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 Edward Broussard
Edward Broussard, Jason Theriot, Hewitt Theriot:
-Broussard had been working in Breaux Bridge as a shipping clerk
-All his friends were signing up for the National Guard but no one knew of the world crisis
-Signed up in June 1940 and was activated in November that year; he was 18 years old
-Only signed up as he wanted to be with friends; Lafayette National Guard unit was filled up so they were accepted in New Iberia—lots of men from the Acadiana area
(5:41) Camp Blanding
-When they got to Blanding it was filled with palmetto shrubs that they had to clear out; hauled white sand around Kingsley Lake to make the beach
-Slept in tents before the barracks were built
-Had regular training, trained on property owned by JC Penny a little away from the camp
-The New Orleans Company held a Mardi Gras parade on the camp grounds
-Never knew that the war was coming
(8:13) Hearing of Pearl Harbor
-Was on leave with G Company, going to Jacksonville, Florida
-Staying at a motel but had gone out to eat when they heard the news
-They were told that “all soldiers report back to your base, wherever you are from”; drove back that night
-Once back they immediately moved out and went north to Charleston, North Carolina at Stoney Field
-They were assigned to harbors and warehouses for guard duty
-Eventually went back to Blanding and then on to Camp Bowie, Texas
(12:42) Louisiana Maneuvers
-Saw Eisenhower parade through Camp Polk
-Some units would be designated enemies in different clothes
-Broussard was just a private at the time
-Designated front lines; New Iberia was assigned the Springfield rifle
-The maneuvers lasted for 2 weeks
(18:56) Camp Bowie
-Made friends with some of the other units and no rivalry between them
-Broussard’s company spoke English well enough to not be ridiculed as the Breaux Bridge Company was ridiculed by the other units as they spoke more French than the other Louisiana companies; some fights broke out in town sometimes
-(Theriot: Camp Bowie forbade other languages being spoken, many Breaux Bridge recruits there complained at how they were treated because they knew so little English)
-While at Bowie the Army began recruiting for officers at Fort Benning; Broussard was selected to go to the officer training school at Benning; left in June of 1942
-Applied for it as he had an IQ level over 118, also got an approval from a board of officers
-Hitched hike back to New Iberia, stayed for a few days and then took a bus to Fort Benning; ended his affiliation with G Company
-Officer Candidacy School (OCS) in the 67th, outside of Benning; stayed out in the woods off the main base
-Known as “90-day Wonders” as in 90 days they could get a commission; went to lectures and had to stay physically fit; did obstacle courses
-There was a group of guys from Breaux Bridge and Franklin there
-After 90 days, Broussard got a commission
-Sent to the 92nd Infantry Division, the Buffalo Division in Breckenridge, Kentucky
-The Buffalo Division was just being activated, a Negro outfit
-Not enough 2nd Lieutenants and officers so they used the cadres of black noncoms (noncommissioned officers)
-Eventually reassigned to Blanding to the 30th Division, the Ole Hickory Division
-Went into the M Company, the weapons company of the 120th Infantry Regiment; assigned to this unit as he had background in the weapons from company of the 156th
-They were a heavy weapons company with a .30-caliber machine guns and 81 mm mortars
-Broussard was in charge of a rifle platoon, 1st platoon of the company
-Left the states February 12 and arrived at the Firth of Clyde ten days later on the 22nd, 1944
-By train they went to Bognaregus on the English Channel; moved up to Elsbury England
-Trained while waiting; lectured on German army clothing and things to expect
-No one knew where they were going or what was happening, just a lot of soldiers all over England
-Crossed the channel after the invasion; landed on Omaha beach and assigned to support 3 rifle companies
-Worked in initial combat with men they had not trained with; supported by the E Company that missed their landing in the invasion
-The beach was calm when they landed and no resistance; swollen corps on the beach
-In 6 days they cleaned up the beach
-Held up for about 2 weeks in the apple orchards in Normandy; hedges were thick and filled with Germans
-Little north of St. Lo waiting for the breakout
(46:12) Death of friends in other platoons that lead to Broussard taking over the whole company
-Lt. Condon of the 2nd platoon killed before St. Lo
-Lt. Lott in the heavy weapons platoon killed at Port Emile
-Relieved the 101st Airborne Division on the outskirts of St. Lo
-One of the rifle companies in the 3rd Battalion was trapped in Mortan
-Talking about where Broussard’s men were from in his platoon
-They got as far as Magdeburd, Germany and held it till the Russians could take over
-Was in battle from June to May, so almost a whole year
-A few times they had recreation areas made at monasteries
-France was dirty; the farm people lived in a house with a barn attached
-The soldiers were asked to not eat the vegetables as they were fertilized by human waste
-One family Broussard had gotten close too gave him an invitation for their daughter; she was eventually married after the war and sent him an invitation to the wedding
(1:01:12) looking at photos
(1:04:10/1:06:55) Battle of the Bulge
-Sent to the line, north of Malmedy
(Going through more photos and maps)
-They were going to relieve units where the breakthrough was to happen
-Had to cross in narrow paths in the snow
-At Malmedy they wore white sheets to blend in with the snow
-Talking about sights seen in France; battle fields and the dead
(1:16:46) Spring of 1945
-Broussard’s unit only got as far as Magdeburd when they knew that the war was ending
-Were given news of the Russians moving in; captured one German soldier that told them that they’d [U.S] have to fight the Russian later
-2 types of German soldiers: those that made it their career and the young/old men that were forced
-One Frenchman stayed with them as he wanted to be a part of the fighting force; only had a little pistol and followed the company
-Other stories about travelling
(1:25:40) Heading Home
-Col. Merrill McCulloch sent word for Broussard to be sent back home; He was on line in the field when he got the report
-Was driven back to France when he was sent back over on a ship; landed in New York
-Once back home went back to USL and built a house with his wife
-Rejoined the Guard and became the Adjutant of the 2nd Battalion Headquarters in St. Martinville before being kicked out as a liability for old injuries
15 February 2004
11 Allen St.
New Iberia, LA 70563
Born: May 19, 1922
30nd Infantry Division
I was working as a shipping clerk in Breaux Bridge and all of my friends were signing up for the National Guard. We didn’t know of the world crisis at the time. I signed up in June of 1940 and we were activated in November of that same year. I was 18 years old.
I joined the Guard because I wanted to be with friends: Shirley Landry, Ellis LaGrange, JC Landry, Allen Landry, Steve Stansbury, and John Mestayer. Most of them were from here but some came from Broussard and Lafayette. Our company commander, Captain Howard Roy, was from Lafayette. Lieutenant Daigle was also from Lafayette. The National Guard unit from Lafayette was filled up, but we needed men, so they were accepted here. After we were activated in November, they continued drilling with us everyday.
I finished high school in ’38. Coach Wimbley taught English and he told us there were articles in the Reader’s Digest that showed how complicated politics were in Europe. That was my first inkling of trouble, but I didn’t associate that with joining the Guard. I joined in June of 1940.
We went on the first Louisiana maneuvers that summer and it was, well, a good time. When we got to Camp Blanding in November, it was nothing but a jungle of palmetto shrubs. We helped clear out and haul sand around the lake, Kingsley Lake. We hauled white sand where there was nothing but muddy sand. We created the beach at Lake Kingsley in Camp Blanding. They had us living in tents until they built us regular barracks.
We had regular training. We had permission to train on the property of JC Penny. I remember the New Orleans Company; it was our 2nd Battalion Headquarters Company. They put on a Mardi Gras parade and dressed one of their men up as a queen. They had a big to-do about it.
We had regular training sessions, not knowing that the war was coming. In the guard, they had trained us so well, that we did what they told us.
I was on a weekend leave with a bunch of my buddies from G Company when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. We had gone to Jacksonville, Florida. We were housed in a motel. We were out eating at a restaurant that night when they told us about it: “All soldiers report back to your base, wherever you are from.”
We went back to camp and we were told to move out. The cooks couldn’t take everything with them so they gave us a supply of vanilla extract. We had nice little buzzards from drinking that extract. When we did leave, we headed north and ended up in Charleston, North Carolina at Stoney Field next to the Citadel, a military school. We were in the same kind of tents that we had lived in at Blanding, and we were pulling guard duty.
On the way up there, from the effects of the vanilla extract, me and a medic, who was assigned to our unit, slept on the floor of this two-and-a-half-ton truck, and slept all the way to Charleston not knowing where we were going. They offered us a can of oysters, but we were smart enough not to mix vanilla extract with oysters.
The higher-ups must have felt that the east coast was vulnerable, so they sent guard units to defend it. We were assigned to harbors and warehouses and other installations. We then went on the Louisiana Maneuvers. I saw Colonel Eisenhower parade by up there in what is now Camp Polk. Some units were designated the enemy and they wore different colored bands on their sleeves. Some of our officers were taken as umpires for the maneuvers and they were assigned to units that they were unfamiliar with. I can’t say that I knew enough about decisions, because I was just a private. There were designated front lines and we were in crude conditions for sanitation. We had slit trenches as latrines. We each had an assigned weapon before we left New Iberia. They issued us the Springfield rifle, so we had weapons on the maneuvers. I can remember that we were much more intense on that second Louisiana maneuvers than we were on the first.
Maneuvers were two weeks and we were able to come home on weekends. Before going to Camp Bowie we stopped off in Lake Charles and all of our family came to meet us. I remember my mother and father and Claude and some friends of his came to see us at a hotel in Lake Charles. Our division was bivouacked in a field, but we were meeting at a hotel.
We were sent to Camp Bowie, Texas for more training. It was a little more intense because we were at war. We made friends with some of the other guards units, but mostly we stayed together like we had been in Blanding. We didn’t have too much problems in our company with complaints about speaking French, but in the Breaux Bridge Company they spoke French a lot; they were ridiculed by some of the other people who were not familiar with our culture in south Louisiana. They spoke French and poor English and they were laughed at. There were some fights that broke out in town, which originated from knowing that those boys were from F Company.
We didn’t speak as much French as the Breaux Bridge Company. But I spoke it pretty well. I spoke French before I could speak English. I didn’t learn my name until I was in the first grade.
While we were at Bowie the Army was recruiting for officers to go to Fort Benning. I was selected among many of the noncoms. I left Bowie in June of ’42. I applied for it and you had to have a certain IQ to qualify. Plus, you had to have an approval from a board of your own officers. If they approved of you, you were given your orders. When my orders came out, J.C. Landry from Jeanerette and I hitch hiked from Bowie to New Iberia on our way to Benning. We had requested for travel time to go on leave for a few days in New Iberia. We went by bus from here to Benning. That ended my affiliated with G Company throughout the war. I went one way and they went the other.
I went to OCS at Benning. We lived in barracks out in the woods where we were set up to go to school. Everyday there were graduates leaving. They called us “90-day wonders,” because in 90 days you could get a commission. We were given lectures and we went through obstacle courses. You had to be physically fit. There was a group of us from the area going to school there. There were guys from Breaux Bridge, guys from Franklin. Bubba Bayard was a friend of mine from Franklin. After 90 days, I got a commission.
I was sent to the 92nd Infantry Division, the Buffalo Division, in Breckenridge, Kentucky. J.C. Landry was sent somewhere else. The Buffalo Division was just being activated. It was a Negro outfit. They didn’t have enough 2nd Lieutenants and officers so they used us to guide a cadre of black noncoms until they received some officers. When you went into their barracks, you knew you were entering a black community. There was a lack of discipline. But they were fairly good soldiers. I was in charge of eight noncoms and they respected me as much as I respected them. I stayed a few months with this outfit until I was reassigned back to Blanding and joined the 30th Division, the Ole Hickory Division.
I went into M Company, which was a weapons company of the 120th Regiment. I was assigned to this unit because of my background in a weapons company with the 156th. We were a heavy weapons company with .30-caliber machine guns and 81mm mortars. I was in charge of a rifle platoon, 1st platoon of the company.
We left the States on February 12, Lincoln’s birthday. We arrived at the Firth of Clyde on Washington’s birthday, ten days later on the 22nd. It took us ten days to cross the Atlantic. This was in 1944. We went by train down to Bognaregus on the English Channel. Later, we moved up to Elsbury England to make way for the soldiers who were building up for the invasion. We trained as we would train anywhere else. We were lectured on German army clothing and things to expect once we got there.
We loaded onto a ship in the harbor and stayed there for a day or so. This one corporal, Crosby, couldn’t stand the pressure, and through himself from the deck of our ship into the hole of another ship parked right next to us. He fractured some bones and was brought to a hospital. He suffered from battle fatigue, without ever going into battle.
There were soldiers everywhere in England at that time. Everybody had a girlfriend, too. Paul Theriot was from here, and he was in our outfit. He used to come and visit with me from time to time.
We landed on Omaha beach on D+6. We landed in the same place where the 1st Battalion’s rifle companies landed. We were a machine gun platoon and we were assigned to support the rifle companies, A, B and C. During initial combat, we had to work with men who we had never trained with. Our three rifle companies, who we were supposed to land with, had to be supported by E Company, who had missed their landing as well. So it’s a wonder we didn’t suffer more casualties because we fought with men who we had never trained with. We stayed this way until the battle line was set up at Saint-suan-Toutnai.
The beach was calm when we landed. We didn’t have any resistance when we got there. We came in on Higgins boats and got wet as hell. There was swollen corps all over the beach. They were dead Germans and some American dead.
Within those six days, our forces had cleaned up that beach quit a lot. We hit resistance once we got onshore to the apple orchards of Normandy. The hedges were thick. We were held up a little north of St. Lo waiting for the breakout. In the slaughter, some of the cattle were killed. There was one cow that was killed right near our foxholes and had started to swell. It was during the day and we couldn’t move out to burry her. So we left her until it got dark. The smell was terrific.
In England, all the officers had liquor allowances. We were three platoons in three sections and we’d get together at 1st platoon’s headquarters. They were best friends of mine. We decided that after our first combat action, we would sit down and get drunk…it never happened…because Lieutenant Condon, who had 2nd platoon, was killed before St. Lo. And none of his men wanted to get his personal effects together, so I had to. That took care of one liquor ration. He was killed by enemy rifle fire. The other lieutenant, Lieutenant Lott had the heavy weapons platoon. He was killed at Port Emile (Fort Eben Emael). That’s when I took over the company. I had all of this liquor in my bedroll, so I called over a platoon sergeant and gave it to him to pass out.
Lt. Lott was in charged of the mortars, 81mm. He had devised a drawing of distances and increments to put on mortars. He became so effective with it that he would set up his mortars behind the headquarters regimental CP and through his mortars as far as the 4.2mm rounds could go. We were always supposed to write up the article about his plan, but we never did get to it. We were going to send it to the Rifleman Infantry Journal at Fort Benning. That was an unorthodox method of being accurate and going against what the book teaches.
We relieved the 101st Airborne Division on the outskirts of St. Lo. We had an incident at Mortan. One of our rifle companies in 3rd Battalion—K Company I think it was—was trapped up there in Mortan.
The Ole Hickory Division was from Tennessee, Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina. They were just like we were; they had been in a National Guard unit and had been federalized. They were tobacco growers and they taught us how to BBQ in the ground: dig out a hole and put your ambers on the hole and put your meat on it.
I had a good company. Most were from Wilson, North Carolina.
We had this one Frenchman who stayed with us as for quit awhile. He wanted to be a part of our fighting force. He had a little pistol with the folding trigger. Headquarters never knew that we had an extra man fighting with us.
Lieutenant Jack Weyman had found a dog in France, a black Dotson, and he took it with us. His name was George and he followed us all throughout Europe. Everybody got attached to George.
The supply sergeant had gotten a radio from this motor pool. I kept it in my jeep between my driver and myself. When we stopped and set up a CP, they would take the radio down and connect it to the field phones so that the men could hear some Glenn Miller music.
In France there was this dead horse on the side of the road, all puffed up. This Frenchman was slicing steaks off of the horse’s rear end. They had no meat! How they survived, I don’t know. I was lucky. I got hit by two bullets; one hit my field jacket and another hit my canteen cup. War is hell.
France was a dirty place. The farm people lived in the house with a barn attached. Their cattle and the people would come through the same door. They asked us not to eat the vegetables because, in some places, they were fertilized by human waste. It’s kind of hard to refrain from grabbing a bunch of carrots or turnips when you hadn’t had any in a while.
I had an invitation from a French family for their daughter, a teenager, who I had become friendly with. She got married some years later after the war and they sent me an invitation. I became friends with this family because I could speak to them. Our French down here is like the ancient Parisian French.
During the Battle of the Bulge, we were sent to the line north of Malmedy. We were called to relieve units where the breakthrough was going to occur. We couldn’t use lights or smoke at night. We had to travel to these little narrow paths in the snow. We ended up in this little town. I was the company commander by then, Company M. the CP of a heavy weapons company is always close to if not part of the battalion CP. So we were in this town. I was in this big house and we stayed there for a while. And when we pushed through, one colonel in our outfit had devised these bootees for the soldiers to wear made out of GI blankets. He got in touch with some sewing outfit in Belgium and they made a lot of bootees. That saved a lot of soldiers from frostbite.
While we were at Malmedy, we got all the white sheets that we could find to camouflage ourselves in the snow. We pushed through and got to St. Vith. On our move, we came across this field where Americans were killed; they were slaughtered there and it was called the Massacre at Malmedy. It was a gruesome sight to see those bodies in the snow. By the time we moved up the Germans were pulling back. They were ambitious and thought that they could get to the English Channel.
We got as far as Magdeburd, Germany and the war was ending. We had wounded this little German soldier and he could speak some English. Most of them could because it was required as a second language in the European countries. He said, “Why ya’ll fighting us now when you’ll have to fight the Russians later on.” For many years I thought that we would be going to war Russia, just as this little fella had told me.
We held up there because the Russian were driving to Berlin from the opposite direction. They told us that they wanted the Russians to take over Berlin. I went as far as our outfit went. We were only two officers in the 120th that went from the beginning to the end and didn’t get wounded or miss a day of fighting. \All the rest were killed or wounded.
I was on the line in the field when the call came to send me back home. Col. Merrill McCulloch had send word for me to report to the battalion. He told me, “You going home.” I got on a train with some other guys and we became fiends. We played Hearts the whole way back. I’ll never forget that.
They sent me back to the States for rehabilitation and I got assigned to Miami, Florida; it was a recreation center there. They secured the best hotels; we were at the Shelburne Hotel in Miami. I was married then and my wife came for a few weeks. I was discharged some weeks later.
I was in Europe for 15 months. Everybody did what they had to do to survive.
After the war I rejoined the Guard and became eventually became Adjutant of the 2nd Battalion Headquarters in St. Martinville.
(Photo of .30-caliber machine gun.)
Interview with Eugene Broussard
Eugene (Gene) Broussard, Sr., Jason Theriot, Hewitt Theriot:
-Broussard was out ducking hunting at Lake Deautrive when he noticed a lot of airplanes fly overhead
-Got home and listened to Roosevelt’s speech on declaring war on Japan
-Went into active service December 16, 1941 and tried to get a job where he could use his legal profession
-Was turned down as he needed 2 years of practice, he only had 1 ½ years
-Wrote to the FBI and they said the same thing
-Went into the Air Force and trained at Avon Park, Florida; was already flying by himself
-Was pulled out without being told why and put into bombardier training
-Later he was called into a meeting with the FBI, asking him to work for them now
-He was to have a secret job watching over the Norden Bomb Sight; was the main military secret base form WWI
-For 4 years he had to write a report to the FBI; he was not paid as it was “so secret” and the Germans would come for him; never told anybody the whole 4 years
-The best way to get into Norden was to be a bombardier
-The bombsight has 2 parts, the horizontal stabilizer and stays in the airplane and then the most important part was the vertical stabilizer
-When checking a bombsight you had to bring a 45-cal pistol; instructed to shoot 2 shots into the bombsight if something went wrong or someone stealing secrets
-In ground training they had to hit these “bugs” that moved on the floor while standing on a bombsight that was also moving; easy for Broussard to do
-First time flying on a bombing run as a cadet, dropped the bomb a mile away at 4,000 feet away from the target
-The next run hit it dead center; average of 5 feet form a mile away, while the typical average is 400 feet
-Was made an instructor to teach the other boys to do the same
-In 4 years they were able to improve the bombardiers by 400%, from teaching 2 classes of 60; the error was now 100 feet by the end of the war
-When each class went through bombardier school the 10% was taken for instructors and then sent to Carsbad Central Instructors School
-There they competed against each other and took 62; Broussard was numbered as the fourth best bombardier in all of the U.S.
-Never went overseas after that; they told him that he was doing more good teaching than fighting
-First class he taught was sent out to Tampa, Florida; 60 cadets
-In 3 months a 1/3 (20) were killed in training; so the field was closed down and investigated
-For in the beginning of the war more airmen were killed in training than in combat; towards the end the numbers changed
-In Europe 50,000 bombardiers, just them alone, were killed; it’s said that it was the bombardiers that won the war, especially since it was them that dropped the atomic bomb
-Never knew anything about the atomic bomb until it was dropped
-Stayed mostly in Texas and worked at 10 different airfields (he lists them)
-Talking of stories with working with computers, older bombardiers from WWI, other instructors
-Had to fly with every cadet, 60, for about 60 months; trained around 500 in all 4 years
-Lectured to other classes other than his own; tells a story of calling out another instructor
-Once over in Europe all they had to do was fly 25 missions and the come home; Broussard thinks that killed them faster
(18:28) Question: Was there any rhyme or reason for flying in a V formation?
-Flew in the squadron (V) to protect each other; if they flew together it would be a lot easier to shoot them down
-They had 6 guns on each plane to shoot down enemies (B-29)
-Never got training in gunnery, was too specialized (talked about how the guns might have been loaded)
(23:28) Joining Up
-Signed up a week after declaring war; had a low draft number and knew he’d be soon
-Figured he’d go into the army infantry if he didn’t make a move quick; tried the legal profession side first, then the Air Force
-After 6 months of training and trying to get a commission the Army legal department calls him and asked him to work for them
-Said he wanted to work for them 6 months ago and he’d only do it from them if he still got his flying pay and they wouldn’t let him so he said “'well you can shove it up your ass then”
-Broussard thinks now he should have taken it as he’d have gotten promotions and eventually paid better, it’d have been a safer job too
-Was a 1st Lt. for 3 years and never got a promotion even though he was so good
-Had to work 14 hours a day or be shipped out; flew 364 days out the year with 1 day off
-Flew everyday with pilots, men and women, so he wore his parachute; never had jump training though but thankfully never had to use it
-When Broussard was to be married, he needed at least 10 days off and one of his general was able to get him out for it (July 1942)
-Broussard believes he probably would have been killed if he had not became an instructor
-Goes back to the airfield incident in Tampa with the 20 boys killed—reason was that the planes’ wings were 3 feet too short
-Talking about types of planes and those Broussard knew in the service
(44:12) Teaching math
-Thoughts on the atomic bombs
-Airplane training, what could have changed and made it better
-Other stories Theriot has heard for his other interviews
-More on different planes
-Plane maneuvers in training and teaching
-Discharged in November 1945
Eugene D. Broussard, Sr.
Born Dec. 13th 1917.
Interview was conducted by Jason P. Theriot, July 30, 2001.
On Pearl Harbor Day I was duck hunting at Lake Deautrive and I noticed a lot of airplanes passing over. So I figured something had happened. When I got home I sat at the dinner table and Roosevelt made his famous speech that Japan had declared war on us. (The US declared war on Japan.)
I got into active service Dec. 16th 1941. And before getting into the service I tried to get a job where I could use my legal profession. So I wrote to the legal dept. in the Army and they said they couldn't use me because you had to have two years of law practice and I only have a year and a half. I was practicing law over here (in New Iberia.) I finished at Tulane Law School. So I wrote the FBI and they said the same thing-that I needed two years.
So I went into the Air Force. I was training in Avon Park, FL and I flew five flights by my self and I was doing well. All of sudden they yanked me out of pilot training and put me into bombardier training…I couldn't figure out why. I found out pretty soon why. About a week or so later the FBI called me into a secret meeting and they said, "We want you to work for us now." Well I said, "I wanted to work for ya'll two months ago." They said, " We have a special job for you. Your job is secret. You can not tell anyone about it. Your job is to watch over the Norden Bomb sight." The Norden Bomb sight was the main military secret we had during the early stages of WWII. They said for me to watch for anything that's not right and report it to them. So for four years I made a report to the FBI.
So when the FBI told me that I had that job, I was pleased because I was only making $75 a month. I asked how much are you going to pay me for working for you. They said that it was so secret that they couldn't pay me. It was so secret that I couldn't tell anybody what I was doing. It’s a secret job. They said the reason why it was so secret because if they (Germans or Japanese) found out what you were doing they would tried to get to you first. They said, "I'll give you an example of the kind of things to look for. There was a German in Germany who found a U.S. Air Force cadet with the looks to match and all, so, he came to the US in a submarine to look for his twin; and he found that cadet and killed him and disposed of his body. He was trying to get the Norden Bombsight. They caught him. The way that I figured that was when you transfer airfields they finger print you and I think they caught him on a fingerprint. So I was supposed to look out for things like that.
I did that for four years. I never told anyone that I worked for the FBI. The best way for me to keep an eye on the Norden Bombsight was to infiltrate the bombardier school as a cadet. So I was working for the FBI and I became a bombardier cadet. Nobody knew that I was working for the FBI. My best friend in the service was a captain named Bennett. He was in charge of all the bombsights at Childress Air Force base in Texas; and he didn't even know that I was checking on him. (He laughs.)
The bombsight is made of two parts: the bottom is called the horizontal stabilizer, it's about 14''-10''; and it stays in the airplane all the time, but the most important part was the vertical stabilizer, it's about the size of one-and-a-half footballs end to end. And you could not check out a bombsight without checking out a 45-cal pistol. We were instructed that if something went wrong and someone was trying to steal the secret, you would shoot two shot into the bombsight to destroy it.
I got into bombardier training. In ground training, to train you, there is a mechanical bug on the floor about as big as a battery; and it moves. And you get on a stand about 8 feet high and there is a bombsight that you operate; so the bug was moving and you had to try to hit the bulls-eye. Well that was a synch to me it was easy to do. I would hit the bulls-eye every time. I was used to shooting a rifle so it came very easily.
The first time that I flew on a bombing run as a cadet, I dropped a bomb from about a mile away at 4,000 feet; and I missed the target, which was a shack, by about 10 feet. I was disappointed. So the next time, on the second run, I hit it dead center. So my average was 5 feet from a mile away. When we landed the commanding officer of the field told me, he said, "boy you don't know what you did. The average bombardier’s error right now is 400 feet and you have an error of 5 feet." He said, "I'm going to make you an instructor; you teach them other boys how to do that." From hunting with a rifle all my life, bombing came easily to me. In four years, in the U.S. Air Force training, I never saw anyone else with as good as a five-foot error on a mission or practice run.
In four years we improved the bombardiers by 400%; the error was 400 foot average at the start of the war, and by the end of the war I instructed two classes where the error for one class of 60 cadets was less than 100 feet. So we made the cadets 400% better than they were four years earlier. They were good at the end of the war. They were accurate. We had taken out all the bugs by then.
See the reason I bombed so accurate was that bombing is all technique and procedure. And at that time, in the beginning, all I knew was procedure. I hadn't developed any bad habits by then. When each class would go through bombardier school, they would take the top ten- percent and make them instructors. Then they took those 10% and sent us all to Carlsbad Central Instructors School; and they made us compete against each other. And they had 62 bombardiers there who were the top ten percent of their class; and I came out fourth in the US. In one way, you could say that I was the fourth best bombardier in the US. So I never did go over seas. They said, "You doing more good here teaching them boys.” So as squadron bombardier, I taught 60 cadets at a time."
We taught one class of 60 cadets and sent them to Tampa, Florida. Within three months they killed 1/3 of them; 20 of them got killed in training. So they closed the field because they thought something was wrong. At the very beginning of the war more airmen were being killed in training than in combat. Towards the end, those numbers completely changed. Over Europe, we lost 50,000 bombardiers, just bombardiers. Most people, when asked what contributed the most to winning the war in the Pacific, they say the bombardier, because a bombardier dropped the atomic bomb, and that won the war (against the Japanese).
I never knew anything about the atomic bomb until after it was dropped.
I was stationed at ten different airfields, mostly in Texas.
One time we had an exercise where the top military brass was invited; and they made a model ship on the ground. And I dropped a bomb right down the smokestack of that ship. Sometimes we would practice dropping bombs at 20,000 feet from 4 miles away with great accuracy.
While instructing a class of 60 bombardier cadets I had to personally fly with each one. So I flew every day. Over the years I instructed almost 500 cadets-60 every 6 months. I would lecture to the classes as well. We would teach them in the air and on the ground.
In Europe during WWII, the airmen just had to fly 25 mission; and then they could go home, but imagine losing 50,000 bombardiers, just bombardiers. Boy that's a lot.
You see they flew in V's (the squadron); that was for protection, to protect each other. You see, if you got them all together it would be a hell of a lot easier to shoot the enemy fighters down. The bombardier, in a B-29, was the aerial officer. He had six machine guns in the front that he fired- six machine guns- one man. -Six 50-cal.
Towards the end of the war, the sight for the machine guns was 98% accurate. The ground crew would load the guns with ammunition to full capacity, before a mission. And boy, they would fire a lot. There were a lot of shells going out.
The B-29 was pressurized. There was a large tube, from the front of the plane to the back. That enabled you to move around without a pressure suit. The second best plane was the B-17. And of coarse we had the B-24 or the ‘flying coffin’ as it was called.
See I had a really low draft number, they were going to get me. So I had to make a move quick. I figured they would draft me into the army infantry, so I joined the air corp. (He joined a week after we declared war)
After it took me six months to earn a commission, the Army waited two weeks and called me to the legal department. And they said “we want you to work for us now.” I said 'I be damn, I wanted to work for you guys seven months ago.' See, they were watching me all the time. I said well that's good; I wanted to do it seven months ago. The only thing is I just got married; and I'm not making a whole lot of money, so if I get into the legal department can I have my flying pay-that's 50% extra. They said 'No we can't do that.' I said, 'well you can shove it up your ass then.' I told them right then and there.
I never got a promotion for about three years in the Air Force. I stayed a 1st Lt.
When the B-29's first came out, they trained us, and on the final examine I scored 100%. That's how much I knew about the plane. Would you believe (he was told) that when a B-29 gets to 20,000 feet, it could fly a mile on a gallon of gas? That's amazing.
The bombsite has two indices, one is stationary and the other one moves, and when the two touch each other the bombs automatically fall. Well, we had a malfunction on the plane; and the indices had a problem so the bombs wouldn't drop, so I told the pilot to fly around and I will drop them all at one time manually. There was a target on the ground. And I dropped 20 bombs from 20,000 feet-guess where they hit; they all hit in the (shack) bull’s eye.
I went to school 18 years to become a lawyer, when I got into the service would you believe I went to school for four more years. All fours years in the service I was in school, all the time. See when I was a bombardier instructor, they'd teach you other things, I studied to become a Navigator. We had to keep track of our time 24 hours a day; and everybody worked at least 14 hours a day. You had to put down when you slept, when you ate, and if you didn't work 14 hours they would ship you out. They were strict on us. And at Childress we flew, out of 365 days, we flew 364-we had one day off in the whole year. It was a grind. We had to be in great shape. We got enough exercise flying at 10,000 feet every day.
And I flew with a different pilot every day, sometimes even women pilots. I wore my parachute all the time, just in case. We never had any jump training though; they could have done better with that. They could have done better with a lot of things, but we got by somehow.
I got a leave to go home for 10 days. I got married in Coteau, Louisiana in July 1942 to Elsie Babineaux. I bought a car and drove home about once a year. I was lucky I was an instructor. If I had been a combat bombardier I would have probably been killed. We lost a lot of young boys. We lost some during training. At that field in Tampa, they lost 20 cadets out of 60. They checked those planes and found out that the wings were 3 feet too short. Can you believe that? I was a similar kind of plane that they flew over Tokyo-Doolittle- a B-25. What do you think encouraged him to make that raid? Man! And he went himself you know. (Doolittle's Raid.)
In the B-24 and the B-17 we had to fly with an oxygen mask when we hit 10,000 feet. It was so much trouble to go to the back of the plane to the toilet that we would just piss out of a hole in the side of the ship. Talk about cold. We'd wear regular coveralls, and fur-line suits. It was 40 below. In the B-29 you were comfortable, because it was pressurized. We were quite comfortable on the B-29.
At 4,000 feet, you drop the bomb about a mile and a half before the target. The Norden Bombsight took care of the distance for you. It came naturally to me, like shooting a rifle with a telescopic sight. The bombsight only went 70 degrees. You set the cross hairs in the telescope and put them on the target. If the cross hairs stay on the target you are all right; if they are not synchronized you're not right. At 20,000 feet you had to start setting up about minutes before target.
My best friend in New Iberia was Donald Duncan; incidentally he became a bombardier instructor too. He and his two brothers were all pilots; they were from Avery Island. My great-grandfather was a general in the Mexican War; my grandfather was a colonel in the Civil War, and my daddy was a Captain in the Spanish American War. I was way down. I was just a First Lieutenant.
In advance, I had no idea about the Atomic Bomb. I read in the newspaper, in Albuquerque, that a deaf child felt a vibration; and no body else felt it. See Los Alamos is about 100 miles from Albuquerque. I was in New Mexico during that time, but I had no idea what it was. We didn't know about it till after.
If we hadn't drop the atomic bomb on Japan, we probably would have lost half-a-million men (in the ensuing invasion.) It killed a lot of people, sure, but look at the Russians. They lost 12 million, with no atomic bomb. Look how hard it was to take all those little islands in the Pacific. If we had invaded the Japanese homeland, every man, women, and child would have had a gun.
I was discharged in November 1945. Now the day that I resigned my commission, the Army came and told me that if I signed up the reserves, they would make me Captain-today. Can you believe that? I told them to shove it again.
I bet you there is no record of me working for the FBI. I had to send them reports periodically. I would say, in the letter, that I was going fishing. If I saw something that didn't look right, I would report that I caught a fish, and they would come see me right away. But I never did see anything. In those reports, I never caught a fish. In early '42 the Norden Bombsight was our biggest secret. The Germans had nothing close to it. It could have changed the war for them.
They lost the air battle over Britain, which was a turning point of the war. With the Norden Bombsight, they could have turned the tide in their favor.
Interview with Jack Broussard
Jack Broussard, Jason Theriot, Hewitt Theriot:
-Went into the service in September 1942
-Pearl Harbor day was on a Sunday and Broussard was driving to the movies; he was surprised, never kept up with the news being he was 18
-Tried to enlist into the Navy Air Corp, wanted to be a pilot, but he was colorblind so they put him in the regular Navy
-Boot camp in San Diego, got there by train and after boot camp went into the Corp school for medical training for another 6 weeks
-Was allowed to pick his station so he chose Seattle, Washington at the Navy hospital for a year; ironically gave colorblind tests
-Eventually transferred to a troop transport that went out to the Aleutian Islands and stayed on the ship for a year
-It was a Merchant Marine ship, “SS Henry Failing”; went out for 30 days between Washington and the islands; it was a big ship
-Main destinations were Adak and Attu; did stop at Kodiak a few times
-The Japanese were already gone by the time Broussard was there (1943); on one island they were 750 miles away from Japan
-Rough water (Pacific) that would rock the ship
-Ship was run by the Merchant Marines so the food was good; 4-5 men to a stateroom
(14:33) story of a mental patient he had to take care of on the ship
(17:36) treated for different diseases and minor injuries
-There were no war injuries there
-Adak was a big base that had a movie theater that they used when in port
-Never was in contact with the locals there
-Got their mail when coming back to the states; Broussard’s mother wrote every day to him
(18:24) talking on various subjects
-Living conditions and weather on the ship
-The food and mess hall
-Lower you went the more bunks stacked up and rocking from the ship
-So cold and rough waters
-Tokyo Rose, the only station they could pick up, played good music
-Swapping stories between Broussard and H. Theriot
-How the war is portrayed today
(44:00) the end of the war
-After being on the ship for a year went back to Seattle for another year, 1945
-Got out in March of 1946; discharged in Seattle and stayed for a few months with another medic’s family he gotten close to, before coming home
-Came home by train and visited with the family
-Went to work at a bank after the visit and met his wife there
-His family understood why he left for the war
-Recounting how he got home in detail
-Talking on other subjects of New Iberia and family, living in Seattle, the ship
I was then transferred on to a troop transport that ran out to the Aleutian Islands. We were carrying the Seabee's. It was a Merchant Marine ship-SS Henry Failing. We'd go out for 30 days at a time, back and forth from Washington to the Islands. I was on that ship for about a year.
On the ship there was a doctor and five-Corpsman, all Navy. I was one of the Corpsman. Our main destination was Adak and Attu, but we made stops at Kodiak. The islands were secure from the Japs by then in '43, but there were submarines in the area. At one point we were only 750 miles from Japan. That was a concern, but we were so young at the time, you don't worry too much about those things.
The ship was run by the Merchant Marine for the Navy. There were four or five of us to a stateroom, and we ate pretty well. The sea's (North Pacific) were really rough. That's the roughest waters' in the world. And it was real cold up there, a lot of snow. We stayed on the ship most of the time, but we would go onto the island. The main island, Adak, had a huge base there, and we'd go and watch the movie pictures.
We would listen to Tokyo Rose quite a bit; she played great American music. That was the only thing we could get on the radio. Her purpose was to make us homesick. She had a sweet voice and she played all the good music for us servicemen.
We took care of the sick men from the islands. We had an operating table and a Dr.'s office, and a small medical ward on board where we worked.
I had become friendly with a family in Marysville, Washington, and I became close to them. I would visit them when we came back to port. I'd get my mail when I came back to port. My mother would write to me everyday.
I was discharged in Seattle and I stayed there with this family for a few months then I came home in March of 1946. I stayed friendly with this family all these years and I still correspond with one of their daughters, all of the others have passed away.
Interview with John Broussard
John Broussard, Jason Theriot, Hewitt Theriot:
-Pearl Harbor day Broussard was going to a date with a nurse from Lafayette and he was on the way to pick her up when he heard it on the car radio
-The draft board was going to put him into the Army, so he “jumped the stick” and joined the Marines in January 8, 1942
-Brought him to New Orleans and from there on a troop train to San Diego for boot camp
-After the camp went to Saint Louis Abistol in the mountains; 22 years old
(7:10) After 2 weeks at Saint Louis Abistol in the rifle range went back to San Diego
-That night they got there they were put on a ship for 200 people but had 2,000 soldiers crossing the ocean
-Reached Samoa, unloaded and sent into the hills; no Japanese, came to relieve some “China Marines”
-Were given tents and cots, it rained every day and flooded
-Went through a telephone school there; learned to climb on coconut trees rather than a pole
-First time up fell down 10 feet onto his back
-Stayed there for 6-8 months before going back on the ship to Wallis Island; they were a defense battalion
-They were there to keep the Japanese from taking this island; early 1942
-Made friends with the natives; had a French governor and some French Marines and nuns
-Made a wonderful job in making Catholics out of the natives; would go to their beautiful churches for mass
-Stayed there for 22 months; only way off that island was to get Elephantiasis or as the natives called it “Moo Moo”, got it from a mosquito bite and it’d swell up
-Broussard did get Elephantiasis; they’d take them on a hospital ship back to the states and then once healed back to the island
-Got on leave for 30 days after recouping and got married during that time
-Reported back to Belle Chase, a naval station across the Mississippi
-They were guarding some ammunition dumps where the submarines were stationed
-Transferred to Quantico, Virginia as seasoned veterans
-Never saw any action, closest to it he got was on the islands but still nothing
-Acted as an interpreter on Wallis Island as he could talk to the governor and natives; helped his commander
-Built an air strip on it; nothing ever happened; (27:27) story of a fight
-The natives were lighter skin than Africans; French did a good job in making them decent Catholics; gentle people, dressed well
-Liked to eat dog rather than the wild pigs; coconuts and fish were big part of their diet
-Every 2-3 months a ship would come to give supplies; sometimes brought mail and cigars
-After staying in Quantico he went to Camp Pendleton, in the desert
-Was shipped off to Honolulu, Hawaii; getting close to the end of the war, was there when the bombs were dropped
-Shipped out to Okinawa on an LST; then over to Sasebo with materials to make communications along the coast to Nagasaki
-While in Japan they began sending people home on points and eventually Broussard was sent off
-Took a ship to the Aleutian Islands, very cold and rough waters; seasick for 3 days
-Got back in San Francisco and took a train back home
Born: July 25, 1919
2nd Marine Division/South Pacific
Samoa & Wallis Island
On Pearl Harbor Day I had a date with a nurse from Lafayette. I was born out there on Peebbles Plantation. I practically grew up on the dairy out there, selling milk to the locals. My fat uncle and I bought the dairy and the cows from my grandfather. And there was a young kid that worked with me and he and I joined the Marine Corp shortly after Pearl Harbor.
Between me and my fat uncle, one of us had to go to the service. My uncle told me the farm would be waiting for me when I got back. The draft board had me by the neck to join the army, so I decided to "jump the stick" and joined the Marines. I did on January 8, 1942. They put me on the bus and brought me to New Orleans. From there we went on troop train to San Diego for boot camp. I was a pretty big fellow then; I weighed about 220 lbs.
I made it through boot camp with no problems. Right out of boot camp they put us on a train and hauled our butts to Saint Louis Abistol. I was 22-years old. We got there up in the mountains at a rifle range.
At that rifle range at Saint Louis Apispol we took target practice. I hit maybe a few out of a hundred. I think I had a little crook in my eye. We went back to San Diego that same night. We never got to see the town, never got a liberty pass, and we got onboard a ship- the President Garfield. The ship was built for 200 passengers; we were 2,000 marines aboard that ship crossing the ocean.
It was in the 2nd battalion/2nd Marines. We got to Samoa. We unloaded and they sent us out in the hills. There weren't any Japs, but there had some old "China Marines." We were there to take their place. Boy they were salty. They were tough. They didn't drink beer cold, they drank it hot, cause it had more of a kick.
So we'd go out to the boon-docks and they gave us an old leaky tent and a canvas cot. It rained everyday. I went to a telephone school out there. I learn how to climb coconut trees to run telephone lines. The first time I went up a tree with those spikes, I fell down about 10 feet on my back. It knocked the wind out of me. We stayed there about 6-8 months, then we boarded another ship and took off to Wallis Island, half way between Samoa and Fiji.
This was early 1942. We were a defense battalion. Our job was to occupy an island and sit there so that the Japs wouldn't take it over. We built a little airstrip there and we had some radar stations set up with machine gun nests. We had a ton of dynamite to blow up our installations incase the Japs tried to take over the island.
We got to be friends with the natives there and we were doing good. There was a French governor on that island with his family. I got to be friendly with them. They had a hand-full of French Marines and a dozen nuns that ran a hospital. They had done a wonderful job making Catholics out of the natives. They built some beautiful churches and I'd go to the mass. It was really beautiful out there, but I was far away from home. I stayed there for 22 months.
The natives didn't bother us. They were these big beautiful coconut trees all over the island. There were these wild pigs that would run around in the bush, but the natives wouldn't touch them. But if a big fat dog walked by watch out. Those natives like to eat those big dogs. The natives had dark skin and the women were beautiful. There was an outbreak of leprosy out there. They were very gentle people. The French did a good job making them civilized.
I had made friends with all of them. This one family had kind of adopted me. I had me a nice fat dog that I kept chained up under my bunk, but one time he got out…and he never came back. I guess they ate my dog.
I would act as an interpreter for that French governor and our commander. We'd get together and they'd talk a good bit, and sip on some conyak. I'd have a little tottie myself sometimes. I had a guy who sent me a box of good cigars. They were good.
The only way to get off the rock to come back home during the war was to get Elephantiasis. The natives called it the Moo Moo. A mosquito would bite you and you would swell up. It was close to the equator in the tropics, so we'd sleep naked all the time and we'd get bit by the mosquitoes. If you'd get it, you got to ride in the hospital ship to come back home till you healed up. They'd keep us in a hospital for a few months till you got over it, then back to the rock.
I came home on leave one time while I was recouping from elephantities. I came to New Iberia for 30 days and got married. I reported back to the naval hospital in New Orleans after my 30 days, a married man. I still had the bug in me I guess.
I reported to Belle Chase, the naval station across the Mississippi. It was nice. I had weekend passes and I'd come home. We were guarding some ammunition dumps out there where they had our submarines stationed. The submarines would come and load up right there.
From there they transferred me to Kwanico, Virginia. We were showing these officers how to live out in the boon docks, since we were seasoned veterans. We'd spend a few days out in the snow. I stayed there maybe six months.
I went to the desert at Camp Pendleton for a short while. Then they shipped back to Honolulu, Hawaii. I was there when we dropped the bomb. They weren't happy with me yet, so they put me on an LST and sent me to Okinawa. This was after the Japs had surrendered. We picked up some materials and went to Sasebo, Japan to put up some communications along the coast. We rebuilt telephone lines from the coast up to Nagasaki. There was nothing standing in that city; it looked like it was just squashed. It was awful.
When we finished out job on Japan we went to the Aleutian Islands. Boy it was cold up there, and rough as hell. I was seasick like you wouldn't believe. I didn't eat for three days. I got back to San Francisco and took a train back home.
I got to see a lot of places, but was lucky. I never saw any combat. I had a calm existence in the service
When I got back, my uncle told me that the farm wasn't big enough for the both of us. So he told me to take a hike. I had a wife and daughter to care for so I went into partnership with my other uncle. We bought my grandpa's sugar cane farm and all his mules and tractors. I had saved some money that the government gave me when I got out of the service. It was about $2,000. That was the best thing that ever happened to me.
Interview with Carol Mestaye, Lloyd Broussard, and Louis Prince
Carol Mestayer, Lloyd Broussard, Louis Prince, 2 women, Jason Theriot, Hewitt Theriot:
(2nd part) Starts off with Mestayer telling a story trying to get a train from Chicago to New Iberia
(3:20) Basic Training
-Took basic training at Fort Sheridan, 30 minutes out of Chicago; was allowed to go in every other weekend
-Was there in the beginning of 1943; first time Mestayer had pizza
-Had a girlfriend in Chicago but she couldn’t dance
-Every Saturday there was a dance on the base and that’s where he met her, her name was Helen Thompson
-Got back home from the war and couldn’t get a job
-Government gave them 52/20 (for 52 weeks paid $20 each week)
-Worked out in the Atchafalaya Basin for 9 months before the job “folded up”
-Went out into the Gulf to work until his contract was up
-Then drove a butane truck in 1947; had to sell in rations
-1948 went to work at Brown and Root and stayed there for 35 years
(10:04) Interview with Lloyd Broussard
-Worked on a tugboat for a while; last job was for 6 weeks and then quit
-Was walking by the high school’s draft board when Broussard and some friends (Homer and Angus) decided to join the Marines
-Went to New Orleans to pass the examinations and did; left December 26, 1942 for training
-Took a train to training and they came in at night; was in San Diego for basic for 8 weeks
-Went on to rifle training and then on to Saint Clementi to specialize
-Broussard wanted to go into air force mechanics or metal smith on airplanes
-Next day was sent to North Island on the naval base; had to march everywhere
-Stayed there for 3 months doing Marine Corp Supply and Naval Accounting (not what he wanted to do)
-Sent back to San Diego for a week and then shipped out; at sea for 18 days
-On a French Liner, “Roe Sham Boo” with 10,000 people on it; landed in some islands and no one knew where they were
-Found out it was Espiritu Santo island, south of Guadalcanal; there to stop the Japanese
-It was a rough spot there and they couldn’t get supplies through; one point had to furnish gasoline on a raft to fuel the planes
-Broussard’s job was to keep the planes running and flying; had a Seabee battalion
-Worked in a warehouse with Marine Corps supplies; sometimes they’d take things from the Army base
-Stayed there for 18 months before sending him back to the states to get a promotion
-Went back to San Diego and got a 30 day leave and then stayed there for a year
-Worked again in a warehouse with the personal effects of those that went over to Saipan
(23:55) On the islands
-There were natives, 3 types: a few Japanese, Tonkinese and black cannibals
-Tonkinese were dropped off in groups as the others that had been there for a year working were picked up
-The cannibals would come out of the jungle once a year to get medical treatment from the nuns; wore no clothes
-Tonkinese men wouldn’t work, they’d bring their wives to work in the coffee patches and then sleep
-Broussard would go into the jungle but they made a policy that they would not go into the jungle after 12 as it got dark fast
(29:08) looking at photos, medals
(31:01) Interview with Louis Prince
-Went into service June 19, 1944; took basic at Fort Bliss, Texas
-Went into the infantry and then overseas to Liverpool, England
-Crossed the English Channel into Leharve, France straight into battle
-Contracted pneumonia in Leache, Belgium and sent to Paris to get well
-Once well he was sent to the 78th infantry division, the Lightning division in Patton’s 3rd Army
-Back into combat at Wuppertal, Germany and stayed there for the rest of the war
-Was sent to Berlin to occupy for 7 months after the war; the city was mostly gone
-Had more trouble with the Russians after the war rather than the Germans
-Stayed in a big apartment building, ate well, better than when in combat
-Wore the same clothes in combat, full of scabies; no food or drinking water
-Found a 5 gallon peanut butter can one night and ate it he was so hungry; everybody was starving
-Left Europe in 1946, June (looking at photos Prince took)
-After the war ended, Prince’s outfit was in Kassel, Germany and they got ready to go fight the Japanese in the Pacific
-Happy to hear that the war was ending on that side too; everybody was scared
-Looking more at photos (others in the background talking too)
-When the war was over, joined the boxing team for the ETO Championship
-Got home by ship and landed in New York and discharged at Camp Shelby in Mississippi
Carol Mestayer (7-15-2001)
Born July 23, 1923
397th Antiaircraft Regiment/100th Infantry
(This story appears at the end of Mr. Mestayer's interview. But it pertains to his time spent in Chicago on basic training.) We took our basic training at Fort Sheridan. And I had a girlfriend in Chicago. A beautiful girl who couldn't dance. Every Saturday, we had a big dance on the base. Busloads of girls would come to that fort. Each one of those girls had a chaperon. I would go every Saturday. They had good music- Big Band music. Big hall. And I notice that pretty girl against the wall about every Saturday. I said, "damn that's a pretty girl." I kept putting it off to ask her to go dance. Finally I got enough courage to go see if she wanted to dance. She said; "Aw ya man, I can dance." But she couldn't dance worth a shit. Two left feet. Pretty girl though. Her name was Helen…Helen Thompson. About 19 maybe 20. Pretty girl.
I got back and I couldn't get a job. The government gave us 52/20- 52 weeks for $20 a week. I went to work at the Atchafalaya Basin. I worked there for about 9 months. Then I worked in the Gulf. I drove a butane gas truck in '47. Then in '48 I went to work for Brown and Root. I stayed there for 35 years. And that's the end of my story.
Born: Dec 24, 1924
Espirito Santos- South Pacific
I worked on a tugboat for awhile and every two weeks the boss would come bring us something to eat or he would relieve us. So we had been gone for six weeks. We I finished that hitch I decided I would quit my job. So I came over here, I was walking down, in front of the high school. The draft board was after us. Homer and Angus (Dugas?) decided to join the Marines and they asked me if I wanted to join with them. I said," aw ya," not knowing any better. So I joined up. We were 5 or 6. We went to New Orleans to see if we could pass the examination. We all passed except Lloyd Ransonet and Sam Girard. The Dr. asked Sam why he couldn't pass he said, " Well I thought we come here to kill Japs, not eat them."
So we left from New Orleans on December 26, 1942. We went on the train; we got there that night. They showed us where we would sleep, and they said don't worry, you showed up late so we'll let y'all sleep late. That was the biggest joke I had ever heard. Next morning they had a speaker right over my top bunk, blowing. (Reveille). This was in San Diego. I took basic training for 8 weeks.
After basic we went to rifle training. Then after we got all that done we went to San Clementi. They took us out and they wanted to know what kind of school I wanted to go to. So I told them I would like to take up a coarse in airforce mechanic. They asked what would be my second choice. So I said I would like to be a metal smith on airplanes. The next day they sent me to North Island on the naval base. That was one of the worst parts of the whole thing, because we were one platoon of 62 people on a base with god knows how many people. Every where you'd go you had to march. So we stayed there for three months. They sent me to Marine Corp Supply and Naval Accounting. That's the two subjects that I took in school. Then they shipped us out. It took us 18 days. We were on the French liner, the Roe Sham Boo. We had 10,000 people on it. They brought us into some islands. We didn't stop anywhere; we went right on through. Come to find out it was Esperito Santose Island, just south of Guadalcanal, part of the Solomon's. That's where they stopped the Japs.
Things were pretty rough right there. See you couldn't get supplies through. Finally it got to the point where we had to furnish gasoline on a raft, a 50-gal drum, to keep those pilots flying. That was our job…to keep those planes operating you know. The army guys, when we first got there, built an airstrip using those steel mats. Then, when the Marines got there, they built a coral airstrip on the other end of the island. A real good job. We had a SeeBee battalion that took care of all that.
I remember one time we were running short on supplies, see we would get naval supplies from one place and we'd get some food from the army and everything they didn't want to eat they would send to us, until we learn we could shoot cows. (Laughing) Anyway, my main job was to keep the airplanes flying. We had the F-4U. It turned out to be one of the better planes in the war.
From there we helped with what ever needed to be done. Now they put me in a warehouse. I handled all the Marine Corp supplies including your rifle, sacks, clothing, everything you owned you would get from there. And it was very interesting. We had to find places for everything, and when we couldn't find something, we found out where the Army had kept their base. One night our General said we were running low on gasoline and he told us to load up our caterpillars onto trucks, and we were going hunting tonight. See they would give us a list, and we had to have everything on that list or we couldn't go into combat. That's something about the Marines, it doesn't matter where it comes from they had to have it.
I stayed there for 18 months. I had even built me a washateria over there. They sent us two of them washing machines that you start with your foot. I asked the boss, "why don't you let me open up a washateria?" He said, "ok." So I opened me up a little business. I cut me a barrel in two. Fill it up with water and heat it up with a butane burner. I'd wash the cloths and hang it up on the line. The men would come pick it up that afternoon. And they would pay me so much apiece. I had good business going, but then we ran into something else.
What happen, was it got to be my turn to serve mess duty? So he called me into the office and he told me, "I hate to tell you this, but the way things are we are running short on promotions." He says, "now they are giving those boys Corporal rating when they get out of school." So here I was, I had spent a year and a half over there and the boys in the states were getting promotions not me. He told me, he said, "Don't worry, I'll find a way." So what they normally do is they'd send you to a place like that (the island) for 18 months, then they would send you back to the states for 18 months. One day he called me into the office and told that Santa Claus had passed.
They sent me back home for a 30-day leave, and then they sent me back to San Diego for about a year. In fact they were getting ready to send us into combat. We didn't really have that much training in that type of thing. And they sent me to stay in San Diego while the young boys in my outfit went to Saipan. They put me in charge of personnel effects. I had a big warehouse. So I stayed there until the war ended.
May I was doing a pretty good business with my washateria, I had made some money, but you see we had no use for money over there. Every thing was free, so when I left, I left my business behind.
I had joined up when I was 17, and I hadn't been home since. It was nice coming home, but then you think about going back.
(What is your wife's name?) (His wife said, "At the end of the 30 days I was worn out and glad to send him back. I was working all day; he was sleeping all day. Then we'd go out every night.")(What is her name?) Anne G.
They had three kinds of people on that island. They had a few Japs and they had the Tonganese. I don't know where they came from, but they would bring them there about every two years. They would drop off a load and pick up the rest. They would pay them twenty cents a day. Back in jungles they had the cannibals. Now they would come meet us once a year and they would meet us at the gates. (For trading and medical purposes. The nuns had a hospital near by to give medical relief.) They were colored people; they didn't wear many cloths, just a few leaves. They carried spears. They don't work very hard. They got a big ole machete, and they would go down in the jungle and bring their wives to work in the coffee patch. They wouldn't work at all. They'd nock off at noon.
Every once in awhile on Sunday afternoon after we had finished our work, we would travel down the island to an ole Frenchman's plantation. He was the over-seer for a coconut plantation. He had a little girl that was three and a little boy that was five. You wouldn't believe how well educated they were. You could talk to them about airplanes and stuff, cause they had seen all that you see. Well that old boy say he hadn't drank water in 20 years, so we'd bring him some water and he'd send us back with some jugs of wine and bananas. Well one time on our way back, we had to pass a slue in our little boat and we tip over. We hauled back to the old man's house, he say, " What happened." So we told him and he asked where we had passed to come here. We said the little slue, the way we always come, he said, "Well I just wanted to tell you that one of my nigas (helpers) got his leg cut off by a barracuda." (Laughing) Luckily we had our little boat, cause I don't know if we would have got back at all.
That's about the size of it. I can't say that I didn't enjoy it, but I don't think I want to do it again.
Louis Prince (7-15-2001)
Born: February 3, 1925
310th Regiment/78th Infantry
I went into service in 1944, June 19th. I took my basic training at Fort Bliss Texas. I was assigned to a 99mm gun, AA. From there I went into the infantry, then I went overseas. I landed in Liverpool England. Then we cross the (English) Channel into France, at Leharve France. From there I went straight into battle. I contracted pneumonia in Leache Belgium. So I was sent to Paris to a hospital. I stayed there for awhile until I got well, then they sent me to the 78th infantry division, the Lightning division, in (Patton's 3rd Army.) Wuppertal Germany, in the Rhur Pocket. I went right back into combat.
When I went into combat I stayed in the same cloths for 2 or 3 months. No time to change clothes. No place to wash. We were all full of scabies. No fresh drinking water, no shaving. But the worst thing is getting hungry with nothing to eat. One time, in Germany, I was so hungry that I couldn't sleep. So I got up, and there was this old tent, and I went inside looking for something to eat, and they had a big 5-gallon can of peanut butter. That's all they had. And it's hard swallow peanut butter by its self. Boy I ate and ate till I couldn't see. Then I couldn't look at peanut butter for years after that. In Germany in these little towns we would go to people's houses and tell them to get out and then take what little food they had. There wasn’t much. Everybody was starving.
I left Europe in June of 1946. Most of these pictures I took. I had a camera. (He has three photo albums full of pictures) That was the big three. (The whole city is destroyed and here is a mural of the big three…ironic.)
After the war our whole outfit was around Kassel Germany. We were getting ready to go to the Pacific to fight the Japs, when we received the word (Pacific war was ending) we were happy.
Somebody that would tell you that they never got scared, they were lying.
After the Germans surrendered my outfit was sent to Berlin. We occupied the city for 7 months. When I got there all I saw was piles of rubble and rocks where buildings once stood.
Berlin was all messed up, all bombed out. We had more trouble with the Russians than with the Germans. They (Russians) weren't civilized people. In Berlin, there were Americans, Germans, English, and Russians, but the Russian's weren't civilized at all. (Were your living quarters reasonable in Berlin?) Ya, where I was staying, it was a big apartment building. We stayed for 7 or 8 months. We had plenty to eat there, but before we got to Berlin, while in combat, we had nothing…we were starving. Cold, cold all the time!
The people who survived were starving. The Germans would beg us for a cigarette. They would follow us around and pick up cigarette butts on the ground to smoke it.
I joined the boxing team toward the end of the war. I fought for the ETO Championship in March 1945, but I lost. (What weight class did you box?) (Lightweight)
But the Russians were cruel people, cruel to the Germans. (Mr. Broussard says, "But they caught hell that winter before on the other front." Well, ya. (Mr. C. Mestayer replies, "If it wouldn't have been so cold, I think the Germans would have taken Russia, the whole bit…Stalingrad and Moscow…but it was so cold that they ran out of supplies.") They had no winter cloths.
(What would be worse: freezing cold, no drinking water, not being able to drink for a couple of days, dirty, not able to bath for months, hungry, not be able to eat for a few days?) Hunger, but it was all bad. I always said, that whenever I get back home, I'll eat anything you put on the table, (Except peanut butter!) I won't ask any questions.
Born and raised in Lorauville. Five in my family went to the war. Four were in combat. One went to Italy; the others went into the Pacific. Whitney, and Sidney, they used to call him Neg. There's only Sandy and I left.
When I went into Europe, I'd write home every time I had a chance. I had a girlfriend back home, I'd write to her, but nobody would ever write me back. I said well isn't that something, nobody cares for me. But I'd never stayed in the same place. I kept moving all the time. So finally at mail call one time, they called me, "Prince. Mail for you." It was a big ole box of mail. Boy I was happy. I sat down and started reading. Before I got through the Captain came in and told us, "come on, drop everything, we are leaving." I read about half, then we had to leave so I left the rest behind.
I left Berlin in May of ’46 to come back home. I came back on a troop ship. I landed in New York, camp Kilmer, New Jersey. We left on the USS Manhattan. I got back in June '46. I received my discharge papers from Camp Shelby in Mississippi and came to Loreauville Louisiana. I was lucky. I didn't stay in battle too long.
Interview with RJ Broussard
RJ “Chink” Broussard; Jason Theriot: Hewitt Theriot:
-Was part of the National Guard in New Iberia, in the 156th infantry
-Went to Camp Blanding, Florida before the war (1940?) and when war did break out sent to Charleston, South Carolina
-There to guard the docks; sent to Camp Bowie, Texas and from there eventually overseas (1941)
-Landed in England in 1942
-Was a boxer already and went into boxing in the army too (talking about some fights)
-In London they were on guard duty and training; boxed in middleweight championship there
-Boot camp in Camp Blanding; no infantry training when war broke out
-The 156th infantry was mostly all men from New Iberia
-With the National Guard went to London then to North Africa and then Italy and lastly to France
-Broussard’s term in the guard was over during the war and eventually put into the army
(8:20) In North Africa fought Marcell Serdan twice a week
-Fought on the amateur card at the service club in Oran, North Africa
-Serdan and Broussard would talk French to each other; Serdan was in the Navy
-Looking at newspaper clippings of his fights; boxed till 1948
-In North Africa they fought on Saturday and Sunday nights
-Before being transferred was in G Company and was sent into the Army Special Service
-Fought 90 fights altogether during the war—won 73, drew 7 and lost 10
(16:30) From North Africa went to France then to Italy
-In France had a team of pros and amateurs and then went into Rome
-Had been to Rome before when working with the police
-Guarded some of Rommel’s troops, POWs; worked with the FBI and police looking for fascists
-Would knock on or break down doors of addresses the FBI had given them
-Had taken hand-to-hand combat at University of Oran in North Africa; never had to use it, always behind the front lines
-Was there for entertainment purposes not to really fight in the war
(23:20) Mannheim, Germany
-Was in Germany when the war ended; in with a TDY outfit in the special service
-People drank a lot and then try to drive the military vehicles so Broussard had to arrest them
-One escapee of a POW and had to chase him, Italian GI
-Was in Rome for D-Day
-People he met during the war
-Talking of family, life before and after the war
-Fights and people Broussard knew
-Speaking French as children
-Tour of Europe he did with his wife after the war
-What he did for the troops as entertainment (importance)
RJ "Chink" Broussard
Company G, 156th Infantry Regiment LA National Guard
Interview conducted by Jason P. Theriot
I joined the National Guard in 1940. I went to Camp Blanding, Florida before the war. This was in 1940. When the war broke out we went to Charleston, South Carolina. We were put on guard duty at the docks. From there we went to Camp Bowie in Texas. That was in 1941. In 1942 we left for England. (Besides boxing, what duties did you have in England?: Guard Duty. Did G Company participate in training maneuvers with the rest of the 156th? yes)
I fought in London. I won the middleweight championship there, 168-pound class. I had been boxing since I was ten years old. I started at New Iberia High. Mr. Gunner was my coach. I boxed all over: in a gym, on a headland in Loreauville. From London we went to North Africa.
In Oran, North Africa I used to fight with on Marcell Serdan’s fight card twice a week. We would fight on the amateur card at the service club. He was in the Navy. He was a nice guy. We spoke French to one another all the time. We would box on Friday nights and Sunday nights. There were clubs, nightclubs everywhere we went. And we would take them over and have boxing matches there. Of course those areas were secure from the Germans.
I fought Lou Jenkins; he was the lightweight champion of the world. And he beat me, but he didn't knock me out. During the week I was still a soldier with the 156th—G Company. We were in charge of guarding some of Rommel's troops who were POW's.
We went into Italy after the invasion forces landed. We went on a small ship from North Africa to Anzio. The smell of death was terrible there…lots of dead bodies. We (Who is we, the entire G Company?) Yes. all went to Anzio and then to Rome as MP's. We would go on raids with the FBI and Italian Police looking for Fascist. The FBI had a list with addresses and we'd go to their house looking for them. We'd knock on the door and if they didn't open the door we'd shoot off the lock. I carried a .45 pistol. I had taken hand-to-hand combat at the University of Oran in North Africa.
In Rome, the Americans were on one side of the city and the Germans were on the other side moving out. They had decided not to fight in the ancient city. The Germans were given time to pull out by the Americans.
One time in Rome I was on duty and when those boys would get to come off the front lines for R&R they'd drink a lot. I had stopped this one guy in a jeep driving drunk. He had a bunch of women with him and they were all drinking. We arrested him and through him in the brig.
Another time this Italian prisoner got loose and I had chased him into a yard where he couldn't get out. He had an iron pipe in his hand and he told me he would use it if I got any closer to him. Well I took my pistol out and shot right out in front of him. He said, "I don't care if you shoot me, you not coming close enough to get me." So I got a little closer to him, and he cocked his arm back to swing that pipe at me, and I hit him with an uppercut to the gut and he went down.
At 23-years old I was put in charge of training a group of amateurs and pros from the 156th. I would put on shows for the GI's when they got off of work or when they took liberty. Boxing was very popular during the war.
My tour with the Guard ended in 1945, so I decided to join the regular Army. I was with the 4th Armored Division after the war ended.
I was finally transferred to the Army Special Service. We entertained the troops in Europe at places like Dejean, France and Nancy, France and Menheim, Germany. But all those New Iberia boys were still close by. I would go eat dinner with them all the time. We had all gone overseas together. A few of us are still living. Two guys that I was good friends with were John Mestayer and Ed Broussard. Only one guy was killed out of our group. I think he was a [Oswald] Ransonet boy from Loreauville. I used to work with [Lee] Castille boy before the war. Howard Roy was our commander when the war started. Gerald Wattigney became our company commander overseas.
I spent some time in France, putting on boxing matches. (Was there fighting still going on in France and Germany?) Yes. I had put together some teams of amateurs and pros and we entertained the men when they would get R&R. We would travel by plane. The Army took good care of us. I was 23-years old.
I was in Mannheim Germany with a TDY (What does TDY stand for and what kind of unit was it?) outfit when the war ended. That's another branch of the Special Service. There were French and German wine cellars all over the countryside and we celebrated. But we really just wanted to come back home.
I was in the Stars and Stripes a few times. I had ninety fights while I was in the service. My record was 73 and 10 with 7 draws. My tour ended in 1945, but I reenlisted. I won the heavyweight championship of the 4th Army in 1948. My wife and kids drove our car from New Iberia to New York. They boarded a ship and came overseas to meet me. They landed in Leharve and we drove all over Europe touring.
I had a good time during the war. At the time I was doing something that was really important to the troops. I didn't realize that at the time. When the men would get off on R&R they had swimming pools and basketball courts, but it was the boxing that brought the most. They really enjoyed watching us box.
(Did you use your French in North Africa, Italy, and France to communicate with our French allies, or with the French people? Did it come in handy? Yes
Interview with Rene Broussard
Rene Broussard, Jason Theriot:
-Joined the U.S. Navy on June 1, 1942; went to Great Lake, Illinois for basic training
-By July he was on the way to New York to board a Destroyer, “USS Jenkins”
-Patrolled the Atlantic coast for submarines from December to October
-Made contact with one submarine off the coast of Cuba
-Escorted 500 ships on the invasion of Casablanca, North Africa from October 26th to November 8th 1942
-On the 7th (day before) a submarine fired a torpedo at Broussard’s ship and missed them by 6 feet
-Gives dates and places/battles he was at in a timeline; battle stars he’s earned
(6:40) Sailed on two ships: “USS Jenkins” a destroyer and “USS Sitkoh Bay” an aircraft carrier
-Was a water pump tender in the engine room and worked on the boilers on “Jenkins”
-Made fresh water from sea water as a water tender on “Sitkoh Bay”
-Had 365 men on each ship
(9:44) Joining the Navy/Battle of Casablanca
-Had some friends that didn’t want to go into the army so he tagged along
-Went to New Orleans to sign up and while there the Navy supported them
-Initiated on June 1, 1942 and was on training for 6 weeks; kept a record of everything (is reading from it)
-Casablanca was the first real big push against the Germans in the beginning of the war
-General Rommel was taking parts of North Africa and going for the rest
-Europeans didn’t want that but the British were in Libya so America was asked to go in and help
-Escorted 500 ships to the battle; led as lead Destroyer for 21 destroyers, which is why they saw the torpedo being directed to them and were able to evade it in time
-The French in Africa were with the Germans and Italians at the time; were shooting guns that had been left there from World War I (1918)
-One shell did hit a cruiser and it went through the sleeping quarters and into the kitchen but never went off—might have been a dud
-Coming in within 7,000 yards of the beach the Germans started firing and did some damage to them then
-They had been shooting at them since 7:00 that morning and by 1:00 the Germans stopped
-Came to find out a battleship, “USS Massachusetts,” shot 3 shells into the radar control and shut the German artillery down
(15:50) Worked in the general quarters as a doctor
-Once in the Pacific was stationed on a .20 mm machine gun for general quarters
-“Jenkins” took part in the Battle of Guadalcanal, all the battles in the Southern Solomon Islands and Tarawa
-Fought every night with the Japanese; they were good
-Had to keep secret on how many ships they were sinking or damaging; no pictures to be taken
-After leaving “USS Jenkins” it hit a mine but did not sink and continued to be used till 1969 when it was scraped
-Not many destroyers went undamaged when in the Pacific
(22:00) Picked up a Marine pilot who had ditched his airplane in the ocean; had been about 10,000 feet when he had engine trouble
-He came down and crash-landed his plane right in Broussard’s ship wake; he jumped out and they rescued him
-The pilot was Jeff Deblanc from St. Martinsville
-Patrolling off the East Coast of Guadalcanal one night and they could hear a loud plane above them (Washing Machine Charley) almost hit the ship; must have been lost in the dark
-Walter McHellhenny was a Lt. in the Marines and they met while Broussard was working at Avery Island
-He was in the Pacific; got into trouble a bit with those higher in command
(31:15) A Japanese Colonel came running at McHellhenny with a sword and it took a while for them to kill him as his clothes were too thick for bullets to pierce
-McHellhenny caught malaria and was sent to hospital in Australia
(35:40) Pearl Harbor Day
-Working as a landscaper at Avery Island when they heard; knew nothing about it or where it was
-While in school they would listen to the radio and hear what Hitler was doing and when he was invading the countries in Europe
-Did come to understanding that the attack on Pearl Harbor meant war
-Tried to get into the Marines but was too tall (6’ 6’’) and almost was too tall to get into the Navy
-Still grew 2 more inches after that and his clothes were too short
-Talking about the American Legion, VFW and family
(43:06) Coming back to the states
-Came back in 1945 and went back to school in Pennsylvania
-Was able to come back as he had enough points
-Knew that eventually if the war was ever to be over the Japanese needed to be defeated
-Wouldn’t have stopped if the bombs weren’t dropped
-At the time Broussard had no idea what “atomic” meant and how much damage it was capable of
-Talking of night and naval maneuvers of the U.S. and Japanese; certain battles
-Training he went through
-Always at sea, only got off twice to an island to gather supplies
-Family history from Canada
-Involvement with the VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars)
Rene J. Broussard
Born: July 30, 1921
USS Jenkins/USS Sitkoh Bay- Engine room
When I was going to school at the old New Iberia High, Hitler was invading all those countries in Europe. We had a radio in the office and speakers in the classrooms. They would let us hear what Hitler was doing. They would let us listen in to the transmission for a lesson and we would have to answer question and write them done, like an assignment.
When the Japs attacked Pearl Harbor I was working on Avery Island and when I heard about it I didn't know what Pearl Harbor was. I had never heard of it before. I didn't know what it meant at the time. Sometime after that the Army would send me questionnaires. I filled out a few and sent them back, but I didn't what to join the Army, and the Marines wouldn't take me because I was too tall-6'6''. So I joined the Navy.
A friend of mine and I went to New Orleans in May to join the Navy. We stayed in New Orleans for a whole week while the Navy supported us. We were initiated on June 1, 1942. They put us on the Illinois Central and they sent us to the Great Lakes. I had my training there for six weeks. After training I was sent to Brooklyn, New York and assigned to a Destroyer.
The first ship I was on was the USS Jenkins. It was a Destroyer. It was a brand new ship; it had no battle scares. I worked in the engine room as a water-pump tender. It was a steam engine, so I took care of the boilers. It had 6,000 HP with twelve-foot props. We had 365 men on board.
We patrolled off the Atlantic coast for a couple months. We were patrolling for German submarines. We made contact one time with a sub off the coast of Cuba.
In 1942 the Germans, under General Rommel, took parts of North Africa and the Europeans didn't like that. He was going to take all of Africa, but the Americans stepped in to help. This was our first big campaign. The British were out there fighting in Libya. But in Casablanca on the west, the Germans had taken all of that. If they had taken all of Africa that would have cause some serious problems. So we went over there to help out the Europeans.
From October 26th to November 8th we escorted 500 ships on the invasion of Casablanca in North Africa. We were chosen as the lead destroyer for this mission. On November 7th, while crossing the Atlantic, a German submarine fired a torpedo at our ship and missed us by about six feet. We saw it coming in time, and our Captain was able to take evasive action to avoid it.
The Germans were having much success with the submarine warfare before America got involved in the war. They were all over the Atlantic. We started using the B-25 bombers to find and sink those German submarines. When we made the invasion of North Africa, Hitler told his U-boat Captains to get the hell out of our way, because we could have sunk a bunch of them.
When we landed on Casablanca the French were shooting at us. See the French in North Africa were with the Germans then. The French were shooting at us with American guns that were left behind in France after WWI in 1918. They had one shell that hit a cruiser and the detonator fell off. It went through the sleeping quarters and stopped in the kitchen. They looked on the shell and it read- "USA-1918." The shell fell apart. It might have been a dud, cause it didn't go off.
We came within 7,000 yards of the beach and the German coastal artillery started firing at us. We had a flag on top of our ship with a V for Victory and a 14-inch shell went right through it. The German guns did do some damage to our ships out there.
The Germans had been shooting at us since 7 o'clock that morning, and then around 1 o'clock that afternoon everything stopped. The big USS Massachuttses Battleship sent three shells at the enemy radar control and it shut everything down. Their artillery was useless after that.
We had a lot of guns on our ship. At general quarters I was stationed with the doctor, because I was trained in first aid. Later on when we hit the Pacific theatre I was stationed on a .20 mm machine gun for general quarters.
We returned to the states after the North African invasion and in December 1942 we were send to the South Pacific.
The Jenkins took part in the Battle of Guadalcanal, all of the battles of the Southern Solomon Islands, and Tarawa. We saw some serious naval battles over in the Pacific. We fought every night in the "Slot." The Japs were good. They were good fighters at night.
We damaged some of the enemy ships, but mostly it was kept secret. Some guys would draw a little Japanese ship on the sides of their ship with the number of hits made on the enemy or how many enemy ships they sunk, but we didn't take pictures of that. There were no cameras on board. All of that was kept a secret. They didn't want it to get out how many ships we were damaging and sinking.
One night we picked up a Marine pilot who had ditched his airplane in the ocean. He was up about 10,000 feet when he had engine trouble. So he came down and crash-landed his plane right in our wake. He jumped out with his May West jacket on and we rescued him. That pilot was Jeff Deblanc from St. Martinsville. He was awarded the Medal of Honor during the war. I met him sometime after the war. There was a story about it in the newspaper.
One night we were patrolling off the East Coast of Guadalcanal, and we would hear "Washing-Machine Charley." It was pitch dark and we couldn't see anything, but we could hear him. That airplane was noisy like a washing machine. It passed so close I could feel the wind move through my shirt. It almost hit our ship. He didn't know where the hell he was. He must have been lost in the dark.
We stayed at sea all the time, but I got to go on an island one time. It was Espirito Santos. I went with a guy to get some supplies from the big stores they had on that island.
There were not many destroyers that were undamaged by enemy fire in the Pacific. My ship hit a mine sometime after I was transferred to my other ship. The Jenkins fought in Korea and Vietnam.
I came back to the states at the end of December in 1943. I went to Fire Fighting School in Bremerton Washington in January. While I was there I ran into Joe Terrell from Avery Island. He was a Marine stationed on a ship up there.
On the second ship, the Escort Carrier USS Sitkoh Bay, I was a water tender. I made fresh water from seawater. We used special effect boilers for that. It would take salt water, boil it, and would transfer to fresh water. I was making 20,000 gallons in 24-hours. I made enough water for the showers, but all of the water had to be purified to go into the engines. It was steam powered, so the engines needed fresh water to run. We carried a bunch of airplanes and had a crew of about six hundred men on board.
We were transporting airplanes from the states to all over the Pacific. We carried a lot of the newer planes to the Pacific, like the P-51 and the F-7. We carried a lot of troops too.
Walter McHellhenny was a friend of mine. I met him at Avery Island when he was a LT. in the Marines. When the war broke out he was shipped to Camp Pendelton in California. He was shipped to the Pacific on a ship. He commanded a rifle company. He caught malaria and was shipped to a hospital in Australia. A Negro assaulted him there and Walter hit him over the head with a stick. The Army didn't like that, so they discharged him. He took off on a PT Boat and they couldn't find him for awhile.
He told me about this Japanese Colonel who came running at him with a sword and he was wearing some kind of padding on his body. He said those Marines were firing at him with machine guns and that Colonel kept coming. He finally fell dead right in front of Walter.
Those Japs were fierce, cruel people. They didn't give a damn about dying.
The Japs lost the war in the Pacific at Midway. The American code breakers had broken the Japanese Naval codes and we knew when and where the Japs were going to attack. The Japs came in with six aircraft carriers. We sunk four of them. Midway was the decisive turning point in the war.
Admiral Yamomoto told the military that they could only fight the Americans for six months. They had enough supplies and resources to fight the Americans for six months. They had a lot of soldiers over there in Asia, and they wanted to take Australia. They were building an airfield on Guadalcanal to land and refuel their planes to bomb and attack the ports of Australia, and they hoped to eventually take over that country. But the Americans stepped in and we stopped them at Guadalcanal.
The Americans were ready to invade Japan. We got as far as Okinawa and Iwo Jima. They were set to go, but then we dropped the Atomic bomb. The officers in Japan didn't want to fight any longer, they knew all hope was lost. We dropped a second bomb on Nagasaki and the Japs surrendered.
We would have lost a lot of lives if we had invaded Japan. Those Japs on those islands stayed there till after the war. Some of them were still held up in the jungles 10-years after the war ended. Those Jap officers just left them there.
I came home in 1945 and I went to school in Pennsylvania.
Interview with Dot Broussard
Dot Broussard, Jason Theriot:
-Middle of a story about a map that was used by her paratrooper husband (Sam)
-Foreign exchange students and CODOFIL people from France that they housed through the years
(5:09) Home Demonstration Agent
-Had finished LSU for pre-Med and went back to take Home Ec
-By the time the war started she had been married for 4 months and her husband was killed
-Moved back to St. Martinsville and drove to Breaux Bridge to work
-Broussard’s job was to test pressure cookers to make sure the food they cooked was done correctly
-Taught adults like they were in 4-H, on programs that the state wanted them to use in canning, gardening, freezers, etc.
-Mostly during the war it was all about preserving food with the rations; people liked to gardened
-Taught how to use the pressure cookers, cutting up animals and what to use or can
-Everyone was onboard for the war effort
(14:00) her second husband (Sam Broussard) in the National Guard (sent out activated outfits) and eventually was the Battalion Executive
-He quit early as he was gone every night and he wanted to have the weekends off
-Volunteered for the service as a paratrooper before being put in the National Guard
-Probably would have died if he continued on as a paratrooper
-His knowledge in the French language is what helped him; spoke many different dialects
-Would find out where the Germans were hiding in France, working with other Frenchmen
-Came a few hours later after the invasion on the beach
-He would talk about how sad it was to see all the men dead or dying and couldn’t do anything for them
(18:00) Stories about Sam
-Their trips to France, people they met or he knew from his time over there during the war (stayed in Paris for a year)
-People they know from Louisiana
Interview with Dr. Agapito Castro
Dr. Agapito Castro, Jason Theriot, Hewitt Theriot:
-Dr. Castro was 10 years old, living in the Philippines (native) when Pearl Harbor happened; lived on the island of Luzon
-The first Japanese bombing on the Philippines was December 8 (in our time zone that was December 7-Pearl Harbor day)
-The Japanese forces came from Formosa, present day Taiwan
-First memories were around September-October when they would practice “black outs”
-Sirens would sound and they were supposed to turn lights off if it was at night
-His father had a radio that was strong enough to pick up the BBC station and that was how they learned about the comings of war
-First major memory of the war was December 10 and they were all sleeping, it was around 4 AM, and they heard 3 explosions
-Dr. Castro’s father brought them out into a grove of bamboo as it was thick and he figured the bamboo would be able to absorb the shock if a bomb landed close to them
-They stayed there till the sun came up
-His father was a judge and if anything happened in town he got the first reports, after the army
-Later that day he got a report on the bombings and one had hit a railroad and there was some people dead
-The bomb had ruined the railroad track and a train came upon it later that morning and detailed, killing a few people inside
-There was a camp about 2-3 miles from where the wreck had taken place, an Army camp, and that might have been the target or they were trying to cut off supplies to the camp
(4:10) Question: How did the Filipino people feel about the Japanese coming into their country?
-They still hate them now; resisted every way they could with the best guerillas and supported Macarthur
(5:11) at noon (Dec. 10) they left their home and went to their ancestral home in another town (grandparents’ home)
-That afternoon the Japanese began bombing Clark Field; Japanese planes were painted silver and stayed in “V” formation
-Crossed paths with soldiers from trucks on the roads, watching the bombings
-When they got to the house they saw a plane go down, Capt. Collin Kelly, after he shot down a Japanese plane that landed in a rice field
-Everyone began moving south to get away from the Japanese; they were invading and people were afraid
-Bataan surrendered in April 1942 and Corregidor in May of 1942
(10:56) September 21, 1944
-They hadn’t see any American planes for 4 years
-Heading out to the farm that morning, it was cloudy but they could hear the planes above them
-Then one of the planes came out of the clouds and they saw the “Stars and Stripes” on it
-They were bombing Clark Field
-With the Japanese invasion, Dr. Castro’s father was not able to practice his profession as a judge
-They had closed down their government and his family worked in the rice and sugarcane fields
-Japanese also took away his radio and they were only allowed to know what the Japanese told them
-The one thing they were not allowed to have was guns, they took all of those too
-Each town had a platoon of Japanese soldiers and they used Filipino military to help keep the peace
In Dr. Castro’s part of the country they had 3 types of guerillas:
-Bandits that robbed
-Ones supported by MacArthur
-And the Communists (started long before the war and were calling for reforms)
-All fought the Japanese
-The Communists guerillas still continued after the war and during that time, Dr. Castro felt more afraid than when the Japanese were occupying the area
-In 1944 the MacArthur gorillas came to Dr. Castro’s father and asked him to make a guerilla unit in their town as the submarines were giving them supplies and weapons
-By the time they were ready to make a unit the Americans came in
(16:58) the Americans
-The Marines were landing in the Lingayen Gulf, 100 miles from Dr. Castro’s family’s farm
-They could hear the shelling on the beaches; the Japanese fled to the mountains
-Eventually the Americans made it into the town and everyone went to see them
-They were dressed differently and had jeeps, they were the Alamo Scouts; had been sent ahead of the main army
-Dr. Castro was 14 years old at the time
(22:20) Japanese Occupation
-The Japanese came in and occupied the Philippines and each town had a platoon
-They stayed in the schoolhouses and there were guards 24/7 there; had rifles and bayonets
-Every time the natives passed them they had to bow; if not done right you were beaten
(25:20) Bataan Death March
-From Bataan the POWs were walked to San Fernando, Pampanga in April for about 30 miles
-Then they put them on railroad cars to a town, Capas; 6 miles from Dr. Castro’s town
-At Capas they did a head count and then walked to Camp O’Donnell, where the concentration camp was
-Dr. Castro did not see the first batch of POWs but others were telling them about the poor Americans
-After that they began to bring them food when they got off at Capas
-They’d wake up at midnight to make rice and put either chicken or eggs with it and wrapped it up in banana leaves and then haul it to Capas and get there by 7 AM
-The Japanese would not let them get close to the POWs;
-If they were Filipino POWs they were a bit lenient on them so they could throw/roll the food at them when they walked by;
-If caught throwing food to the American POWs they’d get beat by the rifle butt
-One time there was an entire group of American POWs and the Japanese commander let them go up and give food to them; they were reluctant as this was a first
-After they ate all the soldiers stood up and clapped their hands before they were sent off
-Talking of families, others they’ve interviewed, Larry Aucoin, those they are going to interview
(37:10) after the Americans came
-After the Alamo Scouts left the 37th Infantry Division came in; made their headquarters in his uncle’s house
-The artillery was placed at their farm and they shelled the hills around Clark Field
-Every night they dug foxholes waiting for the Japanese Bonsai charges
(38:12) Life under the Japanese/Stories
-Things did change, people lived in fear
-They were starving but so were the Japanese; production of rice was down as people were afraid to plant with planes being shot down into the fields
-They would do public hangings in the town plaza; mainly they were guerillas
-Tells a story about a “ghost,” a hiding POW that wore a sheet
-A story about an American dive bomber that parachuted into their field and was shot
-Most of the schools were closed and those that were open would brainwash you; his father never let him go (4 years)
-The idolization of MacArthur to the Filipinos
-There was no news coming so many thought they were not going to be saved, never saw any Americans for so long
Dr. Agapito A. Castro (3/9/2002)
1100 Andrew St.
New Iberia, La 70563
I was 10 years old when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. I was living on the island of Luzon. The first bombing of the Philippines was December 8th. Actually, December 8th, in our time zone, was December 7th in Pearl Harbor. It was a different attack force all together. The Japanese forces that attacked us came from Formosa, which is now Taiwan.
The attacks were concentrated mostly against the airfields. The biggest base was Clark AFB which was less than an hour's drive from where we lived.
I can remember two months before the attack, in October, our town started practicing "black outs". The sirens and church bells would sound off at night and everybody would turn their lights off. I remember looking out of our window and the whole town was dark.
The first memory that I have of actual war was on the morning of December 10. We were all sleeping and around 3 am in the morning we heard three loud explosions outside. So my father guided us outside and brought us down to a grove of bamboo behind the house. I asked him why the bamboo, and he told me because they were so thick and very thick roots. He figured if a bomb landed close to us, the bamboo would absorb most of the shock. We stayed there until the sun came up. There was no alarm, no sirens going off.
My father was the town judge. One of his duties was to investigate violent deaths. Early that morning the police led us to where the bombing took place. It seemed that the Japanese bombed a railroad track by our house. When the early morning train passed, it was derailed when it went over the bombed railroad. The locomotive and the railcars were lying on their side, wrecked, and I saw some dead people in the window. That was my first experience with the war.
At noon that day, on December 10, the whole family packed up our belongings and traveled to our ancestral home in another town and that's where we stayed. It was my grandparent's old house. That afternoon, the Japanese started bombing Clark Field. On our way there we saw a column of army trucks by the side of the road and the soldiers were all getting off the truck and scattering in the nearby rice field. They waved us to hurry up. They kept pointing at the sky and sure enough we saw nine silvery planes flying very high, in a tight "V" formation. We made it to our ancetrial home without incident.
The next day around noon, the Jap planes came again to raid Clark Air Force Base. I could see the black puff from the anti-aircraft shells among the high flying Jap planes. I saw a lone B-17 being chased by some Jap fighters. The B-17 was smoking and then I saw two parachutes come out of the plane. I lost sight of the B-17 and later on the local newspaper ran a story about the air battle. The American bomber was being piloted by Capt. Collin Kelly and the plain expoded in mid-air. Kelly was awarded the DSC for that action. He was the first American hero of WWII. (I have a painting of that battle scene and he signed it. The Japanese pilot who shot him down was Saburo Sakai, the famed Japanese Ace pilot of WWII, who also signed the painting) I witnessed this battle from my house. That afternoon my father and I went to see the remains of a Jap plane shot down during the noon raid. The plane plunged into a rice field creating a big hole. The stench of oil and gas and burnt flesh was nauseating.
When Batan surrendered in April 1942, the American and Filipino POW's were marched 30 miles in the heat of the April sun from Bataan to San Fernando, Pampanga. The prisoners, numbering in the thousands, were transported by rail cars to the small town of Capas. From there, they detrained and lined along the railroad track and had a headcount. After the headcount they were marched to the concentration camp, Camp O'Donnel. Capas was six miles from my town. This went on for days until all the prisoners from Bataan and Corregidor went through, and arrived at the camp. Our town elders got together and they decided that we should bring food to these starving people. Everynight the people in our town would wake up at midnight and start preparing food. We would wrap a big ball of boiled rice and put in a piece of meat and boiled egg in a big piece of banana leaf, and wrap all of that up. At about 4am we would ride on a ball cart to the town of Capas. It took about 2-3 hours to negotiate the distance on the slow bull cart. By 7am we would be in place. There was a rusty road that runs parallel to the railroad track where the POW's were detained and marched through.
The Japanese soldiers let us stay at a distance from across the road, and after the usual headcount, the Japs would march the POW's right close to us. We would then slip or throw the wrap food overhead to the POW's. If the Japs guards caught you they would jab you with their rifle butts, or kick and slap you. They caught the Mayor of our town and the Jap officer hit him with a lead pipe and broke his forearm. If the POW's were Filipino, the Jap guards were a little bit lenient. They looked the other way so long as the distribution is not flagrant. But they were very strict towards the American POW's. Anyone that was caught throwing food to the Americans would get a rifle butt across the face or chest.
When Corregidor surrendered, the Japs brought a train-load of American POW's. I remember a very emotional incident one morning. The train stopped and the soldiers were unloaded. They were all Americans. They let them squat down next to the train and then they counted them. The guards stood between the Americans and us. This one Japanese Captain, the one in command, motioned for us civilians to move in closer to bring food. We were reluctant, because this had never happened before. We ran up as quickly as we could to bring the Americans some food. Then the Captain blew his whistle and motioned us back. The Americans sat there and were eating this food, and soon after they all stood up at once, like somebody had given them an order. They all stood up, clapped their hands, and sat back down. The Japanese commander then ordered them to march out. It was very emotional.
When the Japanese invaded my country, a platoon was sent to my town. Each town in the Philippines had a contingent of Japanese soldiers, and the soldiers mostly stayed in the schoolhouse. In front of the school was a pillbox, and soldiers were standing guard twenty-four hours a day with their rifles and bayonets. The Japanese like to use bayonets to scare the people. And when you walked by them, you had to stop and bow. If you don't bow right, he's going to call you back and slap or kick you around a few times. They were very cruel.
The Japanese immediately confiscated all guns, weapons, and radios. The local newspaper was censored. The Japanese closed down the schools at the beginning of the war, but later on the schools reopened. My father did not let us go to school because the children were being brainwashed.
Each town in the Philippines had a town "plaza", or town square, in the middle of town, like the Boglani Plaza. There was a Catholic church on one side, a school on another side, and the municipal building on a third side. One morning after mass, as we were coming out of church, the Japanese came to the square and ordered all of us to gather around the square in a big circle. They brought in a prisoner in the middle of this square. They made everybody look up at him. They put a noose around his neck and hanged him by the flagpole. When the poor man stopped moving and was dead, they told the people they could go home.
Another time they did the same thing. This time they brought in a captured guerilla.
My father was not able to practice his profession. The Japanese closed down our government, so we moved to our ancestral home to farm rice and sugarcane. We had a newspaper, but the Japanese printed it, so they wrote what ever they wanted us to know. And they had confiscated my father's radio. The number one thing that you could not get caught with was a gun. You couldn't have any weapons. Each town had a Japanese garrison of maybe five soldiers, and they were in charge of security of that town.
For four years we never saw an American plane until one morning, September 21, 1944. I was going to our farm. It was a very cloudy day. We noticed there was a lot of activity in the air, there were a lot of planes hovering around. One of those planes came out of the clouds and we saw the Stars and Stripes, and I said, "God Damn these are Americans!" They were bombing Clark Field. We had been under the Japanese control all those years. It was just like the Gestapo in Germany. We lived in fear all the time.
The Americans were eventually brought to Cabanatuan. The Marines landed in Lingayen Gulf, about 100 miles from our farm. You could see and hear the shelling of the landing beaches. The Japanese were trying to evacuate into the mountains, and they told us there were some Americans in town. So we went to go see them, and they looked very different. They were dressed different and had a different kind of helmet. The guns were so different. And they had jeeps! They were the Alamo Scouts. They were going ahead of the main army forces. When the Americans landed in Lingayen Gulf, the gorillas informed MacArthur about the Americas prisoners at Cabantuan. He sent the Rangers in to get them out. It is the only successful prisoner of war rescued attempt of WWII. It was quite amazing story.
I remember when the Alamo Scouts came to my town, and when they moved out, the 37th Infantry Division came in, and their headquarters was in my uncle's house. They placed the artillery in our farm. They were shelling the hills around Clark Airfield. There were a bunch of big guns, 105 mm and 155 mm howitzers. I can remember the sounds of these big guns- Kaboom! Kaboom! Every night, when the sun would go down, the soldiers would start digging their foxholes. They were preparing for the nightly Japanese Bonsai attacks.
I remember one time this American dive-bomber was coming over us. He was attacking this satellite airfield a few miles from my house. The Americans were bombing all over so we were in our air-raid shelter. This American dropped his bomb and as he was pulling out he got hit by artillery. We saw a parachute open and the plane crashed. But the parachute didn't open all the way; he fell to the earth. He landed in the middle of our cane field, a few hundreds yards away from us. We were in our shelter watching him come down. This Japanese spotter was on top of the church and he saw this thing coming down. Immediately he shouted to the Japanese to go get him. My father and I saw this happening. So we crawled out to this man, but he was lying on the ground. He had broken both his legs. The Japanese came and shot him. They killed him right there and told us to load him onto a cart and bring him to the Japanese garrison. They could have given us some trouble, but luckily they didn't.
Sometime in January of 1945, when the Americans had captured Manila, was when our people were finally liberated and our government was reestablished. MacArthur came down and gave his speech and we raised our flag. The Filipino people believed that MacArthur was God. His father fought the Spaniards in the Philippines and he was a big general there. MacArthur became an aid-decamp to his dad and toured all of Asia. Then, he was stationed in the Philippines before he became Chief of Staff of the US Army. He and his wife lived in the Manila Hotel for years. His son was born there, so he had close ties to the Philippine people. Without MacArthur, the US Navy would have by-passed the Philippines and gone on to Formosa and then Japan. He fought that vigorously in front of President Roosevelt at a meeting in Pearl Harbor. He said that, 'we have a moral obligation to free the people of the Philippines. We promised to defend this country and we did not.'
My feeling is that Roosevelt wanted to start something to give him an excuse to help Britain fight the Nazi's. He needed an excuse, so that's my opinion about why he didn't warn about Pearl Harbor.
(How did the Filipino people feel about the Japanese coming into their country?) Hell, they still hate them today! We resisted every way we could. We had the best guerillas in that part of the world. They were all support by MacArthur.
When I first met Dr. Bernard, when I first moved to town, they introduced me to all the doctors, he said, "Aw, you from the Philippines." I said, "Yes." He said, "You ever been to Manila Bay?" I said, "Yes." He said, "Do remember that boat that was jetting out of the bay, the farthest one close to Corrigador?" I said, "Yes sir, I remember that one." He said, "Well I sunk that ship!" That's how we first met. The ship was still sitting there in Manila Bay after the war ended.
I've spoken with Larry Aucoin about the war. He was just a small boy like me during the war. He and his family were in the concentration camp at Santo Thomas, where my school was- the University of Santo Thomas. It was a Dominican school used by the Japanese as a concentration camp for foreign civilians. That's were he was. There was a book published, Rescue, and his father is mentioned there.
Interview with Ambrose Champagne
Ambrose (AJ) Champagne, Jason Theriot, a woman (Mrs. Champagne?), Hewitt Theriot:
-Raised on a farm in the back of Parks (“Grandbois”- big park)
-Drafted March 18 (1942) and sent to Camp Beauregard, Alexandria
-Transferred to Fort Smith, Arkansas and attached to the 6th Armored Division; trained for 6 months before going to maneuvers on the Sabine River in Texas
-Went back to Fort Smith and moved out to the desert in California; trained another 6 months and then sent on to Camp Cook
-Was doing guard work and training; filmed some training films with Paramount Pictures
-Went to Camp Shank, New York to go overseas; water was full of submarines
-Landed in Scotland and moved inland to Long Polk, England; trained there with anti-aircraft guns
-The hospital there was used during D-Day and Champagne watched them bring in the wounded
-Had to wait until an armored division could be safely put on the beach
-Brought to the Channel and waited till July 30th till they could cross; finally saw the aftermath of war
-Camped out in a pasture overnight and the 3rd Army started to retake Brittany
-Pushed back the Germans and then went up to Paris; cleared up more spots and went into Nancy, France and the Moselle River (Mogdiville)
-Ran out of ammunition and gasoline and had to stay there from September to October
-By November they attacked through the back of Metz and pushed the Germans back; Battle of the Bulge soon followed
(7:44) Battle of the Bulge
-On Christmas Eve they moved to Metz and slept; next morning traveled to Luxembourg for a week
-New Year’s Eve (if remembered correctly) they replaced the 5th armored Division
-The snow was horrible and was the height of the fence and so cold (40 degrees below 0)
-Took 9 days at Bastogne to wait out the weather; they’d fight and take 10 feet and that night they’d lose it to the Germans again—a costly war
-One night Champagne got stuck out in some acres of trees with just 2 men; Germans were firing tree-burst shells and all the tops of the trees were gone
-Decided to play coward as the Germans were coming so they dug a foxhole and covered themselves with the fallen tree tops and branches
-There was going to be more Germans than there was of them (3 men)
-Doesn’t really believe he was a coward, just realized there was no way they could fight all the Germans that were coming
-January 9th the sun came out and the planes were able to come in and pushed the Germans back
-They retreated pretty far and they followed them until the 3rd Army was called back; the 1st and 9th Army took care of the rest
-They got to the Rhine River and the Germans were trying to sink the pontoon bridge so they couldn’t cross
-Never got to sink it and they were able to cross it into the country
-Germans were not really on the run but they were running low on equipment
-The Germans were using their flak guns and grenades on them; a fight the whole time they were retreating
(13:32) Went through the town Buchenval and saw a concentration camp
-There was a little room where the people were executed; made with cement with nails on the walls
-The people would be tied by the necks and hung up on the nails until dead
-Never saw any hanging but Champagne knew what it was
-He could see the fingernail marks of where the people would try to claw themselves up
-The beds were big traufs with 3-4 people in each with one blanket
-They were little and starving; had seen American POWs and none went through that kind of punishment
(15:42) Halftrack and Armored Tactics
-Was a sergeant in charge of a halftrack; had 5-6 men with him, a driver and 2 machine gunners in the back
-In the Headquarters Company, 50th armored Battalion, 6th Armored Division
-Tactic: “Let’s say that we were going to fight for Parks. Okay, they would first send some of the line companies in the battalion, foot soldiers. They would be in the two-and-a-half ton trucks. When it was a big deal, they brought in infantry from an entire division, two divisions if necessary. They would walk ahead of the armor.”
-The 2-3 years of training before going into combat helped; learned a lot of the tricks
-English men would say: “He who runs today may live to fight another day”
-Came back with a bronze star and the French “Croute de Ger;” wasn’t there to try and earn medals
-Shot one of his own men one night in the woods
-They had to be careful as Germans were there so they were told to shoot anything that walked unless it knew the password
-These 2 fellows, Wishner and Wagner, Champagne figured they were too old (in early 40s) to be in the army
-Champagne saw movement and yelled for the password and no one replied so he fired and hit one
-Never found out if he killed the man but he (the other man) should have been more alert; had to go on a small trail to see whether or not Champagne shot on purpose
-Needed to be alert as they had replacements coming in all the time (so you didn’t always know everybody that was with you)
-Many times the replacements would go on patrol and never came back; Champagne’s brother Richard was a replacement and after a few days he was killed
-Was under Patton and only ever saw him once in Magdeville
-They were stationed there several weeks waiting for ammunition
-It was the first of November and it was pouring cold rain; Patton was there with Generals Grove and Bradley
-Normandy was hedgerows with Germans in the trees; tanks would get hit in the bellies
-Germans had bulldozers so it was easy for them to knock over the tanks
-One sergeant took a bulldozer and put blades on the tanks; saved a lot of equipment this way
-Found the concentration camp and from then on it was just pockets of Germans they would find
-Left the equipment at Frankfurt, Germany and 20 men were picked that had been there from the beginning to go back to England with the captain
-They were put on trucks and followed the Rhine River to Coblenz, Cologne and Antwerp and crossed the Channel
-Some places all that was left was little walls of brick, devastated area
(48:20) Speaking French
-Staying at Megdeville for 6 weeks defending the line
-Got to get close to 3-4 families that would cook him food and drink wine with them in the afternoon
-One family (Jobert) kept writing him after the war
-Would go into towns and say “bonjour” to those he met
(57:20) the ship back home
-Took 8 days coming back; landed in New York and sent to Virginia to be discharge
-Got so sick on the way back and stayed on the first deck the whole time
Born: March 1920
St. Martinville, LA
50th Armored Brigade, 6th Armored Division
I was raised on a farm in back of Parks, what is known as Grandboil (means big park). I was drafted March 18, 1942. I first went to Camp Beauregard, Alexandria. From there I was transferred to Fort Smith, Arkansas, and attached to the 6th Armored Division. I trained there for six months then I went to maneuvers in Louisiana and Texas along the Sabine River. From there we came back to Fort Smith and from there we prepared to move to the desert in California.
We stayed in the desert for six months and then went to Camp Cook, California. We were doing guard work and training. While at Camp Cook, Paramount Pictures took about 15 of us to make some training films, which was very interesting to see how movies were made. They were very nice to us.
From there we went to Camp Shank, New York, and we crossed the ocean. The water was full of submarines, but we made it Scotland. From Scotland, we went more into the interior of England at a place called Long Polk. We trained there about as close as war could be. We went to South Wales and fired our anti-aircraft guns. We went to some fields where they fired overhead and you get the feel of the bullets flying over your head, four or five feet over your head.
There was a hospital near by. After D-Day, we could see that they were bringing in these men who had got hurt. We figured it would be our time soon. We had to wait to get in there because there was no place to put an armored division ashore. We had too many tanks that would have been exposed. They already had a few armored divisions ahead of us.
So they brought us the Channel and we waited there until the 30th of July, then we crossed the Channel. Naturally the war had been cleared up pretty much, but they had a lot of things for you to see. The first thing that I saw when I got into France was a dog carrying the leg of a human being; so that kind of gave me a feeling of what we were about to enter.
So we bivouacked out in a pasture that night. The next morning, the 3rd Army started to retake Brittany. In Normandy, the land was all four or five acres with hedgerows with trees on it. Every time a tank tried to go over the hedge, they hit him in his stomach. They had bulldozers, but they didn’t have any guns, so they were knocked out pretty easy. This one sergeant took a bulldozer and put blades on the front of one of the tanks. He said, “When we get to a hedgerow, we not gonna climb it, we gonna push it.” That American saved a world of equipment.
When we had cleaned up Normandy, we were going to take the Brittany peninsula. We cut off the Germans and pushed them up to the end. We captured a lot of Germans, but we lost some of our men.
I started out as a machine gunner on the half-track. I got promoted when this fellow, Steel, got killed. We were taking a little town and our artillery was firing near us, but they shot too short. They killed Steel. He was right in front of me. Some things, you know, you think are funny. Since he had been in the service, his wife had had a baby. He had a picture of his wife with the little child in his wallet. And the wallet fell out of his pocket when he got hit. The wallet was open…and his little child was there. And he never saw it. From then on I took over the track.
I was a sergeant in charge of a halftrack in the Headquarters Company, 50th Armored Battalion, 6th Armored Division. We had water-cooled .30-caliber machine guns in the back and a .50 in front. We had five or six men on the track: a driver and two machine gunners in the back.
(Halftrack’s role in armored attack) Let’s say that we were going to fight for Parks. Okay, they would first send some of the line companies in the battalion, foot soldiers. They would be in the two-and-a-half ton trucks. When it was a big deal, they brought in infantry from an entire division, two divisions if necessary. They would walk ahead of the armor.
When we were fighting for the Brittany Peninsula, they had a world of infantrymen there.
We would come in from behind the infantry. If the terrain were right, they would send in some tanks to soften them up. We were mostly targeting German airplanes and infantry.
From there we fought a little bit here and there. They we went to Paris. We cleared out a few spots on the way to Nancy, France. The Moselle River separated Nancy and Mogdiville. There, the 3rd Army ran out of ammunition and gasoline, so we stayed there from September to October.
I stayed at Magdeville—that’s close to Nancy, France— for six weeks. When I was there, these three or four families had taken a liking for me. (What were the family names? Martin, Jobert, Ofraw?) When it wasn’t our week to stay on the line, watching to make sure the Germanys wouldn’t come back, they’d cook and we’d drink wine all afternoon. That’s how they are. This one family was Jobert. They kept on writing me after the war.
When I’d come to the little towns, I could speak French, so I’d say to the people, “Bonjour.” I’d go and visit with these families during the day. I got along well with them.
We drank some good wine in France. And in Germany we drank Schnapps; it was green Schnapps—talk about make you sick. Sometimes we’d over-drink.
Our reconnaissance officer, Lt. LaBeadle, always wanted me to go with him because I could speak French. I went with him a lot of times, sticking our nose around behind the German line. We got into some tight places sometimes. He got killed one night.
I saw Patton one time at Magdeville. We had been stationed there for several weeks, waiting for ammunition to catch up to us. It was the first day on November and that morning it was pouring cold rain that was something else. There was General Patton with General Grove and General Bradley—our division commander, our army commander, and our army group commander—present. He was up there with three other generals saying, “Go ahead you son of a bitches! Go ahead!” He was a powerful leader. A lot of times he would go beyond what he had to do, because he didn’t what to stop fighting. He wanted to go into Russia and China. I’d say that Gen. Patton was one of the best.
In November, we attacked again through the back of Metz. We pushed the Germans closed to their line until the Battle of the Bulge came.
During the Battle of the Bulge, the 3rd Army went to the rescue of Bastogne. For Christmas Eve we moved through Metz. The next day we traveled to Luxembourg and stayed there for a week. On New Years Day, if I’m right, the 5th Armored Division got out and we got in. They had taken a pretty good beating. The weather and the snow were just horrible. The snow was up to the height of a fence. It was cold. It was 40-degrees below zero with snow.
At Bastogne, it took us nine days to let the weather clear out so we could do something. It was really just a fight for ten feet tonight—tomorrow night, we would loose it the Germans. And that’s a costly war.
One time, I got stuck with only two of my men. We were in a little pine tree square, maybe six acres of trees. The Germans fired tree-burst shells. When the shells would hit the branches at the head of the tree, the shrapnel would go down. One shell could maybe catch three or four people. There were no more tops left on those trees. There were some engineers between the Germans and us but it got too hot for them and so they backed out. So I was the point; I was going to have to deal with the Germans. All I had was two men. I told them that we gonna dig us a foxhole and we gonna cover it with branches. And we gonna get in there because the Germans are coming and there will be too many for us to fight. So we gonna play coward tonight. So we got in that foxhole and covered it good. About an hour after, the Germans were walking on top of our foxhole. But I still believe that I wasn’t a coward; I just figured that I couldn’t do it. (Where did this happen? In Belgium, in the Ardennes Forest?)
The next morning we had to make two trips to where one of the line companies was to haul back all of our equipment. On the ninth day of January, the sun came out. Our planes were able to come in and really beat up the Germans until they started to back up. So they retreated back through those little towns in Belgium and we followed them until the 3rd Army was called back to where we had been originally been fighting. The First and the Ninth Army finished them off and took care of it.
We got to the Rhine River and the Germans were trying to sink our pontoon bridge we had made there. It was like seeing daylight at night because they had so much tracer fire shooting at the German planes. The Germans were firing shells at us, too.
We finally cross the Rhine and worked our way into the country. The Germans were not necessarily on the run, but their equipment was getting pretty low. They were using their flak guns on us as artillery. It was just fight when you meet them. They were retreating, but they fought all the way. They never did give up all together.
I went through the town of Buchenval, the concentration camp. They had a little room where they would bring the people to be executed. It was made with cement with nails on the walls. They’d bring them in by the truckloads and tie a little rope on their necks and hock them up on those nails until they died. I didn’t see the people hanging there, but I know that the nails were there. The walls were made of clay and those people who were being hanged had eaten up the walls with their fingernails.
There were these big traufs and they put three or four in there to sleep together and they shared one blanket. I saw some of our men who almost starved, but none of our men, that I know of, was ever put through that kind of punishment.
We were in Germany. We came into this little wooded area, patches of pine trees. We went over this hill in my track and this 88 shot us. He shot low and knocked our track off. He could have hit the gas tank and blew us up. I hollered at the boys, “Jump!” Sanders, the driver, said, “You too sergeant.” I said, “Leave it there. Let them amuse themselves.” He said, “Oh, no, I’m gonna get it out.” So he drove it up a little bit and the Germans could shot at us. We didn’t have far to go and the track made it to the shelter behind that hill. So they got one shot, and they busted it up, but they didn’t hit the gasoline tank.
We had to get a new track after that.
I shot one of my own men one night. We went into this wooded area and the battalion commander gave a little talk and told us that we had to be very careful because we were in an area where the Germans were. He said, “Anything that walks, they better use the password.” These two fellows, Wishner and Wagner—I always said they were too old to be in the army; they were about 40 years old—and they were walking towards us. So I hollered the password, and said, “Give me the password! Give me the password! Give me the password!” And when they didn’t I let one of them have it. I don’t know if he died; I never heard anything about it. My lieutenant, who was laying close to where I was standing, came with me to see a bunch of majors and colonels where they put me on a trial. They wanted to see if I purposely shot the fellow.
But nothing ever came of it and I never found out what happened to that fellow. I always said that he didn’t belong in the army. You had to be alert. We had replacements coming in and we had to send them out on patrols at night. Someone of them never came back.
My brother, Richard, was a replacement. He fought just a few days and was killed.
From then on there were pockets of Germans we’d fight. Once in a while we’d have to cross a few rivers and they would put up a good fight.
We left our equipment near Frankfurt, Germany. This captain from our battalion picked about 20 men—who had been in combat from the beginning—to go back to England. So we got on these two-and-a-half-ton trucks and followed the Rhine River to Coblenz, Cologne, and Antwerp—that was all flat to the ground. There were little walls of brick high like my chimney. The beauty of the Rhine Valley is something else. In some places there was nothing to fight for so it wasn’t devastated; that was something beautiful. We passed through that and went to the English Channel and went back to England.
We got on a ship and sailed across the Atlantic. I had got so sick on the way there the first time, so I asked the fellow in charge of the boat, “You gonna need an noncommissioned officer on the deck all the time?” He said yeh, and I said, “Well, don’t look for anybody else, you got the man.” I told him that I was gonna put my bed roll right here along the side and out of the way and I would ride on the top deck all the way back to the States.
I always said that the two or three years that I had in training before going into combat saved my life. I learned a lot of the tricks. Like the Englishmen used to say, He who runs today may live to fight another day. I wasn’t ashamed of running when I had to. I came back with the bronze star and the French Croute de Ger. I got scraped and bruised up and cut up during combat, but I never paid attention to that.
I don’t know how I came out of it, but I still got my lil Rosary.
Interview with Caesar Comeaux
Caesar Comeaux, Jason Theriot, Hewitt Theriot:
-Was 17 years old when Pearl Harbor happened;
-Had been out with friends shooting and when he came home his parents told him "On el a geure" (We are at war)
-His older brother was in the National Guard and already at Camp Blanding, Florida
-Went to enlist in 1943 but was told to come back in when he was 18; drafted in February 14, 1944 and went into the Marines
-Sent to San Diego, California at the Marine station for 10 weeks; then went on leave for 10 days
-Was able to adjust in training and gained 30 lbs. while in service
-After boot camp and leave went to Camp Miramar, California (Air station) and started assigning them to as-needed-to places
-Started training as a mechanic on airplanes and out in the 3rd Air Wing on an escort carrier
-Went down to Honolulu for a “shakedown cruise” and while heading there the war ended
-Sent to Formosa and then Okinawa for occupation; afterwards went to Saipan
-Sailed on the CVE 110 “Salerno Bay”
-Came back to the states in December 1945
(6:20) In the Service
-Wasn’t that bad (at Saipan) and the sugarcane grows wild
-His mates thought he was crazy when he’d eat the cane, they thought it was grass
-After going back to the states they were put on another ship to do a “shakedown cruise” to Honolulu
-It was another aircraft carrier
-Station on one of the main islands for Hawaii
-On the aircraft carrier the pilots would practice flying
-His job was to keep them running and clean
-Carried about 30-40 planes; torpedo bombers and fighter planes
-If doing major overhaul they got to fly with them
-Came back to the states after a few months
-Had to spread the news to the islands of the war ending
-Would take precautions in keeping lights off at night and looking to submarines
-Never knew who knew the war was over or not
(11:06) Before Enlistment
-Couldn’t buy tires or gas but that didn’t bother him as a teenager
-He worked washing clothes and delivering them by bike
-Sometimes heard the news of the death someone or someone gone MIA but didn’t get much word
-Parents couldn’t read or write so they never got the newspapers; taught himself English
-Older brother in National Guard and he went through Europe and Africa
-Kept in touch through letters
-After the war and they both came home, never talked about it; never saw battle so not much to tell on his side
-The service was a learning experience since he never went to high school
-Mother had 12 children and in the 6th grade he had to quit school to help support the family
(20:55) Discharged and the War Ending
-Came back home on the Southern Pacific railroad; bought his own ticket
-Rode from California to home
-Was in Califronia when the bombs were dropped; heard it over the radio on the ship
-People were on the streets celebrating; they were allowed to get off the ship for the day
-Next day had to get back on the ship and head out
(Tape begins to distort at the end when Comeaux and Theriot are talking about experiences and voices change)
Born: December 3, 1925
I remember Pearl Harbor. In 1941 I had just made 17-years old. When I came home that day my mother and father told me, "On el a geure"- We are at war.
By brother Homer was in the National Guard and I think he was already at Camp Blanding Florida and naturally my parents were concerned.
I went to enlist in October 1943, and the enlisting officer asked me when I would turn 18. So I told him I would be turning 18 in December. So he told me to go home and enjoy myself and wait till I was 18 for the draft. On February 14, 1944 I was drafted and went into the Marines.
I went to San Diego California at the Marine station there for 10 weeks for boot camp. I was in pretty good shape before I went to boot camp. I had been washing cloths and delivering cloths on my bicycle to help support my family before I was drafted. I made $3.25 a week and I would give that to my mother. She had 12 children. I was just a little shrimp but I put on about 30 lbs. in the service. I was able to handle the training. And then I came home on leave for 10 days.
I went back to California and trained to be a mechanic on airplanes. I was with the 3rd Air Wing on an escort carrier - the CVE 110 Salerno Bay. We went on a shake down cruise to Honolulu. The war ended while we were going there. They announced that we had dropped the bombs on Japan and I could not believe how many people were killed. It was unbelievable, but I had never heard anything about an Atomic bomb. When we came back to California we were able to go into the city and it looked like there was a million people in the streets celebrating.
We went to Formosa for occupation and to Okinawa. We hit a typhoon there. And we went to Saipan.
There was still a sense of danger in the Pacific. We had to go through battle conditions regularly. The war was over but they still had some Japanese out there that had not heard the news. We had lights out at night and everything. There were still some radicals (Japanese) out there.
On those islands the sugar cane grows wild. I used to chew sugar cane and those guys thought I was crazy. They thought I was eating grass.
While we were at sea the pilots would practice flying from our ship. We must have had carried 40 planes: torpedo bombers and fighter planes - F4U's and Mustangs. When we would do a major overhaul of the plane we would have to fly with the pilot.
We came back to the states in December 1945. They put us on another carrier for another shake down cruise in January. We went to Honolulu. We were stationed in Hawaii for awhile.
Back home we really didn't have the news communication that they have today. We had radio and we would hear about somebody getting killed or MIA and we felt sorry for the families, but we were not well informed. It was really just by word of mouth. My parents couldn't read or write and they didn't speak English, so we didn't get the newspapers. I had to learn to speak English on my own.
I was fortunate that I wasn't involved in any major attack, but we were scheduled to go to Japan. I had quit school in the sixth grade to go to work to help my family, so for me the service was a learning experience.
My brother was in Italy and we kept up with him through letters. When we both got back from the war we really didn't talk much about it. I haven't talked about my experience to anyone really.
I was discharged in California and I came home on the Southern Pacific.
Interview with Homer Comeaux
Homer J. Comeaux, Jason Theriot, Mrs. Comeaux:
-Was 17 years old when signing up for the National Guard against his parents’ wishes
-Left with all his friends from New Iberia in 1940 to Camp Blanding, Florida for 13 months
-They were supposed to train for 12 months (a year) but they were kept an extra month longer so they figured something was wrong
-Within that month the war broke out and they were sent to North and South Carolina to guard the coast
-His friends that he signed up with: Rivis Hebert, Walter Hebert, Shorty Broussard, Eudey Surlock, Wallace Thibodaux, Chink Broussard, Ellis LeGrange, LeTick Courrege, and Oswald Ronsonet
-In South Carolina was put in the combat infantry in the airfield
-Then sent to Brownsville, Texas and trained there until 1942
-September 1942 brought them to New York and put on a ship
-Had turned 18 a few days before they left on the ship
-Met a lot of the Breaux Bridge, St. Martinville, Franklin men
-They all went overseas together
-All could speak French and spoke it to each other a lot
-Some of the orders in the beginning of training were said in French but they were also taught in English
-They were trained in American rules not Frenchmen rules
-Landed in Scotland and by truck sent into England
-Took them awhile to get to London to help guard the Air Force (8th, Bushy Park)
-They ate many deer off the King’s land (illegal); they had it good for awhile
-When patrolling had to yell “halt” 3 times if they saw movement and if no answer then shoot
-Would do this mostly when they came across deer and say they thought it was the enemy
-Comeaux’s neighbor (in New Iberia) Etian Leblanc was their cook and he was always on the ready for the deer they killed as it had to be done fast so they weren’t caught
-It was an important job though guarding the air field from the Germans
-Took a ship in 1943 to North Africa; no problems really, just a few bombs falling on them
-Their first duty was to guard the Oran prison; then put to guarding the port
-Had problems with the locals as there was a lot of stealing between the Arabs, Africans and Americans
-There were some French speaking people in Oran; his French helped him a lot
-A few months later after landing in Africa put into the 202nd Combat Infantry Battalion and they made them into MPs
-Moved around a lot in Algiers and then shipped to Italy
-Was in the 71st MP Company
-Left for Italy on 5 LSTs; the German news commentator (Axis Sally) was telling them what they were going to do to them when they landed
-That morning of them landing they were bombed at; landed about a quarter of mile from Comeaux’s ship
-Once on the beach they dug their own foxholes; landed on Anzio beachhead
-Followed the infantry into Rome and couldn’t go in as it was an open city
-Had to split up and got in and worked as military police
-Breakdown of movements and dates
-Infantries he was in or might have been in
-Looking through papers and photos
-People from Louisiana with Comeaux, those he knew
(32:47) Story of a jeep accident with a grenade
-Their duty was to find the hiding Germans within the city; go through building and hotels
-Knocking on doors and asking them to come out; if no answer they tied hand-grenades to the door handle and ran around the corner
-Lots of German snipers in Rome; one shot Comeaux’s officer, they unloaded on that German
(Talking of family and wife after the war)
-Didn’t stay in Rome for too long; went to the Rhine River to guard it
-Took no pictures from the war, didn’t believe it was right
-Drove a motorcycle as a MP; all new Harley Davidsons were given to them
-They had to guard a general in Rome with the motorcycle
-Looking at the papers at men that served in Louisiana; trying to find someone from Franklin
-Message Comeaux wants the President and his admin to hear on the war in Iraq
Homer J. Comeaux
218 Bob St.
New Iberia, LA 70560
Company G, 2nd Battalion, 156th Louisiana National Guard
North Africa & Italy
I was seventeen when I joined the National Guard. My parents didn’t want me to sign up, but I signed my name anyway. I left with all my friends. When we left New Iberia in 1940, they organized us and shipped us to Camp Blanding in Florida for 13 months. We were supposed to come back within a year, but they kept us there longer. We figured something was wrong. They wanted to keep us there to train us for one more month. I didn’t have a lot of education, but I had enough sense to know that they were keeping us around for a reason. Within that month the war broke out and they sent us to South Carolina to guard the coast.
I had a lot of friends that were already in the guard and they wanted me to join with them, so I did. I remember them all; Rivis Hebert, Walter Hebert, Shorty Broussard, Eudey Surlock, Wallace Thibodaux, Chink Broussard, Ellis LeGrange, LeTick Courrege who was killed overseas. Oswald Ronsonet was transferred out of our company and was killed somewhere in France.
Everybody was joining the guard at the time, plus we would get a paycheck. My momma and daddy was so poor and they had so many children that I figured they wouldn’t mind one of them off their back. But, they were against me joining. Not because they didn’t want to defend my country, but they were worried about my safety.
I didn’t have the most education, but I believed in my country and I fought for my country. And I would go back and fight for it again.
We were combat infantry guarding the airfield in South Carolina. Everyday we would walk five miles and run five miles back. We were in pretty good shape. Then they rushed us back to Brownsville, Texas for more training. We stayed there until 1942. In September, they brought us to New York and put us on a ship to go overseas. I had just turned 18 years old.
I met a lot of those guys from Breaux Bridge and St. Martinville and Franklin while we were training. They were good people and they helped the war out a whole lot. We all went overseas together. Ninety-nine percent of us spoke French.
Some of our orders in the beginning were in French, but they got away from that because they had to teach us in English. They wanted us to speak French, but not to train as Frenchmen, because we had learned the American rules. At Camp Blanding when we played cards, we would sometimes speak French to each other. We would like to catch two or three of them that didn’t speak French so we would take their money!
We landed in Scotland. They brought us in trucks and they put us guarding the 8th Air Force headquarters near Bushy Park. We ate quite a few deer off of the King’s land. For a while, we had it good. We had a strict order to howler halt three times. If they don’t stop we were told to go ahead and shoot, no matter whom it is. When we knew it was a deer, we would say HALT-HALT-HALT and BANG!
My next-door neighbor, Etian Leblanc, was our cook overseas. We would kill the deer and he would cook it. We wouldn’t let him guard. We’d tell him, “Go get ready with your knife sharpener.” He cooked it in a hurry, because we were always on the move. It was a good brown gravy and we ate quite a few.
What we were doing was very important. Our job, guarding those airfields, was a very important job. There were Germans and spies all over the place.
We took a ship to North Africa in 1943. In Oran, our first duty was to guard prisoners. Then we were put guarding the port. We had problems with the locals, the Arabs. A lot of them wouldn’t listen. There was a lot of stealing going on from the Africans and the Americans. That’s why you had to have tuff guys on guard at the ports and at the entrances. We could take care of ourselves because we had a lot of training.
I had a French girlfriend and I took her to dances. My French helped me out a lot when I was in Africa.
After a few months time, we were put into the 202nd Combat Infantry Battalion and they made MPs out of us. They moved us around a lot. We went to Algiers for a while. And then they shipped us to Italy.
We landed on the Anzio beachhead. The infantry was already on the beach. I was in the 71st MP Company. We left Africa on five LSTs. On the radio, the German news commentator told us what time we left and what time we were going to land. They knew that we were coming. We landed and bombs were falling about a quarter of a mile from us. We got on the beach and tug foxholes.
We followed the infantry into Rome. When we got to the border of Rome, we couldn’t go in for a few days because Rome was declared an open city. I was in the first jeep that went into Rome as military police.
I drove a Harley Davidson motorcycle. Our company got six brand new ones and we road them around Rome. We were guarding a general. We would surround his car with motorcycles on four sides.
There were a lot of German soldiers and officers hiding in Rome. Our job was to go through the city and the hotels and the buildings to get them out. I’d ask the clerk where they were. I’d poke him with my bayonet and tell him to tell me what room the Germans were in—a teleshon [what room]. He knew what I was asking. We’d knock on the door and ask them to come out. If they wouldn’t then we’d tie a hand-grenade to the door and run around the corner.
They had a lot of German snipers in Rome. One sniper shot at our officer. And we all unloaded on him. Those Cajun soldiers were tough. They could handle themselves in a fight. We fought hard for our country. That’s what they need over there in Iraq: a couple of good ole Cajun soldiers.
Interview with Lynn Curry
Lynn J. Curry, Jason Theriot, Mrs. Curry, another woman:
-Stories of living on Bayou Chene
-Curry comes from a family of 9, his wife a family of 12 (maiden name of Larson)
-Curry’s house was where they held parties and played music
-They used coal oil lamps or a Delco plant later
-Only 3 teachers for 7 grades; 3 churches: Catholic, Baptist and a Methodist—all for 100 families
-Lots of trapping for fish or wild game; Curry had chickens, hogs and cows
-Had to use the bayou channels to get to the towns to trade; went to Catahoula, St. Martinville, New Iberia and Plaquemine
(21:11) the Draft/Training
-All the men in Bayou Chene were drafted under St. Martinville parish; only 2 men did not go because of failed tests
-Turned 18 when they drafted him (1944)
-They had radios and newspapers so they knew there was a war going on
-Sent down to New Orleans then to Fort Hood, Texas for basic training
-Trained as regular infantry men
-Was put in the 82nd Airborne glider-born as an infantry replacement once overseas
-They had a pilot, copilot and 10 other men in the gliders
-Had to hold it right when landing or it could be bad
-Overseas was sent straight to France (towards the end of 1944?)
-Curry was sent to a paratrooper outfit and right into the fighting; first time he had ever seen one
-Story of meeting those from Bayou Chene that were his next door neighbors; Ranger Smith and Cecil Verret
-Was in the Battle of the Bulge; wouldn’t trade for anything the experience he had but he wouldn’t do it again
-Never trained in a glider before his first mission
-Being a glider had more pay though
-Something Curry will never get to do again
(37:11) story of how one of his buddies was sniped in Germany
-Curry’s first trip on a glider was into a combat mission
-Loaded up in France and landed in Germany (might have been the Battle of the Bulge?)
-Story of a man, General Gavin, was a fine man according to Curry
-Story of having to salute to the brass for a meeting and saw General Montgomery
-It was slightly uneasy flying the gliders
-Sometimes the canvas would tear while flying
-Most of Curry’s combat happened during the winter
-Reading from his discharge papers
-Entered the service at the end of 1944
-Did 6 weeks of training and then immediately sent overseas
-Might have landed sometime between August-October
-Took part of 3 campaigns so his letters were never sent and only 1 picture
Lynn J. Curry
Bayou Chene, Louisiana
Co. L/325th Glider Infantry/82nd Airborne Division
[wife] I lived about a half a mile down the bayou from Lynn. I come from a family of 12, he comes from a family of 9. There was no medicine. We didn’t take all of these nerve pills. Very low-key life. For our entertainment, we had parties with live music or it was recorded on an old graphophone. His house was the house where everybody ganged up. We got married in 1949 and we were the last ones to be married in the little Methodists Church.
My father was a carpenter. He also had nets, hook nets, and he fished.
[wife] We had a Delco Plant later on, but before that we used coal-oil lamps. The way that we kept cool at night was we used a window fan and when the motor would run out of gas that was end of the fan, because nobody got up to fill it during the middle of the night. It was hot, there were a lot of mosquitos, and it was cold. We didn’t fool with anything to protect yourself. [[no mosquito repellent]]
[wife] We had three teachers for the seven grades. Most of the teachers came from the surrounding towns. And most of them married boys from out there. I was a Larson.
[wife] My momma’s grandmother came from Germany and my daddy’s people came from Utah. We had some family from New York. His family came from Maryland.
[wife] They had a Catholic Church, a Methodist Church, and a Baptist Church. There were about 100 families. All of the priest would have to come in by boat, only on Sunday. We had a police constable out there, but there were no doctors or lawyers.
[wife] There was a lot of trapping back there. But we were particular with the fish and wild game. We only ate catfish or gaspargoo, and squirrels and rabbits. We ate crawfish and crabs a few times. It wasn’t something that we lived on everyday. He had chickens and hogs and cows. You had a lot of choice of game out there, but we only ate the mallards and the wood ducks.
[wife] We lived on a house in Lake Deautrive. We didn’t know about hurricanes back then. We just called them bad storms. We a bad storm would come; we’d have to get off of the houseboat.
[wife] My daddy had a grocery store and he would come into town twice a week and bring us fresh vegetables. Everything had to be brought over on a boat: sacks of corn, gas, whatever you needed to live on for the week. But we didn’t have any ice, so he had to go into town to ice down whatever fish that he caught. He’d pitchfork them into an ice-downed truck and bring to the market in New Iberia. He did his drinking when he went to town. My mother was very stick. She never allowed alcohol in the house.
[wife] We had radios that operated by battery, and that’s how we communicated with each other in the community.
My daddy built a lot of boats, batto’s, pirogues, houses, and clocks. He had no education, but he had a good head. He didn’t have any power tools. They cut down trees in the basin and bring those into town to be stripped.
You didn’t have to lock up your shed at night. If your neighbor needed your shovel, and you weren’t home, he’d come over and pick up the shovel and do what he had to do. And if you met him at the grocery store he’d say to you, “Hey, I picked up your shovel and I’ll be bringing it back in a day or so.” That’s the way we operated. We didn’t have anything stolen. Every body depended on each other.
I’m part Irish and part Spanish. My grandfather did a lot of timber work. He built the house that I grew up in.
We had newspapers so we knew there was a war going on. The mail carrier would come twice a week and he’d bring newspapers. There was a draft board in St. Martinville and we lived in St. Martinville Parish. They knew where we were. When I turned 18, they drafted me. That was in 1944. I went to New Orleans then I took my basic training at Fort Hood, Texas. I trained for six weeks and then they sent me overseas as a replacement.
I was assigned to the 82nd Airborne in the gliders (glider-born infantry). They tow us up there and then cut us loose and we’d glide into battle. After the war, they had a big ole fella named Johnson who came to our church. He said, “I was a paratrooper and jumped out of airplanes. Lynn Curry was in the gliders…he was a lot crazier that I was.”
It was real dangerous. They had a pilot and a copilot and about maybe 10 of us in there. Once they cut you loose up, there was nothing you could do but just glide on in there.
As soon as we got in France, they put me with gliders. I didn’t object to it because it was a little more pay. That was the first time that I had ever seen a glider. I’ll put it this way, I wasn’t sissy-fied. I felt slightly uneasy about it.
I wasn’t trained in the glider. They had the gliders there waiting and they loaded up about 8 or 10 people in there. We glided into Germany. We landed in the south end of a field where we would be fighting.
General Gavin was with us then. He was some fine man. I was in a foxhole and man it was cold. I was freezing to death. I saw this man coming toward me and I could see that he had an American uniform on. And I didn’t know who he was until he got closer and then I recognized him and I hadn’t saluted him. I just thought it was a regular GI, so I figured, well I’m gonna get reamed out for this. He walked up to me and said, “How you doing son? Are you getting enough to eat?” I said yes. “Well mighty fine, ya’ll doing a good job. Keep it up.”
The Germans were in a house not far from where our holes were dug. This was in Germany. We had a foxhole, this buddy and I. We got up and walked out of it. He was looking for souvenirs. He started back toward the foxhole, and a German sniper shot him in the back. He was bleeding, so I ran to get a medic, who was a couple of hundred feet or so in the back. So they taught us to run zigzag—less chance of getting hit. So I ran zigzag and bullets were hitting all around me, but none of them ever hit me. So I got a medic and we started back over there, but the guy was dead.
On the way back to camp in France, they had a canteen set up where they magazines, radios, and all kinds of eates. When I signed in, I had to write my name and where I was from and all that. There was a guy standing behind he and he said, “I’m in the service with a boy from the same place that you are from.” I said, “That would have to be Ranger Smith.” He said, “Yeah, that’s who it is. If you want to follow me, I’ll show you where he’s at.” So I said, “Okay, let’s go.” Now mind you, I haven’t seen this guy in I don’t know how long. He was laying up in his bunk and I walked in and he said, “Well, well; ole Curry.” That’s the way he said. He got out of his bunk and he said, “I know where Cecil (Verret) is, would you like to go and see him?” I said yeah. So we walked across France, that was a long ways. We found ole Cecil, he was camped out there a good ways. So we talked for awhile out there and I finally caught the bus back to camp. (All three men were neighbors from Bayou Chene) Back home, Cecil lived on side of the bayou and Ranger Smith lived right here, and I lived right here. And we all met up over there. What are the chances? That was one in a million.
I wouldn’t take a million dollars for the experience that I had, but I wouldn’t want to do it again.
Interview with Irma Darphine
Irma Darphine, Jason Theriot:
-Graduated high school in 1939 and moved to Port Arthur, Texas for medical training
-She had to be a registered nurse in order to get into the army
-Was at camp Claiborne then John Sealy in Galveston, Texas
-At Sealy when the hospital (127th General Hospital) was activated to go overseas; left August 12 (1943) and took 10 days to get to New York
-Sent to Camp Shanks and missed the ship so they were transferred to Fort Devons in Boston; stayed there till October 13
-Boarded the ship “Martainia” and headed for England; took 15 days, not in a convoy and had to take a detour as the submarines were following them
-Landed in Liverpool in the morning and took a train to south England to Bishop Lydia (near Tauten) to build their first hospital
-It was on an estate’s gardens and they had put in about 45 Quonset huts; the men lived in the manor house but the women stayed in smaller homes nearby
-The hospital opened in November 1943 and kept it going until May (1944); they turned it over to another general hospital
-Sent near Stonehenge to wait for D-Day; they waited awhile and they lived in tent cities
-They made them march to keep busy as well as conditioning and training; practicing to go down ladders on ships
-They knew about the invasion and that it was coming but they were in a secured location and they weren’t letting them out
-Got on a ship July 31st, an Indian ship, and crossed the Channel; it was a nice ship
-Got on smaller boats (Higgins boats) and landed at Utah beach with the whole staff; 100 nurses, 80 officers (MACS and medical doctors) and 250 enlisted men
-Carried with them their bed roll, Musset bag, Val pack, helmets, canteen belts—everything they owned
-The first night stayed at a bombed out church and then later they built a tent city; maybe stayed there for about 5 weeks (close to Sainte-Mère-Église as holding zone)
-No Germans, the women were well protected and never close up to the Germans
-They kept going until the big trucks came to take them to Rennes, France; opened the second hospital
-It wasn’t too safe at Rennes as they weren’t allowed to go out of their dorms and buildings as there were German snipers; had to clean it all from the mess that the Germans made
-Stayed there for about 9 months and left January 1 (1945)
(11:42) Started for Nancy, France
-Put them on a train, outside was cold
-Nancy wasn’t completely secured so they had to wait in Paris (Battle of Bulge was happening); had some R&R
-Back at Rennes they had worked 12-16 hours a day; were bringing in soldiers from ships as they were near the Brittany Peninsula
-At Rennes, Darphine worked in the orthopedic ward and when in England it was the Hepatitis ward
-If the men could walk they were sent back to the front
-She remembers the first soldier they lost at Sandhill, England and it broke everyone’s heart
-They even had a German pilot there but she doesn’t know what happened to him afterwards
-Stayed in a chateau and had to walk through a village to the hospital; it was cold and there was snow but the Army kept them well supplied
-It was not a bad experience more of a sad experience; weren’t close to any fighting
-It was rewarding for what they did and they were glad to do it
-Had 2 brothers in the war; the oldest in the infantry and the younger one in the Navy
-The older one was wounded in Metz and transferred to the air force
(17:03) Meeting her older brother in France
-Darphine had had an appendectomy and was recovering so she was working the ward with the POWs
-She was smoking when her older brother came up to her; hadn’t seen him in 2 years
-He took her to Mont-Saint-Michel with friends (island castle off of France)
-She saw him again in Marseilles as he was in the air transport command and at her port of debarkation
-He took her and some friends out on a boat in the Mediterranean
-He was a captain so he was able to get things
(19:15) Back to Nancy
-They had to walk through a village to get to the hospital
-Had a friend that befriended a little girl and gave the girl her first toothbrush
-Looking at some photos of them
-They’d give the children candy, gum or chocolate when they had it and if they didn’t the children would throw things at them; Darphine had something dead thrown at her once
-Towards the end of the war the POWs would farm for them
-They had a dry cleaning establishment, shined the women’s shoes and waited on them in the cafeterias
-They were happy to get out of the army and the war; never made any trouble
-The ladies from other hospitals made baseball teams and they’d play against each other
-Since they were a Texas hospital they had a longhorn for their sign
-The locals started bringing their animals to them thinking they were a veterinarian clinic
-The French people she met were nice
(33:54) Return Trip
-Nancy was their last stopping place
-Got on a train to Marseilles and given immunization and flu shots; half of them got sick
-Also where she met her older brother again; he got to fly home and beat her
-They got on a ship, “Breckenridge;” it was 2 years and couple of days to the day of when she left, October 1945
-Landed in Newport News and were given the opportunity to call home; her parents were so happy to hear her
-They hadn’t heard each other’s voices in 2 years
-Took a train to San Antonio for debriefing before going home
-Her parents didn’t know when she was coming home
Irma Boullier(?) Darphine
Born: August 8, 1922
Crowley, now living in Iota
Nurse, 127th General Hospital
I was originally from Crowley. I graduated from High School in 1939 and then went to Port Arthur, Texas for my medical training. You had to be a registered nurse in order to get into the Army. On July 7, 1943, I was headed to Claiborne, right here south of Alexandria. That’s where I got into the 127th General Hospital.
The hospital was activated at John Sealy in Galveston, Texas. On August 12 we were headed to New York. It took us about 10 days or so to get to Camp Shanks, New York, but we had missed our ship. From there we were transferred to Camp Devons in Boston. We stayed there until October 13, 1943. On October 13, we boarded a ship, the Martainia, and headed for England. It took us about 15 days. We landed in Liverpool. We were greeted by a band playing American songs and the Red Cross gave out donuts; it was pretty neat. It was dreary and dark when we got off that ship. Then they took us down to South England about seven miles south of Tauten to a little town called Bishop Lydia. This is where we set up our first hospital. It was on a big estate and they had torn down the gardens and they had put in about 45 Quonset huts. We lived in homes close by. We opened that hospital in November of ’43 and we kept it going until May of ’44.
Then we were set up in a tent city near Stonehenge waiting for D-Day. They were trying to keep us busy with constant marching, and conditioning, all the while they were training us. We had to practice going down the sides of ships with ladders and what have you. We were in a secure area but we knew the invasion was coming. We didn’t know about the casualties from the invasion. We had already closed down our hospital by the time it began, so we were just waiting to go.
We got on an Indian ship on July 31 and the Channel was just as smooth as ice. We crossed over on this beautiful ship; it was the calm before the storm. When we got close to the beach we had to climb down the nets to get on smaller boats—Higgins boats—and then we came up on Utah beach with our entire hospital staff. We were 100 nurses and 80 officers—medical doctors and MACs—and about 250 enlisted men. Most of them were from the south Texas area.
We landed on Utah beach on July 31st. We splashed landed and that’s when we got off. I carried a musset bag, a bed roll, a val pack, and of course our helmets with our canteen belts and all of our eating utensils. We carried everything we owned.
The first night we stayed in a bombed out church in St. Mare Eglise because we couldn’t be out in the fields. We had too much of our own anti-aircraft guns shooting in the air and it was dangerous to be out in the open. The next day we set up a tent city where we stayed for about 5 weeks. We were maybe 10 or 12 miles from the beach. We were holding out until it was safe enough to move closer in land.
I remember one time we had these big water jugs hanging from a tripod and these little French kids came over and they were using our water and splashing their faces and all. The kids had got into a minefield and it had peppered their faces, but it wasn’t too bad. So, it wasn’t too cleared out and we had to be careful.
We were well protected and we were working in a safe zone. The Army really took good care of us—the females, the ladies. We kept going until the big trucks came and got us and we went on into Reinnes. It was a sad sight to see because we had to go through all the little burned out cities. When we got to Reinnes, that’s where we opened our second hospital. We were in the Brittany Peninsula and the Germans were bombing ships so we would treat the wounded from that. We were really busy. They were bringing in soldiers from all over and we worked sometimes 12 to 16 hours a day.
I worked in the orthopedic ward. If they could walk around, they were sent back to the front, whether or not they were well enough. I hated to see them go like that. We had some serious injuries and I’ll never forget the first one who died in Sandhill, England. It seemed like it broke everyone’s heart. I guess we just thought that we weren’t going to loose anybody. This doctor jumped on him and tried to resuscitate him. He was a real young boy. We even treated a German pilot who had been shot down. Some of our American soldiers were walking around at night and they came upon this German pilot who was just wandering around, so they brought him to the hospital. They didn’t know what to do with him. That made history for us.
It wasn’t too safe in Reinnes, because they wouldn’t let us get out of our dormitory in our big buildings. There were a lot of German snipers around, so we had to be careful when walking to the hospital. Our first job was to clean the hospital where the Germans had been. It was filthy, filthy, filthy. They had left so many things that were too dirty to use. I helped clean up the pharmacy and we took things down from way up high on the shelves and through them out of the window. And there were trucks and men that would just haul all this stuff off.
We finally opened it up and it was a beautiful place once it was clean. The Germans were really dirty people, or maybe they were in a hurry to get away. Towards the end, they must not have had time to clean up. So we stayed there about nine months until January 1, 1945. That’s when we started for Nancy. They us put on this train and it wasn’t warm. Nancy wasn’t completely secure by that time so they dropped us off in Paris for a while. The Battle of the Bulge was still going on so we had to hold up in Paris. We had a hotel with warm baths and we took tours of the city. We took group pictures. It was a fabulous time. But the fighting was still going on. It is unbelievable to think that you can be in a place like that and maybe a hundred miles away; they are fighting and killing our men. It’s awful.
In Nancy, we were in a chateau, a nice place, and we had to walk about half a mile through a little village to get to the hospital. It was cold and snow, but it was a nice walk. The Army kept us well supplies with warm clothing and boots.
In Nancy, we had to walk through this village from our dorm to get to the hospital. These little children would come and we would give them chocolate and candy. They were very hungry children. My friend, Penney, befriended this one little girl and they stayed friends after the war. The girl told Penney that she didn’t have a toothbrush until she was 9 years old. These kids didn’t have much.
Our unit was from Texas so we always had a big Longhorn sign in front of hospital. I can remember in Nancy, the town’s people were bringing in their cattle and horses; they thought we were a veterinarian hospital.
The people who lived next to us were nice people. The towns were cleaner as you got closer to Germany. This one clerk at a hotel was very nice. There was a lady who lived in Crowley who had married an American after World War I, so she still had family in France. I was getting letters from back home and so I gathered up a big bag of used clothes and this hotel clerk helped me find this lady’s family.
It really wasn’t a bad experience, but it was a sad experience. Dealing with a big, big hospital, we were not close to any fighting. It was very rewarding and we were proud to be there, but people back home were having emotional problems. My mother and dad had three in the Army at the same time. I had a younger brother over there in the navy who I met up with twice and an older brother who was with the infantry. He was wounded in Metz.
I was recovering from an appendectomy and my brother didn’t know that I smoked. He was a big, big ole fellow and he came in (what town was this in?). I hadn’t seen him in about 2 years. He came over and he looked me and said, “Well this is a fine state of affairs.” He swore up and down that I swallowed that cigarette. That was good meeting him. He knew where I was and somebody sent him right up to the ward where I was working. He took me to Machaey Michelle with a group of his friends and some of my friends. It’s an island off the coast of France with a big castle. When the tide comes in it is isolated from France. But if you get there when the tide is out you can drive right on up to it. It was beautiful.
When we got to Marseilles at the end of the war, my brother was in the air transport command and he was at the port of debarkation. He took us out to the Mediterranean in a boat. It was a really nice trip. My brother was a captain and he was able to get things.
Towards the end of the war, we had a farm of POWs who planted vegetables for us. They also had a dry cleaning establishment. These Germans would come and get our shoes and shine them for us. They waited on us in the cafeterias. They were so happy to out of the army.
Towards the end we had a softball team. Girls from other hospitals would come to play. It wasn’t always gloom and doom. We had some good times, too.
I was a first lieutenant nurse in the 127th General Hospital. We went to the war memorial for women in Washington D.C. in October of 1997.
I went back to Reinnes, France in 1997 and went to the same town were we had our hospital. I talked to this man on the street and asked him if he remembered the 127th. He said, “Yes I remember them. I was 12 years old and I used to deliver papers to them, but I remember they were all very generous.
“The 127th hospital did famously and became one of the most dependable units in France.” Elliot Cutler, Brig. Gen. Army of the United States, August 21, 1945. (what book is this quote from, who is the author, and year of copyright?)
Nancy was our final stopping place. From there we got on a train, the 40 and 8’s and we went to Marseilles. There we were given immunization and flu shots. My brother flew back to the States and beat me home. I came home on a ship, the Breckenridge in October of ‘45. It was almost 2 years and maybe 5 or 6 days to the day since I had been home.
When we landed in Newport News, I saw a WAC who was really working. We got into one of these huge trailer-like things and she was driving it. She drove us to someplace where we could get cleaned up and something to eat and make phone calls. We stood in line to make those phone calls and I called my dad and my mother. They were so emotional. They hadn’t talk to us kids for over two years.
I took a train to San Antonio for a debriefing and then they sent me home.
My parents knew we were coming home but they didn’t know when. My mother was canning stuff and she was mailing it to us overseas; she was mailing cans to anybody overseas. She had a friend whose child was in the service and she was mailing cans to him, too. She would stay up half the night canning things to mail to us. It took an effort from everybody, everybody: the rationing of the shoes, the sugar, the coffee, the gasoline, and the tires. It was different times and look at how the world has changed.
Interview with Beulah Dugas
Beulah/Buella Dugas (Laviolette), Jason Theriot, Hewitt Theriot, Dugas’ grandson:
-Had to stop going to school to work to help support the family; was sewing uniforms at the factory in St. Martinville
-Then word got out that welders were needed so Dugas volunteered; trained in Lafayette at a school and stayed there for 6 weeks
-Had 2 brothers in the war and a few other relatives
-After training was sent to New Orleans and stayed with an aunt and an uncle
-Worked at the Delta Shipyards and her sister worked at Higgins so they got a place together; Dugas was 18 at the time
-Made the big ships, Liberty ships and stayed in New Orleans for 2 years
-Started off at tacking and then went to welding straight lines
-Worked at that for about 6 months before being allowed to work overhead and the bottom decks
-Paid .75 cents an hour and by the time she left she was getting $2.25 an hour, top pay for a qualified welder
-Worked 8 hours a day from 3 pm to 12 am; they had three shifts working 24 hours a day
-Built the ships like in an assembly line that it would get closer to the water (typically 3 weeks for 1 ship)
-Worked there for 2 years
-Took a bus and then walked to the shipyard
-Was scared of the Navy boys when she got off at midnight while walking back
-Wore trousers and something on her head, always had to be covered
-Just knew that they were making ships and slept most of the day so didn’t keep up with the news
-Left New Orleans and the shipyard in 1944 to get married (21 years old); her husband was not in the service as he had to stay behind to work on the family farm
-Her husband wanted to join up but his younger brother beat him to it and someone had to stay behind
-Dugas went to work for the war for her parents to help to support them and pride for her country
-Only spoke French when visiting home or at her aunt and uncle’s but hardly ever at all
-When finished with the ships they’d “champagne it” and send it off
-Wore a badge in order to get into the shipyard
(25:53) Taking pictures
-Outlining what Theriot plans to do with her story
-Comparing the home front and the service
-Looking at photos
-Talking about the lack of knowledge of WWII veterans’’ stories
-Theriot’s work and upcoming book
Beulah Laviolette Dugas
2406 Coteau Holmes Rd.
St. Martinville, LA 70582
Rosie the Riveter
Delta Ship Yards, New Orleans
Interview conducted by Jason P. Theriot
We had eleven children in my family and some of my brothers and relatives were fighting the war overseas. So it was a time when our family was very close.
I tried to make a little money for my family because we were so poor. I started off sewing uniforms for the soldiers at the factory in St. Martinville. They came and said that they needed welders in the shipyards. So I volunteered. I went and trained for six weeks at a welding school in Lafayette.
I was eighteen when I went to work for Delta shipyards in New Orleans in 1942. My sister was up the river working at Higgins and we had a little place together. There were people working at both places who were from all over; most of them were from Louisiana.
[Annette Dugas (Beulah’s sister) worked at Higgins Ship yard for two years. She was employed as a machinist, but later move up to shipping and receiving. She didn’t see her husband, Nolan Dugas, for three and a half years during the war.]
I welded on the big Liberty ships. We were there in the deep water of the Industrial canal. I started off tacking because they wanted to see how much I had learned at school. Then I had to weld a straight line. Gradually they moved me up. It was about six months before I could weld overhead and on the bottom decks. There were men welders, too. But the men and the women were the same; we did the same work. I wore trousers, and gloves, and something to protect my head. And we had to wear our badge to get into the shipyard.
When I started I was making seventy-five cents an hour. By the time I left, I was making $2.25 an hour—that was top pay for a qualified welder. I worked eight hours a day. At Delta there were three shifts working twenty-four hours a day. It was like an assembly line. We were building one ship every three weeks. We had a big ceremony to launch each new ship.
We took the bus to work every afternoon. I got off of my shift at midnight. But I was afraid of all the Navy boys. I was from the country and had never been to a big city before, so for me I was a little scared about that.
I worked at Delta for two years. There were a lot of people working there and at Higgins. Those ships we were building were important for the war.
I left Delta in 1944 to come home and get married. My husband was the youngest boy on the farm, so he had to stay behind.
Everybody contributed to that war. But we were very poor, and working at the shipyards helped out our parents. I sent most of my paychecks home, but I kept a little war bond and bought a baby bed for my first child with that.
Interview with Samuel Delcambre (part 1)
Samuel J. Delcambre, Jason Theriot, Hewitt Theriot, Mrs. Delcambre, unknown man (son? grandson?):
-Enlisted in the Air Corps to dodge the draft in 1942; they needed men very badly and Delcambre was assigned as a gunner
-Sent to Kessler Field for basic gunner training and then to Barksdale Field in Shreveport, LA and assigned to the 93rd Bomb Group, 328th Squadron on a flying crew as a waist gunner
-Immediately sent out to Page Field in Fort Myers, Florida for training; trained as flight crews on coastal patrols for submarines
-Picked up 2 depth chargers once from Barksdale and sunk a surfaced German submarine on the way back to Fort Myers
-After training they were told that they’d be shipped off with new planes to either in the dessert (sand colored) of the Far East or to England (green colored); they got green planes
-Flew to Newfoundland and from there flew as a unit to Scotland; lost a plane going to Scotland in the Arctic Circle in cloud cover, it just disappeared
-Arrived at Alchomberry Field outside of London and September 9 started doing bombing trips; made 8-9 missions from there
-Saw Roy Landry from New Iberia there with the National Guard guarding the field (8:17)
-Got a letter from his mother saying she was glad he was in London as there was a war in North Africa now;
-That day the tanniod came on and said: “All crews in your summer clothes leave and go to your planes immediately;” they were headed to North Africa
(11:42) North Africa
-Flew over Spain and Portugal and landed in Oran, North Africa; they were not supposed to fly over these countries but they were needed urgently
-It was raining all the time at Oran and they lost a plane while it was trying to take off and the wheels collapsed
-Flew them to LG139 in Tobruk, Libya over a battle field in a night trip
-From Libya (LG139) went to Bizerte in December 17 (1942)
-They flew from Oran to Sousse and back, Oran-Sousse-Palermo-Tripoli, Tripoli-Sousse, Tripoli again, Messina-Palermo-Naples, and Palermo-Naples
-They were all over water trips (25 trips in all) and that ended Delcambre’s stay in Africa
-Next trip was a diversion flown over to England
-On the way spent the night in Gibraltar
-Diversions were dangerous missions
-They had a small group of planes, 2-3, that flew along the German coast to bait their fighters to come out and the main group can then sneak around the back
-Flew this diversion April 13, 1943
(16:14) other diversions
-Then went on to Vegesack and Wilhelmshaven, Germany
-From there to France and then Antwerp, Belgium
-By then had 30 trips and it was May 5, 1943
-Delcambre considers himself lucky as most planes were shot down in diversions
(17:25) left Europe
-Leaving the Air Force/ bomber group they were being briefed for a (#31) mission
-Got to the runway and were ready to leave when a jeep pulled up and grounded the whole group except one who didn’t have enough points to go home
-Sent back to the U.S. and went to Florida for rehabilitation, resigning, resting and recreation
-Gave them a complete physical and Delcambre was put in the hospital as he couldn’t hear
-Afterwards assigned to Charleston, South Carolina First Air Force training center and taught; he was the top man running the school
-He stayed there for 17 months
(19:36) Story of meeting a friend at the school (Frank LeBlanc)
(21:50) Combat Tour of Duty
-First trip out “bagged one” but it’s not on his record; Air Force did not confirm “kills” from bomber crews because of all the crossfire
-They’d have a formation of 3 planes with 10 guns each in one small area; there was no way of knowing who shot who
-But the German planes were faster, smaller and shot cannons so their range was longer; Delcambre’s bombers were known as “P-shooters” as they had such a short range
-If you were going to drop the bombs, had to fly straight and level for 5 minutes before the dropping point; the bombardier then set the Norden Bombsight that figured the trajectory
-Used (the Germans) a box with 5 guns to shoot as a scope and their planes were the targets; if you were hit/crippled and that was when the German fighters got you
-That was the problem but it had to be done this way; lost a lot of men
-Daylight bombing was much more successful as they could see and swarm the Germans
-Got frostbit a few times in 60 degrees below zero and no flack vest but just an oxygen mask
-Flew from anywhere from 20-25 thousand feet; flew “tree-top” level trips and night trips
-Delcambre was diverse and some thanks to his training in hunting submarines down; in Africa they were after Rommel’s supply lines
-Earned the Distinguished Flying Cross once and the Airman’s Medal four times
-Discharged in 1944 and re-signed up for another 2 “hitches,” stayed in for 10 years; they tried to get him to rejoin when the Korean War broke out—his term ended the day before
-They were training for the Ploesti Oil Field raid but Delcambre didn’t get to go as his tour had ended
-His airplane did go and came back; 53 bombers were lost on that trip
-The movie “Memphis Belle” and the B-17 footage
-Defining what it means to be “flack happy;” too many close misses in fighting and becoming nervous
-When training the crews at the school, Delcambre kept seeing Germans in the clouds
-Shot many enemy planes down, as far as he knows; describes how he shot down a plane on his last mission
-Gunners were freestanding and with an air hose and had their heads out the window looking; parachutes were on their back and Delcambre never had to use his
-Shot as an expert with 45 at the shooting range and at gunnery school trained with the .20 caliber machine guns
-Also at gunnery school first time to be in an airplane
-Left New Iberia January 19, 1942 and sworn in February 2, 1942 at Camp Livingston in Alexandria, Louisiana
-Left with Gervais Patout, Lee Castille and Roland Durand; talking about Lee in the Pacific war, he never came back
(41:44) North African campaign trip
-The British 8th Army almost got boxed in Egypt and were pushing Rommel back
-That’s when they came in and were in Tripoli to strafe the town and bomb the ships and go back home
-Shot random and Delcambre shot his down a street while flying; a tree-top level trip
-The purpose was to help the British get out the German in Tripoli
-When at the base (U.S) was told there was a mistake made and they came in an hour later than what was asked for
-While at the base in Fort Slocomb, New York met to 2 British soldiers and they were talking and found they were a part of the 8th Army
-They wanted to thank the bombers that flew over and helped them in Tripoli
-In the Libyan Desert they stayed in tents and the beds were 3 feet underground
-At night it’d get lower than 50 degrees and over a 100 in the day and never rained in the last 40 years—rained the day they left
-Sand was everywhere and the sandstorms were terrible
-Had to be flown to Egypt to take a bath once a month; they were in the middle of nowhere
(Looking at pictures in North Africa)
-Had to wear British uniforms as the British were the only Allies at the time in Libya and the locals (Limies) would shoot at anybody else that was seen as an enemy (Germans and Italians)
(55:40) the French
-Never in France; met some French in Africa that would visit with them
-Tells a story of speaking French in Egypt for a haircut and a shave
-Saw Paps Blue Ribbons Beer and Tabasco Pepper Sauce in Egypt’s restaurants
-They spoke St. Martinville French
-Never given problems for being Cajun
-Had his name spelled “Delcambro” so he was given the nickname “Delcambro the daigo”
-Where a big fight happened
-Tunis was where the Germans left to go to Italy to get away
-The only thing Delcambre ever did there was just bombing; they were hitting the harbors
-Hit up the staging areas for the Germans to the battle front in Africa
-Re-describing the sinking of the submarine near Florida and how they held depth chargers
-Talking about the German U-boats in the Gulf and how long they might have been there; wives tales
-Flying trips and what they did up there; flying formations
-Ground crews and the Rosie the Riveters that built and kept their planes going
(1:19:58) Talking about people he met from the area during the war; people that they know/knew
Samuel J. Delcambre
6606 Daspit Rd. on Hwy. 86
New Iberia, La. 70563-8945
Born: January 21, 1921
Interview conducted by Jason P. Theriot
I enlisted in the Air Corp in January 1942 to join the branch of service of my choice. I left New Iberia with Gervais Patout, Lee Castille and Roland Durand for Camp Livingston, Alexandria, Louisiana.
On February 2, 1942, we were sworn into the Air Corp. Lee Castille and I were split up at Kessler Field after basic training. He went into another outfit and he ended up in the Pacific. He never came back.
I went to Barksdale Field in Shreveport where I was assigned to the 93rd Bomb Group, 328th Squadron as a waist gunner in a B-24.The Air Corp was in desperate need for men at the time. I was immediately shipped out to Tindyl Field, Panama City, Florida, for gunnery school. I shot expert with the .45 caliber because I was a hunter on this end. We flew the AT6 Texan to practice shooting at low targets.
From Tindly Field, I went to Page Field in Fort Myers, Florida for our training. There I joined my squadron and my crew. From the minute we arrived, we got in that B-24 training plane flying coastal patrol looking for submarines. It was the typical training of the time. We didn’t have any machine guns or any bombs. We went on a cross county flight and picked up two depth charges from Barksdale—the only two on the base. On the way to Florida (June 1942) we ran into a surfaced German submarine…and we sank it! It was about a hundred and fifty miles south of Pensacola. The kill was confirmed by the Navy, and the pilot (his name was John L. Jerstad) was awarded the Silver Star for that. A submarine was painted on my airplane, right at the top. They had a lot of submarines in the Gulf. In the beginning, the coastal towns would leave all the lights on, and the Germans could pick up the silhouette of our ships passing by. It was nothing for those U-boats to sink a dozen ships before returning home. We had nothing at the beginning to protect against that. We barely had enough planes to train the pilots.
In the beginning all we had to wear were fleece-lined flying suits. We didn’t see the electric flight suites until later on in the war. Flack-jackets; I never saw that. Armor protection; I never saw that. Earplugs; I never saw that. We ate before we left, and we ate when we came back. We had a little hole to pee in when we were airborne. Over the target, you pee’d in your pants! I was scared up there. If you weren’t scared up there, then you were crazy. I believe that I was the only one who prayed in French and in English at the same time. The 93rd Bomb Group lost over a hundred planes in the war…we were lucky.
We were told that we were being shipped off. If we got sand-colored planes we were going to Egypt and North Africa; if we got the green planes we were going to England. We got the green ones. We modified our planes with bulletproof tanks. We flew as a unit to Scotland. We were the first group to go as a unit. We lost a plane on the way—Friday’s Cat. I signal them, and they flashed back to me. That was the last time anyone saw them. They just disappeared. We were up in the Arctic Circle. If you crash land in that; you’re good for about thirty minutes.
I arrived at Alcholmberry Field right outside of London. On the ninth of September we started our bombing trips. We made eight or nine missions from that field. On my first trip out, I got me a “kill,” but the Air Force doesn’t confirm “kills” from bomber crews because of all of the crossfire from the formations that we flew. We’d have planes stacked up and bunched up in a little area, and we got ten guns each, so anybody come in is gonna have a bunch of guns on him at one time. But, those German planes had the advantage on us; they were faster, they were smaller, and they shot cannons—their range was longer. We were shooting “P-shooters,” and our range was not that long.
In order for us to drop our bombs properly, we had to fly straight and level for five minutes. Within those five minutes the bombardier set that Norden Bombsight, which did everything for you to figure the trajectory of those bombs going down. So, we were flying straight, and they (German AAA) knew our altitude. They used a box, just like five men in a blind shooting at one duck, so those five men shot where that duck had to go. They were using at least a thousand guns over the targets we were bombing. And they were told to shoot in that box and keep right on shooting. When they crippled you, that’s when the fighters would get ya.
We lost a lot of planes and a lot of men like that. But that is where the big, big problem was; we had to do it that way. And that’s why daylight bombing was such a success. We just swarmed them, that’s all. But, they knocked down a lot of airplanes. I saw a lot of bombers blow up. And in my case I was lucky; I got away with just losing my hearing.
I got frostbit a few times in sixty degree below weather with no flak vest, just an oxygen mask. When we first started flying we didn’t have the electric suits; that came later on. Our bombing runs were anywhere from twenty to twenty-five thousand feet. But I flew three or four missions “on the ground” —treetop level trips. I flew some night trips, too. I’m diversified.
We were really after those submarines in the beginning. We tried to hold them down, so they wouldn’t get to our shipping. When we got to North Africa, we were after Rommel’s supply lines. We went after his shipping to keep that down.
One morning I was headed to my plane for a mission. I was the first one there, it was dark, and I got challenged: this fella hollered, “Halt, who goes there?” I said “its Sam Delcambre, member of the crew.” This fella hollered back, “Sam, you ole SOB, come here!” I walked up to him, and it was Roy Landry from New Iberia on Orange Street. He was with the National Guard unit and they were pulling guard duty on the airfield.
I got a letter from my mama one day and she said that she was glad that I was not in North Africa, because they had started a war over there. She didn’t know that I had already completed nine missions. Soon after, the tannoid came on and it said, “All crews report to your planes with your summer clothes on immediately.” We were on our way to North Africa.
From England we flew across Spain and Portugal to Oran in North Africa. We were not supposed to fly across those countries. Our colonel, Colonel Timberlake said, “Sometimes you’ve got to bend the rules to save men.”
The British 8th Army got boxed in Egypt, and after the battle at El Alamin, Montgomery started pushing Rommel back. That’s when we came in. We landed in Oran; it was rainy and muddy. We flew to Bizertte, and then on a night trip to LG139, which is in Tobruk, Libya in December 17, 1942. Those British troops were around Tripoli, and we got an order to go to Tripoli at eight in the morning, strafe the town on our way to the harbor, drop our bombs on the German ships in the harbor, and strafe the town on our way back home. This was a tree-top-level run. I remember just shooting my gun down the street. The purpose of that trip was to assist the British 8th Army to get the Germans out of Tripoli, so we did that. But, come to find out, there was a mess up with the time. We really got there an hour late. I didn’t know anything about this mission until I came back to the U.S. at Fort Slocomb in New York waiting to be shipped home. I was in town and I ran into two British soldiers in New York. And they were “PO’ed” until they were fighting mad. So I got to talking to them. They were mad because they had to fly their planes all the way east, through the U.S. just to get back home from Egypt. They called everybody “blokes.” They said what they really wish they could do was to meet the men in those bombers that flew over Tripoli that morning that we flew that mission. I asked him why. He said, “I was a satchel man.” And there was this German pillbox with machine guns in front of him. He was ordered to drop that satchel charge in the pillbox. Just when he was getting ready to do this, here comes our bombers, strafing the whole damn area and the Germans came out with their hands up saying, “Kapult!” We flew over and machine-gunned the area, and the Germans gave up. And here’s these British boys getting ready to throw a satchel of dynamite in a pillbox. We saved their lives: the Germans and the British.
We lived in tents in the Libyan Desert, and our beds were three feet under ground. In the desert it was in the fifties and lower at night, and it was up to a hundred during the daytime. It hadn’t rained there in forty years. Sand…sand everywhere. When a sand storm would come up in the desert, you couldn’t see your face; you had to use a compass to go to the mess tent. We had one canteen of water a day. All we had was Spam and powdered eggs, and you took a bath once a month. They flew us to Egypt so we could have a bath. We didn’t have any camps or airports; it was just a landing strip, the desert, and us. We were wide open, in the middle of nowhere: no fences, no roads, no nothing. This was the battlefield and there was nothing but wreckage everywhere. The nearest big city was Tobruk, twenty miles away. The harbor there was full of ships—from the bottom up. North Africa was really something. (He has a picture of British gas truck and a busted up Stuka dive bomber)
We had three stripes painted on our tail rudder: a red, white, and blue stripe. That was our color code. That was the only international marker that we had in North Africa, and we wore British uniforms. That was for survival. You see, before we got there (Libya) the only people on the desert were British and Germans (and Italians). The Americans were new to this war. The “Limies” would shot at anything that wasn’t British or didn’t have a British marking or uniform on. So we all wore British uniforms. The next war that we are going to fight has started already; and what is the enemy doing today? —he is dressed like an American civilian. The civilians are going to catch it in the next round.
The French were not too far from us. They would come to our area and visit with us now and then. (He has a picture of he and a French Legionnaire) I was bilingual and I could speak with them. One time I went to Egypt to get a shave, a haircut, and a bath. The barber was an albino. I told him: “Raze sa propre” (Meaning: shave it clean). He said, “Mustachio jamain,” (Meaning: the barber never cuts the mustache). He shaved my face, but he didn’t want to shave my mustache. I went to a restaurant in Ismailia, Egypt on Lake Bitter, and on the table was Paps Blue Ribbon bear, Tabasco Pepper Sauce, and they served me pot roast, just like momma used to make it. They spoke St. Martinville French. I was lucky that I was born and raised in this part of the country and taught a little bit of French from my parents. I was never called any names, except a typewriter error misspelled my name; they spelled it DELCAMBRO—some people called me “Delcambro the Daigo.”
Our job in Tunisia was to bomb German and Italian shipping. We lived in the desert and flew missions everyday. We were bombing the harbors in the Mediterranean; Naples, Messina, Palermo, Tunis—all of these were staging areas for the Germans to move supplies to the battle front. We were sinking all of their ships that were re-supplying North Africa. We flew to Sousse, Sousse, Palermo, Tripoli, Tripoli, Sousse, Tripoli again, Messina, Palermo, Naples, Palermo, Naples; all were over-water trips. That all gave me twenty-five trips in; the date was February 15, 1943. That ended my stay in Africa.
My next trip was a diversion, flown out of England. On the way to England, I spent the night in Gibraltar. A diversion is a very dangerous mission. Not many planes make it back from a diversion. They sent a small group of planes—three, two, something like that—to fly around the German coast and suck the fighters out, so the main group can sneak around the back door. I flew this mission on April 13, 1943. I’m lucky I made it.
From there I went to Vegesack, Germany, and Wilhelmshaven, Germany. I went to France then Antwerp, Belgium. By that time I had thirty trips in and it was May 5th, 1943. Immediately after our 30th mission they grounded us. We started training for the Ploesti Oil Field raid, but I didn’t make that trip. I had had my thirty missions, and my tour was over, so they sent me home. I couldn’t even light a cigarette after they ground us, because I was shaking to pieces. My airplane, Jerk’s Natural, went on the mission. It was one of the few that made it back in one piece. They lost fifty-three bombers on that trip; that’s 530 men. The original pilot was killed on one of the Ploesti raids. They were two or three Congressional Medal of Honors awarded on that trip. It was a low-level trip against the oil fields in Romania. It was a two-thousand-mile trip. They had to use auxiliary tanks for that mileage. The B-24 was the only long-range bomber that they had. All the other bombers could not go there. The B-17 could not compare to what the 24 could do. It could carry a much bigger load, much further, but it was a box. They called it the “pregnant cow,” and they had all kinds of names for. It was not a beautiful airplane, but it was a worker. It flew all over the world.
We had the best ground crews in the world. They were dedicated and they took good care of those airplanes. The finest workers built our planes: Rosie the Riveter did more to win the war than anybody else. They are the ladies, the girls, the work force that got into all of those planes and tanks to build that stuff which allowed the men in the factories to go off to war.
I shot at enemy airplanes on many a trip. And I didn’t get another good shooting on an airplane until the last trip that I made, which I think I got another one. That plane was coming in straight from the nose. He came in the front and passed over my plane, and I was on the [left] side. As soon as he cleared those engines I let him have it. He went down through the formation, but I don’t know what happened to him. I saw the pilot though. He was just a little bit further than my garage, so I know that I hit him, I gave him a burst right in his engine.
We flew in ‘V’ formations for protection. First of all you could fly right behind another plane because of the “prop-wash;” you would lose control. We flew in a box. And anytime an enemy plane came in that box, we had several guns pointed at him at the same time.
The waist gunners were freestanding. The only thing we have attached the airplane is an air hose. You gotcha gun in your hand, your parachute on your back, and your head out the window all the time. You keep looking and watching. I had shot expert at gunnery school with the .20 caliber machine guns, but we never trained to use a parachute. I turned my parachute in, after my tour was over, and it was unused. I was just a poor boy from the country and I had never been in an airplane before.
When I left the bomber group, we were being briefed for the next mission; it would have been number thirty-one for me. They briefed us; we got into our planes, got up on the runway, revved up our engines, checked all of our mags, and waited for the signal. Right when we got the signal to take off a jeep pulled up in front of us, flagging us down. We stopped. They pulled the whole crew off, except one man, and grounded us permanently.
I had suffered from “flak-happy,” just like those bicycle courriers in New York—they get traffic happy. They get so many misses that it’s not even funny. “Flak-happy” happens every time you go up there on a mission; you got a thousand guns shooting at you. As long as you see that black smoke, don’t worry, but as soon as you start seeing that red ball, they’re close. And when you start hearing them barking like dogs, or like somebody beating on a drum—Boom—they’re getting close. That’s how I lost my hearing.
I flew in that stuff for thirty trips. Some trips were eight to ten hours. We stayed up there a long time. They were shorter when we would leave from England, but over the desert, we’d leave at noon and we’d bomb at dusk, and we’d get back around mid-night. “Flak-happy” is when you are completely fatigued; you just break down.
I came back to the United States and went to Florida for rehabilitation, resigning, resting and recreation, and they gave us a complete physical. Well they put me in the hospital because I couldn’t hear anymore. I had “bum-ears.” I was reassigned to Charleston, South Carolina, First Air Force training center. I was the top-man for running the school for the Air Force. We checked out the new crews and I stayed there for seventeen months. On those first couple of training flights over the ocean I could see [imaginary] fighters in the clouds; that was from being “flak-happy.” It took me a while to break that. Man, wow, it was bad.
That was my tour of duty during the war. I can’t say that I was a valuable man for the Air Force, but they thought I was because I earned the Distinguished Flying Cross once and the Airman’s Medal four times.
(*You had me read an article about one of your missions over the Brest Peninsula; the article mentioned you as “Waist-gunner, Samuel J. Delcambre, a Cajun from New Iberia, La. saw the crew of the stricken ship…” This was from Captain Author Gordon, 8th AAF. Air Force Journal, October 1943. I would like a copy of that article to accompany your story)
Interview with Sam Delcambre (part 2)
Samuel J. Delcambre, Jason Theriot, Hewitt Theriot, Mrs. Delcambre:
-Talking about the members of his crew; those that are still alive and those that have passed on and how
-Showing a handkerchief that had a map with locations of Allies sown into it so if they were shot down they could use the handkerchief to find their way back to safety
-If captured they could dissolve it by using their blood so the enemy would not be able to find their locations
-Reading from an article that detailed one of Delcambre’s missions (from “Air Force Journal” Oct. 1943)
(6:11) Telling the story of how his good friend that was a captain was captured and was a POW
-Origins of the name of Delcambre’s plane “Jerk’s Natural”; their pilot’s name was Jerstad so his nickname was “Jerk”
-Showing photos; he was able to use his address as the serial number and his parents’ names
-Talking of how he and his wife met
-Reading from Delcambre’s passport/discharge papers (H. Theriot is talking to Mrs. Delcambre at the same time)
(12:11) “Ted’s Traveling Circus,” a book
-Looking through photos in the book
-Picking out photos for Theriot to use in his book
-Talking about their grandson who is working overseas in mining
-Delcambre’s finding his papers for his medals
(19:40) Talking all over each other
-Discussing the war and how ready the men were to fight; ill-prepared and not trained though
-Majored in electrical engineering at Southwestern
-Flew to England and took a ship back to New York; “Queen Mary” with 17 thousand men on it
Interview with Avery Derouen
Avery Derouen, Jason Theriot, Hewitt Theriot:
-Took basic training in San Diego, California, was 17 years old and volunteered into the Navy (1944)
-From the base was transferred to a battalion amphibious force with the 4th Marines overseas on APA 162; it was an amphibious transport ship
-Made two invasions
-First invasion was Iwo Jima and fought for 3-4 days
-Was driving the LST landing craft near the beach and waited to bomb the beach so they could land
-The next day they landed; it was a dirty fight and lost a lot of men and boats; Derouen sunk his by accident
-Describing how he ferried marines back and forth to the beach (coxswain)
(5:30) “How did you become a marine?”
-Went to training for 6 weeks as a Navy and an amphibious force (part of the Marines)
-Worked as a coxswain for the Navy in the amphibious forces
-Was trained as a Navy but fought with the Marines
-Couldn’t land on Iwo Jima as there were pillboxes about a foot above ground and a foot apart
-No one could land until they were gone
-Describes how he worked the boat in landings
-Stayed until the island was taken over
-From Iwo Jima invaded Okinawa and “did what they had to do”
-Then waited for orders for invasion of Japan
(10:00) Talking of various subjects and going back and forth
-The hindsight now of the death tolls on Iwo Jima and Okinawa; was so new to war
-Was scared but Derouen volunteered so he did what was needed of him for his country
-Pushing the Japanese to the other side of the island on Iwo Jima; Theriot explaining the battle of Iwo Jima
-Coxswain of a LST and a LCM; describing each boat and the large boat APA they lived on
(18:00) Re-describing of going from San Diego to Iwo Jima; talks of few other places he went to
-Bombing on the beaches and the ships they had in their convoy
-The people Derouen had in his boat and what each person did; he drove
-Waiting on the orders for the atomic bombs to be dropped so they could invade Japan; there were rumors already about the bombs
-Had to patrol a coast city in Japan for 6 months; 6 Japanese men worked under him
(27:25) The fight on Iwo Jima and leaving for Okinawa
-The one man submarines the Japanese used at Iwo Jima; they came to do a job and did not go back home
-Re-describing the changings of his boats from Iwo Jima to Okinawa
-Being a Navy and Marine in amphibious forces; the differences of each one
-Used Higgins boats at Okinawa
-Describing seeing 3 Kamikazes at Okinawa; shot 1 down himself
-Types of guns Derouen used as a coxswain on his boats or on the large ship (jack of all trades)
-On the APA ship everyone was a Marine with separate a crew
Volunteered for the Navy in 1944 (46:28)
-All his buddies were going into the Navy as well
-Didn’t stay long at Okinawa, Derouen never touched land; maybe about 2 days there
-Probably took 3 -5 trips to Okinawa with soldiers and supplies during the invasion
-Food came from Australia; ate horsemeat
(Looking at photos of an LST and the island of Iwo Jima)
(52:06) came home from Japan
-Went back to the states with a different group, took 17 days; landed in San Diego
-Put on a train to Louisiana, 3-4 days and discharged in New Orleans at the Navy base
-Not once all his time in the Navy saw his buddies or anyone from Louisiana
-Never had a reunion so Derouen has no idea what happened to the rest of the men on his ship, APA 162
-Went through some rough times and was glad to make it back home
(56:54) Talking of Various subjects again
-Besides horsemeat ate a lot of lettuce and bread, goat meat too
-Beer rations of the green beer from the states and Australia; made you sick and couldn’t drink it cold, had to be hot to taste better
-April in Okinawa and the bombs dropped in August, Derouen stayed on an LST, a dry dock, driving around while waiting for the bombs to be dropped
-They knew of the atomic bombs and the idea of using them but when and where they didn’t know; didn’t know what an atomic bomb was even
-Drove his LST to Japan and then worked there for 6 months waiting to be discharged; they took his boat back
-What he saw when working on Japan (never saw the bombed cities), their fortifying methods and the machines they used (the Japanese)
(1:06:03) Rode the greyhound bus from New Orleans to home
-Hadn’t been home for about 2 years
-After the war Derouen worked as a milk man in delivery; had 3 trucks
-Worked off shore until retirement
-Talking about people they know that also served in the war; telling stories
Born: November 1, 1926
10614 Hwy. 14
Delchambre, La 70528
Coxswain- Iwo Jima/Okinawa
At 17 I volunteered for the Navy for my country to do my duty in 1944. I took my training in the Marine base in San Diego, California for six weeks. I learned how to drive the little landing crafts. We practiced landing on the shores of San Diego with the marines. We had our packs and rifles and everything else. We had to land and crawl underneath barbed wire fences. I also trained with the big machine guns, the anti-aircraft guns. We practiced shooting those too. From the base at San Diego I was transferred to a battalion with the amphibious force, with the 4th Marines overseas on APA 162. It was a troop transport ship. I made two invasions: Iwo Jima and Okinawa.
The APA took us from San Diego to invade Iwo Jima. We were all marines onboard except for the captain and his crew. It was a big ship and it had the little Higgins boat, the LST's, hanging on the side. It had a dozen or so of these little Higgins boats. From San Diego we went down to New Caledonia in the South Pacific for a day or two. Then we rendezvoused with the rest of the invasion force and went to Iwo Jima. That all took about a month.
I was a coxswain with the amphibious force and I did all the fighting with the marines. My main job was to drive the boat with the marines to the beach, but if I had to get out and fight with them I was trained to do so. I fought at Iwo Jima for three or four days. I was driving an LST, landing craft- Higgins boat. It had one engine and could hold about 20 men. It was made out of plywood.
The Japs had these pillboxes on Iwo Jima built about a foot above the ground and about a foot apart on that beach. That's why we couldn't land there the first day. They were all waiting for us. We had battleships, destroyers, light cruisers, and airplanes, and they bombed that beach all day and night long.
I was bringing a load of men to the beach but it was too hot the first day, so we came back to the ship and circled for another day until they bombed the beach enough to clear a path for us to land the marines. So we did. The next day we landed. It was a dirty fight on Iwo Jima. We lost a lot of marines there. I lost my landing craft while backing up in the water. I had dropped off a load of men and I was backing up to get off the beach, to save my life, and I hit a rock or something in the water and it blew a hole at the bottom of my boat and it sunk. So I had to get out with my carbine and go ashore on the beach with the marines.
I dug me a foxhole on that beach and spend the night there. There were Japs running all around shooting at us. I was involved in firefights all night long. I stayed in that hole until the next day. You could see the little windows in the Jap pillboxes and you could see their little rifles and machine-guns in there. Somebody would have to crawl to that pillbox to get rid of them.
What a coxswain does is he drives up to the beach wide open with a load of marines, then drop the gate down to let the men out. Then while you backing up, you raise up the gate and get out of there in a hurry. But you are going back in reverse wide open against the waves. And it's got a plywood bottom. I must have hit a rock.
I went to a dry dock and they gave me a LCM. It was a bigger landing craft. It had twin engines and it could hold about 60 marines. It was made out of steel. So I brought a load of marines to shore that day and I had to land with them.
I saw a lot of marines killed at Iwo Jima. A lot of things go into your mind when you see that. I was seeing things that I never saw before. In some way I was scared for my life, but in some way the job had to be done, so I tried my best.
Before the landing they would give us two or three shots (injections) a day. I don't know what those shots were that they made us take. Maybe it was to keep us from getting scared or sick. I don't know. I had to drop my shirt and take a shot. They did that until we went on the invasion. I guess it was for diseases or malaria or something. They had a lot of flies on that beach from the corpses and what a smell. It was bad.
Iwo Jima was something else. We pushed those Japs off of Iwo Jima. When my boat sunk I had to go ashore with the marines and fight against the Japs. They were waiting for us. We pushed them back to the other side of the island and we were shooting them in the water as they swam away. They couldn't fight anymore after a few days. As we pushed them out of those pillboxes they had no place to go. (6,800 marines and 22,300 Japanese were killed at Iwo Jima. The Pacific Campaign. P. 382)
I brought the LCM to that floating dry dock and stayed in the harbor waiting for orders.
By the time we took Iwo Jima and they raised the flag on Mount Suribachi, I had left and I was awaiting orders to go on the next invasion- Okinawa. Okinawa was a little different. We surprised the Japs there. The beach wasn't as hot as Iwo Jima. I brought men and supplies ashore for two days, three or four trips in a day.
We'd get our food from Australia. We ate canned horse meat and goat meat. It was sweet and had long treads. It wasn't too bad. We ate a lot of lettuce and bread. We had that green beer, but it was hot and it made you sick. It was bacou.
I saw three Kamikaze at Okinawa. The ship I was on shot down one of them as it passed over and crashed the ocean. That same morning, they had put me on the deck manning a 40/40 (dual 40 mm) machine gun. That was my station at general quarters. I would sit in the chair and two fellows would load me up as I went to shooting. (Coxswain was a "Jack of all trades"- gunner, soldier, boat driver, boat maintenance.) I can remember, early that morning, we could hear these airplanes coming, but it was still too dark to see them. The men up in the bridge spotted two of them Zeroes coming our way. So we got ready and loaded up our guns. Those Jap planes made a funny noise and they had a red circle underneath their wings. They came over us and passed us. I said thank God. They made a big circle, and I don't know what ship they were looking for, but they had an order to hit one. Maybe they were supposed to do something, but they didn't. If they were given an order to do something, like ram a ship, they had to do it. There was no going back.
The Japs had these one-man submarines. When that Jap would leave in that sub, he wouldn't come back. He was in that sub to do a job. They had quite a bit of them. He was on a suicide mission, like the Kamikazi. We were lucky that there weren't any Japanese surface ships around Iwo Jima and Okinawa. The navy bombers sunk the big Japanese battleship (Yamoto.) It was the biggest battleship that they had. (The majority of the Japanese Navy had been defeated and destroyed at Leyte Gulf and near the Philippines before the last two invasions.)
I was staying on that dry dock when the war ended. There was a rumor about the atomic bomb. We had heard about it, but we didn't know what it was. We were waiting to invade Japan when they dropped the bomb. After they dropped the bomb we went in for occupational duty. I drove my little Higgins boat into the harbor at Japan and docked it. I was making supply runs for a while and then they put me on guard duty on land over there for six months.
When we got there, the first thing we had to do was to get rid of those mines in the water. The first ships to go in were minesweepers. They had mines all over the place. The Japs were set up for the invasion. They had concrete bunkers and pillboxes. They had these big caves with all of their machinery and equipment inside. That's where they were making all of their parts and whatnot. They would have outnumbered us 15 to one, easy.
I was an MP and I had six Japanese men working for me. I had orders and I would instruct them what to do, but I didn't mess with them too much. I told them that they had a job to do and they would listen for the most part. One of them could speak English and he would transfer my orders to the other men. I was at a little coastal city. They wouldn't let us go near the cities that were bombed because of the radiation. But them two cities that was a junk pile; I mean a junk pile.
I came home with a group. It took us 17 days to get back to San Diego. They put me on a train to come home to Louisiana, and I fought that for three or four days. I arrived at the big Navy base in New Orleans and road the Greyhound bus back home to Delchambre.
Clifton Delahousie, my wife's cousin, and I went into the service together. He was my buddy. He was on APA 163 and I was on APA 162; they were two sister ships. When we got discharged I met up with him there in New Orleans. We got back at the same time, but I hadn't seen him since we left. I remember I was outside walking down the sidewalk and I raised up my head and I recognized him. Just when I saw him, he saw me, and man we started running towards each other and we hugged. I hadn't seen him in over a year. He said to me, "You made it back." I said, "Yeah, and you made it back too." We went in together and we got back together.
I went through some rough times but I'm glad I made it back home.
Interview with Tom Dedouen (part 1)
Tom Derouen, Jason Theriot, Hewitt Theriot:
-Summer of 1941 graduated from Texas A&M with a masters
-Hired at A&M and taught till March 1942 when he was called into the service; had received a commission from LSU in 1939
-In the service took basic at Fort Benning, Georgia; was a second Lieutenant and the youngest there (in his 20s)
-Already assigned to the 90th Infantry Division at Camp Barkley, Texas; spent a year and half there
-Moved over to the deserts of California and Arizona for 6 months before going to Fort Dix, New Jersey; took 10 days on a troop train
-While at Camp Barkley they would leave Monday morning for maneuvers in the hills and stayed outside until Friday or Saturday
-Slept on the ground, made their own latrines, dug holes for garbage
-Had to march out 15-20 miles and back each time (1942)
-1943 went to Fort Dix and stayed till March 1944
-Was loaded onto ships to Europe; was sea sick the whole time
-Landed in England and prepared for an invasion
-Had practice invasions at Devonshire, the Slapton Sands; it was a disaster
-When Derouen’s regiment, the 357th landed, everything was fine but the next regiment (either 359th or 358th) never came in
-Germans had snuck in on PT boats in the waterways and sunk the regiments’ boats; lost over 600 men before the actual invasion
-It was kept quiet so the morale would stay up; learned of it 20 years later
-Loaded onto boats at Whales, Bathe England
-Kept them in a big compound for a week as they loaded up
-Derouen made the invasion; “it’s not a pretty thing….I don’t like to talk about it much”
-Thinks he landed at Utah beach
-Landed next to the 9th, 4th and 1st divisions; each country had their own beach
-Was just a platoon leader for a heavy weapons company; attached to K Company under Capt. Woodrow Allen from Texas
-Fought with rifles most of the time and not machine guns (only had 4)
-Got in skirmishes with the Germans all the time
-In the hedgerows in France they were close to each other; Germans were prepared already with 88 mm canons, heavy casualties on the Allies side
-Derouen stayed in France until May 1945
-Before the invasion General Patton and General Middleton spoke to them
-Took about 6 weeks for them to break out of Normandy; the 90th split and some went to Cherbourg and the rest to Paris
-Still attached to K Company
-Half the time they didn’t know where they were or what they were doing; the orders changed a lot
-Casualties were high; Captain Allen was promoted to Battalion Commander and was killed the next day
-The mind went haywire with all the killing and bombing; men dying left and right of you
(17:05) Going Across the English Channel
-On a big ship and then went down a net to a Higgins boat
-Planes were passing over them
-Thought he was ready for adventure but he was scared
-You shot in the bushes because you were scared and maybe you shot a German or maybe a civilian
(19:12) Living in England
-Didn’t see much of England; trained all the time
-Only the elderly, women and children were left as all the men went into service; they were bombed every night
-American soldiers however criticized them calling them backwards; caused a lot of fights
-Had to march everywhere
-Derouen did not last the whole campaign in Normandy; was wounded on July 10th, 1944
-Was on guard patrol in the morning and crossing a hedgerow and he slipped and fell and his carbine shot off into his leg
-Spent about 6 months in England in a hospital; was not able to go back into the 90th division
-Was put in charge of training a company of soldiers on how to shoot; trained 200 men for 4-6 weeks
-Worked with other officers and sometimes they were trouble and did not do what was ordered; Derouen was in charge
-Hewitt Theriot telling of his experiences; Derouen and Theriot comparing
-Looking at a map that was drawn on a cricket bat that Derouen used while at the hospital; inscribed: “HMS Deminion Monarch, Gen. Collins, March 1944”
-The bombing of Sainte-Mère-Église
-Staying at the hospital and therapy
-Back at the states stayed at the Augusta George resort hotel hospital for another 6 months; very well taken care of there
-Didn’t like the French, too lazy; German POWs workers messed around a lot
-Teaching at Texas A&M in 1941; born in New Iberia
-While at war, in England, ran into Butch Kennedy from LSU (football), was a paratrooper (47:10)
-Knew Eddie Gatto (killed in Normandy) and he was a good friend of Hewitt Theriot; stories about him
-Also both knew an All American football palyer from LSU, Tim Cavanaugh
-Before going back to the states Derouen stayed at a ski lodge in Switzerland
-How he met his wife, Lela in July 1946; married a year later
New Iberia, LA
Company K, 357th Regiment, 90th Infantry Division
Interview conducted on July 15, 2001
In the summer of 1941, I graduated with a masters from Texas AM. They hired me to teach. I taught till March '42, when I was called into the service. I received my commission from LSU in 1939. I took basic at Frt. Benning Georgia. I went to school there with a bunch of officers, some were Col. and Lt. Col. I was a second Lt. Some of those Col.'s were 40, 50-years old. One time I was shaving in the bathroom, when one of these big Col.'s walked in and stood next to me. His face was all red, and I said " Good morning sir" and he said " Son that is a matter of opinion." He had been out the night before and he had a hang over. I was in my 20's.
I had already been assigned to the 90th Inf.Division. They were organizing the division at Camp Barkley TX, south of Abilene. I went there after basic and spent a year and a half there. From camp Barkley we moved to the desert of California and Arizona for 6 months. From there we went to Frt. Dix New Jersey on Christmas Day. The train ride there was a troop train and it took ten days and we never got off.
In the desert we would sleep outside in tents. We didn't have any buildings to live in. In the morning we would leave on maneuvers all day. I learned how to live outside. At Barkley we would leave on Monday morning and would stay till Friday or Saturday morning. We stayed out there and slept on the ground. We made our own latrine, to urinate and defecate. We dug another hole to bury the garbage. We had to march 15-20 miles out. This was 1942. We walked there and walked back. We didn't like that. In 1943 we came to Frt. Dix. We stayed till about March. (Mr. Derouen is having difficulty remembering the time-line of his training in the states. He pauses and excuses himself.) Let me go get something, it will help me remember.
(He comes back holding a thin piece of wood about a foot long and 3" wide.) I own 35 acres right here" (of cattle grazing land near Avery Isl. The piece of wood seems to refresh his memory. He sits back down, more confidant now, gently rubbing the piece with his thumb. He corrects his early mistake.)
Uh… We kept training at Fort Dix. It was cold as heck out there. There was snow and ice on the ground. We left on March 22, 1944, we loaded up on some ships to go to Europe. In Liverpool England we landed. I was so sick, so sea sick on that ship I hardly ate. But they had good food on there. They had eggs. You never get eggs in the United States, maybe powdered eggs, but anyhow we landed in England and prepared for the Invasion. I didn't know what it was. In May we had a practice invasion at Devonshire England at what they call Slapton Sands. It was somewhat similar to the beaches in Normandy. What happened at that practice invasion was a disaster. I didn't know it, but my regiment, the 357th made our landing with packs and everything OK, but the 359 or 358 had a disaster. The Germans, with small PT boats, snuck in there and the navy was supposed to be guarding that water-way, but they somehow got in. And they sunk some of those boats that the troops were in and we lost over 600 men…drowned…before the invasion. They kept it quiet. Gen. Ike ordered this to keep morale up, nothing was said about it until about 20 years after I got back, I read it in the paper. The people at Devonshire didn't know what was happening, but I saw what was going on. I could see the bombs, the splashing of the water and I thought that was just part of the excersise. We lost 600 men right there.
We loaded onto boats at Whales, Bathe England. They put us in a big compound for a week or so, until we could load up on ships to go make the invasion. I made the invasion. It's not a pretty thing. They talk about this movie (Saving Private Ryan.), something about uh… They thought I should go see that…I don't want to go see that. I was part of it and I don't need to go relive the misery! I don't like to talk about that much.
Utah Beach. I was next to the 9th divisions and the 4th and the 1st, the big red one. Americans had Omaha and Utah. The Canadians had a beach; the English had a beach. I was a platoon leader for a heavy weapons company, with machine guns. I was attached to an infantry company, K Company, under Capt. Woodrow Allen. He was a tall Texas AM man. I had just graduated from AM. He was a few years older than me, and he was the company commander. A dern good man. I was in support of him. I had 4 machine guns, water-cooled. Only one time we set up. Most of the time we fought with rifles. These men carried the tri-pod on their back; one man carried the barrel. You carried a carbine or a rifle to protect yourself. We got in skirmishes with the Germans all the time. In the hedgerows in France, we would be close to each other, about from here to my fence over there (He points toward an old wooden fence outside of his glass sliding door, about 20 yards away) sometimes even closer. The hedgerows had shrubbery growing, like lagustrums. It was a fence, for property line. The Germans would be right on the other side of that, we'd been marching and the Germans were all set up with 88 mm cannons, rapid-fire rifles, all kinds of stuff. So we had heavy casualties. We stayed till May of 1945.
Before the invasion, back in England, Gen. Patton, and Gen. Middleton talked to us about the invasion. Well, Patton he was a ruff-n-tuff sort of fellow. I remember one statement he made, "don't wait till you see the whites of their eyes, shoot the SOB's before that." Then Middleton spoke. He was a Corp Commander, Third Army.
It was about 6 weeks before we broke out of Normandy. Some of us (the 90th) went to Cherbourg; the rest of us went south, all the way to Paris. I didn't know what was going on. You didn't know where you were half the time. They changed the orders all the time. Casualties were high even in the higher-ranking. Col. Sheeggie, the Regimental Commander was killed. Your mind just goes haywire with all that killing and bombing, your losing your men right and left. Captain Allen was promoted to Battalion Commander and the next day he was killed.
(He goes back to the voyage across the English Channel.) We were on a big ship, and we would go down a net to the little Higgins boats, the boats made in New Orleans. Planes were passing over. At that time in my life I was very young and ready for adventure and excitement. It didn' t take long. But I was kinna scared myself, I WAS SCARED! I won't lie to you. Americans are strange people. They talk about if you shoot in the bushes, you might shoot some civilians, women and children, but hell you don't know what's in those bushes, you're scared as hell, and you have to protect yourself! I hear about that in the news media. News makes a big deal out of it. Hell I know that I shot in some bushes many a times, I don't know if I killed somebody or not, I probably have. I've seen some of my men kill some Germans right out. That still worries me, it stays on my mind.
Living in England, well we didn't get to see too much of England, we trained all the time. We'd march through the countryside 5 or 10 miles a day, for excersise. What was left in England was old people, women young and older who were left to do the work. I admired the British people, because all their young men were in the service, they were fighting in the war. Also, they were getting bombed almost every night, so they did the best they could. But the American soldiers criticized them; they are backwards, they don't know how to do anything. One time, after the V-E Day, in Salisbury England, a British Crack-fighting unit came home. The Americans were at this big dance hall partying. They had the biggest fight between the two, and they beat the tar out of the Americans. That made the newspaper.
On July 10, 1944 I was wounded crossing a hedgerow. I was on guard detail. I was going to check on that. It was kind of drizzling and it was early in the morning. I slipped and fell, I was carrying my carbine with the barrel down, to keep the water from getting into the gun. That gun went off and a bullet cracked the bone in my leg and I spent at least six months in England in a hospital. Till this day I wear support hoes, cause it swells up. After that, they put me training a company of soldiers who were going to Europe. We were doing what they called Liberty Service. I was with other officers and NCO's who had fought in Europe and who could return. I trained 200 men how to be disciplined and how to shoot a rifle, automatic machine guns. I trained them for 4-6 weeks and then they went off. I told them to write me letters and let me know how they were doing, and some of them did. They tell me they appreciate the misery that I put them through. (No doubt his tuff training help save some of their lives)
(The piece of wood is a cricket board. He played cricket in the hospital. On the back is a map and an inscription- HMS Deminion Monarch. Gen. Collins, March 1944. The map depicts his journey across the channel to Normandy and the little towns he must have traveled through during the breakout.) St. Mare Eglise was a town of about 5,000, it was completely destroyed, I mean just rubble. We went right through it.
(He gets up again, walks into the hallway and comes right back with a small prayer book and a picture of himself in uniform in April 1945.)
I went back to the States and they sent me to Augusta George, to a hospital there. It was a resort hotel that the Army made a hospital out of it. It was a good-time place, let's put it that way. While I was there they straightened out my leg. They had a golf coarse, swimming pool, a dinning hall, gymnasium, and a chapel. At night they would have a nightclub. The nurses would come. (The Army took care of him on the way out!)
(During his interview, Mr. Derouen describes his feelings toward the British; how he admires them and describes why, he also talks about the French people, who he doesn't care for very much. He says the French take two hours for lunch. He also talks about a situation involving German prisoners; we take it up from here…)
One time some German prisoners were supposed to put supplies on a train. They were working kinna slow and I saw what they were doing, and I said "Look, if y'all don't get that train straighten out I'll take you behind those bushes and I'll show you what I’ll do to you." I meant it-and I didn't mean it. But I think he understood what I meant. For the longest time I hated Germans, even after the war, but my youngest daughter Michelle married a German from Germany. I didn't like him for a long time, but he is a fine young fellow, he works, they got married and have three beautiful children. He has a Ph.D. from LSU in Geography.
December 1941 I was teaching at Texas AM, I graduated June 6 1941 from AM, June 6 1944 was the invasion. I got my commission from LSU in 1939. I was born in New Iberia, across from the Evangeline funeral home. We lived in several places in New Iberia.
(I asked Mr. Derouen if he had ever ran into anyone from this area while traveling during the war) I wanted to tell y'all. I ran into Butch Kennedy, he played football for LSU when I was there. He was a husky fellow. He was a paratrooper. He got wounded in his thigh. We met in England and spent time together. I asked him, being a paratrooper, "how come you paratroopers are so brave", cause right after we made the invasion a lot of those paratroops had been dropped, and a lot of them landed in St. Mare Eglise, they were hanging from trees, dead, probably shot or what. The ones that landed were hunting for Germans. Butch told me, he said " You know, before me make that jump up there, we don't know whether that parachute is going to open or not, so when we hit the ground we feel safe and we are ready to take on anything". Y'all know Eddie Gatto. (Just then, my grandfather, Hewitt Theriot says out loud, "Don't tell me you know Eddie Gatto.") I didn't know him very well, but I know he died in Normandy. (My grandfather stands up from across the room and walks over to Mr. Derouen very excitedly and very happy to know of someone who knew his friend. He begins to tell a story that I first heard weeks ago about Eddie Gatto.) Hewitt says, 'It so happens that Gatto was my fraternity brother at LSU, Catholic fraternity at LSU, and we got to be very friendly. Recently a story appeared in the Times Picayune about Eddie. I have a son in New Orleans who I asked to go find Eddie Gatto's Grave and he did, wait I gotta go back. Some time after the war we went to the Normandy beachhead and I know that Eddie had died there so I went to the custodian at the grave. He had a book and I asked him I he could tell me where the grave of Mr. Eddie Gatto was. He said that I am so happy to tell you that the body of your friend was returned to New Orleans a few years ago'-Hewitt Theriot.
I ran into a football player in London, he was a big fellow, he was an all-American Tightend. I can't remember, but if you called his name…(Mr. Theriot says, " It wouldn't be Cavenauh?") "CAVENAUH. TIM CAVENAUH!" Mr. Derouen says loudly. We talked a little while in London. (Mr. Theriot says, "Tim Cavenauh, I can see him right now on the football field.")
(Feeling comfortable talking with us now, Mr. Derouen continues, excitedly…)Let me tell y'all about another little incident that happened to me just before I was shipped back to the United States. I was able to get a week's trip to Switzerland and the Army paid for it. 35 soldiers and officers could go on it. So we went up to a skiing resort in the Alps. But I couldn't ski because of my leg. But the hotel where we stayed was a girls ski club. At night they had an orchestra that played music and we could dance. These girls were Swiss and could speak broken English, but we got along good with them. I made friends with the ski instructor, and uh I really…(In the middle of his sentence he looks over, at his wife, whom is sitting across from the room.) she's look'n here now. (As he gently points towards his wife).
(About his wife) If you want to know the truth, I knew her since we were children, and when I got back to New Iberia in July, 1946, she lived right across the street from me, so my mama told me " why doncha take Lela out, so I took her out, and that was the beginning of the romance and a year later we were married. And Louisiana Tech gave me a job, they came to see me in the hospital in Georgia, and we had a little apartment there in Ruston. In 1948, LSU gave me a job.
I went to school from 1935-39. As a graduate Assistant in '39, I was paid $50 a month from TX AM to go study animal science. Room, board, and laundry was $30 a month. The second year I got a $10 increase, $60 dollars a month. I was saving all that money, and getting rich. Then in June 1941, they hired me to teach, they paid me between $300-$400 a month. I bought me a suit to wear. My first suit since I left New Iberia.
(Lela Derouen speaks) I was working for selective service; I was responsible for sending the boys off. Everyone was issued a draft number and when it was time, the board would review the files and pick the numbers of persons who were to go. They would send a notice by mail to your address.
(I asked him if he was informed as to the situation developing in Europe while he was at TX AM before the war.) Yes I was reading about it, I even tried to go in before my time. I wrote the war department and asked to go, they wrote back and said, 'when we get ready and we need you we'll call you.' You see I was in the cadet Corp at LSU. I was commissioned a 2nd Lt. I was on the regimental staff. We were well informed.
I wore an olive green square with a T and an O. It stands for 'Tuff Ombrey'.
Interview with Tom Derouen (part 2)
Tom Derouen, Jason Theriot, Hewitt Theriot:
-Derouen and H. Theriot, both went to LSU and studied agriculture
-Derouen took a job and graduate school at Texas A&M, paid $50 dollars a month
-Talking about his days at A&M as a student and teacher
-H. Theriot talking to Lela Derouen about the home front in New Iberia
-How draft numbers worked and the mailing orders given
-Talking again about school days at LSU and A&M; working with horses
-His commission at LSU; military balls; girlfriend at LSU
-H. Theriot’s plans in wanting to work with the horses in France during the war
-Stories of Derouen’s time working with the horses and traveling with them on trains to livestock shows
Interview with Jefferson Deblanc (part 1)
Jeff Deblanc, Jason Theriot:
-Describing a seaplane wild dogfight in the air with German pilots
-Seacrest (Jim Seacrest, another pilot from Mississippi) noticed 2 German zeros and 2 bombers targeting one the U.S. ships; his wingman was Joe Foster
-Deblanc’s wingman was a man form New York, Jim Felton, was shot down and crashed into an island; he survived through the whole war
-Tells how he outmaneuvered one of the zeros, trying to free up Seacrest to go after the German bomber planes
-Was shot down by one of the zeros but the bombers missed their targets
-The fight probably took about half an hour
(8:25) Stuck on an island now and is trying to get back to his men (in Pacific)
-Found a hut and spent the night there; woke up the next morning surrounded by natives with machetes
-They were headhunters but Deblanc found that out later
-Showed him how to crack open a coconut; took him prisoner after he ate
-They put him in a covered caged in their village; kept it covered as the Japanese pilots were known to raze the villages if they saw any white people
-They may have been keeping him to trade with the Japanese later for rice
-He was traded to another village chief; this chief had connections to the coast watchers
-One of the men of this chief was a native coast watcher; they all spoke pigeon English
-Deblanc showing Theriot a spear and other things these natives gave him
(19:04) “U.S.S. Jenkins”
-Jan. 29 was given a pre-dawn take off to “scramble” some Japanese fighters (in the Guadalcanal)
-Too dark to see so they had to rely on the plane’s instruments; if not watching could fly into the water
-Knew he was going to the East and needed to go left to miss the mountains and return to the sea
-Engine began to fail that night in a fight and it ran out of oil so he needed to glide down to the water
-Decides he might have to jump out before hitting the land but recalls that early that morning another man in his squadron had to jump and his chute didn’t open
-The parachutes are replaced every 15 days or so and Deblanc didn’t know if his had been replaced or not recently so he chose to stay in the plane and glide it down to the water
-Notices that there’s ships (U.S.) everywhere fighting and churning up phosphorus; made a glowing runway for Deblanc
-Landed in front of “U.S.S. Jenkins,” the same ship that Rene Broussard from New Iberia was on (TH1-026)
-Told them to pick him after the battle was over in case they were sunk; they gave him a raft and picked up around dawn the next day
-Then on Jan. 31 (2 days later) was when he was shot down and on the island with the natives
(25:18) Return to the island story
-The native coast watchers took Deblanc by boat to a missionary church (Church of England)
-Met a missionary by the name Sylvester, also part of the coast watchers
-The next morning he had to leave as the Japanese were coming to check the church
(27:36) Getting off the island
-“That’s how I learned the British soldiers were the best fighters in the world”
-British soldier Henry Johnson picked up Deblanc from the church; they went through by trails in the jungle up the mountain
-While walking they saw a group of Japanese looking around below them, slowly heading up to where they were;
-At the time Deblanc had been wearing a Japanese uniform to hide himself (did nothing)
-So Deblanc and Johnson were trying to move out of the way of the Japanese but about 3 o’clock Johnson stops; he said it was time for tea and they stopped to have tea (never was caught by the Japanese)
-The coast watchers finally picked him up on the other side
(32:03) Spent 6 more weeks in combat and then sent back to states to teach pilots for another 6 weeks
-Got tired of it and joined up again in a squadron on a carrier; thought it’d be easier
-Had to fight Kamikazes and the weather
-Fought in the Pacific for 4 months
-Continued to teach into the Vietnam War
-Talks about his time teaching and flying
-Other aircrafts Deblanc flew in combat
(36:30) Talking about the country today and people’s stances on war and America
-How to overcome fear: “don’t panic;” environmental surroundings and background can be very helpful in one’s survival
(Cuts off into silence for the last 10 minutes)
Interview with Jefferson Deblanc (part 2)
Jeff Deblanc, Jason Theriot:
**dates, years, and places mentioned may be confused in his retelling**
-Prior to WWII was a product of the Depression, grew up in that environment; always looking for jobs
-After graduation from high school in 1938 worked in the sugar houses as a bench chemist; was able to go to college through the factory
-Never finished college as the war broke out in 1939; went to LSU
-Was already in training by the time Pearl Harbor happened as there was already a push for trained men
-At LSU had civilian pilot training (CPT) and Deblanc was in it by 1939 when war broke out in Europe
-When war broke out in U.S. Deblanc wanted to make sure he was not drafted into another department, like the infantry; wanted to fly for the Navy
-Brother, Frank, was an engineer and was going to go into the Army but Deblanc feared that Frank would be stuck building bridges in front of the infantry and be killed
-Told Frank to go into the Navy and become a pilot too; flew a four engine plane all through the war in anti-sub patrol in the Pacific
-Deblanc advanced into naval flight training in Oct. 1941 and was stationed in Corpus Christi; wanted to be a fighter as he was able to fight on his own terms
After Pearl Harbor (9:36)
-His class of cadets were assigned to be (?) pilots and Deblanc did not want to so he went and resigned for service in the Navy and was sent into the Marine Corps to be a fighter
-Deblanc’s group were known as the “Omega” pilots, because their training was too little to be actual fighter pilots; they needed bodies out there
(13:11) Describing his plane, M3N (?) plane, a by-plane
-Breezed through his air craft landing training and was sent to Corpus Christi, to what he thought was more training but was put in as reserved pilots and teaching
-Navy pilots had some run-ins with the Navy guys there
-Wore these large rings and would knock on the bar when ordering drinks to be served first—called them “ring knockers”
-Bar would be split by pilots in reserved and ring knockers
(16:49) describing the planes; F3F, they used at the air craft carriers from WWI with no gun wingmen; transferred to OOS2, a low wing monoplane
-Once graduated and passed training for instrument flying, had a total of 250 hours of flying time; sent on a carrier to Guadalcanal in August 1942
-Was given a plane that he had flew the least, less than 10 hours of flying time
-June or July 1942 (maybe he meant 1943?)went over to New Caledonia; 22 days at sea, not on an aircraft carrier as there were planes already there
-Was there to replace those in squadrons that had been killed; saw first combat in November 1942
(25:00) in service training he was given on how to fight Japanese planes in dog fights from older pilots
-While at New Caledonia was renamed as the “Cactus Air force;” those that fought from August 20 - January 23 1943 were a part of this air force in the South Pacific
(28:43) Looking at a photo of a F4F, the Wildcat, mid-wing plane; describing how he used it
First Combat (33:19)
-When he first ran into a Japanese plane was Nov. 10 1942; also the first day at Guadalcanal (maybe he meant New Caledonia?)
-Flew as the last man in the squadron formation, in the very back; were flying with others to see the layout of the islands
-Landed at 11 and then the radio went off about Japanese bombers (this happened everyday); Japanese plan was to push them off the island, literally
-Took off and was flying over Japanese territory; listened to Coast Guard radio on where the Japanese would be in the air and on land
-Had to have short messages on the radio from the Coast Guard as the Japanese could locate where they and the planes were if they stayed on long enough
-Used a lot of British slang and terms for codes
(37.45) Describing in detail of the planes on both sides, islands they flew over in the fight, where his squadron was and who was helping him
-What they were to except from the Japanese; how they lost one pilot, Joe Falcon
Life on Guadalcanal (44:02)
-Knew every night there was to be bombing; always tired
-Washing Machine Charlie plane had the loudest engine in the Japanese and they could always hear them when they were coming
-Ran a few times in patrol in the foxholes on the ground; scared him more to be under artillery fire
-Marine and Natives worked together to keep the base clear enough so the planes could take off
-Natives mostly stuck with the winners at the time, so they were always switching back and forth
-Night was the worst as anything that moved was shot, so no going out to the bushes for the bathroom
-Japanese sometime would ride bicycles down their (US) runway and fire at their tents
-The base was never truly secured until December; able to get supplies easier and Japanese were no longer destroying them
-Flew almost every day for 6 weeks; describing more on other attacks/bombings he was in
-On one flight after some Japanese bombers, 3 out of 8 planes had fuel problems; Deblanc’s plane was one
-2 pilots bailed and went back to the base but Deblanc chose to stay on
-Knew that if he got into a fight he will not have enough fuel to go back
-Decided that he’d fight and then fly back to a certain island and bail there, told his comrades
-Describes certain tactics used; starts talking about how he was shot down (same story in TH1-040)
-Returns to when he was flying back with little to no fuel after the fight; wasn’t his first time to have to fight with little fuel
Cuts off mid-sentence at very end
Interview with Francis Doerle (part 1)
***Disclaimer: recounting as a witness to an act of sexual abuse (55:06)***
Francis G. Doerle; Theriot
-Was at Deer’s drive-in on East Main St., near a nightclub; on a date with his wife (girlfriend at the time)
-They were sitting there together that Sunday afternoon when they heard the news of Pearl Harbor
-People were going from car to car talking about it; it was the only thing talked about for days
-Already heard about the war from newsreels and a neighbor (Mr. Bernard) that had a TV with a 100 ft. antenna and could pick up other news stations
-Knew about what Germany was doing, had heard of Dunkirk
-Had heard of what the Japanese were doing to China but never saw them as an enemy like Germany
-Thinks Japan attacked the U.S. to stop us from declaring was on Germany
-Had a class A deferment so he couldn’t be drafted but signed up anyway since most his brothers and brother-in-laws were in the service too
-About 8 men from their family in the service and Doerle felt he should help too
-Worked for the Maritime Commissioner as a ship-building welder inspector at a shipyard in New Orleans
-They gave him the class 1-A deferment; built 6-7 liberty ships; worked as a fruit peddler on the side with his dad
His son David was born in February 1942 and a few months later Doerle told the draft board that he was leaving his job (and deferment) and be ready to send him off
-Was 24 years old at the time
In the Service (14:28)
-Oldest in his outfit, most were 18-19 years old or really 17 years old and had lied to join up
-Had no choice but to join the Army; wanted to join the Navy but the board said no
-Within 3 weeks after leaving his job shipped out to Camp Fanen Texas; stayed there for 10 weeks
-After basic sent to Camp Meade Maryland; outfitted with gear for overseas
-Shipped to Boston and put on a transport ship, “USS General Black” 10,000 on the boat
-Went through a terrible storm while crossing the Atlantic (sick the whole time)
-Were going to be replacements at the Battle of the Bulge; landed at Leharve France in a makeshift harbor and put on railroad cars
-When signing up, Doerle was with OJ Mannual (from Erath was a neighbor)
-They were together until split up in Nancy France; they were given rifles at Nancy
-They had landed in France in December 1944 and it was cold; they had issued clothes made from real wool
-After Nancy he was assigned to the 35th Infantry Division, 137th Regiment B Company, a rifle platoon
-January 1945 they were woken up and loaded into trucks; weren’t allowed to have the headlights on
-Drove till the next morning when they stopped to eat and continued on till evening
-Got off and it was ice and snow everywhere and each person was issued a white sheet to use a camouflage
Battle of the Bulge (33:00)
-They knew what was happening at the Bulge and the Germans were trying to break into Southern France
-They were there at the end of the battle to help push back
-When the Germans did break through, the 28th Division was completely destroyed
-Germans were strong people and very intelligent; the French were the opposite and lazy people
-Germans would change street signs and set traps to confuse or ambush the Americans
-Was at a town near the Ardennes Forest; the artillery and mortar shells would hit the trees and the branches would shatter
-Had to give their foxholes tops to keep from being wounded or killed by the falling debris
-The first night there was sent on patrol to capture Germans for interrogation; didn’t grab anyone for a few nights
-Had seen about 7 days of combat before reaching the Bulge; they didn’t tell them anything that was happening elsewhere
-One of his feet starting turning black but things started happening so he was taken from hospital after 5 days to help load/move ammunition trucks
-Couldn’t walk but he could drive—everyone needed to work
-Once into Germany they went through the Rhine Valley, Cologne and Recklinghausen; where he captured a German colonel
-Was at an outpost watching a bridge and saw some Germans near the CP and there was a colonel
-Another soldier took the colonel from him by threat
-Asked later if the German had been turned in by the other soldier and was told there was no German colonel prisoner (thinks the soldier killed the colonel)
***Mention of sexual assault and abuse***
***American soldiers were going crazy from fatigue and would destroy homes for no reason, loot and rape women; couldn’t stop them as they’d turn on you too; some did kill other Americans—sometimes they’d be fighting and those “crazy” soldiers would just shoot all their mates around them***
Firefighting and End of the War (55:43)
-Most of the time you don’t see who you’re killing; only saw once when he did kill a person
-Never saw the enemy face to face except when on patrol and when cleaning out towns
-Reached the Elbe River and stopped to let the Russians take over Berlin; Germans were surrendering by the truck loads to the Americans so not to be killed by the Russians
-Made a deal that in order to take German prisoners the Germans needed to surrender over American prisoners
-Took 10 days before the Russians took Berlin and Americans transported thousands of Germans by then
-Closer to the end of the war the Germans were easier to handle; only the SS Troops were difficult as life meant nothing to them
-Stopped at a town near the Rhine and found a well-stocked wine cellar; they had a nice time
-While there Doerle ‘s brother-in-law George came to visit; George was a warrant officer and was supplying three divisions
-George took Doerle to his CP that was a governor’s mansion and spent 2 days in luxury before being called back as they were crossing the river into Germany
-Took his first bath in three-four months
-Never saw or was in contact with is brothers; Harold was in the Air force; Paul was in the Navy in the Pacific
-Bobby was a Seabee in Okinawa construction battalion
Combat Life (1:09:00)
-Something not kept on the mind; especially the people you kill
-In situations like war each person has a different outlook and does what they feel was right; did what you had to do
-You don’t shoot someone eating lunch, you shoot someone who’s trying to kill you
-Always thought about what if he never made it back
-The war in Europe and the war in the Pacific were different
-Thinks the Pacific was probably tougher with having to take islands and fighting in jungles
-Europe was in cities and modern weapons to use (on land)
-Germans had more modern weapons than the Japanese; German machine guns fired 3-5 times faster than American’s machine guns
-Once crossing the German border, they advanced so fast into the territory their own artillery thought they were the enemy; sent off three volleys at Dorele’s outfit
-They were walking in the road in the open and the artillery thought they were retreating Germans
-Dorele knew the sound of American guns and knew they were shooting at them—but the 105 mm was slow so they had time to move out of the way (compared to the Germans’ guns)
-One guy was so badly shell-shocked just froze and fainted as everyone went to the ditches
-Another soldier ran in between volleys to grab him (confirms in TH1-043 that no one was killed or badly injured)
-Dorele’s outfit (35th) knew it was the 75th artillery unit ahead that was firing at them
-Was trying to call the CP to cease fire as the artillery were zeroing in on Dorele’s outfit's position
-Everyone was “hauling ass” to buildings and away from the road
-Dorele jumped a barbed wire fence with his gun, that got stuck in the mud and then 10 feet ahead of him a shell went off
-The shock caused bleeding to his ears (still has problems today) and he dove into the mud and made a mound to protect himself
-Finally they got through to the 75th to cease fire
-In the beginning of the war, carried a BAR until given a carbine; had a bazooka once to be used for German pillboxes
-Had to be careful when shooting at German tanks, the Panzer would just bounce the shells off
Francis G. Doerle
Born November 21, 1920
35th Infantry Division
Battle of the Bulge
(December 7, 1941) I was at a place called Deer's drive-in on East Main St. There was a nightclub there. That afternoon, my wife, who I was just starting to court seriously, we were sitting there, it was a Sunday afternoon, and we heard that the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor. We thought about it a lot. Everybody was going from car to car. So we went about our evening as planned, and I took her home later and we talked about it a little bit with her parents. I came home the next day, and that was all that was on the news, that was all people were talking about.
Right in back of where I lived, Mr. Bernard had a tourist court and he was the only guy in town I knew who had a TV with a hundred-foot antenna. And he could pick up a few stations and we would watch the news (there), and at the movie pictures we would go to. During intermission they would show newsreels about the war.
Germany was walking all throughout Europe like there was no tomorrow. The only thing between Germany and us was Great Britain. That was it. Dunkirk had taken place shortly after that, so it was serious. I was aware of some of the stuff going on in China, although we were at war with Japan and Germany at the time. I wasn't worried about the Japanese. It wasn't a concern of mine. I never did figure them as the real enemy.
I had a class A deferment. I had a good job, but all my brothers were in the service, so I just decided that I had to get involved. I didn't feel comfortable staying here while all the men in my family were fighting in the war. I worked for the Maritime Commissioner as a ship-building welding inspector at the shipyard in New Orleans, so I was offered a deferment. I stayed for a while and helped build ships for the war. While I was there we built six liberty ships.
Before that I was working in the produce business here in town, and when I moved to New Orleans I was welding at the shipyard and conducting business for my dad at the French Market in the morning. I would go to the market at five in the morning to buy fruit and all kinds of fresh stuff. And my father would send a truck over there, and he'd call me and tell me what he needed the night before. After I would load the truck I would go to my other job at the shipyard.
My son David was born in February of 1944, and a few months after that I went to the draft board and told them I was leaving my job and to call me when they were ready for me. The draft board here knew that I was working in New Orleans, I stayed in touch with them every six months or so, but I had a deferment all that time. I was 24 years old when I decided to join.
The draft board was very strict and rightfully so, cause a lot of people would take off. Pete Oliver was on the board.
I signed up with OJ Manual from Erath. OJ and I got split up in a place called Nancy France. He was in a different outfit.
Within three weeks I was shipped to Camp Fanen Texas. (What made you chose the Amy?) I didn't, I asked for the Navy, but they said, "you got the Army." And that was it, when you got in that long line they didn't give you a choice. I took basic training for 10 weeks.
Most guys were from 18 or 19-years old in my outfit. I was the oldest guy in my platoon. Some lied about their age. There were some in there that were 17. This one kid named Ebiline was just 17.
At night, there was complete darkness (in combat). There were no headlights on cars or jeeps; you couldn't even light a match. This guy, Ebiline, started crying saying that he would never see his mother again. I told him he wouldn't if he didn't put out that cigarette. He had lit a cigarette in a foxhole. The next thing you know, you got an 88 in your pocket. And those Germans were so accurate with that gun. That was a hell of a gun.
After basic I came home for a few days then took a train to Camp Meade in Maryland. I got outfitted with all the gear I was going to need to go overseas with. From there I was shipped to Boston. I got on a ship (troop transport) in Boston and went through a hell of storm across the North Atlantic. I was on the USS General Black. There were about 10,000 troops on that ship. We went through the worst storm I had ever been in. It took the bow of the ship and bent it back like this. Fourteen days at sea. I stayed sick the whole time. Everybody was throwing up on everybody else. That was the worse (storm) I had ever been in. When we landed all I could do was suck on oranges; that was the only thing that I could keep down.
We had about 300 ships in that convoy with us. They were sending any and everything to the Battle of the Bulge as quick as they could.
We landed in December 1944. I was a replacement. I was to report to the 35th Infantry Division when I got to France. This was all during the Battle of the Bulge (December 16, 1944). They were taking replacements like crazy. I landed at Leharve France. From Leharve they put us in an ole railroad car, and old cattle car and shipped us off to where the fighting was all in the same day. There were 40 men in a cart.
Leharve was nothing but sunken ships and steel sticking up everywhere. It was a makeshift harbor that was erected in a hurry.
We stopped in Nancy France. This is where they handed me a rifle. It was snowing and ice (was) everywhere. It was cold cold. My gun was full of cosmaline. It's like a thick goo that they put on there to protect the gun while it was transported across the ocean. I had to clean it with gasoline. They said, "Son, I want to see that rifle shine."
They issued us plenty of clothes. It was all wool, real wool. I was assigned to a rifle platoon in the 137th Regiment, B Company. The headquarters was in Metz, France. That city was destroyed. Captain Azbell was the Commander of our company. I was ordered to report to the CP (Command Post). Angelo was my platoon sergeant. I still keep in touch with some of the guys from my outfit. We have reunions every year.
(The 35th was in combat at the Bulge. As men would get wounded or suffer from frostbite or battle fatigue, they would be sent to the back of the line. Replacements where they sent immediately to the front to replace these ranks.)
It was sometime after Christmas (’44); I'll never forget they woke us up in the middle of the night and we loaded on to trucks with all our gear. The truck had no lights and we drove down the road in the dark all night long until part of the next morning. We stopped in a little town where they feed us then we went back on the trucks and drove till late in the evening. When we got off finally, there was ice and snow everywhere. It was the coldest I had ever been in my life. They issued each of us a white sheet (snow camouflage).
We knew what was going on at the Bulge. And we knew they (Germans) were going to try to break out through southern France. But that didn't happen as you know. But we, the Americans weren't nervous about that. I wasn't there at the beginning when the Germans broke through; I was there at the end when we stopped them and pushed them back.
When they broke through, brother, let me tell you. The 28th (holding the line) was almost completely destroyed. The Germans were tuff soldiers. They were head and shoulders above us. There were some Americans, many of us, who thought that we were fighting the wrong people. The Germans were very intelligent people. It was Hitler's Nazi's that we wanted outta there.
The French weren't very smart people. They would shovel cow shit around the pipes that they were pumping water out of to keep the pipes from freezing, so it seeps down in the water-well. The cow shit would seep into the water-well. The French were lazy people.
The Germans were far more advanced than everybody else was. They were 20 years ahead of everybody. They had Autobahn highways, four lane highways. That's what gave Eisenhower the idea to build a highway system in the states years later.
The Germans, when they made their move, would turn the street signs around. It would confuse the Americans. A lot of Americans walked right into an ambush.
We got off in a little wooded town near the Ardennes Forest. The artillery and mortar shells would explode in the trees and the branches would shatter. (The flying pieces of shattered trees wounded and killed many Americans.) You had to build a top in your foxhole. I never dug a hole so fast in all my life. We used branches to cover the tops of our foxholes. We covered the tops with dirt.
That first night, my sergeant and I, Angelo Demem and about 5 others went on a patrol. Our orders were to find German's, capture them, and bring them back to the CP for interrogation. We stayed out pass the outpost for two or three nights looking for prisoners to take back. (The outpost was the farthest American post on the front line-closest to the enemy.) The Germans would walk by and we'd wait till they got close enough and then we'd stand up and shout, "Handy Ho you sons of bitches!" Handy Ho, you know, put your hands up. And we'd say, "Foshnell," which means put your hands up.
But we really didn't know anything. We didn't know where we were or want was happening elsewhere. They didn't tell you anything; you heard rumors, and that was about all. Some Sergeants might tell you a little bit about what was going on, if you got a chance to talk to him. See some of these guys had been on the line for months, some even since D-Day. I had only been there for 7 days, so I didn't know much.
My feet started to suffer. We were told to keep our feet dry, you know keep clean socks on. But I had one foot that turned black. I had to go into the hospital; I was off the line for about 5 days. This was later on. But they didn't keep me in the hospital. I helped move ammunition in trucks. I couldn't walk but I could ride. They needed every man that was fit to work, even those that were hurt. Till today I have to wear soles because my feet are nothing but bones.
I wore a long wool overcoat. Some weeks later I remember cutting it into a short coat because it was getting warmer. We were always on the move. I remember going into Germany after we got out of the cold, cold weather. We went into the Rhine Valley and crossed the Rhine River and went into Cologne. I went through Recklinghausen; that's where I got this colonel; I captured a German colonel.
I was out on an outpost watching the bridge with about 10 others guys and I came back into the CP, and I spotted some Germans near the CP. One of them was a Colonel. I took his pistol off of him; I still got it. Have you ever seen a good-looking German Luger?
This one guy in my outfit was really crazy. He did a lot of things in the war that wasn't right. I saw him kill other Americans. He killed some guys that were raping a woman. I saw him line them up and cut them down with a machine gun.
He took that German Colonel around the building and I followed him and he pulled a gun on me. He said, "Get your ass away or I'm gonna kill you." I checked with the CP later but they had no information on this Colonel. He was a high ranking German officer; he should have had some information. But he never got there. There was a lot of that going on.
I saw people going into other people's homes and destroying them. Beautiful things in these homes. They would knock things over and bust 'em and break 'em just for the hell of it. And you can't control most of it. Some of these guys were so off, so fatigued, that they're crazy, and they will turn on you. They will shoot you.
About a month or two later that same guy had a girl in a room and he made everybody get out. He raped her; he was out of his mind.
I got into a couple of firefights with the enemy. But mostly you don't see who you are killing. I only know of one guy that I actually shot and killed, because I went and checked him. The poor bastard had a picture of his family. You never really come face to face with the enemy, unless you are looking for a prisoner to capture at night. When you go on patrols at night you run face to face with them and when you are cleaning out a town you run into them. But a firefight that you know of, you rarely saw them.
Towards the end of the war up on the Elbe River I shot and wounded a German. I don't know if I killed him, but I know that I shot him. At night you could see the sky light up. You could tell there was a war going on. We were told to stop at the Elbe River to allow the Russians to take Berlin. And we did. The Germans were surrendering by the thousands. We could take all of them. It got to a point where we wouldn't take a German prisoner unless he brought an American prisoner with him. Truckloads of Germans tried to surrender. We agreed to take a truck of German if they brought us a truck load of Americans.
The Germans did not want to get captured by the Russians. The Russians would torture and kill them right there, because the Germans did the same thing to them. At the Yalta Conference Stalin and Roosevelt made a deal- the Russians would take Berlin. We stayed at the Elbe for 10 days waiting for them to take Berlin. We took a lot of prisoners in those 10 days.
Towards the end of the war the Germans were easier to handle because they knew it was kaput. They knew there was no chance for them to win. But we had to be real careful with the SS Troops (Nazi fanatics). They would kill you right there. They were the elite German soldiers who were Hitler's finest troops. Their life meant nothing to them.
I crossed the bridge at Remagen. It was the only bridge across the Rhine that the Germans didn't blow up. And we got there before they could take it out. It was the only bridge into Germany.
We rested in a little town near the Rhine for a few days. We ran into a wine cellar, so we had a good time. It was the finest wine in the world and every soldier had a case of red wine. My brother-in-law, George, found me there. He was a warrant officer. He was in charge of supplying all the men in our Corp. I got a call through the CP. He said, "Francis! God damn it, this is George!" I said, "George who?" He said, "George, your brother-in-law!" I said, "Well you SOB, what are you doing? Where the hell are you?" He said, "Never mind where I am. But don't you move cause I know where you are! And I'll be there in 30 minutes!" He drove up in a jeep with a driver. He was a big shot you know. I said, "George, where we going?" He said, "I talked to Captain Asbell. He said you can come spend a couple of days with me." I took a bath in a beautiful mansion, a castle that belonged to the mayor of the town. George was using that mansion as his CP. And I took a bath and I got in that tub and I soaked my ass in that tub for I don't know how long. It had been three or four months since I last took a bath.
We crossed that bridge a few days later. I went to Dusseldorf and Aachen. You should have seen Aachen. You would not believe it. There was not one roof on any building there. It was completely destroyed. Pitiful.
I was never in contact with any of my brothers during the war. Harold was in the Airforce flying the Hump (Himalayas). Paul was in the Navy, in the Pacific. Bobby was at Okinawa. He was a Seabee, a construction battalion.
(Tell me about combat life) It's something that you don't keep on your mind. The two people that I killed, I hardly think about it. Each person's different. You have to make up your mind. You are there to do a job and it's you are him. You decide what your responsibility is- to yourself, to wife, and family, to your children. You have to think of survival. I didn't relish the idea; it was something that I did automatically. If you saw a German and he didn't surrender right way, you gonna have to shoot him. You don't shoot somebody sitting down in a chair having lunch. You shoot somebody who's trying to kill you.
(Did you ever think that you might not make it back?) You think about that all the time. That's a given. Anybody who tells you that they not thinking about that is not being truthful.
The war in Europe was different from the war in the Pacific and elsewhere. In a lot of ways I think that it was tougher going from island to island. The European war was more of a modernized war. We were fighting in cities not in the jungle. The individual infantryman had a tougher time in the Far East. But the artillery part in Europe was worse. Those Germans could put an 88 in your pocket from 5 miles away.
That same little fella I was telling you about earlier, Ebiline…I saw him cut right in half. We were running from one building to another and the artillery was coming down and we ran into machine gun fire and Ebiline got hit and he folded over just like a piece of meat. The German machine guns (MG-42) fired 3 to 5 times faster than an American machine gun. It would go bbbblllllttttttt. American guns would go bum bum bum. That 17-year old boy got killed right there. I had to keep on running.
When we got into Germany itself I remember our own artillery thought we were the enemy because we had advanced so far. We were walking out in the open. They thought we were Germans retreating down the road. I heard these three volleys go off. I could tell it was an American 105mm. You could hear it coming. You got time to move cause it was slow moving. The Germans used those high velocity shells; you didn't hear them until it exploded. Anyway we were going down this road and I heard those volleys go off and I said, "Holly Shit!" And there was this guy who was kind of nervous; he was shell- shocked. He had taken about all he could take; he was about to blow up. But everybody was high-strung. Everybody up there had seen a lot, done a lot, and been through a lot. But this guy actually fell down right in the middle of the road. Everybody else jumped in the ditch when we heard those volleys. And this guy froze right there in the middle of the road. He was having a breakdown.
We started calling that artillery CP to tell them who we were and to tell them to stop. We knew who they were. They were the 75th. But before we could get them to stop firing we had to move quickly because they were zeroing in on that road, on our position. When those second volleys went off I jumped over a barbed wire fence with my rifle and a pack and all. And I cleared that fence like it wasn't there. I hurdled it. But the fence hit my gun and my barrel stuck in the mud. And man that was a no-no. Man one of those shells exploded about 10-feet in front of me and my ears started bleeding. I had enough awareness to get up and jump behind a mound of dirt for protection. We finally got through to those guys. To this day I am hard of hearing.
I was able to bring this Luger back to the states. I had to register it. It's a fine piece of work.
I carried a carbine after a while. I carried a BAR at the very beginning of the war. I fired it at some tanks. I also carried a bazooka. I fired it at German pillboxes. I saw a lot of German tanks. But you didn't want to be within 10 miles of those Panzers. Our shells would bounce off those Panzer tanks.
Interview with Francis Doerle (part 2)
Francis G. Doerle, Theriot:
End of the War
-Was able to take a break (a leave) in Paris
-Your time on leave depended on how much time was spent on the front and when it was thought you were needed again; could be 5-10 days off
-Served the whole time on the front line; didn’t take time off, even when his foot turned black, helped in unloading trucks
-Did a lot of patrols at outposts during the night to capture German soldiers for the CP
-Detailing the work of the CPs and importance of them
-Everyone carried a backpack and packed what they needed/wanted
-Dorele had 1-2 bandoleers of ammunition, dry socks, dry shirts, 2 grenades but nothing for hygiene
-Used the buddy system; your buddy was the runner for more ammunition; stayed in the foxhole with you
-At night in the foxhole had to know left from right and who was near you
-Never spoke but would whisper to catch each other’s attention when they heard something
-Going across Germany towards the end of the war, all the little towns and cities were bombed out and people were living in cellars
-The Germans were ready to surrender, the soldiers were either really old or too young; most of the SS were dead by then
-Dorele did encounter a SS trooper one night, “I’ll never forget it;” was standing guard at a hospital one night and there was a SS in there for treatment as a prisoner
-Had to lock the man up as was acting like a “lunatic” and was a danger to everyone around him—made sure everyone knew what he stood for
-Never really talked to German POWs; mostly dealt with guarding POW camps of Polish and French POWs
-Couldn’t speak French or German but understood a little bit, used a little dictionary
-They were told not to go into Berlin, stopped at the Elbe River; Americans were happy to let the Russians take Berlin and kill the Germans
-Mostly stood guard at the river to capture any German soldiers that escaped Berlin
-Thinks there was probably a lot of German death at the hands of the Russians when they took Berlin
-The Russians wanted Berlin as payback for what the Germans did to them
After the War (24:17)
-The US never had to worry about war happening on their soil; Pearl Harbor was just a onetime thing
-If war ever did break out on our land, there’s no way Americans could handle it like the Germans, Russians, and English did
-Too many nationalities and politics would cause problems and make it worse
-While at the Elbe River the Russians met them after Berlin; they drank and danced that night; Russians were dirty people
-Stayed there for a week or two after the war ended in May 1945; the German people came up to them and thanked them for ending the war
-They were pulled out and were told they were going home for 10 days and then being outfitted to invade Japan on November 1
-They came home on a luxury-liner ship, the “USS Crystalball;” a nicer ride back than going to Europe
-Dorele’s division was one of the first to go home from the war in Europe after the end
-Docked at Boston by afternoon, but was not let off the ship; next morning they could hear bands and noise from the shore
(39:25) Captain finally comes over the loud speaker and says that Japan has surrender
-The Captain then goes on to say that their division was going to be a part of the first wave in the invasion of Japan—they were the luckiest men alive
-“We’re going home boys, we going home”; they also weren’t let off the ship as they wanted to let Boston have a moment to celebrate without a division in the city
-Had the biggest celebration when they got off the ship; stayed there for one night before being shipped off to Fort Meade, Maryland
-Was asked to reenlist as a sergeant but Dorele had enough points to go home and he said no; Fort Knox got his discharge papers and pay
-Can’t remember what month he finally made it back; his wife and family knew he was back in the states but didn’t know when he was coming home
-Talking about life before the war; where his brothers and brother-in-laws were at; where his German gun might be at in the house
Cuts off mid-sentence
Francis G. Doerle:
I took a leave and went to Paris for 5 days. Your time on leave depended on how much time you spent on the front line and much time they anticipated they would need you.
Almost from the day I went overseas I was in combat on the front line. Even when I got frostbite I still stayed on the front lines helping unload trucks. I spent many sleepless nights at the front on an outpost. But the night patrols were the worse. We had to go into enemy territory to capture prisoners and bring them back to the CP for interrogation. The first thing they would ask is what unit the prisoner was in, because the CP had maps of everything, and they had to know exactly where the enemy was. This was all well planned out. We had to be well organized because you are talking about people's lives. This was not something that the CP would take likely. They were very responsible people. They didn't get in that position being irresponsible. The CP was in a room or a house, or a tent. The CP was the brains of the outfit. You had command people and radiomen in there making the decisions.
I always carried one or two bandoleers of ammunition; that was about 8 clips each. I had a pack and carried dry socks and dry shirts, but no toothbrush; not even a bar of soap. And I always carried two grenades. Grenades were good for clearing out a building. You throw a grenade in there and back away, and that clears out the enemy. Any time you had a need for ammunition you would send a runner or a buddy to fetch more. We used the buddy system. At night your buddy was always in the foxhole with you. Ebiline was my buddy for awhile. They would send word down about where we could get supplies. They kept us informed about all that.
I always knew who was on my right and left at night. We never talked out-loud, but if you heard something you would say, "pist." You would whisper to get the other guys attention. George Allen was always on my left and a fella by the name of Mulberry was on my right. We were close enough to whisper.
When we finally got across to Germany, all the little towns and cities were bombed out. People were living in shelters. We went through a concentration camp and I remember seeing the crematories, but we didn't stay long. We kept moving. There were no prisoners there; the Germans had taken all the survivors with them as they moved farther east into Germany.
Towards the end they were leaving the prisoners there at the camps. And they were ready to surrender. They were ready to call it quits. It was a hopeless fight. The soldiers were either very young or very old. Most of the elite soldiers, the German SS, were all dead.
I ran into one SS trooper one night. I'll never forget it. I had to stand guard at a hospital one night and there was a MF in there. He was a lunatic. You couldn't conduct medicine in there with a crazy person like that, so they took him away and locked him up. He let us know that he was an SS, and what he stood for.
We finally stopped at the Elbe River. We were looking for that wine truck! We were able to take a breather and relax. But I bet there was a tremendous amount of German people in Berlin who were killed by the Russians. That was their payback. I bet they slaughtered the Germans in droves. They (Russians) saved a lot of American lives by doing that. We didn't have to go and take Berlin; the Russians did that for us. But those Russians suffered horribly during the war. The Germans did the same thing to them when they tried to take Russia.
We were fortunate. We didn't have mass murders like that. We had Pearl Harbor and a few ships sunk in the Atlantic, but nothing like those people in London and in Russia. I'll say this- American people would not have been able to handle what the French and British and the German people went through. This country would collapse. Things are different here. There are too many different nationalites.
I think that this was something that Churchill and Roosevelt talked about. I think that they decided that they had had enough. They wanted to save as many soldiers lives as possible. That's why they let the Russians take Berlin.
We met them at the Elbe. We danced and drank vodka with them (Russians). But they were filthy, dirty people. We stayed there for a week or two after the war ended (May 7th 1945).
The German families would come up and kiss our hands and thank us. They said they were tired of war and tired of Hitler. They said they couldn't do anything about him. They claimed that he took over before anybody could do anything. But as a long as the German people were living the good life, and were prosperous, and making money; they just let it happen. They just let Hitler do whatever he wanted because things were so good. We do that here in this country. Hitler came to power because he made things so good for his people.
They pulled us back because my division was scheduled to invade Japan. They were going to send us home for 10 days and then outfit us for a trip across the Pacific and we were due to hit the shores of Japan on November 1st. I came home on the USS Crystalball. It was a luxury-liner.
I've got a great story about that ride home. There were 10,000 soldiers on that ship, living the good life. Going over it was hell, but going back home it was great. I don't know why but they selected us to go back home first. We were one of the first divisions to get home, and the war (in Europe) had just ended. So I'm laying there on the deck, sunbathing, thinking about all of this, when all of a sudden a bird flys over my fucken head and shits right on my face. Ten thousands soldiers on the deck of that ship and a bird shits right in my face, "Splat!" I was sitten there in deap thought thinking about why my group was so special and this bird said, "shit on you." And he got me pretty good. I had to go down below and take a shower. It was all over my hair and my nose and it stunk. I never have forgotten that. Why me? Out of 10,000 men, he picked me.
So we land in Boston and they wouldn't let us off the ship. We stayed the night on that ship. The next day the captain comes over the loud speaker and said that Japan had just surrendered. He said, "Gentlemen of the 35th Infantry, this is General so and so. You men are the luckiest men alive today. I want to tell you that you men were selected to go in on the first wave on the invasion of Japan. Japan has surrendered. We wouldn't let you off the ship last night while all of this was going on. We were afraid that if we put a whole division in Boston it wouldn't be the same!" We started hooten and hollering like you wouldn't believe. Then he came back on and said, "Now we gonna let you all off tonight to celebrate and we want ya'll to act like American heroes. We want you all to be proud of what you have done. The war is over. And we're going home boys…we going home."
There was a humungus party that night. There were bands playing in this big warehouse with food and drinks and all the WAVES and WACS were there. It was a huge celebration. And we were the first division to get back to states after Japan surrendered. That was a madhouse. I only stayed there that one night. I went to Fort Meade Maryland to get processed and they asked me if I wanted to be a sergeant. I said, "Sergeant of what?" They wanted me to reenlist. But see I had enough points to get home quick. I was discharged at Fort Knox and then came home.
I got to New Iberia about 10 o'clock in the evening.
We were lucky that Truman dropped those bombs and ended the war.
Interview with Howard Dugas
Howard Dugas, Theriot:
**technical difficulties in beginning; truly begins at 01:36; will jump and skip around throughout; highway and lawn care noises in background**
-Was shooting pool that Sunday when someone ran in and told them the news
-Figured everything would be settled in a couple of days, they didn’t really know what was going on
-Had turned 18 and just graduated from high school so Dugas joined the Navy
-There was more volunteers than ships so new recruits were put in the Coast Guard
-There was a lot of areas along the coast and Lake Pontchartrain to patrol for submarine sightings
-Boot camp at Harrihan, La which was the New Orleans Army base
-They had to share as the Coast Guard had no place and things were moving fast
-Explained to them that the Coast Guard and Navy was one unit
-Sent to Lake Charles and ran small boats and kept the bridge closed or open for shipyard workers
-Started a new patrol in Cameron, La; couldn’t drive cars as it was a black out area to hide from submarines
-Assigned to a Destroyer Escort “SS Mosley,” for patrolling and standing watch; also patrolled on horse in swampy areas and to keep from having to use lights
-In the early part of the war German U-boats were sinking 1-3 freighters a day in the Atlantic
-This was before the Destroyer Escorts could take over for protection
-Patrolling on horseback Dugas thought it was too easy and asked to be assigned onto the “SS Mosley,” the Destroyer Escort (DE) they had been patrolling for
-Always on alert but most of the crew had no experience with sea duty and neither did Dugas
-The Captain had been an office man and had only 90 days of training in school before taking over their ship
-Once the crew felt comfortable manning the ship they went out to sea to Bermuda for a shakedown cruise; there might have been two ships that went
-A DE was established for escort duty and submarine warfare and maybe some aircrafts
-Had 3 one inch guns, a 40-mm and 20-mm machine guns, K-guns, depth charges and a hedgehog in the back
-Before leaving, a lot of assembling for operations was done along the East coast by Virginia, the Carolinas, and Massachusetts
-Also where the German U-boats, never saw one in the gulf
-Dugas’s group was the first to escort convoys using Des
-Escorted 90-100 freighters at a time bound to the Mediterranean; never lost a ship to engine breakdowns
-They knew submarines would follow them all the way to the Straits of Gibraltar waiting for them to stall or lose a ship in a breakdown to shoot them
-Made serval trips from January 1944 to May 1945 bringing men and materials
-On one mission to North Africa and Italy was asked to break away on the African Coast and look for a fishing boat
-They didn’t know what language the other boat used so the Captain asked Dugas to speak some French but the other boat called back and asked “What’s the matter, you don’t speak English?!”
-Went by Casablanca but didn’t see Humphry Bogart or Ingrid Bergman
-The Germans were further east by then to Tunisia thanks to the British; Hitler had his forces spread out too thin
Only Mission with Severe Causalities (26:35)
-Around dusk in the Mediterranean the lead ship of the convoy had radar (to intercept enemy or friendly planes) and saw a blinking light of unidentified planes that were coming in too low
-They figured because it was getting dark that the planes were going to make one pass and try to hit the freights
-The planes were coming too low anyway for the ships at the front to shoot so they let the planes fly over; Germans were well organized
-A freight at the very back started shooting 20-mm with tracers that could be seen in the night and then everyone was shooting but it was too dark to tell where they were shooting at
-The first ship hit was a troop ship and it had bombs and about 600 soldiers on board and it was hit by a torpedo
-The second wave of attacks hit two merchant ships (materials) and third wave hit the screening ship, hit with a torpedo—all three were beached but not sunk
-Dugas’s ship, the Mosley, laid up smoke screens at dusk to confuse the planes but it was too late
-After that every night they laid up smoke screens in case they got attacked again but they weren’t, just a few submarines
-This trip might have been the third or fourth trip
-Another trip along the African Coast and at night the radar picked up a surface signal for a boat and sent a message out that a convoy was coming and to get out of the way
-15 minutes later a torpedo cut the lead ship in half; couldn’t stop to pick up survivors in the water, they had to keep going
-Lost a lot of people during the war; too inexperienced and many mistakes made, very unprepared compared to the Germans
-By the second to last trip the war was almost over and there wasn’t much need for materials being sent out all over, it was all concentrated in Europe by then
Didn’t have much news on how the war was going, sometimes picked up BCC broadcast yet they never said anything about the war but mostly heard Axis Sally (German propaganda)
-Passed through the Strait of Gibraltar (he thinks) 8 times
-The Mediterranean was beautiful and at night they could see the phosphorus in the clear waters; Dugas’s captain was always excited to it
(38:00) Shore Duty
-After about a year at sea, Dugas was transferred to shore duty in New York
-Really enjoyed it as New York was the place to be for entertainment, could do anything or see anything all year around
-Like music and sports and he could go see stuff anytime
-Was sent to Port Security School to learn to patrol docks and check ships for explosives and fire hazards
-The German submarines they figured had been pulled out of their waters and were closer to home, as submarine warfare started phasing out
-It was a good duty, as they could have fun and take breaks; “always a bunch of girls somewhere”
(42:00) Trip to Greenland
-Towards the end of Dugas’s service he was sent on a trip to Greenland
-Was aboard a Coast Guard Icebreaker—it had a knife at the bottom to break the ice
-They were going to check something out; the ship had already taken a trip to Greenland and captured a German radio station
-On the way an engine went out and a 4 day trip took 2 weeks
-The wind was against them and one engine couldn’t push through it and had to watch for icebergs constantly so someone had to stand outside to look for them
-No clue why he was picked to go on this trip; people were always being sent around, sometimes with no place to go
-Once in Greenland as they came in, had to help a fishing boat break out of the ice, they followed behind them for 2 days
-It was cold but they had good clothes of 3 layers; but the worst was when up in the bridge and the wind blew on their faces and burned them; it was always so windy
-Didn’t stay too long as they had to get the Captain of the North Atlantic patrol was stationed there but he had a nurse with him (his girlfriend) and they had to take her too
-Then they just killed some time as it was Christmas time and by protocol so much of the crew had time off and the radio stations stopped
(51:15) Back in Boston
-People were being sent home on the point system as the war was ending
-Was sent to Baltimore and was waiting around to be discharged back to New Orleans
-Took a train to New Orleans and his parents met him and took him back home to Parks; **tape starts skipping around**
-As things slowed down went to work off shore for a while
-Learned to how to cook and was cooking for the rig then and worked about 15-16 hours a day so he got some good money
(55:15) Talking about what he did after the rig, his leukemia, his family, and answering some questions from Theriot
**hard to hear with tape skipping and background noise**
Howard Dugas (9/9/01)
Coast Guard/USS Mosley (DE-321)
Atlantic Ocean going escort
On Pearl Harbor Day I was shooting pool in Parks, La. It was December 7th, a Sunday. Anyway, that's when we heard the news. Somebody came down the road and said that they bombed Pearl Harbor. We said, "Auh, we'll finish that thing in a couple of days." Nobody knew really what was going on.
I had graduated high school and I was 18-years old at the time, so I joined the navy with a friend of mine. We took a bus to New Orleans. There were a lot of volunteers. To begin with there weren't enough ships to assign everybody too, so that's one of the reasons why they put the new recruits in the Coast Guard. There were a lot of areas that needed to be patrolled along the coast. The Coast Guard had a lot of small craft and they were equipped for patrolling the waters. (There were subs all over the gulf.)
We were sent to boot camp in Harrihan, La., which is an Army base in New Orleans. Actually we had to share space with the Army, because the Coast Guard had no other place to train.
After boot camp I was sent to Lake Charles and we mostly ran small patrol boats, mainly to keep the bridge open at peek hours so that the shipyard workers could get to work faster.
Early on, ships were getting sunk off the coast [by submarines] because of the silhouette from the city lights. Later, we were sent to patrol the beach area near Cameron, La. That was a blackout area. (Bayou Boys-Torpedo Book.) We couldn't use cars or trucks to patrol at night, plus it was too swampy, so we used horseback to patrol. They called it the Animal Husbandry detail. We were about 15-20 men patrolling along Holly Beach. People were volunteering for the navy so fast, they didn’t have any place to put them. So they put us with this unit patrolling the coast until the navy could build enough ships. It was easy duty, but I wanted to do something more.
We were getting tired of sitting on the beach and riding horses. So a couple of us asked the chief to see if we could get assignment for sea duty. We had heard that they were building and commissioning destroyer escorts in Orange, Texas. And sure enough, a few days later we were assigned to a Destroyer Escort, the SS Mosley (DE-321).
We were very inexperienced. The Japanese caught us by surprise. The crews of the destroyer escorts were half navy and half coast guard. John Mcloud from Parks, La., was the storekeeper on the Mosley. He and I were friends.
We were always making preparations. We were on full alert, but a lot of that crew had no experience with sea duty. Being from South Louisiana I had been in small boats, but sea duty is really something different. Even the Captain was an office-man who they sent to a 90-day school before he took over the ship. But this was going on everywhere.
During the early part of the war, the German U-boats were sinking anywhere from 1 to 3 freighters in the Atlantic a week. These freighters didn't have any protection; they would sail on their own. This was before the Destroyer Escorts took over.
Once we felt comfortable enough to go to sea we went on a shake down cruise to Bermuda. That was nice, generally speaking. I think there was another DE with us. It was rough going there, but that's how you learn the ship, you go on a shake down cruise. There were only three cars on the island. Everybody traveled by bicycle. It was a beautiful place. The DE was established for escort duty and submarine warfare. We had three inch guns, and 40-mm and 20-mm machine guns for defense. We had K-guns on the stern to roll out depth charges, and we also had what they called a hedgehog. It was right in front of the flying bridge. It would (fire) shoot-up 24-small torpedoes at one time. We trained with all this while in Bermuda. We used as much of the equipment as we could while we were there.
The first mission was to escort a convoy out of Norfolk, Va., to Texas Gulf ports and back, which we did. Then starting in January 1944 we began escorting ships across the Atlantic through the Mediterranean and on to North Africa and Italy. Most of the convoy operations for the shipments of supplies and soldiers across the Atlantic were based along the coast of the Carolina's, Virginia, and Baltimore. That's where the convoys would assemble, and that's where a lot of U-boats would patrol. We were one of the first groups to escort convoys [using DE’s]. We were escorting 90 to 100 freighters at a time, bound for the Mediterranean. We had Navy ships and Coast Guard ships. In a year-and-a-half we made quite a few trips across the Atlantic (Starting January 1944 to May 1945). We made several trips. These convoys were bringing men and materials to the Mediterranean.
We were lucky though. None of freighters ever had engine troubles or breakdowns, so not one ship ever got left behind the convoy on the trip across the Atlantic. If one would have broke down, we couldn't have stopped for it. It would have been a sitting duck for the subs. Enemy submarines would follow us all the way to the Straits of Gibraltar.
Once we were ordered to break off from the convoy and sail along the African coast to look for an important fishing boat. (This fishing boat was friendly, so we pulled up to it and our Captain told me to speak French to them over the radio, and this other guy spoke Italian to them. The guy in the fishing boat came back and said, "What's the matter, you don't speak English!") We located the boat and escorted it to port.
And we went by Casablanca, but I didn't see Humphry Bogart or Ingrid Bergman. We stayed there at port for a couple of days. By this time the British had pushed the Germans further to the east in Tunisia. Hitler had his forces spread out too thin. I think that's one reason why he lost the war, because he was fighting on too many fronts and he ran out of gas.
(April 20, 1944) We were carrying everything in those convoys, even troops. In April we sailed with a convoy to North Africa. It was dusk as we passed through the Straits of Gibraltar along the Algerian coast. The lead ship picked up a surface contact in front of the convoy and sent a blinking light to the ship ahead of us to tell them that a convoy was coming—big mistake! German bombers attacked us in three waves. We used radar to recognize the enemy planes from friendly planes. But these planes were coming at us low to ground level and we couldn't identify them on the radar. They were coming at us from about 20-feet off the water. They were JU-88's. They came right down the line in our convoy and we were in front so we didn't shoot at them at first, but the ships behind us identified them as enemy and started shooting. One of the planes dropped a bomb and it hit a merchant ship carrying demolitions and troops. “The first attack blew the troop-loaded merchantmen Paul Hamilton out of the water, killing 580 men; the next wave hit two more merchant ships; and the final strike sank the screening ship Landsdale (DD-426) with a single torpedo. The Mosley laid covering smoke and opened up with anti-aircraft fire during the strikes. Her guns splashed one JU-88 and damaged another German bomber during the first strike.” (Source:) We got credit for that. We couldn’t stop to pick up survivors that were in the water; we had to keep going. There was lot of confusion and inexperience that caused this. After that incident we would put up barrage balloons and lay smoke screens at night for protection, and we never had another incident with German planes after that. But we ran into a few submarines.
One day we picked up a signal on with our sound gear. It was a German submarine. So we and another DE dropped dept charges. A little while later the debris came floating up; oil and trash from the sub. We were credited with, along with the other DE, for sinking that U-boat. That's what is terrible about war. A lot of people were lost during that war-50 million people died during WWII. On our last two trips we didn't have any problems, because the war was being concentrated in Europe. Hitler had pulled everything out of Africa and the Mediterranean and brought it all in close to Germany.
The Mediterranean was beautiful. At night you could see phosphorus in the clear waters.
(Inexperience and mistakes is what made the war last so long. We were unprepared in a lot of ways and our equipment wasn't as good as the Germans. There was no comparison between our tanks (Sherman) and the German tanks (Tiger/Panzer). The Germans had tanks, real tanks. Those things were monsters compared to the toys we had.) After about a year or so at sea they transfered a few of us to shore duty in New York. New York was a heck of place to be especially back in those days. I like music and sports, and New York was the place to be for all that. They had three ballrooms and all the great bands would come, and Madison Square Garden had great boxing fights. You could do whatever you wanted anytime of the year there.
While I was in New York they sent us to Port Security School. By this time the German submarine warfare had eased off. They sub's were also being pulled closer to Germany. We patrolled the docks and we checked ships for explosives and fire hazards. It was good duty. At the end of my service I went on a trip on a Coast Guard Icebreaker to Greenland. We were going to check something out over there. Before I went on that trip, this same ship and its crew had captured a German radio station in Greenland. We had engine trouble on the way. A four-day trip took us two weeks. It was real cold up there, but we had good clothing.
Back in Boston, the war was ending and they were sending people home on the point system. I got back to New Orleans on a train. And then I came home.
Interview with Homer Dugas
Homer Dugas; Theriot; Mrs. Dugas; Hewitt Theriot
Pearl Harbor Day
-Was in Abbeville out dancing with Mr. Zenou Bodie’s daughter (use to work for him)
-When he dropped her off her father told that them the news and that the President was going to declare war tomorrow
-Had never heard of Pearl Harbor and he or the daughter (she was few years younger than Dugas) knew where it was
-“Little did I know that’s exactly where I was heading for! It wasn’t long before I was in Pearl Harbor.”
-Joined the Marine Corps right after as he knew was going to be drafted since he was the right age and wanted to be in the Marines
-Went to New Orleans with Angus Mestayer and Lloyd Broussard (TH1-024) and they were separated the minute they signed up and Dugas went to boot camp in San Diego
-They did this in case men were related so as to spread out the risk of losing all of a family line; talks of what happened to the Sullivan brothers that were all killed
-Thinks he was in San Diego in September in 1942 for 13 weeks; might have been 18 or 19 years old
-After boot camp shipped to New Zealand and their climate was the opposite, left in the summer and landed in the winter
-Rained almost every day and mud on top of mud and it made it difficult to walk
-Camped out about 15 miles out of a town in a field; had a lot of sheep everywhere and eat a lot of them too
-Got together with about 4-5 guys and bought a Model T-Ford to drive around and to go into town easier since there was hardly any trains; but no island hopping
-They were training in New Zealand to land on beaches and knew they were going to islands to fight; was in the 2nd Marine Corp Division
-Trained when approaching the beach on Higgins boats; was told that Hitler was very impressed by the Higgins boats and wanted them
-Wasn’t there for D-day (he is referring to the battle of Tarawa that happens after he leaves New Zealand), but was in a Higgins and his Lt. was on Dugas’s left side and he was on the right with the gate in front of them; both were smoking cigarettes left and right
(9:28) His Lt. looked at him and said, “You’re really enjoying those Camels, huh?” Dugas replied, “Yes sir. I’m kinda nervous.” To which the Lt. said, “Don’t worry, I’m twice as nervous as you are. You’re just an enlisted man and you have to do what I tell you. Me, I have to do it myself!”
-Was probably in New Zealand for about 2 months but Dugas isn’t sure, just knew it was for a good while
(10:15) Mrs. Dugas has a question about the battle on November 20, 1943; they are consulting a book and photos
-It was a big battle and it took a few days, not just one day
-One Navy guy jumped the boat once and went back to the ship; doesn’t think he was punished for it
-Invaded Tarawa November 21st 1943, so he had been in the service for about a year
-Took a transport to Tarawa from New Zealand; they knew they were going into battle but not where, as that was a secret
-Once anchored off from the beach they unloaded down cargo nets into the Higgins boats
-Landed on one side of the island and dug a foxhole in the sand the moment he hit the beach
-Stayed there for a couple of days, standing halfway up in the hole; the first island was Betio
-Was wounded on this island; he was only a rifle man
-When landing their craft on the beach, it got caught on a reef so they had to get in the water and wade to the beach, carrying their rifles above their heads to keep dry
-They landed at the wrong time because the tides were all wrong and couldn’t fight or the rifles would get wet; it was too deep
-The Japanese waited to fire at them the closer they got to the beach; remembers seeing a raft of dead people floating in the water
-The Navy ships and planes had bombarded the island beforehand to help in the landing, near the Japanese airfield
-The island of Betio was nothing but a large airstrip
(20:35) Question: “How were the Japanese fighting you back?”
-The Japanese were in concrete bunkers that were built in 1938, so the only way to get at them was for two men to go on either side and come around to the slits of where the enemy was firing from and throw in hand grenades
-A lot of men were shot doing this; Dugas carried a M-1 rifle; looking at a photo of the island again
(22:33) When Dugas was wounded
-There was an airstrip that they had secured and his Lt. ordered Dugas and another man from Texas to send a message
-They were walking back when a machine gun went off and hit Dugas in the back of the leg and he went down
-His partner came over to help him but Dugas told him to keep going and get the message delivered; he was hit in the leg so he couldn’t walk
-A Marine came by later and saw Dugas was still alive and knelt beside him; Dugas told him lay down on him or the Japanese would kill him
-Just as the guy was laying down a bullet went right through the backside of the Marine’s shirt and left a hole, but the man had no injuries thankfully—he was lucky!
-Then another Marine came by with a jeep and they put him on the hood and left Dugas with some natives in a straw hut on the beach for the rest of the night
-They couldn’t speak English but stayed all night with him nonetheless
-The next day they brought him back to the ship and the doctor was waiting for him
-The doctor was talking to him and asked Dugas where he was from in Louisiana and Dugas answered “How do you know I’m from Louisiana?”
-Told him that the way Dugas talked gave it away so Dugas told him he was Loureauville and the doctor said he knew where that was since he was from Scott—it was a funny thing!
(31:38 - 44:54) recapping what he retold so far since the beach landing to getting wounded and then leaving on the boat
-Referencing the book they’re looking at again and looking at photos
-Was eventually put on a transport ship to Pearl Harbor, Hawaii for his wound; doesn’t really know how he got there or how long it took as he slept most of the time
-Afterwards they sent him to San Diego to have surgery done and to recuperate for a year; had to rebuild the leg by breaking it five times to fix it an inch at the time
-The first time he was able to leave the hospital after being able to start walking with crutches was when a Lt. came by and asked him if Dugas wanted to go into town with him that night
-Went to a nice place with girls that would dance with them but he couldn’t dance so there were a few that sat with him and talked
-His mother wrote to a senator in Baton Rouge to ask for Dugas to be moved to a hospital in New Orleans
-His commander came to him and asked why this senator was writing to him and why Dugas would want to be moved to New Orleans—told him that’s where his family was
-Was put on a train the next morning, was given 2 seats so he could lay out and rest his leg
-Had an older lady come on and he tried to give her one of the seats but the conductor told Dugas he couldn’t as the government gave him those 2 seats and no one else could sit there
(55:37) End of interview
-Recapped the battle of Tarawa again; Hewitt Theriot comparing his experiences with the Japanese in-between
-Eventually discharged in Florida later; he was nineteen years old when he signed up; *talking in background*
-Received a Purple Heart medal at the hospital in New Orleans; everyone looking at his medal
-Talking about life; had a replaced hip; Dugas’ children; looking at more home photos
-Debating differences on sweet potatoes and yams; others Theriot has interviewed and exerts of their stories (see TH1-024)
-Hewitt telling them about Theriot and his job and fiancée; Mrs. Dugas and Dugas explaining how she caned their chairs and what type of wood works best
Homer Dugas (3-9-02)
Born: February 4, 1924
903 N. Main
Loureauville, La, 70552
For Pearl Harbor Day I was dancing in Abbeville with Mr. Zenou Bodie's daughter. I used to work for him. When we got back he was sitting on his front porch and he said, "The Japanese have attacked Pearl Harbor. The President is going to declare war tomorrow." His daughter was much younger than I was, and I asked her if she knew where Pearl Harbor was. She said, "I have no idea." I said, "Neither me; I never heard of it." Little did I know that was exactly where I was headed for and it wasn't long before I was at Pearl Harbor.
I joined the Marine Corp soon after. Three of us from Loureauville went to New Orleans to join. It was Angus Mestayer, Lloyd Broussard, and myself. The sent us directly to San Diego to boot camp. The minute we got there, they separated us. Boot camp was 13 weeks long.
After that, they shipped me to New Zealand. It's across the equator, opposite of our climate here. I left here, and it was the summer. When I got to New Zealand, it was winter. Mud on top of mud. We were camped out about 15 miles from town in a field. Boy they had a lot of sheep out there. We ate a lot of that too. We stayed there a good while. Four or five of us bought an old Model T Ford so we could get around when we weren't training. We trained to take a beach. I was in the 2nd Marine Corp Division.
When we'd approach the beaches, we were on a ship. Then we'd get out and load into those little Higgins boats. That's the boat that Hitler wanted. Boy Hitler couldn't get over that Higgins boat. He was really impressed with that. It was built in New Orleans.
We took a transport from New Zealand and headed to Tarawa. We knew we were going into battle, but we weren't too sure where we were going. We anchored off a few miles from that beach, and then we started unloaded down this cargo net, down into those little Higgins boats. (November 20, 1943) On the approach to the beach at Tarawa, I was on one side of the Higgins boat and my Lt. was on the other side. He was smoking cigarettes left and right. I was smoking too. He looked over at me and he said, "May you really enjoying those Camel's huh." I said, "Yes sir. I'm kind of nervous." He said, "Don't worry, I'm twice as nervous as you are." He said, "You are just an enlisted man, and you have to do what I tell you. Me on the other hand, I have to do it myself."
On the way to the beach, our landing craft got caught on a reef and so we had to get out in the water and wade through it to get to the beach. When we hit that coral, the boat stopped, and the gate dropped and they told us to move out. We were a good ways from that beach, probably a couple of hundred yards. And the water was pretty deep. We carried our rifles on top of our heads so they wouldn't get wet. Everything was messed up. We came in at the wrong time. The tides were all wrong.
The navy ships and the planes bombarded the island first to soften the landing. The Japs held off their fire right until we got close to the beach. I remember seeing these rafts of dead bodies floating all in the water.
I landed on one end of the island, at Betio. I dug me a foxhole right when I got there at the end of the airstrip, and I got in it. I sleep there in that hole that night. The island was one big airstrip. The Japs were in these concrete bunkers and pillboxes. We had to crawl on the ground to get to these bunkers, and then throw hand grenades in the little hole to take them out. A lot of men were lost that way.
Not long after we landed, we were able to secure the landing strip. I came in from the right corner. Me and this boy from Texas were ordered to deliver a message to the back. When we started going, I was up and running and a Japanese machine gun went off and it caught me right in the leg and I went down. That boy came over to help me, but I told him to keep going, because there was nothing he could do. I was hit in the leg and I couldn't walk. I told him to keep going to deliver that message. So I lay there for awhile. This Marine Corpsman came by and he saw that I was alive, so he kneeled down beside me. I told him that he better lay down on top of me otherwise the Japs were going to kill him. And just when I said that, a bullet passed right through his shirt. You could see the hole in his shirt where that bullet went through. He was lucky.
This other marine came with a jeep and they helped me up and put me on the hood. That night the marines took care of the rest of those Japs right there. They brought me to the beach and I spent the night with these natives in their straw hut. They couldn't speak English. I was coming in and out of conscious, but they stayed with me all night long.
The bullet had crushed all the bone in my leg, and I could see through the hole.
The next day, they brought me aboard ship, and the doctor came and talked to me. He asked me what part of Louisiana I was from. I asked him how he knew I was from Louisiana, he said because of the way I talked. I told him I was from Loureauville. He said he was from Scott. He said he knew where Loureauville was. It was a funny thing.
It's amazing the things that happened during the war. Its amazing how they planned for all this stuff. And we were trained so well for being so young. I was only 19 years old.
Before I left I had saw that we had captured 6 Japs from Tarawa. There wasn't many left alive after that fight. When I got on that ship, I knew that I wasn't going back to that island. I could the island from that ship. They treated me very well.
("There were some forty-five hundred fighting troops and another twenty-two hundred construction troops and Korean laborers on Tarawa. The commander's orders were to fight till the last man. They fought to the last 146; all the rest died."- This was taken from a book that I read. The Pacific Campaign. Dan van de Vat. 1991. P. 299.)
I got to a hospital in San Diego finally. The doctor broke my leg five times, and it was about 5-inches short. They fixed it an inch at a time. They did a lot of work putting me back together. I ate well in that hospital too. I had a pleasant stay in that hospital. I had to walk in a cast for a long time too. I remember when they came and brought me the Purple Heart.
The first time that I was able to walk on my own, I had walked outside of the hospital and I was sitting on the bench. This Lt. came by and so I saluted him. He asked how I was doing and asked if I would like to go to town that night. I told him that I would like that very much. When we left he said, "You wanna go see some girls." I said, "Well, if it's just to look at them, I'd like to go, other than that no dice for me." So he brought me to a place, and it was a very nice place. There were some nice girls and they would dance with the boys and some of them came and told me hello, but I couldn't dance because I was on crutches. I danced when I got back to Loureauville though.
My mom wrote to a senator in Baton Rouge, asking him to get me out of that hospital in San Diego. And one day my commander came and asked me if I knew that senator and I said that I did. I told him that if I were to move to the hospital in New Orleans I would be closer to my family. That commander told me I would be on the train the next morning.
I had two seats on the train; one to sit on and one rest my leg.
Interview with Robert Gerami
Robert Gerami, Theriot, Hewitt Theriot:
-Volunteered in Jeanerette with the National Guard; long before Pearl Harbor—early 1941?
-After passing the tests sent to Camp Blanding, Florida; trained in Company E, 156th Infantry Regiment, the 31st Division, and was the cook
-The camp was training draftees; Gerami was just a cook though so he was not part of these trainings
-Sent to Bowie, Texas to train some more before going to New York to be shipped out to England
-The whole 2nd battalion and a band came over on the ship “O’rentas Barrows”
-Snubb Derouen, from G Company, was with Gerami’s unit; he commanded Gerami’s company at one time
-Clay Penn, Warren Hebert, Wilson Clark, Norby Dooley, Jack Martin, Gerald Whattigny, were in E Company
-F Company was Breaux Bridge, G company was New Iberia, H company was Franklin; these four companies made up the 2nd battalion
-200 men to a company; but they were split in North Africa
(9:20) Spent 4 months in England, then went to North Africa and made MPs and then split, one half of the companies went to Italy
-In Italy Gerami was working in the police department as an interpreter as Gerami family was Italian and could also speak in French
-In England they were protecting the air bases; he was the cook so he didn’t do much but be a guard
-In North Africa at Oran they guarded German and Italian prisoners; stayed there for about 6 months
-Gerami was discharged in Oran 3 years later on the point system
-While there a large tent mess hall was built for them; had 2 Italian prisoners that helped him, G.G. and Rommell
-The men gave them their families’ addresses to give to their parents when Gerami went to Italy; their families welcomed them and cooked for them one night
(16:23) Gerami’s father died while he was in North Africa but he did not know until much later but he knew the army wouldn’t have let him go back for the funeral anyway
-The Red Cross had sent a telegram about his father’s death but he never got it
-Found out from Wilson Clark who had a letter from his wife telling him of Gerami’s father’s passing; eventually Gerami’s wife wrote to him about it
-His father was from Italy (Palermo?) and moved to Louisiana in Jeanerette for the sugar houses where he met his wife (Gerami’s mother)
-Was actually already married in Italy but left that woman and brought their two sons over to the US; those 2 half-brothers lived in Lafayette
-Spent most of his time at the camp cooking
-After being made MPs his company went to Italy to help secure it; this was where he worked in the police department
-They encircled Rome to run out the Germans; the Vatican was left untouched and they couldn’t go in anyway
(21:45) recounting his trips to England and Oran by ship; looking through different books at the pictures to help jog Gerami’s memory
-After Italy they went to France; doesn’t know why and never really questioned it
-Cooked mostly in England and North Africa and sometimes went around and did guard duty; tells some short stories
-Each company had 6 cooks and 3 cooked one day and the next had the day off as the other 3 cooked
-No one knew when they would go back home
-The Italians were nice, they never wanted to fight against the Americans, that was all Hitler
-More recapping his trips and work again with different retellings
(34:49) His Lt. came and told him that he could go home; the war was over by then (May 1945)
-Sent to Texas where he got his discharge papers and then went back home
-Talking about life before the war and growing up in Jeanerette
-Didn’t really try and get together with those he was with during the war
-Talking about his family
Robert P. Gerami, Sr.
Company E, 156th Infantry Regiment, LA National Guard
Interview conducted by Jason P. Theriot
I volunteered for the National Guard here in Jeanerette. I was sent to Camp Blanding, Florida. We were Company E, (156th Infantry Regiment) 31st Division. I was a cook in the kitchen. We were in Florida training with draftees. We went to Camp Bowie, Texas and from there we went to New York and left for England. Our whole battalion (2nd) went over together, even the band. The O’rentas Barrows was the name of the ship.
We had the whole unit with us. Snubb Derouen, from G Company, was with us. He commanded our company at one time. Clay Penn, Warren Hebert, Wilson Clark, Norby Dooley, Jack Martin, Gerald Whattigny, all these guys were with us. We were E Company, F was Breaux Bridge, G was New Iberia, H was Franklin. Those four companies made up our battalion.
We spent four months in England, guarding and protecting the air bases there. I was the cook and the rest of the guys were acting as guards to keep the people safe. We went to Oran, North Africa in March of 1943. There was plenty going on over there. We were guarding the German and Italian prisoners. They built us a big tent, a big mess hall where I cooked. We had two Italian prisoners: G.G. and Rommell; they helped us clean up. They gave us their addresses back home in Italy and a letter to show their mama back home. We went to visit their parents [in Italy] and they welcomed us and cooked spaghetti and meatballs for us and gave us wine. We stayed there in Oran about six months.
My daddy died while I was overseas, but I didn’t find out till much later. Wilson Clark told me; that’s how I found out. I ran into him one time and he asked me about my daddy. I told him that my daddy was fine…and then he told me that his wife had written him a letter saying that my daddy had died. The army wouldn’t let me come home, and I don’t blame them. My daddy left from Italy [or Palermo?] to come here, and lived in Jeanerette.
We were split up and they made us MPs; half of us went to Italy, some went to Sicily. (The other half went to Corsica) We landed at Naples, and there was still fighting going on. In Italy I was sent to the police department to be an interpreter. I’m Italian, so I could speak Italian. I was raised with the French people and my wife was French, so I could speak a little French, too. They took me out of the kitchen to work as an interpreter.
The Italians liked the Americans. They didn’t want to fight…Hitler convinced them to fight.
Our forces encircled Rome and ran the Germans out of there. We bypassed the Vatican City; that was left untouched. We left from Italy and sailed to France, where we stayed till the end of the war. One day they told me it was time to come home, because I had the highest points in the unit; I had two kids, too. I shook hands with my lieutenant and told the boys goodbye. Gerald Whattigny told me to go see his wife when I got home. So I did and I told her that he was okay and that he would be home soon.
Three years overseas…that’s a long time yeah. After the first year you think that you never gonna get home. When they declared surrender and the war was over…boy, we were glad.
Interview with Howard Freyou
Howard Freyou, Theriot, Mrs. Freyou, Hewitt Theriot:
**references the book USS Maryland from Turner Publishing (1997)**
Pearl Harbor Day
-Was at the park in St. Martinsville, sitting in the car listening to the radio; they came across on the radio with the news; was about 16 years old
-After that he left the family farm and went to Baton Rouge for a year; then left to Morgan City to work in the shipyards for another year
-It was around that time that his father called Freyou to tell him that he had a yellow letter—it was a draft notice
-His father was on the draft board and knew that Freyou was getting the letter and asked him if he really wanted to go or he’d take him off; “So I said what the hell, I’ll go.”
-Had already tried once to get into the merchant marines but he wasn’t 18 yet
-Had gone to the docks in January and was ready to board a ship for the marines before the draft board got him; sent him to the Navy July 1943
-Was sent to boot camp in San Diego and then given a 7 day leave so he got married
-Afterwards sent to California to report on the “USS Tennessee” to go overseas to Pearl Harbor
-Once there was told he was not needed on the ship so they put him up in a hotel to wait for when the dock board needed them; there was about 35 guys from New Iberia there
-Then one morning the board had his name and a dock number
-Didn’t know where this dock was and the chief told him to wait at the launch to be picked up eventually
-No one had told him which ship or where to go at the launch
-Once there the chief told a captain that he had Freyou’s orders as an extra man for their ship
-Went upstairs with him and the chief couldn’t understand Freyou’s accent so they sent him out
-Freyou sat on the deck for about 3 days since he didn’t know where to go and no one could help him since none of them understood what he was saying
-Eventually a man from Tennessee came by and asked Freyou what he was doing on the deck
-Told him he didn’t know as no one told him where he was supposed to be or what division he was even in
-The man sort of understood Freyou and told him to talk a little bit slower and went to the chief to sort out where Freyou could go
-Told them he was a farmer from Louisiana
-They put him on “USS Maryland” (this ship had been at Pearl Harbor during the attack and was one of the few ships that survived) and that’s where he stayed till the end of the war
-He was a trey-man on 5”/51 gun as he had to put the trey down to protect the brass around the gun so when the breech was closed it wouldn’t be damaged when fired
-The ship had 10 of these guns and Freyou was number 10
-His ship was one of the first to have these guns and 16” guns, 20 mm, 40 mm, (names a few others in passing throughout the interview) as well as planes; 2,400 men aboard of the ship
(13:20) First Action
-Boarded the “Maryland” in October 1943 and saw action in Tarawa in November 1943
-Last stop was Okinawa; participated in 7 invasions and 2 sea battles—the Leyte Gulf battle and Surigao Strait battle
-They would shell the islands in the early morning hours till late at night before allowing the marines to take the land
-Use spotter planes to find the pillboxes and blow those up with the 16” guns; the shells weighed over a ton each and could shoot accurately from about 20 miles out
-Freyou was on the 5” guns and shot at planes mostly; everything ran on hydraulics
-The first encounter with a suicide plane (Kamikaze), the pilot was going for the stacks and when Freyou looked out his hole window he could see the pilot’s face
-They opened up the 5”, 20 mm, and 40 mm guns on him; took off the wing and the plane crashed onto the front deck
-As crashing the pilot dropped 2 bombs and one however went through 4 inches of steel straight into the bottom deck of the sick bay and blew up—killed everybody
-Had to go back to Pearl Harbor for repairs; referencing the book and an article that says that 31 men were killed and 29 injured in this attack
(19:53) Okinawa Kamikaze Attack
-The plane that hit them in Okinawa happened when they thought they were secured; weren’t too far off from the island but they had dropped back because they thought it was safe
-Freyou was laying out on the deck when he saw a plane leave the island
-Thought it was American plane circling them so no one shot at it since the ship had been firing on the island all day and had finally stopped that night
-Thought this until the plane dropped a torpedo that was going straight towards them
-Freyou jumped up and took off running towards his gun in the back; referencing a photo on where he was in the book
-After the war was over in Europe Freyou’s crew was sent back to the states to get ready to fight the Japanese
-Went on leave for 38 days and when he came back to the ship, it had been remodeled and his gun had been taken off
-(Looking at picture and commenting on how rough the sea was)
-The Philippine Sea was a rough sea and it was where they hit a really bad storm; was hitting 40-foot sea waves
-“Everybody was carrying a bucket. They'd ask me, "Frenchy, where in the hell is your bucket?" I'd say, "My bucket for what?" They said, "You ain't got sick yet?" I said, "Not yet, but when it gets rough I'm gonna get sick." They said, "well goddamn, how rough it's gotta get for you?" I never did get sick overseas.”
-Looking at pictures; Hewitt and Freyou comparing nicknames for guns they used; war reunions Freyou has been too; only radio was from Tokyo Rose
(29:09) Battle of Leyte Gulf
-The worst sea battle of the war was at Leyte Gulf; was apart in the convoy with Nimitz but they were jammed in that gulf
-What saved them was when Nimitz was called back and he arrived with his planes and dive-bombers
-The last night when Nimitz came back they fought till about midnight using radar
-Sunk and messed up a bunch of Japanese ships—including 2 of the biggest Japanese battleships
(30:50) After the War
-Hewitt and Freyou comparing experiences of battles
-Spent his last year in the Bahamas; was left in charge as he was a hard worker
-His nickname was Frenchy; his wife wrote a letter everyday
-His ship could go 22 knots
-Was at a tent city on Okinawa and was there when a typhoon hit; this was after the war and he was there for occupation for 5 months
-Before being transferred the Marines left first and one had left about 5 tons of dynamite
-Told the younger boys to watch out around that tent; one wasn’t careful one day and set it off, the ground shook when it went off and killed a lot of young men from boot camp
-On Okinawa was in charge of shipping jeeps and equipment back to the states
-“Maryland” was being used as a transport to the states when the Japanese surrendered
-Eventually was given his orders so he left Okinawa to Pearl; at Pearl given orders to go to San Diego on a steam ship
-San Diego didn’t have his orders to so they sent him to Frisco, then Bremington and St. Pedro before sending him back to San Diego and the office had his papers
-Walked off the ship and caught a train in Chicago and went to New Orleans; was in the Navy for 2 years and 5 months
-Was given $300 and discharged; asked him to come back for Korea but he refused
(52:12)the group moves away from recorder and the voices are distant and then Theriot thanks Freyou for his service and cuts out
Born January 1925
Battleship Gunner-USS Maryland
On Pearl Harbor Day I was on my way to the park in St. Martinsville in the car. I had my radio on and that's when I heard that they bombed Pearl Harbor. I was about 16. My ship was there; it was one of the few that got out.
After that day I left the farm and I went to work in Baton Rouge. I worked there for about a year. Then I worked at the shipyard in Morgan City for about a year. That's when my daddy called me, he said, "You got a yellow letter here, so you better come home." So I came home and it was a draft notice. But my daddy was on the draft board. He knew they were going to draft me. He told me, he said, "If you want to go you can go, but if you don't want to go I can take you off." So I said what the hell, I'll go.
I had tried to get into the merchant marines, but I wasn't 18 yet. I was at the dock, ready to board a ship when they came and got me, the draft board. They wanted me for the draft. They drafted me into the Navy in July 1943.
I went to San Diego for boot camp. Then I came home on leave for a few days and got married. I went back to California and I was ordered to report to the USS Tennessee. I went overseas on the Tennessee and we went to Pearl (Harbor, Hawaii). When we got there they told me that they didn't need me. So the Navy put me up in a hotel and morning I would go down to the dock and wait to see if I had duty that day. There were about 35 of us from New Iberia there. I walked there one morning and I saw my name on the board- 'Howard Freyou report to so and so dock.' So I asked the chief where was the dock. He told me to go down there and wait at the launch to get picked up. I didn't know where I was going or what ship I was assigned to. They didn't tell me anything. So I went down there at the launch and waited for a ship. He gave my orders to this captain and he told him, he said, "You need an extra man, so I brought you this fella here." So I went with him upstairs, but he couldn't understand me at first. There was a lot of difference in the language. I stayed sitten on that deck for about 3 days, because I didn't know where I was going and nobody could understand me.
Finally this one guy from Tennessee came by and he asked what I was doing. I told him I didn't know. He asked me, "Well what division are you with?" I told him, "I don't know that either, nobody come and tell me anything yet." He kind of understood me, so he said, "Just talk slowly and I'll get you to where you need to go." So he went and talked to the chief. He told the chief, "There's a man down there but he's hard to understand." So the chief asked me, he said, "Where you from?" So I told the boy from Tennessee, and I told him real slow, that I was a farmer from Louisiana. The chief said, "He's a farmer, he'll be a good hand." So they put me on the (USS) Maryland, and that's the ship I served on; all throughout WWII. I went aboard ship on October 14, 1943 as Seaman/3rd Class.
I was a trey-man on a 5”/51 gun. That was a pretty big gun; it was a 5" gun. We had 10-5" guns. I was on number 10. We worked in a small gunroom. It took ten men to fire one of those 5" guns. We had ammunition hanging on the racks in that little room. I helped load the round. I had to put that trey down before they loaded it. My job was to put the trey down to protect the brass around the gun so when they closed the breech it wouldn't damage it when fired.
We had the big 16" guns on there too and the torpedo tubes and the spotter planes. We had 20 mm and 40 mm guns too. There were 2,400 men on board that ship.
My first action was at Tarawa in November of '43. I took part in seven invasions and two sea battles. I was in the Surigao Strait sea battle and the Leyte Gulf sea battle (October 1944).
When we'd start an invasion we would shell an island from early in the morning till late at night. Then the marines would go in. We would use the spotter planes to locate the pillboxes and we'd blow that up with them 16" shells. The shells weighed over a ton each, but everything was run by hydraulics. We could shoot accurately from 20 miles out with those big guns.
But I was on a smaller gun, a 5". We shot at the planes mostly. We could shoot 50 rounds in a little while.
(June 22, 1944) One morning off the coast of Saipan we had dropped anchor. I was on the deck lying down. I had put my shoes under my cap and I saw a plane take off from that island. I thought it was an American plane. That plane came around, and he came around, and he dropped a torpedo and then went off about his business. Nobody even shot at him. Boy when that thing hit us, the deck of that ship jumped about 4 foot. (Two men were killed.) I was lying down and the explosion through me up on my feet. We weren't in general quarters at that time, everybody thought it was an American plane. It did some serious damage. It put a big hole in the bow of the ship. They had the new bow already built by the time we got to Pearl for repairs. They chopped off the front-in and welded that new bow on there.
I was in the worst ship battle in the world, the biggest sea battle ever. That was the Battle of Leyte Gulf (October 23-26, 1944). That's where we busted up the Jap fleet. We were jammed in that Gulf. The Japs tried to lure Nimitz away and they were going to come from behind, but we stayed right in that Gulf. When they called Nimitz back and he arrived with all his planes and dive-bombers, that's what saved us. On that last night we fought till about midnight. We had to use radar. And we sank quite a bit of them. And we messed up a bunch of ships. Two of the big Japanese battleships were sunk there.
(Leyte Gulf. November 29, 1944.) When that first suicide plane was coming to us, I mean it was coming right for the stack, I looked out my hole and I saw that pilot’s face. We opened up with our 5" guns and the 20's and the 40's. We knocked his wing off, but he crashed on the front deck. His bomb made it through four-inches of steel and went down to the bottom deck and blew up. It killed everybody in sick bay. We were in a hell of a fix. We had to come back in to Pearl for repairs.
“Everything close by was demolished in the area. Bulkheads were torn open, lockers smashed, plumbing, lighting and ventilation ducts were ruined as the ship caught fire. Only a few men survived the tremendous concussion in the nearby vicinity of the explosion. Thirty-one men were killed with one officer and 29 men injured.” (USS Maryland. Turner Publishing Company. 1997. P. 12)
(April 7, 1945) In Okinawa we got hit right on top of turret number three by a Kamikaze. I remember this boy was on fire and they jumped on him to try to put the fire out. Then boys kept firing at him, but he hit us. Seventeen were killed on that attack. Only one sailor made it off that turret alive. His name was Justin David.
"A Japanese Kamikaze plane crashed his plane with its 500-pound bomb into the top of turret III. The bomb exploded and all but one of the men manning these mounts were blown form their stations. The gallant seventeen men who stood by their guns on top of the turret until the enemy plane exploded in their midst, had made the supreme sacrifice." (USS Maryland. Turner Publishing Company. 1997. P. 13)
We ran into a storm in the Philippine Sea. We were in 40-foot seas. Everybody was carrying a bucket. They'd ask me, "Frenchy, where in the hell is your bucket?" I'd say, "My bucket for what?" They said, "You ain't got sick yet?" I said, "Not yet, but when it gets rough I'm gonna get sick." They said, "well goddamn, how rough it's gotta get for you?" I never did get sick overseas.
Before we were set to invade Japan they had sent us back to Washington to get remodeled. The war in Europe had just ended. I came home on leave for 38 days. When I got back to port they had changed everything. They added all kinds of new guns. They had added new 40's (mm) and new 20's (mm). The gun that I was on had been taken off.
On our way back to Pearl from getting repairs in the states the war with Japan ended. We dropped the bomb on them. So they let go half of the crew. I was transferred back to Okinawa. I stayed on the island for five-and-a-half months. I was in charge of shipping jeeps and equipment back to the states. I was there for that typhoon. I spent the night in the mess hall in-between two large iceboxes. I thought it was safe there. That wind blew like hell all night. I bet you it blew 200 mph.
After that I went down to the Marine barracks on the other end of the island to get some dry clothes, because all of my clothes were wet. There was a tent right next to my tent where this marine had stored five tons of dynamite and he they didn't tell anybody. He sat down to heat up his food and he wasn't paying attention. I told them boys to be careful when they were fooling around there, but this one boy he let his fire get away from him and that dynamite blew up. I mean it shock the whole island. So I was making my way back with my dry clothes and I could see these people running away. I asked what was going on. I felt the island shock. They said, "You lucky, because I don't believe there's anyone alive over there." That accident killed I don't know how many of them boys.
I'm lucky I'm still alive.
My wife and I wrote letters to each other every day. I was gone for two-and-a-half years.
One morning I went down to the dock and I saw my name on the board again, 'Howard Freyou report to so and so dock." So I went down and they told me to pack my gear; I was going home. Coming home, that was a tour out of this world. I took a steamship from Okinawa to Pearl then to San Diego for my orders. They didn't have my orders there so I went down to Frisco, then to Bremington, then to St. Pedro, then back to San Diego. I made about five ports right there. I went to the office and they finally got my orders. They gave me my papers, and goddamn it I walked off the ship, and that was it. I came back home.
I caught a train in Los Angles and I went to New Orleans. They discharged me and gave me $300 and sent me home.
Interview with Charles Hagan (part 1)
Charles "Charlie" Hagan; Theriot
-Hagan owned a barbershop; some family history of his father from Nebraska and mother from New Iberia
-The places where they lived; siblings and children he had
(02:47) Pearl Harbor
-He and his best friend, both married at the time, had gone to Avery Island that morning
-It was around noon as they were driving back that the radio announced the news; they had no idea where Pearl Harbor was
-At the time when he was in high school (learned this in debate club) was that the US had a small army
-The Democrats were trying to build it up as the Republicans were isolationists
-There was a peace time draft after he graduated from high school but Hagan wasn’t 21 yet
-So he went to LSU for engineering but failed in trigonometry and chemistry
-It was a hard time to get jobs now unless you could work in the oil field but one had to be weigh at least 180 lbs., and Hagan was too small
-Hagan’s half-brother was a barber and had a second chair open in shop at the time and needed an extra hand
-So he went to barber school and when finished had to work as an apprentice
-Came back home with his apprenticeship license and his father knew of a barber shop that Hagan could buy
-There was a second barber there that Hagan kept but he was an alcoholic so Hagan wouldn’t allow him to come in to work most times
-The war broke out and Hagan wasn’t 21 until July 1941 so he missed the June draft
-Later in the year there was another draft that caught him, but he was now married
-So he was given a classification of 3-A as they weren’t taking married men yet
-The next year of 1942 the draft broad started taking married men, Hagan’s classification changed to 1-A
-Hagan was already now thinking about voluntarily joining up to the air force
-When he did go to war, he had to shut down his barbershop but he had already paid for the next 3 months rent when he was drafted
-He told his father to either rent out the shop for extra money or continue to pay the rent—his father paid the rent the whole time Hagan was away
(11:29) Basic Training
-Draft in December 22, 1942 and had to report to the courthouse in New Iberia; there were 50 men and they were all sent to Lafayette to be examined
-If they passed the examination they were sworn into the army right then but if they failed, they were given classifications of 4-F and sent back home to wait to be called on later if need be
-Once sworn in they gave them 7 days to go home and get their affairs in order and then report to duty
-But they got some extra days for Christmas and really shipped out on January 3rd
-Took a bus to Camp Beauregard (there for a week) and in Hagan’s unit he had only one other person from New Iberia with him
-Was Harold Vilmore (he became a major’s jeep driver so he never saw him during the war)
-Vilmore was transferred to headquarters as Hagan was sent to A Battery
-Basic training was at Camp Stewart, Georgia; went by train and had to hike with all their baggage to the camp; it was a camp to build them up physically
-Was very insecure of his weight (125 lbs. by then) and height and doubted he could hold his own against about 200 lb. Nazi if it came to it
(17:14) Army Barber
-Was assigned as a barber for his unit at first as his captain knew his background
-Hagan would cut hair at night and not just for his unit but others within the camps
-Still had to do everything else everybody else would do but sometimes was given leave of his duties to go cut hair on army time
-Was paid, charged .50c a hair and everyone was allotted for 2 haircuts so they would pay $1 and Hagan would get 35% of the collections; sent them home to his wife
-Started getting weapons, a 40 mm machine guns; Hagan wound up as a generator operator
-The generator provided the electricity for the gun to be operated remotely and Hagan had to set it up and take it back down
-The halftracks had M-15 with a 37 caliber cannon on the back, plus two .50 caliber machine guns; the M-16 had a quad 50’s on the back
-Hagan was an extra so he was not assigned to any particular gun but had to be able to use either guns when needed
-Goes into detail on how each gun worked and mishaps when in combat as his unit was not really good
(25:47) Desert Maneuvers
-Sent across the country on a troop train and Hagan cut hair the whole way to California; not really sure where they were at
-There was no camp there but it was called “Camp Dump” as they were dumped off to go and build scaffoldings and showers for outfits (not clothes)
-They were part of the 9th Armored Division when they were doing maneuvers
-Sprained his ankle his last week of maneuvers and at the hospital met a famous actor that would talk and play pool with them
-Tells of his adventures of trying to find his outfit in the desert after he was discharged
(40:37) Different Trainings
-Jumping around to different camps for various trainings: amphibious, artillery—did exercises for different battle fronts in Europe and Africa
-They knew what was coming when they would go overseas
-Last camp was Camp Shanks (New York) waiting for a transport ship to England
-They were split up, A Battery (Hagan) and the cooks loaded up on a different ship while the rest of the batteries and headquarters went on a different ship
-Cut hair while they travelled
-Took 13 days to cross the ocean to Liverpool (February 1944) and went south to Bristol Bay to get supplies, weapons and halftracks
-Then went to a beach town and the batteries were separated again; one group went to marsh area while Hagan and others were a part of an invasion
-A and D Batteries were sent over the Channel on an LST with personnel and equipment
-Landed on Omaha Beach 3 weeks after D-Day; they joined up with Hagan’s outfit and CP
-Hagan was now a part of the 2nd platoon of A Battery
-St. Lo they had a bombing but Hagan had been told to stay to cut hair the next day; the CP was a mile from where the bombing was happening
-Ordered to find a foxhole from the retreating Germans to hide in
(audio cuts off at 57:30)
When I was in high school, we had a debate club. I was on the affirmative side: Should the United States build up its Army to equal that of other nations? At that time the Democrats were trying to get our army built up and the Republicans were considered isolationists; they figured we had two oceans to defend us and that an army would just get us into war. I was the only one who really put up a good argument, but the teach called it a draw.
On Pearl Harbor Day, I had a good of mine—we were raised together on Fulton St.—we were inseparable friends coming up. He was married and I was married. We went to Avery Island. We were on our way back around noon and we were listening to the radio when they announced that Pearl Harbor had been bombed. I didn’t know were Pearl Harbor was; I didn’t anything about Pearl Harbor.
Back then, jobs were hard time around here, unless you were in the oil field. And I was a small man, so unless you weighed 180-pounds, you couldn’t get a job out here. So my brother was barber and he had a shop in Beaumont, Texas. He had two chairs, but he only operated one, and he could have used another barber. He kept mentioning that, so that’s why I decided to go be a barber.
I went to barber school and after I had to work as an apprentice. When I came out, I bought a shop from another barber and my daddy backed me up. After a while they had the peacetime draft come up, then the war broke out. I wasn’t 21 until July of ’41. I was married at the time; I had gotten married at barber school. So they gave me the classification of 3-A, as married. They weren’t taking married people then. But then later the next year, 1942, they started taken married people. That’s when they changed my classification to 1-A. I was drafted on December 22, 1942.
I had to shut my barbershop down. Fortunately, I had paid up on my rent for three months and my father kept paying the rent for me until I got back from the war.
I received my draft notice to report to the courthouse in New Iberia. There were about 50 of us. Then we took a bus to Lafayette to take an examination. If you failed the exam, they classified you as 4-F and sent you back home, where they might have called you up again later on. If you passed, you were sworn into the Army right then and there. They read us the articles of war and were then part of the Army. They gave us a seven-day leave to go home and take care of our business. After seven days, we were to report for duty.
We got an extra few days because of Christmas. On January 3, 1943, we took a bus to Camp Beauregard, which was the induction center. This is where they assigned you to your unit. Harold Vilmore and I were assigned to the 467th AAA. He went into headquarters, and I went into A battery. We were sent to Camp Stewart, Georgia.
It was just basic training. They built you up physically: hikes and obstacle course. It was military training. I felt insecure about my size. I was about 125 pounds. We went through bayonet training and all that. And I didn’t feel very secure; if I had to come up against a 200-pound Nazi and I had to battle against him, I didn’t feel too secure about that. Things like that ran through my mind.
So from the very beginning, I wound up as the barber. But the Army doesn’t have a barber; you got your haircut from the PX. But most of the units made barbers like me. Our captain assigned me as the barber, because he knew my background. I started cutting haircuts at night. Later on they had me cutting hair on Army time. It was beneficial because I made money. They gave me a roster of all the names in our battery. When it came time for payday, they’d come to me and if I had you down for two haircuts, then you paid me $1, fifty-cents a haircut. Then I take 35-percent out of that collection and I give that to the battery clerk. I took the rest. I sent all of that to my wife.
Then we started getting our weapons. The first weapons were these 40mm machine guns. I wound up as a generator operator. The generator provides the electricity for the gun to be operated remotely. So we trained with those for a while and then we got these halftracks. The M-15 had a 37 caliber cannon on the back, plus two .50 caliber machine guns. The M-16 had quad 50’s on the back. I was an extra so I wasn’t assigned to one particular gun, but I could be used on either of the guns.
We moved to California for six weeks of desert maneuvers with the 9th Armored Division. From there we moved to the east coast. We headed out of Camp Shanks, New York and board a transport ship for England. We landed in Liverpool in February 1944, and made it down south. We picked up our halftracks and went to a camp on Bristol Bay along the Channel.
We knew what was coming up; we knew we were going into France. Just before the invasion, the captain told me to give everybody a GI haircut. But just before, they separated some of us from the battalion: myself, the cooks, those who were assigned to a halftrack, plus all of D Battery personnel and their equipment. We went to one place and the battalion went to a marshaling area with their halftracks.
We wound up going over the Channel in an LST along with D battery personnel and equipment. We landed three weeks after D-Day. I ran into Al Duetney on Omaha beach. He was a photographer and had a print shop right here in New Iberia. At that time I joined up with the rest of my outfit.
I was part of 2nd platoon of A battery. The night before the bombing of St. Lo, I had reported to the CP and the captain told me to stay there and cut hair the following day. The CP was about a mile from where they were bombing. That morning the bombers started coming in. The ground was shaking. The captain told me to find a foxhole and get in it.
Interview with Charles Hagan (part 2)
Charles Hagan, Theriot:
*picks up on story of battle at St. Lo*
-Hagan went up to the CP and captain at the jeeps the next day to see when they wanted him to cut hair
-Was told once the bombing was over they had marching orders so when dinner was ready he could do it before they leave
-Hagan then went back to his tent by his foxhole to wait and bombs started being dropped and the ground started shaking so he dove into his foxhole
-It was a formation of B-26s with 100 lbs. anti-personnel bombs
-When he came out he heard problems happening all over
-A guy near a halftrack that had been shaving had a bomb dropped 27 ft. from behind him and he ended up in coma later
-People were trying to help others from bleeding out; a radio operator was walking around without an arm and Hagan gave him first aid before sending him to a field hospital
-The captain by the jeep had both legs blown off, one eye was gone and other hanging out but somehow he was still alive and was talking to them, “that shook me up pretty good. That stayed with me for years. If he had been dead, it wouldn’t have been so bad.”
-Once the injured were taken care of and sent away on ambulance, another B-26 formation was seen coming
-So Hagan began looking for a foxhole and leaped into one of the deep German foxholes
-About broke his neck going in head first and then rolling onto his back and cut his nose and leg on a piece of shrapnel—left a scar
(9:55) trying to figure out dates and places where Hagan landed in an invasion; maybe Omaha Beach?
-Then went on to St. Lo that had bad causalities in A and C batteries so both were combined together
-Assigned to the 2nd Armored Division when General Patton went into Brittany and then Failaise
-Attacked at the town Mortain and the Germans were trying to cut them off as the Americans were trying to contain the Germans
-After each battle the British and Americans was gather their dead but the Germans didn’t so when trying to drive on the roads the Allies had to run over the bodies
-If they tried to dodge they might’ve hit a land mine off the road; the stench was terrible and any chance they could they’d try and wash off the halftracks
-Eventually made into Holland after France and Belgium; they were at the Siegfried Line and took part in that siege at Aachen; ordered not to retreat
-Had a group of combat engineers with bazookas so they made booby-traps to take out the German tanks; were given the presidential citation award for their actions
-Made it to Luxembourg when it was Thanksgiving; had a nice party
(21:34) Battle of the Bulge
-Still at Luxembourg when the battle of the Bulge broke out; their division was near the town on Malmady (the Malmady Massacre)
-The 1st Platoon Hagan was in was sent inside the town to stop tanks but were very ill equipped and thankfully never saw any Germans
-One night when it was snowing the Germans were sending down paratroops to booby-trap roads and change post signs to confuse the Allies
-Hagan’s platoon was the last coming out and had the last group with a M-16 and it’s snowing and they had a problem with their fuel line that was dry rotted
-They had to pull into a small town to try and fix the line; was snowing so bad they couldn’t tell when they pulled in that the town was German occupied
-The Germans opened fired on them—somehow made it out
-Was making their way back to Luxembourg to head over to Bastogne to where Patton was at; they were coming to relieve the 101st that were trapped
-Explains their battle tactics and what their guns were able to do
-Went in behind CCA and CCR and the infantry when pushing into Bastogne
-Once the invasion was over Hagan and his outfit was shipped out to Nancy France with the 8th Armored Division
(32:02) Speaking French in France
-Came up into a village that was covered in snow and ice but it wasn’t on the front so the villagers let the men sleep in their homes
-Only knew a little bit of French but enough to get by
-The CP asked Hagan to buy a goose off one of the famers so Hagan when asking realized he had no idea how to say “goose” in French
-The lady had chickens and geese so he couldn’t just say “white bird” or he might have ended up with a chicken (too small)
-So Hagan told her “I want to buy one of those big white birds” and the lady was a bit taken back but he still got a goose
-The Parisian French people were more educated, spoke faster, and used different words than the French words Hagan knew and rural people of France (i.e. airplane)
-Followed the 8th Armored Division into Remagen; goes into a story of when he first met the 8th Armored at Camp Polk
-Their halftrack would conk out on them the whole way there; it was snowing once when the halftrack stopped and they were under fire, had to hide in ditches under the snow
-Eventually made it to their station by a bridge to shoot down anti-aircrafts; stay there about a week
(44:57) Got in trouble at Remagen
-The bridge collapsed after 3 days so they moved upstream to another bridge
-Told to shoot at anything that came down the river or over the bridge—red alert
-They had to have 3 men manning the guns 24/7 in groups of 5 so only 2 got a rest until taking their places
-10 PM one night a jeep driver came up and told Hagan that the captain wanted Hagan to cut his hair
-Told the man he couldn’t leave unless someone could take his place since they were under a red alert
-The driver came back and told Hagan there was no one available to take his place but the captain has now made it an order to come and cut his hair
-So Hagan retorted that the tools he has come from his civilian life and the army did not pay to furnish him or to maintain them
-He had to send them back to the states for his wife to sharpen them when he could
-So unless the captain can maintain and furnish Hagan’s tools then he’s not leaving to cut hair—his tools are going to stay in his halftrack until then
-So the driver and a couple of guards came back and arrested him under court marshal for insubordination
-Locked Hagan up and was guarded 24/7—ironically his guard changed every 2 hours but apparently none could have come and took his place when asked for a haircut the first time
A 2nd Lieutenant in Hagan’s section found out what happened and went to the office of the captain and got in his face for one
-Going over the Lt.’s head with orders for one of his men and secondly, knowing full well that taking a man and not replacing him from red alert jeopardized the mission and the crew
-Then the Lt. threatened to put a court marshal for this captain unless they let Hagan go by 5 PM that night
-After that if anyone wanted/needed a haircut then they had to ask this 2nd Lt. if Hagan was available
-Hagan’s A Battery was part of the same squad that had the Sergeant Hyman Haas that is credited for knocking out enemy pillboxes on Omaha Beach; sections M-16 and M-17
-Landed that morning between 7:30 and 8 AM; Ernie Pyle interviewed all the men on that halftrack after the battle to release the story; one guy was from New Orleans
-After the war, Hagan went to a few reunions and ran into D Battery twice; Haas (from New York) came to the first one and he and Hagan still write to each other
-They worked together to get a plaque of their names placed on that pillbox but they couldn’t called a battery as the war monument commission only recognized battalions or higher so they’re called the “A Battalion” on the plaque
-Haas had to get all of his actions verified and the war department had to go through the history to document what was done
-Their reports showed that Hagan’s outfit landed at 9 AM (tapes cuts off story continues in TH1-053)
His command jeep and trailer was parked alongside of a hedgerow that ran parallel with the road. There was a halftrack with radio equipment parked right next to him. So at about 11:00 a.m., I went to talk to him to see if he wanted me to give him hair cut. He was sitting on the ground with his back up against the jeep trailer. He had a bunch of maps and everything with him. And he looked at him watch and said, “Well, after this bombing is over, we gonna have marching orders. We’ll have an early chow so let’s wait until then.” So I walked back to my pup tent, which was 150 feet at the most. I got in my tent and pulled out a tablet from my field pack. I was getting ready to write a letter when I heard these bombs coming down. So I dove into my foxhole. These B-26’s were dropping 100-pound anti-personnel bombs. After the formation passed, I heard problems coming from the captain’s jeep, where I had just come from. The driver of the halftrack had been sitting down by the door and shaving when I walked over to my pup tent. An anti-personnel bomb landed approximately 27 feet from where he was shaving. When I got to him, there was crowd around him trying to help him. They were ripping up shirts and everything to try to stop the bleeding. Blood was everywhere. They were telling me different things to get inside of the halftrack to help him. By that time, they had another guy who came walking up with his arm all tore to hell. So I grabbed him and I grabbed a shirt, tore off the sleeve and put a tunicate around his arm. This jeep came driving by and I stopped him. He said there was a field hospital near by, so I said take him and send some ambulances because we got a few people down. But in the meantime, nobody was tending to the captain. You could see that his vehicle was down. So I said, “What about the captain?” They said, “Don’t worry about him, he done had it.” That’s the remark that I remember. When the ambulance came, I walked over to his jeep and he was messed up pretty good. He had no legs; they were all tore to hell. He had a hipbone that sticking out about a foot. He started talking and saying, “Get off my legs! Somebody is on my legs!” But he had no legs. He said, “I want to see my legs.” But he had no legs, and hardly had any face. His eyes were gone and hanging out. That shuck me up pretty good. That stayed with me for years. If he had been dead, it wouldn’t have been so bad.
A funny part of this story was after the ambulance left; here comes another formation of B-26’s. So I start looking for a foxhole. All of those foxholes were deep. I didn’t want to take off running like a coward, but I was walking as fast as most people could run. I heard those bombs coming down and I made one leap into that foxhole, head first. It was only a few feet deep. Man I like about broke my neck. I went over backwards, I was upside down. I had my face in the mud. When I got strait, I had blood coming out of my nose. I caught a piece of shrapnel. I think it tore my pants and cut my leg. It landed in the foxhole with me—a souvenir!
We were then assigned to the 2nd Armored Division after the breakout. Soon after St. Lo, Gen. Patton drove onto Brittany and then to Failaise. But before that, the Germans attacked at a town called Mortain; they were trying to cut off the two peninsulas. They had us in that area of Mortain. We were trying to contain them. It was a seesaw battle. During the battle, we would pull out our dead and wounded, but the Germans didn’t. After the battle, we drove on through that area and we were told to keep on the road. That time of the year it was hot, and there were a lot of dead bodies everywhere and they were blown up and everything. It was terrible. You had to run off of the road to dodge some of them. So you had to just run over and that stench stayed with you. We’d try to find a puddle of mud or water to try to wash off our halftracks.
We followed the 2nd Armored Division all the way to the Seigfried Line and into Holland. We hit the Germans in Aachen and we took part in the siege. We were with a group of combat engineers; they had bazookas. We would booby-trap the Germans and take out their tanks. The Germans were trying to get through with every thing they had. Our unit and that engineer bazooka team got the presidential citation award for action in Aachen.
We went to Luxembourg for Thanksgiving and then came the Battle of the Bulge. We were near Malmady during that time. We were attached to Patton’s 4th Armored Division and drove in support of them to relieve Bastogne. After the siege, we stayed in Bastogne for a few days before heading back to France.
I spoke a little French, so one day they asked to go to this farmhouse near Nancy to buy a goose. I went up there, but I couldn’t think of how in the hell to say “goose” in French. So I went over there and this old women came to door and these geese were big and white, there were chickens too. I couldn’t think of how in the hell to say goose, so when she opened the door I said, “I want to buy one of those big white birds.” So I could get by with my French.
We were with the 8th Armored Division. Before we went overseas, the 8th Armored used to be camp out at Fort Polk. And there weren’t too many soldiers around New Iberia, and these guys would come to here on three-day passes. Our people in this town had sons stationed all over the place, but they didn’t have any stationed close by. So when the town’s people saw somebody who was a soldier, they would treat them like their own son; they’d invite him to their homes to have lunch and they’d treat him to crawfish.
One day when I came back from guard duty on the gun, they told me that there were some people in 8th Armored heard that I was from Louisiana and they wanted to see me. So I walked in there and all these guys are standing around this stove and they said, “Are you the guy from Louisiana.” I said, “Yes.” They said, “What part?” I said, “New Iberia.” They hollered, “Oh! That’s God’s country!”
We followed the 8th Armored into Remagen. We set up our AAA guns to defend that bridge for a week. We shot at everything that flew over and everything that floated down that river. That’s when I got in a little trouble. We were on red alert, and when you are on red alert you need three men on the gun 24-hours a day. We had five men total, so that left only two men to relieve the other three. Well this driver came to me and said that the captain what me to give him a haircut. I asked him if he had somebody to take my place, and he said no. So I told him to go back and tell the captain to send somebody to take my place and I’ll give him a haircut. I said, “We’re on red alert and I can’t just leave.” So he goes back and said that the captain said that there was nobody available. I said, “Tell him when they get somebody available then I’ll come see him.” So he goes back and then comes tell me that the captain said it was an order. So I told to tell the captain that those tools on the back of that halftrack are tools that I bought in civilian life, the Army didn’t furnish them. And when I need to have them sharpened, I have to use my own money to send them back to the States to have my wife sharpen them and send them back to me. So you tell the captain that when the Army is going to furnish the tools and maintain then, then he can give me an order to cut his hair. But other than that, until he sends somebody to take place, my tools are going to stay in the back of that halftrack. So he came back with a couple of guards and they said, “Sorry Hagan, we’ve got to take you in. Your under arrest.” So I come in and I had to report to this captain. First thing that he wanted to know was, did I bring my tools. I told him no. Man he had me down for court marshal, insubordination and I don’t know what else. So they put me in this room and me under guard all day. So this 2nd Lieutenant who was in our unit was a good guy and he found out what had happen. So he went to this captain and got in his face and said that he had taken a man off of a section that he was in charge of and went over his head with him knowing anything about it that could have jeopardized the mission as well as the crew itself. The Lieutenant said if there is going to be a court marshal, he was going to go after bars, not PFC stripes. He said that I had better be back on that jeep by 5:00 that night. Sure enough, I was let out and back on my jeep. From then on, every time somebody wanted a haircut, they would have to talk to him first. Then he’d call me on the radio and said, “Hagan, you feel like cutting some hair today.” If I said yes, then he'd send a man to take my place. If I said no, then he would say that I was not available.
We had two reunions with D Battery. Haas only came to the first one. But he and I continued to correspond. And I can’t remember if suggested the idea to me or not, but since I was the secretary of the battery, I brought up the idea at a reunion about having an plaque placed on the pillbox with our name on it. Those who were in attendance agreed that we should do it. So that’s when I started working on it and we had to fund it ourselves. I wrote the proclamation and send letters to all the members. I was on the committee to collect the funds. Haas, who had knocked out the gun, laid the groundwork by going through the war department to see whether we could get it done through the war monuments commission. We were trying to get it done as a battery, but the War Monuments Commission doesn’t recognize anything less than a battalion for a plaque. So we had to go with the battalion.
Interview with Charles Hagan (part 3)
Charles Hagan, Theriot:
*picking up on the story of Hagan and Haas trying to get a plaque made in their battery’s honor for their action on D-Day*
(Official records saying one thing as the men knew another from their interviewed story)
-While in reality they had landed earlier on the beach and this was because the headquarters of the battalion landed around 9:30 AM and they filled out the action reports
-They listed the first units as coming in at around 9 AM; when the enemy gun had been knocked out well before then—big controversy
-Goes on to talk about different reunions and things he learned later about those he met during his time in the Army; mentions a few experiences and men he met while traveling after Bastogne
(13:50) End of the War
-Wound up in Czechoslovakia before going through Munich, Germany for occupation
-It was there that Hagan was told he had 79 points and could go home but the machine gun guy left so Hagan needed to take over it—still cut hair too
“I had a unique experience. I cut hair all over the States, I cut hair on the Atlantic Ocean, I cut hair in England, I cut hair in France, I cut it in Belgium, I cut hair in Holland, I cut hair in Luxemburg, I cut hair in Germany, I cut hair in Czechoslovakia. It didn’t make me a better barber but gave me a lot of experience. I carried my tools with me everywhere I went.”
-Looking at photos in books Theriot had, some which show Hagan cutting hair; some of Hagan’s personal photos; awards given; an article Hagan wrote
(20:42) slowly cuts off into silence
Haas had to get all of his actions verified through the war department to allow this. They had to go through the history to document what was done. He got the report and took that to the War Monuments Commission and they approved it. It was controversial because the records show that we our outfit landed at 9:00 a.m. on D-Day. Actually, headquarters of the battalion landed around 9:30 a.m., so when they filled out the action reports, they listed the first units as coming in at around 9:00 a.m. Well, that enemy gun had been knocked out well before 9:00 a.m.
We started getting reports in the next day about the invasion.
I had a unique experience. I cut hair all over the States, I cut hair on the Atlantic Ocean, I cut hair in England, I cut hair in France, I cut it in Belgium, I cut hair in Holland, I cut hair in Luxemburg, I cut hair in Germany, I cut hair in Czechoslovakia. It didn’t make me a better barber and I gave me a lot of experience. I carried by tools with me every where I went.
Interview by Michael Tisserand with Charles (C.C) Adcock
5:40-7:00: Charles Adocock talks about white peple in Blues music and how modern blues resurgence is "a white thing"
7:00-9:30: Charles Adcock talks about Sonny Landreth, who was one of the first famous white musician in a zydeco band.
10:29-Charles Adcock first zydeco record was "bon temps rouler" by clifton chenier
16:27-22:00: Adcock talks about Racial diversity and segregation in Louisianian music
22:00-38:00-: Adcock talks about him growing up and his musical influences
38:00-End: Adcock talks about touring with buckwheat zydeco's band,Touring anedotes (Canada and Europe), Buckwheat's leadership and rivalries among the band members.
Interview by Michel Tisserand with Corey Arcenaux
Arceneaux talk about his introduction to music and how he became and accordion player.
1:48-Corey arcenaux originally played guitar (at 7-8 years old) but quickly prefered accordion.
4:00-He had mentor who taught him to play with all his fingers they practiced for seven month.
6:15-Arceneaux was a fan of Nathan WIlliams, he came to see him every week. One day Nathan williams brought him on stage
13:50-Arceneaux started a band at 17, he attended the holy rosary institute in lafayette. His first band struggled to find a steady guitar player.
15:37-Arceneaux was voted quietest kid in his school in 1993, he says he is very shy.
16:09-he won his first zydeco award in 1994
17:51-Corey Arceneaux's family initiated him to zydeco, they always listen to zydeco. His family took him to plaisance zydeco festival.
19:50-buckwheat has been one of his Idols.
26:30-Arceneaux does not speak french, only his grand parents on both side do, even his mother does speaks but not fluently
30.40-Arceneaux used to work as a DJ on KJCB radio station he even got an FCC licence for this.
35:39-His favourite musician at that time was Keith Frank
37:14-Arcenaux explains his song writing process.
47:00-Arcenaux talks about playing when he was under 21, he had issues when he was playing in casinos and bars.
Amede Ardoin tribute at the Liberty theatre
Concert hommage a Amede Ardoin (Tribute to Amede Ardoin) et Denis McGee
Bois Sec Ardoin Set (Tribute to Amede Ardoin)
2:19-Le two step de Eunice (Eunice Two Step)
6:44-La Valse du Dimanche apres midi (Sunday Afternoon Watz)
10:47-Allons Danser (Let's Go Dancing)
15:13-J'ai ete au bal (I Went to the Ballroom)
20:00-Michael Tisserand seached in the mormon archives and the US army data bases to find Amede Ardoin's birthdate, which is March 11 1898
21:40-Ti'maurice (Little Maurice Waltz)
27:57-Le two step de Lac Charles (Lake Charles Two Step)
35:28-Fond de culotte (Seat of the pants)
38:31-La valse des orphelins (The Orphans Waltz)
Part two: Tribute to Dennis Mcgee by Eric and Clay Chapman
1:00:58-La reel de Desautels (Desautels Reel)
1:04:37-La valse a pop (Pop's Waltz)
1:08:33-Devillier Two Step with Billy McGee
1:11:23-Chere bebe creole (Dear Creole Baby)
1:14:30-La reel des Millers (Miller's reel)
1:16:44-Adieu Rosa (Farewell Rosa) also called Demain c'est pas dimanche (Tomorow isn't sunday)
Michael Doucet and Beausoleil Set: songs made by Amede Ardoin and Denis Mcgee
1:22:26-Two step a Maman (Mama's Two Step)
1:28:57-One step a Chameau
1:33:37-Madame Etienne also called La robe barree
1:38:17-Two step de Midland
1:43:05-Le blues de la prison
Interview by Michel Tisserand with Bois Sec Ardoin
Micheal Tisserand interviewed Bois Sec Ardoin for an arcticle on him and Canray Fontenot about Creole Music.
3:26-Bois Sec talk about the difference between Creole music and Cajun music.
Bois Sec Claims that he doesn't play Zydeco.
Bois Sec's Granchildren are also musicians, his grandson Chris Ardoin plays zydeco.
12:20-Bois Sec said he convinced belton richard to keep playing cajun music instead of shifting to swamp pop
Bois Sec says he feels good about the younger generations playing Cajun Music.
21:11: When Bois Sec was young, the clubs were segregated (split in two separete parts for black and white people)
26:29-Bois Sec started music by playing Triangle with Amede Ardoin at
32:00-Michel Tisserand asks Bois Sec about his cousin Amede Ardoin
Bois Sec explains that Amede was liked by his family for being a great talented musician and he did not want to work hard.
34:44-"He didn't sweat much"
Amede had good relations with white people, he often played for them.
Bois Sec didn't have a record player at home, he could not listen to his cousin.
38:52-Bois Sec Talk about when Amede Ardoin was beat up by white men after a show.
Some white men did not like that a lady handed Amede a hankerchief when he was sweating a lot during his show.
42:00-Ameded ardoin had to play dead so they would stop beating him, then we crawled to a man named Celestin Marcantel who helped him.
According to Bois Sec Amede kept playing after he was beat up.
Later on, he got sick an started to become insane. He ended up at an asylum and died their a coupled years later.
Barry Ancelet did a lot of work to find when and where Amede Ardoin died so he could have a grave to be remebered.
45:12-Bois Sec Talks about meeting and playng with Canray Fontenot
Bois Sec says him and Canray have a special chemistry that they both cannot find with other musicians
55:10-Bois Sec says that some people wouldn't let him play blues at their houses because it makes people dance too close.
57:00-Bois Sec talks about Bon soir moreau, he doesn't know who wrote it. He says it can be danced like a Blues, like a waltz or even like a two step.
58:52-Bois Sec talks about the styles of dancing
59:00-Bois Sec tells Tisserand about baisse bas
1:03:23-Bois Sec explain that music is a way to preserve the creole culture
1:07:47-Bois Sec and Canray were still in good health despite numerous health problems.
1:11:04-Despite not playing zydeco, bois sec already played at Plaisance zydeco festival
1:12:00-Bois Sec talks about Creole language. in music
1:15:53-According to Bois Sec every male in the Ardoin family is a musician
1:17:42-Bois sec talks about emotions when singing
1:19:00-He has 14 kids
1:21:59-Bois Sec says he usually drinks whiskey when he performs "When you don't drink, you don't play"
1:24:00-Bois Sec talks about the Ardoin's family reunions
Interview by Michael Tisserand with Chris Ardoin
0:30-Chris and his brother Sean Ardoin are often working together, they are used to write songs togeteher. Sean has reggae and rock influences, whereas Chris has rap and rnb inflences.
0.50-Chris Ardoin talks about his new album, he is especially proud of the song Beauty in your Eyes, Gon be Jus Fine and Lake Charles connection.
10:37-Chris Ardoin was 16 at the time of the interview, he wanted to go to college and keep playing music at the same time.
12:26-Sean was 28 at the time of the interview.
14:00-Despite not speaking french, Chris Ardoin recorded a version of "Un dimanche apres midi" originally recorded by his grand-father bois sec
His father Laurence Ardoin influences him to keep his family heritage alive.
Chris Ardoin claims to have a more modern approcah to zydeco.
Part 2: Lawrence Ardoin (Chris's father)
18:00-Lawrence Ardoin explains that the Ardoin has their own pitch of voice, he compares it to a "flavor in the gumbo". Their voice us their signature spice.
Bois Sec Ardoin already had health problems at the time, Lawrence seems worried about it.
Interview by Michel Tisserand with Lawrence Ardoin
0:00-Lawrence Ardoin talks about his accordions and the technical issues he had during tours/recording sessions
6:54-Lawrence Ardoin talks about playing music when he was growing up and his childhood in duralde.
7.40-Lawrence did not hear good things about Amede when he was growing up
8:15-Lawrence calls Canray Fontenot's father Adam Acaze instead of Adam Fontenot
10:38-Lawrence played fiddle with his father (bois sec) when he was eleven but he did not like it. He stopped fiddle after Canray Fontenot quit performing.
Lawrence used to play in Lake Charles every friday
12:34-Lawrence played at the ardoin club (also called the Cowboy Club) in duralde
13:30-Back in the days people used to buy old houses to turn them into music clubs
16:00-Kids were welcome in the Zydeco clubs
16:40-Lawrence talk about the baisse bas style of dancing
19:17-Lawrence talks about asking girls for a dance
20:30-Lawrence talks about Amede Ardoin
25:00-Lawrence Ardoin talks about house dances during Amede's time
26:40-Lawrence says his son Sean is a good entertainer and a good singer.
30:42-Lawrence talks what makes a song "sound" creole
31:40-Canray Fontenot was often drunk, the ardoins plyed "Mamou hot step" to sober him up.
32:38-Lawrence talks about a merry go round pulled by a mule in his town. People used to play music there.
38:05-Lawrence talks about mardi gras celebrations.
42:00-Lawrence talks about forming a band after his brother died
47:18-Lawrence talks about Boozoo Chavis and John Delafose
51:15-Lawrence talks about the rivalry between bands and the competion in music
53:40-Lawrence Ardoin talks about the racial segregation in the 1950, he says Eunice was very segregated
1:01:38-Lawrence talks about Chris first album (when he was only ten) for "maison de soul"
1:06:20-Lawrence claims that Boozoo cannot play his style, but he cannot play boozoo's style either
1:13:45-Lawrence talks about band etiquette
1:27:24-"Zydeco is not a polished music, all the flaws are a part of it"
Interview by Michel Tisserand with Lawrence Ardoin and Chris Ardoin
0:58-Chris Ardoin played at Carnegie Hall in 1985 at 8
1:32-Chris Ardoin started the accordion at 3
3:05-Chris Ardoin started triple note accordion at 10
4:27-Chris Ardoin talks about his new album at the time "Lick it up"
5:30-The students in Chris Ardoin's school at the time pretented to not like zydeco but he saw them at dances on the weekend.
7:30-Chris Ardoin explains that he wanted to release his album as quickly as possible to enter the music industry
11:21-Sometimes Chris wanted to be more fluent in french like the rest of his family
11:54-Chris talks about his future
13:45-Lawrence Ardoin explain how crowds react differently and how he ajusts his setlist and playing style accordingly
21:53-Chris says he records songs everyday
23:29-Chris thinks young people are still going to like zydeco in the future
24:40-Michael TIsserand asks about the differences between the people who go to hip hop clubs and the people who go to zydeco clubs.
26:00-Tisserand talks about the book he is currently writing (The Kingdom of Zydeco)
31:15-Lawrence thniks the mixing on the last Ketih Frank album is bad
35:20-Lawrence says that all the cajun music today comes from Amede Ardoin. Lawrence does not like Iry Leujeune because he got the credit (and the copyrights) for Amede's songs.
Interview by Michel Tisserand with Milton Ardoin
Milton Ardoin was Amede Ardoin's nephew
5:26-His father was Beaudoin Ardoin, he sang with Amede Ardoin
6:58:-Milton Ardoin explains Michael tisserands about the song "Mon bon vieux mari"
11:26-Milton Ardoin talks about Amede's death.
12:21-Milton was 20 when Amede died
12:36-Milton explain that 2 people were hired to kill Amede (Richard Miller and Elias Deville, they beat him up and rolled over his head with their car close to Eunice (besides the "john deer place")
23:00-Amede played music at Milton's house, he played solo most of the time
24:50-Milton Ardoin tell about a time where Amede was shot by someone jealous of him.
32:26-Amede started the accodion after Milton's father (Amede's brother) gave him an accordion. Amede was still a child, his feet did not touch the ground when he was playing.
34:40-Milton could not visit Amede in Pineville hospital, because was working at the CC corps and he did not have a car.
36:45-Milton only visited Amede once. Amede was not the man he used to be.
42:34-The two men that were hired to kill him were black
49:38-Milton tells about a time where Amede Ardoin was shot through a chruch window.
51:23:Amede Ardoin played for white and black people, mostly for white people. He also played with Dennis McGee who was a white fiddler.
52: 55-Amede worked im the fields with the rest of his family
53:04-Milton claims that Bois Sec never played triangle with Amede Ardoin
55:11-Milton was 16 years old when Amede got beaten up. Amede's mind was off after the accident.
58:20-Milton Ardoin's father did not go to chruch, his mother went to a baptist chruch. He does not remember Amede singing religious songs.
59:50-Milotjn Ardoin's Grand-Father (Amede's father) died when Amede was twelve. A bridge broke when he was crossing it with cows. His grand mother (Amede's mother) died when Amede was 30. She was very strict with Milton.
1:03:31-Amede Ardoin never married, he did not have any official children
1:05:20-Milton Ardoin talks about "La valse des orphelins" to Michael TIsserand
1:10:58-Amede could not play after his accident
1:15:09-Amede used to drink, he did not drink a lot because he was small.
1:20:00-When Amede had a cold, he would drink Castor oil to grease his throat so he could sing
Interview by Michel Tisserand with Morris Ardoin
Morris Ardoin was the oldest son of Bois Sec and Lawrence Ardoin's brother.
In this interview he talks about his childhood, his family and the mardis gras celebrations.
0:46-The interview took place the day after the Centennial Olympic Park bombing
Morris Ardoin worked in a farm where he felt exploited by his boss, he struggled to feed his family.
12:40-Morris Ardoin's father (bois sec) worked in the cotton field.
17:40-He had five brother and nine sisters
18:19-Morris opened a music club, called the cowboy club
26:17-Bois Sec had a club at his house for two years
30:30-Morris talks about how people lost interest in Cajun music when
36:10-Morris talks about his mardi gras celebrations
54:05-Morris explain what the mardi gras dances were like at his time
1:08:00-Morris started playing music with the guitar but moved to accordion soon after.
1:11:40-Morris talks about Amede Ardoin's incident in Eunice
He says that Amede Ardoin never got married but he had an affair with a woman. Officialy, Amede does not have any children.
1:19:35-Morris Ardoin tells Michael TIsserand about Milton Ardoin (the last nephew of Amede Ardoin at the time) and where to find him.