œDon’t be silly, Bill! The pyjamas are in there, which you really shouldn’t use, and you and Tina use that room.
So you did?
I did! Got to be honest. And it was a very pleasant night. So then we go north of Rome and nothing spectacular, except that twice I was told to put on my pistol belt, get up there and temporarily – and again, shortage of Officers and shortage of men – and temporarily Commanding That was I Company. And maybe for 3 or 4 days, replacements came and I went back to the Motors. We were outside of Florence for quite a number of days.
Was there a concern that the Germans were going to blow up the bridges and things in Florence?
Well, they did, you know, they blew up everything but Ponte Vecchio. And of course by the time we got there, James, it was a dry month thing, so we could drive across the river.
Oh, right. So it wasn’t a huge deal.
August, you know.
Pretty warm by then?
Oh, yeah. The Arno was absolutely dry in that area.
What were your impressions of Italy aesthetically?
Well, course, I thought it was a beautiful country and of course Rome, you know, just boggled me. It was different to New York City, you know, wider boulevards and the people seemed more enthusiastic. Obviously poor for what they’d gone through in the War.
That was very obvious, was it?
Oh, absolutely, all the way.
So would you ever see children without shoes and that sort of thing or was it not like that?
No, I was told about that and those children basically, as I understood it, were in an area that was a few blocks behind Vatican City. It was a poorer area of Rome and never got there. Course, went back to Vatican City to have a leisurely visit.
But as you were passing through the Italian countryside on your way north did you go through devastated towns and..?
Oh, absolutely. Well, and I particularly was cognoscente of that because I’d never cared for K rations. I hated C rations. And basically north of Rome I basically lived on the economy, Italian bread, the fruit from their trees, â€˜cause of course all the tree weren’t destroyed, and some red wine. I didn’t eat C rations.
Amazing. So you managed to get food okay?
Oh, absolutely. Well, I had American (script), you know, Lira.
So you’d always pay for it?
Oh, yeah. One way or another. If I had the PX ration of chocolates and stuff, I always kept that to pay for food.
Right. So payment in kind?
Oh, absolutely, yeah. Because I recognised that if they gave me part of that local bread, that was off their table, so yeah. So Florence was delightful again, because by the time we got there the Germans had left Florence and there was no indication that they were going to counter attack, if you will, which they never did, and of course we had units already north of Florence.
Did you ever come into contact with any Italian Partisans at this stage?
Not until we were north of Florence. So no problems there. The only duty I had was Michaelangelo Park – I know you know that – on this side of the Arno.
And you look down over the Cathedral.
Right. We put our .37 mm cannons there in case of a counter attack, and I slept on the grass in the Park. Well, it was dry.
I’ve camped there.
Yeah. And of course I was hoping I never had to use those damn things because the shells probably wouldn’t have gotten across the Arno anyway Cannon Company. Well, then we started north of Rome and it was in the vicinity of Castel Del Rio that we ran into our first Partisans. I was Commanding L Company at the moment and I had a hesitancy, you know, of believing these guys, obviously not in uniform but they were armed and they had armbands. And I had one soldier that was a fairly decent interpreter and I wasn’t too sure so, course, by the telephone I got hold of Battalion Headquarters and said, â€œHey, what do I do about these guys? â€œListen to â€˜em, don’t tell â€˜em anything, but let â€˜em stay with you because they may be able to help you if they’re honest.
So you just had to make a judgement call?
Yeah. And so
I should imagine most of them were, weren’t they?
Oh, yeah. Decent but again lacking food because they were living
Off the land.
Off the land, right. So the Jumping now to the 11th of October
Yeah, because you reached the Gothic Line.
Right. We were to be relieved by a British Company. As I say I was the temporary Commander so I hadn’t gone through one of these things.
Were you still with L Company?
So how long were you commanding L Company for then? Couple of months?
Oh, no. Just another
I think that was my 3rd day.
And what were your impressions of the Front Line, the Gothic Line? It must have been shells going over all the time, wasn’t it?
Well, it was noisy and you had to remember that you don’t hear a mortar shell unless you’re where it comes out of the tube. Now a lot of people don’t understand that, particularly Hollywood, you know.
So it’s literally just get there, dig a fox hole, get in?
Right. And by the time I got up there all the fox holes were dug, the soldiers knew where they were, I knew when the rations were coming up and of course so did the Germans and the mortars would start in.
Because it was pretty static by then, wasn’t it?
Yeah, very little small arms fire at all, and that was because of patrols. Anyway, the British were to relieve
Sorry, just to quickly ask you this; did you all know that you were basically all stuck for the winter now?
Yes. Yes. That was the general contention, that dreaming about being home by Christmas was, you know, you believed in the Easter Bunny, that type of thing. Hopeful but So in late afternoon the British Lieutenant came up to survey the area with me, and of course during the day, you know, we could move pretty well because the Germans didn’t want to give away their position.
And they had no aircraft, did they?
Right. So that was fine, and he told me that they’d be coming in before dark and probably around teatime. Rang a bell! So we parted friends and about 4, 4:30 maybe, I could hear the British coming. They weren’t playing bagpipes but the damned teakettle!
They were making quite a lot of noise?
Yeah. So I took off on foot and met the British Major who was Commanding, â€œHold it right there Major! And I said, you know, â€œMy guys are up there. Certainly the Germans, if they haven’t already heard you, if you move much further with that noisy truck, – lorry, I remembered to say lorry – I said, â€œWe’re all going to be in trouble, so please have your tea back here and don’t make any more noise, and let me know when you’re coming up. And he looked at me – and so help me this is the truth – he said, â€œWhat’s to worry about? I said, â€œEvery day, within this hour, around 5:30 or so, the Germans anticipate that the troops are getting more food and they start their mortar barrages. And we don’t need that 15 minutes from now until your guys are in the holes. I’d rather get my people out, you know, safely. He said, â€œWell, Old Chap, they can’t kill us all. So help me that Major used that phrase! So I just shook my head and said, â€œMajor, not a step further with that truck! So we had that understanding. Well, the turnover
You don’t know what regiment that was?
No, I didn’t pay attention to that unfortunately. So the changeover went well and we went back, and of course
So he did wait?
Oh, yeah. And about I guess a kilometre down where the road was my trucks were waiting and took us back to the Rear Area. Well, at breakfast the next morning, because by the time the guys got, we all got into the area it was way past midnight, so â€˜flop’. So the first soldier and I stood at the chow line. Two reasons; number 1, I wanted to check all the names. Number 2, adabrin tablets. And so I stood there at the head of the chow line. Well, when we were all through two men were missing, so I got hold of my driver, got in the jeep, and started back, you know, the road we took. And we were about two thirds of the way back to (Sagalione), which is all to the right of Del Rio, and this (tree burst) came. We heard the whistle, we jumped out of the jeep but that was not enough and tree bursts, you know, above us, and
What’s that, a canister shell or something?
Yeah. Anyway, it spread all over the place.
But it was a shell rather than a mine or anything?
Oh, yeah, it was definitely a shell.
You could hear it whistling?
That’s why we jumped out of the jeep. And, course, the helmet goes off and all that good stuff. I got peppered in the back but my big wound was it severed my tendon just above my ankle and then the shell fragment went up into the calf of the leg. But, again, guardian angel; it didn’t break the leg. So we, course, gathered our wits. My driver was really hurt much more than I because I fell into the ditch on the right side of the road but he didn’t have that, he was flat on the ground. So we tried to help each other, you know, the lame kind lead the blind.
It must have been agony, wasn’t it?
Well, the hurt was here and his hurt was just all over his body. So we thought about the adabrin, you know, take it out of the, (knock it out of it) and put the white powder
Yeah. And then we decided, you know, we’re not medics, we don’t know what the hell we’re doing. Well fortunately a tank from the 7-52nd Tank Battalion came. They picked us up, took us to their aid station and those people, you know, cleaned the wound up and – wounds up – and
Presumably you couldn’t really walk by this stage?
Oh, no. So they cut my boot off because that was the only way they You know, that was almost severed. So they cleaned us up as good as possible and then in their evacuation jeep they took the two of us to their Clearing Company, and then from the Clearing Company, by nightfall we were in the field hospital. So the evacuation system is great.
Pretty slick. Where was the field hospital?
That had to be Again, in the Sagalione, what my discharge paper says, â€˜In the vicinity of Sagalione’, you know, we weren’t that far back. So anyway, there was my first test of real Course, in the meantime, penicillin shot and, you know, whatever else pills they gave you, shock, trauma. â€œLay on your stomach, The nurse said. And that’s the first time we saw a nurse, and penicillin shots in the butt. Now that created two problems. It didn’t hurt too much and I knew I needed it, but I never slept on my stomach, you know, in my life, and she said, â€œI’ll be back in 2 hours, Lieutenant, so be prepared. So every 2 hours, both cheeks. But again, you know, just (harmless) care, and they tagged for a long time in the hospital. In other words not just a week, probably a month or so. Course, I didn’t see my driver again because he went through After the field hospital, obviously, he wasn’t with the Officers. I asked about him but they couldn’t tell me. So the next thing I knew, from the field hospital in an ambulance to a hospital ship off Pisa, hospital ship down to Naples to the 34th General Hospital, and that’s where I spent the next 5 months. And this is not a criticism of the medics because I think they did a marvellous job all the way through, but of course the dictum to them was patch â€˜em up and get â€˜em up here, and they were trying to follow that. So the first time they sewed the tendon together, physiotherapy, the whirlpool and all that. â€œOkay, Lieutenant, walk. Couldn’t walk, couldn’t move it.
Because they’d done it too tight. Cut it again and start again?
Cut it again. You know, sew it again, through the same routine, a week in Oh, down south Italy
Brindisi? Bari? Salerno? Naples?
No, south of Naples. What am I thinking of! The resort area.
Oh, Capri, all round there, the Riviera
We’ll think about it. Take me back Sorrento! A week and a half rehabilitation in Sorrento, I’m on cane, right? Back to the hospital. â€œOkay, Lieutenant, let’s walk. Flops. Back in OR. Third time we got it right. So again, this is another month before the operations swellingness goes down, the whirlpool, physiotherapy, and finally discharged to go back to the Battalion.
So the War hadn’t ended by this stage? The War wasn’t over?
Oh, no, no. This would have been April. On a 2 ½ ton truck, sitting in the back, stopped in Rome, talked to my cousin.
You didn’t see Tina again?
No, no. We weren’t supposed to stop that long. I did, however, I stayed in the Excelsior Hotel because I found out from the driver everyday that truck went north.
So did you Tina?
Of course! But I did feel pain in my right leg that I hadn’t felt so by the time I got up to Let’s see, this would have been Just south of (Balsam). My leg had swollen, I had loosened the boots and the Battalion Doctor, Dr Huebler – whose book you got to read, â€˜A Long Walk Through War’, great sense of humour. Klaus H-U-E-B-L-E-R. â€˜A Long Walk Through War’. Okay, well the Italian Doctor, he walked into the dispensary, his hangout, and he took one look at the boot and the second boot was cut off, and what had started it was they didn’t get all the stitches out and so gangrene started. As I say, to me, no criticism. They were following their mandate and whoever did that figured the Lieutenant is ready to go back up. So he put a tag on my leg and back to Naples – not back to Naples, to Leghorn, to the 46th General Hospital where they took care of that. And having nothing better to do and kind of tired of cribbage, and I’d made some good money at blackjack, I needed something else to do. So what I was doing was keeping the charts for the nurses, you know, the arithmetic and all, in the office. And I was discharged from the hospital on the 8th or 10th of June, the War was over, right?
Can you remember hearing the news that the War had ended?
Oh, yeah, yeah. We got the local Stars and Stripes, you see, every day because I’d go to the Red Cross coffee and doughnuts, you know.
You must have been relieved to know you’d made it through.
Absolutely. Something that you shouldn’t print but just so you’ll know; at Fort Benning, the instructors there, you know, the 1st Lieutenants for us candidates, gung-ho TAC Officers, you know. In Naples while doing the duty there with the Police, at the Red Cross club we look at each other, two 1st Lieutenants, and it finally came to me, â€œYou were the TAC Officer at Fort Benning. I said, â€œOh, yeah! â€œWere you one of my troops, Konze? I said, â€œI’ll never forget you! I may forget your name but not you. I said, â€œSo what happened? He said, â€œKonze, I got to be honest with you. I went up there, spent 3 days, and broke down. So, you know, legitimate, and they were trying to decide, â€˜What do you do with an Infantry Officer who has had this breakdown but other than that, physically and mentally can be used somewhere?’ Well, back to Leghorn. The shell that came in from a 90 degree angle on the road was a German shell. The 92nd Division was supposed to be there so the Germans wouldn’t be there and we came out of the hospital, and you were a northern Officer and you didn’t have the 85 points to go home, either a (card in port) Battalion or a (card and P) Battalion, and I wasn’t having a bit of either one of those. So I went back to the hospital – and this is the replacement depot – I went back to the hospital, you know, just walked out of the replacement depot and back to the hospital. And Major (Collie), who was a wonderful Virginian gentleman, I said, â€œMajor Collie, I need my bed back. He said, â€œYou what? I said, â€œI need my bed back because I told him the circumstances, I said, â€œNo way. And I said, â€œYou know, within a week I know I can find a job in the area. He said, â€œOkay, Lieutenant, but on one condition; you don’t go to the Nurses Club at any time! Because before that, nurses being nurses, you know, there’s some of â€˜em cute, the nurses and Lieutenants, anybody under the rank of Colonel didn’t have their uniform because too many guys were walking out of the hospital and trying to get back to their units. But if there was a uniform inside the pillows and, you know, sheets and bed closet, that meant I could put it on and see the nurses in the Nurses Club and enjoy the evening. And he knew that so, yeah, I made that promise. The second night out of the hospital I ran into a guy that – whose name escapes me – but he was with Ordnance, with the Tank and Vehicle Park just outside of Leghorn on the road to Pisa, and his nurse friend was the room-up of my nurse friend, so it was decided that he would pick the 3 of us up and we would go to the Officers’ Club. And about the middle of the first drink he looked at me and he said, â€œBill, is that name German? And I said, â€œYes. And he said, â€œDo you speak German? And, you know, when somebody poses that to me, yes I do. This is Italy, right? And he said, â€œJesus! He said, â€œI’ve heard from the girls that you’re looking for a job. He said, â€œWe’re getting 1800 German prisoners in the Tank and Vehicle Park and none of us speak German. Would you be interested in that job? â€œYou betcha! The next day I was transferred directly from the 46th General Hospital to the 2-49th Ordnance Battalion. Never went through the depot again! Course, I heard from them but I didn’t answer.
And how was your German at that time?
Poor. But I had the smarts to known that a German Battalion, particularly a Technical Battalion, they had to have people that spoke English. So I saluted the German Lt-Col when I went to Pisa after, you know, reporting for duty and I told the Colonel what we needed was his best speaking, uh, English-speaking Officer. Within 5 minutes Joachim (Javich) came and saluted the two of us. He spoke better English than I did, he was educated in your country in engineering.
And what was their kind of state of mind? Were they pleased the War was over or were they pretty despairing?
They were pleased the War was over and that they’d made it alive. In Pisa, except for the Officers, you know, senior Officers, they were in pup tents, two men to a pup tent – which was dug, you know, with you’re feet sticking out, you’re still going to get wet – and on C rations, so they were happy with any change. And in the meantime, with lots of lumber from vehicles that had been taken out of their crates, the Command of the 2-49th had built a theatre for them with seats, they had a medical clinic, 4 men to a tent, perambular tents, 4 men to a tent, and a nice kitchen and a nice mess hall. But of course the fence had the towers. So they had heard the word because by the time I picked up my 1800 people they were so happy to get out of Pisa. They’d have blown up the airport, they’d have And, of course, apparently for the German Officers they had to keep tight discipline, because of course, you know, they didn’t want any more discipline from Americans. So they were happy to come because we had all these facilities. So before we left Pisa, as I told you I shook hands with Javich and through him I told the Colonel about what they were going to get into, that they’re going to work at least 8 hours a day, 7 days a week, that the first untoward move on the part of anyone they were going back to Pisa to re-dig a pup tent for themselves and cold C rations, and that went for Officers as well as the enlisted men.
So they behaved themselves?
Never had a problem.
I know you were saying that it didn’t bother you joining up and fighting against Germany, but did you ever have any moments where you thought, â€˜This could have been very different, I could have been on the other side’?
Oh, definitely, yeah.
You know, when you’re up at the front line and you’re firing yourself or overseeing the firing on Germans, you know, you must have felt a bit peculiar.
Oh, I did, you know, I did. I tried to think of where possibly they could have assigned me, and then the only other assignment in those days was the Pacific, but I kind of wondered what it was that kept me on the East Coast and, you know, in the Atlantic rather than But this was not unusual, James. Again, off the record, one guy I met, a very, very bright guy, again in Leghorn, had been sent to Monterrey to learn Chinese. He did so well in his class that they sent him to advance class in Chinese, and he wound up in Italy in an infantry division.
It’s crazy, isn’t it?
So when did you eventually get back to the US?
Oh, God, you stayed in Europe all that time?
Yeah. Well, let’s see June, by November I was running the depot, number one and the (holes near) because the Commander, a Major, got sick and they sent him (home), got paralysed and they sent him home. In the meantime I had uncovered the accounting again, uncovered multi errors in accounting for the vehicles, you know.
Jeeps that weren’t lost, we had a couple of hundred jeeps that I found.
Was this deliberate errors do you think?
Careless. I don’t think the Ordnance types were playing any games, but it’s just careless, and some of that I saw at Leghorn. So believe it or not I wound up commanding the depot. 4 Ordnance Companies, 1800 German prisoners, and 130 Italian civilians as a 1st Lieutenant.
You didn’t get promoted then?
Oh, yes. Yeah. Well, of course I lived in the depot and I had a nice tent to myself. In order to keep the Engineers off your back what the Ordnance types did, they didn’t just have a tent, they built a floor with the lumber that they didn’t turn back to the Engineers and probably got some that they needed. So the tent was framed and the canvas was over it. I had a swinging door, a screen door, windows with screens, I had a telephone in my quarters, hot and cold running water. The only thing I had to go somewhere else for is a shower, and we had that in the back of the Officers’ Club. I had my own Officers’ Club. And of course one of the first things you do under those circumstances; cooks and bakers, German, had two bakers that spent the entire time in their Leghorn baking bread, baking cookies, cake, and whatever. The soldiers did not like grapefruit juice, so the Quartermaster wound up with truckloads of grapefruit juice. Javich – oh, by the way, the German Battalion had been in Leghorn for almost 6 months, so they knew the whole area. So when the time came, which I would say, maybe June, July, now we’re in August, let’s say, and Javich and I are having our usual meeting after the day, what we’re going to do tomorrow. He asked permission to speak on something else and he said, â€œYou know, Lieutenant, we know the Italians are very short of sugar and they will do anything to get sugar, and if you were willing to get truckloads of grapefruit juice from the Quartermaster you will never have to have a powdered egg, frozen chicken, you know, everything. And I said, â€œFine. And I called my counterpart over in the Quartermaster depot and said, you know, â€œLook, I’ll keep you guys in trucks, because you’re forever burning the motors out like the Airedales. And I said, â€œI’ll do that but in return for that I’d like some special food and particularly I understand you’d be glad to get rid of the oversupply you have of grapefruit juice. â€œYou betcha! So from that time on, fresh eggs, fresh chicken, turkey, goose. So things were going fine. Oh, and I did the same things with the Airedales. I went up to Pisa and reminded them that when they fly aeroplanes, they’re very careful, check the oil, check the petrol, but when they get on the ground, they get in the jeep and they never look at the dipstick and never worry about the gasoline. So I told the Operations Officer out there, I said, â€œI’ll keep you guys in jeep engines which you won’t have to report but when I have to go to Naples I want to fly, when I have to go to Milan I want to fly. Do we have a deal? â€œYes, Sir!
Did you ever get back to Rome to see Tina?
No, I felt that that would not be smart, because obviously Tina would be looking for a husband.
Yeah, better let her get on with it.
Yeah, you know, it was a nice interlude, I was lucky in that I didn’t have to use some of the equipment that we insist the GI’s have to use! But anyway, so
So you stayed out there all that time?
Yeah, until basically I wound up being the Executive Officer of the troops 2 months before I left and that took me downtown with the big wheels. But the 2-49th Ordnance Battalion had their Headquarters close to the WAC Headquarters in Naples, so any time they had a party or were going to have a party they invited the WAC’s over, the WAC Officers. And they sort of felt they were the protectors of the WAC’s, so when they came to Leghorn they took the same attitude. And the Christmas party we had out at the depot with of course all those goodies that the Germans had baked – Oh, by the way, we had a Saturday night dance because the Germans had their, I got their instruments from the Quartermaster, so we had a dance band. And Sunday afternoon we had a concert and maybe a dance in the evening. And the WAC Officers were invited to the Christmas party, you know, I was told that this was routine, and the 1st Lieutenant that was the chief of the Communications WAC’s in Leghorn, a charming young lady, she and I for some reason wound up on the couch with a couple of drinks and the fireplace roaring, of course, and we just didn’t participate in the dancing and all that stuff, and that sort of started something, you know, so we started to date. And the secretary that the Commanding General of Peninsula Base 6 had, a civilian, mouthed off about a secret meeting that was held in the General’s office so he fired her. But in the meantime (General Ocks) had married, for the 4th time, a Countessa, a French Countessa, in North Africa, and that’s why obviously, you know, he was still a 1st Lieutenant, although a brilliant engineer and a West Pointer. You just don’t start dumping wives like that. So anyway, the only American Officer outside of his immediate staff that paid any attention to Mrs Ocks was Barbara (Garvallis), the Commander of Communications. Of course she frequently over to the Because messages came in, you know, all hours of the day or night and sometimes she had to go over to the villa. So she developed a – well, I guess the other way, the Countessa developed a friendship with Barbara so she could learn better English. Her name was Josephine, I’ll want to remember that. Anyway, so when the secretary was fired General Ocks wired the Defence Department, you know, the Pentagon, and asked permission to take the 1st Lieutenant, the Commander of Communication, because that was not basically authorised, but she took shorthand, she typed, just a smart lady. And so casual dates got into Saturday nights at the Villa. And thanksgiving of 1946, it was sort of steady (dating), so I invited General Ocks and Mrs Ocks out to Thanksgiving dinner. And our starter was lobster, and protocol, you know, since it was my thing I sit at the head of the table. Josey, the General’s wife sits on my right, my wife sits at my left, and General Ocks sits next to her. So we’re eating the lobster and almost finished and Josey turned to me and she said, â€œBill, where did you get the lobster? And the General very quickly said, â€œJosey, did you enjoy it? And she got the hint. Don’t ask! Because it cost me a few cases of C rations off the Italians. But that was delightful. Anyway, after that Thanksgiving party we were invited to the Christmas party at the villa. In the meantime, of course, I get to know the General’s staff. But Josey is saying, â€œBill, when are you going to ask Barbara to marry you? So finally we did. But before we got married General Ocks was sent home and became the 6th Army Engineer, still a 1st, a Brigadier General, and in came J.C.H. Lee who Eisenhower threw out of England because he almost screwed up D-Day, 3 stars. Now here was General Ocks with 500,000 troops that he Commanded, by the time Lee gets there we’re down to 100,000 troops, and he has a Major General as a deputy. Now he signed promotional orders every Wednesday, and no more than (10). And G comes before K, right? So Barbara is promoted seven days before I’m promoted. So you know what I took the rest of the time from the Staff and even the German prisoners made some good jokes out of it.
Yeah, I bet.
Anyway, we got married in the Catholic Cathedral in Leghorn, and those ladies cleaned up that church I’m sure like it’s never been cleaned since it was built. And about 400 people, you know, by this time, it’s my staff and my people plus the General’s staff. So we got married and we had for our honeymoon, we had the General’s villa up in Cortina d’Ampezzo for 10 days. So Barbara’s father got away with nothing, because we fed at least 500 people with condiments I’ve never seen before, even all the good deals I had with the Quartermaster they never let loose all of that stuff. So the two of us were married, and General Ocks was happy. His replacement when he left, General (Blood), wanted to keep Barbara. And, of course, I was enjoying my Command, you know, â€œA 1st Lieutenant? This is much better than being an accountant! So we came home in May ’47.
But you stayed in the Army?
Yeah. Well, two things there; number 1, I had a beautiful letter from General Bigelow, who later became the Chief of Ordnance, suggesting that Ordnance pick me up. And his PS down at the copy of the letter was, â€˜And, God, don’t send the guy to Aberdeen. He knows more about supply now than he’ll ever learn up there!’ So I went back to the Corporation and, you know, from your history studies you must know that technically Corporation was to take me back, at least the job that I held with comparable raises that had taken place in World War 2. Well, the Comptroller of the company, very sweet, very nice guy, and he was the guy that gave me the job in the first place, said, â€œYou know, William, things have changed. And I said, â€œI certainly appreciate that, obviously. And he said, â€œYou’re obviously due for a promotion and over the years, if you had worked like you did blah blah blah, you’d have been the Deputy Auditor for the Corporation. But, He said, â€œTimes have changed. And I finally said, â€œMr Zimm, what are we talking about? He said, â€œWell, we can give you a considerable raise but send you back basically to the desk that you occupied, except it’s now moved to the chief of that branch. You know, and I said, â€œWell, thank you very much. And he said, â€œWhen can we expect you back? And I said, â€œWell, Mr Zimm, number 1, I have to think this over. I’m now married, I have a son. And I said, â€œI’ll let you know within the week. â€œOkay, good to see you back. Went back to, you know, Newark. This was in New York, I went back to Newark. The next day I took the train down to Washington DC, The Pentagon, went up to the 5th floor, presented my letter from General Bigelow. He said, â€œYou wanna be in Ordnance? â€œDefinitely.
So you stayed in?
And you got to be a Colonel.
Yeah. Well, so fine. Made a telephone call and in 5 minutes I was transferred from the Infantry to Ordnance. â€œNow, where do you want to be assigned, Fort Meade? Been there, done that. â€œFort Knox? Heard about it, don’t want to be anywhere near all that gold. â€œHow â€˜bout Fort Myer? I said, â€œWhere’s Fort Myer? He took me over to the window, he said, â€œYou see the cemetery? Up on the hill you see that church? â€œYeah. â€œThat’s Fort Myer. So that’s where I did 5 ½ years.
And have you stayed in Washington pretty much ever since?
Except for France, you know, the 3 years there, Korea, and then just the trips to Dallas that I’ve taken.
Right. And you stayed in the Army until you retired?
â€˜Til 1963. The reason I retired in 1963 of course, that was when I’d been home from Korea and all I wanted to hear about Vietnam I’d gotten into at the Cuban situation. I got beautiful letters for being down at Fort Monroe during that time, representing both The Pentagon and the Command. But I had read in the Wall St Journal that if you’re 50 years old and you’re thinking of a career change, you’d better do it right then because after that you’re dead meat. So I went out to I had an offer from an old friend out in San Diego with General Dynamics. Weekend, interview, things went well, I was offered the job, good pay. But the principal thing that they were into in those days – this is 1963 – is â€˜Centaur’, which never really got off the ground, the missile, you know. And when I got home and talked to my wife, decided that, you know, if Centaur doesn’t go and Dynamics is smart, they’re not going to fire their Engineers because they need to come up with new ideas. It’s going to be the generalists, the administrators – one of who I am which – and so I don’t think that’s the smartest thing to do. And furthermore, of course, after 22 ½ years, I’ve enjoyed the Army and certainly in the assignments I’ve had and the people I’ve met, and my wife felt the same. So we decided that we’d stay here. Oh, in the meantime, when I came back from San Diego there was a note on my desk from General Friedman, who was just down the hall from me, he said, â€˜Bill, I understand you’re going to retire. Come see me before you make your final decision of where you’re going after’. So I obviously went to see him when I went back to the office, and he said, â€œBill, I got an offer for a job, And he said, â€œThere’s promotions in it, And he said, â€œIt’s writing contingents and war plans. He said, â€œI’m so sick and tired of these civilians coming in week after week and saying, â€˜General, I’ve forgotten how many rifles in a Rifle Company, how many artillery pieces in an Artillery Battalion’. He said, â€œYou gotta (protect me)! So I took that job.
Perfect. And you did that until you retired?
I did that for I wrote the first new contingency plan for 7th Army in Europe. That was accepted without major changes. And then a promotion came up with the ONMA funds for our depots, nationwide. And I thought, well, this gets me back to arithmetic and stuff, and I’m kind of tired of writing war plans. So I took that job, and that included the budget, so I got into the budget (fights). So the whole thing has been great, yeah, so for 19 ½ years as a civilian. And I had a radical neck dissection in ’82, and as a Branch Chief I figured you can’t run a Branch if you have to take every afternoon off to go to Radiology, etc, and it was time to step out of the (way).
And here you are. You mentioned one son but you’ve got how many children?
Just one son, and we were told not to try again. And hen my first wife died when he was 18. So Alice is my second wife. Another WAC! I think I mentioned to you â€˜replacement’ in my letter?
I think so. I don’t know, I can’t remember.
Well, let me go back to that, because I think that’s one of the things that you were interested in. I almost (flunked) en route to UCLA to teach ROTC on the â€˜block’, as they call it, you know, on replacement. I thought I was going to get thrown out of the school because the full Colonel that was teaching the block bragged about the wonderful replacement system we had, and of course when I got through that particular lecture I got up and I said, â€œSir, I have to disagree with you. And I told him about Couchiano’s Milk Farm, the Officers and the enlisted men, and I said, â€œNo bitterness, Sir, about, you know, just being passed through there, but the enlisted men, I said, â€œWhen I reported to my Battalion Commander he was sick because of the lack of enlisted men, the replacements that he had gotten. And I said, â€œThat went throughout the time I was with the Division. â€œOh, you’ve gotta be wrong! Fortunately a guy at the back of the class said, â€œColonel, I was also in Italy on replacement and I can verify that. Well, you know, I guess it’s democracy and the 50 States now, that we can’t use your system, which is wonderful, you know. If your father was in the Black Watch and your Grandfather was in the Black Watch, you’re going to be in the Black Watch, right?
If you want to be, yeah. It’s certainly easier passage through.
Right. And, of course, the French system, where it’s a neighbourhood thing and the call-up is vertical, and when the call-up comes you and your neighbours all get in cars and report to where you have to do it. We don’t do that. We get â€˜em from all over the States. There’s something we have to work out. Now, a friend of mine from World War 2, with whom I have a conversation almost every Sunday morning still, he’s in Oregon now, he went through two of those replacement spots. He came from the 100th Division to the 88th and then he was called again in Korea, and he was made an MP and he didn’t even know what an MP was, you know, to hear Bob say it. Course, he did. But he wound up being a Military Policeman. So, you know
You end up doing stuff you’ve not been trained for.
That’s right. It’s like you commented, you know, being attached to the Police. Common sense, you know what you’re supposed to do, you’re supposed to handcuff these guys who are doing wrong
But it’s not the same as proper training, is it?
I don’t know what the answer is. It sounds like it does need changing though.
Yes, you’re right. We’ll continue to have trouble
Until it’s resolved.
Well, thank you very much. [Interview ends – 2:36:42]