Center for Louisiana Studies Archival Catalog
This searchable database provides information on images, documents, and audio and video recordings, made between 1934 and the present.
Interview with Lorenna Richard Sonnier
how to make lace; daily life; work; marriage (married for sixty-one years); education; chores / work;importance of family; food / diet / cuisine; church
Interview with Mayble and Liverday Young
Principal subjects: Great Depression and World War II erasdances / dancing / recreation; crops / agriculture; money; food / diet / cuisine; education; importance of family; house; technology / techological advances after World War II; tractors / mechanization; credit;weekly pay outside the home; buggies; church / religion / Catholic faith; transportation
Interview with Rose Broussard
daily life; games / recreation; Catholic church / religion / religious faith; education; learning English language; work / jobs; The Great Depression; World War II; dance halls / dancehalls; celebration of holidays; food / diet / cuisine; marriage
Interview with Earl P. Broussard
daily life; games / recreation; Catholic church / religion / religious faith; education; learning English language; work / jobs; The Great Depression; World War II; dance halls / dancehalls; celebration of holidays; food / diet / cuisine; marriage
Interview with Gladys Clouter
daily life; diet; clothing / costume; morale; townÕs appearance; daily life; effects; town appearance; morale
Interview with Elista Domingue Price
Great Depression; World War II; food; clothes / costume; travel; recreation / entertainment; work; school;French language / Cajun French / English; recreation / socials; linguistic change sin south Louisiana;education
Interview with Eugene Bradley Garber
daily life; diet; clothing; morale; townÕs appearance (Morgan City?)
Interview with Mrs. Margaret Gorman Rappmundt
daily life; diet; clothing; morale; Morgan City Ñ the townÕs appearance; daily life; effects of the war;Morgan City Ñ the townÕs appearance; morale
Interview with Ada ÒTante DotÓ Hebert
lived near Erath, Vermilion Parish; work / jobs; sewing baby clothes / material culture / textiles; working on a farm; washing on a washboard; money / economics; getting married / marriage; starting a family;living in a nursing home; hearing; bingo / recreation
Interview with Lily Mae ÒLemonÓ Hebert Romero
size of families / importance of families; country living / daily life; farming / economics; houses / architecture;baby dolls / material culture; mattresses; taking care of younger siblings; education / school; money;food stamps; husband left during World War II / draft; transportation / wagons / buggies / buggy
Interview with Edgar Mouton, Jr.
Great DepressionWorld War IICajun FrenchLafayette
Interview with Hilda Duhon Stelly, a.k.a.ÒMomÓ Stelly
daily life; economics / frugality during the Depression; farming / farm life; education; relocating / moving to a new house; getting married and starting a family; anxiety over the possibility that her husband would be drafted during the war; food stamps
Interview with Mrs. Gertie Dejean
Food, clothes, education, chores, language, change from French to English, entertainment
Interview with Cammie Fox
Great DepressionWorld War II
Interview with Patricia Broussard
New Orleans; World War II Ñ U.S.O.; Gentilly; multi generational households; food; costume / store bought clothes; food / diet / cuisine; started working at the age of twelve; telephones Ñ party lines
Interview with Alvin Smith
Jennings; World War II; high school football Ñ 6-man teams; rice farming; self-sufficiency of local farmers;sold eggs to store for hard currency; work Ñ began working at the age of twelve years; recreation / entertainment Ñ listened to battery powered radio; no telephones; daily life; moved from Jennings to Lafayette on April 1, 1950; outhouses; water wells; rural electrification / REA; French language / Cajun French; education Ñ students punished for speaking French; Acadiana Bottling Company
Interview with Delta Primeaux Trahan
radio; politics; school; orphans; work in field Ñ wages were $2.00 a day; clothing / homemade clothes; self-sufficiency / grew own food; sold eggs to the local store; brothers served in World War II; French language / Cajun French; telephones Ñ party lines; electric lights / electricity; punished at school for speaking French;education; water wells; outhouses; material culture; G.I. Bill
Interview with Lionel Clayton ÒBeauÓ Billeaudeaux
daily life in rural St. Landry and Evangeline parishes; French language / Cajun French; use of French language in residences and at school; education; German prisoner of war (POW) camps in the Eunice area;food / diet / cuisine; recreation / entertainment / duties / chores; travel
Interview with Harold M. Mire
Great Depression; World War II; daily life in Crowley; education; food / diet / cuisine; recreation; chores / duties; travel
Interview with Raymond Mahfouz
World War II; draft; military service; Arkansas; Lafayette; jobs / work; differences between Louisiana and Arkansas
Interview with Alice Eloise D. Lavin
Great DepressionWorld War II
Interview with Robert J. Adams
Robert J. Adams Interview: September 18, 2004
Born: March 11, 1922
Seaplane/Spitfire Recon pilot
I was born in Houma, but we moved around a lot because my father was a railroad man. He worked on the railroad in Alexandria, Mamou, Lafayette, New Iberia, and even Cypermont Point and Weeks Island.
I was going to school here at SLI when Pearl Harbor happened. I didn’t know much about what was happening because I was flying all day. I had taken up flying at SLI and I was in one of these small airplanes. That plane cost $999 and it came with instructions on how to fly it.
I was fascinated with flying ever since I was a young boy. My father didn’t believe in flying. So I took up flying when I got to college. There was an old wood hanger at the airport here in Lafayette and we had this little plane; it was a civilian model Piper Cub. We’d have to pick it up by the tail and turn it around. You’d put it in the direction you wanted, started it up and took off. I found out about Pearl Harbor later that afternoon when I landed.
In January of 1942, me and a buddy of mine hitchhiked to New Orleans to join the Navy Air Corps. We were mad at the Japs for attacking Pearl Harbor and wanted to get back at them. We took our test in New Orleans and they sent us back to Lafayette to finish school; that’s when I met my wife.
I had wanted to fly the P-40, the plane with the Flying Tigers. That was the best plane that we had at the time. But when I got my wings, they put me in a SOC seaplane.
I was sent to LSU in Baton Rouge in the summer of ’42 to go to the ground school for navy warfare training. From there I went to Athens, Georgia. I went to school there and took half a day flight training. Then I was sent to Dallas, Texas to train in the N2S2 Steerman. From there so many were sent to dive bombers, some went to big bombers. I was sent to Corpus Christi where I was assigned to a seaplane.
I didn’t know anything about the seaplane before, nothing at all. I was very disappointed about that because I wanted to be fighter pilot. But that’s the Navy. They put you where they need you. And they just picked me for the seaplane.
I flew the OS2U. It had the interior of a small airplane. It had one wing and two machine guns. I had a radioman in the back. The plane could carry two 350-pound depth charges. We went after the submarines and mainly scouted for the heavy cruisers. We were four seaplanes on that cruiser. They would shoot you off of a catapult and you would land in the water. We trained to do everything that you could do at that time. When we finished, we got our wings.
I was sent to Portland, Maine in January of 1944 and was put on my ship, the USS Augusta. We flew patrol in the North Atlantic for three months hunting the submarines. Every once in a while you’d see something, but we never attacked an enemy sub. We flew ahead of the fleet at about six miles an hour. When you flew in a convoy you had to fly as fast as the slowest ship.
The Augusta was the flagship of the Atlantic Fleet. The first American killed in World War II was on the Augusta (August 21, 1937, China Sea). His name was Falgout and he was from Raceland, Louisiana. The ship was in the China Sea and a shell came over the ship and exploded. The shrapnel killed him. They built a monument in Raceland to honor him. The Augusta was sort of a famous ship. Roosevelt and Churchill met on the Augusta during one of their conferences at the beginning of the war.
There were about 800 men on that ship. When I wasn’t flying I read books and wrote letters to my wife to pass the time. We sailed to England. They sent me down to the southern part of England to go to school to fly the Spitfire. I was on loan to the British.
The British were very nice people. Some people didn’t like the British, but I got along with them. I just didn’t like the food. But the beer was really good.
[Mrs. Adams: Bob didn’t like the food. He used to fly to American airfields to get some American food. My sister had dated a fellow from Alexandria, Louisiana and he was in the Air Force. He worked in the tower. One day Robert flew to this airport and wanted the land. The tower asked him his name and Bob said, “Bob Adams.” The tower said, “Oh! You wouldn’t be married to a girl named Maude Johnson would you?” He said, “Yes, that’s my wife.” So he told him to come on down and he and my sister’s boyfriend met in England; the only time they ever met.]
The Spitfire was a very nice plane and it kept getting better; more power, more speed. I really enjoyed flying it. See the Germans had some really good planes too—they were really fast—and our little old two-wing seaplanes could only go about 135 mph—and that was in a dive. So that’s why they put us in the Spitfire, because it was much faster.
Foreman, who created the Spitfire during peacetime, wanted a really good plane. The Spitfire was a very good airplane. It had six machine guns, three on each side. We trained in the cockpit that showed all the instruments and various equipment for flying the plane. We were going to be used to (foreward) spot for the gun ships at sea. We were especially trained in spotting the fire—the eyes of the fleet.
Before we left on D-Day we had designated targets that we were supposed to pick up. They had done reconnaissance before to pick out the various targets and briefed us on the locations before we left. We were given the coordinantes to go on and we’d go out to beat them up.
We trained for this before the invasion. They had put out these platforms in an area about as big as my house and covered it with different material that the Germans would use. We had to spot for the fire coming in to the targets.
The instructors at the school were all British and they were all good soldiers. We bunked at a boarding school in Sheffield (?) Park. Each pilot had an enlisted man, called a batboy, who took care of your clothes, food, shoes and all that—protocol!
We knew that something big was coming. It had to be. And we knew that it was going to be dangerous, but you just had to go and do it. We were all ready, all excited to go. Actually, D-Day was supposed to be on the 5th of June. But they called it off until the 6th because of bad weather. I wasn’t supposed to fly on the 5th. I had got grounded from a bad sinus infection. When Eisenhower decided, “let’s go” on the 6th, I was well enough to fly.
We studied on the German Luftwaffe operations. They had good planes, but we had better planes. The Spitfire was one of the best.
We were stationed in Southern England at Lee-on Solent, right across from the Isle of Wight. The morning of the invasion we got up before daybreak and went to our planes. We started out towards the Isle of Wight early that morning. It only took about 15 minutes to fly across the Channel. It was about 90 miles to the target area behind Omaha beach. Flying over the invasion fleet, I saw thousands of different kinds of ships. I was thinking, I’m glad I’m in the air.
We flew in pairs: one pilot would concentrate on the target and direct the fire; the other pilot would hover over him to protect him against enemy fighters and to let him know if he had an enemy on his tail. If we saw an enemy aircraft approaching our wingman, we were instructed to radio him, “break left,” or “break right.” They had sharpened our wing tips so we could break quickly. If he got involved in a dogfight, then I was supposed to take his place and continue spotting the fire. But thankfully, the Luftwaffe never came.
We had two targets on that first mission on D-Day. At Travieres, they didn’t have any Germans there, so I radioed back asking them not to shot up the town. Hell, it was just a little bitty old town. Traviers had a communications center and there was a spotter in a church steeple. He was way up high and could see the invasion beaches. I took a few shots at the steeple, although we weren’t supposed to do that. After we spotted it, our big guns neutralized it until they couldn’t use it anymore.
The naval guns ships would shoot three shots about 200 yards apart. And you would walk the middle shot up to the target and then report back to ship, “fire for effect.” Every gun on that ship would track the same shot and destroy the target.
My other target was the big guns at L-15 in Insigny. It was pretty well camouflaged. We spotted for that and our guns took it out. We had radio contact between the two pilots and the ship offshore.
The Germans were sending up a lot of anti-aircraft fire. I tried to dodge the incoming fire. One of the guns must have hit my plane because I started loosing fuel. I knew that I couldn’t return to England so I had to land it somewhere. I told my wingman that I was hit and I was going to land. I had a parachute, but I wasn’t gone to ditch the plane and jump out. I didn’t want to risk landing it and getting captured either. So I flew out to the Utah beach area where I knew I could land. The sand there on the beach was very smooth. So when I got there I looked down and saw an opening where the bulldozers had cleared a path for planes to land. I signaled them as best I could and that’s where I landed; I didn’t have a choice. It was a smooth landing and I had no problem getting her down. I was the first pilot to land in France on D-Day.
I think a bullet had torn my fuel line. So these boys fixed me up, gassed me up, and I took off heading back to England. (Distinguished Flying Cross)
I got back to base, checked in and was briefed for my second mission that afternoon. This mission was further inland from the beach. There were a lot of ships and a lot of smoke on that beach that afternoon. We flew missions from June 6 to June 24, everyday.
The Germans didn’t have very many planes, but we didn’t know that. I was lucky; I never ran into enemy aircraft, although we lost one of our guys that day.
After the 24th of June, I got back on the Augusta and went to Algeriers in North Africa for three days. All we did was sit around a table and drink wine. Then I got on the Tuscaloosa and went to Sicily. From there I got on the USS Philadelphia and went on the invasion of Southern France (Operation ANVIL/DRAGOON).
I got back on the seaplane for the Southern France invasion. My first mission was to fly to this minesweeper out in the Gulf of Fos. I picked up this guy from the minesweeper and flew him ahead of the fleet to spot for mines. We could see the mines from the air and he took the compass reading of the minefield and radioed back to the minesweeper the location. I flew about 13 missions on that invasion. We lost another guy on that invasion.
I stayed on the Philadelphia until the end of August. Then I got back on the Augusta. Eventually we made it back to the States. My son was born on August 18. When I got back to Lafayette, he was just four weeks old.
All together, we were 17 pilots. We lost two during the war.
I went on to practice law here in Lafayette and I still fly with the Coast Guard Auxiliary.
Every other night, over England, the skies would light up, and rumble from the violent screams of the fast approaching German ‘Buzz bombs.’ The V-1 and V-2 self-propelled rocket bombs—vengeance weapons as Hitler referred to them—were launched from sites in France, Holland, and Belgium. The bombs were fired over the English Channel, and were sent crashing down on unsuspecting victims, killing and wounding tens of thousands of helpless civilians in the battered British cities. London, Hitler’s favorite target, was practically leveled from the daily visits of the unmanned Nazi terror bombs.
Interview with Ned Arceneaux
Ned Arceneaux: Jason Theriot
Member of First Army Joint VII Corps Headquarters, inducted in May 1941
-Talk of how Arceneaux was in charge of the reunions from 1975 to 2004
-where they were at, how he set them up and how many men showed up
-Last one was in 2003 and 10 men showed
-wonders what will be in 2004 (the year this interview took place)
May 15, 1941 drafted into the Army (11:00)
-Was 22 years old working as a clerk in the Post Office and was drafted in the second draft, as his boss was able to defer him in the first
-met at the courthouse and a man named McMannis was appointed leader and Arceneaux was put as the assistant leader
-he was the last one to get on the bus
They were sent to the new camp, Camp Livingston, which had just been built by Alexandria in the woods (funny story on the way there) (18:08)
Sent to Camp Blanding, Florida (21:00)
-The others in the National Guard were sent to Africa
-Each morning names would be called and deployed
-eventually Arceneaux and another man from Baton Rouge, Floyd Bourgeois, were the only ones left and they were sent to Birmingham, Alabama
-Arceneaux's MOS was at the Post Office and then he was sent off to the Louisiana Maneuvers
Declaring of War (26:20)
-December 7, 1941 back in Birmingham Arceneaux and Bourgeois had come back from eating lunch and at 3:00 on the radio:
-“All VII Corps HQ personnel report immediately to headquarters. War has been declared.”
-He was in charge of supplies and eventually was going to the Pacific but his company was stopped in San Jose, California
-stayed for 9 months, where they were to stay as the defense command of the western coast
-When stationed in London Arceneaux was the apart of the quartermaster staff and in charge of the food and liquor for 450 men in the VII Corps Headquarters, all mostly Cajuns
-he knew where all the winery’s and bars were and would order in French
-While there they were prepping for an invasion but didn't know when it was to happen
When they went on to the invasion for D-Day (38:20)
-Their company took 2 ships and Arceneaux was in a Jeep
-they landed about 9 in the morning on June 6th to Utah beach, left in the early morning hours
-"My first thought (when he saw the Atlantic Wall) was, “We’re never coming back. We’re never coming back.”
Utah beach landing and afterwards (45:40)
-Set up a command post in Ste-Mere-Eglise for a few days and took fire
Carentan and up to Cherbourg (49:53)
-He was tasked with two Chaplains to find another priest or bishop as four division were going to be sent out to Cherbourg to take it
-they went into a German hospital and found a French priest that gave them wine and cognac and they stayed till 3:00 as by 4 the city and fort was to be taken;
-they joined the fight and found a warehouse full of liquor and had six trucks sent to take as much as the liquor they could pack in them
Ned Lawrence Arceneaux
630 Wilson St.
Lafayette, LA 70503
Born: 29 December 1916
VII Corps HQ
Utah Beach, D-Day
Years later, I was asked to put together a reunion for VII Corps Headquarters. Gen. Collins, Army Chief of Staff at that time, told me that the only way he would come to a reunion was if I would show him the Cajun country. He said that he always wanted to come to south Louisiana, so we had the first reunion in Lafayette. Last year, we met in San Francisco…there were ten of us there.
My family is from between the Carencro-Lafayette area. I grew up speaking French and couldn’t speak a word of English until I started school. I was drafted into the Army on May 15, 1941, because Uncle Sam said, “I need you! I want you!” I was 22 and working as a clerk at the post office. We met at the courthouse and they had a fellow by the name of McMannis. Everybody voted to put him as the leader, and they put me as the assistant leader. A bus would be coming later on to pick us up. My Papa and brothers were there with me, and he took myself and three other fellows to have dinner at Mama’s place. Mama had a big meal with wine and whiskey and all that. We left to meet up with the rest of the fellows at this restaurant because the bus was coming to pick us up. The leader, was too drunk to sign the check at the restaurant, so I signed it for him. Anyhow, we got to the bus station and I was the last one to get on the bus. As I’m getting on the bus, my daddy was there with a fifth of whiskey. He said, “Ned, for the trip.” My poor Papa.
From Lafayette, I was sent to Camp Livingston. It was a new camp that they had just built in the woods over there by Alexandria. The four of us, who had eaten dinner together (Ernest Courret, and who were the others?) sat in the back of the bus. We were all new inducties and one lady on this bus. When the bus started, one of them fellows said, “Hey, you got that fifth, let’s have a drink.” The other fellow said, “Wait, there’s a lady in front of us. We should go and ask her if it’s alright for us to drink.” So, he goes over to her seat and says, “We have a bottle of whiskey, and we don’t know when were are coming back, but we are going into the Army. So do you mind if we have a drink.” She said, “Oh, hell no, I’ll have a drink with you.” She had the first drink out of the bottle.
When we got the camp in Alexandria they had this army corporal who greeted us for orientation. He took us out and lined us up. He knew me and he knew the rest of them boys, too; he was from Lafayette. He said, “Alright, all you drunk ones, take a step forward.” Shit, nobody moved. He said, “Well, in that case I’d better inspect.” So this fellow at the front of the line had the bottle behind his back. And as this corporal made his way down, we’d pass the bottle to the next guy, then the next one. When it got to me, I passed back the other way.
So, he took us out to this latrine and made us strip down to take a shower. It was a cold, cold shower. Boy, that sobered us up quick! (Welcome to the Army!)
From there we went to Camp Blanding, Florida. Every morning this sergeant would come in, blow his whistle, and order us into formation. Then, he’d holler out three or four names, “Joe, Tom, Bill…You gonna leave this afternoon on train so and so to go to so and so place.” One morning, we got up, he blew the whistle, and there was just two of us left—a fellow by the name of Floyd Bourgeois from Baton Rouge and myself. He had been in the same tent with me. The sergeant said, “Well, you fellows gonna take a train this afternoon at four o’clock and you’re headed to Birmingham, Alabama. And they’ll have a car waiting for you at the station tomorrow morning.” We figured that the only reason why we were the last two is because this sergeant couldn’t pronounce our last names—Arceneaux and Bourgeois. So, we ended up in Birmingham, Alabama.
Bourgeois was assigned the HQ of the Adjutant General. My MOS was to work in the post office, but I was not assigned there. I was put in the kitchen for a few days. Then, I was assigned to the supply section. We made some maneuvers in Alabama, and then we went to the Louisiana maneuvers.
We got back to Birmingham and on December 7, 1941, Bourgeois and I had gone to church and we had lunch with this family. We were listening to the radio at about three o’clock and here comes a flash: “All VII Corps HQ personnel report immediately to headquarters. War has been declared.”
I was put in charge of the supplies. We went to Fort McClennon to draw up equipment and we were headed to the port of embarkation in San Francisco to go to the Pacific. On the way, we stopped in San Jose, California, where we would stay as defense command of the western coast.
We stayed in California for nine months and made the Mojave Dessert maneuvers. My job as supply officer was to get all the food and equipment for the men in headquarters.
Then we left for England. We stayed at Bremmer Castle north of London. We stayed in dormitories and slept in cots. We were preparing for the invasion. I was in the quartermaster staff and stocked what we needed: all the food, supplies and equipment. There were 450 enlisted men, officers, and NCOs in VII Corps HQ.
We had an exercise to simulate the beach landings. We were in the English Channel and these German E-boats came in and killed a bunch of our men. That didn’t come out until many years later. We knew we were going on an invasion, but we didn’t know exactly when. That was up to Eisenhower and his staff, when they said to go.
I had a friend named Dr. Bourgeois who was stationed in England. He was a captain. I also had two Arceneaux cousins from Carencro in England. One was in an MP company. He was a big husky fellow, and rough. The other was with the 82nd Airborne Division in the glider section. His name was Raoul Arceneaux. On D-Day, they took off first. In fact, we were on our LSTs waiting in Southampton, and we could see the gliders flying over on their way to the invasion. They called him Frenchie and he was a sergeant. This one fellow asked him, “Frenchie, I don’t like to sit by that window. Can you change places with me?” He said, “Oh, yeah.” So they changed places. And when their glider landed and hit the hedgerows in Normandy, everyone on the glider got killed except my cousin. He was sitten by that window and he was the only one who came out alive.
We left early that morning and landed at Utah beach; it was about nine in the morning on June 6th. A lot of boys got sick going over. When we landed, you could see all the dead bodies floating all over. My first thought was, “We’re never coming back. We’re never coming back.”
Before we left from England, I had found out that this piece of property was for sale next to the farm that I was raised on. The owner wanted $10,000 for 50 acres of land. I wrote to my brother back home and told him that I have a $10,000 insurance policy. I said that I don’t know if I am going to make it home or not. I said that if something happened to me and I got killed, I wanted him to go ahead a buy that farm for Mama and Papa.
I didn’t know if I was coming back or not. Regardless of the danger, regardless if you killed or not, you knew that you had to go. From the General all the way down to the Private, they didn’t know if they were coming back or not. It was enthusiasm to fight for our country; that’s what we went for. We didn’t know why we were fighting, but the president said we gotta go, so we went. It was just instinct to serve your country. That was instilled in us.
I came in on a jeep that had been waterproofed. The exhaust pipe was way up high, but when we landed water came over the top and we stopped. These engineers came in with these DUCKS. When they saw that we were blocking the way, they came and hooked onto us and pulled us out of the way. I had my duffle bag with dry clothes and shoes.
We were taking on fire for the few days while we were there. Then we moved onto to Ste-Mere-Eglise and set up our command post in a farmhouse.
From there we went to Carentan and then followed the coast up to Cherbourg. When we got up there, Gen. Collins called me and two Chaplin’s—a catholic Chaplin and a protestant Chaplin—and he told us to go to Cherbourg and find a French priest or a bishop because that afternoon he was sending four division (30th, 4th, 9th, and 1st) to take the port city.
When we got to Cherbourg, they were fighting street-to-street and street corner to street corner. The Protestant Chaplin was a colonel and he said, “We can’t go in there. There is too much gun fire.” The Catholic Chaplin turned to me and said, “Gen. Collins gave us a mandate and I’m going in there.” He asked me, “Ned, will you come with me.” We put on our Red Cross armbands and went into this German hospital. We went looking for a German priest or somebody. So we went in and I met this nurse. In French, I asked her, “Where is the Priest.” I carried a .45 pistol and I shoved this pistol in her side and asked for the priest. She told us to go outside and down the street in a building was a French priest. So we went down there, knocked on the door and this priest came out screaming, “Oh, American! American! Come in! Come in!” He was glad to see us and gave each of us a glass of wine. After that, Father Gleason, an ole Irishman, said, “Ask him if he’s got Cognac.” I said, “The priest would like some Cognac.” No problem.
We stayed there for a while and the fighting continued in the city. There was this German fort that we needed to take to liberate this city. When we got there, they were taking these German prisoners out of this fort and hauling them back to VII Corps headquarters. After all the Germans were taken out of this fort, Father Gleason said, “Ned, let’s go in there and see if we can get some loot!” We go down this big hallway and there are large offices and warehouses on each side. We open this one door and it’s a warehouse full of liquor. (Priest was in heaven!) We got each a bottle of Cognac for ourselves and left. I told my jeep driver to call headquarters and ask to speak to Gen. Collins. I got him on the line and said, “General, we captured this fort, and Father Gleason and myself discovered a warehouse full of liquor.” He said, “Go-head!” I said, “Yep, we got all kinds: wine, scotch, whiskey, cognac, anything you want.” He said, “Ned, stay where you are. I’m sending six trucks your way. When they get there, start loading up as much as you can and send them back to headquarters.” When we got back he told me, “Redline those trucks and tomorrow morning I want you to go to each of the four divisional headquarters and bring them each a truck. Tell them its compliments of J. Lawden Collins.” So I did that, then General Collins said, “Well, Ned. There’s two trucks left. Ones for me and ones for you!” So, we had those trucks with us from Cherbourg on!
Interview with Ned Arceneaux (part 2)
Ned Arceneaux: Jason Theriot
(Continued) had trucks help pick up the liquor they found and were able to "keep" two of the trucks from then on
-They were stuck in the Falaise Gap and the planes couldn't come in and then they were bombed
-Operation Cobra and the VII Corps had 4 divisions under them (4th, 9th, 30th, and 1st)
-Arceneaux was a part of the quartermaster staff and followed behind the divisions
-They had to inspect cemeteries and railroads as part of their duties
When they got to Paris they had run out of gasoline and so the tanks couldn't move (3:33)
-A Red Ball Express drove by African Americans, they'd be up all 24 hours sometimes, refueling
-As Arceneaux had to keep track of all these going-ons on paper and then ration out the gasoline to the Armored Divisions (3rd Armored Division)
-Arceneaux was with the VII Corps until the Battle of the Bulge when the 54th Field Artillery Battalion supply officer got killed and he was transferred to replace that officer
Speaking French (7:00)
-Arceneaux could go and run errands for the unit as he could speak French while in France
-French treated him right as he could speak their language and was American however things changed after the war they were a bit more cold (resentment) towards the Americans
-But in Germany they were treated even better by the German people than any other country
Back to the Battle of the Bulge (10:40)
-Still with the VII Corps and when the battle broke out, that was when Arceneaux was transferred to the 54th
-he was in charge of running up the supplies and the gasoline for tanks, trucks, halftracks and jeeps for 2 weeks
Bastogne, on the outskirts (16:08)
-Arceneaux was with Patton when he came to rescue the place with his tanks
-Then went back to France and then through Germany to Nordhousen
Nordhousen, Germany (18:03)
-A regiment of the 3rd Armored Division that found a concentration camp
-Went on Leipzig and met up with the Russians on the Elbe River
-There was all these displaced persons with them everywhere and following them; they had to transport them to the Russians sections
-Arceneaux had to drive the trucks that would pack these people on them like cattle to get it done faster
-Russians would inspect the truck in and out of the section and they'd take anything they could from them, displaced people's or American soldiers' possessions
Trip back (23:05)
-Stayed in Europe with the occupation until October
-Arceneaux got out on points and sent to Reimes, France and was put in a n Engineer Battalion as a Personnel Officer
-On a Liberty ship went through the Strait of Gibraltar and in the Atlantic Ocean hit a storm and everyone had to stay below deck as there was no railings except a thin wire
-Anchored in New York and Arceneaux was put on a train to Camp Shelby, Mississippi to be discharged
-Kept him for 3 days as they wanted him to stay in the army but Arceneaux said no and took a train to New Orleans and then a bus to his brother’s house
Got to his brother's house in Lafayette as he lived in town (30:06)
-Surprised his sister-in-law; she was in a packing and seal organization that sent food over to the soldiers and she'd send him a package every week
-Then went over to his parents' house to see his mother and she cooked for him
Talking and names given (33:20)
Continuation of Transcript:
When we got back he told me, “Redline those trucks and tomorrow morning I want you to go to each of the four divisional headquarters and bring them each a truck. Tell them its compliments of J. Lawden Collins.” So I did that, then General Collins said, “Well, Ned. There’s two trucks left. Ones for me and ones for you!” So, we had those trucks with us from Cherbourg on!
We had to go and inspect the cemetery and inspect the supplies coming in from the railroad. Then we’d have to make our reports to our colonel and he would report to Gen. Collins.
We had to get all the gas for the tanks and trucks. The 3rd Armored Division was attached to us. When we got to Paris we had run out of gasoline. So, we had to stay there for a while. The Red Ball Express, all black soldiers, would drive these trucks all night long. One of these guys was from Lafayette. He worked at a lumberyard. One time, he told me about the Red Ball. He said, “We had to put that damn truck to the floor; we’d go and unload then come right back and load up again.” He said, “Sometimes we’d go 24 hours without sleep, just rations.” They caught hell that Red Ball Express. But, they got the job done.
When General Collins would say, “Ned, I need some fresh eggs. Not just for me but for the whole unit.” So, I’d try to find an egg merchant. I found one in Carentan, France just below Ste-Mer-Eglise. This is where I met an egg merchant. I told him how many dozen we needed—I had the numbers all figured out. “Oh yeah,” he said. “We can fix that.” So he invites me into his house. “Come on, let’s have a drink,” he said. So, he pours some Calvados. It was the worst damn thing that I ever drank. It wasn’t the good stuff; it was the rotgut. He served it with coffee and man by the time I left I was so damn drunk. I got out of there in hurry, but anytime that I needed some more eggs I’d go back to him.
I spoke the language and the French people treated me right. But I was American and we were liberating them, so whatever we wanted, we could get.
We were on the outskirts of Bastogne and firing on the Germans. Patton came in with his tanks and rescued Bastogne.
We had made it to Germany and we were staying at a college there when the Battle of the Bulge broke out. When word came in that the Germans were making their move, we had to move and go back through Belgium.
I stayed with VII Corps until the Battle of the Bulge. After that I was transferred to the 54th Field Arillery Battalion.
In the 54th Field Artillery, we had three firing batteries with 105mm’s mounted on tanks. And we had to supply them with gas and oil and parts and whatever they needed. I had 6 trucks and jeeps to use every morning to move supplies. We had a guy who was the gasman. I believe he had 16 halftracks to go to the depot, load up, and transport it back to the vehicles.
When we took Cologne, Germany, our guns, three batteries, fired on the city for 24 hours. That whole day, this gasman and I would drive our trucks and halftracks to the depot, load up on gasoline, then drive back to the line.
We ended up in Nordhousen, Germany. That’s where we found a concentration camp. We didn’t know anything about then. I had never seen anything like it. Were we shocked? Shocked, oh my, my, my. We were attached to a regiment in the 3rd Armored Division, and they were the ones who found this place.
We went to Leipzig on the Elbe River; that’s when we met the Russians. There were thousands of these displaced persons from Poland and all over other parts of Europe. They were scattered all over in camps. After V-E day we were staying as the Army of Occupation and we had to transport these people to the Russians. We would load them up in trucks with all their clothes and belongings; they were pitiful looking—it was real sad. On the first trip that I made with my trucks, we brought maybe ten people per truck. I thought, “This ain’t gonna work.” So, on the second run, we hurried these people on their like cattle. They were pitiful. When we’d get to the Russian section to drop them off, there were these two big buxom women with rifles at the checkpoint. They would stop us and then come to inspect what we had on each truck. If you had a wristwatch on, you’d better make sure that it was in your pocket or they would swipe it from you. We didn’t want anything to do with these people. They were mean people.
When the war ended, the German people treated us better than the French did. We had liberated them, but I guess they had a different attitude.
I stayed in Europe until October and finally got out on points. I left from Reimes, France and rode on a Liberty ship through the Strait of Gibraltar and across the Atlantic. I landed in New York and was sent to Camp Shelby, Mississippi to be discharged. They wanted to promote me and keep me there. I told them, “Man, I just want to go home. I want to go home.” I took a bus to my brother’s house.
My poor sister-in-law was so glad to see me. See, she would go to this place in Lafayette where you could pack and seal foods to send overseas and I would get a package from her every week. This captain told me he wanted some Tabasco Sauce, so I wrote to my sister-in-law and she sent me three or four bottles. The first day that he tried it, I showed him how to use it and this captain said, “Wow man!” We were sitting around and these three officers were eating together. This one officer said, “Hey man, what is that?” I told him it was Tabasco sauce. He said, “Oh man, I understand that’s good stuff.” So he grabbed the bottle and started pouring it on and I said, “Hey podna! Wait! Wait! Go slow; that’s hot stuff!” When he tried it he said, “Oh yeah that’s hot stuff!” We all bust out laughing.
Interview with Minos Armentor
Minos Armentor: Jason Theriot; Hewitt Theriot
-Starts with when Armentor remembers Pearl Harbor and brief summary of his service
-Was practicing law and was above the draft age but finally did enlist as an officer
-Went to New Orleans to the Naval Officer Procurement with another man, Wilbur Allain
-Armentor went to the Pacific as Allain went to the Atlantic
-Did training for a seaman in Tucson, Arizona and in Fort Schuyler, New York
-Then in Panama he got on an oil tanker and eventually to Okinawa (end of 1944)
-Never was in battle but hit 2 typhoons; lost a lot of men
-While in the Pacific gave out information; the big joke at the time was that they'd see the "Golden Gate '48," in that by 1948 they'd be able to see the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco again
-President Truman then dropped the 2 bombs and that was the end of the war
-So instead of getting back in '48, Armentor got back in the first month in 1945
-they were prepared to stay another 3 years and attack Japan
-Kamikaze planes would come over them in Okinawa Bay and they'd turn off all lights so then they couldn't crash into just one ship or any ship if they couldn't see
"Question: Where did all that oil, gasoline and petroleum your tankard had refuel for cargo?" (5:23)
-Had Panama oil tanker come and fill them up; some had enough for the fighter and merchant ships
-A lot of the oil came from the west coast, Alaska and Mexico
-Louisiana was not a part of the oil
"Question: When you were commissioned as an ensign, what month and year were you on the cargo vessel?" (7:45)
-May 1943 joined the Navy commissioned and then training
-Tucson was going through shortage of water so they could not go on ships
-Fort Schuyler was too close to the rocks to do anything except study
-At Panama for 3 months, on fishing vessels to protect the canal from the Japanese
-controlled the traffic from the Atlantic and Pacific
On the oil tanker (10:29)
-By the end of 1943 Armentor was commissioned to the oil tanker and was on there from 1944-1945
-It was a liberty ship tankard with really thin armor and had machine guns and depth charges
-Armentor was the stores and commissary officer and took care of the supplies and helped loading
-Ships would pull up aside to be refueled; aircraft carriers were the hardest
Back to Okinawa (14:24)
-Aircraft attacks from the Kamikaze; they wanted either ammunition ships or the tankards
-No escorts when travelling to be protected
-supply ships took different routes than the fighting ships or the fighting was finished before they reached there
The tankard (16:38)
-Armentor's cargo ship was a liberty ship called the Kangaroo, just oil
-100 crew member, 10-12 officers
-Could go 10-12 knots, real slow; had radar (maybe got it during the war)
-Was never attacked or ever saw battle; only ever fought was the winds and rain of the typhoons
-Many ships sunk from the typhoons
Route to Okinawa Bay (20:47)
-Left U.S. with fuel and stopped in Tulagi and then New Guinea and then Okinawa
"Where did you tank again?"
-Other tankards met them in midocean; they would just anchor and everyone else would come to them to refuel
-Hard parts were the hosing and cranks of the big pumps
-Okinawa was the final spot and if Truman hadn't dropped the bombs, they'd have gone into Japan
-Would follow the fleet
Talking of the careers of others, the people that have passed and retirement (24:20)
Back to the war (26:36)
-The bombs are dropped and Armentor was loaded onto an aircraft carrier on the tankard
-Had been at sea for mostly 2 years; only made one trip back home to be married
-On the way back (from leave) at San Francisco went on another ship (The Chotouk) to the other tankard
-Heading home (at end of war) went above the Hawaiian Islands and came down to San Francisco; the Arctic Circle more or less
-Took a plane or a train home can't remember
Talking and retracing his route again (31:00)
-Talking about Theriot's work and people interviewed (33:20)
-Someone's story about dealing with a bazooka
-The interview with Dr. Harry Bernard
-Telling of one of his stories of his rescue by submarine (pilot rescue)
-Talking about people they wish to interview or had interviewed
-Remark on a few people that had interesting interviews but do not go into detail
Cuts off into silence (40:24)
Meeting his friend (40:42)
-Met up with a buddy from Houma during the war
-He had heard that he was fighting in the mountains of Peleliu and Armentor wanted to see him
-Somehow he was able to come out of his post and waded out to the water and Armentor walked towards him
-Parted and he watched him go back to his post
-Then noticed a clam that was about 3-4 feet in length open (feeding), so he put a stick in its mouth to shut it before it got his legs
-Shocked Armentor that there was something that big and how close he got to having his legs snapped
-Friend was Bruce Hebert and was a good catcher for the baseball team
Ends Armentor interview; after is another interview on the bazooka story and a personal note (47:08)
Born Nov. 18, 1914
LT. (j.g.) M. Armentor served as officer aboard oil tanker in Pacific.
He entered the service in May 1943.
I was practicing law at the time. (Beginning of WWII) I was above draft age. Finally the draft improved and I was ready to go into service as an officer, which I did. Wilbur Allain, from Jeanerette, and I went to the Naval Officer Procurement in New Orleans and we were both commissioned as ensigns. Wilbur went on to the Atlantic and I went to the Pacific.
Before that I spent 60 days of training in Tuscon, Arizona and 60 days of training in Fort Schuyler in New York. I trained for seamen ship, navigation, and all the things a naval officer should know. Ironically, Tuscon had a severe shortage of water. We hardly had enough water for showers. We really didn't have any ships to train with there. It was the same thing in New York. At least in New York, at Fort Schuyler, we were close to the water. While I was there I was able to ride the subway, and go to the Commodore Hotel on weekends. That was while we were off, the rest of the time we were studying to become officers.
Then I went down to Panama for about 3 months. I was stationed on the West Coast of Panama. We were assigned to fishing vessels; protecting the coast from the Japanese. They (Japanese) wanted to capture the Canal. Who ever controls the Canal controls the traffic from the Atlantic to the Pacific. They (Japanese) had plans in the works to attack the Panama Canal. So, we had a bunch of these fishing boats. There were two officers and about 14 sailors per ship. And we would go up and down the coast, about 15 miles from the Canal Zone. We had a machine gun on top, depth charges, to drop in case we came across submarines.
And then I got onto an oil tanker. Actually it was a liberty ship tanker- The Kangaroo. Very thin armor. There were about 100 crewmembers and about 10 or 12 officers on board. Those liberty ships were slow, only about 12 knots. We had machine guns in the back and depth charges. It was a tanker that would supply oil and diesel fuel to the fighting ships. We went down to the Solomon Islands. We were anchored off Tulagi. We were refueling those ships that were fighting the Japanese right there. And ships would come along side while we were anchored and we would fill them up. I was stores and commissary officer. I was in charge of loading all the supplies on board ship; food and every thing else, including the beer!
Tulagi was very popular place. We were able to get off and have a few drinks at the officers club there on the island.
From there I went to Treasure Island in the New Guinea area. Finally I ended up at Okinawa. Up until that I had not been in any battles or any danger. At Okinawa we had two Typhoons that we ran into. We lost a lot of lives. I had a good captain on the ship that I was on. And he kept our ship anchored, double-anchor, all throughout the Typhoon, against the wind of course- to keep from having our anchor line broken. Many ships capsized and a lot of sailors drowned. We were never attacked by the Japanese- only by Mother Nature. Of course that was just a few years ago. (Jokingly)
All the while in the Pacific we jokingly said, 'Golden Gate in '48.' We were hoping to get back to the Golden Gate (Bridge) in San Francisco in 1948.
I was able to come home on leave to New Iberia for about a week. I was married at that time, but when I got back to San Francisco, I was assigned to a new tanker-The Chotouk.
From Panama on into Guadalcanal, we had huge oil tankers come and fill us up, sometimes in mid-ocean. Some of those big tankers would have enough to fill up the fighting ships and merchant ships. We were a merchant ship more or less. A lot of that oil came from Alaska and Mexico. All of that oil came to merchant ships, commercial ships. Merchant tankers were loaded down with oil. It was crude oil, more or less. But others carried gasoline and diesel. This is the main reason why the Islands (Aleutian's) in the North Atlantic were so important. We had storage areas for oil all over the place: East Coast, West Coast, Panama, Midway Island, etc…
Aircraft carriers were hard to fuel up. We fueled up destroyers, cruisers, and landing craft too. We used hoses, cranes, and big pumps to distribute the oil to those ships.
We had no escorts. We traveled alone.
If President Truman had not dropped those two bombs on Japan we would have made the invasion of the home island. See we would move up as the fleet would move up. We would have lost thousands of American lives. But we were prepared to attack Japan if it came to that.
We had these Japanese Kamikaze planes come over where we were in Okinawa Bay. And we had over a thousand ships in this huge bay. Finally we all got smart enough to figure out- the hell with the Kamikaze- we will just put all of our lights out. When we got notice of the Kamikaze coming we put all of our lights out (aboard ship) and tend our battle stations. The next thing you know, the Kamikaze didn't know where to hit us, because they were coming to hit an individual ship. It was a personal thing with them (Kamikaze pilots). They were giving up their lives for this.
Thanks to President Truman, when he dropped those two bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. When he did that, it was the end of the war. We were then able to get back. I got back to the states, instead of 'Golden Gate in '48'; I got back in the December of '45.
To come home, I got on an aircraft carrier. I came into San Francisco Bay. I took a plane home from there.
I'll tell ya, us youngsters 84, and old timers 86, we're lucky we still hanging around.
Interview with Roy Armentor
Andrew Roy Armentor; Jason Theriot; Mrs. Roy Armentor
-Spoke French all his life; there was even a few times when Armentor was sent home from school because he spoke only French
-By the time Armentor was a teenager, he was speaking English; taught his parents
-Armentor was out of high school working when WWII broke out; he had worked at the rice mill in the packing department
-On December 7, 1941 he was at home and heard about Pearl Harbor on the radio and his brother, who was in the Marines, was called immediately back from leave
-Armentor was drafted in February 1943
-Left Abbeville by bus and came to New Iberia and then Fort Polk
-He was the sole supporter for his family after the war broke out
-He had tried to volunteer with 3 friends at LSU but Armentor failed the eye test; did not want to go into the infantry but the Air Corps
-No one from New Iberia that he knew of made it to Polk with him
-Then went to Camp Butner in Durham, North Carolina took basic training there
-Came home on leave once after basic
-Thought they were well disciplined soldiers that stuck together; last company of the battalion all the time
-Armentor was a part of a group that volunteered for a special unit that spoke French and went to D.C. for more training
-altogether there was five in Armentor's group: Claude Galley, Nolan Frickey, an Allamon by the name of White from Perry, a Veilleux from Maine and Billadoux from Nova Scotia
-They asked them questions on whether they would be able to do certain duties, like jumping out a plane
-hazardous duties; they had no idea what they were getting into
-Lived in tents on the outskirts of Washington D.C., had a small potbelly stove to keep warm as it was snowing
-Ran 5 miles every morning, ate breakfast, exercises and then to classes
Then went into Maryland and then shipped to Norfolk, Virginia to go onto a big Liberty Ship and cross the Atlantic (28:43)
-At the time Armentor had tonsillitis and suffered from motion sickness; sailed for 15 days and 13 days he was sick
-Landed in Casablanca, North Africa and traveled by train through Oran to Algiers
-All the towns they went through they heard "C'est la guerre!" which meant "It's the war!"
-Stopped near the seashore for parachute training for 3 days and made 5 jumps
-Armentor always jumped in the middle or the rear to make sure everyone made it out; known as the static line out of a C-47
-They had a section of 30 men, but they had 15 men in their sub-section; Armentor stayed with the same 5 men he volunteered with
-They were a special reconnaissance battalion, part of the OSS (but they didn't know what that really meant)
Went to maneuvers with the French Foreign Legion in the Atlas Mountains (39:40)
-They had to live off the land in the fields and did not have rations; ate better this way as they knew how to cook
-Either they hunted or stole from the Arabs' gardens
-The French Legion were rugged people and were from North Africa, so all were black, but they had good communication with them
-Was easy to even talk with the people they met in towns, could order anything from places; a lot was donated though, like wine
First mission (50:50)
-First mission Armentor hurt his back and they landed in a field
-Assigned one night and flew over France but they did not find the signal so they had to go back to Algiers
-Reassigned another night with the French Marquis and the landing gear of the Liberty Bomber had trouble so they turned back around
-Third time they went, jumped out of a British Sterling; commanded by Lt. Weeks from Mississippi
-Armentor was a T-3 sergeant trained in demolitions; used pencil types and C-2 explosives
-They were equipped with a .45 pistol, a carbine rifle, trench knife, machete, a canteen, ammunition, grenades and rations
-explosives were dropped in containers with the men at the same time
-French Underground were tell them where to jump and then gathered up everything for them
-They jumped into the Castle Naizere, France in the Pyrenees that first night, supposed to be an 800 foot drop but it was a 500 feet fall
-it was dark and when the shoots went out
-they just fell and that's when Armentor hurt himself and was knocked out for a while; had to stay with a French family to heal
The French family (1:05:26)
-They were very serious and much against the German occupation forces
-They were like everyday people that anyone meets
-Had 2 story house, first floor had the cattle and second floor was the living space; very clean
-The family was very nice, "overly nice"; stayed there for about a week
After rejoining the group in the hills he was still too injured to go out with the group on a few missions (1:08:00)
-Near Carcassonne they were able to capture a few Germans, "a few bosses," one had a lot of money but he gave it to the French people;
-Armentor didn't believe he would ever make it back home so he kept nothing;
-the work they did was dangerous
-Did not know the mission in France was to stop any Germans from going into Spain as it was a haven for agents as it was a neutral country
Invasion of Southern France (1:11:58)
-They could hear the guns from Montpellier and on the radio they heard "le song liege et da vive" otherwise "the invasion has begun."
-Had 2 invasions, of Normandy and Southern France from over the Mediterranean
-Later on the group went to Grenoble while Armentor was sent to Marseilles and then Naples, Italy to a hospital (from his injury from the fall)
-Discharged and sent to below Naples at a repot depot to go with Patton's army as a replacement
-Armentor requested a 2 day leave and walked around the repot depot to see if he could find his group; he did and they took him the headquarters
-Hadn't seen his group for over a month and when he saw the colonel and told him that he was being shipped out with Patton but the colonel said he was going back home
-Out of the five that had signed up with him had all come back with him to the states
Speaking French in Combat (1:20:29)
-While in Toulouse at a hospital, the first night some German agents were shot trying to get in to kill Armentor as he was part of the French Underground
-He was always being moved around as the Germans were always targeting their group
Going Back (1:22:40)
-Stayed in the states for 30-35 days; still in a crouch
-Went back to Washington on the west coast then shipped out to India
-While in the Indian Ocean they got word of Roosevelt's death
-Once in India they went to Burma, flew over the Hump and into Kunming to start training a Chinese group (early 1944)
-While there in Kunming the bombs were dropped
-they were there training these men because there was to be a Chinese invasion on the coast
-Armentor was to go with his group and Lt. Weeks for a jump into China and the night before he was pulled out
-A major took his name off and sent him home; was supposed to be discharged a year ago
-Went back through India and through the Red Sea and Suez Canal back into the Atlantic
-That night of the jump it was cancelled as the bombs were dropped
-The five men that signed up together, Galley got shot through the hand and Armentor hurt his back, but all lived and came back home
Andrew Roy Armentor
804 Prioux St.
New Iberia, LA 70563
Born: December 25, 1923
2477 Special Recon. Battalion/OSS
I was born in Abbeville, Louisiana. My parents were French-speaking people and we spoke French all of our lives. We didn’t speak any English at home at all. Everyone around us spoke French; our friends, our neighbors, everybody spoke French. There was no way for us to learn English. In fact, when I went to school I was sent back home because I was a French-speaking student. They were trying to do away with the French-speaking language. I was sent back home three times for speaking French. I knew a little English, but I was going to continue going until they accepted me.
Once you know French, it stays with you all the time. Of course we speak a different language than the French-speaking people in France and in North Africa. It’s very close, but they speak what we would call a patios, which is a derivative from the French language, but they add words to it, like we add words over here. The French that we spoke in Abbeville when I was a young boy was on just about the same level as the language spoke when I went into the central part of France.
I was speaking English by the time I was a teenager. The schools that I attended growing up were made up of mostly French-speaking people. We were all Cajuns. In fact, there were very few who didn’t know any French. As the years progressed, we learned English because we had to, and then we’d try to teach it to our parents. We were all Cajuns alike in those days.
I was working when World War II broke out. We didn’t have government loans in those days; you either had money to go to school or you worked. We poor people, the Cajuns, we worked. I worked at United Gas for a while, then at the rice mill in the packing department.
On December 7, 1941, we were all home in the backyard because my brother had come home on leave from the Marines. We heard the news on the radio and he was immediately called back. We were not too impressed with what had happened, to be frank, because we didn’t know the actual meaning of it. We did realize that we were at war, however, we didn’t know what war meant. We had never been to war before. But because we had one in our family our view of war from then on was a little different.
Three of us tried to volunteer for the Air Corps. My two buddies made it my I didn’t. So I came back home and worked. I didn’t want to go into the infantry, but they drafted me anyway. I became a grunt instead…and I’m still a grunt! I was drafted in February 1943. I left from Abbeville and came to New Iberia. From there our group left on a bus and went to Fort Polk. From Polk I went to Durham, North Carolina, Camp Butner. It was rainy and cold, with ice-cickels, and we took basic there. We were becoming good soldiers, I would say, because we were very disciplined and we all worked hard. We came home on leave once, after basic (I got married), and when we returned that’s when all of this started to happen.
Wearing a full field pack, we would do about five miles in about 35 minutes. We were taught that if somebody dropped out, you would give your pack to another man, and you would pick up the other guy and carry him. We had a group of us that spoke French that became pretty good friends. This group of us volunteered for this special unit and we wound up in Washington D.C.
We saw some information that was posted on the bulletin board saying that the army was looking for volunteers who spoke French and other languages. So those of us who spoke French went to this meeting in a big auditorium and they spoke to us. They told us about the kind of work we would be doing and about what we would be expected to do. They asked us questions like whether we would jump out of an airplane. All together we were five; five French-speaking soldiers from south Louisiana; they were from Algiers, Merroro, Westwego, all from the New Orleans area, but Cajun nonetheless. One was Claude Galley, the other was Nolan Frickey, one was an Allamon, and a fellow by the name of White from Perry. There was also a Veilleux from the Maine area and Billadoux from up near Nova Scotia. They were from the Northeast but we all spoke French. And we all spoke the same French, the same patios. So we got along real well.
We all decided to volunteer for this special unit. Each one of us was investigated before we were accepted. The FBI investigated my background. The FBI came to Abbeville and contacted different people asking about my background. After the investigation we got our orders to move, and that didn’t take very long. And they didn’t give us too much information about it. All they wanted to know was if we would do hazardous duty, such as jumping into an area. We didn’t think about it too much, because when you are young, you didn’t think too much about things like that; you more or less thought about everyday life. I didn’t think about the hazardous duty we would be doing with this particular group; I had no idea. And I wasn’t the only one. None of us had any idea what we were getting into.
In November 1943, we got to Washington and we were assigned to these tents to live in. We didn’t have any special treatment; we were just regular soldiers. We lived in those tents with a little bitty potbelly stove to keep us warm at night when we would sleep. It was snowing and it was cold and we coonies didn’t know what snow was. In the mornings we would fallout with just a T-shirt, shorts, and jump boots. We’d run five miles every morning. We came in and had breakfast, took exercises, went to classes—demolition classes or knife-fighting classes—all kinds of classes. We even learned Kung Fu. It was really harsh training. But understand, we didn’t know anything about what was going on. I knew there were people experimenting with different types of explosives. They would invent it and we would try it out. We stayed there training for several months.
We went to Maryland to continue training. We were shipped out of Norfolk, Virginia on a great big Liberty Ship. We traveled across the North Atlantic on the thing and I had tonsillitis at the time—I’ll never forget that. We were all in a hole in the bottom of the ship and it was stuffy, it smelled like diesel fuel, and I suffer from motion sickness. This young doctor gave me an intravenous shot that didn’t go into my vain. It went all throughout my body. I had to strap myself in this bunk with my belt to keep myself from falling off. And that ship was rocking back and forth. We rocked and rolled across the Atlantic for 15 days.
We landed in Casablanca in North Africa. I couldn’t walk a straight line when I got off that ship. We traveled on these rail cars through Oran and into Algiers. It was a slow moving thing and it took us a few days to get there. It was moving so slow that we would jump off and walk for a little bit and relieve ourselves, and then jump back on. There was no beds, no bathrooms, and we ate C rations—those beautiful rations. The toilet was outside and you held on if you had to go do a number two and you did the best that you could. We traveled through the towns that way. C’est la guerre! That’s all we heard when we came through those town: “C’est la guerre.”
Our section encamped about 4 or 5 miles off the seashore. We were preparing for parachute training. We began preparing on a Monday thru Wednesday doing mock training: jumping out of planes, how to roll, what to do, how to hold your risers. On the fifth day, they brought us to the airport and we drew our shoots. We had two shoots, a main and a reserve. I was a sergeant so I jumped in the middle of the stick or the end of the stick. We were 15 men training for static line jump out of a C-47. Three days of training. On that first day, we jumped out, landed, rolled our shoots, put our gear in the trucks, went right back to the airport, drew another shoot, went back up again, and jumped out again. We made two jumps a day. I did well until the fourth jump. I was in the middle and the fellow who jumped after me jumped on my shoot and got his feet entangled in my shoot. We were coming down and my shoot wasn’t open. I looked down, then looked up and saw that his feet were caught, so I started whipping my risers until finally he got loose and my shoot blossomed. I came down and rolled right away. He landed and broke his leg.
The five of us stayed together in a section. We went to Algiers as a group, and we trained as a group, and we jumped into France as a group. We were a special reconnaissance battalion, part of the OSS, although that didn’t really mean anything to us.
We were briefed in Algiers and went on maneuvers in the Atlas Mountains with the French Foreign Legion. We lived off the land because we didn’t have enough rations to eat. But a “coonie” is hard to beat when he gets on the outskirts, living on the land. He knows what to steal; he knows what to kill. He knows what he likes and what he doesn’t like and he knows how to prepare it. All of us knew how to cook. We had goat and lamb and we’d hunt javalinas in the moonlight. We skinned them and cooked them. We’d steal vegetables from the Arab’s gardens. We’d raid the fruit trees and bring all that back to camp.
Those French were very rugged soldiers. They were dark-skinned Moroccans and they were very tough. Most of them were from North Africa and they all spoke French, the same kind of French that we Cajuns spoke, almost. So, we got along pretty good with them. We’d go into town every once in awhile and go to the burless shows. The actors would make fun of us because we were paratroopers, but we could understand their French. It was little jokes about us, but we knew. We could go into the communities and drink all the wine that we wanted; we could order anything at the restaurants. We paid for it all, but very little. Sometimes the five of us would go into the little towns and the people would give us wine and bread. The wine was very plentiful in North Africa, very plentiful…too plentiful!
I would rather be in the paratroopers than any other branch of the service. You were on your own and you were with a group. And you operated with this small group. We never worked with a large group. We worked with a group of British Commandos while we were there, too. All of us—the French, British and Americans were all Special Forces training in that area.
Prior to us, there was another OSS unit formed in England. They were jumping into France and working with the French Underground, the Marquis, gathering information and wiring it back. Sam Broussard was apart of that.
We were trained in demolitions, to cut rails for trains, blow up bridges, how to attack a column. It was a hit and run deal—we’d hit, then run, but we stayed in. We’d jump into a section and conduct our mission and then regroup to go to attack another section. We never stayed in the same area very long. And we did all of this in conjunction with the French Underground, because they gathered the information for us and then we prepared the attacks and went to work.
On our first mission into France we flew in a British Halifax over our jump area, but we couldn’t find the signal on the ground. So we had to come back. We had gone from Algiers, across the Mediterranean and into France and we had to come back. We were reassigned for another night to jump in with the French Marquis. Their job was to light up a section for us to jump into at night. On that second time, we made it over the Mediterranean, and then our plane—a British Liberty bomber—had trouble with the landing gear. So, we had to turn back around. The third time was on British Sterling. We got the signal over the area and we jumped out of the bomb bay. You would sit in a line on the floor and scoot up until you got over the hole and then you just fell out of the plane. You see, the C-47 could not make that trip on two engines. We had to fly in the big bombers to get us there.
We were one plane, one stick, commanded by Lt. Weeks from Mississippi. I was a T-3, a sergeant, trained in demolitions. We used pencil types and C-2 explosives. You could apply this explosive like a putty and you could cut a rail with just a little piece of it. All 15 of us had the same training, the same skills, same weapons, same specialty, and we all spoke French. The one thing that I carried that I wish I would not have was this bush knife—a machete. It was a long blade with an arrow point. We should have never had that, because we were so overloaded. You had grenades, you had your gun, you had your parachute, and you had a little pack. It was all a bit too much. But I guess that’s what we needed.
I had a .45 pistol and a carbine rifle with a folding stock. I had a trench knife, that machete, a canteen, ammunition, grenades and rations. Our explosives were dropped with us in these containers. Both the men and the material were dropped at the same time. The Underground was there waiting for us. They would secure the area from the Boch. They gathered everything on the jump, including our chutes and our containers and they threw all that into wood-burning trucks, and that’s how they powered their automobiles. We would gather ourselves and go into the mountains with them. They had a headquarters up in the Pyrenees Mountains. We jumped into Castle Naizere, France that first night.
We jumped into the southern part of Aude and we worked our way up in Toulouse. We did a lot of work in Carcassonne. On our first mission in southern France, we started off out in the open, in a field. I didn’t think too much about our position and I wasn’t the only one. As I’d go around checking each man, they all felt the same way: “We’re too much in the open. We’re too much in the open.” But you are taught and disciplined to the point that you obey your commanding office and he tells you ‘this is it and that’s it.’ But we were fortunate. At dusk it happened… and it didn’t last very long. The column turned and they went another way. We regrouped up in the mountains and prepared for another mission.
We were supposed to make an 800-foot jump into the Pyrenees. But it ended up being about a 500-foot fall. We jumped out and our chutes blossomed. It was dark and we landed in this area. We all converged with the French Underground and moved out.
I injured myself when I landed. The landing knocked me out, but I came to shortly after. Our medic, Guion from Mississippi, fixed me up. I went into the headquarters and then went down into the village with the French people. I stayed with a French family. The man was le guard de forrestia—a forest ranger. He wanted my rifle but I couldn’t give it to him. He had never seen a carbine and I’ll always regret not giving it to him, but I would not have had a rifle to protect myself. So I gave him my machete. Damn right. I’m glad that I gave it to him because it was a pain to carry around.
The French were very serious people and they were very much against the German occupation. They were like everyday people that you would meet, just like our neighbors that we had growing up in Abbeville. They took me into the safety of their home. They had an upstairs where they lived. Downstairs they kept their cattle and made their milk and butter down there. In other words, the dairy part was down below where they lived. But everything was spotless, clean, well taken care of. They were very, very nice to me; overly nice, you could say. The wife tried various kinds of medicinal things to relieve the pain. I’d exercise every day for a week or so. The rest of my unit was up in the hills and eventually I joined them. That was the last time that I saw that French family. I am very sorry that I did not get their names because I would like to have communicated with them after the war. This was in Castle Nazaire.
I rejoined my group up in the hills, but I was still too injured to go out on a mission. From there we went to different sections.
We captured a few Germans, a few bosses, near Carcassonne and brought them into the French. I captured one who must have been a gambler. He had a purse full of money. So I took the money and gave it to the French people. I was so sure that I wasn’t coming back home. I didn’t think that I would ever make it back.
Our job was different from a regular GI. We lived in danger…there was danger around you all the time. Our mission was to stop the Germans from getting into Spain, more or less, but we didn’t know that at the time. We only knew what we had to do on these missions. Spain was a haven for agents; it was a neutral country, a free country. Anybody could go into Spain. We had a hand radio to communicate back and forth with the army. The only ones who really knew what was really going on were the radioman and the commanding officer. He told us what to do and that was it.
When the invasion of Southern France had commenced, we could hear the guns from Montpellier, because we were just north of the city. And we could hear the guns very plainly and we knew something was happening. We also heard on the radio, “le song liege et da vive”—the invasion has begun. And we heard that on the radio all day long.
Later my group went on the Grenoble and I went down to Marseilles. From there I was sent to a hospital in Naples, Italy. I was later discharged from the hospital and shipped to a repot depot. I was destined to go in with Patton’s Army as a replacement. I was waiting to be shipped out and so I requested a two-day leave. I started walking and I told myself, You’ve got to walk around and spot your group’s number on a truck or something. And sure enough, as I walked, I saw this truck coming down the road and on his bumper was the Special Recon number #2477. I got in the middle of the road and I stopped him I told he to take me to the headquarters and I told him why. So I got in the truck and passed right by the repot depot on our way. We drove a few miles and there was my headquarters. I had not seen my unit in over a month. I got in and requested to see the colonel. I went in and he recognized me. I told him that I was being shipped out with Patton’s Army. He said, “No you not. You’re going back home.”
One of our guys, Galley had got shot and one of the lieutenants was killed. The boy from Maine got in a confrontation with some Germans and he got out of it all right. All five of us, the original group, came back to the States.
I was in a hospital in Toulouse. There was a nurse who took care of me. The first night I was there, the French had shot some German agents who were trying to get into the hospital to get me. She told me about it the next morning. These Germans were on our tail all the time because we were with the French Underground. If those Germans would have got into that hospital, that would have been it for me. I would not have come back; they would have done it right there in the room. But I was very fortunate.
I left from Italy and came back to the States. I stayed in the States for 30 days. I was still in a crouch from my injury. I was sent to the west coast. The people up there used to marvel at us because we would run all the time. They said we were the runningist outfit you ever saw. We’d run through the compounds. We went across the Pacific and into the Indian Ocean. We were enroute to India when Roosevelt died. We went to India, then to Burma, flew over the Hump, and went into Kunming. We landed in Kunming and started training Chinese troops. While I was there we dropped the bomb. We were training to make a jump during the invasion of the Chinese coast. We were training these Chinese boys, but they hadn’t the slightest idea what they were doing.
I was destined to go out with Lt. Weeks. We were all there up in the mountains again. The same group. All five of us were together again. The night before we drew our equipment, my name was called out, and that was it for me. This major saw my name on the jump roster and pulled me out. He said, “I going to send you home; you should have been discharged a year ago.”
From India, through the Suez Canal, through the Mediterranean and across the Atlantic, we traveled. On my way back, the bomb was dropped. Lt. Weeks eventually jumped in with another group into to China.
The five men that went all made it back. I hurt my back, Galley got shot in his hand. This lieutenant, who had joined us in the latter part, got killed. The original five all made it back.
A lot of those people thought of us as a “frog, with webbed feet.” A lot of them believed and still believe today that we go around and communicate in pirogues and bateaus down the bayous. We were looked down on because we were from Louisiana; they thought they were better than us. But I was never downhearted about speaking French. I was always proud of speaking
Interview with Larry Aucoin
-Born in the Philippines and was almost 8 years old when they went into the civilian prison camp in June 1942
-Family from New Iberia; both sides
-After his little sister was born, the Japanese started taking over; they were on the Island of Negros
-When the Japanese began island hopping, Aucoin's father heard that if they made it to the mountains a submarine would come and bring them to Australia
-they stayed there for a couple of weeks and then decided to take their chances in the camps
-Their first camp, the camp commandant was a graduate from UCLA that spoke English and French as well;
-a lot of the Japanese had been educated in America and did not believe they'd win the war, only the lower ranking soldiers did
-They were fairly nice to the civilian prisoners, so as long as they were treated with respect; like bowing when meeting
Before the Japanese came, the Aucoin family lived on the island of Negros and his father was a sugar mill manager (5:24)
-The whole island was dedicated for sugar making
-a Philippine company owned it and the boss would still give his father money so he could buy extra food in the camp
-They stayed in a civilian prison camp and never saw any soldier prisoners
-119 civilian prisoners from the island of Negros (American, Australians, British, and Canadians) were sent to Manila, to the camp Santa Tomas, which had a little over 8-7,000 prisoners and at the end of the war it was probably 4,000, many had died from stress and malnutrition
-The Filipinos were disturbed how the foreigners had been put in these camps
-they'd pass along news but the Japanese made sure to only highlight when they had won a battle with the Allies
-Yet with each time the Americans/Allies were beat, the battles were closer and closer to where the Philippines were so the adults in the camps were able to keep track of war through this method
-From November 1944 to February 1945 the Navy was near Manila and would bomb them daily
-fighter pilots would fly over the camps and drop their goggles with messages and news
The 1st Marine Cavalry came into the camp to liberate them (14:00)
-Set up a pounding of the Japanese and they retreated
-Japanese outnumbered the American, but they didn't know that
Life in the Camp (16:04)
-They had never tried to escape, the Japanese made it clear if caught you were tortured and publicly executed
-there was no place to go on an island anyway
-At first when they were picked up, in the camps they had family friends from the same island
-In Manila at camp Santa Tomas the men and teenage boys were separated from the women and children at night
-Had breakfast, hardly anything for lunch and then a supper
-Food ration from towards the end of the war:
1 cup of watery mush (watered down rice)
1 cup of soybean soup
1 cup of boiled sweet potato leaves
1 cup of gravy
-His father weighed 120 lbs. when they were liberated
-In the beginning the food wasn't bad and they could pay for extra from the locals but at the end of the war, paid food was taken away and meals rationed
-The locals did as much as they could to support them
-Aucoin's father had connections in Manila as he worked there before
After the Fact (23:10)
-The one thing that has really bothered Aucoin was that the Japanese Nesi got $20,000 tax-free for spending 3 years in the internment camps in Arizona and had three meals a day compared to what they had in the Philippines
-Aucoin had also found out that his father in 1941 tried to get them back into the states but was denied by the American Embassy
-They were not allowed to leave as Roosevelt felt that if there was mass fleeing it would demoralize the Filipinos;
-Americans were told to stay there for the good of the country but were treated worse than the Japanese Neisi and not paid for it like them
-Roosevelt wanted to get involved in the war and the Japanese were his ticket in, so they had the Americans in Philippines stay in hopes to use the Philippines prisoners as an excuse for going to war;
-got Pearl Harbor instead
-After the war, his father spent a lot of time with Senator Long going through documents in Congress trying to prove that this happened, but at that time everything was classified
Back to Prison Camp Life (26:22)
-Went to school for half a day and was taught by Belgian nuns and when they went "home" their father would teach them
-When liberated and going back to America Aucoin was shocked to find they had to go to school all day long
-Aucoin stayed with the smaller children and women in the camp and on their side there was a chicken coop that he'd crawl into to wait for eggs; always hungry
-They had 50-acres of land to play on in the camp, so to Aucoin it did not feel like they were prisoners but he did understand that they were being held against their will
-He can only imagine the worry his father had trying to feed all of them
-They played a few games like soccer and the Japanese would organize boxing matches between the kids for entertainment
-They had their own structure of government/medical treatment within the camp; their own laws and justice
-Santa Tomas camp was a university before the war, so the buildings were set up as dorms, medical treatment centers, etc.
-The weather was a tropical climate
-Was in the camp when the Japanese surrendered
-Aucoin was more interested in the planes with the rising sun on their wings flying over; no American planes till mid 1940s
-The planes were flying over but no air raids were made so no one (prisoners) could figure out why until someone saw the star on the planes when the marines landed and started pushing back the Japanese (but they didn't know that)
-That night their camp was liberated, a tank broke down the gate and began firing, scattering the Japanese and prisoners
-But they seemed to know where the Japanese went and as they all holed up in one building; they were there for 2 days before surrendering
-The prisoners hid under their cots waiting to be told to get out and then escorted out to occupied sections of Manila
-Had to go on a diet as the food the Americans had was too rich and everyone got sick
-They left Manila to the island of Leyte that was an army convalescent camp and injured soldiers center
-kids had it made there as the soldiers would "adopt" them and give them whatever they wanted
They eventually got on a transport ship to San Francisco that was going for supplies (51:48)
-They came back to the U.S. with nothing; their home on the island of Negros had still not been liberated
-When it was decided that the Japanese would be able to captured them, Aucoin's father buried a bunch of valuables they had under the house;
-the house was burned but a few friends/servants managed to send a few things back
-Aucoin or his family have never been back to the Philippines or the island of Negros; after the war it became dangerous
-Aucoin found some papers from his father and found a document that showed they were given $400 for the three years in the camp
-From San Francisco they took a train to New Orleans and stayed at his late grandfather's home
-He had died in April while they were still on the island of Leyte and missed the funeral
-The only big memory that Aucoin has of the camp is that he was always hungry and didn't understand why they couldn't have more food
-Slept well at night and woke up at 6ish in the morning and was kept busy with lessons or working in the gardens
-Aucoin remembers that they could have all the peanuts they wanted in the beginning as the Japanese thought it was cattle feed until someone told them otherwise and the peanuts were taken away;
-they fed them soybeans instead as the Japanese fed their cattle soybeans (was used to make the prisoners lose face)
-Kids would make up games or played in the mango trees
-The Japanese were never cruel physically to the civilian prisoners unless "someone asked for it"
Born: November 22, 1934
I was very small, about 7 years old, when the Japanese attacked the Philippines. I was born in the Philippines. My dad, Lawrence Aucoin, was from Morbahan, and my mother, Adele Hebert, came from Franklin. We went into the prison camp in June '42. My youngest sister, Dorothy, was born in April of that year (My other sister, Sylvia, was only 4 years old at this time). We were captured on the island of Negros, which is farther south of Luzon.
After the Japanese started taking over the islands, my father was told that if we hid in the mountains, a submarine would eventually come and bring us to Australia. We gave it a try, but after a couple of weeks in the mountains with a newborn, he decided that it wasn't worth it. He hoped that the Japanese would be more civilized than what a lot of people said they were.
For the first ten months, we lived in the Bacolod Internment Camp on the island of Negros. The first camp commandant, Colonel Ota, was a graduate of UCLA. He spoke French and English and my father said they used to talk about the war. The commandant said that after living in the United States, he knew there was no way that the Japanese were going to win the war. He had seen the industrial capabilities of the US and knew that the Japanese could not win. But, he was a soldier and by nature he had to obey orders. There were quite a few Japanese soldiers that had been educated in America and they also really didn't think that they would come out on the winning side at the end. I guess the lower ranking soldiers believed that they were invincible.
The basic thing that they wanted was respect. We had to bow every time we came across a Japanese soldier. If you did not bow, you were slapped. For the most part, that was all the abuse that the families got. I know it was much worse for the American soldiers. The captured soldiers were treated horrible. The Japanese proved that with the Batan Death March.
As long as we treated them with respect, that was all that they really cared about. I guess, in a way, we were more of a pain in the neck to them, because they had to house us and feed us and we were moved around a lot.
Before the Japanese came, we lived on the island of Negroes, where my father was a sugarmill manager. The whole island was dedicated to producing sugarcane and still is today. A Philippine company owned this mill. In fact, that's what helped us survive in the prison camps. His boss, Louis Osorio, a Filipino and the owner of the sugarmill, would give money to my dad to buy food. The Japanese wouldn't feed us much, but if you had money they would let you buy food from the natives, and the Japs would take a cut of the sale.
There were 119 civilian prisoners on the island of Negroes: American, Australian, British, and Canadian. On March 7, 1943, after five days of waiting at Bacoldo Harbor on a small, filthy freighter, the "Naga", we left for Manila. This trip took three days and upon arrival at Manila, on the island of Luzon, we were taken by truck to a prison camp. Santa Tomas, the camp in Manila, was a university before the war, and it held over 4,000 prisoners. At the end of the war there were maybe 3,500. The rest had died from stress and malnutrition.
All the men in Santo Tomas were required to work in the camp garden for four hours a day. This garden was used to feed the prisoners. We grew sweet potatoes and made soup with the leaves. We never did eat potatoes, because they took too long to grow. We had to have something right then! Something, anything with calories. The Japanese let us eat all the peanuts we wanted, they thought that was cattle feed, or food for their horses. But when they found out it was the most nutritious thing to eat, they cut that out right quick. So we ate a lot of soybeans, again cattle feed for the Japanese and loss of face for us. My sisters and I would get the same amount of beans every day. And every bean was important.
During the war, the Red Cross was sending food parcels to the prisoners. After we were liberated, we found out that the Japanese had stored up all this food in a building next to the prison camp. They were using it for their own supply. Whenever an international Red Cross committee would come to visit, the Japanese would hand out a little bit of that food, so they could say that the food was getting to us.
Everybody was treated the same at meal servings. The only difference with my family was my father's boss gave him money, and we used that money to supplement our diet. At the end of the war an egg was going for $12. A can of evaporated milk, if you could find one, was going for $150. If you were starving to death, a can of milk, diluted with water, might mean the difference in someone continuing to live for a while.
I can remember hiding in a bamboo area where there was a chicken coop. I'd crawl in the bamboo and wait for the chickens to lay eggs. Then and I'd steal the eggs. We were limited to what we could do, and we were always hungry. I understood that we were held against our will, but it didn't feel like a prison camp. As kids we played soccer and had boxing matches to entertain the camp. We had a 50-acre plot of land that we were free to roam around in, but I was too young to really realize the seriousness of what was going on around us. The worries that my dad must have had trying to figure out how to feed the four of us.
We were able to get some news, but the Japanese always censored it. They always slaughtered the American forces in battle. They never lost a battle against the allies, but the battles were always fought 50-100 miles closer to Manila, than they were the week before. So we knew the Americans were getting closer, that's how we were able to keep up with the war. We could get the printed news, after it was censored.
From November '44 to February '45, I guess the navy was close enough to bomb Manila daily. Every once in a while, a navy pilot would fly over us and throw his goggles out of the cockpit with a message or news to let us know that they knew we were there and they hadn't forgot us. The Filipino people kept us informed a good bit. When we would read about such and such battle, the adults would go to the library and look at the maps to locate the American forces. The Japanese always claimed they were winning, but the battles were always getting closer.
We never did think about escaping. The Japanese had made that very clear to us from the beginning. There weren't a lot of guards around to watch us all day long, but if you went over that wall, and got caught, you would wish to God that you never born. Early on, a few people did escape, but where are you going to go on an island with a hundred thousand Japanese. They were caught, tortured and publicly executed.
In Manila, at Santa Tomas, all the men and teenage boys slept in one part of the camp, and the women and young children slept in another part of the camp. For the most part, they kept the families together. We made friends with some of them. Most of my father's friends were French or British and we became friends with their families.
In the beginning we had breakfast, not much lunch, and a supper. The food at the beginning wasn't too bad, but towards the end that got worse. This was another way that we could tell the Japanese were losing the war. The food rations were less towards the end. By the end, we couldn't even buy certain foods, because it wasn't available. Up until December '44, we ate about 1400 calories a day. After that, food rations were reduced to:
1 cup of watery mush (watered down rice)
1 cup of soybean soup
1 cup of boiled sweet potato leaves
1 cup of gravy
On February 3, 1945, the Americans finally liberated our camp. I can remember that night, when soldiers from the 1st Marine Cavalry, 37th Infantry, and the 44th Tank Battalion came to our camp. They arrived about 6 days ahead of MacArthur's main military forces. Leonard Breaux, from Loreauville, was in the 1st Marine Calvary (43rd Combat Engineers). He was there. They came in with 17 tanks from the 44th Tank Battalion, and the Japanese in Manila, who out numbered the Marines 10 to 1 or more, thought that this was the main force, so they retreated to the other side of the river. They could have counterattacked the Americans and easily wiped them out. When the Marines came in and took the control of the camp, all the Japanese guards in our camp holed up in one of the buildings. They had a ton of gunfire going on. The Japanese had a machine gun and they were firing over the wall of the camp. My family was in our barracks under our beds the whole time. We finally were able to say, "The Americans are here!"
The first American tank broke through the iron gate and came into the camp. Wherever the tanks saw a Japanese guard, they fired their machine guns at them. The Filipino Guerillas must have informed the Americans as to how many guards were there, and were they were. These tanks surrounded the building that the Jap guards were in. The fanatical Japanese camp commandant ran out of that building with his samurai sword and went on a bonsai charge at that first tank. They mowed him down. The Americans eventually let the Japanese soldiers go to another part of Manila, where the Filipino Guerillas were waiting for them. Six of them surrendered, and the rest were killed.
The Japanese garrison at Manila was defeated on February 27, 1945 and we left the camp some time after that. I was 10 years old by then. When we got out I must have weighted about 60 pounds. My dad weighed 120 pounds. We went to the island of Leyte for a few months and stayed at an army convalescent camp. This was a place for injured soldiers and the kids had it made over there. There would be three or four soldiers that would adopt you, and I never ate so much ice cream in all my life. I stayed in contact with one soldier, Harmon Ansevin, through letters for a good while.
We took a transport ship back to San Francisco. We came back with nothing! My father had buried some valuables under our house on Negros, but the Japanese burned the house down. The Filipinos were able to find the buried items lot and sent us back some of my mother's china and jewelry.
When I was in the prison camp, we went to school for half a day, and my father would teach my sisters and I the other half. There were some Belgian nuns who taught us in the morning. When I got back to the states, and found out that they had school all day long, I was devastated. I didn't want to go to school for a full day.
In 1941 my father tried to get us back to the United States. The American Embassy wouldn't let us go back to America, because President Roosevelt decided that if there was a mass exodus of American and British personnel from the Philippines this would demoralize the Filipinos. When you went to the Embassy to apply to go back home they would say "No can do. You have to stay here." I feel that we were treated worse than the Neisi's in America were. As Americans, we were told, for the good of our country we had to stay here, so we would not demoralize the Filipinos. We had servants at our house, because we could afford them. Our Japanese servants told my parents, before it all started, that the Japanese were going to start a war with America. They knew it was coming. My father wanted to send all of my mother and us kids back to the states, while he would stay behind, but our Embassy wouldn't let us leave.
Roosevelt didn't evacuate any Americans from the Philippines because he wanted to get the US involved in the war, and the only way he could do that was to have Japan do something that would instigate it. Well, he got his wish at Pearl Harbor! I don't think he figured that it would be that horrible. He could have gotten us out of the Philippines, easily, but he didn't. He wouldn't do it! After the war, my dad spent a lot of time with Senator Long going through documents in Congress trying to prove that this happened, but at that time everything was classified, top secret. Now, it is probably declassified, but who gives a damn! Most of those people are dead!
One thing that has really bugged me is that the Japanese Nesi got $20,000 tax-free for spending 3 years in camps in Arizona. They had three solid meals a day and I guarantee it was nothing like what we had. After my father passed away I went through his papers and I came across a legal document, which showed that he collected about $400 for the three years that my sisters and I were interned in the prison camps. That's all! God bless the "Penny Pinching" Democrats, because I sure will not!!
Interview with Ned Badeaux
Ned Bradeaux; Jason Theriot; Hewitt Theriot
(The end of another interview)
-Looking at pictures
Question: Did other members of you family hear of this story of you as you told us?
My brother (Nelson) was in the battle of North Africa; we never talked about it
-Talking of another interviewee (1:25)
-How glad he was to finally talk about it
-Photos of Nelson (2:15)
-He was in the 82nd Air Division
-Anzio Beach, Belgium, Germany
-Photos of others and a book (3:38)
-Talking about these people
Interview with Mrs. Nelson Badeaux
Mrs. Nelson Badeaux; Jason Theriot; Hewitt Theriot
-Nelson was stationed in California
-Mrs. Badeaux was very young during the war, in high school
-She met Nelson in the summer 1945 while he was on rotation and was going back to Europe
-He was in the 82nd Airborne Division and before he was in the National Guard 156 Company and left it in 1940
-He left the Guard as he was in the infantry and decided that he wanted to parachute instead
Talking about the history and looking at photos from a book (4:00)
-Remembers him saying that in England the weather conditions were so bad they could not jump during an invasion in Holland
-Before he was in Africa, then to Italy and then England
Looking at a book and photos (5:48)
-Talking about a few people she knew of in the photos
-Nelson was the oldest son, his brother Ned Badeaux was younger and they looked very much alike
-Nelson died in August 1979 from a heart attack
Nelson in the Desert (10:20)
-Tells them to refer to some books as he never told her
-Looking at photos and the books
-He might not have been in the 82nd yet when they were in Africa; might have been training at the time
-(Much debating on whether he was there or not; looking at the book)
Talking about family and kids (16:30)
-Looking at the books and photos
-(She answers a phone call; Theriot read from the book aloud)
Back to interview (28:50)
-Consulting the book on Nelson's company
-While in Holland he did have to attack a few bridges; Bastogne
-(Debating on the company and what the book says; the 101st and the 82nd)
She met him when he was on rotation/ leave and he was to go back to Europe when the war ended (38:44)
-Had been in the service for almost 5 years and was due some rest
-He might have been in communications and when he came out of service he worked at the LineMen; climbed poles
-Looking at pictures in the book
Cuts off to silence (40:20)
Picks up on her remembering a visit they had to New Orleans with another couple (40:40)
Interview with Colonel Leonard Barrow, Jr.
Col. Leonard Barrow, Jr., Jason Theriot, and Hewitt Theriot
-Appointed as a flying cadet in February 1938 at Randolph Field; flying school by March
-Randolph Field was in San Antonio and was the only flying school in the U.S.
-Went over to Kelly Field to specialize; Barrow was in the attack-aviation
-Commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Army Air Corps Reserve, February 1, 1939
-Then went to Barksdale Field in Shreveport and was assigned to the 3rd Attack group; flew A-17A attack bomber
-Married in 1940 to a daughter of a WWI veteran
-Moved to Savannah when the war broke out later in October; flew A-20 light bomber, fastest plane at the time
-Went all over the U.S. for maneuvers; they could see the war was coming
-War did break out and Barrow's outfit was spilt 2-3 times
-First time Barrow went to the West coast and flew dive bombers
Remembering Pearl Harbor (6:27)
-Was having lunch with his father-in-law and wife, on a Sunday his father-in-law got a phone call and was excited to tell them that the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor
-He went immediately to the air base and Barrow soon left too
-They were shocked that the Japanese were able to pull off such an operation
-Worked for several months on the anti-submarine dive patrol
-Flew about 200 miles over the Atlantic everyday
-Very poorly equipped, no depth chargers, just 500 lbs bombs that if dropped to close to the water would blow them up too
-Christmas Eve, Barrow did see a periscope lined up to a United Fruit Liner, between Georgia and Florida; strafed it as he was too low to bomb it
The 8th Air Force was activated in Savannah and Barrow was taken out and put into them (9:25)
-By March his old outfit went to Australia
-The first outfit was caught in the Philippines he stayed at the Headquarters and in early June flew Gen. Duncan, the Commander, to D.C.
Gen. Duncan found he had been reassigned to the Chief of Staff (10:57)
-Flew to Fort Dix, New Jersey for a week long training and then to New York
-In New York got on the Queen Elizabeth to go to Scotland by late June Went to the airfield of Chelveston
-Transferred to the operations office in the headquarters in London; eventually moved out to Bushy Park
-Operation officer for a B-17 wing and for training but had never been in one; sent back to the 8th Air Force later
-Put out training programs and mission trainings and was sent around to the British airfields
November 1942 (17:11)
-Was sent to Saint Eval, RAF station, to supervise the passage of airplanes that were going to the invasion in North Africa Heart of the British defense was the radar
-Could now spot airplanes before they got into earshot
-Had air-defense-centers along the coast looking for Germans and run the operations
-When they got there to Britain, the Battle of Britain of 1940 had already happened so attacks from the Germans on England were more nuisance attacks at night
-By the end of November (1942) Barrow's operation had ended
North Africa (24:40)
-His father-in-law took over a troop carrier wing and asked Barrow to transfer to him
-Wanted flying time so he asked to be transferred; went back to Bushy Park to be sent out to North Africa (funny story of killing a King's deer 26:36)
-Was transferred to North Africa but had to find his own way there; there were some P-38s in Ireland with no pilots
-Called the Fighter Command and asked he could fill a spot and was given the okay: had to get there himself by his plane (another story 31:40)
-Reaches Northern Ireland and was tasked with looking over the last 6 remaining planes until he could get over to North Africa
-Flew down to Saint Eval after the New Year and then followed a B-26 to Gibraltar and continued on to Oran (8 hours and 5 minute flight)
-Then went up to Tunisia to a P-38 base but didn't want to work there so caught a ride to Algiers
Met up with his father-in-law, who shipped him out Mostagenum to a troop carrier squadron of C-17s to drop paratroopers and gliders
Invasion of Sicily (52:40)
-Towed gliders from Tunisia to Sicily at night; strong winds, bad maps and the navy shot up everything
-Second night dropped paratroopers over Mount Etna; navy shot down 37 C-47s (friendly fire)
-On the first night Barrow led the group and was later awarded the DFC and the Air Medal
-It was an experience on joint amphibious operations; but bad communication
-Then spent the next 2 weeks flying in and out of Sicily
-Moved the outfit to Italy
Invasion of Italy (57:18)
-Landed on the Salerno beachhead with supplies
-Made serval trips for supplies (might have brought back wounded)
-Reassigned as the executive officer and 2 weeks later Barrow gets orders to go back to the U.S. (October 1943)
-Reported to Sedalia, Missouri to get his pilots; but no planes Moved to Alliance, Nebraska and stayed there till March 1944 and then to Pope Field at Fort Bragg, North Carolina
-Worked with the 13th Airborne Division dropping paratroopers
Went overseas in January of 1945 (01:03:59)
-Supported Patton; hauled fuel and supplies
-Then in May went over to England to pick up British men and flew to Copenhagen, Denmark
-Germans were still there at the airfield; wild experience--the Danish executing Quislings, Germans passing by in trucks, parties, etc.
-That night they found out the war had ended and flew back to France the next morning
War Ended (01:11:18)
-Part of the white project for Japan; went back to the U.S. first
-Went out to the west coast to California and had to wait 30 days till the planes could come in and then head out to Okinawa Bay
-While waiting, the war in Japan had ended
-Still had orders to go, but a friend that told Barrow to ignore the orders, as he had the only intact troop carrier group left, and things were too hectic
-Few days later sent to Austin, Texas for a year
-Stayed in the Air Force for 32 years, also serving in the Korean and Vietnam wars
Leonard Barrow, Jr.
Born: February 25, 1917
Retired Air Force Colonel
C-47 Pilot for the Invasion of Sicily
4104 Walnut Dr.
New Iberia, La. 70563
Interview conducted by Jason P. Theriot
I was appointed a flying cadet at Randolph Field in San Antonio on the 25th of February 1938. I started flying school in March. I spend eight months at Randolph learning to fly, then I went to Kelly Field on the other side of San Antonio for the last four months. I specialized in attack-aviation there. My starting class numbered three hundred and fifty, and roughly half finished. I was commissioned a second lieutenant in the Army Air Corps Reserve on the first of February 1939. From there I went to Barksdale Field in Shreveport. I was assigned to the 3rd Attack Group, 90th Attack Squadron. We flew the A-17A attack bomber armed with six machine guns and bomb racks..
I was on active duty, but I was still in the reserves. I flew everyday practically. I got married at Barksdale in 1940. I married the daughter of a WWI major and we are still married today.
We moved to Savannah in October 1940, because the war in Europe had broke out. While we were there we transitioned to the A-20, light bomber—the fastest bomber in the world at that time. It was equipped with a Norden Bombsight. During that period we had maneuvers in Louisiana, Tennessee, North Carolina, and Connecticut; we could see the war coming.
We were shocked, however, when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. We knew that relations with the Japanese weren’t good, but we never dreamed that they would have the audacity to pull off an operation such as they did. In retrospect it was an absolutely magnificently planned and conceived operation, and it caught us with our pants down.
When the war broke out I was a first lieutenant. My group was split up. I spent the next several months on anti-submarine patrol over the Atlantic. We would fly out about 200 miles in the Atlantic. We were poorly equipped. We didn’t even have depth charges. All we had were 500-pound bombs; you drop one of those too low, and you would blow yourself up. I saw a periscope one time; he was lined up with a United Fruit Liner between Georgia and Florida in the Atlantic. I strafed the periscope and he went down.
I was subsequently taken out of my group and was transferred to 8th Air Force headquarters in Savannah. In early June, I flew General Duncan, Commander of the 8th Air Force, up to Washington D.C. When he arrived, he was reassigned as the Chief of Staff. We flew to Fort Dix in New Jersey for subsequent deployment to England.
We went to the port of New York and we boarded the Queen Elizabeth in June 1942. We landed in Scotland a few days later. We went down to an airfield that the British called Chelveston. Later on this was a base for our B-17s. The 8th Air Force headquarters was then in downtown London. I got a phone call to report to the operations section of 8th Air Force headquarters. We stayed in London for a week or two before we moved down to Bushy Park near Hampton Court Palace. I became an operations officer for a B-17 wing in July. I had never been inside a B-17 before in my life, but nevertheless, I was an officer in of the wing that was doing the training program for them. I stayed down there for a month. I made captain in February. Somebody who had more experience with the B-17 took over, and I was sent all around various British airfields to check out training programs for our airmen. It was a wonderful experience. The British were very casual people. I got to fly the Spitfire, the Hurricane, the Beau Fighter as well as several of their bombers. I flew a couple of missions with the British later on.
The Battle of Britain had taken place in 1940; that pretty much broke the back of the German’s attempt to shoot up England at will. By the time I got there in ‘42, the German attacks were limited to nuisance attacks at night. They were sending one or two airplanes at a time to drop bombs on London, primarily at night. The heart of the British homeland defense was radar. The success was that they could spot German planes coming before they got to within earshot. Before radar, the British used these giant “ears” to amplify the sounds made by the enemy. This was the method used during World War I; but it couldn’t tell you how high, or how fast the enemy planes were going. With radar you could tell how high the enemy was, how fast they were going, and how many miles away they were. They waited until the Germans got very close, then they released the Spitfires and Hurricanes, and they came in from above [the enemy planes] to attack. The British had these air-defense-centers near the coast, and they would run the defense operations from there.
About this time, in 1942, the B-17 bombers began arriving in England, and they were flying their “freshman” missions. I was sent back to 8th Air Force headquarters. In November 1942, I was sent to a place called Saint Eval, a RAF station, to supervise the passage of the airplanes that were then going down for the invasion of North Africa. We had C-47s coming through; we had B-17s, P-38s—all American planes. I got to fly a P-38. The airplanes for the invasion flew 1,600 miles from Saint Eval to Oran. Most of the big planes—the bombers and twin-engine fighters—had auxiliary fuel tanks to make the trip. The smaller fighters, like the P-40s, were brought over on a carrier.
My father-n-law took over a troop carrier outfit. He asked me to come over. I had been wanting to get out of headquarters; I wanted to fly—the hell with this paper work! I had been promoted to major in August. Headquarters approved the move, and I was walking up to the gate back at 8th Air Force headquarters at Bushy Park, and low and behold there was an infantryman standing guard with his M-1 rifle. I walked by and he “pooped to.” And he’s grinning like a jackass eating fries. He comes to the rifle salute and I saluted him…I looked at him and it was Harold Courtois from New Iberia. I go over and I said, “Harold, what in the hell are you doing here?” He said he was in the National Guard and they had been federalized and sent to England in October. He said, “Man, you better come eat with us today.” The British food was terrible, and I hadn’t had a good meal in a long time. He said that one of the guys had killed a deer and they were cooking up some venison. You see, there was deer all over the place, and this guy was standing guard one night and he hear a noise, so he challenged…three times…no response, so he shot, and killed a deer. That was not good. Killing the King’s deer was almost as bad as making a pass at one of the princesses. So, his commander went through the channels to report this to the King, who in turn presented the deer to the mess hall. So, they had venison that day and Marion Broussard was the cook. Boy it was good!
I found out that I’m to be transferred to North Africa, but I had to find my own way. Most of the planes had already left for the invasion, but I found out that there was still about six P-38s somewhere in Ireland. So, there was a Colonel Bob Landry from New Orleans who I had known at Barksdale. He was in Fighter Command. I called him up and said, “I had heard that you were short on fighter pilots, and that you still had some planes left to go down.” I told him, “I checked out a P-38 about two weeks ago.” It was only one flight, actually, for about thirty minutes: “I’d sure like to help you out.” He said, “Oh, sure that’s what we’re looking for. We’ll cut some orders assigning you, and we’ll give you all the information you’ll need.” My airplane was in a depot in England still. I got in it and I flew it over to Ireland. I had the hell scared out of me. I’m passing over the Irish Sea, and I got challenged by a ship. They signaled, and I was supposed to respond with a red light or a green light. Well, the P-38 was different. It had a row of switches down low. I thought that I had the right button, but I didn’t. I was doing about 250 miles per hour and all of a sudden the wings start flapping. I slowed to about 180. I got close to the airfield in Ireland, Langford Lodge, and everything was normal on the plane. I come down on this airfield and landed. I check out my plane and low and behold, my landing lights were extended. They’re not supposed to be on at the speed that I was flying; that’s why the wings were flapping. I had hit the wrong button, and I gave that ship the wrong signal. Luckily he didn’t shoot me down.
So, I land in Northern Ireland and I meet up with Lt. Col. Roy Lowe from Alexandria. He was the executive officer of the 82nd Fighter Group. Most of his planes had gone, and there were a few left. He told me that he was taking off in a couple of days, and he would leave me behind to take over the remaining six planes. So, I met with those pilots, and I got to fly up a few times in the P-38, and I shot the guns. I spent the most miserable Christmas up there that year. We fixed up those planes and we flew them back down to Saint Eval. We followed a B-26 to Gibraltar—an eight-hour flight. We went through the Straits of Gibraltar and the damn Spanish open up on us from Spanish Morocco. They were neutral, but very pro-German. We continued on and landed in Oran finally. We refueled and flew out the next day to Tunisia, near Constantine—at a P-38 base. I signed off on my airplane and I went looking for Col. Lowe. I finally found somebody and they told me that he hadn’t come back from his last mission. They said that he had dropped back in formation and that was the last time anybody saw him; a German had shot him down from behind. So, I caught a ride on a French airplane to Algiers. I was a major then, and they had given me latitude with my orders. I was actually looking for a P-38 squadron, but I reported to Algiers, and then in turn, met up with my father-n-law. He assigned me to Mostagenum, near Oran. It was a former French airbase.
I reported to the troop carrier squadron there as a squadron commander, and they were training in the C-47s to drop paratroopers and to pull gliders. We were flying supplies up to Tunisia. We were there during the German breakthrough at Kasserine Pass. We were flying wounded troops back. In between flying evac and supply missions, we would train the paratroopers for the invasion of Sicily.
We eventually moved into an area in Tunisian. (Photograph of tent for the book) It was lousy; the food was canned rations. The invasion of Sicily came. We towed gliders from Tunisia to Sicily at night. We were towing British troopers in those gliders. Sicily was the first mass-attempt to use paratroopers and gliders in combat. The first night of the invasion, I led the whole group of C-47s, and I was awarded the DFC and the Air Medal for that, because I was the lead plane. The second night, I dropped British paratroopers over Mount Etna. They were both night operations; the winds were strong, the maps were not good, and the Navy shot the hell out of everybody in sight. We even got shot in the fuel tank. (Has a picture) Between those two nights, the Navy shot down about thirty C-47s—friendly fire. All of us had a lot to learn about joint-amphibious operations, and we did. I think the invasion of Normandy was a testament to that.
For the next few weeks we spent flying in and out of Sicily; hauling ammunition and taking out the wounded. I was promoted to Lt. Col. In July 1943.
Eventually, I took part in the invasion of Italy. I landed on the Salerno beachhead with supplies. We flew into the ancient city of Paestum; I saw bodies stacked up like card-wood—American bodies. It was the damndest thing that I ever saw. I flew several supply runs and transported wounded for a while. Then I was transferred to be the group executive officer. It was another pencil pushing job. After about two weeks—out of the clear blue sky—I was reassigned back to the United States. I packed up my stuff and caught a plane to Brazil and to Miami. I then reported to Indianapolis. This was October 1943. I had been overseas for a year and a half. I came home for a month on leave and spent time with my wife and family.
We were sent to Sedalia, Missouri. I had about ten or fifteen pilots, and no airplanes. Eventually we got a dozen planes. They ordered us out to Alliance, Nebraska. My god. I never saw the ground the whole time I was there. It was January of 1944, up in the hills of Nebraska, almost in Colorado, and there was nothing, I mean nothing up there. The only good thing about that place was that it was the most fabulous pheasant hunting that I’ve ever seen in my life. They were everywhere. We stayed there till March of 1944, before we were ordered to Pope Field at Fort Bragg in North Carolina. It was a nice place.
We received our contingent of sixty-four airplanes and we were training with the 13th Airborne Division, dropping paratroopers and pulling gliders. In the fall of ’44 they gave us the biggest twin-engine airplane in the world—the C-46, called the Curtis Commando.
We missed out on the invasion of D-Day, but we ended up flying overseas across the Atlantic in January 1945 to support Patton and his army. We hauled gasoline, ammunition, and evacuated the wounded for Patton. We were flying from France and into Germany. I was promoted to Colonel in March.
Then, we got a very secret mission on the sixth of May. We went over to England, picked up a bunch of British men, and flew to Copenhagen in Denmark. Copenhagen was still under German hands and they were running the airfield. The war hadn’t ended yet. We flew in. German planes were landing at the same time that we were landing; it was quite and experience. I spent the night in Copenhagen that night, and it was one of the wildest experience that I ever had in my life. Hundreds of Germans were coming by in trucks with food and what not, with their rifles. The Danish were executing the Quislings—the turncoats from Norway. We got to the hotel and these civilian-armed guards would not let us leave. Shortly after, this Mercedes drives up and this woman comes dashing out, and right behind her is this important looking man. Within moments, they opened fire on him. He was a high-ranking Quisling and they didn’t want us to get in the middle of it all. This woman had set him up. And they killed. Sometimes when you lose the war, the losers don’t fair so good.
We found out that the war had ended! We ran into some Danes that night, and we couldn’t pay for a thing; they were pumping drinks down us, really celebrating you know.
I flew to the States and ended up in California where my wife was living. I was assigned to pickup new airplanes as we were headed to Okinawa for the invasion of Japan. While I was on leave the war in Japan ended. I finally retired from the Air Force after 32 years having also served in Korea and Vietnam.
[What qualifications did you possess to get promoted to a higher rank during the war?] The number one qualification for getting a promotion is staying alive.
Interview with Lloyd Berard
Lloyd Berard; Jason Theriot; Hewitt Theriot; Mrs. Lloyd Berard
-Berard had a deferment and worked on a dredge boat in Panama
-Stationed in Morgan City and every week had to go to Lafayette for a checkup for the draft board
-decided to just join instead of waiting (1942)
-Put him on limited duty at Camp Beauregard and the officer in charge tore up the papers and got him new orders
-Camp Claiborne for basic training for 13 weeks and (physically) built up that camp as the 372nd Engineers
-assigned to the engineers because of past experience (as a tug boat captain?)
-Went to Fort Belvor, Virginia; his crew was almost as good as the 331st Engineer Regiment
-Crossed on the Queen Mary to Birmingham, England and then hitched hiked 150 miles (a week) to South Wales
-England didn’t have the resources to spare to transport them
-They were there to build concrete barges; 2 feet thick, 40 feet high, 150 feet long, 80 feet wide
-Broke big rock themselves and ground it up into concrete with the machinery
-Berard drove the dump truck with the crushed rocks to where they ground them up
-They’d have 5-6 holes in the barges with valves; a barge for either side of ship
-Once in position the valves would open and water would sink it and the ships were then able to land
-They were building these for the landing at the worst place—Omaha beach
-Used tug boats to bring the barges from South Wales to Omaha beach, took 2 ½ days
-Berard was on the position of opening a valve for one of them; they had 8 barges
-Once the barge was sunk they came to England/South Wales and waited around
-Built hospitals, schools, and churches for the English as they were being bombed all the time
-In France they did the same there; whatever was needed to be done the engineers were called, they did plumbing, carpentry work, building Niesent huts
“Mud Barges” (17:22)
-Above water the barge was 8-10 feet, it didn’t need to be above water so much as it needed to be below the water about 5 feet
-It would break the waves in the channel so the ships could land and still maneuver themselves
-Before D-Day (June 6) they brought the first barge in at the end of May to the beach
-The Germans did not think the Allied forces could land there so it was not being watched
-They pulled in right into the bank and dropped the barges and went back to England before the invasion
When Berard was hurt in February 1945 (21:43)
-They were in Briey, France building hospitals and acting as an interpreter for the army
-Berard had 2 truck drivers, 2 helpers and 2 French people to flag traffic for a flat tire on their truck
-They had a German halftrack come to help but the French didn’t know how to drive it; instead of stopping they accidently sped up
-some of the French were against them so Berard never knew who was a friend or not—they could have been inexperienced driving or purposely drove forward
-Berard starting running to the front of the truck (the one with a flat) to catch the side mirror and swing over so they didn’t run him over, but the halftrack caught him before he did that
-The halftrack was coming in slow at first and they thought it was stopping but then they sped up
-the 2 helpers were still fixing the tire and Berard and a driver were by the road
-It crushed his left foot, right hip, right hand and both arms
-he was told that he was the only one hurt and later found out the other 3 men were killed
-All 3 of these men had been with Berard since Camp Claiborne
-Going back to the States he went from England to Camp Shank, New York and then to Tennessee
Speaking French (31:58)
-In one place they were in at France, he had to go to a hardware store frequently
-Berard had become friendly to the owner and he was invited to their house for dinner sometimes
-One day on a visit to him, Berard had gotten a letter with photos of his 2 nieces and showed the man
-“And I said, in French, like I would at home, “Me chichnes.” (my lil nieces)” (the old way of saying it)
-“So he called his wife and said to me, “dis come ta dis” (say it like you said it)
-But then I tried to say it in real French. “No, no,” he said, “say it like you said it.” So he tells his wife, “They talk just like us. They speak the same patois”
(talking about the French language 35:30)
-Berard would go to the lumberyard to find pieces of wood (2x2)
-However French were on the metric system so it was more like a 3x3
-In one town a Frenchman told Berard that there was a cheese factory and as an American he could have as much cheese as he wanted but the French were rationed
-he was asked to get some cheese for the this man
-Got 10-12 blocks of cheese and the Frenchman wanted to hide the cheese; but it was Lambo cheese so it smelled
Recovery Back Home (41:40)
-Came back home on crutches and in a boot
-Had a month leave in New Orleans where he met his wife
-Most of his family was in New Orleans working in the shipyards and she was staying with his sister
-That night they threw a party for him and they danced all night long
-They danced the whole month when they could
-Went to Memphis, Tennessee and then shipped him out to Texas
-Never did get a purple heart
Talking about family history and family members (45:25)
I had a deferment from the service. I was working on a dredge boat in Panama. When the job was over I went to Morgan City. The dredging company had a yard over there in Morgan City. Every week I had to come to Lafayette for a check up with the draft board. I decided that instead of coming to Lafayette every week, I just a soon join. That was 1942.
I had asthma, so I was supposed to be a 4F. They put me on limited duty. I went to Camp Beureguard and gave the officer in charge of recruits my papers and told him, “I’m under limited service.” He said, “Yeah! Unlimited Service!” And he tore up my papers and said he would get me some new orders.
Then we went to Camp Claiborne. There were camps all over Louisiana: Beureguard, Polk, Claiborne, and Barksdale. Claiborne was probably the biggest. We took our basic training there: 13 weeks. We built that camp up, the 372nd Engineers. After 13 weeks we went to Arkansas and worked on the levee. Then, we came back to Claiborne. From there we went to repair the levee in Mississippi that had broke.
I was assigned to the engineers because of my experience before the war. When we came back from Mississippi, we went to Fort Belvor, Virginia. The 331st Engineer Regiment was the top engineers in the Army, all the way back to WWI. And we were almost as good as they were. In fact, when it came to laying mats for landing airplanes in the swamp, we beat them. So, we had a pretty good working crew.
We crossed the Atlantic on the Queen Mary. It took us nine days because there were German torpedo boats all over the ocean. We landed in Birmingham, England. We had to walk to South Wales. England was really down n out; there was no transportation. They couldn’t transport us to South Wales, so we marched. That was about 150 miles. It took us a week. We had a full field pack and a lot of equipment. At night we’d take over a little field or a little town, like as if we passed through Coteau Holmes and just took it over. Let’s face it; we had priority. But the British were glad that we had come there.
We were sent to South Wales to build these concrete barges—mud barges we called them (Code name Phoenix). They were big, bigger than a house. The thickness of the walls was a little over two feet. That thing was about 60-foot high, 150-foot long and 80-foot wide—a big block of iron rods and concrete.
We broke the rocks ourselves. We took big rocks and crushed them with our big machinery. I was driving a dump truck. They’d load me up with crushed rock and I’d go dump them where they would make the concrete.
We had five or six holes, eight inches in diameter, with valves. When you got the thing where you wanted it, you opened the valves and the water would come in and it would sink. You’d sink one here and one here where a ship could come in to be able to land. This place where we were supposed to be landing—Omaha beach—was the worst place to land.
The Germans were sure that was one place that we could not land. So they weren’t watching that place. When they decided to land there, I heard, Eisenhower asked all the other generals where was the worst place to land. And they said Normandy. They said there was no way you can land there. Well he said, “Well that’s where we landing.”
Once it was sunk the barge stood a few feet above water. Actually, you didn’t need to have it above water, just so had it sunk. It could five or ten feet below water. The ships would come in between two barges. The idea was to break the waves for the ships to come in and land. When a ship is out in the open, it can maneuver, but when it gets in close to the beach against the waves—not like coming in at the harbor in New York or the port in New Orleans—the ship becomes too big to handle.
I only went over the Channel with one of them. We built it on like a dry dock. When it was finished, we opened the valves to let water in and then we moved it by tugboat. We took it from South Wales, England to the coast of Normandy. It took us about two-and-a-half days. We got right to the beach. I was on the barge tending one of the valves to open it and sink it. I think we built about eight of them. After we sunk the barge, we came back to South Wales and passed the invasion fleet heading to the beach. We waited around in England building hospitals, schools, little churches. The British had it rough; they were bombarded everyday by the buzz bombs.
Then we crossed the Channel into Normandy. Once we got to France we built buildings and bridges and all kinds of things. Whatever needed to be done, they called the engineers to do it. Some things we couldn’t do, but we tried. We did plumbing and carpentry work and built Niesent huts to use as schools and hospitals. They still have a few Niesent huts in Shreveport, built halfway underground with grass growing over it.
We were in Briey, France, building hospitals. I was an interpreter for the army. When we were building things they needed someone who could speak the language. For instance, when I’m working, I may need 14 two-by-fours. But there are no two-by-fours in France. It’s close, but not two-by-fours. So I’d go to the hardware store and say that I needed 20 pieces like this. Their two-by-four had a measurement that was pretty close. Their two-by-four was closer to a three-by-three. So we had to figure out how to use a three-by-three. So I communicated to the man running the lumberyard.
One day we needed go to this little town about 50 miles away to pick up something and this Frenchman tells me that there is a cheese factory up there. He said, “I can only buy so much, but you can buy all you want.” Because I was an American, I could buy 20 times as much cheese as he could. I told him that I didn’t want any cheese, but he wanted me to buy some for him. I said okay. So we over there and I tell this ole Frenchman selling cheese that I needed quite a bit of that stuff; ten or twelve blocks. So I paid. This old Frenchman put the package in the top of his truck and said, “We need to hide this.” I said, “Hide it, they can smell it.” He said, “If they catch us I’ll tell them it’s for you.” I said, “Yeah, but if they want to catch us all they have to do is smell.” That was lambo cheese.
We moved along the countryside and there were these mountains. Them Yankees called them hills, but to a Cajun, I called them mountains. I didn’t speak French that well, but I could get by. I was buying some supplies from this hardware store. I became friendly with the old man who was running the place. He told me, “Any time to want to eat something and drink some wine, come to my house.” He told me where he lived and said I could come by any time. So I was leaving my barracks when the mailman came and gave me a letter. I went to this old man’s house and was sitting with him on the porch. I opened the letter and there were pictures of my two nieces. They had grown quite a bit in two years. And I said, in French, like I would at home, “Me chichnes.” [my lil nieces] So he called his wife and said to me, “dis come ta dis” [say it like you said it]. But then I tried to say it in real French. “No, no,” he said, “say it like you said it.” So he tells his wife, “They talk just like us. They speak the same patois.” I always tried to speak real French while I was there, but when I got excited, I spoke like we speak at home, which is the ancient French. This old man and his wife spoke the same way. Our French hadn’t changed much.
My mother could write French, in fact she taught school.
On February 16, 1945, I got hurt. I had two truck drivers and two helpers to help fix a flat tire. I had two French people flagging down traffic. We had given the French a captured German halftrack. Evidentially, they didn’t know how to operate that thing. So they were coming and the flagmen flagged them down. They slowed and almost stopped. But when they got a few yards away it looked like they stepped on it. I don’t think that they did it on purpose, but some of those French people were against us. They said that they weren’t used to operating the track.
So I started running towards the front of the truck with intentions of catching the side mirror and swing over the hood of the truck. But they caught me before I got to that. I figured that they might pass over my head and I had my helmet to protect me. But then I figured that the halftrack would have crushed that helmet. So it had to pass over the tire, because they tell me that the halftrack cut two of them boys into three pieces. It had to be that it passed over the wheel before it passed over me.
It crushed my left foot, my right hip, my right hand, and I broke both of my arms. The other three boys were killed. I was in a field hospital in France. I was out for a few days. This lieutenant and this captain came to see me in the hospital. I asked them how the other boys were and they said they were okay. When I got back to the States this lieutenant and I wrote to each other. He told me in a letter that three of them boys were killed. These were three guys who I knew real well. We had been together since Camp Claiborne. I guess the army didn’t want to make things worse by telling me.
From France I went to England, and then I flew to Camp Shank, New York. I stayed in a hospital overnight. The next day I came to Tennessee and stayed at a hospital there.
I came back home on crutches. I had a foot with a shoe that long. And my arm had healed up. So I went on leave for a month in New Orleans and that’s when I met my wife. I had written to her. She was living at my sister’s house while she was working in New Orleans. Almost everybody from here (Coteau Holmes) was working in the shipyards.
That night they had a party for me. And you know the Berard family likes to have parties. So I’m sitting on one side of the room and she was sitting on the other side. I asked her to come, but she didn’t want to come. So I took my crutches and walked across to her. I said, “We’ll dance.” She said, “You can’t walk.” I said, “I can’t walk, but I can dance.” So we danced, danced all night. The next day went out in town to dance. The next day—same thing. That went on the whole month. When I got back to Memphis, Tennessee, in June, the doctor said, “I don’t know what happened, but whatever you did, you did alright.” He said, “We never saw a man so broken, heal so fast.”
We got married on July 18. I never did get a purple heart.
Interview with Louis Berges
Louis Berges, Jason Theriot, Hewitt Theriot:
-Part of the rig builders in Baton Rouge in 1941
-Drafted in Baton Rouge in December 7, 1942 and then went to Camp Beauregard for training
-Went into the Air Force and was sent St. Louis, Missouri, put in the Jefferson Barracks (the worst one)
-Left in summer uniforms from Louisiana and it was cold in St. Louis; on the Mississippi River
-After training there went to Savannah, Illinois to an ordinance school
-Berges was given a choice to the next place he could go to so he went to Esler Field, the 98th Airbase, in Alexandria, Louisiana; closer to home
-Stayed there till 1944 or 1945 and then transferred to South Carolina; his wife and child came to join him in South Carolina
-Worked in ordinances at both
(7:42) Start of the War:
-Over in Florence, South Carolina and was drafted out of the Air Force to the Armored Infantry around the time of the Battle of the Bulge (1945?)
-Had to get on a troop train in Camp Beauregard to Atlanta with his wife and son with him
-Put them on another train to East Texas where she had family while he went from Atlanta back to Alexandria again
-Put on another train a few weeks later after GI training to New Jersey, Camp Kilmer, a staging place for embarkation in New York
-Was on a ship with volunteers from Monique that spoke French (Cuban Island)
-Shipped out to France, took 11 days, had all their equipment; stayed in barracks that only had hay for bedding
-Put on boxcars and eventually made it into Austria; the war ended while they were in Austria
-Was in the martyr squad and berserker, was supposed to go in as the third attack with the tanks
-When the tanks went, they went in, not always in order though and most times they went in the first attacks
-A part of the 17th Armored Battalion, 12th Armored Division in the 7th Armor
-Most of the time they were under Patton’s 3rd Armor instead
-They travelled fast along the Rhine River and on the Audubon
-Was heading to Nuremburg but missed it and ended up in Munich; drove a halftrack
-Had to wear the same clothes for days as they had nothing else; 11 men in a squad
-Berges’ job was to carry the martyr and set it up; worked with ammunition
-Set up in farms mostly
-Most German people were friendly in Austria, washed their clothes and traded with them
-Moved from town to town; in the mountains in Austria when given word that Germany had surrendered
-Sent back to Munich and then to a smaller town west, where they stayed with the locals in their houses
(24:47) Story of a prayer book Berges brought back home; trying to find the family
(33:04) Confirming dates of Berges’ draft, training, departing for Europe, fighting and being sent home:
-Earned 2 battle stars, helped him get discharged earlier than the others
-Travelling in the halftrack; injured once in Germany while coming out of the halftrack under fire—strained back
-Halftrack was blown up at one point and they lost all their clothes and other possessions inside it; replacement came in quick
-POWs they met after the war; POWs camps made after the war that they had to guard; sorting out displaced people
-Talking of those they knew that were in the war; looking at pictures
(59:00) went home on a Liberty ship in France
-Was in the 17th Armored Battalion
-Mentions about the favoritism in the Air Force and Army, certain outfits were given more credit than others because of those that were in them
(1:13:50) War was over:
-Found out before they got into Munich but knew nothing after that
-No time to celebrate and quickly had to deal with the POWs camp
-Liberty ship was nicer than the ship he went over on before
-Was under the impression that when he did come back to the states he’d rest and then head out to fight in the Pacific
-While on the ship is when the bombs were dropped; found out when they landed in New York
-Was discharged in Fort Sam Houston, Texas, close to his wife in east Texas
-Took his sister’s car with his family back to New Iberia;
-Every 5 miles the car would stop and then start up again (leak in the pipes that trapped air)
Interview with Harry Bernard
Harry Bernard, Jason Theriot, and Hewitt Theriot
-Was in school at VMI during 1941 when Pearl Harbor happened; went into the Navy
-Went to Pensacola for flight training and then Miami for further training
-Had to become a pilot before getting a commission for officer
-9 months of training
Invasion of Palau (8:25)
-Bernard’s squadron took out 25 ships and 121 Japanese planes
-Bernard was shot down and started swimming towards Hawaii (2,000 miles); submarine picked him up
-Rode the submarine for a month before getting to Hawaii
-Saw MacArthur land at Mindano, Philippines and watched them take pictures
-Took them 5 takes to get the right one
-Bernard was sitting on the beach
-Most of the boys did not like MacArthur
-They also hated the Red Cross as they wanted them to pay for their supplies
-They gave the worst materials for clothes and the everyday supplies they needed
-When the war started with Pearl Harbor, everybody wanted to join the Navy, never needed to draft them
Flew a TBM (19:27)
-Had rocket launchers
-100, 200, 500 and 2,000 lbs torpedoes
-And even a few bombs
-4 machine guns in the front and 2 on the wings
Back to the Carrier (21:00)
-Stayed on the at carrier for almost a year and half
-Flew every day; Hawaii was the only time he ever touched the ground
-Bernard rejoined his fleet and carrier in Majuro as they were secretly heading to invade Guam
-They had 4-5 big carriers; 18,000 ships in the fleet; 35 cruisers and 51 destroyers
-About a day into the trip Tokyo Rose (Japanese broadcasting) told them “We’ll be waiting for you at Guam.”
-Had a pilot, machine gun operator and radioman on his plane
-Could carry up to 15 people on his plane ferrying them onto Guam to the carriers
-Bernard’s friend was shot down on the coast of Iwo Jima; he survived
-Once was flying in Davao Bay all day long taking pictures but saw no ships
-Coming back to the States heard that MacArthur had shot down 5-6 Japanese ships in the area;
-Bernard never saw MacArthur’s air force in that area at all (looking at photos)
-Bernard’s fleet hit Manila long before MacArthur came in
-They came in with a whole line of torpedo planes
-Dr. Castro, a Filipino now living in New Iberia, watched the whole thing as a child, dive-bombers hitting the waterfront
-Bernard sunk a 10,000 ton tanker
-Flew 200 knots at 200 feet, straight as an arrow so they would run right
-They targeted gun emplacements, road junctions, and ships, whatever they could find
Revisiting being shot down (38:13)
-Was in the water for about 12 hours before being picked up
-Started swimming to Hawaii but he knew he was never was going to make it
-Gave his lifejacket to a crewman who he lost
-The life rafts were dropped but once it inflated it flew away and they didn’t try to go after them
-3 people on the plane but Bernard was the only one to have survived
-They all got out for the plane; one of the men couldn’t swim and drowned immediately
-He had nothing and was stuck swimming/treading water that whole time
-Did not know if anyone was going to come find him;
-There were other planes above him but never knew if anyone had seen them
Manila and the end of the war (44:00)
-Manila was Bernard’s last engagement
-They were brought back to the States on a jeep carrier
-Landed in San Francisco and was reassigned to Atlantic City
-Received the DSC medal and almost refused it
-Later on sent to Boston to fly fighters
-They were to head back to Japan on another carrier group
-Then after V-J Day and they were told those that had families, enough points in the system, time put in to the service or the DSC medal and higher were to go home
-Bernard was sent home the next day
-Drove all the way back to New Iberia
Avenger Torpedo Bomber pilot
I entered the service in late 1941. I was in school at VMI during Pearl Harbor. I joined the Navy. I went to Pensacola Florida for flight training. I went to Miami for further flight training after that. You had to become a pilot before you became an officer. My flight training lasted about 9 months. I trained with all the navy planes: N2N's, N3N's, Steersmen's, SNJ's, 0S2U's, Bruster Buffalo's, TBD's, and TBM's.
Our squadron, Torpedo II, was organized at Quonset Point south of Rhode Island. From there we went to the West Coast and boarded a carrier. We were on the USS Hornet, the second one. And we went to Hawaii.
On a carrier we had a bomber squadron, a torpedo squadron, and a fighter squadron. We had 30 fighter planes, 18 torpedo bombers, and about 18 dive-bombers.
We took part in the invasion of Palau (September 1943). Our squadron sunk 25 ships and knocked down 121 Japanese planes in that invasion. I was flying a TBM. I got my ass shot off there. My plane was shot down by antiaircraft. I hit the water and started swimming to Hawaii 2,000 miles away. When we crashed in the water, I undid my strap and got out. All three of us got out, but one guy couldn't swim. I was in the water for about 12 hours. I had nothing. I gave my lifejacket to a crewman, who I lost. The rescue planes would drop us life rafts, and as soon as they (rafts) would hit the water, they would inflate and blow away. I'm the only one that survived. The other two died, that was two too many. A submarine picked me up- USS Gar. I rode in that submarine for a month, till we got to Hawaii.
When I finally got to Hawaii, I tried to borrow some money and clothes.
I got back on the carrier and the issued me another plane. On a TBM we had rocket-launchers. We carried 100, 200, 500, and 2,000 lb. torpedoes and bombs. I had a machine gun in the back and two on the wings. It was a three-man crew: a pilot, a machine gunner, and a radioman. We had enough fuel to fly about 5 hours. We'd go back to the carrier, refuel and rearm, and take off again. We did this all day long. I stayed on that carrier for a year and a half. It was my home. My feet never touched the ground except when I went to Hawaii after I was shot down.
Our fleet left out of Majuro. We were 4 carriers with battleships and cruisers. We were secretly headed to Guam, to invade Guam. About a day or two into the trip, Tokyo Rose came on and told us where we were going. She said, "We'll be waiting for you at Guam."
So we invaded Guam (July 1944). There were a bunch of Japs and an airfield on Guam. We bombed the little towns and I took pictures of it. I flew a bunch of men from Guam to a carrier to get some ice cream one time. I fit about 15 men in that plane that day.
We hit Manila Bay way before MacArthur thought about coming back there. I was 22 at the time. Here is a picture of the ship that I sunk. I kept a camera on board. They wanted us to take pictures; we did what the told us to do. We used these pictures to find the spots that we wanted to hit. We targeted gun emplacements, road junctions, and ships, whatever we could find.
We came in with a whole line of torpedo planes from two ships. We hit the waterfront in Manila (He has a picture of the bay). The fighters hit Clark Field. Dr. Castro, the Filipino, in New Iberia was sitting right here watching the dive-bombers hit the waterfront. We came in and sunk all these damn ships. I got me a 10,000-ton tanker. I put a torpedo on him. I was flying 200 knots at 200 feet. You have to fly as straight as an arrow so your torpedo will run right. Castro was just a young boy. He told me years later that he watched the whole thing.
I watched MacArthur land ashore at Mindano in (October) 1944 (Philippines). I was sitting right there on the beach watching him do it. They were taking pictures of him land there. It took him five takes to get it right. Most of the boys didn't favor him much.
I had read a report that MacArthur's airforce had sunk 5 Japanese ships in Davao Bay, south of Mindanao. I was flying that area all day long that day and took pictures. I didn't see any ships. MacArthur's airforce was not flying in that area. These were falsified reports.
My friend got shot down off the coast of Iwo Jima. We were flying along with the fighters, and we were ordered to pick up any men who got shot down.
Our torpedoes weren't worth a shit at the beginning of the war. The Japanese had better torpedo's that we did. We got better equipment as the war went on.
After my last engagement in Manila I was sent back to the states. We came over on a jeep carrier. We landed in Frisco and I got reassigned to Atlantic City. I got my medal. It finally caught up with me, and I almost refused it. (What medal was that?) The DSC (Distinguish Service Cross). This skipper talked me into it, into accepting it.
I was sent to Boston to fly fighters. We had another carrier group together with nothing but fighters and we were headed to Japan. We had F6's, but we were getting F8's. Then V-J came. They started sending people home. If you had some points, you could go home first, or if you won the DSC. I was out the next day. I drove my car home.
Interview with Cecilia Beyte
Cecilia “Mac” Beyte, Jason Theriot, and Hewitt Theriot
-The day the U.S. declared war Beyte was working at a bank in New York; that week she signed up for the Red Cross
-Had an interview and went to D.C to have training, which was supposed to be 6 months but after one week she was in San Francisco being sent out overseas
-After 3 days on the ship they finally told them where they were going: Auckland, New Zealand
-It was completely over run by American soldiers
-New Zealand had been fighting for the last 3 years so their men were gone, just the elderly, women and children were left
-When those men fighting in the war did come back they found their women had not been faithful and there were more children now that were not theirs, lots of tension later on
-New Zealand had been fighting in Egypt, Italy and Africa
-They landed in June 1943
-Travelling by ship, the “Matzoonie,” she was so fast they did not send her in a convoy
-It was more of a passenger ship but converted into a troop ship
-There were serval nurses, the Red Cross group of 16 and 5,000 troops
-The ship made good time as it zigged zagged a lot
-When they reached the equator they stopped to have an initiation for them (Red Cross)
-Few days later they went through a hurricane
-While on New Zealand Beyte was assigned as a recreation worker at the hospital
-There was 3 ships, known as the Unholy Trinity, which would take men from all over to battle and bring back the injured to New Zealand
-They would go on the ships to take care of the men before dropping them off on New Zealand; Beyte was never on a hospital ship
-They stayed more on the north island of New Zealand and there was thousands of men
-Always building barracks for the men and women; New Zealand did provide some food, lots of mutton
Stayed at Auckland for 5-6 months (16:10)
-Left when Eleanor Roosevelt came to Wellington to speak and Beyte was picked to be her escort; she never actually got to speak with her
-Beyte was put up in a nice hotel with a few other service women and men
-Mrs. Roosevelt was there to be a morale booster for the troops
-When Mrs. Roosevelt left, Beyte stayed on at the hotel as no one told her to go or where to go afterwards
-Did some sightseeing and worked at the hospital
-One night Beyte came back to the hotel after helping out with a dance for the Red Cross, all her things were packed and put outside;
-she was supposed to have left with Mrs. Roosevelt
-They let her sleep on the couch as it was 2 in the morning by then
-Next day her supervisor sent her to the Navy hospital in Silver Stream, Base 4
-That’s where she met her husband, Johnny (“Putsey”) who was a dentist for the Navy (Louisianaian)
-They began dating but he had a fiancée already in California (the last place he had been stationed)
The war was moving closer to Japan (25:36)
-So troops and people were moving and the hospital and Base 4 was closed
-Beyte went back to Auckland and Johnny was shipped to Nuemea in New Caledonia
-Eventually Beyte’s rest area in Auckland was closed and she was transferred to Nuemea
-At that time Johnny asked Beyte to marry him but she hadn’t finished up her year of service in the Red Cross
-As it wasn’t like the the army, the Red Cross did not have a strict policy on them for staying the full year or even staying on longer; many girls never finished a year but Beyte wanted too
"Question: How did these ladies manage to get back home? They were not military or did any battle time so no one had to respect them and send them home right away" (28:26)
-All depended on where they were stationed as to how they were treated
-In New Zealand they were told that they were under the same rules and code of conduct of the nurses;
-Like dating an enlisted man could get you sent home
End of service (32:20)
-Beyte’s year was up around the same time as Johnny’s tour was too
-Red Cross gave them a vacation and then would allow them to sign back up again
-Johnny was going back first so Beyte told him to talk to the girl he was engaged to and they would see how things went from there
-Landed in San Francisco and went to D.C to hand in her resignation
-From there she went to visit her parents in New York and then got on a train to New Orleans to get married
-Beyte had wrote and told her father about Johnny and how she was in love
-he wrote back to her about that she should give serious thought to the marriage and her going to Louisiana to live with him
-Moved to St. Martinsville with her husband Johnny after their honeymoon in New Orleans
Cuts into silence (43:16)
Stories from Working in the Red Cross (44:34)
-When stationed at Silver Stream that was when Beyte saw the truly bad injuries of the war
-They were always trying to find things for the men to do
-Men that couldn’t write thanks to their injuries were left to the girls’ care to write for them
One man that came couldn’t speak at all as all of sudden he was paralyzed, and no one knew why (48:32)
-They would talk to him but he made no sign if he heard anything and one day all his belongings came in and they found out his name and letters that his family had written to him
-he was a young Jewish boy named Pack
-Beyte read the letters to him and he began crying so they knew he hear them
-eventually a ship came that was heading back to San Francisco and he was able to get on it
-She wrote to his mother to let her know that he was coming home
-when Beyte got back to the States the mother had written her to say that Pack had had a brain tumor and died a few days after he got home
At Home (54:53)
-Got home and married all in 2 weeks’ time
-Johnny had 2 weeks leave and everyday they’d go and see if he had gotten his orders; their hope was he would be stationed in California
-Eventually his orders came in he was being sent to Algiers (Louisiana); Beyte at the time thought he meant a place overseas before someone told her
-They were living there when the war ended
-They were playing golf (around 11:00) when the news came and the church bells began ringing; whistles blew and the horns on the boats were going off
-Then they came back to St. Martinsville as they couldn’t find any place to live in New Iberia
-Johnny had had his practice in New Iberia so he wanted to go back there
Life after the war and living in New Iberia (1:05:00)
-Looking for a house
-Where they did live; their neighbors
-Starting a family
-Living in New Iberia
Cecilia MacDerment Beyte
Born: March 11, 1918
Red Cross Volunteer- New Zealand
The day we declared war I was working at a bank in New York. That week I went to see the president of the bank and he was associated with the Red Cross and I asked him if he would recommend me to join the Red Cross. And he did.
I wrote to them (Red Cross) and interviewed with them and the next thing I knew I was in Washington DC at their headquarters. I remember going there and getting my uniform and I was very proud to wear my Red Cross uniform. Ideally we would have three to six-months of training. One week later I was in San Francisco. I was headed overseas. We were at sea for three days before they let us know where we were going. We were headed to New Zealand. We went over on the Matzoonie. We were 16 girls in our group with about 5,000 troops on board. We stopped at the equator for the initiation. It was fun. We ran into a hurricane a few days later. I was lucky because I never got seasick.
I ended up in Auckland New Zealand about June of 1942 (1943?). This was less than a month after I had joined the Red Cross. Auckland was completely over-run with Army, Navy, and Marine Americans. The New Zealander's had been at war for over three years in Egypt and Africa. Their mother country is England, so when war was declared New Zealand and Australia went to war. They were fighting the Germans way before we did. It was sad because there were no (native) men in that country. It was sad too because when the men returned from the war they found out that there were a lot of children not spawn from them. Their wives and girlfriends had not been too faithful.
It is the most beautiful country. The north island is tropical, but the south island is glacier and snow covered mountains. It's the last stop before the South Pole.
I was a recreation worker assigned to the hospital. When the GI's would get wounded they would bring them there it get treated and rest up. I stayed there for about 5 or 6 months.
I left Auckland because Eleanor Roosevelt came to speak at Wellington. And she needed an escort, so I was chosen to go to Wellington with Mrs. Roosevelt, whom I never really got to speak to, but anyhow they sent me there. They put me up in a hotel in Wellington. It was really nice. She was charming and so homely. (She was there to boost moral among the troops.) That was her supporting role. I was in her company for a few weeks. I was really just a tag along. After she left, I stayed at that hotel and really enjoyed myself. Nobody told to leave so I stayed there for a while. I had a wonderful time.
While I was down there I was working at the hospital. I would go and do my hours and then tag along with Mrs. Roosevelt. After she had left I came back to my room late one night after helping out at a dance that the Red Cross had put on, and all of my bags were packed and waiting outside. They told me that I was supposed to have left with Mrs. Roosevelt. Well this was two o'clock in the morning. They let me sleep on a sofa in the lobby, so I did. The next day I got in touch with my supervisor and they sent me to Silver Stream. There was a Navy hospital. It was a beautiful place on this golf course. That's where I met my husband, Putsey.
He was a dentist in the Navy. We met and started dating, but he was engaged to a girl in California. The war was moving along and troops were moving up and people were getting transferred. They closed down this hospital and sent me back to Auckland. Johnny was shipped to an island-Nuemea in New Caledonia. Some time later I was transferred and they sent me to Nuemea. He always said that I chased him all over the South Pacific.
He had asked me to marry him, but I hadn't finished my year in the Red Cross. A lot of girls left before their year was up, but I decided to stay.
From day one we were told that we would be under the rules and code of conduct that a nurse had to follow. Rule number one was that we couldn't date enlisted men. If you did you could get in trouble.
In Nuemia there were dances on Friday and Saturday night with an orchestra. I was dating John then, but I did not know that his nickname was Putsey till after we got from the war. I was 23 and I can't imagine that I would have married a Putsey!
Well my year was up and his tour was ending right at the same time. We were both going home around the same time. He was going home first so I told him, "You better go and tell that girl you are engaged to that you asked me to marry you. And we'll see how it works from there."
I had written a letter to my father, and told him about John, and I told him that I was in love. He wrote me back, and I still have that letter, giving the mean temperature of southern Louisiana, the population as to black and white, and all about the culture down here. He told me that I should really give serious thought to this marriage.
Before I left to go overseas there was a girlfriend of mine who had joined the Red Cross with me. She caught the measles right before we left so she didn't make it with us. Well when I get back to Washington I ran into her. Come to find out she went to India and had got married to an enlisted man. They were less restricted than we were. Come to find out she had married a man from Lake Charles, and so I told that I was glad to hear that because I was moving to a place called St. Martinsville which I knew was near Lake Charles. She said, "Well you can go to St. Martinsville, but I'm never going back to Lake Charles." She said, "If you think India was hot, and you think India was rainy…" She said, "No way am I going to live in Lake Charles Louisiana, thank god he is going to move to Connecticut." So I'm thinking, "Oh Lord, what am I getting into?"
So I got home and landed in San Francisco. That's when I found out that his nickname was Putsey. He had been waiting for me. So I came to DC and gave them my resignation and went and visited my parents in New York, got on a train and came to New Orleans and got married.
At that hospital in Silverstream they had a patient, a marine that everybody was talking about. They were saying he was a hero, he was this, he was that, and come to find out it was Walter McHelhenney.
After we were married Putsey took me out one night in St. Martinsville to the old Hill Top Club and we were sitting at this bar and Sheriff Hebert walked up and Putsey introduced us and he said, "She's a Yankee." This darling little man said, "May sha that's OK, we gonna absorb you." I'll never forget that.
While I was in Auckland I was doing real recreation work; arranging for dances, arranging for trips for the men, arranging sight seeing, making sure they were entertained. I didn't see the real side of the war until I went to the hospital in Silverstream. A lot of the wounded had come from the neighboring islands: Guadalcanal and the Russell Islands.
One of our jobs was to write letters home for the wounded GI's who couldn't. There was this one young man there who couldn't speak at all. He was on an island when all of sudden he had gotten paralyzed. So they sent him to New Zealand. I went to visit him everyday, to see how he was doing, but you really couldn't tell if anything was getting through to him or not. His belongings finally caught up with him at the hospital. We found out that he was a young Jewish boy from New York City. When he arrived at the hospital, of course all these letters arrived from his family, his mom and dad. So I would read the letters to him, and tears would come down his face, so we knew he could hear us. Finally a ship came in and was taking some of the wounded back to the states and when he found out he was going home he let out a great big yell. And that was the first thing he said or done in many weeks. His last name was Pack.
The skipper of the ship told me I could find his mother; and I had been reading her letters to him. So I wrote her and told her what had happened and that he was coming home. So she came all the way from New York to San Francisco to meet him when he got off the ship. After I got back to the states she wrote me and thanked me and told me she was able to see him just before he died. He had a brain tumor and died a few days after he got back.
After I got back and resigned my mother and I went to New Orleans and Putsey and I were married there during his two-week leave. The war was still going on then. Everyday for two-weeks we would go to see if his orders had come in. Finally they came in and when he read his orders he said, "Damn." I got worried, and said, "Where are they sending you?" He said, "They are sending me to Algiers." Well I burst into tears, you don't think I knew that Algiers was across the river in New Orleans. They finally told me where Algiers was. But he was disappointed; he wanted to go back to California. So we lived on St. Charles Ave. until the war ended. I was playing golf that day and all of the church bells in city started ringing, and we said, "Oh my God the war is over." It was really exciting. But I hope we never have another one.
And then we moved here to New Iberia. His practice was on Church Alley and we lived in the brick apartment across the street from Delahouse's Restaurant (Corner of Lewis St. and Main St.) We lived upstairs from the Mestayer's Brothers grocery store.
Interview with Raymond Bienvenu
Raymond “Eboo” Bienvenu: Jason Theriot
(Eboo means swamp owl in French)
-Bienvenu was getting ready to graduate from high school at age 17 and decided to cut classes to go to Lafayette to sign up as a volunteer for pilot training in the Army Air Corps
-They decided to take Bienvenu but he was under age and unless his father signed a minor release he had to wait till he turned 18
-took the form and had Borden’s ice cream (near UL/SLI campus) before forging his father’s name on the form
-Once graduated Bienvenu was sent to Denver, Colorado for basic training; but there was already too many pilots for assignments
-They told him that if he wanted to fly he should try for bombardier or navigator; chose bombardier and went to Madison, Wisconsin
-Had a crash program on electrical, mathematics and astrology; became a navigator instead, a crude way without radar
-Got on a converted luxury ship in New York with 7,000 men, double loaded—half day above other half in beds
-No convoy or escort; headed up towards Iceland where they were hit by a big storm and German intelligence reported that their ship had sunk
-What really happened: they left New York on the “USS Washington” and while at sea some sailors repainted the name to “Mount Vernon” to confuse the Germans (which it did)
-Most of the British men were fighting in North Africa or the Pacific trying to save their Empire; no men but Americans in England
Troop Carrier Group (6:30)
-Bienvenu had joined as a replacement of a troop transport squadron, the 75th Squadron of the 313th Troop Carrier Group; hauled paratroopers and gliders
-When attacking, they never went far back into the enemy lines; always left in the dark
-Left England at night and at day break hit their targets and then tried to get to the English Channel; everything wide open
-All the good navigators were in the Pacific; if they lost an island then they’d run out of fuel and crash—had to find your own way there
-Bienvenu dealt with dead reckoning, triangulation and crude radar from the British
-Flew mostly C-47s and gliders; 3 missions on B-25s
-Had to wear sheepskin suits and a leather helmet
-On D-Day Bienvenu flew a diversion; dropped paratroopers that night before in Belgium to trick the Germans on where they were trying to land; most probably were captured or killed
-Dropped the 101st and the 82nd Airborne that night
-Never did get the results of the diversion
-Gliders were suicidal
-When the war ended the gliders were discontinued altogether
-Gliders were assembled in about a half-hour
-Cloth over aluminum tubing; fuselage had only 6 bolts
Rhine River (17:11)
-Really took a beating at the Rhine River near Wessell, Germany
-Germans were holding them off so they couldn’t cross the river
-Flew C-47s to the front, small enough to land in a pasture, and pick up the wounded and went back to England
-Germans would pick them off in counter attacks when they came in
-Poorly equipped in defending themselves; they (Bienvenu) were given very little to use to fight with
-They were at an old German airfield that they had bombed before
-Took cover in a shell hole and Bienvenu only had a .45 pistol; just best thing to do was stay quiet
-An older British soldier came up to them to help them; several incidents like that where they would get caught in the fighting and had to defend themselves
-Once flying over Wessell, they were hit and went into a bank and plowed into a potato field; had a busted nose but no deaths
-Troops found them and pulled them out and gave them rifles to defend themselves as they went back
German Airfields (21:40)
-Another time they left England was to go to an abandoned German airfield in France
-They were just going to take over this little field; it was rough
-They knew how far the Germans could fly before doubling back to the base to refuel; figured that the nearest base was too far for the Germans to come out to them
-So no one was watching and a FW 190 comes out and takes a few of their planes down
-They had no clue where that plane came from, figured there was a secret base somewhere but never did find it
-Later on they noticed that the Germans would use a JU 88 to haul a FW 190 and then cut it loose so it could fly father out but still have enough fuel to make the trip back to the base later
-What really beat the Germans were the Russians; all the best German fighters were on the Russian front
-Towards the end of the war, they began running into young soldiers that had just been drafted
-In the Pacific the Japanese were suicidal in their attacks which made it harder, at least these young Germans were cowards and did not want to die any more than they did
France and Speaking French (25:14)
-The French hated the Americans
-When the Germans took over they hardly killed anyone; Americans probably killed more French people than the Germans did
-Eisenhower told them to not come back with their bombs; had to unload them somewhere
-Flying over little towns, they’d just drop the bombs; “we killed a lot of Frenchmen”
-Spoke a little bit of French, just enough to get by
-In Mons near the Belgium border, wounded men and troops went by train back to Paris to recover or have time off
-Bienvenu went there a few times to fix antennas on the Eiffel Tower for navigational purposes; hated it as it would move with the wind the further up you went
-On one trip back it was cold and they had stopped at this one station and there was 3 Frenchmen and a potbelly stove in the station house
-The commanding officer asked if anyone could speak French so they could ask the Frenchmen in the troops could go in single file to warm themselves up for a bit;
-Bienvenu went in and asked and they told him no
-The officer sprayed the building with a Thomas machine gun and burned the train station to ground
-“Eisenhower said, “If you need something, then take it. If somebody gets in your way, then shoot’ um.” There might have been better moments, but from what I saw it was bad.”
Coming Home (33:40)
-Went over as a replacement for a squadron in North Africa
-They had orders if you could not make it back (to England or Africa) then land in Zurich, Switzerland
-The Swiss were neutral but they were pro-German until the end of the war when it became clear that the Allied forces were winning
-The Swiss at the end of the war said they’d take so many old combat troops as guests of the Swiss government; Bienvenu’s squadron had been there for a while and so they picked him
-They were put up in a fancy hotel and they could eat whatever they wanted for 6 weeks
-They were given the choices of touring the castles of Switzerland or go up into the mountains
-Bienvenu went to Omnimount to take up skiing lessons; could see 4 countries from the top
-After the 6 weeks Bienvenu had enough combat points and came home
-Got back to New York and sent on a troop train to Camp Shelby in Mississippi where he was discharged
-On the GI Bill he went to LSU and graduated in electrical engineering; got married
-First job was in upstate New York for 6 years; it was the pits
-Came back home but never did work in St. Martinville, always out of town
-Fought in the war for almost 4 years and toured 11 countries
Raymond “Eboo” Bienvenu (“Eboo” is a French name for a swamp owl)
St. Martinville, LA
Born: October 22, 1925
75th Squadron/313th Troop Carrier Group
When I was seventeen-and-a-half getting ready to graduate from high school, I needed a way to get out of this part of the country. I had never been anywhere before. So about a month before graduation, I cut classes and went to Lafayette to volunteer for the pilot training with the Army Air Corps. I went down and took all the test: physicals, IQ’s and all of that. I remember being in a room where they had given us a bunch of numbers to add up. So I was concentrating on my numbers when somebody from in back of the room fired off a shotgun with a blank in it. Everybody else jumped; I kept on adding. It scared the hell out of me, but I kept concentrating on my numbers.
They decided to take me, but they said, “Well you’re only seventeen-and-a-half, so you have to wait until you turn 18, unless your father signs a minor release.” I said, “Well give me the form because my dad is working in Lafayette.” I remember going by the UL—SLI back then—campus and Borden’s had an ice cream place right near there. I knew that so I went by and got myself a banana split. I waited just a little while then I forged my daddy’s name and went back and said that my daddy had signed it.
As soon as I graduated, they took me. I was seventeen-and-a-half.
I got on a train in New Orleans and they sent me to Denver, Colorado for basic. We went through basic, but when they started getting towards our assignments, they told me that I had signed up to be a pilot, but they had more pilots than they knew what do with. They said if you want to fly you’d better try for navigator or bombardier. I thought, Bombardier? Well, what would you do with that after the war, assuming that you make it? So I decided to train for navigator (3:46). They sent me to Madison, Wisconsin, the University of Wisconsin. They had a crash program on electrical, mathematics, and astrology. Anyway, I became a navigator. But it was crude; they didn’t have much radar in those days. It was a crude way of navigating, but you could get to where you were going.
I ended up getting on a ship in New York in the early part of ‘44. It was a converted luxury ship and there were seven thousand of us on it. We were doubled loaded—half the day you were on the deck, the other half you could to the bunks below. That was a mess. We took off without convoy escort and zigzagged across the north Atlantic toward Iceland. When we got off of Iceland there was big storm and the German intelligence reported that our ship had sunk with all the troops aboard. Anyway, we left New York City on the USS Washington. But while at sea, to fool the Germans to think that we had sunk, some sailors climbed over the side and painted the name out and they called the ship the Mount Vernon. So we left from New York on the Washington and landed in Liverpool, England on the Mount Vernon.
Most of the British were fighting in North Africa against Rommell or fighting in the Pacific trying to save the British Empire, so there were no men. We were it! They had so many of us in England we almost sank that damn island.
I went over as a replacement with a squadron that had been in North Africa. I was part of a troop transport squadron: the 75th Squadron of the 313th Troop Carrier Group. We hauled gliders and paratroops. That was something. We had C-47s that could land anywhere. Each one would pull two gliders. They’d send them in crates and we’d assemble them. The pilots who trained to fly those hardly had any experience at all. They’d carry seven men plus equipment in each glider. They had skids that landed on the ground then the nose would pop up and everybody would run out. Oh Lord man, to get off the ground, we couldn’t afford to get a jerk. We had to get them all in a line and some of us in the last plane would have to get out and push the gliders, like pushing a car to start it. That’s how crude it was. That was rough getting up there pulling two gliders fully loaded. Then again, they couldn’t swing so they insisted that we use brand new nylon rope, about an inch, and it would stretch. So the pilot of the glider could disconnect if something went wrong or the C-47 pilot could let them both go. Then they were on their own. It was rough. But once you got airborne, with one in back of the other, one a little longer than the other, so if they criss-crossed they wouldn’t hit each other.
When we’d hit a target we never went far back behind enemy lines, but enough to do the job. We hauled paratroopers and gliders. Paratroopers were okay; they’d bail out then they were on their own and we’d head back. We always left in the dark. We had a free ride into the target area, but at daybreak we caught hell and fought our way back to the English Channel to get back to England. We left at night and hit our target at daybreak. The planes weren’t pressurized and everything was just wide open.
All of the good navigators were in the Pacific where you had to find your way. If you lose an island, you gonna run out of fuel and crash in the sea. They needed somebody who could really navigate to those islands. Our navigation was with dead reckoning, triangulation, and crude radar from the British.
I flew three missions on B-25s and several on gliders. We used to have to wear sheepskin suites that fit over your shoes. We wore a leather helmet.
On D-Day we flew a diversion. The night before we dropped some paratroopers in Belgium to trick the Germans into thinking that we were landing further north. Those paratroopers probably got captured or shot or something. We dropped 82nd Airborne that night. The gliders were suicidal. The Germans had built these posts in the ground and we couldn’t see them from the air. Man, when the gliders hit, it was a blood bath. Many of them were whipped out.
The gliders would come in on crates. We’d assemble one in about a half-hour. They were nothing, really, just cloth cover and aluminum tubing. There were control cables or pulleys that were used to tow the gliders. When you pulled out the fuselage all they had were six bolts. It was crude.
We flew three planes abreast, low, each towing two glides, with seven men and equipment in each glider. They were peppering us with ground fire and we didn’t have anything to protect ourselves. There were bullet holes in the planes, and it look like a pencil hole. All of our planes took on small arms fire from the ground. Once in awhile they’d get lucky and hit somebody in the plane.
The Germans had good anti-aircraft. And once we got higher, the German airplanes, the Meshersmit 109, would attack us. That was a good one. It was comparable to our P-51 Mustang. They also had a stub-nosed plane, called the FW 190. That was a gun platform with a plane built around it. They used that for strafing; they could hit a truck and turn it over.
They were all mostly low level missions. Get in and get your ass out!
We really took a beating later on when we were caught at the Rhine River near Wessell, Germany. The Germans were holding off so we couldn’t cross the Rhine. We had a stand off and couldn’t get across for a while. There was a lot of artillery up there. See, in a C-47 we used to fly right up to the front, land, and pick up wounded to bring them back to England. We’d land and stay there for a while. You could land a C-47 in a pasture. That was a mule.
Often times we’d land on a captured German airfield and a few times these Germans counterattacked. This one time over Wessell we got hit flying over the area. We couldn’t bail out because we were too low. We just went into a bank and we landed back on our side and plowed up a potato field. I was holding on to my chair and hit a bulkhead in front of me behind the co-pilot and busted up my nose. We were all banged up and we were all right. Our soldiers pulled us out of the plane and we were given rifles. We defended ourselves as best we could. We got some help and our troops finally pushed the Germans back. But for a while it was touch-n-go, those Germans attacked and man they were tough.
We were a bunch of us together and those Germans were all over, bullets flying all over. We had bombed that place before. It was a German airfield, so these Germans knew where it was, because they had built it. Six of us jumped in a shell hole where we had dropped a bomb. All I had was .45-caliber pistol. I told them that the best thing to do was to keep quiet. All the Germans had to do was drop a grenade in that hole and we are all gone. So we heard some running and this ole timer, an old British soldier—he looked like hell—came running up to us. He looked around at us and said, “Hey Yank. You guys look scared.” We said, “You damn right we scared!” He said, “Not to worry lads. When it gets too rough for you, Mother England will take you back into the fold.” I thought that I’d remember that for the rest of my life. Those British soldiers were something else. They were some brave son of a guns.
There were three separate incidents like that, at least, were we caught in the fighting and had to defend ourselves. But our infantry came up and pushed the Germans back each time. One time there was a German pillbox, which was probably a field headquarters. The Germans had left, I guess, and when I went inside there was souverniers all over the place. There were flags and guns and all kind of stuff and I took a few. I lost them all before I came home.
One time we left England and were going to this deserted German airfield. We knew about how far their airplanes were from us and how far their planes could fly. So here comes this one FW 190 and it made a strafing run, knocking out a couple of our planes. There was this old Frenchman who had been picking up our garbage and he had an old
jackass. He used him to pull his cart around. Well when this FW 190 made a pass that jackass was on the ground kicking and our cooks went out and cut the back legs off. They made steaks out it. That was the toughest damn meat I ever had; like chewing on rubber.
But the whole damn thing is that we were worried about where in the hell that FW 190 came from. We didn’t know if there was a secret base or what, but they never found it. Later on we took over this one place and the Germans had a plane called a JU 88, a Junkers 88. It was a three-engine bomber: one on the nose and one on each side. They found one on the ground that had a FW190 strapped on top. The JU 88 would get airborne with a FW 190 strapped on it, fly to an area, then cut itself loose, and then the FW 190 had enough fuel to get back. They were pretty smart people.
What beat those Germans most were the Russians. They were all tied up on the Russian front. Germany’s best people were tied up on that front and the Russians ate their lunch. What we ran into when we got towards the end were young soldiers who had just been drafted. But we were all just children on both sides. They didn’t want to die anymore than we did.
It must have been a bitch in the Pacific with those Japanese suicidal attacks. If I’m in a war, I’d much rather face a coward than a religious fanatic.
The French hated our guts. When the Germans invaded France they went around the Maginot Line and France surrendered. I don’t think the Germans hardly killed any French people at all. But we did. We killed more Frenchmen than the Germans did. Eisenhower said don’t come back with your bombs. Bombs don’t discriminate. That got to me later on because I flew a few missions on a B-25 and I’d look down at the little towns, as we’d bomb them. We killed a lot of Frenchmen.
When the Germans took over France they sent a lot of the men off to labor camps and had all the women for themselves. Then, when we got there we had all the French women. By the time the war ended, I doubt that there was virgin in France over 13. That’s how bad it was.
Towards the end of the war, we were in this little village in France and there was like a town square where everybody would meet. Well there was a platform and these older women would bring up one of the younger girls who had been with a German. They would sit her down in a chair and in front of everybody they would shave her head bald, strip her down buck naked, make her walk out of town and tell her not to come back. That was a sight.
We were in a town called Mons, right on the Belgian border. They were sending troops on a troop train to Paris to rest and sending fresh troops back to the line. I had gone a couple of times for different reasons. I used to go up the Elfle Tower to fix antennas for navigation purposes. I hated climbing that tower because it would move in the wind. Anyhow, I got on this troop train headed to Paris with a rough bunch of soldiers. Man they had been through hell. Well we got side tracked. So we stopped at this train station. It was cold as hell; I’ll remember that. We went inside this train station and there was a big potbelly stove with three Frenchmen manning the train station. That stove was red hot, but it was cold, cold. This major with his Thompson machine gun asked if any of us spoke French. I said that I did and he told me to go in there and ask the Frenchmen if his men could come in there, single file, and warm their hands up on that stove. So I went in and they said “no.” I went back and told that major, “They said no.” He said, “What?” I said, “They said ‘no.’” He sprayed the building with his machine gun and boy those Frenchmen took off running. He turned to his troops and said, “Burn it!” We set the building on fire, burned it to the ground, and the Frenchmen were screaming at us. Those boys weren’t take shit from nobody. They had had enough.
Eisenhower said, “If you need something, then take it. If somebody gets in your way, then shoot’ um.” There might have been better moments, but from what I saw it was bad.
We had orders that if our plane was shot up and couldn’t make it back we should land in Zurich, Switzerland. The Swiss were pro-German. The Germans had been putting all their money and gold in the Swiss banks. But towards the end they switched sides because they knew that we were going to win the war. At the end of the war, the Swiss said that they would take so many old combat troops as guest of the Swiss government. My squadron had been there a along time so they picked us.
We went to the big fancy hotel in Zurich where the kings and queens used to go. They said we could order anything that we wanted to eat. The menu was in German. I recognized one thing: beef steak bijarskie. I thought, That couldn’t be bad. It was stewed meatballs. Everybody was getting good steaks and I had stewed meatballs.
Anyhow, I went up to Omnimount to take up skiing lessons. Can you image that, a boy from Louisiana? We went to the top of this mountain where there was a restaurant and you could see four countries with the naked eye. We skied back down. That was something. The thing that got me the most was after living in tents and what not we slept in goose-down mattresses and blankets. Damn that was nice. Comfortable and warm. I never slept so good in all my life in that little town. That was six weeks.
I got back to New York. And when we landed we went to this big mess hall where they gave us a little coupon where we could get fresh milk, fresh eggs, and steaks, anything you wanted. I took a troop train to Camp Shelby to be discharged. I went to LSU on the GI Bill and graduated in electrical engineering and married a coonass from back home.
Interview with Jeanette Birchett
Jeanette Birchett, Jason Theriot, Hewitt Theriot:
-Birchett was in training at the Charity Hospital in Lafayette when they heard of the news of Pearl Harbor
-Decided to join 3 ½ years later as she wasn’t old enough yet to go into the service
-A friend Irene Comeaux wanted Birchett to go with her into the service when they turned 20
-May of 1944 when she did turn 20, the superintendent of the hospital did not want them to go as they were needed more at home than at service
-Threatened to freeze their jobs (deferment)
-Eventually they were allowed to go and went to Hunter College in New York for basic training
-Went in as pharmacists’ mates; stayed there for 6 weeks
-Then went on to St. Alban’s Hospital in Long Island for indoctrination for 2 months
-Birchett’s orders were to Corpus Christi, Texas as Comeaux’s went to Georgia
-On the main base at Corpus Christi there was a large hospital (main base) where Birchett stayed for a few days
-Sent on to Rod Field, a smaller air base off Corpus
-Worked in the lab and ran the pharmacy; also took care of other WAVES when they got sick in the dispensary
-Uniforms were given out at basic training
-They had a blue smock or a “sears suckers” uniform when working at the hospital
-Then a navy blue dress and a white dress with caps for elsewhere
Basic Training (6:53)
-Basic training for 6 weeks
-It was hard to Birchett as she couldn’t march; had boot camp training more or less
-Had to get up early; woman drill sergeant
-They put her in the back row as she couldn’t march
-She lived on the 9th floor with no elevators
-Went in as an enlisted woman; was a pharmacy’s mate, never an officer
-Paid about $50 a month
-Did everything the navy way
At Corpus Christi (12:50)
-Stayed at Corpus till the end of the war
-Lived in barracks; had a bunkmate
-They had 3 sections; worked on call all day, that night had duty, second day off by 4:30 and the third day was the off day
-Birchett was in charge of all the lab work; blood work, checking diseases, giving medication, etc.
-Anything serious was sent to the main hospital, lab work or injured men
-The main base, Corpus, had smaller bases around them called P fields; Birchett was at Rod Field
-For fun they watched the latest movies that were not even out in regular theaters yet; new one every night
-Had dances some nights; it was like a family
D-Day (23: 30)
-Birchett was in the commissary getting coffee in the morning; everyone was excited about what was happening
-Then they started doing the paper work for discharging; one needed so many points to be able to get out and go home
-Took about a week before people began going home; had to go to the main base in Corpus to get discharged or check to see if you were able to
-Never really thought about whether the U.S. could lose the war; weren’t told much about the war anyway, they were too busy and so young
-What Birchett did after being discharged
-Men she dated (and her husband)
-What WAVES stood for (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service)
-Books of Louisianans in WWII (New Iberians)
-Other WAVES she knew
-Women that worked in the service for the navy and the army; navy women were trained to take the places of men that had went off to war
-How she enjoyed working in the service
Funny stories (40:20)
-Living in the barracks in basic training and in Corpus
-Things they did in Corpus
-How she believes she swallowed a pen once
Coming Back after the War (43:30)
-It was an exciting time when everyone was coming back
-Discharged in June 1945 (after V-E Day)
-Civilians knew more about the war than those in the service; all the news was always late to those in the service
-Letters were all censored
-About Jason Theriot’s work
-People they know
End of Birchett’s interview (53:05)
(Parts of another interview of Ned Badeaux afterwards)
Jeanette Judice Birchett
Born: May 4th 1924
Interview conducted on August 6, 2001
I was working at Charity Hospital in Lafayette on Pearl Harbor Day. I remember I was training. I was working in the lab and I heard the news come through. I decide to join three and half years later. You see I wasn't old enough then. I had a good friend, and she wanted me to go with her. Her name was Irene Comeaux. I said I wasn't old enough, "but if you wait till I turn 20 I'll go with ya."
So in May of '44 I turned twenty, so she says, "OK let's go." But the superintendent at the hospital did not want us to go. They were going to freeze us on our jobs (Deferment). They said we were needed more here, at the hospital than in the service. But she really wanted to go, so we talked our super into letting us go. Which is funny because I ended up taking care of her. She was a good friend and she was lonesome when we got to New York.
We signed up and went into the service as pharmacists' mates 3rd class. From Lafayette we boarded a train and went all the way to New York. We took our basic training in New York at Hunter College. We stayed there 6 weeks. From there we were sent to indoctrination at St. Albans's Hospital in Long Island. We stayed there for 2 months, and then I got my orders to go to Corpus Christi. She went to Georgia.
There was a large hospital there on the main base. I stayed there for a few days, and then they sent me to a smaller air base called Rod Field. I worked in the lab, I ran the pharmacy, and also when one of the WAVES was sick I had to stay in the dispensary with her.
The cloths fit pretty well. We had a uniform like a blue smock, for when you worked, in the hospital. Then we had "sears suckers" uniform, and we had dress navy and the dress white uniform, with the cap. I don't know what happened to all my uniforms. I don't have them. I just didn't keep them. When I got out I didn't figure that I would live this long to be interviewed!
Basic was ruff for me because I couldn't march. We had to get up early. They put me on the last row cause I couldn't march. I never forget that, they called me "judice". They always called you by your last name. I lived on the 9th floor and we had no elevators. Up and down those stairs all day, we stayed in good shape. We learned discipline, the navy way. Everything had to be done the navy way.
I got paid about $50 a month.
In Corpus, I had a bunkmate. We had sections, three sections; we worked shifts. I took care of all the lab work. I checked the blood work, and anything serious, and would send it to the main hospital. I took care of the medication for the airman. I did the lab work for diseases. There were a lot of venereal diseases and I would give medication to treat those things. I did blood work for malaria and others and we tried to treat all that.
We mostly took care of the airman, who were training at our particular "P- field." We had marines that worked as guards there and of coarse we had sailors who were stationed at the base there. So we took care of them too.
I fell out of the bunk one night. One time I was running late for work, and I was running with a pen in my mouth and I sneezed; I thought I swallowed that pen. I went and had x-rays, but they never could find that pen. I could have sworn that I swallowed it.
We kept busy; we had dances and watched movies. We got to see all the new movies before they came out. It was like a big family. There was something to do every night. Everybody knew each other.
We didn't think about the war. We were so young and so busy. I didn't think about being invaded from the West Coast or from the Gulf. We really didn't know what was happening over seas, I think they didn't want us to know. They didn't want anybody to panic.
I remember a really bad hurricane that hit Corpus Christi. I was up stairs in my barracks sleeping and they said for all the WAVES to go to one wing. Most of these girls had never been in a hurricane before, but I had, and I wasn't scared. It came right through the naval base.
They told us that Corpus was the farthest overseas that we would get in the Navy. See our jobs were to take over for the men who had to leave the states, that's what the WAVE were trained for. So when I was ordered to Corpus I was replacing a male pharmacist mate who was sent overseas.
Everybody was needed no matter what you did. My family wasn't in favor of me volunteering, but I'm glad I did. I really enjoy my time in the service. I learned a lot.
Some time after V-E Day (June '45), they began to discharge people. We had to have so many points to get discharged. I came home for a month. I had a sister who lived in Houston, and I went to work there as a technician for a pediatrician and that's where I met my husband.
We moved here (New Iberia) about 5 years later. I worked at Dautrive's Hospital for a while. And then I volunteered; I worked for Dr. Flore. I was married for 53 years.
Interview with John Boudreaux
John Boudreaux, Jason Theriot, Hewitt Theriot:
-Was hanging out at the Estarge Drugstore on Main St. when they heard about Pearl Harbor on the radio
-Most of them at the time were 17-18 years old and they didn’t think too much about it at the time
-What really changed their views was when they heard stories from other friends in the National Guard (1941)
-Boudreaux decided that he wanted to at least be able to shower while serving, so he joined the navy
-Joined the navy with Claude Patout in New Orleans in November 1943
-Was sent to San Diego for basic training
-Then went to Memphis to radio school for the dive-bombers (TBF's)
-Boudreaux didn't want to fly so when testing to see if he could stand on one leg and then close his eyes, he failed it on purpose and was sent back to California
-Eventually sent to Pasco, Washington (Walla Walla) for 6 months; training pilots
-Trained pilots by having them take off to the Pacific Ocean and the practice bombing the airport (just like the Japanese attacking a carrier force or island)
-Those on land would track them with radars and then send out fighters to meet them
-A big dish was a on a truck with a large antenna on land, but on the ship the antennas were smaller
-The wavelength on the radar would show whether it was a friend or foe
-Americans had IFFs while Japanese had nothing
-Could catch these wavelengths about 100 miles out which would give them enough time to send out carriers to protect the convoy--the destroyer’s job
-At the end of 6 months the navy decided that the Japanese were not coming back to the island the navy was readying to invade and take so Boudreaux's unit of 250 men was disbanded
Time at Washington state (12:00)
-On the weekends they could go into Walla Walla for mass
-At Pasco they'd work at a factory that made crates/boxes to earn a little extra
-On the base all they did on weekends was stand watch around the clock; sometimes it could be all night (funny story 14:00)
After being disbanded (14:50)
-Everyone wanted to go overseas to fight
-They were sent back to California and then over to Pearl Harbor to be reassigned and get on-the-job training for radar surface
-Stayed there for about a month and then assigned to a Destroyer Escort the "USS Abercrombie"
-12 men as the radar operators for one ship
-Sat 4 men at a time at the radar for 30 minutes and then they all stood guard for 4 hour shifts
-Left Pearl Harbor to the Pacific to fight the Japanese; always inside at the radars when fighting
-First battle was at Okinawa; they arrived 4 days early of the invasion (April 1945)
-They would take control of 5-6 small islands and create a harbor out of the escorts for other ships to be protected
-They were only escorts, Destroyer Escorts, they would surround an island for about 8,000 yards and patrol
-They were the first line defense for the bigger ships in the navy
-Shot down 3 planes and knocked out a few ships
-One of the sister ships was sunk midway by a Japanese fleet
-Kamikaze (suicide planes) did damage to the navy;
-They would circle around at night dropping bombs and around 3-4 in the morning would start dive-bombing--one way ticket for them
-When they made the first invasion of Okinawa there was no resistance
-Japanese did not show up until a couple days later; stayed on the island for 72 days
-Once Okinawa was secured they left to the Lingayen Gulf, Philippines
-Escorted transports of troops to the island
-Details of invasions--Lingayen Gulf, Leyte Gulf and Okinawa
Escorted 2 Army Tankers to Jinsen, Korea (36:40)
-Then went to Japan for occupation duty for 2-3 months
-Landed at Wakayama and were the first Americans there; Japanese were friendly and spoke English
Jumps to stories of time in the navy and after (38:26)
-Looking for pilots
-When the news came that the war had ended over the radio
-Ships he escorted and travel time
-Returning to California and seeing friends in the navy (Carol Lapyouse)
-A time he came home on leave and drove from Texas to Louisiana
-Standing guard stories
-Meeting girls/people they know
-Boudreaux remembers praying at Okinawa, they were so scared they'd get hit
-The ship was never hit or damaged and they never lost anyone
-Mostly afraid of the Kamikaze; seeing them on the radars wondering if they'll get hit
-Sometimes the Kamikaze would drop aluminum foil to confuse the radars into making it look like a fleet of planes was coming
John Boudreaux 9/27/01
Born: November 25, 1925
Radarman/Destroyer Escort-USS Abercrombie DE 343
On Pearl Harbor Day, as usual I was hanging out at Estarge Drugstore. That was on Main St. right across from the Evangeline Theatre. We'd hangout outside the drugstore, about 25 of us. That's where we heard about Pearl Harbor, on the radio, and from people down the street. We were all mostly 17, 18-years old. We didn't think much about it at the time. I guess we really didn't realize how serious this was. But I knew about the conflicts overseas and I knew where Pearl Harbor was.
A lot of the older guys had joined the National Guard in '41, before Pearl Harbor. We had a group of guys that would go down to the Sports Center and play pool: JC Upton, WJ Trappey, and Slappy Rouso and them. These old guys would come in on leave from the Army and the Marines. They would tell us about how they never washed their cloths, never took a bath, and how they lived in a foxhole. I decided that's not my bag, I wanted to get in the Navy. Water to drink and a shower to take a bath, that's exactly what I had. It might have been a small shower, but at least it wasn't in the mud.
So Claude Patout and I went to join the Navy together. About two or three weeks before we turned 18 we went to New Orleans to join. We joined in November 1943. I had graduated from highschool the year before and I had gone to Southwestern for a year. JC Upton and I were working that summer for a shooting crew out of Johnson Bayou. We were making big money-forty four cents and hour, living on a quarter boat and working in the swamp. The mosquitoes were terrible, and we had to wear a mask and a helmet with a screen to work in the swamp. We worn coveralls and the mud buggy would get stuck and we'd have to walk back to the quarter boat. But the snakes were about as big as your arm. That's when I said, "Well the Navy can't be no worse than this. I'm gone!"
So I joined and went to boot camp in San Diego. They sent me to Memphis to radio school for the dive-bombers, the TBF's. When I got there I saw where they were going to send me and what I was going to be doing. I didn't like the idea of flying a torpedo bomber. We found out through the grapevine that if you couldn't stand on one leg and close your eyes they wouldn't take you. So that's how I got out of that, and they sent me back to California.
I was sent to Pasco, Washington for six months on a land based Seabee outfit. We were training pilots there in the mountain valley. The pilots would take off and fly to the Pacific Ocean and come back to practice bombing the airport. We would track them with radar, and send fighter planes to intercept. Just like the Japanese. The idea was to train these pilots to intercept Japanese planes that might attack a carrier force or an island. I really enjoyed it.
In Pasco we had a big dish mounted on a truck with a big antenna up on top of a hill. On the ships they were much smaller of course. Depending on the wavelength, we could identify friend or enemy on the radar screen. If Americans would have their IFF on you knew it was American plane, but if no wavelength came in on the radar you knew it was a Japanese. And you could catch them out sometimes as far as 100 miles. And this gave us enough time to get to our carriers to protect them, which is what the destroyer's job is.
We stayed on the base during the week and we had weekend passes. But somebody would have to pull guard duty at night or on weekends. See this radar was something new and we were right there close to the Pacific Ocean, you never knew about the Japanese. One night I was pulling guard up on top the hill, guarding the radar station and I heard a noise. So I said, "Halt!" And I heard no reply so I chamber a bullet in my rifle. I walked out and it was a dog-on cow! I was really nervous though. You never know, people were nervous about the Japanese.
After our six months stay in Pasco, the Navy decided that the Japanese were not coming back to the islands that we would invade and take. We had about 250 of us. So they disbanded us. We were glad. We wanted to go overseas and fight the Japanese.
They sent us back to California and I was sent on an aircraft carrier to Pearl Harbor. It was just a transport for us. I didn't know where I was going. They were sending us to Pearl to get reassigned. They sent us to radar surface school there. I met Roland Breaux and Allen Breaux there; they were from New Iberia. So they assigned me to a Destroyer Escort-USS Abercrombie. It was built in Orange Texas. There were 12 of us radar operators on the Abercrombie. They assigned us four to a watch. We sat at the radar for 30-minutes at a time, because they didn't want us to damage our eyes. We pulled shifts on the scope every thirty minutes and then we'd stand guard on four-hour shifts.
We left Pearl for the Pacific to fight the Japanese. I never saw outside because our job was to watch the radar. I'd hear the guns going off, but I never saw the planes.
We went to Bouganville, Manus, and Saipan. We mostly trained for combat. Our first battle was at Okinawa. We arrived off the coast four days before the invasion. That was in April 1945.
The Destroyer Escorts were just that, escorts. We would patrol about 8,000 yards, back and forth from the coast. We were the first line of defense, before the Japanese would get to the big ships.
I did go up top, on the deck one night and you could swear it was Christmas with all the lights on account of the bullets (tracers). For the rest of the invasion I was stationed below deck.
We shot down three planes. And we knock out a few ships. The Navy really caught hell at Okinawa on account of the Kamikaze (Japanese suicide planes). A lot of these Japanese dive-bombers would start their runs in the evening and they'd dropped bombs all night. And the suicide bombers, well they would have their funerals on the island before they would take off. It was a one way ticket, a suicide mission for most of those pilots.
I had some buddy's who were radar men on the USS Roosevelt. The radar stations were targets for the suicide planes. If I'm not mistaken they took a direct hit and the ship might have sunk.
The whole island was surrounded. When we first made the invasion, the Marines landing did not have any resistance. The Japanese didn't show up until a couple of days later. We stayed on Okinawa for 72 days. We slept in our clothes, and when the alarm went off we had two minutes to get our shoes on and get to battle stations.
Eventually we went to Saipan for dry dock. There was a floating dry dock there. We were painting the bottom of the ship and doing maintenance. We were there for about 4 or 5 days and then they sent us back to Okinawa.
Once Okinawa was secure we went to Lingayen Gulf, Philippines. We were escorting transports of troops to go to the island. Then we went down to Mindanao and Leyte Gulf.
(The invasion of Lingayen Gulf was on January 1945, Leyte Gulf was on October 1944, and Okinawa was in April 1945. Did your ship go on the invasion of Leyte Gulf first, then Lingayen Gulf invasion, and they to Okinawa?) Yes
We caught a typhoon and the ship would list (tilt) forty-degrees. The antennas would all most touch the water. I got seasick.
When Japan surrendered, we were escorting battleships and cruisers and carriers. The radio came on and they announced that the war was ending soon. We stayed up all night listening to the radio.
We escorted two Army tankers to Jinsen, Korea. Then we came back to Okinawa and then we went to Wakayama, Japan for occupational duty. We stayed there for two or three months. We were the first Americans to land on in that area of Japan. The Japanese were friendly; they weren't hostile. They spoke broken English. And they would trade with us. The Japanese men would stop to relieve themselves walking down the street with his family behind him. His wife was always walking behind him.
I made it back in November to San Pedro, California. When I got back I saw Carol Lapyouse's ship coming in, the Nassau. I borrowed somebody's binoculars and I took a peak at the ship and I picked him out, I saw him on his ship. And he knew it was my ship too. He saw me looking at him. I'll never forget that. Carol and I went out to eat the next couple of nights and we had a good time. Carol was "Mr. Transport." We talked about home. When you ran into somebody you knew from home that's what you talked about- if you heard from this girl or from that guy. We talked about home, not about the war.
I borrowed my uncle’s car and drove it to Louisiana. We busted a piston on the way home.
We were most afraid of the suicide planes. That's what worried us the most. And I could see them on the radar, hitting our ships. One time I saw a plane and a few seconds later I saw a whole bunch of planes. This was three o'clock in the morning. So I woke everybody up and come to find out, this Japanese pilot had dropped aluminum foil out of his plane to confuse the radar. When the radar would hit that aluminum it would appear as an enemy plane.
We talk about things like that when we have our reunion every year.
When I went into the Navy during WWII, I wasn't attached to anybody. It was just my parents and myself, I wasn't married and didn't have a girlfriend. I had the idea in my mind going in that if a bullet had my number on it, no matter who you are; you can be as safe as you wanna be, but when the Lord says it's your time, then it's your time. That's the way I saw it.
I can remember praying at Okinawa. We were so scared that we would get hit. Our ship was never damaged and not one life was lost. Thank God.
Interview with Dr. Nelson Boudreaux
Dr. Nelson ("N.C") Boudreaux, Jason Theriot, Hewitt Theriot:
-Boudreaux was in school at SLI (Southwestern Louisiana Institute-now ULL) and on the weekends would go back home to court his now wife
-Hitchhiking back to Lafayette a Sunday night, they heard on the radio about the attack on Pearl Harbor
-All that night he and his cousin stayed up to listen to the radio and both decided that night they were going to join the war
-The next day they went to the Air Corps to sign up to be pilots
-Boudreaux was 19 at the time so he needed his parents’ permission first (of age was 21)
-Took him 2 weeks to convince his parents while his cousin (who was 21) had already left for Alabama
-By the time Boudreaux did get permission the Air Corps was closed for cadet training so he signed up for the Air Force and was put on the waiting list
-Failed the physical test as he was put down as colorblind but in reality he was not completely colorblind so they failed him
-Talking about a photo of his cousins that were in the war (8:30)
Enlisted into the service after failing his test (10:37)
-Went to Kessler Air Force base and for a few weeks took tests; ended up in radio school
-Sent him to a radio-gunner school in Scott Field, Bellville, Illinois
-Trained as a radio mechanic operator and in Morse code
-Once finished, was sent on to gunnery school in Harlingen, Texas
-Spent a lot of time on the range shooting skeets and training to shoot in AT-6s
-Boudreaux was made an instructor as he could take apart a .30 cal and .50 cal machine guns blindfolded; 7-8 months there just teaching
-Went and studied while there to take the colorblind test again and passed it (late 1942)
Wanted to be a flyer (18:30)
-Everyone wanted to be a flyer, even after a year of the war starting
-After finally passing the physical Boudreaux was still put on a waiting list
-Once in the system he was sent to the Black Hills of South Dakota and stayed there for a month in classes
-Was put into a cadet program and sent to Santa Anna, California; nothing but basic training and classroom work
-Cadet training was split into 4 sections:
1. primary flight training (Visalia, California)
2. basic training for larger airplanes (Bakersfield, California)
3. advanced training for specialized airplanes
4. Boudreaux chose P-38s and lastly went to twin-engine training school (since he picked a P-38)
-Went to Marfa, Texas to fly the twin-engine planes
-Around 1944 was sent to Marlin, Missouri to the C-47s in a troop carrier training outfit
-There was a large number of pilots there
-The Army figured that they would lose a lot of troop carrier pilots in the invasion so they were to be replacements
-Then sent out to Fort Wayne, Indiana for a month doing nothing before being shipped out
Left from New York City from a convoy (36:50)
-Was put in the infantry; assigned to the ship "HMS Brittany" belonging to a British fleet
-Went up to the North Sea to avoid submarines and spent 2 weeks traveling
Reached England in December 1944 (41:30)
-Assigned to an outfit in Redington at an air force outside of London
-Came into the barracks around midnight and an officer asked if any of them wanted to go on a mission with them that morning; they all volunteered
-The mission was dropping supplies to the soldiers at the Battle of the Bulge
-Assigned to as a co-pilot to a major who was a squad leader; thousands of planes were reviving up around them
-In formation headed towards France and Belgium; could see the American tanks moving into battle; the next day they broke though
-They came in low and fast as that was their only protection as they did not come in with a convoy; 500 feet
-Once they dropped the supplies they turned back around
Towards the end of the war (55:04)
-When flying out supplies, on the way back they would bring back wounded soldiers or German prisoners
-When fighting on the Rhine River pushing the Germans back, they would drop paratroopers and gliders into enemy lines
-Involved with the 101st and 82nd Airborne divisions; thinks he dropped some of the 82nd
-After they dropped they went back to England; flew for 2 hours and saw nothing but formations of planes with gliders going in behind them
When the war ended (1:00:28)
-Boudreaux was in Paris on R&R when he saw the headlines in the newspapers of Roosevelt's death
-After the war he flew troops to the Riviera for R&R
-Stayed there for a while, maybe about a month after that they started sending men home (his cousin that he initially signed up with was shot down and killed, was in the 42nd)
-By the end of the war flying planes became more of a chore and lost its excitement
-On the way home from France stopped off at in Paris and by a truck to an airport to Ireland then over to Iceland
-Eventually reached the states and rode cattle cars in troop trains home
-Was home by V-J Day
Letters from home (1:10:10)
-His mother wrote him and his wife
-Mail lagged behind and one point in England after 2 months his mail caught up with him
-Did not open them in order; never got the letter of his brother's death
-His brother (Marlin Boudreaux) in Patton's army was killed at the Maginot Line in France; saw his grave before he left for the states
Talking about why most veterans don't talk and how important it is that they do (1:13:40)
Dr. Nelson C. Boudreaux
Born: April 9, 1923
I was at SLI (Southwestern Louisiana Institute) before the war. I’d come in on weekends to court my wife. I had come in one weekend, and I had lunch with the family on Sunday. I was hitchhiking back to Lafayette. In those days, people traveled by hitchhiking. So on December 7, 1941, I was in the car hitchhiking back to Lafayette, and on the radio they were saying that we had been attacked at Pearl Harbor.
When I got back to Lafayette, me and my cousin sat up all night listening to the radio. We were upset about what happened and so my cousin and I decided that night that we would join the service. In those days patriotism was there.
The next day we went to see about joining up. The response was overwhelming. Everybody wanted to join. We went to the Air Corps recruit station because we wanted to fly. A few days later, I resigned from school to join the service. It took me two weeks to convince my family that I was going. My momma really didn’t want me to go. I was 19 at the time.
I enlisted at Kessler Air Force base. I spent a few weeks there taking test. They put me in radio school and sent me to radio-gunner school in Scott Field, Bellville, Illinois. I was training as a radio mechanic operator and I learned the Morse code.
When I finished there, I went to gunnery school in Harlingen, Texas. We spent a lot of time on the range with machine guns. We were shooting skeet. We went up in AT-6’s, which was an advanced training aircraft. I could take apart a .30 cal and a .50 cal. machine gun blindfolded. So they made me an instructor.
There wasn’t a whole lot to do down there, but it was a good little service town. I made friends with a fellow named Tex and we’d go into town once a week to get a steak and supper. I stayed there almost a year.
But I wanted to fly. So I took the physical and I had to wait to get into their training system. Finally, they sent me to the black hills of South Dakota. That was the thickest snow that I had ever seen. I stayed there a month when they called me up to go into their cadet program. From there I went to Santa Anna, California for basic cadet training: drills, marching, classroom work.
From there I went primary flight training in Visalia, California. I went to a little civilian flight school and trained in a little two-seater, open cockpit, single prop-job. I flew about seven hours with an instructor before my first solo. From there I went for more training in Bakersfield, California. Then I went to advance training, where they let us choose what type of aircraft we wanted to fly. I chose the twin-engine P-38. So they sent me to twin-engine training school.
So I went to Marfa, Texas. And that is where I learned to fly the twin-engine plane. We did some night flying, some cross country flying, some formation flying, and a little instrument flying.
In early 1944 they sent me to Marlin, Missouri to a troop carrier training outfit. We were flying the C-47’s. That was the best plane ever built. The Army figured that they would loose a lot of troop carrier pilots during the invasion, and they were going to need replacements. That is why I was sent into the troop carrier.
Were weren’t too far from St. Louis, but Bellville, Illinois was one of the best towns; they people were really good to the servicemen. We’d go into town and on the bulletin board in the USO center was full of names of people who invited you to go to their house for the weekend. There was BBQ’s and parties; they would really open the doors for us.
I made friends with these two fellows. We called ourselves the three musketeers. We were sent to Fort Wayne, Indiana for a month before being shipped to the port of embarkation.
I didn’t have a full presence of mind about the hostilities that we would be facing overseas. I had such an easy time during training that I really didn’t appreciate what was going on.
We left from New York City on a ship, the HMS Brittany. It was one of the largest ships in the British fleet. We were tagging along with the infantry. We were all 2nd lieutenants. We went up through the northern Atlantic to avoid the submarines. We spent over two weeks going across.
We landed in England in December 1944. I was assigned to an outfit in Redington. There was an air force base there, about 50 miles outside of London. We were living in these Quonset huts.
The next day we flew our first mission to drop supplies to the soldiers fighting at the Battle of the Bulge near Bastogne. I was assigned to fly co-pilot for this major who was the squad leader. I didn’t know what to expect. There were literally hundreds, maybe thousands of planes reviving up the engines. We had to get up quick. As soon as we left the ground, there was another plane right behind us. We almost took off in formation. (What squadron/air force group did you fly with?)
We headed out towards France and Belgium. On the way there, we could see snow on the ground, and American tanks moving toward the battle. We came in low and fast, about 500 feet. Each container in the plane had a different color parachute: ammunition was blue, k-rations was yellow. The Germans were shooting at us with 20mm and .50 cal AAA. When we got back to England, I noticed bullet holes in the plane. That was my first experience in combat.
The C-47 was the best plane we had in the war. And the pilots who flew them were the best. They could fly that plane just like a piper cub. I didn’t spend a whole lot of time flying. I spent most of our time in trucks, hauling supplies.
When we did fly in supplies, we would come back with wounded Americans or German prisoners. Toward the end of the war, we were flying every other day out of an airfield in Reimes, France. We had finally pushed the Germans back to the Rhine River. This was the final battle line that the Germans were going to defend. There was a railroad bridge over Remagen that the Germans were supposed to blow up, but they didn’t. Our forces were trying to cross that bridge when we came in and dropped paratroopers and gliders. My squadron flew in first—we were three abreast—and we dropped paratroopers right over the area. There were 30 troopers in each plane. I didn’t know any of them. In fact, we didn’t see any of them until right before we took off. After dropping off the troopers, we turned right to head back home. I saw planes coming in, two abreast, for two solid hours. They were all carrying gliders.
When the war ended, our job was to fly troops to the Riviera for R&R. A month later we were shipped back to the States. Before I left from France, I visited my brother’s gravesite. He was killed in the line of duty trying to take the Maginot Line in France.
(Sgt. Marlin Boudreaux, KIA on Nov. 27, 1944 in Germany) My job was easy compared to the men on the ground. I thank the good Lord that I had an easy job to do…but some of them didn’t, like my brother. But we had a job to do and we did it.
I never talk much about it; I never told me my kids much about. It is a shame, because it really is a story that should be told. It was part of our lives. I’m reminded by my dad who was a patriot par excillant—a patriot. He used to make us stand when the National Anthem was played at home on the radio. I guess that is why I decided to go to the service when the Japs attacked Pearl Harbor. And after the war, I guess that I just wanted to put it all behind me.
Interview with Therese Boutte
Therese Boutte, Jason Theriot, Hewitt Theriot, unnamed woman:
-Boutte enlisted in 1942; she was working at a telephone office and was not being paid much
-Was about 21 years old and single; joined the Army services to get a change
-Sent to Des Moines, Iowa for training, went by train; did basic training there (marching and calestintics)
-After training was sent to San Antonio, Texas for schooling in cryptography; they weren't allowed to talk about what they were doing
-Was probably chosen because of her background in telephones
Schooling in San Antonio (5:50)
-Decoded and coded messages; followed a little book, a codebook guide
-An armed guard would come in to take and give messages to them
-They were in little cubbyholes and they were always locked in
-The messages would come in all garbled, they'd decode it and type it up and the guard would come to take it
-Was in the service for 3 years
-Stationed at Kelly Field in San Antonio
-Came home on leave a few times
-Took a trolley into base everyday
Others from the area in service (10:50)
-Boutte signed up for service with another girl from New Iberia, Jenny; she was sent to California
-Talking about men they interviewed and how no one in their families had heard these stories
-Looking at pictures, during or after the war
-Boutte on the air force base
Life on the Base (17:27)
-Worked every day, sometimes at night even
-Lived in barracks; washed their own clothes
-Quite a bit of people on the base
-Few movie theaters on base; no nightclubs on base
-Some girls would go into Mexico on the weekends: Boutte never went as in the mornings they had calestintics
-Food was basic enough
Yard Workers coming in (19:38)
-Families they know or related too
-Cutting down a tree; yard work
Picking Up on Base Life (22:10)
-Might have got off on the weekends
-Took buses into San Antonio from the base
-Received letters from home sometimes
-At one point Boutte was supposed to go overseas and was sent back to Des Moines for training but the war ended
-Only made it to a Corporal but should have gotten a Sergeant
-Eventually was discharged and sent home; doesn't remember how she was discharged
Talking of others (29:30)
-Women in the service that they interviewed
-How some knew what was happening in the war and others that had no news of advancements of the war
-Other woman talking about her memories of the war; President's speeches and rations
-Talking about yard working and Boutte's workers
Born: April 30, 1916
I was working at the telephone office here and they weren't paying too much, so I decided to enlist in 1942. I was 21-years old and I needed a change. I went to the recruit station here and joined the Army with my friend Jenny (What is her last name?).
I was sent to Des Moines, Iowa for basic training and Jenny was sent to California. I went by train. They'd wake us up early every morning and we'd have to do calesthenics and march.
After basic I was sent to Kelly Field in San Antonio for schooling in cryptography. But I can't talk about that. It was supposed to be very secret. I guess I was chosen for that because of my experience with telephones. I worked in the office coding and decoding messages. We used a codebook as a guide.
I worked in a little cubbyhole for an office and an armed guard could come and pick up and deliver the messages for us. The message would come in scrambled and we would have to decode it, type it up, and send it off. I don't remember much about all it; that was over 50-years ago.
I was supposed to go overseas to Europe, so they sent me back to Des Moines, Iowa for more training. Then the war ended in Europe so I was discharged and they sent me home soon after.
Interview with Claude Broussard
Claude Broussard, Jason Theriot, Hewitt Theriot, Mrs. Bourrard:
-Broussard volunteered for the service as his brother (Paul) was already in it
-Was first sent to Camp Livingston or Beauregard; shipped to Fort Knox for basic training in 1942
-Went to the Louisiana Maneuvers at Camp Polk and was put in the 3rd Armored division; then cadre into the 7th Armored division
-Before being shipped overseas Broussard was cadre into the 697th Field Artillery
-They had tractors pulling the trailers for the10-in guns; tractors were to slow so they had to use tanks
-Put the tripod on one trailer and the barrel on the other; had to carry a crane to dig a recoil pit; dug a pit 6 feet for the recoil
-Hardly used those tanks in battle
-Left Christmas morning 1943 from Newport News, Virginia at 2 in the morning
-Had a year and half of training; drove a tank at Fort Knox
-Was shipped to California for 5 1/2 months to train for going to Africa
-Would go out every day at 12-3 to train; 120 degrees in the shade
-Was in the 7th Armored at this time; at Fort Benning was cadre into the 697th because they needed tank drivers
-697th had 2 40 hoteitzers with projectiles of 365 lbs.
-Went to Africa, Sicily and then into Italy
-Landed on top of sunken ship at Naples; Casino was their first real battle
-When leaving the U.S. they went through the Messina Straits to Africa; hit bad weather
-In Sicily made it secured and then up to Naples; had just been taken over when they landed, fired at Casino
-When leaving, the English made cardboard dummies to put up at night so the Germans would still think they were there
-Crossed over the Menturner River in the dark, twice; they had 5 tanks and pulled 2 guns
-Attached to the 3rd Armored Division, the 7th Army; they were known as a bastard outfit
-Their outfit was always being sent all over to push through lines
-From there went to Santa Maria, Italy to fire on Bologna; went on to Leghorn
-At Leghorn boarded LSTs with the tanks and guns; landed in southern France at Marseilles
-Loaded up the tanks and guns onto French flatcars (train) to Bessencorn, France
-Was with Patton 3 times: once in basic at California and twice in Europe
Artillery of the tank (17:30)
-Would go off at 25 yards off the ground, 365 lbs. of shrapnel; this was a radio fuse in the shells
-It was a new weapon and very accurate
-Leaving Rome chasing Germans, they ran for 5 days and 5 nights without sleep; 300 gallons of fuel and fuel trunks right behind them
-The tank was home, Broussard even slept in it
-Had an assistant driver but he rarely ever drove, always Broussard
-Took a four-man tray to carry the projectile; if you didn't have a good balance the concussion would knock you down
-Could hear Anzio Annies going above them; had them at Casino
-Was firing at the Monastery, "the Abby"; ordered to "fire at will"
-Germans had a tunnel that would go to the railroad station under the Abby; so they (U.S) bombed the place
-Everyone went to the north; Broussard was 23 then
-Altogether Broussard thinks his outfit earned 8 battle stars
-Reached the Battle of the Bulge on Christmas Day of 1944
-Broussard's brother was a captain in the infantry at the battle
-Kept pushing north and eventually went over into Austria
-When the war ended they were able to take over Salzburg without a shot (32:47)
-Stayed there until the company was split up and took all the high-pointers (point system); Broussard was one as he had a child at home and had 112 points
-Recapping on when Broussard left the U.S. and his travels in the beginning
Back to the Battle of the Bulge (35:24)
-Germans made a push through Belgium where the Allies' position wasn't being defended
-Huge snowstorm came through, Allied planes couldn't land or help defend; Germans were going to the river Muse to cut the Allied forces into two but they ran out of gasoline
-That day (Christmas Day) they were eating turkey and all the trimmings; at night they left
-Broussard isn't sure where they were as he stayed with his tank to keep it ready
-At night when they left it was really a retreat as the Germans were coming, but they didn’t know that, no one told them
Through Europe (44:05)
-Landed in Naples and then went north to Bologna when they got word to move into France
-At the Bulge, which they didn't know until a reunion a few years ago that they were there
-In Salzburg, Austria when the war ended and the company was broken up
-Was put in CQ (chargers quarters) at an ammunition factory
-When men came through from Germany they'd stop there and then in the morning head out to Paris
-One day as CQ Broussard sees a friend from Jeanerette, Vince DeVeasay
-First person he met from the area while in service was Allen Landry at Casino, Landry was going to Naples
-Saw Elles LaGrange in Rome; ran into the entire National Guard group from New Iberia (156th Reg.) there too
-Never saw his brother while overseas, he went over before Brossard and came home before him
After being split up (52:40)
-On the outskirts of Salzburg; crossing borders into Germany and rivers
-Theriot tells a story from another interviewee (Prince from Loreauville)
-Went through Hitler's Eagle's Nest (Austria); 5-6 stories down in the mountain with hospitals, operating rooms, nurseries etc.
End of the War (56:17)
-May 1945 when the war ended; in Salzburg
-Railroad battalion gave them a bunch of stuff; like tents to sleep in
-Celebrated that night; near Salzburg so they went into town
Wine Story (57:20)
-Was in Italy and the German had vats that they pulled the plugs on in a wine cellar
-Someone found it and they filled as much as they could in their cans; used things from the tank to make a still and finish making bootleg wine
-Officer caught them one day, they bribed him and set up a trade with him; two whiskey bottles for a can of wine
Coming home (1:01:05)
-In the outfit he was in at the ammunition factory; made bullets
-Found a German rifle and took it apart and sent it back home through the mail; still has it
-After Salzburg went through Holland or France to a ship
-Landed in Newport News and got on another ship that sent him to Boston
-From there Broussard went to Camp Shelby and then took a train to New Orleans (Sept. 1945)
July 30, 2001
Claude J. Broussard
New Iberia, La.
Born October 1, 1920.
Tank Driver-697th Field Artillery, Italy & Southern France
Interview conducted by Jason P. Theriot
I volunteered for the service. My brother Paul went in, so I decided to go too. I went to basic at Fort Knox in 1942. I drove a tank. I went to Camp Polk. From there I went into the 3rd Armored and from there I cadre into the 7th Armored. Then I cadre into to the 697th Field Artillery that was shipping out overseas.
They had tractors pulling the trailers for those 10-inch guns, 240mm; well the tractors were too slow so they used tanks. We pulled a trailer. We put the tripod on one trailer and the barrel on the other. We had to carry a crane to dig a recoil pit; you needed a pit dug 6 feet for close range.
We left X-Mass morning from Newport News, 1943. We had a year and a half of training. I was married in April of '43, and then they sent us to the desert in California for 5 and a half months. We were going to Africa you see. So we had to get in the heat every day at noon till three o'clock in just our boots and our shorts to get a tan in that hot desert. It was 120 degrees in the shade. When this was going on I was in the 7th armored. Then when we got to Fort Benning I cadraed into this outfit, because they needed tank drivers. So I had more experience than all the others did, so they put me this outfit (697th). We had two 40 howitzers. That's a big gun. The projectile weighed 365 lbs. We had it on trailers.
We went overseas. We landed in Africa, then Sicily, then Italy. We landed on top of those sunken ships (Liberty Ships) in Naples. Casino was our first real battle. We caught hell there… Ooh man… Mud, rain, and cold at night.
We went through the Messina Straits and hit bad water. When we got there Africa and Sicily had been secured. We had pushed the Germans back up through Italy. We had just taken over Naples when we got there. We were firing on Casino.
Then we pulled back and the English came there and made cardboard dummies of our tanks and armor. And when we left at night, the English put up those dummy tanks, so that the Germans thought we were still there. We crossed the Menturner River twice that night and I didn't even know. We didn't use headlights. We had five tanks in our outfit. We carried two guns on trailers; one trailer for the tube and one for the tripod. Then the spare tank was used to help get the guns in place. We were attached to the 3rd Armored Division, 7th Army. See we were a bastard outfit. We were used all over the place. When they couldn't get through, they would call us. Captain Fletcher was in charge of our battery.
Well we went to Santa Maria Italy, we were firing on Bologna at the time. Then we went to Leghorn. We board those LST's with our tanks and our guns. We landed in southern France at Marseilles. We then loaded our tanks and guns on to French flatcars (railroad cars). From there we went to Bessencorn, close to the Chzeceslovocia border. (Right flank) I was with Patton three times; once in California at basic, and twice in Europe.
We were using a radio fuse in those artillery shells. This was a secret weapon that we had. We had captured a few Germans and the first thing they wanted to know was about this new weapon. It was quite accurate.
When we left from Rome we had the Germans on the run and we ran for 5 days and 5 nights without sleep. We had 300 gallons of fuel in the tank and we had fuel trucks following behind. The tank was my home, which is where I slept.
We had a four-man tray to carry the projectile to the gun. If you were walking by and didn't have good balance the concussion would knock you down. I saw a lot of guys get knocked down.
You could hear Anzio Annie, and the other big rail gun at Casino. We were firing on the Monestary at Casino, the Abby. At Casino we were ordered to 'fire at will'. So as soon as you loaded that charge, you would fire and then load up again, without stopping.
The Germans had a tunnel from the Abby to the railroad station where they had that big rail gun firing on us. We caught fire from them many times. After they bombed it every thing was gone. You could see heat waves, like radiator heat, all in the sky. After we pushed the Germans out we all moved north. I was 23 at the time. All together we had 8 battle stars. My brother was a captain in the infantry at the Battle of the Bulge. We had a good time, if you like that kind of fun.
When the war ended we took Salzburg, Austria without firing a shot. Then they broke up the company and took all the high-pointers, see I was a high-pointer because I had a child back home. I was in charge of CQ for awhile at an ammunition factory. Them boys would come and spend the night there and then ship off the next morning. I ran into Vince DeVeasay, from Jeannerette. I was in charge of the CQ that day and I saw him standing in line and I said, "whatcha doing here you dago. He look at me and said, "hey Bruce whatcha doing here." We talk about that every now and again when I go get a haircut.
I also met up with Allen Landry. It was near Casino, and he was passing on a jeep going to Naples. I met up with Elles LaGrange in Rome. I met up with that whole group, the National Guard group from New Iberia. (156th Reg.) They were MP's. I didn't venture out much like others. I stayed by my tank and wrote letters to my wife. Our great-granddaughter sat down here one night and listened to the stories and was mesmerized. I went through Hitler's Nest in Austria. It was about 5 or 6 stories down from the mountain. There were hospitals, operating rooms, nurseries, etc..SS troopers. This was his haven.
When we were in Italy, the Germans had pulled the plugs out of those vats in the wine cellar. Somebody found out they had wine down there. So we brought up some empty 5-gallon water cans. We went down there and the cellar was covered with wine. So these guys knew how to make a still and I had the cooper tubing from my tank, to clamp on the hose. So we made a worm and these guys, they were from the Carolina's so they knew how to bootleg stuff you know. So they'd put that worm in cold water and put the empty can on the side and let it drip. We would heat the water can and then the vapor would come through and fall in that can. It was red wine, but it would come out white, from the vapors, about 150 proof!
There was an officer who came and caught us. I had furnished the tubing so I was in with them. He asked what we were doing. One of those guys threw him a canteen full with that stuff. The officer wanted to buy some. We said it's not for sale. The only way you can get some is if you give us two of your bottles for one of ours. You see they'd get rations of liquor, the best. We only got beer every six months or so. He followed us until we left for France. He'd find us and come trade two bottles of whiskey for one of ours. One of those guys was a crane operator and he flipped it all drunked up. Those guys drank all the time.
At that German factory in Austria I found a German rifle, and I took it apart and shipped it to myself back home. As soon as I got home I put it back together. I still have it. From there I went through Holland and boarded a ship at Newport News. We went across the Atlantic and landed in Boston. From there I went to Camp Shelby and my wife and my daughter picked me up from the station in New Orleans.