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 Harold M. Mire

Accession No.: 
ST1.038

Great Depression; World War II; daily life in Crowley; education; food / diet / cuisine; recreation; chores / duties; travel

Language: 
English
Media Type: 
Audio
Collection: 
Students
Subject: 
Great Depression; World War II
Creator: 
Jean-Luc Billeaudeaux
Informants: 
Harold M. Mire
Recording date: 
Sunday, May 4, 2003
Coverage Spatial: 
Crowley, Louisiana
Publisher: 
Center for Cultural and Eco-Tourism
Rights Usage: 
All Rights Reserved
Meta Information
Storage Location: 
Archives of Cajun and Creole Folklore

Interview with Raymond Mahfouz

Accession No.: 
ST1.039

World War II; draft; military service; Arkansas; Lafayette; jobs / work; differences between Louisiana and Arkansas

Language: 
English
Media Type: 
Audio
Collection: 
Students
Subject: 
World War II
Creator: 
Pablo La Sala
Informants: 
Raymond Mahfouz
Recording date: 
Tuesday, May 6, 2003
Coverage Spatial: 
Edgar MoutonÕs Law Office, Downtown Lafayette
Publisher: 
Center for Cultural and Eco-Tourism
Rights Usage: 
All Rights Reserved
Meta Information
Storage Location: 
Archives of Cajun and Creole Folklore

Interview with Alice Eloise D. Lavin

Accession No.: 
ST1.040

Great DepressionWorld War II

Language: 
English
Media Type: 
Audio
Collection: 
Students
Subject: 
Great Depression; World War II
Creator: 
Pablo La Sala
Informants: 
Alice Eloise D. Lavin
Recording date: 
Monday, April 28, 2003
Coverage Spatial: 
InformantÕs kitchen table, Lafayette, Louisiana
Publisher: 
Center for Cultural and Eco-Tourism
Rights Usage: 
All Rights Reserved
Meta Information
Storage Location: 
Archives of Cajun and Creole Folklore

Interview with Robert J. Adams

Accession No.: 
TH1-001

Transcription:

Robert J. Adams    Interview: September 18, 2004
107 Hibiscus
Lafayette, LA
Born: March 11, 1922
Seaplane/Spitfire Recon pilot

I was born in Houma, but we moved around a lot because my father was a railroad man. He worked on the railroad in Alexandria, Mamou, Lafayette, New Iberia, and even Cypermont Point and Weeks Island.

I was going to school here at SLI when Pearl Harbor happened. I didn’t know much about what was happening because I was flying all day. I had taken up flying at SLI and I was in one of these small airplanes. That plane cost $999 and it came with instructions on how to fly it. 

I was fascinated with flying ever since I was a young boy. My father didn’t believe in flying. So I took up flying when I got to college. There was an old wood hanger at the airport here in Lafayette and we had this little plane; it was a civilian model Piper Cub. We’d have to pick it up by the tail and turn it around. You’d put it in the direction you wanted, started it up and took off. I found out about Pearl Harbor later that afternoon when I landed.

In January of 1942, me and a buddy of mine hitchhiked to New Orleans to join the Navy Air Corps. We were mad at the Japs for attacking Pearl Harbor and wanted to get back at them. We took our test in New Orleans and they sent us back to Lafayette to finish school; that’s when I met my wife.

I had wanted to fly the P-40, the plane with the Flying Tigers. That was the best plane that we had at the time. But when I got my wings, they put me in a SOC seaplane.

I was sent to LSU in Baton Rouge in the summer of ’42 to go to the ground school for navy warfare training. From there I went to Athens, Georgia. I went to school there and took half a day flight training. Then I was sent to Dallas, Texas to train in the N2S2 Steerman. From there so many were sent to dive bombers, some went to big bombers. I was sent to Corpus Christi where I was assigned to a seaplane.

I didn’t know anything about the seaplane before, nothing at all. I was very disappointed about that because I wanted to be fighter pilot. But that’s the Navy. They put you where they need you. And they just picked me for the seaplane.

I flew the OS2U. It had the interior of a small airplane. It had one wing and two machine guns. I had a radioman in the back. The plane could carry two 350-pound depth charges. We went after the submarines and mainly scouted for the heavy cruisers. We were four seaplanes on that cruiser. They would shoot you off of a catapult and you would land in the water. We trained to do everything that you could do at that time. When we finished, we got our wings.

I was sent to Portland, Maine in January of 1944 and was put on my ship, the USS Augusta. We flew patrol in the North Atlantic for three months hunting the submarines. Every once in a while you’d see something, but we never attacked an enemy sub. We flew ahead of the fleet at about six miles an hour. When you flew in a convoy you had to fly as fast as the slowest ship. 

The Augusta was the flagship of the Atlantic Fleet. The first American killed in World War II was on the Augusta (August 21, 1937, China Sea). His name was Falgout and he was from Raceland, Louisiana. The ship was in the China Sea and a shell came over the ship and exploded. The shrapnel killed him. They built a monument in Raceland to honor him. The Augusta was sort of a famous ship. Roosevelt and Churchill met on the Augusta during one of their conferences at the beginning of the war.

There were about 800 men on that ship. When I wasn’t flying I read books and wrote letters to my wife to pass the time. We sailed to England. They sent me down to the southern part of England to go to school to fly the Spitfire. I was on loan to the British.

The British were very nice people. Some people didn’t like the British, but I got along with them. I just didn’t like the food. But the beer was really good.

[Mrs. Adams: Bob didn’t like the food. He used to fly to American airfields to get some American food. My sister had dated a fellow from Alexandria, Louisiana and he was in the Air Force. He worked in the tower. One day Robert flew to this airport and wanted the land. The tower asked him his name and Bob said, “Bob Adams.” The tower said, “Oh! You wouldn’t be married to a girl named Maude Johnson would you?” He said, “Yes, that’s my wife.” So he told him to come on down and he and my sister’s boyfriend met in England; the only time they ever met.]

The Spitfire was a very nice plane and it kept getting better; more power, more speed. I really enjoyed flying it. See the Germans had some really good planes too—they were really fast—and our little old two-wing seaplanes could only go about 135 mph—and that was in a dive. So that’s why they put us in the Spitfire, because it was much faster.

Foreman, who created the Spitfire during peacetime, wanted a really good plane. The Spitfire was a very good airplane. It had six machine guns, three on each side. We trained in the cockpit that showed all the instruments and various equipment for flying the plane. We were going to be used to (foreward) spot for the gun ships at sea. We were especially trained in spotting the fire—the eyes of the fleet.

Before we left on D-Day we had designated targets that we were supposed to pick up. They had done reconnaissance before to pick out the various targets and briefed us on the locations before we left. We were given the coordinantes to go on and we’d go out to beat them up.

We trained for this before the invasion. They had put out these platforms in an area about as big as my house and covered it with different material that the Germans would use. We had to spot for the fire coming in to the targets.

The instructors at the school were all British and they were all good soldiers. We bunked at a boarding school in Sheffield (?) Park. Each pilot had an enlisted man, called a batboy, who took care of your clothes, food, shoes and all that—protocol!

We knew that something big was coming. It had to be. And we knew that it was going to be dangerous, but you just had to go and do it. We were all ready, all excited to go. Actually, D-Day was supposed to be on the 5th of June. But they called it off until the 6th because of bad weather. I wasn’t supposed to fly on the 5th. I had got grounded from a bad sinus infection. When Eisenhower decided, “let’s go” on the 6th, I was well enough to fly. 

We studied on the German Luftwaffe operations. They had good planes, but we had better planes. The Spitfire was one of the best.

We were stationed in Southern England at Lee-on Solent, right across from the Isle of Wight. The morning of the invasion we got up before daybreak and went to our planes. We started out towards the Isle of Wight early that morning. It only took about 15 minutes to fly across the Channel. It was about 90 miles to the target area behind Omaha beach. Flying over the invasion fleet, I saw thousands of different kinds of ships. I was thinking, I’m glad I’m in the air.

We flew in pairs: one pilot would concentrate on the target and direct the fire; the other pilot would hover over him to protect him against enemy fighters and to let him know if he had an enemy on his tail. If we saw an enemy aircraft approaching our wingman, we were instructed to radio him, “break left,” or “break right.” They had sharpened our wing tips so we could break quickly. If he got involved in a dogfight, then I was supposed to take his place and continue spotting the fire. But thankfully, the Luftwaffe never came.

We had two targets on that first mission on D-Day. At Travieres, they didn’t have any Germans there, so I radioed back asking them not to shot up the town. Hell, it was just a little bitty old town. Traviers had a communications center and there was a spotter in a church steeple. He was way up high and could see the invasion beaches. I took a few shots at the steeple, although we weren’t supposed to do that. After we spotted it, our big guns neutralized it until they couldn’t use it anymore.

The naval guns ships would shoot three shots about 200 yards apart. And you would walk the middle shot up to the target and then report back to ship, “fire for effect.” Every gun on that ship would track the same shot and destroy the target.

My other target was the big guns at L-15 in Insigny. It was pretty well camouflaged. We spotted for that and our guns took it out. We had radio contact between the two pilots and the ship offshore.

The Germans were sending up a lot of anti-aircraft fire. I tried to dodge the incoming fire. One of the guns must have hit my plane because I started loosing fuel. I knew that I couldn’t return to England so I had to land it somewhere. I told my wingman that I was hit and I was going to land. I had a parachute, but I wasn’t gone to ditch the plane and jump out. I didn’t want to risk landing it and getting captured either. So I flew out to the Utah beach area where I knew I could land. The sand there on the beach was very smooth. So when I got there I looked down and saw an opening where the bulldozers had cleared a path for planes to land. I signaled them as best I could and that’s where I landed; I didn’t have a choice. It was a smooth landing and I had no problem getting her down. I was the first pilot to land in France on D-Day.

I think a bullet had torn my fuel line. So these boys fixed me up, gassed me up, and I took off heading back to England. (Distinguished Flying Cross)

I got back to base, checked in and was briefed for my second mission that afternoon. This mission was further inland from the beach. There were a lot of ships and a lot of smoke on that beach that afternoon. We flew missions from June 6 to June 24, everyday. 

The Germans didn’t have very many planes, but we didn’t know that. I was lucky; I never ran into enemy aircraft, although we lost one of our guys that day.

After the 24th of June, I got back on the Augusta and went to Algeriers in North Africa for three days. All we did was sit around a table and drink wine. Then I got on the Tuscaloosa and went to Sicily. From there I got on the USS Philadelphia and went on the invasion of Southern France (Operation ANVIL/DRAGOON).

I got back on the seaplane for the Southern France invasion. My first mission was to fly to this minesweeper out in the Gulf of Fos. I picked up this guy from the minesweeper and flew him ahead of the fleet to spot for mines. We could see the mines from the air and he took the compass reading of the minefield and radioed back to the minesweeper the location. I flew about 13 missions on that invasion. We lost another guy on that invasion.

I stayed on the Philadelphia until the end of August. Then I got back on the Augusta. Eventually we made it back to the States. My son was born on August 18. When I got back to Lafayette, he was just four weeks old.

All together, we were 17 pilots. We lost two during the war.

I went on to practice law here in Lafayette and I still fly with the Coast Guard Auxiliary.

Every other night, over England, the skies would light up, and rumble from the violent screams of the fast approaching German ‘Buzz bombs.’ The V-1 and V-2 self-propelled rocket bombs—vengeance weapons as Hitler referred to them—were launched from sites in France, Holland, and Belgium. The bombs were fired over the English Channel, and were sent crashing down on unsuspecting victims, killing and wounding tens of thousands of helpless civilians in the battered British cities. London, Hitler’s favorite target, was practically leveled from the daily visits of the unmanned Nazi terror bombs.

Language: 
English
Media Type: 
Audio
Collection: 
Theriot, Jason
Subject: 
Oral History, Louisiana, French, World War II, WWII, Flight, Pilots
Creator: 
Jason Theriot
Informants: 
Jason Theriot; Robert J. Adams
Recording date: 
Saturday, September 18, 2004
Coverage Spatial: 
Lafayette, LA
Publisher: 
Center for Louisiana Studies / Jason Theriot
Rights Usage: 
All rights reserved
Meta Information
Cataloged Date: 
Monday, August 6, 2018
Digitized Date: 
Monday, August 6, 2018
Original Format: 
Microcassette
Digital Format: 
WAV
Bit Depth: 
24 bit
Sampling Rate: 
96 kHz
Storage Location: 
Archives of Cajun and Creole Folklore - Drawer 20 Row 1

Interview with Ned Arceneaux

Accession No.: 
TH1-002

Ned Arceneaux: Jason Theriot

Member of First Army Joint VII Corps Headquarters, inducted in May 1941
-Talk of how Arceneaux was in charge of the reunions from 1975 to 2004
-where they were at, how he set them up and how many men showed up
-Last one was in 2003 and 10 men showed
-wonders what will be in 2004 (the year this interview took place)

May 15, 1941 drafted into the Army (11:00)
-Was 22 years old working as a clerk in the Post Office and was drafted in the second draft, as his boss was able to defer him in the first
-met at the courthouse and a man named McMannis was appointed leader and Arceneaux was put as the assistant leader
-he was the last one to get on the bus

They were sent to the new camp, Camp Livingston, which had just been built by Alexandria in the woods (funny story on the way there) (18:08)

Sent to Camp Blanding, Florida (21:00)
-The others in the National Guard were sent to Africa
-Each morning names would be called and deployed
-eventually Arceneaux and another man from Baton Rouge, Floyd Bourgeois, were the only ones left and they were sent to Birmingham, Alabama
-Arceneaux's MOS was at the Post Office and then he was sent off to the Louisiana Maneuvers

Declaring of War (26:20)
-December 7, 1941 back in Birmingham Arceneaux and Bourgeois had come back from eating lunch and at 3:00 on the radio:
-“All VII Corps HQ personnel report immediately to headquarters. War has been declared.”
-He was in charge of supplies and eventually was going to the Pacific but his company was stopped in San Jose, California
-stayed for 9 months, where they were to stay as the defense command of the western coast

-When stationed in London Arceneaux was the apart of the quartermaster staff and in charge of the food and liquor for 450 men in the VII Corps Headquarters, all mostly Cajuns
-he knew where all the winery’s and bars were and would order in French
-While there they were prepping for an invasion but didn't know when it was to happen

When they went on to the invasion for D-Day (38:20)
-Their company took 2 ships and Arceneaux was in a Jeep
-they landed about 9 in the morning on June 6th to Utah beach, left in the early morning hours
-"My first thought (when he saw the Atlantic Wall) was, “We’re never coming back. We’re never coming back.”

Utah beach landing and afterwards (45:40)
-Set up a command post in Ste-Mere-Eglise for a few days and took fire

Carentan and up to Cherbourg (49:53)
-He was tasked with two Chaplains to find another priest or bishop as four division were going to be sent out to Cherbourg to take it
-they went into a German hospital and found a French priest that gave them wine and cognac and they stayed till 3:00 as by 4 the city and fort was to be taken;
-they joined the fight and found a warehouse full of liquor and had six trucks sent to take as much as the liquor they could pack in them

Full Transcription:

Ned Lawrence Arceneaux
630 Wilson St.
Lafayette, LA 70503
Born: 29 December 1916
VII Corps HQ
Utah Beach, D-Day

Years later, I was asked to put together a reunion for VII Corps Headquarters. Gen. Collins, Army Chief of Staff at that time, told me that the only way he would come to a reunion was if I would show him the Cajun country. He said that he always wanted to come to south Louisiana, so we had the first reunion in Lafayette. Last year, we met in San Francisco…there were ten of us there.

My family is from between the Carencro-Lafayette area. I grew up speaking French and couldn’t speak a word of English until I started school. I was drafted into the Army on May 15, 1941, because Uncle Sam said, “I need you! I want you!” I was 22 and working as a clerk at the post office. We met at the courthouse and they had a fellow by the name of McMannis. Everybody voted to put him as the leader, and they put me as the assistant leader. A bus would be coming later on to pick us up. My Papa and brothers were there with me, and he took myself and three other fellows to have dinner at Mama’s place. Mama had a big meal with wine and whiskey and all that. We left to meet up with the rest of the fellows at this restaurant because the bus was coming to pick us up. The leader, was too drunk to sign the check at the restaurant, so I signed it for him. Anyhow, we got to the bus station and I was the last one to get on the bus. As I’m getting on the bus, my daddy was there with a fifth of whiskey. He said, “Ned, for the trip.” My poor Papa.

From Lafayette, I was sent to Camp Livingston. It was a new camp that they had just built in the woods over there by Alexandria. The four of us, who had eaten dinner together (Ernest Courret, and who were the others?) sat in the back of the bus. We were all new inducties and one lady on this bus. When the bus started, one of them fellows said, “Hey, you got that fifth, let’s have a drink.” The other fellow said, “Wait, there’s a lady in front of us. We should go and ask her if it’s alright for us to drink.” So, he goes over to her seat and says, “We have a bottle of whiskey, and we don’t know when were are coming back, but we are going into the Army. So do you mind if we have a drink.” She said, “Oh, hell no, I’ll have a drink with you.” She had the first drink out of the bottle.

When we got the camp in Alexandria they had this army corporal who greeted us for orientation. He took us out and lined us up. He knew me and he knew the rest of them boys, too; he was from Lafayette. He said, “Alright, all you drunk ones, take a step forward.” Shit, nobody moved. He said, “Well, in that case I’d better inspect.” So this fellow at the front of the line had the bottle behind his back. And as this corporal made his way down, we’d pass the bottle to the next guy, then the next one. When it got to me, I passed back the other way.

So, he took us out to this latrine and made us strip down to take a shower. It was a cold, cold shower. Boy, that sobered us up quick! (Welcome to the Army!)

From there we went to Camp Blanding, Florida. Every morning this sergeant would come in, blow his whistle, and order us into formation. Then, he’d holler out three or four names, “Joe, Tom, Bill…You gonna leave this afternoon on train so and so to go to so and so place.” One morning, we got up, he blew the whistle, and there was just two of us left—a fellow by the name of Floyd Bourgeois from Baton Rouge and myself. He had been in the same tent with me. The sergeant said, “Well, you fellows gonna take a train this afternoon at four o’clock and you’re headed to Birmingham, Alabama. And they’ll have a car waiting for you at the station tomorrow morning.” We figured that the only reason why we were the last two is because this sergeant couldn’t pronounce our last names—Arceneaux and Bourgeois. So, we ended up in Birmingham, Alabama.

Bourgeois was assigned the HQ of the Adjutant General. My MOS was to work in the post office, but I was not assigned there. I was put in the kitchen for a few days. Then, I was assigned to the supply section. We made some maneuvers in Alabama, and then we went to the Louisiana maneuvers.

We got back to Birmingham and on December 7, 1941, Bourgeois and I had gone to church and we had lunch with this family. We were listening to the radio at about three o’clock and here comes a flash: “All VII Corps HQ personnel report immediately to headquarters. War has been declared.”

I was put in charge of the supplies. We went to Fort McClennon to draw up equipment and we were headed to the port of embarkation in San Francisco to go to the Pacific. On the way, we stopped in San Jose, California, where we would stay as defense command of the western coast.

We stayed in California for nine months and made the Mojave Dessert maneuvers. My job as supply officer was to get all the food and equipment for the men in headquarters.

Then we left for England. We stayed at Bremmer Castle north of London. We stayed in dormitories and slept in cots. We were preparing for the invasion. I was in the quartermaster staff and stocked what we needed: all the food, supplies and equipment. There were 450 enlisted men, officers, and NCOs in VII Corps HQ.

We had an exercise to simulate the beach landings. We were in the English Channel and these German E-boats came in and killed a bunch of our men. That didn’t come out until many years later. We knew we were going on an invasion, but we didn’t know exactly when. That was up to Eisenhower and his staff, when they said to go.

I had a friend named Dr. Bourgeois who was stationed in England. He was a captain. I also had two Arceneaux cousins from Carencro in England. One was in an MP company. He was a big husky fellow, and rough. The other was with the 82nd Airborne Division in the glider section. His name was Raoul Arceneaux. On D-Day, they took off first. In fact, we were on our LSTs waiting in Southampton, and we could see the gliders flying over on their way to the invasion. They called him Frenchie and he was a sergeant. This one fellow asked him, “Frenchie, I don’t like to sit by that window. Can you change places with me?” He said, “Oh, yeah.” So they changed places. And when their glider landed and hit the hedgerows in Normandy, everyone on the glider got killed except my cousin. He was sitten by that window and he was the only one who came out alive.

We left early that morning and landed at Utah beach; it was about nine in the morning on June 6th. A lot of boys got sick going over. When we landed, you could see all the dead bodies floating all over. My first thought was, “We’re never coming back. We’re never coming back.”

Before we left from England, I had found out that this piece of property was for sale next to the farm that I was raised on. The owner wanted $10,000 for 50 acres of land. I wrote to my brother back home and told him that I have a $10,000 insurance policy. I said that I don’t know if I am going to make it home or not. I said that if something happened to me and I got killed, I wanted him to go ahead a buy that farm for Mama and Papa.

I didn’t know if I was coming back or not. Regardless of the danger, regardless if you killed or not, you knew that you had to go. From the General all the way down to the Private, they didn’t know if they were coming back or not. It was enthusiasm to fight for our country; that’s what we went for. We didn’t know why we were fighting, but the president said we gotta go, so we went. It was just instinct to serve your country. That was instilled in us.

I came in on a jeep that had been waterproofed. The exhaust pipe was way up high, but when we landed water came over the top and we stopped. These engineers came in with these DUCKS. When they saw that we were blocking the way, they came and hooked onto us and pulled us out of the way. I had my duffle bag with dry clothes and shoes.
We were taking on fire for the few days while we were there. Then we moved onto to Ste-Mere-Eglise and set up our command post in a farmhouse.

From there we went to Carentan and then followed the coast up to Cherbourg. When we got up there, Gen. Collins called me and two Chaplin’s—a catholic Chaplin and a protestant Chaplin—and he told us to go to Cherbourg and find a French priest or a bishop because that afternoon he was sending four division (30th, 4th, 9th, and 1st) to take the port city.

When we got to Cherbourg, they were fighting street-to-street and street corner to street corner. The Protestant Chaplin was a colonel and he said, “We can’t go in there. There is too much gun fire.” The Catholic Chaplin turned to me and said, “Gen. Collins gave us a mandate and I’m going in there.” He asked me, “Ned, will you come with me.” We put on our Red Cross armbands and went into this German hospital. We went looking for a German priest or somebody. So we went in and I met this nurse. In French, I asked her, “Where is the Priest.” I carried a .45 pistol and I shoved this pistol in her side and asked for the priest. She told us to go outside and down the street in a building was a French priest. So we went down there, knocked on the door and this priest came out screaming, “Oh, American! American! Come in! Come in!” He was glad to see us and gave each of us a glass of wine. After that, Father Gleason, an ole Irishman, said, “Ask him if he’s got Cognac.” I said, “The priest would like some Cognac.” No problem.

We stayed there for a while and the fighting continued in the city. There was this German fort that we needed to take to liberate this city. When we got there, they were taking these German prisoners out of this fort and hauling them back to VII Corps headquarters. After all the Germans were taken out of this fort, Father Gleason said, “Ned, let’s go in there and see if we can get some loot!” We go down this big hallway and there are large offices and warehouses on each side. We open this one door and it’s a warehouse full of liquor. (Priest was in heaven!) We got each a bottle of Cognac for ourselves and left. I told my jeep driver to call headquarters and ask to speak to Gen. Collins. I got him on the line and said, “General, we captured this fort, and Father Gleason and myself discovered a warehouse full of liquor.” He said, “Go-head!” I said, “Yep, we got all kinds: wine, scotch, whiskey, cognac, anything you want.” He said, “Ned, stay where you are. I’m sending six trucks your way. When they get there, start loading up as much as you can and send them back to headquarters.” When we got back he told me, “Redline those trucks and tomorrow morning I want you to go to each of the four divisional headquarters and bring them each a truck. Tell them its compliments of J. Lawden Collins.” So I did that, then General Collins said, “Well, Ned. There’s two trucks left. Ones for me and ones for you!” So, we had those trucks with us from Cherbourg on!

Language: 
English
Media Type: 
Audio
Collection: 
Jason Theriot
Subject: 
Oral History; World War II: Army; Europe
Creator: 
Jason Theriot
Informants: 
Ned Arceneaux
Recording date: 
Friday, April 23, 2004
Coverage Spatial: 
Lafayette, LA
Publisher: 
Jason Theriot
Rights Usage: 
All Rights Reserved
Meta Information
Duration: 
00:59:30
Cataloged Date: 
Monday, August 20, 2018
Digitized Date: 
Monday, August 20, 2018
Original Format: 
Microcassette
Digital Format: 
WAV
Bit Depth: 
24 bit
Sampling Rate: 
96 kHz
Storage Location: 
Archives of Cajun and Creole Folklore - Drawer 20

Interview with Ned Arceneaux (part 2)

Accession No.: 
TH1-003

Ned Arceneaux: Jason Theriot

(Continued) had trucks help pick up the liquor they found and were able to "keep" two of the trucks from then on

-They were stuck in the Falaise Gap and the planes couldn't come in and then they were bombed
-Operation Cobra and the VII Corps had 4 divisions under them (4th, 9th, 30th, and 1st)
-Arceneaux was a part of the quartermaster staff and followed behind the divisions
-They had to inspect cemeteries and railroads as part of their duties

When they got to Paris they had run out of gasoline and so the tanks couldn't move (3:33)
-A Red Ball Express drove by African Americans, they'd be up all 24 hours sometimes, refueling
-As Arceneaux had to keep track of all these going-ons on paper and then ration out the gasoline to the Armored Divisions (3rd Armored Division)
-Arceneaux was with the VII Corps until the Battle of the Bulge when the 54th Field Artillery Battalion supply officer got killed and he was transferred to replace that officer

Speaking French (7:00)
-Arceneaux could go and run errands for the unit as he could speak French while in France
-French treated him right as he could speak their language and was American however things changed after the war they were a bit more cold (resentment) towards the Americans
-But in Germany they were treated even better by the German people than any other country

Back to the Battle of the Bulge (10:40)
-Still with the VII Corps and when the battle broke out, that was when Arceneaux was transferred to the 54th
-he was in charge of running up the supplies and the gasoline for tanks, trucks, halftracks and jeeps for 2 weeks

Bastogne, on the outskirts (16:08)
-Arceneaux was with Patton when he came to rescue the place with his tanks
-Then went back to France and then through Germany to Nordhousen

Nordhousen, Germany (18:03)
-A regiment of the 3rd Armored Division that found a concentration camp
-Went on Leipzig and met up with the Russians on the Elbe River
-There was all these displaced persons with them everywhere and following them; they had to transport them to the Russians sections
-Arceneaux had to drive the trucks that would pack these people on them like cattle to get it done faster
-Russians would inspect the truck in and out of the section and they'd take anything they could from them, displaced people's or American soldiers' possessions

Trip back (23:05)
-Stayed in Europe with the occupation until October
-Arceneaux got out on points and sent to Reimes, France and was put in a n Engineer Battalion as a Personnel Officer
-On a Liberty ship went through the Strait of Gibraltar and in the Atlantic Ocean hit a storm and everyone had to stay below deck as there was no railings except a thin wire
-Anchored in New York and Arceneaux was put on a train to Camp Shelby, Mississippi to be discharged
-Kept him for 3 days as they wanted him to stay in the army but Arceneaux said no and took a train to New Orleans and then a bus to his brother’s house

Got to his brother's house in Lafayette as he lived in town (30:06)
-Surprised his sister-in-law; she was in a packing and seal organization that sent food over to the soldiers and she'd send him a package every week
-Then went over to his parents' house to see his mother and she cooked for him

Talking and names given (33:20)

Continuation of Transcript:

When we got back he told me, “Redline those trucks and tomorrow morning I want you to go to each of the four divisional headquarters and bring them each a truck. Tell them its compliments of J. Lawden Collins.” So I did that, then General Collins said, “Well, Ned. There’s two trucks left. Ones for me and ones for you!” So, we had those trucks with us from Cherbourg on!

We had to go and inspect the cemetery and inspect the supplies coming in from the railroad. Then we’d have to make our reports to our colonel and he would report to Gen. Collins.

We had to get all the gas for the tanks and trucks. The 3rd Armored Division was attached to us. When we got to Paris we had run out of gasoline. So, we had to stay there for a while. The Red Ball Express, all black soldiers, would drive these trucks all night long. One of these guys was from Lafayette. He worked at a lumberyard. One time, he told me about the Red Ball. He said, “We had to put that damn truck to the floor; we’d go and unload then come right back and load up again.” He said, “Sometimes we’d go 24 hours without sleep, just rations.” They caught hell that Red Ball Express. But, they got the job done.

When General Collins would say, “Ned, I need some fresh eggs. Not just for me but for the whole unit.” So, I’d try to find an egg merchant. I found one in Carentan, France just below Ste-Mer-Eglise. This is where I met an egg merchant. I told him how many dozen we needed—I had the numbers all figured out. “Oh yeah,” he said. “We can fix that.” So he invites me into his house. “Come on, let’s have a drink,” he said. So, he pours some Calvados. It was the worst damn thing that I ever drank. It wasn’t the good stuff; it was the rotgut. He served it with coffee and man by the time I left I was so damn drunk. I got out of there in hurry, but anytime that I needed some more eggs I’d go back to him.

I spoke the language and the French people treated me right. But I was American and we were liberating them, so whatever we wanted, we could get.

We were on the outskirts of Bastogne and firing on the Germans. Patton came in with his tanks and rescued Bastogne.

We had made it to Germany and we were staying at a college there when the Battle of the Bulge broke out. When word came in that the Germans were making their move, we had to move and go back through Belgium.

I stayed with VII Corps until the Battle of the Bulge. After that I was transferred to the 54th Field Arillery Battalion.

In the 54th Field Artillery, we had three firing batteries with 105mm’s mounted on tanks. And we had to supply them with gas and oil and parts and whatever they needed. I had 6 trucks and jeeps to use every morning to move supplies. We had a guy who was the gasman. I believe he had 16 halftracks to go to the depot, load up, and transport it back to the vehicles.

When we took Cologne, Germany, our guns, three batteries, fired on the city for 24 hours. That whole day, this gasman and I would drive our trucks and halftracks to the depot, load up on gasoline, then drive back to the line.

We ended up in Nordhousen, Germany. That’s where we found a concentration camp. We didn’t know anything about then. I had never seen anything like it. Were we shocked? Shocked, oh my, my, my. We were attached to a regiment in the 3rd Armored Division, and they were the ones who found this place.

We went to Leipzig on the Elbe River; that’s when we met the Russians. There were thousands of these displaced persons from Poland and all over other parts of Europe. They were scattered all over in camps. After V-E day we were staying as the Army of Occupation and we had to transport these people to the Russians. We would load them up in trucks with all their clothes and belongings; they were pitiful looking—it was real sad. On the first trip that I made with my trucks, we brought maybe ten people per truck. I thought, “This ain’t gonna work.” So, on the second run, we hurried these people on their like cattle. They were pitiful. When we’d get to the Russian section to drop them off, there were these two big buxom women with rifles at the checkpoint. They would stop us and then come to inspect what we had on each truck. If you had a wristwatch on, you’d better make sure that it was in your pocket or they would swipe it from you. We didn’t want anything to do with these people. They were mean people.

When the war ended, the German people treated us better than the French did. We had liberated them, but I guess they had a different attitude.

I stayed in Europe until October and finally got out on points. I left from Reimes, France and rode on a Liberty ship through the Strait of Gibraltar and across the Atlantic. I landed in New York and was sent to Camp Shelby, Mississippi to be discharged. They wanted to promote me and keep me there. I told them, “Man, I just want to go home. I want to go home.” I took a bus to my brother’s house.

My poor sister-in-law was so glad to see me. See, she would go to this place in Lafayette where you could pack and seal foods to send overseas and I would get a package from her every week. This captain told me he wanted some Tabasco Sauce, so I wrote to my sister-in-law and she sent me three or four bottles. The first day that he tried it, I showed him how to use it and this captain said, “Wow man!” We were sitting around and these three officers were eating together. This one officer said, “Hey man, what is that?” I told him it was Tabasco sauce. He said, “Oh man, I understand that’s good stuff.” So he grabbed the bottle and started pouring it on and I said, “Hey podna! Wait! Wait! Go slow; that’s hot stuff!” When he tried it he said, “Oh yeah that’s hot stuff!” We all bust out laughing.

Language: 
English
Media Type: 
Audio
Collection: 
Jason Theriot
Subject: 
Oral History; World War II; Army; Europe
Creator: 
Jason Theriot
Informants: 
Ned Arceneaux
Recording date: 
Friday, April 9, 2004
Coverage Spatial: 
Lafayette, LA
Publisher: 
Jason Theriot
Rights Usage: 
All Rights Reserved
Meta Information
Duration: 
00:34:01
Cataloged Date: 
Monday, August 20, 2018
Digitized Date: 
Monday, August 20, 2018
Original Format: 
Microcassette
Digital Format: 
WAV
Bit Depth: 
24 bit
Sampling Rate: 
96 kHz
Storage Location: 
Archives of Cajun and Creole Folklore - Drawer 20

Interview with Minos Armentor

Accession No.: 
TH1-004

Minos Armentor: Jason Theriot; Hewitt Theriot

-Starts with when Armentor remembers Pearl Harbor and brief summary of his service
-Was practicing law and was above the draft age but finally did enlist as an officer
-Went to New Orleans to the Naval Officer Procurement with another man, Wilbur Allain
-Armentor went to the Pacific as Allain went to the Atlantic
-Did training for a seaman in Tucson, Arizona and in Fort Schuyler, New York
-Then in Panama he got on an oil tanker and eventually to Okinawa (end of 1944)
-Never was in battle but hit 2 typhoons; lost a lot of men

-While in the Pacific gave out information; the big joke at the time was that they'd see the "Golden Gate '48," in that by 1948 they'd be able to see the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco again

-President Truman then dropped the 2 bombs and that was the end of the war
-So instead of getting back in '48, Armentor got back in the first month in 1945
-they were prepared to stay another 3 years and attack Japan
-Kamikaze planes would come over them in Okinawa Bay and they'd turn off all lights so then they couldn't crash into just one ship or any ship if they couldn't see

"Question: Where did all that oil, gasoline and petroleum your tankard had refuel for cargo?" (5:23)
-Had Panama oil tanker come and fill them up; some had enough for the fighter and merchant ships
-A lot of the oil came from the west coast, Alaska and Mexico
-Louisiana was not a part of the oil

"Question: When you were commissioned as an ensign, what month and year were you on the cargo vessel?" (7:45)
-May 1943 joined the Navy commissioned and then training
-Tucson was going through shortage of water so they could not go on ships
-Fort Schuyler was too close to the rocks to do anything except study
-At Panama for 3 months, on fishing vessels to protect the canal from the Japanese
-controlled the traffic from the Atlantic and Pacific

On the oil tanker (10:29)
-By the end of 1943 Armentor was commissioned to the oil tanker and was on there from 1944-1945
-It was a liberty ship tankard with really thin armor and had machine guns and depth charges
-Armentor was the stores and commissary officer and took care of the supplies and helped loading
-Ships would pull up aside to be refueled; aircraft carriers were the hardest

Back to Okinawa (14:24)
-Aircraft attacks from the Kamikaze; they wanted either ammunition ships or the tankards
-No escorts when travelling to be protected
-supply ships took different routes than the fighting ships or the fighting was finished before they reached there

The tankard (16:38)
-Armentor's cargo ship was a liberty ship called the Kangaroo, just oil
-100 crew member, 10-12 officers
-Could go 10-12 knots, real slow; had radar (maybe got it during the war)
-Was never attacked or ever saw battle; only ever fought was the winds and rain of the typhoons
-Many ships sunk from the typhoons

Route to Okinawa Bay (20:47)
-Left U.S. with fuel and stopped in Tulagi and then New Guinea and then Okinawa

"Where did you tank again?"
-Other tankards met them in midocean; they would just anchor and everyone else would come to them to refuel
-Hard parts were the hosing and cranks of the big pumps
-Okinawa was the final spot and if Truman hadn't dropped the bombs, they'd have gone into Japan
-Would follow the fleet

Talking of the careers of others, the people that have passed and retirement (24:20)

Back to the war (26:36)
-The bombs are dropped and Armentor was loaded onto an aircraft carrier on the tankard
-Had been at sea for mostly 2 years; only made one trip back home to be married
-On the way back (from leave) at San Francisco went on another ship (The Chotouk) to the other tankard
-Heading home (at end of war) went above the Hawaiian Islands and came down to San Francisco; the Arctic Circle more or less
-Took a plane or a train home can't remember

Talking and retracing his route again (31:00)

-Talking about Theriot's work and people interviewed (33:20)
-Someone's story about dealing with a bazooka
-The interview with Dr. Harry Bernard
-Telling of one of his stories of his rescue by submarine (pilot rescue)
-Talking about people they wish to interview or had interviewed
-Remark on a few people that had interesting interviews but do not go into detail

Cuts off into silence (40:24)

Meeting his friend (40:42)
-Met up with a buddy from Houma during the war
-He had heard that he was fighting in the mountains of Peleliu and Armentor wanted to see him
-Somehow he was able to come out of his post and waded out to the water and Armentor walked towards him
-Parted and he watched him go back to his post
-Then noticed a clam that was about 3-4 feet in length open (feeding), so he put a stick in its mouth to shut it before it got his legs
-Shocked Armentor that there was something that big and how close he got to having his legs snapped
-Friend was Bruce Hebert and was a good catcher for the baseball team

Ends Armentor interview; after is another interview on the bazooka story and a personal note (47:08)

Transcription:

Minos Armentor
Born Nov. 18, 1914
Interview 10-15-2001

LT. (j.g.) M. Armentor served as officer aboard oil tanker in Pacific.
He entered the service in May 1943.

I was practicing law at the time. (Beginning of WWII) I was above draft age. Finally the draft improved and I was ready to go into service as an officer, which I did. Wilbur Allain, from Jeanerette, and I went to the Naval Officer Procurement in New Orleans and we were both commissioned as ensigns. Wilbur went on to the Atlantic and I went to the Pacific.

Before that I spent 60 days of training in Tuscon, Arizona and 60 days of training in Fort Schuyler in New York. I trained for seamen ship, navigation, and all the things a naval officer should know. Ironically, Tuscon had a severe shortage of water. We hardly had enough water for showers. We really didn't have any ships to train with there. It was the same thing in New York. At least in New York, at Fort Schuyler, we were close to the water. While I was there I was able to ride the subway, and go to the Commodore Hotel on weekends. That was while we were off, the rest of the time we were studying to become officers.

Then I went down to Panama for about 3 months. I was stationed on the West Coast of Panama. We were assigned to fishing vessels; protecting the coast from the Japanese. They (Japanese) wanted to capture the Canal. Who ever controls the Canal controls the traffic from the Atlantic to the Pacific. They (Japanese) had plans in the works to attack the Panama Canal. So, we had a bunch of these fishing boats. There were two officers and about 14 sailors per ship. And we would go up and down the coast, about 15 miles from the Canal Zone. We had a machine gun on top, depth charges, to drop in case we came across submarines.

And then I got onto an oil tanker. Actually it was a liberty ship tanker- The Kangaroo. Very thin armor. There were about 100 crewmembers and about 10 or 12 officers on board. Those liberty ships were slow, only about 12 knots. We had machine guns in the back and depth charges. It was a tanker that would supply oil and diesel fuel to the fighting ships. We went down to the Solomon Islands. We were anchored off Tulagi. We were refueling those ships that were fighting the Japanese right there. And ships would come along side while we were anchored and we would fill them up. I was stores and commissary officer. I was in charge of loading all the supplies on board ship; food and every thing else, including the beer!

Tulagi was very popular place. We were able to get off and have a few drinks at the officers club there on the island.

From there I went to Treasure Island in the New Guinea area. Finally I ended up at Okinawa. Up until that I had not been in any battles or any danger. At Okinawa we had two Typhoons that we ran into. We lost a lot of lives. I had a good captain on the ship that I was on. And he kept our ship anchored, double-anchor, all throughout the Typhoon, against the wind of course- to keep from having our anchor line broken. Many ships capsized and a lot of sailors drowned. We were never attacked by the Japanese- only by Mother Nature. Of course that was just a few years ago. (Jokingly)

All the while in the Pacific we jokingly said, 'Golden Gate in '48.' We were hoping to get back to the Golden Gate (Bridge) in San Francisco in 1948.

I was able to come home on leave to New Iberia for about a week. I was married at that time, but when I got back to San Francisco, I was assigned to a new tanker-The Chotouk.

From Panama on into Guadalcanal, we had huge oil tankers come and fill us up, sometimes in mid-ocean. Some of those big tankers would have enough to fill up the fighting ships and merchant ships. We were a merchant ship more or less. A lot of that oil came from Alaska and Mexico. All of that oil came to merchant ships, commercial ships. Merchant tankers were loaded down with oil. It was crude oil, more or less. But others carried gasoline and diesel. This is the main reason why the Islands (Aleutian's) in the North Atlantic were so important. We had storage areas for oil all over the place: East Coast, West Coast, Panama, Midway Island, etc…

Aircraft carriers were hard to fuel up. We fueled up destroyers, cruisers, and landing craft too. We used hoses, cranes, and big pumps to distribute the oil to those ships.

We had no escorts. We traveled alone.

If President Truman had not dropped those two bombs on Japan we would have made the invasion of the home island. See we would move up as the fleet would move up. We would have lost thousands of American lives. But we were prepared to attack Japan if it came to that.

We had these Japanese Kamikaze planes come over where we were in Okinawa Bay. And we had over a thousand ships in this huge bay. Finally we all got smart enough to figure out- the hell with the Kamikaze- we will just put all of our lights out. When we got notice of the Kamikaze coming we put all of our lights out (aboard ship) and tend our battle stations. The next thing you know, the Kamikaze didn't know where to hit us, because they were coming to hit an individual ship. It was a personal thing with them (Kamikaze pilots). They were giving up their lives for this.

Thanks to President Truman, when he dropped those two bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. When he did that, it was the end of the war. We were then able to get back. I got back to the states, instead of 'Golden Gate in '48'; I got back in the December of '45.

To come home, I got on an aircraft carrier. I came into San Francisco Bay. I took a plane home from there.

I'll tell ya, us youngsters 84, and old timers 86, we're lucky we still hanging around.

Language: 
English
Media Type: 
Audio
Collection: 
Jason Theriot
Subject: 
Oral History; World War II: Navy; Pacific
Creator: 
Jason Theriot
Informants: 
Minos Armentor
Recording date: 
Monday, October 15, 2001
Coverage Spatial: 
New Iberia, LA
Publisher: 
Jason Theriot
Rights Usage: 
All Rights Reserved
Meta Information
Duration: 
01:16:39
Cataloged Date: 
Monday, August 20, 2018
Digitized Date: 
Monday, August 20, 2018
Original Format: 
Microcassette
Digital Format: 
WAV
Bit Depth: 
24 bit
Sampling Rate: 
96 kHz
Storage Location: 
Archives of Cajun and Creole Folklore - Drawer 20

Interview with Roy Armentor

Accession No.: 
TH1-005

Andrew Roy Armentor; Jason Theriot; Mrs. Roy Armentor

-Spoke French all his life; there was even a few times when Armentor was sent home from school because he spoke only French
-By the time Armentor was a teenager, he was speaking English; taught his parents
-Armentor was out of high school working when WWII broke out; he had worked at the rice mill in the packing department
-On December 7, 1941 he was at home and heard about Pearl Harbor on the radio and his brother, who was in the Marines, was called immediately back from leave

-Armentor was drafted in February 1943
-Left Abbeville by bus and came to New Iberia and then Fort Polk
-He was the sole supporter for his family after the war broke out
-He had tried to volunteer with 3 friends at LSU but Armentor failed the eye test; did not want to go into the infantry but the Air Corps

Training (13:03)
-No one from New Iberia that he knew of made it to Polk with him
-Then went to Camp Butner in Durham, North Carolina took basic training there
-Came home on leave once after basic
-Thought they were well disciplined soldiers that stuck together; last company of the battalion all the time
-Armentor was a part of a group that volunteered for a special unit that spoke French and went to D.C. for more training
-altogether there was five in Armentor's group: Claude Galley, Nolan Frickey, an Allamon by the name of White from Perry, a Veilleux from Maine and Billadoux from Nova Scotia
-They asked them questions on whether they would be able to do certain duties, like jumping out a plane
-hazardous duties; they had no idea what they were getting into
-Lived in tents on the outskirts of Washington D.C., had a small potbelly stove to keep warm as it was snowing
-Ran 5 miles every morning, ate breakfast, exercises and then to classes

Then went into Maryland and then shipped to Norfolk, Virginia to go onto a big Liberty Ship and cross the Atlantic (28:43)
-At the time Armentor had tonsillitis and suffered from motion sickness; sailed for 15 days and 13 days he was sick
-Landed in Casablanca, North Africa and traveled by train through Oran to Algiers
-All the towns they went through they heard "C'est la guerre!" which meant "It's the war!"
-Stopped near the seashore for parachute training for 3 days and made 5 jumps
-Armentor always jumped in the middle or the rear to make sure everyone made it out; known as the static line out of a C-47
-They had a section of 30 men, but they had 15 men in their sub-section; Armentor stayed with the same 5 men he volunteered with
-They were a special reconnaissance battalion, part of the OSS (but they didn't know what that really meant)

Went to maneuvers with the French Foreign Legion in the Atlas Mountains (39:40)
-They had to live off the land in the fields and did not have rations; ate better this way as they knew how to cook
-Either they hunted or stole from the Arabs' gardens
-The French Legion were rugged people and were from North Africa, so all were black, but they had good communication with them
-Was easy to even talk with the people they met in towns, could order anything from places; a lot was donated though, like wine

First mission (50:50)
-First mission Armentor hurt his back and they landed in a field
-Assigned one night and flew over France but they did not find the signal so they had to go back to Algiers
-Reassigned another night with the French Marquis and the landing gear of the Liberty Bomber had trouble so they turned back around
-Third time they went, jumped out of a British Sterling; commanded by Lt. Weeks from Mississippi

-Armentor was a T-3 sergeant trained in demolitions; used pencil types and C-2 explosives
-They were equipped with a .45 pistol, a carbine rifle, trench knife, machete, a canteen, ammunition, grenades and rations
-explosives were dropped in containers with the men at the same time
-French Underground were tell them where to jump and then gathered up everything for them
-They jumped into the Castle Naizere, France in the Pyrenees that first night, supposed to be an 800 foot drop but it was a 500 feet fall
-it was dark and when the shoots went out
-they just fell and that's when Armentor hurt himself and was knocked out for a while; had to stay with a French family to heal

The French family (1:05:26)
-They were very serious and much against the German occupation forces
-They were like everyday people that anyone meets
-Had 2 story house, first floor had the cattle and second floor was the living space; very clean
-The family was very nice, "overly nice"; stayed there for about a week

After rejoining the group in the hills he was still too injured to go out with the group on a few missions (1:08:00)
-Near Carcassonne they were able to capture a few Germans, "a few bosses," one had a lot of money but he gave it to the French people;
-Armentor didn't believe he would ever make it back home so he kept nothing;
-the work they did was dangerous
-Did not know the mission in France was to stop any Germans from going into Spain as it was a haven for agents as it was a neutral country

Invasion of Southern France (1:11:58)
-They could hear the guns from Montpellier and on the radio they heard "le song liege et da vive" otherwise "the invasion has begun."
-Had 2 invasions, of Normandy and Southern France from over the Mediterranean
-Later on the group went to Grenoble while Armentor was sent to Marseilles and then Naples, Italy to a hospital (from his injury from the fall)
-Discharged and sent to below Naples at a repot depot to go with Patton's army as a replacement
-Armentor requested a 2 day leave and walked around the repot depot to see if he could find his group; he did and they took him the headquarters
-Hadn't seen his group for over a month and when he saw the colonel and told him that he was being shipped out with Patton but the colonel said he was going back home
-Out of the five that had signed up with him had all come back with him to the states

Speaking French in Combat (1:20:29)
-While in Toulouse at a hospital, the first night some German agents were shot trying to get in to kill Armentor as he was part of the French Underground
-He was always being moved around as the Germans were always targeting their group

Going Back (1:22:40)
-Stayed in the states for 30-35 days; still in a crouch
-Went back to Washington on the west coast then shipped out to India
-While in the Indian Ocean they got word of Roosevelt's death
-Once in India they went to Burma, flew over the Hump and into Kunming to start training a Chinese group (early 1944)
-While there in Kunming the bombs were dropped
-they were there training these men because there was to be a Chinese invasion on the coast

-Armentor was to go with his group and Lt. Weeks for a jump into China and the night before he was pulled out
-A major took his name off and sent him home; was supposed to be discharged a year ago
-Went back through India and through the Red Sea and Suez Canal back into the Atlantic
-That night of the jump it was cancelled as the bombs were dropped

-The five men that signed up together, Galley got shot through the hand and Armentor hurt his back, but all lived and came back home

Transcription:

Andrew Roy Armentor
804 Prioux St.
New Iberia, LA 70563
337-367-8823
Born: December 25, 1923
2477 Special Recon. Battalion/OSS
Southern France

I was born in Abbeville, Louisiana. My parents were French-speaking people and we spoke French all of our lives. We didn’t speak any English at home at all. Everyone around us spoke French; our friends, our neighbors, everybody spoke French. There was no way for us to learn English. In fact, when I went to school I was sent back home because I was a French-speaking student. They were trying to do away with the French-speaking language. I was sent back home three times for speaking French. I knew a little English, but I was going to continue going until they accepted me.

Once you know French, it stays with you all the time. Of course we speak a different language than the French-speaking people in France and in North Africa. It’s very close, but they speak what we would call a patios, which is a derivative from the French language, but they add words to it, like we add words over here. The French that we spoke in Abbeville when I was a young boy was on just about the same level as the language spoke when I went into the central part of France.

I was speaking English by the time I was a teenager. The schools that I attended growing up were made up of mostly French-speaking people. We were all Cajuns. In fact, there were very few who didn’t know any French. As the years progressed, we learned English because we had to, and then we’d try to teach it to our parents. We were all Cajuns alike in those days.

I was working when World War II broke out. We didn’t have government loans in those days; you either had money to go to school or you worked. We poor people, the Cajuns, we worked. I worked at United Gas for a while, then at the rice mill in the packing department.

On December 7, 1941, we were all home in the backyard because my brother had come home on leave from the Marines. We heard the news on the radio and he was immediately called back. We were not too impressed with what had happened, to be frank, because we didn’t know the actual meaning of it. We did realize that we were at war, however, we didn’t know what war meant. We had never been to war before. But because we had one in our family our view of war from then on was a little different.

Three of us tried to volunteer for the Air Corps. My two buddies made it my I didn’t. So I came back home and worked. I didn’t want to go into the infantry, but they drafted me anyway. I became a grunt instead…and I’m still a grunt! I was drafted in February 1943. I left from Abbeville and came to New Iberia. From there our group left on a bus and went to Fort Polk. From Polk I went to Durham, North Carolina, Camp Butner. It was rainy and cold, with ice-cickels, and we took basic there. We were becoming good soldiers, I would say, because we were very disciplined and we all worked hard. We came home on leave once, after basic (I got married), and when we returned that’s when all of this started to happen.

Wearing a full field pack, we would do about five miles in about 35 minutes. We were taught that if somebody dropped out, you would give your pack to another man, and you would pick up the other guy and carry him. We had a group of us that spoke French that became pretty good friends. This group of us volunteered for this special unit and we wound up in Washington D.C.

We saw some information that was posted on the bulletin board saying that the army was looking for volunteers who spoke French and other languages. So those of us who spoke French went to this meeting in a big auditorium and they spoke to us. They told us about the kind of work we would be doing and about what we would be expected to do. They asked us questions like whether we would jump out of an airplane. All together we were five; five French-speaking soldiers from south Louisiana; they were from Algiers, Merroro, Westwego, all from the New Orleans area, but Cajun nonetheless. One was Claude Galley, the other was Nolan Frickey, one was an Allamon, and a fellow by the name of White from Perry. There was also a Veilleux from the Maine area and Billadoux from up near Nova Scotia. They were from the Northeast but we all spoke French. And we all spoke the same French, the same patios. So we got along real well.

We all decided to volunteer for this special unit. Each one of us was investigated before we were accepted. The FBI investigated my background. The FBI came to Abbeville and contacted different people asking about my background. After the investigation we got our orders to move, and that didn’t take very long. And they didn’t give us too much information about it. All they wanted to know was if we would do hazardous duty, such as jumping into an area. We didn’t think about it too much, because when you are young, you didn’t think too much about things like that; you more or less thought about everyday life. I didn’t think about the hazardous duty we would be doing with this particular group; I had no idea. And I wasn’t the only one. None of us had any idea what we were getting into.

In November 1943, we got to Washington and we were assigned to these tents to live in. We didn’t have any special treatment; we were just regular soldiers. We lived in those tents with a little bitty potbelly stove to keep us warm at night when we would sleep. It was snowing and it was cold and we coonies didn’t know what snow was. In the mornings we would fallout with just a T-shirt, shorts, and jump boots. We’d run five miles every morning. We came in and had breakfast, took exercises, went to classes—demolition classes or knife-fighting classes—all kinds of classes. We even learned Kung Fu. It was really harsh training. But understand, we didn’t know anything about what was going on. I knew there were people experimenting with different types of explosives. They would invent it and we would try it out. We stayed there training for several months.

We went to Maryland to continue training. We were shipped out of Norfolk, Virginia on a great big Liberty Ship. We traveled across the North Atlantic on the thing and I had tonsillitis at the time—I’ll never forget that. We were all in a hole in the bottom of the ship and it was stuffy, it smelled like diesel fuel, and I suffer from motion sickness. This young doctor gave me an intravenous shot that didn’t go into my vain. It went all throughout my body. I had to strap myself in this bunk with my belt to keep myself from falling off. And that ship was rocking back and forth. We rocked and rolled across the Atlantic for 15 days.

We landed in Casablanca in North Africa. I couldn’t walk a straight line when I got off that ship. We traveled on these rail cars through Oran and into Algiers. It was a slow moving thing and it took us a few days to get there. It was moving so slow that we would jump off and walk for a little bit and relieve ourselves, and then jump back on. There was no beds, no bathrooms, and we ate C rations—those beautiful rations. The toilet was outside and you held on if you had to go do a number two and you did the best that you could. We traveled through the towns that way. C’est la guerre! That’s all we heard when we came through those town: “C’est la guerre.”

Our section encamped about 4 or 5 miles off the seashore. We were preparing for parachute training. We began preparing on a Monday thru Wednesday doing mock training: jumping out of planes, how to roll, what to do, how to hold your risers. On the fifth day, they brought us to the airport and we drew our shoots. We had two shoots, a main and a reserve. I was a sergeant so I jumped in the middle of the stick or the end of the stick. We were 15 men training for static line jump out of a C-47. Three days of training. On that first day, we jumped out, landed, rolled our shoots, put our gear in the trucks, went right back to the airport, drew another shoot, went back up again, and jumped out again. We made two jumps a day. I did well until the fourth jump. I was in the middle and the fellow who jumped after me jumped on my shoot and got his feet entangled in my shoot. We were coming down and my shoot wasn’t open. I looked down, then looked up and saw that his feet were caught, so I started whipping my risers until finally he got loose and my shoot blossomed. I came down and rolled right away. He landed and broke his leg.

The five of us stayed together in a section. We went to Algiers as a group, and we trained as a group, and we jumped into France as a group. We were a special reconnaissance battalion, part of the OSS, although that didn’t really mean anything to us.
We were briefed in Algiers and went on maneuvers in the Atlas Mountains with the French Foreign Legion. We lived off the land because we didn’t have enough rations to eat. But a “coonie” is hard to beat when he gets on the outskirts, living on the land. He knows what to steal; he knows what to kill. He knows what he likes and what he doesn’t like and he knows how to prepare it. All of us knew how to cook. We had goat and lamb and we’d hunt javalinas in the moonlight. We skinned them and cooked them. We’d steal vegetables from the Arab’s gardens. We’d raid the fruit trees and bring all that back to camp.

Those French were very rugged soldiers. They were dark-skinned Moroccans and they were very tough. Most of them were from North Africa and they all spoke French, the same kind of French that we Cajuns spoke, almost. So, we got along pretty good with them. We’d go into town every once in awhile and go to the burless shows. The actors would make fun of us because we were paratroopers, but we could understand their French. It was little jokes about us, but we knew. We could go into the communities and drink all the wine that we wanted; we could order anything at the restaurants. We paid for it all, but very little. Sometimes the five of us would go into the little towns and the people would give us wine and bread. The wine was very plentiful in North Africa, very plentiful…too plentiful!

I would rather be in the paratroopers than any other branch of the service. You were on your own and you were with a group. And you operated with this small group. We never worked with a large group. We worked with a group of British Commandos while we were there, too. All of us—the French, British and Americans were all Special Forces training in that area.

Prior to us, there was another OSS unit formed in England. They were jumping into France and working with the French Underground, the Marquis, gathering information and wiring it back. Sam Broussard was apart of that.

We were trained in demolitions, to cut rails for trains, blow up bridges, how to attack a column. It was a hit and run deal—we’d hit, then run, but we stayed in. We’d jump into a section and conduct our mission and then regroup to go to attack another section. We never stayed in the same area very long. And we did all of this in conjunction with the French Underground, because they gathered the information for us and then we prepared the attacks and went to work.

On our first mission into France we flew in a British Halifax over our jump area, but we couldn’t find the signal on the ground. So we had to come back. We had gone from Algiers, across the Mediterranean and into France and we had to come back. We were reassigned for another night to jump in with the French Marquis. Their job was to light up a section for us to jump into at night. On that second time, we made it over the Mediterranean, and then our plane—a British Liberty bomber—had trouble with the landing gear. So, we had to turn back around. The third time was on British Sterling. We got the signal over the area and we jumped out of the bomb bay. You would sit in a line on the floor and scoot up until you got over the hole and then you just fell out of the plane. You see, the C-47 could not make that trip on two engines. We had to fly in the big bombers to get us there.

We were one plane, one stick, commanded by Lt. Weeks from Mississippi. I was a T-3, a sergeant, trained in demolitions. We used pencil types and C-2 explosives. You could apply this explosive like a putty and you could cut a rail with just a little piece of it. All 15 of us had the same training, the same skills, same weapons, same specialty, and we all spoke French. The one thing that I carried that I wish I would not have was this bush knife—a machete. It was a long blade with an arrow point. We should have never had that, because we were so overloaded. You had grenades, you had your gun, you had your parachute, and you had a little pack. It was all a bit too much. But I guess that’s what we needed.

I had a .45 pistol and a carbine rifle with a folding stock. I had a trench knife, that machete, a canteen, ammunition, grenades and rations. Our explosives were dropped with us in these containers. Both the men and the material were dropped at the same time. The Underground was there waiting for us. They would secure the area from the Boch. They gathered everything on the jump, including our chutes and our containers and they threw all that into wood-burning trucks, and that’s how they powered their automobiles. We would gather ourselves and go into the mountains with them. They had a headquarters up in the Pyrenees Mountains. We jumped into Castle Naizere, France that first night.

We jumped into the southern part of Aude and we worked our way up in Toulouse. We did a lot of work in Carcassonne. On our first mission in southern France, we started off out in the open, in a field. I didn’t think too much about our position and I wasn’t the only one. As I’d go around checking each man, they all felt the same way: “We’re too much in the open. We’re too much in the open.” But you are taught and disciplined to the point that you obey your commanding office and he tells you ‘this is it and that’s it.’ But we were fortunate. At dusk it happened… and it didn’t last very long. The column turned and they went another way. We regrouped up in the mountains and prepared for another mission.

We were supposed to make an 800-foot jump into the Pyrenees. But it ended up being about a 500-foot fall. We jumped out and our chutes blossomed. It was dark and we landed in this area. We all converged with the French Underground and moved out.

I injured myself when I landed. The landing knocked me out, but I came to shortly after. Our medic, Guion from Mississippi, fixed me up. I went into the headquarters and then went down into the village with the French people. I stayed with a French family. The man was le guard de forrestia—a forest ranger. He wanted my rifle but I couldn’t give it to him. He had never seen a carbine and I’ll always regret not giving it to him, but I would not have had a rifle to protect myself. So I gave him my machete. Damn right. I’m glad that I gave it to him because it was a pain to carry around.

The French were very serious people and they were very much against the German occupation. They were like everyday people that you would meet, just like our neighbors that we had growing up in Abbeville. They took me into the safety of their home. They had an upstairs where they lived. Downstairs they kept their cattle and made their milk and butter down there. In other words, the dairy part was down below where they lived. But everything was spotless, clean, well taken care of. They were very, very nice to me; overly nice, you could say. The wife tried various kinds of medicinal things to relieve the pain. I’d exercise every day for a week or so. The rest of my unit was up in the hills and eventually I joined them. That was the last time that I saw that French family. I am very sorry that I did not get their names because I would like to have communicated with them after the war. This was in Castle Nazaire.

I rejoined my group up in the hills, but I was still too injured to go out on a mission. From there we went to different sections.

We captured a few Germans, a few bosses, near Carcassonne and brought them into the French. I captured one who must have been a gambler. He had a purse full of money. So I took the money and gave it to the French people. I was so sure that I wasn’t coming back home. I didn’t think that I would ever make it back.

Our job was different from a regular GI. We lived in danger…there was danger around you all the time. Our mission was to stop the Germans from getting into Spain, more or less, but we didn’t know that at the time. We only knew what we had to do on these missions. Spain was a haven for agents; it was a neutral country, a free country. Anybody could go into Spain. We had a hand radio to communicate back and forth with the army. The only ones who really knew what was really going on were the radioman and the commanding officer. He told us what to do and that was it.

When the invasion of Southern France had commenced, we could hear the guns from Montpellier, because we were just north of the city. And we could hear the guns very plainly and we knew something was happening. We also heard on the radio, “le song liege et da vive”—the invasion has begun. And we heard that on the radio all day long.

Later my group went on the Grenoble and I went down to Marseilles. From there I was sent to a hospital in Naples, Italy. I was later discharged from the hospital and shipped to a repot depot. I was destined to go in with Patton’s Army as a replacement. I was waiting to be shipped out and so I requested a two-day leave. I started walking and I told myself, You’ve got to walk around and spot your group’s number on a truck or something. And sure enough, as I walked, I saw this truck coming down the road and on his bumper was the Special Recon number #2477. I got in the middle of the road and I stopped him I told he to take me to the headquarters and I told him why. So I got in the truck and passed right by the repot depot on our way. We drove a few miles and there was my headquarters. I had not seen my unit in over a month. I got in and requested to see the colonel. I went in and he recognized me. I told him that I was being shipped out with Patton’s Army. He said, “No you not. You’re going back home.”

One of our guys, Galley had got shot and one of the lieutenants was killed. The boy from Maine got in a confrontation with some Germans and he got out of it all right. All five of us, the original group, came back to the States.

I was in a hospital in Toulouse. There was a nurse who took care of me. The first night I was there, the French had shot some German agents who were trying to get into the hospital to get me. She told me about it the next morning. These Germans were on our tail all the time because we were with the French Underground. If those Germans would have got into that hospital, that would have been it for me. I would not have come back; they would have done it right there in the room. But I was very fortunate.

I left from Italy and came back to the States. I stayed in the States for 30 days. I was still in a crouch from my injury. I was sent to the west coast. The people up there used to marvel at us because we would run all the time. They said we were the runningist outfit you ever saw. We’d run through the compounds. We went across the Pacific and into the Indian Ocean. We were enroute to India when Roosevelt died. We went to India, then to Burma, flew over the Hump, and went into Kunming. We landed in Kunming and started training Chinese troops. While I was there we dropped the bomb. We were training to make a jump during the invasion of the Chinese coast. We were training these Chinese boys, but they hadn’t the slightest idea what they were doing.

I was destined to go out with Lt. Weeks. We were all there up in the mountains again. The same group. All five of us were together again. The night before we drew our equipment, my name was called out, and that was it for me. This major saw my name on the jump roster and pulled me out. He said, “I going to send you home; you should have been discharged a year ago.”

From India, through the Suez Canal, through the Mediterranean and across the Atlantic, we traveled. On my way back, the bomb was dropped. Lt. Weeks eventually jumped in with another group into to China.

The five men that went all made it back. I hurt my back, Galley got shot in his hand. This lieutenant, who had joined us in the latter part, got killed. The original five all made it back.

A lot of those people thought of us as a “frog, with webbed feet.” A lot of them believed and still believe today that we go around and communicate in pirogues and bateaus down the bayous. We were looked down on because we were from Louisiana; they thought they were better than us. But I was never downhearted about speaking French. I was always proud of speaking

Language: 
English
Media Type: 
Audio
Collection: 
Jason Theriot
Subject: 
Oral History; World War II: Special Recon Unit; Europe; French Underground
Creator: 
Jason Theriot
Informants: 
Roy Armentor
Recording date: 
Saturday, February 14, 2004
Coverage Spatial: 
New Iberia, LA
Publisher: 
Jason Theriot
Rights Usage: 
All Rights Reserved
Meta Information
Duration: 
01:31:33
Cataloged Date: 
Wednesday, August 22, 2018
Digitized Date: 
Tuesday, July 16, 2013
Original Format: 
Microcassette
Digital Format: 
WAV
Bit Depth: 
24 bit
Sampling Rate: 
96 kHz
Storage Location: 
Archives of Cajun and Creole Folklore - Drawer 20

Interview with Larry Aucoin

Accession No.: 
TH1-006

Larry Aucoin
Jason Theriot

-Born in the Philippines and was almost 8 years old when they went into the civilian prison camp in June 1942
-Family from New Iberia; both sides
-After his little sister was born, the Japanese started taking over; they were on the Island of Negros
-When the Japanese began island hopping, Aucoin's father heard that if they made it to the mountains a submarine would come and bring them to Australia
-they stayed there for a couple of weeks and then decided to take their chances in the camps
-Their first camp, the camp commandant was a graduate from UCLA that spoke English and French as well;
-a lot of the Japanese had been educated in America and did not believe they'd win the war, only the lower ranking soldiers did
-They were fairly nice to the civilian prisoners, so as long as they were treated with respect; like bowing when meeting

Before the Japanese came, the Aucoin family lived on the island of Negros and his father was a sugar mill manager (5:24)
-The whole island was dedicated for sugar making
-a Philippine company owned it and the boss would still give his father money so he could buy extra food in the camp
-They stayed in a civilian prison camp and never saw any soldier prisoners
-119 civilian prisoners from the island of Negros (American, Australians, British, and Canadians) were sent to Manila, to the camp Santa Tomas, which had a little over 8-7,000 prisoners and at the end of the war it was probably 4,000, many had died from stress and malnutrition

-The Filipinos were disturbed how the foreigners had been put in these camps
-they'd pass along news but the Japanese made sure to only highlight when they had won a battle with the Allies
-Yet with each time the Americans/Allies were beat, the battles were closer and closer to where the Philippines were so the adults in the camps were able to keep track of war through this method
-From November 1944 to February 1945 the Navy was near Manila and would bomb them daily
-fighter pilots would fly over the camps and drop their goggles with messages and news

The 1st Marine Cavalry came into the camp to liberate them (14:00)
-Set up a pounding of the Japanese and they retreated
-Japanese outnumbered the American, but they didn't know that

Life in the Camp (16:04)
-They had never tried to escape, the Japanese made it clear if caught you were tortured and publicly executed
-there was no place to go on an island anyway
-At first when they were picked up, in the camps they had family friends from the same island
-In Manila at camp Santa Tomas the men and teenage boys were separated from the women and children at night
-Had breakfast, hardly anything for lunch and then a supper
-Food ration from towards the end of the war:

Breakfast
1 cup of watery mush (watered down rice)
Weak coffee
Lunch
1 cup of soybean soup
Dinner
1 cup of boiled sweet potato leaves
1 cup of gravy

-His father weighed 120 lbs. when they were liberated
-In the beginning the food wasn't bad and they could pay for extra from the locals but at the end of the war, paid food was taken away and meals rationed
-The locals did as much as they could to support them
-Aucoin's father had connections in Manila as he worked there before

After the Fact (23:10)
-The one thing that has really bothered Aucoin was that the Japanese Nesi got $20,000 tax-free for spending 3 years in the internment camps in Arizona and had three meals a day compared to what they had in the Philippines
-Aucoin had also found out that his father in 1941 tried to get them back into the states but was denied by the American Embassy
-They were not allowed to leave as Roosevelt felt that if there was mass fleeing it would demoralize the Filipinos;
-Americans were told to stay there for the good of the country but were treated worse than the Japanese Neisi and not paid for it like them
-Roosevelt wanted to get involved in the war and the Japanese were his ticket in, so they had the Americans in Philippines stay in hopes to use the Philippines prisoners as an excuse for going to war;
-got Pearl Harbor instead
-After the war, his father spent a lot of time with Senator Long going through documents in Congress trying to prove that this happened, but at that time everything was classified

Back to Prison Camp Life (26:22)
-Went to school for half a day and was taught by Belgian nuns and when they went "home" their father would teach them
-When liberated and going back to America Aucoin was shocked to find they had to go to school all day long
-Aucoin stayed with the smaller children and women in the camp and on their side there was a chicken coop that he'd crawl into to wait for eggs; always hungry
-They had 50-acres of land to play on in the camp, so to Aucoin it did not feel like they were prisoners but he did understand that they were being held against their will
-He can only imagine the worry his father had trying to feed all of them
-They played a few games like soccer and the Japanese would organize boxing matches between the kids for entertainment
-They had their own structure of government/medical treatment within the camp; their own laws and justice
-Santa Tomas camp was a university before the war, so the buildings were set up as dorms, medical treatment centers, etc.
-The weather was a tropical climate

Liberation (41:17)
-Was in the camp when the Japanese surrendered
-Aucoin was more interested in the planes with the rising sun on their wings flying over; no American planes till mid 1940s
-The planes were flying over but no air raids were made so no one (prisoners) could figure out why until someone saw the star on the planes when the marines landed and started pushing back the Japanese (but they didn't know that)
-That night their camp was liberated, a tank broke down the gate and began firing, scattering the Japanese and prisoners
-But they seemed to know where the Japanese went and as they all holed up in one building; they were there for 2 days before surrendering
-The prisoners hid under their cots waiting to be told to get out and then escorted out to occupied sections of Manila
-Had to go on a diet as the food the Americans had was too rich and everyone got sick
-They left Manila to the island of Leyte that was an army convalescent camp and injured soldiers center
-kids had it made there as the soldiers would "adopt" them and give them whatever they wanted

They eventually got on a transport ship to San Francisco that was going for supplies (51:48)
-They came back to the U.S. with nothing; their home on the island of Negros had still not been liberated
-When it was decided that the Japanese would be able to captured them, Aucoin's father buried a bunch of valuables they had under the house;
-the house was burned but a few friends/servants managed to send a few things back
-Aucoin or his family have never been back to the Philippines or the island of Negros; after the war it became dangerous
-Aucoin found some papers from his father and found a document that showed they were given $400 for the three years in the camp
-From San Francisco they took a train to New Orleans and stayed at his late grandfather's home
-He had died in April while they were still on the island of Leyte and missed the funeral

-The only big memory that Aucoin has of the camp is that he was always hungry and didn't understand why they couldn't have more food
-Slept well at night and woke up at 6ish in the morning and was kept busy with lessons or working in the gardens
-Aucoin remembers that they could have all the peanuts they wanted in the beginning as the Japanese thought it was cattle feed until someone told them otherwise and the peanuts were taken away;
-they fed them soybeans instead as the Japanese fed their cattle soybeans (was used to make the prisoners lose face)
-Kids would make up games or played in the mango trees
-The Japanese were never cruel physically to the civilian prisoners unless "someone asked for it"

Transcription:

Larry Aucoin
Born: November 22, 1934
POW-Philippines

I was very small, about 7 years old, when the Japanese attacked the Philippines. I was born in the Philippines. My dad, Lawrence Aucoin, was from Morbahan, and my mother, Adele Hebert, came from Franklin. We went into the prison camp in June '42. My youngest sister, Dorothy, was born in April of that year (My other sister, Sylvia, was only 4 years old at this time). We were captured on the island of Negros, which is farther south of Luzon.

After the Japanese started taking over the islands, my father was told that if we hid in the mountains, a submarine would eventually come and bring us to Australia. We gave it a try, but after a couple of weeks in the mountains with a newborn, he decided that it wasn't worth it. He hoped that the Japanese would be more civilized than what a lot of people said they were.

For the first ten months, we lived in the Bacolod Internment Camp on the island of Negros. The first camp commandant, Colonel Ota, was a graduate of UCLA. He spoke French and English and my father said they used to talk about the war. The commandant said that after living in the United States, he knew there was no way that the Japanese were going to win the war. He had seen the industrial capabilities of the US and knew that the Japanese could not win. But, he was a soldier and by nature he had to obey orders. There were quite a few Japanese soldiers that had been educated in America and they also really didn't think that they would come out on the winning side at the end. I guess the lower ranking soldiers believed that they were invincible.

The basic thing that they wanted was respect. We had to bow every time we came across a Japanese soldier. If you did not bow, you were slapped. For the most part, that was all the abuse that the families got. I know it was much worse for the American soldiers. The captured soldiers were treated horrible. The Japanese proved that with the Batan Death March.

As long as we treated them with respect, that was all that they really cared about. I guess, in a way, we were more of a pain in the neck to them, because they had to house us and feed us and we were moved around a lot.

Before the Japanese came, we lived on the island of Negroes, where my father was a sugarmill manager. The whole island was dedicated to producing sugarcane and still is today. A Philippine company owned this mill. In fact, that's what helped us survive in the prison camps. His boss, Louis Osorio, a Filipino and the owner of the sugarmill, would give money to my dad to buy food. The Japanese wouldn't feed us much, but if you had money they would let you buy food from the natives, and the Japs would take a cut of the sale.

There were 119 civilian prisoners on the island of Negroes: American, Australian, British, and Canadian. On March 7, 1943, after five days of waiting at Bacoldo Harbor on a small, filthy freighter, the "Naga", we left for Manila. This trip took three days and upon arrival at Manila, on the island of Luzon, we were taken by truck to a prison camp. Santa Tomas, the camp in Manila, was a university before the war, and it held over 4,000 prisoners. At the end of the war there were maybe 3,500. The rest had died from stress and malnutrition.

All the men in Santo Tomas were required to work in the camp garden for four hours a day. This garden was used to feed the prisoners. We grew sweet potatoes and made soup with the leaves. We never did eat potatoes, because they took too long to grow. We had to have something right then! Something, anything with calories. The Japanese let us eat all the peanuts we wanted, they thought that was cattle feed, or food for their horses. But when they found out it was the most nutritious thing to eat, they cut that out right quick. So we ate a lot of soybeans, again cattle feed for the Japanese and loss of face for us. My sisters and I would get the same amount of beans every day. And every bean was important.

During the war, the Red Cross was sending food parcels to the prisoners. After we were liberated, we found out that the Japanese had stored up all this food in a building next to the prison camp. They were using it for their own supply. Whenever an international Red Cross committee would come to visit, the Japanese would hand out a little bit of that food, so they could say that the food was getting to us.

Everybody was treated the same at meal servings. The only difference with my family was my father's boss gave him money, and we used that money to supplement our diet. At the end of the war an egg was going for $12. A can of evaporated milk, if you could find one, was going for $150. If you were starving to death, a can of milk, diluted with water, might mean the difference in someone continuing to live for a while.

I can remember hiding in a bamboo area where there was a chicken coop. I'd crawl in the bamboo and wait for the chickens to lay eggs. Then and I'd steal the eggs. We were limited to what we could do, and we were always hungry. I understood that we were held against our will, but it didn't feel like a prison camp. As kids we played soccer and had boxing matches to entertain the camp. We had a 50-acre plot of land that we were free to roam around in, but I was too young to really realize the seriousness of what was going on around us. The worries that my dad must have had trying to figure out how to feed the four of us.

We were able to get some news, but the Japanese always censored it. They always slaughtered the American forces in battle. They never lost a battle against the allies, but the battles were always fought 50-100 miles closer to Manila, than they were the week before. So we knew the Americans were getting closer, that's how we were able to keep up with the war. We could get the printed news, after it was censored.

From November '44 to February '45, I guess the navy was close enough to bomb Manila daily. Every once in a while, a navy pilot would fly over us and throw his goggles out of the cockpit with a message or news to let us know that they knew we were there and they hadn't forgot us. The Filipino people kept us informed a good bit. When we would read about such and such battle, the adults would go to the library and look at the maps to locate the American forces. The Japanese always claimed they were winning, but the battles were always getting closer.

We never did think about escaping. The Japanese had made that very clear to us from the beginning. There weren't a lot of guards around to watch us all day long, but if you went over that wall, and got caught, you would wish to God that you never born. Early on, a few people did escape, but where are you going to go on an island with a hundred thousand Japanese. They were caught, tortured and publicly executed.

In Manila, at Santa Tomas, all the men and teenage boys slept in one part of the camp, and the women and young children slept in another part of the camp. For the most part, they kept the families together. We made friends with some of them. Most of my father's friends were French or British and we became friends with their families.

In the beginning we had breakfast, not much lunch, and a supper. The food at the beginning wasn't too bad, but towards the end that got worse. This was another way that we could tell the Japanese were losing the war. The food rations were less towards the end. By the end, we couldn't even buy certain foods, because it wasn't available. Up until December '44, we ate about 1400 calories a day. After that, food rations were reduced to:

Breakfast
1 cup of watery mush (watered down rice)
Weak coffee

Lunch
1 cup of soybean soup

Dinner
1 cup of boiled sweet potato leaves
1 cup of gravy

On February 3, 1945, the Americans finally liberated our camp. I can remember that night, when soldiers from the 1st Marine Cavalry, 37th Infantry, and the 44th Tank Battalion came to our camp. They arrived about 6 days ahead of MacArthur's main military forces. Leonard Breaux, from Loreauville, was in the 1st Marine Calvary (43rd Combat Engineers). He was there. They came in with 17 tanks from the 44th Tank Battalion, and the Japanese in Manila, who out numbered the Marines 10 to 1 or more, thought that this was the main force, so they retreated to the other side of the river. They could have counterattacked the Americans and easily wiped them out. When the Marines came in and took the control of the camp, all the Japanese guards in our camp holed up in one of the buildings. They had a ton of gunfire going on. The Japanese had a machine gun and they were firing over the wall of the camp. My family was in our barracks under our beds the whole time. We finally were able to say, "The Americans are here!"

The first American tank broke through the iron gate and came into the camp. Wherever the tanks saw a Japanese guard, they fired their machine guns at them. The Filipino Guerillas must have informed the Americans as to how many guards were there, and were they were. These tanks surrounded the building that the Jap guards were in. The fanatical Japanese camp commandant ran out of that building with his samurai sword and went on a bonsai charge at that first tank. They mowed him down. The Americans eventually let the Japanese soldiers go to another part of Manila, where the Filipino Guerillas were waiting for them. Six of them surrendered, and the rest were killed.

The Japanese garrison at Manila was defeated on February 27, 1945 and we left the camp some time after that. I was 10 years old by then. When we got out I must have weighted about 60 pounds. My dad weighed 120 pounds. We went to the island of Leyte for a few months and stayed at an army convalescent camp. This was a place for injured soldiers and the kids had it made over there. There would be three or four soldiers that would adopt you, and I never ate so much ice cream in all my life. I stayed in contact with one soldier, Harmon Ansevin, through letters for a good while.

We took a transport ship back to San Francisco. We came back with nothing! My father had buried some valuables under our house on Negros, but the Japanese burned the house down. The Filipinos were able to find the buried items lot and sent us back some of my mother's china and jewelry.

When I was in the prison camp, we went to school for half a day, and my father would teach my sisters and I the other half. There were some Belgian nuns who taught us in the morning. When I got back to the states, and found out that they had school all day long, I was devastated. I didn't want to go to school for a full day.

In 1941 my father tried to get us back to the United States. The American Embassy wouldn't let us go back to America, because President Roosevelt decided that if there was a mass exodus of American and British personnel from the Philippines this would demoralize the Filipinos. When you went to the Embassy to apply to go back home they would say "No can do. You have to stay here." I feel that we were treated worse than the Neisi's in America were. As Americans, we were told, for the good of our country we had to stay here, so we would not demoralize the Filipinos. We had servants at our house, because we could afford them. Our Japanese servants told my parents, before it all started, that the Japanese were going to start a war with America. They knew it was coming. My father wanted to send all of my mother and us kids back to the states, while he would stay behind, but our Embassy wouldn't let us leave.

Roosevelt didn't evacuate any Americans from the Philippines because he wanted to get the US involved in the war, and the only way he could do that was to have Japan do something that would instigate it. Well, he got his wish at Pearl Harbor! I don't think he figured that it would be that horrible. He could have gotten us out of the Philippines, easily, but he didn't. He wouldn't do it! After the war, my dad spent a lot of time with Senator Long going through documents in Congress trying to prove that this happened, but at that time everything was classified, top secret. Now, it is probably declassified, but who gives a damn! Most of those people are dead!

One thing that has really bugged me is that the Japanese Nesi got $20,000 tax-free for spending 3 years in camps in Arizona. They had three solid meals a day and I guarantee it was nothing like what we had. After my father passed away I went through his papers and I came across a legal document, which showed that he collected about $400 for the three years that my sisters and I were interned in the prison camps. That's all! God bless the "Penny Pinching" Democrats, because I sure will not!!

Language: 
English
Media Type: 
Audio
Collection: 
Jason Theriot
Subject: 
Oral History; World War II: Civilian Prisoner of War; Philippines
Creator: 
Jason Theriot
Informants: 
Larry Aucoin
Recording date: 
Wednesday, August 22, 2018
Coverage Spatial: 
New Iberia, LA
Publisher: 
Jason Theriot
Rights Usage: 
All Rights Reserved
Meta Information
Duration: 
01:07:43
Cataloged Date: 
Wednesday, August 22, 2018
Digitized Date: 
Tuesday, July 16, 2013
Original Format: 
Microcassette
Digital Format: 
WAV
Bit Depth: 
24 bit
Sampling Rate: 
96 kHz
Storage Location: 
Archives of Cajun and Creole Folklore - Drawer 20

Interview with Ned Badeaux

Accession No.: 
TH1-007

Ned Bradeaux; Jason Theriot; Hewitt Theriot

(The end of another interview)

-Looking at pictures

Question: Did other members of you family hear of this story of you as you told us?

No
My brother (Nelson) was in the battle of North Africa; we never talked about it

-Talking of another interviewee (1:25)
-How glad he was to finally talk about it

-Photos of Nelson (2:15)
-He was in the 82nd Air Division
-Anzio Beach, Belgium, Germany

-Photos of others and a book (3:38)
-Talking about these people

Language: 
English
Media Type: 
Audio
Collection: 
Jason Theriot
Subject: 
Oral History; World War II
Creator: 
Jason Theriot
Informants: 
Ned Badeaux
Recording date: 
Saturday, July 29, 2000
Coverage Spatial: 
Lafayette, LA
Publisher: 
Jason Theriot
Rights Usage: 
All Rights Reserved
Meta Information
Duration: 
00:06:18
Cataloged Date: 
Thursday, August 23, 2018
Digitized Date: 
Wednesday, July 17, 2013
Original Format: 
Microcassette
Digital Format: 
WAV
Bit Depth: 
24 bit
Sampling Rate: 
96 kHz
Storage Location: 
Archives of Cajun and Creole Folklore - Drawer 20

Interview with Mrs. Nelson Badeaux

Accession No.: 
TH1-008

Mrs. Nelson Badeaux; Jason Theriot; Hewitt Theriot

-Nelson was stationed in California
-Mrs. Badeaux was very young during the war, in high school
-She met Nelson in the summer 1945 while he was on rotation and was going back to Europe
-He was in the 82nd Airborne Division and before he was in the National Guard 156 Company and left it in 1940
-He left the Guard as he was in the infantry and decided that he wanted to parachute instead

Talking about the history and looking at photos from a book (4:00)

-Remembers him saying that in England the weather conditions were so bad they could not jump during an invasion in Holland
-Before he was in Africa, then to Italy and then England

Looking at a book and photos (5:48)
-Talking about a few people she knew of in the photos

-Nelson was the oldest son, his brother Ned Badeaux was younger and they looked very much alike
-Nelson died in August 1979 from a heart attack

Nelson in the Desert (10:20)
-Tells them to refer to some books as he never told her
-Looking at photos and the books
-He might not have been in the 82nd yet when they were in Africa; might have been training at the time
-(Much debating on whether he was there or not; looking at the book)

Talking about family and kids (16:30)
-Looking at the books and photos
-(She answers a phone call; Theriot read from the book aloud)

Back to interview (28:50)
-Consulting the book on Nelson's company
-While in Holland he did have to attack a few bridges; Bastogne
-(Debating on the company and what the book says; the 101st and the 82nd)

She met him when he was on rotation/ leave and he was to go back to Europe when the war ended (38:44)
-Had been in the service for almost 5 years and was due some rest
-He might have been in communications and when he came out of service he worked at the LineMen; climbed poles
-Looking at pictures in the book

Cuts off to silence (40:20)

Picks up on her remembering a visit they had to New Orleans with another couple (40:40)

Language: 
English
Media Type: 
Audio
Collection: 
Jason Theriot
Subject: 
Oral History; World War II: 82nd Airborne Division; Africa; Europe
Creator: 
Jason Theriot
Informants: 
Mrs. Nelson Badeaux
Recording date: 
Monday, January 20, 2003
Coverage Spatial: 
New Iberia, LA
Publisher: 
Jason Theriot
Rights Usage: 
All Rights Reserved
Meta Information
Duration: 
00:48:06
Cataloged Date: 
Thursday, August 23, 2018
Digitized Date: 
Wednesday, July 17, 2013
Original Format: 
Microcassette
Digital Format: 
WAV
Bit Depth: 
24 bit
Sampling Rate: 
96 kHz
Storage Location: 
Archives of Cajun and Creole Folklore - Drawer 20

Interview with Colonel Leonard Barrow, Jr.

Accession No.: 
TH1-009

Col. Leonard Barrow, Jr., Jason Theriot, and Hewitt Theriot

-Appointed as a flying cadet in February 1938 at Randolph Field; flying school by March
-Randolph Field was in San Antonio and was the only flying school in the U.S.
-Went over to Kelly Field to specialize; Barrow was in the attack-aviation
-Commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Army Air Corps Reserve, February 1, 1939
-Then went to Barksdale Field in Shreveport and was assigned to the 3rd Attack group; flew A-17A attack bomber

-Married in 1940 to a daughter of a WWI veteran
-Moved to Savannah when the war broke out later in October; flew A-20 light bomber, fastest plane at the time
-Went all over the U.S. for maneuvers; they could see the war was coming
-War did break out and Barrow's outfit was spilt 2-3 times
-First time Barrow went to the West coast and flew dive bombers

Remembering Pearl Harbor (6:27)
-Was having lunch with his father-in-law and wife, on a Sunday his father-in-law got a phone call and was excited to tell them that the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor
-He went immediately to the air base and Barrow soon left too
-They were shocked that the Japanese were able to pull off such an operation

-Worked for several months on the anti-submarine dive patrol
-Flew about 200 miles over the Atlantic everyday
-Very poorly equipped, no depth chargers, just 500 lbs bombs that if dropped to close to the water would blow them up too
-Christmas Eve, Barrow did see a periscope lined up to a United Fruit Liner, between Georgia and Florida; strafed it as he was too low to bomb it

The 8th Air Force was activated in Savannah and Barrow was taken out and put into them (9:25)
-By March his old outfit went to Australia
-The first outfit was caught in the Philippines he stayed at the Headquarters and in early June flew Gen. Duncan, the Commander, to D.C.

Gen. Duncan found he had been reassigned to the Chief of Staff (10:57)
-Flew to Fort Dix, New Jersey for a week long training and then to New York
-In New York got on the Queen Elizabeth to go to Scotland by late June Went to the airfield of Chelveston
-Transferred to the operations office in the headquarters in London; eventually moved out to Bushy Park
-Operation officer for a B-17 wing and for training but had never been in one; sent back to the 8th Air Force later
-Put out training programs and mission trainings and was sent around to the British airfields

November 1942 (17:11)
-Was sent to Saint Eval, RAF station, to supervise the passage of airplanes that were going to the invasion in North Africa Heart of the British defense was the radar
-Could now spot airplanes before they got into earshot
-Had air-defense-centers along the coast looking for Germans and run the operations
-When they got there to Britain, the Battle of Britain of 1940 had already happened so attacks from the Germans on England were more nuisance attacks at night
-By the end of November (1942) Barrow's operation had ended

North Africa (24:40)
-His father-in-law took over a troop carrier wing and asked Barrow to transfer to him

-Wanted flying time so he asked to be transferred; went back to Bushy Park to be sent out to North Africa (funny story of killing a King's deer 26:36)
-Was transferred to North Africa but had to find his own way there; there were some P-38s in Ireland with no pilots

-Called the Fighter Command and asked he could fill a spot and was given the okay: had to get there himself by his plane (another story 31:40)
-Reaches Northern Ireland and was tasked with looking over the last 6 remaining planes until he could get over to North Africa
-Flew down to Saint Eval after the New Year and then followed a B-26 to Gibraltar and continued on to Oran (8 hours and 5 minute flight)
-Then went up to Tunisia to a P-38 base but didn't want to work there so caught a ride to Algiers
Met up with his father-in-law, who shipped him out Mostagenum to a troop carrier squadron of C-17s to drop paratroopers and gliders

Invasion of Sicily (52:40)
-Towed gliders from Tunisia to Sicily at night; strong winds, bad maps and the navy shot up everything
-Second night dropped paratroopers over Mount Etna; navy shot down 37 C-47s (friendly fire)
-On the first night Barrow led the group and was later awarded the DFC and the Air Medal
-It was an experience on joint amphibious operations; but bad communication
-Then spent the next 2 weeks flying in and out of Sicily
-Moved the outfit to Italy

Invasion of Italy (57:18)
-Landed on the Salerno beachhead with supplies
-Made serval trips for supplies (might have brought back wounded)
-Reassigned as the executive officer and 2 weeks later Barrow gets orders to go back to the U.S. (October 1943)
-Reported to Sedalia, Missouri to get his pilots; but no planes Moved to Alliance, Nebraska and stayed there till March 1944 and then to Pope Field at Fort Bragg, North Carolina
-Worked with the 13th Airborne Division dropping paratroopers
-Missed D-Day

Went overseas in January of 1945 (01:03:59)
-Supported Patton; hauled fuel and supplies
-Then in May went over to England to pick up British men and flew to Copenhagen, Denmark
-Germans were still there at the airfield; wild experience--the Danish executing Quislings, Germans passing by in trucks, parties, etc.
-That night they found out the war had ended and flew back to France the next morning

War Ended (01:11:18)
-Part of the white project for Japan; went back to the U.S. first
-Went out to the west coast to California and had to wait 30 days till the planes could come in and then head out to Okinawa Bay
-While waiting, the war in Japan had ended
-Still had orders to go, but a friend that told Barrow to ignore the orders, as he had the only intact troop carrier group left, and things were too hectic
-Few days later sent to Austin, Texas for a year

-Stayed in the Air Force for 32 years, also serving in the Korean and Vietnam wars

Transcription:

Leonard Barrow, Jr.
Born: February 25, 1917
Retired Air Force Colonel
C-47 Pilot for the Invasion of Sicily
4104 Walnut Dr.
New Iberia, La. 70563
Interview conducted by Jason P. Theriot

I was appointed a flying cadet at Randolph Field in San Antonio on the 25th of February 1938. I started flying school in March. I spend eight months at Randolph learning to fly, then I went to Kelly Field on the other side of San Antonio for the last four months. I specialized in attack-aviation there. My starting class numbered three hundred and fifty, and roughly half finished. I was commissioned a second lieutenant in the Army Air Corps Reserve on the first of February 1939. From there I went to Barksdale Field in Shreveport. I was assigned to the 3rd Attack Group, 90th Attack Squadron. We flew the A-17A attack bomber armed with six machine guns and bomb racks..

I was on active duty, but I was still in the reserves. I flew everyday practically. I got married at Barksdale in 1940. I married the daughter of a WWI major and we are still married today.
We moved to Savannah in October 1940, because the war in Europe had broke out. While we were there we transitioned to the A-20, light bomber—the fastest bomber in the world at that time. It was equipped with a Norden Bombsight. During that period we had maneuvers in Louisiana, Tennessee, North Carolina, and Connecticut; we could see the war coming.
We were shocked, however, when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. We knew that relations with the Japanese weren’t good, but we never dreamed that they would have the audacity to pull off an operation such as they did. In retrospect it was an absolutely magnificently planned and conceived operation, and it caught us with our pants down.

When the war broke out I was a first lieutenant. My group was split up. I spent the next several months on anti-submarine patrol over the Atlantic. We would fly out about 200 miles in the Atlantic. We were poorly equipped. We didn’t even have depth charges. All we had were 500-pound bombs; you drop one of those too low, and you would blow yourself up. I saw a periscope one time; he was lined up with a United Fruit Liner between Georgia and Florida in the Atlantic. I strafed the periscope and he went down.

I was subsequently taken out of my group and was transferred to 8th Air Force headquarters in Savannah. In early June, I flew General Duncan, Commander of the 8th Air Force, up to Washington D.C. When he arrived, he was reassigned as the Chief of Staff. We flew to Fort Dix in New Jersey for subsequent deployment to England.

We went to the port of New York and we boarded the Queen Elizabeth in June 1942. We landed in Scotland a few days later. We went down to an airfield that the British called Chelveston. Later on this was a base for our B-17s. The 8th Air Force headquarters was then in downtown London. I got a phone call to report to the operations section of 8th Air Force headquarters. We stayed in London for a week or two before we moved down to Bushy Park near Hampton Court Palace. I became an operations officer for a B-17 wing in July. I had never been inside a B-17 before in my life, but nevertheless, I was an officer in of the wing that was doing the training program for them. I stayed down there for a month. I made captain in February. Somebody who had more experience with the B-17 took over, and I was sent all around various British airfields to check out training programs for our airmen. It was a wonderful experience. The British were very casual people. I got to fly the Spitfire, the Hurricane, the Beau Fighter as well as several of their bombers. I flew a couple of missions with the British later on.

The Battle of Britain had taken place in 1940; that pretty much broke the back of the German’s attempt to shoot up England at will. By the time I got there in ‘42, the German attacks were limited to nuisance attacks at night. They were sending one or two airplanes at a time to drop bombs on London, primarily at night. The heart of the British homeland defense was radar. The success was that they could spot German planes coming before they got to within earshot. Before radar, the British used these giant “ears” to amplify the sounds made by the enemy. This was the method used during World War I; but it couldn’t tell you how high, or how fast the enemy planes were going. With radar you could tell how high the enemy was, how fast they were going, and how many miles away they were. They waited until the Germans got very close, then they released the Spitfires and Hurricanes, and they came in from above [the enemy planes] to attack. The British had these air-defense-centers near the coast, and they would run the defense operations from there.

About this time, in 1942, the B-17 bombers began arriving in England, and they were flying their “freshman” missions. I was sent back to 8th Air Force headquarters. In November 1942, I was sent to a place called Saint Eval, a RAF station, to supervise the passage of the airplanes that were then going down for the invasion of North Africa. We had C-47s coming through; we had B-17s, P-38s—all American planes. I got to fly a P-38. The airplanes for the invasion flew 1,600 miles from Saint Eval to Oran. Most of the big planes—the bombers and twin-engine fighters—had auxiliary fuel tanks to make the trip. The smaller fighters, like the P-40s, were brought over on a carrier.

My father-n-law took over a troop carrier outfit. He asked me to come over. I had been wanting to get out of headquarters; I wanted to fly—the hell with this paper work! I had been promoted to major in August. Headquarters approved the move, and I was walking up to the gate back at 8th Air Force headquarters at Bushy Park, and low and behold there was an infantryman standing guard with his M-1 rifle. I walked by and he “pooped to.” And he’s grinning like a jackass eating fries. He comes to the rifle salute and I saluted him…I looked at him and it was Harold Courtois from New Iberia. I go over and I said, “Harold, what in the hell are you doing here?” He said he was in the National Guard and they had been federalized and sent to England in October. He said, “Man, you better come eat with us today.” The British food was terrible, and I hadn’t had a good meal in a long time. He said that one of the guys had killed a deer and they were cooking up some venison. You see, there was deer all over the place, and this guy was standing guard one night and he hear a noise, so he challenged…three times…no response, so he shot, and killed a deer. That was not good. Killing the King’s deer was almost as bad as making a pass at one of the princesses. So, his commander went through the channels to report this to the King, who in turn presented the deer to the mess hall. So, they had venison that day and Marion Broussard was the cook. Boy it was good!

I found out that I’m to be transferred to North Africa, but I had to find my own way. Most of the planes had already left for the invasion, but I found out that there was still about six P-38s somewhere in Ireland. So, there was a Colonel Bob Landry from New Orleans who I had known at Barksdale. He was in Fighter Command. I called him up and said, “I had heard that you were short on fighter pilots, and that you still had some planes left to go down.” I told him, “I checked out a P-38 about two weeks ago.” It was only one flight, actually, for about thirty minutes: “I’d sure like to help you out.” He said, “Oh, sure that’s what we’re looking for. We’ll cut some orders assigning you, and we’ll give you all the information you’ll need.” My airplane was in a depot in England still. I got in it and I flew it over to Ireland. I had the hell scared out of me. I’m passing over the Irish Sea, and I got challenged by a ship. They signaled, and I was supposed to respond with a red light or a green light. Well, the P-38 was different. It had a row of switches down low. I thought that I had the right button, but I didn’t. I was doing about 250 miles per hour and all of a sudden the wings start flapping. I slowed to about 180. I got close to the airfield in Ireland, Langford Lodge, and everything was normal on the plane. I come down on this airfield and landed. I check out my plane and low and behold, my landing lights were extended. They’re not supposed to be on at the speed that I was flying; that’s why the wings were flapping. I had hit the wrong button, and I gave that ship the wrong signal. Luckily he didn’t shoot me down.

So, I land in Northern Ireland and I meet up with Lt. Col. Roy Lowe from Alexandria. He was the executive officer of the 82nd Fighter Group. Most of his planes had gone, and there were a few left. He told me that he was taking off in a couple of days, and he would leave me behind to take over the remaining six planes. So, I met with those pilots, and I got to fly up a few times in the P-38, and I shot the guns. I spent the most miserable Christmas up there that year. We fixed up those planes and we flew them back down to Saint Eval. We followed a B-26 to Gibraltar—an eight-hour flight. We went through the Straits of Gibraltar and the damn Spanish open up on us from Spanish Morocco. They were neutral, but very pro-German. We continued on and landed in Oran finally. We refueled and flew out the next day to Tunisia, near Constantine—at a P-38 base. I signed off on my airplane and I went looking for Col. Lowe. I finally found somebody and they told me that he hadn’t come back from his last mission. They said that he had dropped back in formation and that was the last time anybody saw him; a German had shot him down from behind. So, I caught a ride on a French airplane to Algiers. I was a major then, and they had given me latitude with my orders. I was actually looking for a P-38 squadron, but I reported to Algiers, and then in turn, met up with my father-n-law. He assigned me to Mostagenum, near Oran. It was a former French airbase.

I reported to the troop carrier squadron there as a squadron commander, and they were training in the C-47s to drop paratroopers and to pull gliders. We were flying supplies up to Tunisia. We were there during the German breakthrough at Kasserine Pass. We were flying wounded troops back. In between flying evac and supply missions, we would train the paratroopers for the invasion of Sicily.

We eventually moved into an area in Tunisian. (Photograph of tent for the book) It was lousy; the food was canned rations. The invasion of Sicily came. We towed gliders from Tunisia to Sicily at night. We were towing British troopers in those gliders. Sicily was the first mass-attempt to use paratroopers and gliders in combat. The first night of the invasion, I led the whole group of C-47s, and I was awarded the DFC and the Air Medal for that, because I was the lead plane. The second night, I dropped British paratroopers over Mount Etna. They were both night operations; the winds were strong, the maps were not good, and the Navy shot the hell out of everybody in sight. We even got shot in the fuel tank. (Has a picture) Between those two nights, the Navy shot down about thirty C-47s—friendly fire. All of us had a lot to learn about joint-amphibious operations, and we did. I think the invasion of Normandy was a testament to that.
For the next few weeks we spent flying in and out of Sicily; hauling ammunition and taking out the wounded. I was promoted to Lt. Col. In July 1943.

Eventually, I took part in the invasion of Italy. I landed on the Salerno beachhead with supplies. We flew into the ancient city of Paestum; I saw bodies stacked up like card-wood—American bodies. It was the damndest thing that I ever saw. I flew several supply runs and transported wounded for a while. Then I was transferred to be the group executive officer. It was another pencil pushing job. After about two weeks—out of the clear blue sky—I was reassigned back to the United States. I packed up my stuff and caught a plane to Brazil and to Miami. I then reported to Indianapolis. This was October 1943. I had been overseas for a year and a half. I came home for a month on leave and spent time with my wife and family.

We were sent to Sedalia, Missouri. I had about ten or fifteen pilots, and no airplanes. Eventually we got a dozen planes. They ordered us out to Alliance, Nebraska. My god. I never saw the ground the whole time I was there. It was January of 1944, up in the hills of Nebraska, almost in Colorado, and there was nothing, I mean nothing up there. The only good thing about that place was that it was the most fabulous pheasant hunting that I’ve ever seen in my life. They were everywhere. We stayed there till March of 1944, before we were ordered to Pope Field at Fort Bragg in North Carolina. It was a nice place.

We received our contingent of sixty-four airplanes and we were training with the 13th Airborne Division, dropping paratroopers and pulling gliders. In the fall of ’44 they gave us the biggest twin-engine airplane in the world—the C-46, called the Curtis Commando.

<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<European experience>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

We missed out on the invasion of D-Day, but we ended up flying overseas across the Atlantic in January 1945 to support Patton and his army. We hauled gasoline, ammunition, and evacuated the wounded for Patton. We were flying from France and into Germany. I was promoted to Colonel in March.

Then, we got a very secret mission on the sixth of May. We went over to England, picked up a bunch of British men, and flew to Copenhagen in Denmark. Copenhagen was still under German hands and they were running the airfield. The war hadn’t ended yet. We flew in. German planes were landing at the same time that we were landing; it was quite and experience. I spent the night in Copenhagen that night, and it was one of the wildest experience that I ever had in my life. Hundreds of Germans were coming by in trucks with food and what not, with their rifles. The Danish were executing the Quislings—the turncoats from Norway. We got to the hotel and these civilian-armed guards would not let us leave. Shortly after, this Mercedes drives up and this woman comes dashing out, and right behind her is this important looking man. Within moments, they opened fire on him. He was a high-ranking Quisling and they didn’t want us to get in the middle of it all. This woman had set him up. And they killed. Sometimes when you lose the war, the losers don’t fair so good.

We found out that the war had ended! We ran into some Danes that night, and we couldn’t pay for a thing; they were pumping drinks down us, really celebrating you know.
I flew to the States and ended up in California where my wife was living. I was assigned to pickup new airplanes as we were headed to Okinawa for the invasion of Japan. While I was on leave the war in Japan ended. I finally retired from the Air Force after 32 years having also served in Korea and Vietnam.
[What qualifications did you possess to get promoted to a higher rank during the war?] The number one qualification for getting a promotion is staying alive.

Language: 
English
Media Type: 
Audio
Collection: 
Jason Theriot
Subject: 
Oral History; World War II; Airforce; Pilot; Europe
Creator: 
Jason Theriot
Informants: 
Leonard Barrow, Jr.
Recording date: 
Saturday, March 9, 2002
Coverage Spatial: 
New Iberia, La
Publisher: 
Jason Theriot
Rights Usage: 
All Rights Reserved
Meta Information
Duration: 
01:28:11
Cataloged Date: 
Thursday, September 6, 2018
Digitized Date: 
Wednesday, July 17, 2013
Original Format: 
Mircocassette
Digital Format: 
WAV
Bit Depth: 
24 bit
Sampling Rate: 
96 kHz
Storage Location: 
Archives of Cajun and Creole Folklore-Drawer 20

Interview with Lloyd Berard

Accession No.: 
TH1-010

Lloyd Berard; Jason Theriot; Hewitt Theriot; Mrs. Lloyd Berard

-Berard had a deferment and worked on a dredge boat in Panama
-Stationed in Morgan City and every week had to go to Lafayette for a checkup for the draft board
-decided to just join instead of waiting (1942)
-Put him on limited duty at Camp Beauregard and the officer in charge tore up the papers and got him new orders
-Camp Claiborne for basic training for 13 weeks and (physically) built up that camp as the 372nd Engineers
-assigned to the engineers because of past experience (as a tug boat captain?)
-Went to Fort Belvor, Virginia; his crew was almost as good as the 331st Engineer Regiment
-Crossed on the Queen Mary to Birmingham, England and then hitched hiked 150 miles (a week) to South Wales
-England didn’t have the resources to spare to transport them

-They were there to build concrete barges; 2 feet thick, 40 feet high, 150 feet long, 80 feet wide
-Broke big rock themselves and ground it up into concrete with the machinery
-Berard drove the dump truck with the crushed rocks to where they ground them up
-They’d have 5-6 holes in the barges with valves; a barge for either side of ship
-Once in position the valves would open and water would sink it and the ships were then able to land
-They were building these for the landing at the worst place—Omaha beach
-Used tug boats to bring the barges from South Wales to Omaha beach, took 2 ½ days
-Berard was on the position of opening a valve for one of them; they had 8 barges

-Once the barge was sunk they came to England/South Wales and waited around
-Built hospitals, schools, and churches for the English as they were being bombed all the time
-In France they did the same there; whatever was needed to be done the engineers were called, they did plumbing, carpentry work, building Niesent huts

“Mud Barges” (17:22)
-Above water the barge was 8-10 feet, it didn’t need to be above water so much as it needed to be below the water about 5 feet
-It would break the waves in the channel so the ships could land and still maneuver themselves
-Before D-Day (June 6) they brought the first barge in at the end of May to the beach
-The Germans did not think the Allied forces could land there so it was not being watched
-They pulled in right into the bank and dropped the barges and went back to England before the invasion

When Berard was hurt in February 1945 (21:43)
-They were in Briey, France building hospitals and acting as an interpreter for the army
-Berard had 2 truck drivers, 2 helpers and 2 French people to flag traffic for a flat tire on their truck
-They had a German halftrack come to help but the French didn’t know how to drive it; instead of stopping they accidently sped up
-some of the French were against them so Berard never knew who was a friend or not—they could have been inexperienced driving or purposely drove forward
-Berard starting running to the front of the truck (the one with a flat) to catch the side mirror and swing over so they didn’t run him over, but the halftrack caught him before he did that
-The halftrack was coming in slow at first and they thought it was stopping but then they sped up
-the 2 helpers were still fixing the tire and Berard and a driver were by the road
-It crushed his left foot, right hip, right hand and both arms
-he was told that he was the only one hurt and later found out the other 3 men were killed
-All 3 of these men had been with Berard since Camp Claiborne
-Going back to the States he went from England to Camp Shank, New York and then to Tennessee

Speaking French (31:58)
-In one place they were in at France, he had to go to a hardware store frequently
-Berard had become friendly to the owner and he was invited to their house for dinner sometimes
-One day on a visit to him, Berard had gotten a letter with photos of his 2 nieces and showed the man

-“And I said, in French, like I would at home, “Me chichnes.” (my lil nieces)” (the old way of saying it)
-“So he called his wife and said to me, “dis come ta dis” (say it like you said it)
-But then I tried to say it in real French. “No, no,” he said, “say it like you said it.” So he tells his wife, “They talk just like us. They speak the same patois”
(talking about the French language 35:30)

Translating (38:27)
-Berard would go to the lumberyard to find pieces of wood (2x2)
-However French were on the metric system so it was more like a 3x3
-In one town a Frenchman told Berard that there was a cheese factory and as an American he could have as much cheese as he wanted but the French were rationed
-he was asked to get some cheese for the this man
-Got 10-12 blocks of cheese and the Frenchman wanted to hide the cheese; but it was Lambo cheese so it smelled

Recovery Back Home (41:40)
-Came back home on crutches and in a boot
-Had a month leave in New Orleans where he met his wife
-Most of his family was in New Orleans working in the shipyards and she was staying with his sister
-That night they threw a party for him and they danced all night long
-They danced the whole month when they could

-Went to Memphis, Tennessee and then shipped him out to Texas
-Never did get a purple heart

Talking about family history and family members (45:25)

Transcription:

Lloyd Berard
Coteau Holmes
372nd Engineers
ETO

I had a deferment from the service. I was working on a dredge boat in Panama. When the job was over I went to Morgan City. The dredging company had a yard over there in Morgan City. Every week I had to come to Lafayette for a check up with the draft board. I decided that instead of coming to Lafayette every week, I just a soon join. That was 1942.

I had asthma, so I was supposed to be a 4F. They put me on limited duty. I went to Camp Beureguard and gave the officer in charge of recruits my papers and told him, “I’m under limited service.” He said, “Yeah! Unlimited Service!” And he tore up my papers and said he would get me some new orders.

Then we went to Camp Claiborne. There were camps all over Louisiana: Beureguard, Polk, Claiborne, and Barksdale. Claiborne was probably the biggest. We took our basic training there: 13 weeks. We built that camp up, the 372nd Engineers. After 13 weeks we went to Arkansas and worked on the levee. Then, we came back to Claiborne. From there we went to repair the levee in Mississippi that had broke.

I was assigned to the engineers because of my experience before the war. When we came back from Mississippi, we went to Fort Belvor, Virginia. The 331st Engineer Regiment was the top engineers in the Army, all the way back to WWI. And we were almost as good as they were. In fact, when it came to laying mats for landing airplanes in the swamp, we beat them. So, we had a pretty good working crew.

We crossed the Atlantic on the Queen Mary. It took us nine days because there were German torpedo boats all over the ocean. We landed in Birmingham, England. We had to walk to South Wales. England was really down n out; there was no transportation. They couldn’t transport us to South Wales, so we marched. That was about 150 miles. It took us a week. We had a full field pack and a lot of equipment. At night we’d take over a little field or a little town, like as if we passed through Coteau Holmes and just took it over. Let’s face it; we had priority. But the British were glad that we had come there.

We were sent to South Wales to build these concrete barges—mud barges we called them (Code name Phoenix). They were big, bigger than a house. The thickness of the walls was a little over two feet. That thing was about 60-foot high, 150-foot long and 80-foot wide—a big block of iron rods and concrete.

We broke the rocks ourselves. We took big rocks and crushed them with our big machinery. I was driving a dump truck. They’d load me up with crushed rock and I’d go dump them where they would make the concrete.

We had five or six holes, eight inches in diameter, with valves. When you got the thing where you wanted it, you opened the valves and the water would come in and it would sink. You’d sink one here and one here where a ship could come in to be able to land. This place where we were supposed to be landing—Omaha beach—was the worst place to land.

The Germans were sure that was one place that we could not land. So they weren’t watching that place. When they decided to land there, I heard, Eisenhower asked all the other generals where was the worst place to land. And they said Normandy. They said there was no way you can land there. Well he said, “Well that’s where we landing.”

Once it was sunk the barge stood a few feet above water. Actually, you didn’t need to have it above water, just so had it sunk. It could five or ten feet below water. The ships would come in between two barges. The idea was to break the waves for the ships to come in and land. When a ship is out in the open, it can maneuver, but when it gets in close to the beach against the waves—not like coming in at the harbor in New York or the port in New Orleans—the ship becomes too big to handle.

I only went over the Channel with one of them. We built it on like a dry dock. When it was finished, we opened the valves to let water in and then we moved it by tugboat. We took it from South Wales, England to the coast of Normandy. It took us about two-and-a-half days. We got right to the beach. I was on the barge tending one of the valves to open it and sink it. I think we built about eight of them. After we sunk the barge, we came back to South Wales and passed the invasion fleet heading to the beach. We waited around in England building hospitals, schools, little churches. The British had it rough; they were bombarded everyday by the buzz bombs.

Then we crossed the Channel into Normandy. Once we got to France we built buildings and bridges and all kinds of things. Whatever needed to be done, they called the engineers to do it. Some things we couldn’t do, but we tried. We did plumbing and carpentry work and built Niesent huts to use as schools and hospitals. They still have a few Niesent huts in Shreveport, built halfway underground with grass growing over it.

We were in Briey, France, building hospitals. I was an interpreter for the army. When we were building things they needed someone who could speak the language. For instance, when I’m working, I may need 14 two-by-fours. But there are no two-by-fours in France. It’s close, but not two-by-fours. So I’d go to the hardware store and say that I needed 20 pieces like this. Their two-by-four had a measurement that was pretty close. Their two-by-four was closer to a three-by-three. So we had to figure out how to use a three-by-three. So I communicated to the man running the lumberyard.

One day we needed go to this little town about 50 miles away to pick up something and this Frenchman tells me that there is a cheese factory up there. He said, “I can only buy so much, but you can buy all you want.” Because I was an American, I could buy 20 times as much cheese as he could. I told him that I didn’t want any cheese, but he wanted me to buy some for him. I said okay. So we over there and I tell this ole Frenchman selling cheese that I needed quite a bit of that stuff; ten or twelve blocks. So I paid. This old Frenchman put the package in the top of his truck and said, “We need to hide this.” I said, “Hide it, they can smell it.” He said, “If they catch us I’ll tell them it’s for you.” I said, “Yeah, but if they want to catch us all they have to do is smell.” That was lambo cheese.

We moved along the countryside and there were these mountains. Them Yankees called them hills, but to a Cajun, I called them mountains. I didn’t speak French that well, but I could get by. I was buying some supplies from this hardware store. I became friendly with the old man who was running the place. He told me, “Any time to want to eat something and drink some wine, come to my house.” He told me where he lived and said I could come by any time. So I was leaving my barracks when the mailman came and gave me a letter. I went to this old man’s house and was sitting with him on the porch. I opened the letter and there were pictures of my two nieces. They had grown quite a bit in two years. And I said, in French, like I would at home, “Me chichnes.” [my lil nieces] So he called his wife and said to me, “dis come ta dis” [say it like you said it]. But then I tried to say it in real French. “No, no,” he said, “say it like you said it.” So he tells his wife, “They talk just like us. They speak the same patois.” I always tried to speak real French while I was there, but when I got excited, I spoke like we speak at home, which is the ancient French. This old man and his wife spoke the same way. Our French hadn’t changed much.

My mother could write French, in fact she taught school.

On February 16, 1945, I got hurt. I had two truck drivers and two helpers to help fix a flat tire. I had two French people flagging down traffic. We had given the French a captured German halftrack. Evidentially, they didn’t know how to operate that thing. So they were coming and the flagmen flagged them down. They slowed and almost stopped. But when they got a few yards away it looked like they stepped on it. I don’t think that they did it on purpose, but some of those French people were against us. They said that they weren’t used to operating the track.

So I started running towards the front of the truck with intentions of catching the side mirror and swing over the hood of the truck. But they caught me before I got to that. I figured that they might pass over my head and I had my helmet to protect me. But then I figured that the halftrack would have crushed that helmet. So it had to pass over the tire, because they tell me that the halftrack cut two of them boys into three pieces. It had to be that it passed over the wheel before it passed over me.

It crushed my left foot, my right hip, my right hand, and I broke both of my arms. The other three boys were killed. I was in a field hospital in France. I was out for a few days. This lieutenant and this captain came to see me in the hospital. I asked them how the other boys were and they said they were okay. When I got back to the States this lieutenant and I wrote to each other. He told me in a letter that three of them boys were killed. These were three guys who I knew real well. We had been together since Camp Claiborne. I guess the army didn’t want to make things worse by telling me.

From France I went to England, and then I flew to Camp Shank, New York. I stayed in a hospital overnight. The next day I came to Tennessee and stayed at a hospital there.

I came back home on crutches. I had a foot with a shoe that long. And my arm had healed up. So I went on leave for a month in New Orleans and that’s when I met my wife. I had written to her. She was living at my sister’s house while she was working in New Orleans. Almost everybody from here (Coteau Holmes) was working in the shipyards.

That night they had a party for me. And you know the Berard family likes to have parties. So I’m sitting on one side of the room and she was sitting on the other side. I asked her to come, but she didn’t want to come. So I took my crutches and walked across to her. I said, “We’ll dance.” She said, “You can’t walk.” I said, “I can’t walk, but I can dance.” So we danced, danced all night. The next day went out in town to dance. The next day—same thing. That went on the whole month. When I got back to Memphis, Tennessee, in June, the doctor said, “I don’t know what happened, but whatever you did, you did alright.” He said, “We never saw a man so broken, heal so fast.”

We got married on July 18. I never did get a purple heart.

Language: 
English
Media Type: 
Audio
Collection: 
Jason Theriot
Subject: 
Oral History; World War II; Engineers; Europe
Creator: 
Jason Theriot
Informants: 
Lloyd Berard
Recording date: 
Saturday, July 31, 2004
Coverage Spatial: 
Coteau Homes, LA
Publisher: 
Jason Theriot
Rights Usage: 
All RIghts Reserved
Meta Information
Duration: 
00:59:05
Cataloged Date: 
Thursday, September 6, 2018
Digitized Date: 
Wednesday, July 17, 2013
Original Format: 
Mircocassette
Digital Format: 
WAV
Bit Depth: 
24 bit
Sampling Rate: 
96 kHz
Storage Location: 
Archives of Cajun and Creole Folklore-Drawer 20

Interview with Louis Berges

Accession No.: 
TH1-011

Louis Berges, Jason Theriot, Hewitt Theriot:

-Part of the rig builders in Baton Rouge in 1941
-Drafted in Baton Rouge in December 7, 1942 and then went to Camp Beauregard for training
-Went into the Air Force and was sent St. Louis, Missouri, put in the Jefferson Barracks (the worst one)
-Left in summer uniforms from Louisiana and it was cold in St. Louis; on the Mississippi River
-After training there went to Savannah, Illinois to an ordinance school
-Berges was given a choice to the next place he could go to so he went to Esler Field, the 98th Airbase, in Alexandria, Louisiana; closer to home
-Stayed there till 1944 or 1945 and then transferred to South Carolina; his wife and child came to join him in South Carolina
-Worked in ordinances at both

(7:42) Start of the War:
-Over in Florence, South Carolina and was drafted out of the Air Force to the Armored Infantry around the time of the Battle of the Bulge (1945?)
-Had to get on a troop train in Camp Beauregard to Atlanta with his wife and son with him
-Put them on another train to East Texas where she had family while he went from Atlanta back to Alexandria again
-Put on another train a few weeks later after GI training to New Jersey, Camp Kilmer, a staging place for embarkation in New York
-Was on a ship with volunteers from Monique that spoke French (Cuban Island)
-Shipped out to France, took 11 days, had all their equipment; stayed in barracks that only had hay for bedding
-Put on boxcars and eventually made it into Austria; the war ended while they were in Austria

-Was in the martyr squad and berserker, was supposed to go in as the third attack with the tanks
-When the tanks went, they went in, not always in order though and most times they went in the first attacks
-A part of the 17th Armored Battalion, 12th Armored Division in the 7th Armor
-Most of the time they were under Patton’s 3rd Armor instead

-They travelled fast along the Rhine River and on the Audubon
-Was heading to Nuremburg but missed it and ended up in Munich; drove a halftrack
-Had to wear the same clothes for days as they had nothing else; 11 men in a squad

(21:25)
-Berges’ job was to carry the martyr and set it up; worked with ammunition
-Set up in farms mostly
-Most German people were friendly in Austria, washed their clothes and traded with them
-Moved from town to town; in the mountains in Austria when given word that Germany had surrendered
-Sent back to Munich and then to a smaller town west, where they stayed with the locals in their houses

(24:47) Story of a prayer book Berges brought back home; trying to find the family

(33:04) Confirming dates of Berges’ draft, training, departing for Europe, fighting and being sent home:
-Earned 2 battle stars, helped him get discharged earlier than the others
-Travelling in the halftrack; injured once in Germany while coming out of the halftrack under fire—strained back
-Halftrack was blown up at one point and they lost all their clothes and other possessions inside it; replacement came in quick
-POWs they met after the war; POWs camps made after the war that they had to guard; sorting out displaced people

-Talking of those they knew that were in the war; looking at pictures

(59:00) went home on a Liberty ship in France
-Was in the 17th Armored Battalion
-Mentions about the favoritism in the Air Force and Army, certain outfits were given more credit than others because of those that were in them

(1:13:50) War was over:
-Found out before they got into Munich but knew nothing after that
-No time to celebrate and quickly had to deal with the POWs camp
-Liberty ship was nicer than the ship he went over on before
-Was under the impression that when he did come back to the states he’d rest and then head out to fight in the Pacific
-While on the ship is when the bombs were dropped; found out when they landed in New York
-Was discharged in Fort Sam Houston, Texas, close to his wife in east Texas
-Took his sister’s car with his family back to New Iberia;
-Every 5 miles the car would stop and then start up again (leak in the pipes that trapped air)

Language: 
English
Media Type: 
Audio
Collection: 
Jason Theriot
Subject: 
Oral History; World War II; Armored Infantry; Europe
Creator: 
Jason Theriot
Informants: 
Louis Berges
Recording date: 
Saturday, March 2, 2002
Coverage Spatial: 
New Iberia, La
Publisher: 
Jason Theriot
Rights Usage: 
All Rights Reserved
Meta Information
Duration: 
01:18:52
Cataloged Date: 
Monday, October 15, 2018
Digitized Date: 
Wednesday, July 17, 2013
Original Format: 
Mircocassette
Digital Format: 
WAV
Bit Depth: 
24 bit
Sampling Rate: 
96 kHz
Storage Location: 
Archives of Cajun and Creole Folklore-Drawer 20

Interview with Harry Bernard

Accession No.: 
TH1-012

Harry Bernard, Jason Theriot, and Hewitt Theriot

-Was in school at VMI during 1941 when Pearl Harbor happened; went into the Navy
-Went to Pensacola for flight training and then Miami for further training
-Had to become a pilot before getting a commission for officer
-9 months of training

Invasion of Palau (8:25)
-Bernard’s squadron took out 25 ships and 121 Japanese planes
-Bernard was shot down and started swimming towards Hawaii (2,000 miles); submarine picked him up
-Rode the submarine for a month before getting to Hawaii

-Saw MacArthur land at Mindano, Philippines and watched them take pictures
-Took them 5 takes to get the right one
-Bernard was sitting on the beach
-Most of the boys did not like MacArthur
-They also hated the Red Cross as they wanted them to pay for their supplies
-They gave the worst materials for clothes and the everyday supplies they needed

-When the war started with Pearl Harbor, everybody wanted to join the Navy, never needed to draft them

Flew a TBM (19:27)
-Had rocket launchers
-100, 200, 500 and 2,000 lbs torpedoes
-And even a few bombs
-4 machine guns in the front and 2 on the wings

Back to the Carrier (21:00)
-Stayed on the at carrier for almost a year and half
-Flew every day; Hawaii was the only time he ever touched the ground
-Bernard rejoined his fleet and carrier in Majuro as they were secretly heading to invade Guam
-They had 4-5 big carriers; 18,000 ships in the fleet; 35 cruisers and 51 destroyers
-About a day into the trip Tokyo Rose (Japanese broadcasting) told them “We’ll be waiting for you at Guam.”

Memories (25:10)
-Had a pilot, machine gun operator and radioman on his plane
-Could carry up to 15 people on his plane ferrying them onto Guam to the carriers
-Bernard’s friend was shot down on the coast of Iwo Jima; he survived
-Once was flying in Davao Bay all day long taking pictures but saw no ships
-Coming back to the States heard that MacArthur had shot down 5-6 Japanese ships in the area;
-Bernard never saw MacArthur’s air force in that area at all (looking at photos)

-Bernard’s fleet hit Manila long before MacArthur came in
-They came in with a whole line of torpedo planes
-Dr. Castro, a Filipino now living in New Iberia, watched the whole thing as a child, dive-bombers hitting the waterfront
-Bernard sunk a 10,000 ton tanker
-Flew 200 knots at 200 feet, straight as an arrow so they would run right
-They targeted gun emplacements, road junctions, and ships, whatever they could find

Revisiting being shot down (38:13)
-Was in the water for about 12 hours before being picked up
-Started swimming to Hawaii but he knew he was never was going to make it
-Gave his lifejacket to a crewman who he lost
-The life rafts were dropped but once it inflated it flew away and they didn’t try to go after them
-3 people on the plane but Bernard was the only one to have survived
-They all got out for the plane; one of the men couldn’t swim and drowned immediately
-He had nothing and was stuck swimming/treading water that whole time
-Did not know if anyone was going to come find him;
-There were other planes above him but never knew if anyone had seen them

Manila and the end of the war (44:00)
-Manila was Bernard’s last engagement
-They were brought back to the States on a jeep carrier
-Landed in San Francisco and was reassigned to Atlantic City
-Received the DSC medal and almost refused it
-Later on sent to Boston to fly fighters
-They were to head back to Japan on another carrier group

-Then after V-J Day and they were told those that had families, enough points in the system, time put in to the service or the DSC medal and higher were to go home
-Bernard was sent home the next day
-Drove all the way back to New Iberia

Transcription:
Harry Bernard
Avenger Torpedo Bomber pilot
Pacific

I entered the service in late 1941. I was in school at VMI during Pearl Harbor. I joined the Navy. I went to Pensacola Florida for flight training. I went to Miami for further flight training after that. You had to become a pilot before you became an officer. My flight training lasted about 9 months. I trained with all the navy planes: N2N's, N3N's, Steersmen's, SNJ's, 0S2U's, Bruster Buffalo's, TBD's, and TBM's.

Our squadron, Torpedo II, was organized at Quonset Point south of Rhode Island. From there we went to the West Coast and boarded a carrier. We were on the USS Hornet, the second one. And we went to Hawaii.

On a carrier we had a bomber squadron, a torpedo squadron, and a fighter squadron. We had 30 fighter planes, 18 torpedo bombers, and about 18 dive-bombers.

We took part in the invasion of Palau (September 1943). Our squadron sunk 25 ships and knocked down 121 Japanese planes in that invasion. I was flying a TBM. I got my ass shot off there. My plane was shot down by antiaircraft. I hit the water and started swimming to Hawaii 2,000 miles away. When we crashed in the water, I undid my strap and got out. All three of us got out, but one guy couldn't swim. I was in the water for about 12 hours. I had nothing. I gave my lifejacket to a crewman, who I lost. The rescue planes would drop us life rafts, and as soon as they (rafts) would hit the water, they would inflate and blow away. I'm the only one that survived. The other two died, that was two too many. A submarine picked me up- USS Gar. I rode in that submarine for a month, till we got to Hawaii.

When I finally got to Hawaii, I tried to borrow some money and clothes.
I got back on the carrier and the issued me another plane. On a TBM we had rocket-launchers. We carried 100, 200, 500, and 2,000 lb. torpedoes and bombs. I had a machine gun in the back and two on the wings. It was a three-man crew: a pilot, a machine gunner, and a radioman. We had enough fuel to fly about 5 hours. We'd go back to the carrier, refuel and rearm, and take off again. We did this all day long. I stayed on that carrier for a year and a half. It was my home. My feet never touched the ground except when I went to Hawaii after I was shot down.

Our fleet left out of Majuro. We were 4 carriers with battleships and cruisers. We were secretly headed to Guam, to invade Guam. About a day or two into the trip, Tokyo Rose came on and told us where we were going. She said, "We'll be waiting for you at Guam."

So we invaded Guam (July 1944). There were a bunch of Japs and an airfield on Guam. We bombed the little towns and I took pictures of it. I flew a bunch of men from Guam to a carrier to get some ice cream one time. I fit about 15 men in that plane that day.

We hit Manila Bay way before MacArthur thought about coming back there. I was 22 at the time. Here is a picture of the ship that I sunk. I kept a camera on board. They wanted us to take pictures; we did what the told us to do. We used these pictures to find the spots that we wanted to hit. We targeted gun emplacements, road junctions, and ships, whatever we could find.

We came in with a whole line of torpedo planes from two ships. We hit the waterfront in Manila (He has a picture of the bay). The fighters hit Clark Field. Dr. Castro, the Filipino, in New Iberia was sitting right here watching the dive-bombers hit the waterfront. We came in and sunk all these damn ships. I got me a 10,000-ton tanker. I put a torpedo on him. I was flying 200 knots at 200 feet. You have to fly as straight as an arrow so your torpedo will run right. Castro was just a young boy. He told me years later that he watched the whole thing.

I watched MacArthur land ashore at Mindano in (October) 1944 (Philippines). I was sitting right there on the beach watching him do it. They were taking pictures of him land there. It took him five takes to get it right. Most of the boys didn't favor him much.

I had read a report that MacArthur's airforce had sunk 5 Japanese ships in Davao Bay, south of Mindanao. I was flying that area all day long that day and took pictures. I didn't see any ships. MacArthur's airforce was not flying in that area. These were falsified reports.

My friend got shot down off the coast of Iwo Jima. We were flying along with the fighters, and we were ordered to pick up any men who got shot down.

Our torpedoes weren't worth a shit at the beginning of the war. The Japanese had better torpedo's that we did. We got better equipment as the war went on.

After my last engagement in Manila I was sent back to the states. We came over on a jeep carrier. We landed in Frisco and I got reassigned to Atlantic City. I got my medal. It finally caught up with me, and I almost refused it. (What medal was that?) The DSC (Distinguish Service Cross). This skipper talked me into it, into accepting it.

I was sent to Boston to fly fighters. We had another carrier group together with nothing but fighters and we were headed to Japan. We had F6's, but we were getting F8's. Then V-J came. They started sending people home. If you had some points, you could go home first, or if you won the DSC. I was out the next day. I drove my car home.

Language: 
English
Media Type: 
Audio
Collection: 
Jason Theriot
Subject: 
Oral History; World War II; Pilot; Pacific
Creator: 
Jason Theriot
Informants: 
Harry Bernard
Recording date: 
Thursday, September 6, 2001
Coverage Spatial: 
New Iberia, La
Publisher: 
Jason Theriot
Rights Usage: 
All Rights Reserved
Meta Information
Duration: 
00:53:31
Cataloged Date: 
Thursday, September 6, 2018
Digitized Date: 
Thursday, July 18, 2013
Original Format: 
Microcassette
Digital Format: 
WAV
Bit Depth: 
24 bit
Sampling Rate: 
96 kHz
Storage Location: 
Archives of Cajun and Creole Folklore-Drawer 20

Interview with Cecilia Beyte

Accession No.: 
TH1-013

Cecilia “Mac” Beyte, Jason Theriot, and Hewitt Theriot

-The day the U.S. declared war Beyte was working at a bank in New York; that week she signed up for the Red Cross
-Had an interview and went to D.C to have training, which was supposed to be 6 months but after one week she was in San Francisco being sent out overseas
-After 3 days on the ship they finally told them where they were going: Auckland, New Zealand
-It was completely over run by American soldiers
-New Zealand had been fighting for the last 3 years so their men were gone, just the elderly, women and children were left
-When those men fighting in the war did come back they found their women had not been faithful and there were more children now that were not theirs, lots of tension later on
-New Zealand had been fighting in Egypt, Italy and Africa
-They landed in June 1943

-Travelling by ship, the “Matzoonie,” she was so fast they did not send her in a convoy
-It was more of a passenger ship but converted into a troop ship
-There were serval nurses, the Red Cross group of 16 and 5,000 troops
-The ship made good time as it zigged zagged a lot
-When they reached the equator they stopped to have an initiation for them (Red Cross)
-Few days later they went through a hurricane

-While on New Zealand Beyte was assigned as a recreation worker at the hospital
-There was 3 ships, known as the Unholy Trinity, which would take men from all over to battle and bring back the injured to New Zealand
-They would go on the ships to take care of the men before dropping them off on New Zealand; Beyte was never on a hospital ship
-They stayed more on the north island of New Zealand and there was thousands of men
-Always building barracks for the men and women; New Zealand did provide some food, lots of mutton

Stayed at Auckland for 5-6 months (16:10)
-Left when Eleanor Roosevelt came to Wellington to speak and Beyte was picked to be her escort; she never actually got to speak with her
-Beyte was put up in a nice hotel with a few other service women and men
-Mrs. Roosevelt was there to be a morale booster for the troops
-When Mrs. Roosevelt left, Beyte stayed on at the hotel as no one told her to go or where to go afterwards
-Did some sightseeing and worked at the hospital
-One night Beyte came back to the hotel after helping out with a dance for the Red Cross, all her things were packed and put outside;
-she was supposed to have left with Mrs. Roosevelt
-They let her sleep on the couch as it was 2 in the morning by then
-Next day her supervisor sent her to the Navy hospital in Silver Stream, Base 4
-That’s where she met her husband, Johnny (“Putsey”) who was a dentist for the Navy (Louisianaian)
-They began dating but he had a fiancée already in California (the last place he had been stationed)

The war was moving closer to Japan (25:36)
-So troops and people were moving and the hospital and Base 4 was closed
-Beyte went back to Auckland and Johnny was shipped to Nuemea in New Caledonia
-Eventually Beyte’s rest area in Auckland was closed and she was transferred to Nuemea
-At that time Johnny asked Beyte to marry him but she hadn’t finished up her year of service in the Red Cross
-As it wasn’t like the the army, the Red Cross did not have a strict policy on them for staying the full year or even staying on longer; many girls never finished a year but Beyte wanted too

"Question: How did these ladies manage to get back home? They were not military or did any battle time so no one had to respect them and send them home right away" (28:26)
-All depended on where they were stationed as to how they were treated
-In New Zealand they were told that they were under the same rules and code of conduct of the nurses;
-Like dating an enlisted man could get you sent home

End of service (32:20)
-Beyte’s year was up around the same time as Johnny’s tour was too
-Red Cross gave them a vacation and then would allow them to sign back up again
-Johnny was going back first so Beyte told him to talk to the girl he was engaged to and they would see how things went from there

-Landed in San Francisco and went to D.C to hand in her resignation
-From there she went to visit her parents in New York and then got on a train to New Orleans to get married
-Beyte had wrote and told her father about Johnny and how she was in love
-he wrote back to her about that she should give serious thought to the marriage and her going to Louisiana to live with him
-Moved to St. Martinsville with her husband Johnny after their honeymoon in New Orleans

Cuts into silence (43:16)

Stories from Working in the Red Cross (44:34)
-When stationed at Silver Stream that was when Beyte saw the truly bad injuries of the war
-They were always trying to find things for the men to do
-Men that couldn’t write thanks to their injuries were left to the girls’ care to write for them

One man that came couldn’t speak at all as all of sudden he was paralyzed, and no one knew why (48:32)
-They would talk to him but he made no sign if he heard anything and one day all his belongings came in and they found out his name and letters that his family had written to him
-he was a young Jewish boy named Pack
-Beyte read the letters to him and he began crying so they knew he hear them
-eventually a ship came that was heading back to San Francisco and he was able to get on it
-She wrote to his mother to let her know that he was coming home
-when Beyte got back to the States the mother had written her to say that Pack had had a brain tumor and died a few days after he got home

At Home (54:53)
-Got home and married all in 2 weeks’ time
-Johnny had 2 weeks leave and everyday they’d go and see if he had gotten his orders; their hope was he would be stationed in California
-Eventually his orders came in he was being sent to Algiers (Louisiana); Beyte at the time thought he meant a place overseas before someone told her
-They were living there when the war ended
-They were playing golf (around 11:00) when the news came and the church bells began ringing; whistles blew and the horns on the boats were going off
-Then they came back to St. Martinsville as they couldn’t find any place to live in New Iberia
-Johnny had had his practice in New Iberia so he wanted to go back there

Life after the war and living in New Iberia (1:05:00)
Stories of:
-Looking for a house
-Where they did live; their neighbors
-Starting a family
-Living in New Iberia

Transcription:
Cecilia MacDerment Beyte
Born: March 11, 1918
Red Cross Volunteer- New Zealand

The day we declared war I was working at a bank in New York. That week I went to see the president of the bank and he was associated with the Red Cross and I asked him if he would recommend me to join the Red Cross. And he did.

I wrote to them (Red Cross) and interviewed with them and the next thing I knew I was in Washington DC at their headquarters. I remember going there and getting my uniform and I was very proud to wear my Red Cross uniform. Ideally we would have three to six-months of training. One week later I was in San Francisco. I was headed overseas. We were at sea for three days before they let us know where we were going. We were headed to New Zealand. We went over on the Matzoonie. We were 16 girls in our group with about 5,000 troops on board. We stopped at the equator for the initiation. It was fun. We ran into a hurricane a few days later. I was lucky because I never got seasick.

I ended up in Auckland New Zealand about June of 1942 (1943?). This was less than a month after I had joined the Red Cross. Auckland was completely over-run with Army, Navy, and Marine Americans. The New Zealander's had been at war for over three years in Egypt and Africa. Their mother country is England, so when war was declared New Zealand and Australia went to war. They were fighting the Germans way before we did. It was sad because there were no (native) men in that country. It was sad too because when the men returned from the war they found out that there were a lot of children not spawn from them. Their wives and girlfriends had not been too faithful.

It is the most beautiful country. The north island is tropical, but the south island is glacier and snow covered mountains. It's the last stop before the South Pole.

I was a recreation worker assigned to the hospital. When the GI's would get wounded they would bring them there it get treated and rest up. I stayed there for about 5 or 6 months.

I left Auckland because Eleanor Roosevelt came to speak at Wellington. And she needed an escort, so I was chosen to go to Wellington with Mrs. Roosevelt, whom I never really got to speak to, but anyhow they sent me there. They put me up in a hotel in Wellington. It was really nice. She was charming and so homely. (She was there to boost moral among the troops.) That was her supporting role. I was in her company for a few weeks. I was really just a tag along. After she left, I stayed at that hotel and really enjoyed myself. Nobody told to leave so I stayed there for a while. I had a wonderful time.

While I was down there I was working at the hospital. I would go and do my hours and then tag along with Mrs. Roosevelt. After she had left I came back to my room late one night after helping out at a dance that the Red Cross had put on, and all of my bags were packed and waiting outside. They told me that I was supposed to have left with Mrs. Roosevelt. Well this was two o'clock in the morning. They let me sleep on a sofa in the lobby, so I did. The next day I got in touch with my supervisor and they sent me to Silver Stream. There was a Navy hospital. It was a beautiful place on this golf course. That's where I met my husband, Putsey.

He was a dentist in the Navy. We met and started dating, but he was engaged to a girl in California. The war was moving along and troops were moving up and people were getting transferred. They closed down this hospital and sent me back to Auckland. Johnny was shipped to an island-Nuemea in New Caledonia. Some time later I was transferred and they sent me to Nuemea. He always said that I chased him all over the South Pacific.

He had asked me to marry him, but I hadn't finished my year in the Red Cross. A lot of girls left before their year was up, but I decided to stay.

From day one we were told that we would be under the rules and code of conduct that a nurse had to follow. Rule number one was that we couldn't date enlisted men. If you did you could get in trouble.

In Nuemia there were dances on Friday and Saturday night with an orchestra. I was dating John then, but I did not know that his nickname was Putsey till after we got from the war. I was 23 and I can't imagine that I would have married a Putsey!

Well my year was up and his tour was ending right at the same time. We were both going home around the same time. He was going home first so I told him, "You better go and tell that girl you are engaged to that you asked me to marry you. And we'll see how it works from there."

I had written a letter to my father, and told him about John, and I told him that I was in love. He wrote me back, and I still have that letter, giving the mean temperature of southern Louisiana, the population as to black and white, and all about the culture down here. He told me that I should really give serious thought to this marriage.

Before I left to go overseas there was a girlfriend of mine who had joined the Red Cross with me. She caught the measles right before we left so she didn't make it with us. Well when I get back to Washington I ran into her. Come to find out she went to India and had got married to an enlisted man. They were less restricted than we were. Come to find out she had married a man from Lake Charles, and so I told that I was glad to hear that because I was moving to a place called St. Martinsville which I knew was near Lake Charles. She said, "Well you can go to St. Martinsville, but I'm never going back to Lake Charles." She said, "If you think India was hot, and you think India was rainy…" She said, "No way am I going to live in Lake Charles Louisiana, thank god he is going to move to Connecticut." So I'm thinking, "Oh Lord, what am I getting into?"

So I got home and landed in San Francisco. That's when I found out that his nickname was Putsey. He had been waiting for me. So I came to DC and gave them my resignation and went and visited my parents in New York, got on a train and came to New Orleans and got married.

At that hospital in Silverstream they had a patient, a marine that everybody was talking about. They were saying he was a hero, he was this, he was that, and come to find out it was Walter McHelhenney.

After we were married Putsey took me out one night in St. Martinsville to the old Hill Top Club and we were sitting at this bar and Sheriff Hebert walked up and Putsey introduced us and he said, "She's a Yankee." This darling little man said, "May sha that's OK, we gonna absorb you." I'll never forget that.

While I was in Auckland I was doing real recreation work; arranging for dances, arranging for trips for the men, arranging sight seeing, making sure they were entertained. I didn't see the real side of the war until I went to the hospital in Silverstream. A lot of the wounded had come from the neighboring islands: Guadalcanal and the Russell Islands.

One of our jobs was to write letters home for the wounded GI's who couldn't. There was this one young man there who couldn't speak at all. He was on an island when all of sudden he had gotten paralyzed. So they sent him to New Zealand. I went to visit him everyday, to see how he was doing, but you really couldn't tell if anything was getting through to him or not. His belongings finally caught up with him at the hospital. We found out that he was a young Jewish boy from New York City. When he arrived at the hospital, of course all these letters arrived from his family, his mom and dad. So I would read the letters to him, and tears would come down his face, so we knew he could hear us. Finally a ship came in and was taking some of the wounded back to the states and when he found out he was going home he let out a great big yell. And that was the first thing he said or done in many weeks. His last name was Pack.

The skipper of the ship told me I could find his mother; and I had been reading her letters to him. So I wrote her and told her what had happened and that he was coming home. So she came all the way from New York to San Francisco to meet him when he got off the ship. After I got back to the states she wrote me and thanked me and told me she was able to see him just before he died. He had a brain tumor and died a few days after he got back.

After I got back and resigned my mother and I went to New Orleans and Putsey and I were married there during his two-week leave. The war was still going on then. Everyday for two-weeks we would go to see if his orders had come in. Finally they came in and when he read his orders he said, "Damn." I got worried, and said, "Where are they sending you?" He said, "They are sending me to Algiers." Well I burst into tears, you don't think I knew that Algiers was across the river in New Orleans. They finally told me where Algiers was. But he was disappointed; he wanted to go back to California. So we lived on St. Charles Ave. until the war ended. I was playing golf that day and all of the church bells in city started ringing, and we said, "Oh my God the war is over." It was really exciting. But I hope we never have another one.

And then we moved here to New Iberia. His practice was on Church Alley and we lived in the brick apartment across the street from Delahouse's Restaurant (Corner of Lewis St. and Main St.) We lived upstairs from the Mestayer's Brothers grocery store.

Language: 
English
Media Type: 
Audio
Collection: 
Jason Theriot
Subject: 
Oral History; World War II; Red Cross; New Zealand
Creator: 
Jason Theriot
Informants: 
Cecilia Beyte
Recording date: 
Friday, September 6, 2002
Coverage Spatial: 
New Iberia, La
Publisher: 
Jason Theriot
Rights Usage: 
All Rights Reserved
Meta Information
Duration: 
01:17:08
Cataloged Date: 
Thursday, September 6, 2018
Digitized Date: 
Thursday, July 18, 2013
Original Format: 
Microcassette
Digital Format: 
WAV
Bit Depth: 
24 bit
Sampling Rate: 
96 kHz
Storage Location: 
Archives of Cajun and Creole Folklore-Drawer 20

Interview with Raymond Bienvenu

Accession No.: 
TH1-014

Raymond “Eboo” Bienvenu: Jason Theriot
(Eboo means swamp owl in French)

-Bienvenu was getting ready to graduate from high school at age 17 and decided to cut classes to go to Lafayette to sign up as a volunteer for pilot training in the Army Air Corps
-They decided to take Bienvenu but he was under age and unless his father signed a minor release he had to wait till he turned 18
-took the form and had Borden’s ice cream (near UL/SLI campus) before forging his father’s name on the form
-Once graduated Bienvenu was sent to Denver, Colorado for basic training; but there was already too many pilots for assignments
-They told him that if he wanted to fly he should try for bombardier or navigator; chose bombardier and went to Madison, Wisconsin
-Had a crash program on electrical, mathematics and astrology; became a navigator instead, a crude way without radar
-Got on a converted luxury ship in New York with 7,000 men, double loaded—half day above other half in beds
-No convoy or escort; headed up towards Iceland where they were hit by a big storm and German intelligence reported that their ship had sunk
-What really happened: they left New York on the “USS Washington” and while at sea some sailors repainted the name to “Mount Vernon” to confuse the Germans (which it did)
-Most of the British men were fighting in North Africa or the Pacific trying to save their Empire; no men but Americans in England

Troop Carrier Group (6:30)
-Bienvenu had joined as a replacement of a troop transport squadron, the 75th Squadron of the 313th Troop Carrier Group; hauled paratroopers and gliders
-When attacking, they never went far back into the enemy lines; always left in the dark
-Left England at night and at day break hit their targets and then tried to get to the English Channel; everything wide open
-All the good navigators were in the Pacific; if they lost an island then they’d run out of fuel and crash—had to find your own way there
-Bienvenu dealt with dead reckoning, triangulation and crude radar from the British
-Flew mostly C-47s and gliders; 3 missions on B-25s
-Had to wear sheepskin suits and a leather helmet

D-Day (11:17)
-On D-Day Bienvenu flew a diversion; dropped paratroopers that night before in Belgium to trick the Germans on where they were trying to land; most probably were captured or killed
-Dropped the 101st and the 82nd Airborne that night
-Never did get the results of the diversion

-Gliders were suicidal
-When the war ended the gliders were discontinued altogether
-Gliders were assembled in about a half-hour
-Cloth over aluminum tubing; fuselage had only 6 bolts

Rhine River (17:11)
-Really took a beating at the Rhine River near Wessell, Germany
-Germans were holding them off so they couldn’t cross the river
-Flew C-47s to the front, small enough to land in a pasture, and pick up the wounded and went back to England
-Germans would pick them off in counter attacks when they came in
-Poorly equipped in defending themselves; they (Bienvenu) were given very little to use to fight with

-They were at an old German airfield that they had bombed before
-Took cover in a shell hole and Bienvenu only had a .45 pistol; just best thing to do was stay quiet
-An older British soldier came up to them to help them; several incidents like that where they would get caught in the fighting and had to defend themselves

-Once flying over Wessell, they were hit and went into a bank and plowed into a potato field; had a busted nose but no deaths
-Troops found them and pulled them out and gave them rifles to defend themselves as they went back

German Airfields (21:40)
-Another time they left England was to go to an abandoned German airfield in France
-They were just going to take over this little field; it was rough
-They knew how far the Germans could fly before doubling back to the base to refuel; figured that the nearest base was too far for the Germans to come out to them
-So no one was watching and a FW 190 comes out and takes a few of their planes down
-They had no clue where that plane came from, figured there was a secret base somewhere but never did find it
-Later on they noticed that the Germans would use a JU 88 to haul a FW 190 and then cut it loose so it could fly father out but still have enough fuel to make the trip back to the base later

-What really beat the Germans were the Russians; all the best German fighters were on the Russian front
-Towards the end of the war, they began running into young soldiers that had just been drafted
-In the Pacific the Japanese were suicidal in their attacks which made it harder, at least these young Germans were cowards and did not want to die any more than they did

France and Speaking French (25:14)
-The French hated the Americans
-When the Germans took over they hardly killed anyone; Americans probably killed more French people than the Germans did
-Eisenhower told them to not come back with their bombs; had to unload them somewhere
-Flying over little towns, they’d just drop the bombs; “we killed a lot of Frenchmen”
-Spoke a little bit of French, just enough to get by

-In Mons near the Belgium border, wounded men and troops went by train back to Paris to recover or have time off
-Bienvenu went there a few times to fix antennas on the Eiffel Tower for navigational purposes; hated it as it would move with the wind the further up you went
-On one trip back it was cold and they had stopped at this one station and there was 3 Frenchmen and a potbelly stove in the station house
-The commanding officer asked if anyone could speak French so they could ask the Frenchmen in the troops could go in single file to warm themselves up for a bit;
-Bienvenu went in and asked and they told him no
-The officer sprayed the building with a Thomas machine gun and burned the train station to ground
-“Eisenhower said, “If you need something, then take it. If somebody gets in your way, then shoot’ um.” There might have been better moments, but from what I saw it was bad.”

Coming Home (33:40)
-Went over as a replacement for a squadron in North Africa
-They had orders if you could not make it back (to England or Africa) then land in Zurich, Switzerland
-The Swiss were neutral but they were pro-German until the end of the war when it became clear that the Allied forces were winning
-The Swiss at the end of the war said they’d take so many old combat troops as guests of the Swiss government; Bienvenu’s squadron had been there for a while and so they picked him
-They were put up in a fancy hotel and they could eat whatever they wanted for 6 weeks
-They were given the choices of touring the castles of Switzerland or go up into the mountains
-Bienvenu went to Omnimount to take up skiing lessons; could see 4 countries from the top

-After the 6 weeks Bienvenu had enough combat points and came home
-Got back to New York and sent on a troop train to Camp Shelby in Mississippi where he was discharged
-On the GI Bill he went to LSU and graduated in electrical engineering; got married
-First job was in upstate New York for 6 years; it was the pits
-Came back home but never did work in St. Martinville, always out of town
-Fought in the war for almost 4 years and toured 11 countries

Transcription:

Raymond “Eboo” Bienvenu (“Eboo” is a French name for a swamp owl)
St. Martinville, LA
Born: October 22, 1925
Navigator, ETO
75th Squadron/313th Troop Carrier Group

When I was seventeen-and-a-half getting ready to graduate from high school, I needed a way to get out of this part of the country. I had never been anywhere before. So about a month before graduation, I cut classes and went to Lafayette to volunteer for the pilot training with the Army Air Corps. I went down and took all the test: physicals, IQ’s and all of that. I remember being in a room where they had given us a bunch of numbers to add up. So I was concentrating on my numbers when somebody from in back of the room fired off a shotgun with a blank in it. Everybody else jumped; I kept on adding. It scared the hell out of me, but I kept concentrating on my numbers.

They decided to take me, but they said, “Well you’re only seventeen-and-a-half, so you have to wait until you turn 18, unless your father signs a minor release.” I said, “Well give me the form because my dad is working in Lafayette.” I remember going by the UL—SLI back then—campus and Borden’s had an ice cream place right near there. I knew that so I went by and got myself a banana split. I waited just a little while then I forged my daddy’s name and went back and said that my daddy had signed it.

As soon as I graduated, they took me. I was seventeen-and-a-half.

I got on a train in New Orleans and they sent me to Denver, Colorado for basic. We went through basic, but when they started getting towards our assignments, they told me that I had signed up to be a pilot, but they had more pilots than they knew what do with. They said if you want to fly you’d better try for navigator or bombardier. I thought, Bombardier? Well, what would you do with that after the war, assuming that you make it? So I decided to train for navigator (3:46). They sent me to Madison, Wisconsin, the University of Wisconsin. They had a crash program on electrical, mathematics, and astrology. Anyway, I became a navigator. But it was crude; they didn’t have much radar in those days. It was a crude way of navigating, but you could get to where you were going.

I ended up getting on a ship in New York in the early part of ‘44. It was a converted luxury ship and there were seven thousand of us on it. We were doubled loaded—half the day you were on the deck, the other half you could to the bunks below. That was a mess. We took off without convoy escort and zigzagged across the north Atlantic toward Iceland. When we got off of Iceland there was big storm and the German intelligence reported that our ship had sunk with all the troops aboard. Anyway, we left New York City on the USS Washington. But while at sea, to fool the Germans to think that we had sunk, some sailors climbed over the side and painted the name out and they called the ship the Mount Vernon. So we left from New York on the Washington and landed in Liverpool, England on the Mount Vernon.

Most of the British were fighting in North Africa against Rommell or fighting in the Pacific trying to save the British Empire, so there were no men. We were it! They had so many of us in England we almost sank that damn island.

I went over as a replacement with a squadron that had been in North Africa. I was part of a troop transport squadron: the 75th Squadron of the 313th Troop Carrier Group. We hauled gliders and paratroops. That was something. We had C-47s that could land anywhere. Each one would pull two gliders. They’d send them in crates and we’d assemble them. The pilots who trained to fly those hardly had any experience at all. They’d carry seven men plus equipment in each glider. They had skids that landed on the ground then the nose would pop up and everybody would run out. Oh Lord man, to get off the ground, we couldn’t afford to get a jerk. We had to get them all in a line and some of us in the last plane would have to get out and push the gliders, like pushing a car to start it. That’s how crude it was. That was rough getting up there pulling two gliders fully loaded. Then again, they couldn’t swing so they insisted that we use brand new nylon rope, about an inch, and it would stretch. So the pilot of the glider could disconnect if something went wrong or the C-47 pilot could let them both go. Then they were on their own. It was rough. But once you got airborne, with one in back of the other, one a little longer than the other, so if they criss-crossed they wouldn’t hit each other.

When we’d hit a target we never went far back behind enemy lines, but enough to do the job. We hauled paratroopers and gliders. Paratroopers were okay; they’d bail out then they were on their own and we’d head back. We always left in the dark. We had a free ride into the target area, but at daybreak we caught hell and fought our way back to the English Channel to get back to England. We left at night and hit our target at daybreak. The planes weren’t pressurized and everything was just wide open.

All of the good navigators were in the Pacific where you had to find your way. If you lose an island, you gonna run out of fuel and crash in the sea. They needed somebody who could really navigate to those islands. Our navigation was with dead reckoning, triangulation, and crude radar from the British.

I flew three missions on B-25s and several on gliders. We used to have to wear sheepskin suites that fit over your shoes. We wore a leather helmet.

On D-Day we flew a diversion. The night before we dropped some paratroopers in Belgium to trick the Germans into thinking that we were landing further north. Those paratroopers probably got captured or shot or something. We dropped 82nd Airborne that night. The gliders were suicidal. The Germans had built these posts in the ground and we couldn’t see them from the air. Man, when the gliders hit, it was a blood bath. Many of them were whipped out.

The gliders would come in on crates. We’d assemble one in about a half-hour. They were nothing, really, just cloth cover and aluminum tubing. There were control cables or pulleys that were used to tow the gliders. When you pulled out the fuselage all they had were six bolts. It was crude.

We flew three planes abreast, low, each towing two glides, with seven men and equipment in each glider. They were peppering us with ground fire and we didn’t have anything to protect ourselves. There were bullet holes in the planes, and it look like a pencil hole. All of our planes took on small arms fire from the ground. Once in awhile they’d get lucky and hit somebody in the plane.

The Germans had good anti-aircraft. And once we got higher, the German airplanes, the Meshersmit 109, would attack us. That was a good one. It was comparable to our P-51 Mustang. They also had a stub-nosed plane, called the FW 190. That was a gun platform with a plane built around it. They used that for strafing; they could hit a truck and turn it over.

They were all mostly low level missions. Get in and get your ass out!

We really took a beating later on when we were caught at the Rhine River near Wessell, Germany. The Germans were holding off so we couldn’t cross the Rhine. We had a stand off and couldn’t get across for a while. There was a lot of artillery up there. See, in a C-47 we used to fly right up to the front, land, and pick up wounded to bring them back to England. We’d land and stay there for a while. You could land a C-47 in a pasture. That was a mule.

Often times we’d land on a captured German airfield and a few times these Germans counterattacked. This one time over Wessell we got hit flying over the area. We couldn’t bail out because we were too low. We just went into a bank and we landed back on our side and plowed up a potato field. I was holding on to my chair and hit a bulkhead in front of me behind the co-pilot and busted up my nose. We were all banged up and we were all right. Our soldiers pulled us out of the plane and we were given rifles. We defended ourselves as best we could. We got some help and our troops finally pushed the Germans back. But for a while it was touch-n-go, those Germans attacked and man they were tough.

We were a bunch of us together and those Germans were all over, bullets flying all over. We had bombed that place before. It was a German airfield, so these Germans knew where it was, because they had built it. Six of us jumped in a shell hole where we had dropped a bomb. All I had was .45-caliber pistol. I told them that the best thing to do was to keep quiet. All the Germans had to do was drop a grenade in that hole and we are all gone. So we heard some running and this ole timer, an old British soldier—he looked like hell—came running up to us. He looked around at us and said, “Hey Yank. You guys look scared.” We said, “You damn right we scared!” He said, “Not to worry lads. When it gets too rough for you, Mother England will take you back into the fold.” I thought that I’d remember that for the rest of my life. Those British soldiers were something else. They were some brave son of a guns.

There were three separate incidents like that, at least, were we caught in the fighting and had to defend ourselves. But our infantry came up and pushed the Germans back each time. One time there was a German pillbox, which was probably a field headquarters. The Germans had left, I guess, and when I went inside there was souverniers all over the place. There were flags and guns and all kind of stuff and I took a few. I lost them all before I came home.

One time we left England and were going to this deserted German airfield. We knew about how far their airplanes were from us and how far their planes could fly. So here comes this one FW 190 and it made a strafing run, knocking out a couple of our planes. There was this old Frenchman who had been picking up our garbage and he had an old
jackass. He used him to pull his cart around. Well when this FW 190 made a pass that jackass was on the ground kicking and our cooks went out and cut the back legs off. They made steaks out it. That was the toughest damn meat I ever had; like chewing on rubber.

But the whole damn thing is that we were worried about where in the hell that FW 190 came from. We didn’t know if there was a secret base or what, but they never found it. Later on we took over this one place and the Germans had a plane called a JU 88, a Junkers 88. It was a three-engine bomber: one on the nose and one on each side. They found one on the ground that had a FW190 strapped on top. The JU 88 would get airborne with a FW 190 strapped on it, fly to an area, then cut itself loose, and then the FW 190 had enough fuel to get back. They were pretty smart people.

What beat those Germans most were the Russians. They were all tied up on the Russian front. Germany’s best people were tied up on that front and the Russians ate their lunch. What we ran into when we got towards the end were young soldiers who had just been drafted. But we were all just children on both sides. They didn’t want to die anymore than we did.

It must have been a bitch in the Pacific with those Japanese suicidal attacks. If I’m in a war, I’d much rather face a coward than a religious fanatic.

The French hated our guts. When the Germans invaded France they went around the Maginot Line and France surrendered. I don’t think the Germans hardly killed any French people at all. But we did. We killed more Frenchmen than the Germans did. Eisenhower said don’t come back with your bombs. Bombs don’t discriminate. That got to me later on because I flew a few missions on a B-25 and I’d look down at the little towns, as we’d bomb them. We killed a lot of Frenchmen.

When the Germans took over France they sent a lot of the men off to labor camps and had all the women for themselves. Then, when we got there we had all the French women. By the time the war ended, I doubt that there was virgin in France over 13. That’s how bad it was.

Towards the end of the war, we were in this little village in France and there was like a town square where everybody would meet. Well there was a platform and these older women would bring up one of the younger girls who had been with a German. They would sit her down in a chair and in front of everybody they would shave her head bald, strip her down buck naked, make her walk out of town and tell her not to come back. That was a sight.

We were in a town called Mons, right on the Belgian border. They were sending troops on a troop train to Paris to rest and sending fresh troops back to the line. I had gone a couple of times for different reasons. I used to go up the Elfle Tower to fix antennas for navigation purposes. I hated climbing that tower because it would move in the wind. Anyhow, I got on this troop train headed to Paris with a rough bunch of soldiers. Man they had been through hell. Well we got side tracked. So we stopped at this train station. It was cold as hell; I’ll remember that. We went inside this train station and there was a big potbelly stove with three Frenchmen manning the train station. That stove was red hot, but it was cold, cold. This major with his Thompson machine gun asked if any of us spoke French. I said that I did and he told me to go in there and ask the Frenchmen if his men could come in there, single file, and warm their hands up on that stove. So I went in and they said “no.” I went back and told that major, “They said no.” He said, “What?” I said, “They said ‘no.’” He sprayed the building with his machine gun and boy those Frenchmen took off running. He turned to his troops and said, “Burn it!” We set the building on fire, burned it to the ground, and the Frenchmen were screaming at us. Those boys weren’t take shit from nobody. They had had enough.

Eisenhower said, “If you need something, then take it. If somebody gets in your way, then shoot’ um.” There might have been better moments, but from what I saw it was bad.

We had orders that if our plane was shot up and couldn’t make it back we should land in Zurich, Switzerland. The Swiss were pro-German. The Germans had been putting all their money and gold in the Swiss banks. But towards the end they switched sides because they knew that we were going to win the war. At the end of the war, the Swiss said that they would take so many old combat troops as guest of the Swiss government. My squadron had been there a along time so they picked us.

We went to the big fancy hotel in Zurich where the kings and queens used to go. They said we could order anything that we wanted to eat. The menu was in German. I recognized one thing: beef steak bijarskie. I thought, That couldn’t be bad. It was stewed meatballs. Everybody was getting good steaks and I had stewed meatballs.

Anyhow, I went up to Omnimount to take up skiing lessons. Can you image that, a boy from Louisiana? We went to the top of this mountain where there was a restaurant and you could see four countries with the naked eye. We skied back down. That was something. The thing that got me the most was after living in tents and what not we slept in goose-down mattresses and blankets. Damn that was nice. Comfortable and warm. I never slept so good in all my life in that little town. That was six weeks.

I got back to New York. And when we landed we went to this big mess hall where they gave us a little coupon where we could get fresh milk, fresh eggs, and steaks, anything you wanted. I took a troop train to Camp Shelby to be discharged. I went to LSU on the GI Bill and graduated in electrical engineering and married a coonass from back home.

Language: 
English
Media Type: 
Audio
Collection: 
Jason Theriot
Subject: 
Oral History; World War II; Navigator; Airforce; Europe
Creator: 
Jason Theriot
Informants: 
Raymond Bienvenu
Recording date: 
Friday, September 6, 2002
Coverage Spatial: 
St. Martinville, La
Publisher: 
Jason Theriot
Rights Usage: 
All Rights Reserved
Meta Information
Duration: 
00:46:14
Cataloged Date: 
Thursday, September 6, 2018
Digitized Date: 
Thursday, July 18, 2013
Original Format: 
Mircocassette
Digital Format: 
WAV
Bit Depth: 
24 bit
Sampling Rate: 
96 kHz
Storage Location: 
Archives of Cajun and Creole Folklore-Drawer 20

Interview with Jeanette Birchett

Accession No.: 
TH1-015

Jeanette Birchett, Jason Theriot, Hewitt Theriot:

-Birchett was in training at the Charity Hospital in Lafayette when they heard of the news of Pearl Harbor
-Decided to join 3 ½ years later as she wasn’t old enough yet to go into the service
-A friend Irene Comeaux wanted Birchett to go with her into the service when they turned 20
-May of 1944 when she did turn 20, the superintendent of the hospital did not want them to go as they were needed more at home than at service
-Threatened to freeze their jobs (deferment)
-Eventually they were allowed to go and went to Hunter College in New York for basic training
-Went in as pharmacists’ mates; stayed there for 6 weeks
-Then went on to St. Alban’s Hospital in Long Island for indoctrination for 2 months
-Birchett’s orders were to Corpus Christi, Texas as Comeaux’s went to Georgia
-On the main base at Corpus Christi there was a large hospital (main base) where Birchett stayed for a few days
-Sent on to Rod Field, a smaller air base off Corpus
-Worked in the lab and ran the pharmacy; also took care of other WAVES when they got sick in the dispensary

-Uniforms were given out at basic training
-They had a blue smock or a “sears suckers” uniform when working at the hospital
-Then a navy blue dress and a white dress with caps for elsewhere

Basic Training (6:53)
-Basic training for 6 weeks
-It was hard to Birchett as she couldn’t march; had boot camp training more or less
-Had to get up early; woman drill sergeant
-They put her in the back row as she couldn’t march
-She lived on the 9th floor with no elevators
-Went in as an enlisted woman; was a pharmacy’s mate, never an officer
-Paid about $50 a month
-Did everything the navy way

At Corpus Christi (12:50)
-Stayed at Corpus till the end of the war
-Lived in barracks; had a bunkmate
-They had 3 sections; worked on call all day, that night had duty, second day off by 4:30 and the third day was the off day
-Birchett was in charge of all the lab work; blood work, checking diseases, giving medication, etc.
-Anything serious was sent to the main hospital, lab work or injured men
-The main base, Corpus, had smaller bases around them called P fields; Birchett was at Rod Field

-For fun they watched the latest movies that were not even out in regular theaters yet; new one every night
-Had dances some nights; it was like a family

D-Day (23: 30)
-Birchett was in the commissary getting coffee in the morning; everyone was excited about what was happening
-Then they started doing the paper work for discharging; one needed so many points to be able to get out and go home
-Took about a week before people began going home; had to go to the main base in Corpus to get discharged or check to see if you were able to
-Never really thought about whether the U.S. could lose the war; weren’t told much about the war anyway, they were too busy and so young

Talking (28:58)
-What Birchett did after being discharged
-Men she dated (and her husband)
-What WAVES stood for (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service)
-Books of Louisianans in WWII (New Iberians)
-Other WAVES she knew
-Women that worked in the service for the navy and the army; navy women were trained to take the places of men that had went off to war
-How she enjoyed working in the service

Funny stories (40:20)
-Living in the barracks in basic training and in Corpus
-Things they did in Corpus
-How she believes she swallowed a pen once

Coming Back after the War (43:30)
-It was an exciting time when everyone was coming back
-Discharged in June 1945 (after V-E Day)
-Civilians knew more about the war than those in the service; all the news was always late to those in the service
-Letters were all censored

Talking (47:16)
-About Jason Theriot’s work
-People they know

End of Birchett’s interview (53:05)

(Parts of another interview of Ned Badeaux afterwards)

Transcription:

Jeanette Judice Birchett
Born: May 4th 1924
WAVE
Interview conducted on August 6, 2001

I was working at Charity Hospital in Lafayette on Pearl Harbor Day. I remember I was training. I was working in the lab and I heard the news come through. I decide to join three and half years later. You see I wasn't old enough then. I had a good friend, and she wanted me to go with her. Her name was Irene Comeaux. I said I wasn't old enough, "but if you wait till I turn 20 I'll go with ya."
So in May of '44 I turned twenty, so she says, "OK let's go." But the superintendent at the hospital did not want us to go. They were going to freeze us on our jobs (Deferment). They said we were needed more here, at the hospital than in the service. But she really wanted to go, so we talked our super into letting us go. Which is funny because I ended up taking care of her. She was a good friend and she was lonesome when we got to New York.

We signed up and went into the service as pharmacists' mates 3rd class. From Lafayette we boarded a train and went all the way to New York. We took our basic training in New York at Hunter College. We stayed there 6 weeks. From there we were sent to indoctrination at St. Albans's Hospital in Long Island. We stayed there for 2 months, and then I got my orders to go to Corpus Christi. She went to Georgia.

There was a large hospital there on the main base. I stayed there for a few days, and then they sent me to a smaller air base called Rod Field. I worked in the lab, I ran the pharmacy, and also when one of the WAVES was sick I had to stay in the dispensary with her.

The cloths fit pretty well. We had a uniform like a blue smock, for when you worked, in the hospital. Then we had "sears suckers" uniform, and we had dress navy and the dress white uniform, with the cap. I don't know what happened to all my uniforms. I don't have them. I just didn't keep them. When I got out I didn't figure that I would live this long to be interviewed!

Basic was ruff for me because I couldn't march. We had to get up early. They put me on the last row cause I couldn't march. I never forget that, they called me "judice". They always called you by your last name. I lived on the 9th floor and we had no elevators. Up and down those stairs all day, we stayed in good shape. We learned discipline, the navy way. Everything had to be done the navy way.
I got paid about $50 a month.

In Corpus, I had a bunkmate. We had sections, three sections; we worked shifts. I took care of all the lab work. I checked the blood work, and anything serious, and would send it to the main hospital. I took care of the medication for the airman. I did the lab work for diseases. There were a lot of venereal diseases and I would give medication to treat those things. I did blood work for malaria and others and we tried to treat all that.

We mostly took care of the airman, who were training at our particular "P- field." We had marines that worked as guards there and of coarse we had sailors who were stationed at the base there. So we took care of them too.

I fell out of the bunk one night. One time I was running late for work, and I was running with a pen in my mouth and I sneezed; I thought I swallowed that pen. I went and had x-rays, but they never could find that pen. I could have sworn that I swallowed it.

We kept busy; we had dances and watched movies. We got to see all the new movies before they came out. It was like a big family. There was something to do every night. Everybody knew each other.
We didn't think about the war. We were so young and so busy. I didn't think about being invaded from the West Coast or from the Gulf. We really didn't know what was happening over seas, I think they didn't want us to know. They didn't want anybody to panic.

I remember a really bad hurricane that hit Corpus Christi. I was up stairs in my barracks sleeping and they said for all the WAVES to go to one wing. Most of these girls had never been in a hurricane before, but I had, and I wasn't scared. It came right through the naval base.

They told us that Corpus was the farthest overseas that we would get in the Navy. See our jobs were to take over for the men who had to leave the states, that's what the WAVE were trained for. So when I was ordered to Corpus I was replacing a male pharmacist mate who was sent overseas.

Everybody was needed no matter what you did. My family wasn't in favor of me volunteering, but I'm glad I did. I really enjoy my time in the service. I learned a lot.

Some time after V-E Day (June '45), they began to discharge people. We had to have so many points to get discharged. I came home for a month. I had a sister who lived in Houston, and I went to work there as a technician for a pediatrician and that's where I met my husband.

We moved here (New Iberia) about 5 years later. I worked at Dautrive's Hospital for a while. And then I volunteered; I worked for Dr. Flore. I was married for 53 years.

Language: 
English
Media Type: 
Audio
Collection: 
Jason Theriot
Subject: 
Oral History; World War II; WAVES; Homefront
Creator: 
Jason Theriot
Informants: 
Jeanette Birchett
Recording date: 
Monday, August 6, 2001
Coverage Spatial: 
Lafayette and New Iberia, La
Publisher: 
Jason Theriot
Rights Usage: 
All Rights Reserved
Meta Information
Duration: 
01:27:59
Cataloged Date: 
Thursday, September 6, 2018
Digitized Date: 
Thursday, July 18, 2013
Original Format: 
Mircocassette
Digital Format: 
WAV
Bit Depth: 
24 bit
Sampling Rate: 
96 kHz
Storage Location: 
Archives of Cajun and Creole Folklore-Drawer 20

Interview with John Boudreaux

Accession No.: 
TH1-016

John Boudreaux, Jason Theriot, Hewitt Theriot:

-Was hanging out at the Estarge Drugstore on Main St. when they heard about Pearl Harbor on the radio
-Most of them at the time were 17-18 years old and they didn’t think too much about it at the time
-What really changed their views was when they heard stories from other friends in the National Guard (1941)
-Boudreaux decided that he wanted to at least be able to shower while serving, so he joined the navy

-Joined the navy with Claude Patout in New Orleans in November 1943
-Was sent to San Diego for basic training
-Then went to Memphis to radio school for the dive-bombers (TBF's)
-Boudreaux didn't want to fly so when testing to see if he could stand on one leg and then close his eyes, he failed it on purpose and was sent back to California

-Eventually sent to Pasco, Washington (Walla Walla) for 6 months; training pilots
-Trained pilots by having them take off to the Pacific Ocean and the practice bombing the airport (just like the Japanese attacking a carrier force or island)
-Those on land would track them with radars and then send out fighters to meet them

-A big dish was a on a truck with a large antenna on land, but on the ship the antennas were smaller
-The wavelength on the radar would show whether it was a friend or foe
-Americans had IFFs while Japanese had nothing
-Could catch these wavelengths about 100 miles out which would give them enough time to send out carriers to protect the convoy--the destroyer’s job

-At the end of 6 months the navy decided that the Japanese were not coming back to the island the navy was readying to invade and take so Boudreaux's unit of 250 men was disbanded

Time at Washington state (12:00)
-On the weekends they could go into Walla Walla for mass
-At Pasco they'd work at a factory that made crates/boxes to earn a little extra
-On the base all they did on weekends was stand watch around the clock; sometimes it could be all night (funny story 14:00)

After being disbanded (14:50)
-Everyone wanted to go overseas to fight
-They were sent back to California and then over to Pearl Harbor to be reassigned and get on-the-job training for radar surface
-Stayed there for about a month and then assigned to a Destroyer Escort the "USS Abercrombie"
-12 men as the radar operators for one ship
-Sat 4 men at a time at the radar for 30 minutes and then they all stood guard for 4 hour shifts

-Left Pearl Harbor to the Pacific to fight the Japanese; always inside at the radars when fighting
-First battle was at Okinawa; they arrived 4 days early of the invasion (April 1945)
-They would take control of 5-6 small islands and create a harbor out of the escorts for other ships to be protected
-They were only escorts, Destroyer Escorts, they would surround an island for about 8,000 yards and patrol
-They were the first line defense for the bigger ships in the navy

Okinawa (23:51)
-Shot down 3 planes and knocked out a few ships
-One of the sister ships was sunk midway by a Japanese fleet
-Kamikaze (suicide planes) did damage to the navy;
-They would circle around at night dropping bombs and around 3-4 in the morning would start dive-bombing--one way ticket for them

-When they made the first invasion of Okinawa there was no resistance
-Japanese did not show up until a couple days later; stayed on the island for 72 days
-Once Okinawa was secured they left to the Lingayen Gulf, Philippines
-Escorted transports of troops to the island
-Details of invasions--Lingayen Gulf, Leyte Gulf and Okinawa

Escorted 2 Army Tankers to Jinsen, Korea (36:40)
-Then went to Japan for occupation duty for 2-3 months
-Landed at Wakayama and were the first Americans there; Japanese were friendly and spoke English

Jumps to stories of time in the navy and after (38:26)
-Looking for pilots
-Initiation rituals
-When the news came that the war had ended over the radio
-Ships he escorted and travel time
-Returning to California and seeing friends in the navy (Carol Lapyouse)
-A time he came home on leave and drove from Texas to Louisiana
-Standing guard stories
-Meeting girls/people they know

(1:04:20)
-Boudreaux remembers praying at Okinawa, they were so scared they'd get hit
-The ship was never hit or damaged and they never lost anyone
-Mostly afraid of the Kamikaze; seeing them on the radars wondering if they'll get hit
-Sometimes the Kamikaze would drop aluminum foil to confuse the radars into making it look like a fleet of planes was coming

Transcription:

John Boudreaux 9/27/01
Born: November 25, 1925
Radarman/Destroyer Escort-USS Abercrombie DE 343

On Pearl Harbor Day, as usual I was hanging out at Estarge Drugstore. That was on Main St. right across from the Evangeline Theatre. We'd hangout outside the drugstore, about 25 of us. That's where we heard about Pearl Harbor, on the radio, and from people down the street. We were all mostly 17, 18-years old. We didn't think much about it at the time. I guess we really didn't realize how serious this was. But I knew about the conflicts overseas and I knew where Pearl Harbor was.

A lot of the older guys had joined the National Guard in '41, before Pearl Harbor. We had a group of guys that would go down to the Sports Center and play pool: JC Upton, WJ Trappey, and Slappy Rouso and them. These old guys would come in on leave from the Army and the Marines. They would tell us about how they never washed their cloths, never took a bath, and how they lived in a foxhole. I decided that's not my bag, I wanted to get in the Navy. Water to drink and a shower to take a bath, that's exactly what I had. It might have been a small shower, but at least it wasn't in the mud.

So Claude Patout and I went to join the Navy together. About two or three weeks before we turned 18 we went to New Orleans to join. We joined in November 1943. I had graduated from highschool the year before and I had gone to Southwestern for a year. JC Upton and I were working that summer for a shooting crew out of Johnson Bayou. We were making big money-forty four cents and hour, living on a quarter boat and working in the swamp. The mosquitoes were terrible, and we had to wear a mask and a helmet with a screen to work in the swamp. We worn coveralls and the mud buggy would get stuck and we'd have to walk back to the quarter boat. But the snakes were about as big as your arm. That's when I said, "Well the Navy can't be no worse than this. I'm gone!"

So I joined and went to boot camp in San Diego. They sent me to Memphis to radio school for the dive-bombers, the TBF's. When I got there I saw where they were going to send me and what I was going to be doing. I didn't like the idea of flying a torpedo bomber. We found out through the grapevine that if you couldn't stand on one leg and close your eyes they wouldn't take you. So that's how I got out of that, and they sent me back to California.

I was sent to Pasco, Washington for six months on a land based Seabee outfit. We were training pilots there in the mountain valley. The pilots would take off and fly to the Pacific Ocean and come back to practice bombing the airport. We would track them with radar, and send fighter planes to intercept. Just like the Japanese. The idea was to train these pilots to intercept Japanese planes that might attack a carrier force or an island. I really enjoyed it.

In Pasco we had a big dish mounted on a truck with a big antenna up on top of a hill. On the ships they were much smaller of course. Depending on the wavelength, we could identify friend or enemy on the radar screen. If Americans would have their IFF on you knew it was American plane, but if no wavelength came in on the radar you knew it was a Japanese. And you could catch them out sometimes as far as 100 miles. And this gave us enough time to get to our carriers to protect them, which is what the destroyer's job is.

We stayed on the base during the week and we had weekend passes. But somebody would have to pull guard duty at night or on weekends. See this radar was something new and we were right there close to the Pacific Ocean, you never knew about the Japanese. One night I was pulling guard up on top the hill, guarding the radar station and I heard a noise. So I said, "Halt!" And I heard no reply so I chamber a bullet in my rifle. I walked out and it was a dog-on cow! I was really nervous though. You never know, people were nervous about the Japanese.

After our six months stay in Pasco, the Navy decided that the Japanese were not coming back to the islands that we would invade and take. We had about 250 of us. So they disbanded us. We were glad. We wanted to go overseas and fight the Japanese.

They sent us back to California and I was sent on an aircraft carrier to Pearl Harbor. It was just a transport for us. I didn't know where I was going. They were sending us to Pearl to get reassigned. They sent us to radar surface school there. I met Roland Breaux and Allen Breaux there; they were from New Iberia. So they assigned me to a Destroyer Escort-USS Abercrombie. It was built in Orange Texas. There were 12 of us radar operators on the Abercrombie. They assigned us four to a watch. We sat at the radar for 30-minutes at a time, because they didn't want us to damage our eyes. We pulled shifts on the scope every thirty minutes and then we'd stand guard on four-hour shifts.

We left Pearl for the Pacific to fight the Japanese. I never saw outside because our job was to watch the radar. I'd hear the guns going off, but I never saw the planes.

We went to Bouganville, Manus, and Saipan. We mostly trained for combat. Our first battle was at Okinawa. We arrived off the coast four days before the invasion. That was in April 1945.

The Destroyer Escorts were just that, escorts. We would patrol about 8,000 yards, back and forth from the coast. We were the first line of defense, before the Japanese would get to the big ships.

I did go up top, on the deck one night and you could swear it was Christmas with all the lights on account of the bullets (tracers). For the rest of the invasion I was stationed below deck.

We shot down three planes. And we knock out a few ships. The Navy really caught hell at Okinawa on account of the Kamikaze (Japanese suicide planes). A lot of these Japanese dive-bombers would start their runs in the evening and they'd dropped bombs all night. And the suicide bombers, well they would have their funerals on the island before they would take off. It was a one way ticket, a suicide mission for most of those pilots.

I had some buddy's who were radar men on the USS Roosevelt. The radar stations were targets for the suicide planes. If I'm not mistaken they took a direct hit and the ship might have sunk.

The whole island was surrounded. When we first made the invasion, the Marines landing did not have any resistance. The Japanese didn't show up until a couple of days later. We stayed on Okinawa for 72 days. We slept in our clothes, and when the alarm went off we had two minutes to get our shoes on and get to battle stations.

Eventually we went to Saipan for dry dock. There was a floating dry dock there. We were painting the bottom of the ship and doing maintenance. We were there for about 4 or 5 days and then they sent us back to Okinawa.

Once Okinawa was secure we went to Lingayen Gulf, Philippines. We were escorting transports of troops to go to the island. Then we went down to Mindanao and Leyte Gulf.

(The invasion of Lingayen Gulf was on January 1945, Leyte Gulf was on October 1944, and Okinawa was in April 1945. Did your ship go on the invasion of Leyte Gulf first, then Lingayen Gulf invasion, and they to Okinawa?) Yes

We caught a typhoon and the ship would list (tilt) forty-degrees. The antennas would all most touch the water. I got seasick.

When Japan surrendered, we were escorting battleships and cruisers and carriers. The radio came on and they announced that the war was ending soon. We stayed up all night listening to the radio.

We escorted two Army tankers to Jinsen, Korea. Then we came back to Okinawa and then we went to Wakayama, Japan for occupational duty. We stayed there for two or three months. We were the first Americans to land on in that area of Japan. The Japanese were friendly; they weren't hostile. They spoke broken English. And they would trade with us. The Japanese men would stop to relieve themselves walking down the street with his family behind him. His wife was always walking behind him.

I made it back in November to San Pedro, California. When I got back I saw Carol Lapyouse's ship coming in, the Nassau. I borrowed somebody's binoculars and I took a peak at the ship and I picked him out, I saw him on his ship. And he knew it was my ship too. He saw me looking at him. I'll never forget that. Carol and I went out to eat the next couple of nights and we had a good time. Carol was "Mr. Transport." We talked about home. When you ran into somebody you knew from home that's what you talked about- if you heard from this girl or from that guy. We talked about home, not about the war.

I borrowed my uncle’s car and drove it to Louisiana. We busted a piston on the way home.

We were most afraid of the suicide planes. That's what worried us the most. And I could see them on the radar, hitting our ships. One time I saw a plane and a few seconds later I saw a whole bunch of planes. This was three o'clock in the morning. So I woke everybody up and come to find out, this Japanese pilot had dropped aluminum foil out of his plane to confuse the radar. When the radar would hit that aluminum it would appear as an enemy plane.

We talk about things like that when we have our reunion every year.

When I went into the Navy during WWII, I wasn't attached to anybody. It was just my parents and myself, I wasn't married and didn't have a girlfriend. I had the idea in my mind going in that if a bullet had my number on it, no matter who you are; you can be as safe as you wanna be, but when the Lord says it's your time, then it's your time. That's the way I saw it.

I can remember praying at Okinawa. We were so scared that we would get hit. Our ship was never damaged and not one life was lost. Thank God.

Language: 
English
Media Type: 
Audio
Collection: 
Jason Theriot
Subject: 
Oral History; World War II; Navy, Radarman; Pacific
Creator: 
Jason Theriot
Informants: 
John Boudreaux
Recording date: 
Thursday, September 27, 2001
Coverage Spatial: 
New Iberia, La
Publisher: 
Jason Theriot
Rights Usage: 
All RIghts Reserved
Meta Information
Duration: 
01:07:03
Cataloged Date: 
Thursday, September 6, 2018
Digitized Date: 
Thursday, July 18, 2013
Original Format: 
Mircocassette
Digital Format: 
WAV
Bit Depth: 
24 bit
Sampling Rate: 
96 kHz
Storage Location: 
Archives of Cajun and Creole Folklore-Drawer 20

Interview with Dr. Nelson Boudreaux

Accession No.: 
TH1-017

Dr. Nelson ("N.C") Boudreaux, Jason Theriot, Hewitt Theriot:

-Boudreaux was in school at SLI (Southwestern Louisiana Institute-now ULL) and on the weekends would go back home to court his now wife
-Hitchhiking back to Lafayette a Sunday night, they heard on the radio about the attack on Pearl Harbor
-All that night he and his cousin stayed up to listen to the radio and both decided that night they were going to join the war
-The next day they went to the Air Corps to sign up to be pilots
-Boudreaux was 19 at the time so he needed his parents’ permission first (of age was 21)
-Took him 2 weeks to convince his parents while his cousin (who was 21) had already left for Alabama
-By the time Boudreaux did get permission the Air Corps was closed for cadet training so he signed up for the Air Force and was put on the waiting list
-Failed the physical test as he was put down as colorblind but in reality he was not completely colorblind so they failed him

-Talking about a photo of his cousins that were in the war (8:30)

Enlisted into the service after failing his test (10:37)
-Went to Kessler Air Force base and for a few weeks took tests; ended up in radio school
-Sent him to a radio-gunner school in Scott Field, Bellville, Illinois
-Trained as a radio mechanic operator and in Morse code

-Once finished, was sent on to gunnery school in Harlingen, Texas
-Spent a lot of time on the range shooting skeets and training to shoot in AT-6s
-Boudreaux was made an instructor as he could take apart a .30 cal and .50 cal machine guns blindfolded; 7-8 months there just teaching
-Went and studied while there to take the colorblind test again and passed it (late 1942)

Wanted to be a flyer (18:30)
-Everyone wanted to be a flyer, even after a year of the war starting
-After finally passing the physical Boudreaux was still put on a waiting list
-Once in the system he was sent to the Black Hills of South Dakota and stayed there for a month in classes
-Was put into a cadet program and sent to Santa Anna, California; nothing but basic training and classroom work

-Cadet training was split into 4 sections:
1. primary flight training (Visalia, California)
2. basic training for larger airplanes (Bakersfield, California)
3. advanced training for specialized airplanes
4. Boudreaux chose P-38s and lastly went to twin-engine training school (since he picked a P-38)
-Went to Marfa, Texas to fly the twin-engine planes

-Around 1944 was sent to Marlin, Missouri to the C-47s in a troop carrier training outfit
-There was a large number of pilots there
-The Army figured that they would lose a lot of troop carrier pilots in the invasion so they were to be replacements

-Then sent out to Fort Wayne, Indiana for a month doing nothing before being shipped out

Left from New York City from a convoy (36:50)
-Was put in the infantry; assigned to the ship "HMS Brittany" belonging to a British fleet
-Went up to the North Sea to avoid submarines and spent 2 weeks traveling

Reached England in December 1944 (41:30)
-Assigned to an outfit in Redington at an air force outside of London
-Came into the barracks around midnight and an officer asked if any of them wanted to go on a mission with them that morning; they all volunteered
-The mission was dropping supplies to the soldiers at the Battle of the Bulge

-Assigned to as a co-pilot to a major who was a squad leader; thousands of planes were reviving up around them
-In formation headed towards France and Belgium; could see the American tanks moving into battle; the next day they broke though
-They came in low and fast as that was their only protection as they did not come in with a convoy; 500 feet
-Once they dropped the supplies they turned back around

Towards the end of the war (55:04)
-When flying out supplies, on the way back they would bring back wounded soldiers or German prisoners
-When fighting on the Rhine River pushing the Germans back, they would drop paratroopers and gliders into enemy lines
-Involved with the 101st and 82nd Airborne divisions; thinks he dropped some of the 82nd
-After they dropped they went back to England; flew for 2 hours and saw nothing but formations of planes with gliders going in behind them

When the war ended (1:00:28)
-Boudreaux was in Paris on R&R when he saw the headlines in the newspapers of Roosevelt's death
-After the war he flew troops to the Riviera for R&R
-Stayed there for a while, maybe about a month after that they started sending men home (his cousin that he initially signed up with was shot down and killed, was in the 42nd)
-By the end of the war flying planes became more of a chore and lost its excitement

-On the way home from France stopped off at in Paris and by a truck to an airport to Ireland then over to Iceland
-Eventually reached the states and rode cattle cars in troop trains home
-Was home by V-J Day

Letters from home (1:10:10)
-His mother wrote him and his wife
-Mail lagged behind and one point in England after 2 months his mail caught up with him
-Did not open them in order; never got the letter of his brother's death
-His brother (Marlin Boudreaux) in Patton's army was killed at the Maginot Line in France; saw his grave before he left for the states

Talking about why most veterans don't talk and how important it is that they do (1:13:40)

Transcription:

Dr. Nelson C. Boudreaux
Born: April 9, 1923
C-47 Pilot
ETO

I was at SLI (Southwestern Louisiana Institute) before the war. I’d come in on weekends to court my wife. I had come in one weekend, and I had lunch with the family on Sunday. I was hitchhiking back to Lafayette. In those days, people traveled by hitchhiking. So on December 7, 1941, I was in the car hitchhiking back to Lafayette, and on the radio they were saying that we had been attacked at Pearl Harbor.

When I got back to Lafayette, me and my cousin sat up all night listening to the radio. We were upset about what happened and so my cousin and I decided that night that we would join the service. In those days patriotism was there.

The next day we went to see about joining up. The response was overwhelming. Everybody wanted to join. We went to the Air Corps recruit station because we wanted to fly. A few days later, I resigned from school to join the service. It took me two weeks to convince my family that I was going. My momma really didn’t want me to go. I was 19 at the time.

I enlisted at Kessler Air Force base. I spent a few weeks there taking test. They put me in radio school and sent me to radio-gunner school in Scott Field, Bellville, Illinois. I was training as a radio mechanic operator and I learned the Morse code.

When I finished there, I went to gunnery school in Harlingen, Texas. We spent a lot of time on the range with machine guns. We were shooting skeet. We went up in AT-6’s, which was an advanced training aircraft. I could take apart a .30 cal and a .50 cal. machine gun blindfolded. So they made me an instructor.

There wasn’t a whole lot to do down there, but it was a good little service town. I made friends with a fellow named Tex and we’d go into town once a week to get a steak and supper. I stayed there almost a year.

But I wanted to fly. So I took the physical and I had to wait to get into their training system. Finally, they sent me to the black hills of South Dakota. That was the thickest snow that I had ever seen. I stayed there a month when they called me up to go into their cadet program. From there I went to Santa Anna, California for basic cadet training: drills, marching, classroom work.

From there I went primary flight training in Visalia, California. I went to a little civilian flight school and trained in a little two-seater, open cockpit, single prop-job. I flew about seven hours with an instructor before my first solo. From there I went for more training in Bakersfield, California. Then I went to advance training, where they let us choose what type of aircraft we wanted to fly. I chose the twin-engine P-38. So they sent me to twin-engine training school.

So I went to Marfa, Texas. And that is where I learned to fly the twin-engine plane. We did some night flying, some cross country flying, some formation flying, and a little instrument flying.

In early 1944 they sent me to Marlin, Missouri to a troop carrier training outfit. We were flying the C-47’s. That was the best plane ever built. The Army figured that they would loose a lot of troop carrier pilots during the invasion, and they were going to need replacements. That is why I was sent into the troop carrier.

Were weren’t too far from St. Louis, but Bellville, Illinois was one of the best towns; they people were really good to the servicemen. We’d go into town and on the bulletin board in the USO center was full of names of people who invited you to go to their house for the weekend. There was BBQ’s and parties; they would really open the doors for us.

I made friends with these two fellows. We called ourselves the three musketeers. We were sent to Fort Wayne, Indiana for a month before being shipped to the port of embarkation.

I didn’t have a full presence of mind about the hostilities that we would be facing overseas. I had such an easy time during training that I really didn’t appreciate what was going on.

We left from New York City on a ship, the HMS Brittany. It was one of the largest ships in the British fleet. We were tagging along with the infantry. We were all 2nd lieutenants. We went up through the northern Atlantic to avoid the submarines. We spent over two weeks going across.

We landed in England in December 1944. I was assigned to an outfit in Redington. There was an air force base there, about 50 miles outside of London. We were living in these Quonset huts.

The next day we flew our first mission to drop supplies to the soldiers fighting at the Battle of the Bulge near Bastogne. I was assigned to fly co-pilot for this major who was the squad leader. I didn’t know what to expect. There were literally hundreds, maybe thousands of planes reviving up the engines. We had to get up quick. As soon as we left the ground, there was another plane right behind us. We almost took off in formation. (What squadron/air force group did you fly with?)

We headed out towards France and Belgium. On the way there, we could see snow on the ground, and American tanks moving toward the battle. We came in low and fast, about 500 feet. Each container in the plane had a different color parachute: ammunition was blue, k-rations was yellow. The Germans were shooting at us with 20mm and .50 cal AAA. When we got back to England, I noticed bullet holes in the plane. That was my first experience in combat.

The C-47 was the best plane we had in the war. And the pilots who flew them were the best. They could fly that plane just like a piper cub. I didn’t spend a whole lot of time flying. I spent most of our time in trucks, hauling supplies.

When we did fly in supplies, we would come back with wounded Americans or German prisoners. Toward the end of the war, we were flying every other day out of an airfield in Reimes, France. We had finally pushed the Germans back to the Rhine River. This was the final battle line that the Germans were going to defend. There was a railroad bridge over Remagen that the Germans were supposed to blow up, but they didn’t. Our forces were trying to cross that bridge when we came in and dropped paratroopers and gliders. My squadron flew in first—we were three abreast—and we dropped paratroopers right over the area. There were 30 troopers in each plane. I didn’t know any of them. In fact, we didn’t see any of them until right before we took off. After dropping off the troopers, we turned right to head back home. I saw planes coming in, two abreast, for two solid hours. They were all carrying gliders.

When the war ended, our job was to fly troops to the Riviera for R&R. A month later we were shipped back to the States. Before I left from France, I visited my brother’s gravesite. He was killed in the line of duty trying to take the Maginot Line in France.
(Sgt. Marlin Boudreaux, KIA on Nov. 27, 1944 in Germany) My job was easy compared to the men on the ground. I thank the good Lord that I had an easy job to do…but some of them didn’t, like my brother. But we had a job to do and we did it.

I never talk much about it; I never told me my kids much about. It is a shame, because it really is a story that should be told. It was part of our lives. I’m reminded by my dad who was a patriot par excillant—a patriot. He used to make us stand when the National Anthem was played at home on the radio. I guess that is why I decided to go to the service when the Japs attacked Pearl Harbor. And after the war, I guess that I just wanted to put it all behind me.

Language: 
English
Media Type: 
Audio
Collection: 
Jason Theriot
Subject: 
Oral History: World War II; Pilot; Europe
Creator: 
Jason Theriot
Informants: 
Dr. Nelson Boudreaux
Recording date: 
Friday, March 1, 2002
Coverage Spatial: 
Jeanerette , La
Publisher: 
Jason Theriot
Rights Usage: 
All Rights Reserved
Meta Information
Duration: 
01:21:30
Cataloged Date: 
Monday, September 10, 2018
Digitized Date: 
Saturday, June 22, 2013
Original Format: 
Mircocassette
Digital Format: 
WAV
Bit Depth: 
24 bit
Sampling Rate: 
96 kHz
Storage Location: 
Archives of Cajun and Creole Folklore-Drawer 20

Interview with Therese Boutte

Accession No.: 
TH1-018

Therese Boutte, Jason Theriot, Hewitt Theriot, unnamed woman:

-Boutte enlisted in 1942; she was working at a telephone office and was not being paid much
-Was about 21 years old and single; joined the Army services to get a change
-Sent to Des Moines, Iowa for training, went by train; did basic training there (marching and calestintics)
-After training was sent to San Antonio, Texas for schooling in cryptography; they weren't allowed to talk about what they were doing
-Was probably chosen because of her background in telephones

Schooling in San Antonio (5:50)
-Decoded and coded messages; followed a little book, a codebook guide
-An armed guard would come in to take and give messages to them
-They were in little cubbyholes and they were always locked in
-The messages would come in all garbled, they'd decode it and type it up and the guard would come to take it

-Was in the service for 3 years
-Stationed at Kelly Field in San Antonio
-Came home on leave a few times
-Took a trolley into base everyday

Others from the area in service (10:50)
-Boutte signed up for service with another girl from New Iberia, Jenny; she was sent to California
-Talking about men they interviewed and how no one in their families had heard these stories

Photos (16:10)
-Looking at pictures, during or after the war
-Boutte on the air force base

Life on the Base (17:27)
-Worked every day, sometimes at night even
-Lived in barracks; washed their own clothes
-Quite a bit of people on the base
-Few movie theaters on base; no nightclubs on base
-Some girls would go into Mexico on the weekends: Boutte never went as in the mornings they had calestintics
-Food was basic enough

Yard Workers coming in (19:38)
-Introductions
-Families they know or related too
-Cutting down a tree; yard work

Picking Up on Base Life (22:10)
-Might have got off on the weekends
-Took buses into San Antonio from the base
-Received letters from home sometimes

-At one point Boutte was supposed to go overseas and was sent back to Des Moines for training but the war ended
-Only made it to a Corporal but should have gotten a Sergeant
-Eventually was discharged and sent home; doesn't remember how she was discharged

Talking of others (29:30)
-Women in the service that they interviewed
-How some knew what was happening in the war and others that had no news of advancements of the war
-Other woman talking about her memories of the war; President's speeches and rations
-Talking about yard working and Boutte's workers

Transcription:

Therese Boutte
Born: April 30, 1916
Loreauville, LA
WAC-Communications

I was working at the telephone office here and they weren't paying too much, so I decided to enlist in 1942. I was 21-years old and I needed a change. I went to the recruit station here and joined the Army with my friend Jenny (What is her last name?).

I was sent to Des Moines, Iowa for basic training and Jenny was sent to California. I went by train. They'd wake us up early every morning and we'd have to do calesthenics and march.

After basic I was sent to Kelly Field in San Antonio for schooling in cryptography. But I can't talk about that. It was supposed to be very secret. I guess I was chosen for that because of my experience with telephones. I worked in the office coding and decoding messages. We used a codebook as a guide.

I worked in a little cubbyhole for an office and an armed guard could come and pick up and deliver the messages for us. The message would come in scrambled and we would have to decode it, type it up, and send it off. I don't remember much about all it; that was over 50-years ago.

I was supposed to go overseas to Europe, so they sent me back to Des Moines, Iowa for more training. Then the war ended in Europe so I was discharged and they sent me home soon after.

Language: 
English
Media Type: 
Audio
Collection: 
Jason Theriot
Subject: 
Oral History; World War II; WAC; Homefront
Creator: 
Jason Theriot
Informants: 
Therese Boutte
Recording date: 
Thursday, September 12, 2002
Coverage Spatial: 
Loreauville, La
Publisher: 
Jason Theriot
Rights Usage: 
All Rights Reserved
Meta Information
Duration: 
00:45:11
Cataloged Date: 
Wednesday, September 12, 2018
Digitized Date: 
Monday, July 22, 2013
Original Format: 
Mircocassette
Digital Format: 
WAV
Bit Depth: 
24 bit
Sampling Rate: 
96 kHz
Storage Location: 
Archives of cajun and Creole Folklore-Drawer 20

Interview with Claude Broussard

Accession No.: 
TH1-019

Claude Broussard, Jason Theriot, Hewitt Theriot, Mrs. Bourrard:

-Broussard volunteered for the service as his brother (Paul) was already in it
-Was first sent to Camp Livingston or Beauregard; shipped to Fort Knox for basic training in 1942
-Went to the Louisiana Maneuvers at Camp Polk and was put in the 3rd Armored division; then cadre into the 7th Armored division

-Before being shipped overseas Broussard was cadre into the 697th Field Artillery
-They had tractors pulling the trailers for the10-in guns; tractors were to slow so they had to use tanks
-Put the tripod on one trailer and the barrel on the other; had to carry a crane to dig a recoil pit; dug a pit 6 feet for the recoil
-Hardly used those tanks in battle

-Left Christmas morning 1943 from Newport News, Virginia at 2 in the morning
-Had a year and half of training; drove a tank at Fort Knox
-Was shipped to California for 5 1/2 months to train for going to Africa
-Would go out every day at 12-3 to train; 120 degrees in the shade
-Was in the 7th Armored at this time; at Fort Benning was cadre into the 697th because they needed tank drivers
-697th had 2 40 hoteitzers with projectiles of 365 lbs.

Overseas (6:20)
-Went to Africa, Sicily and then into Italy
-Landed on top of sunken ship at Naples; Casino was their first real battle
-When leaving the U.S. they went through the Messina Straits to Africa; hit bad weather
-In Sicily made it secured and then up to Naples; had just been taken over when they landed, fired at Casino

-When leaving, the English made cardboard dummies to put up at night so the Germans would still think they were there
-Crossed over the Menturner River in the dark, twice; they had 5 tanks and pulled 2 guns
-Attached to the 3rd Armored Division, the 7th Army; they were known as a bastard outfit
-Their outfit was always being sent all over to push through lines

-From there went to Santa Maria, Italy to fire on Bologna; went on to Leghorn
-At Leghorn boarded LSTs with the tanks and guns; landed in southern France at Marseilles
-Loaded up the tanks and guns onto French flatcars (train) to Bessencorn, France
-Was with Patton 3 times: once in basic at California and twice in Europe

Artillery of the tank (17:30)
-Would go off at 25 yards off the ground, 365 lbs. of shrapnel; this was a radio fuse in the shells
-It was a new weapon and very accurate
-Leaving Rome chasing Germans, they ran for 5 days and 5 nights without sleep; 300 gallons of fuel and fuel trunks right behind them
-The tank was home, Broussard even slept in it
-Had an assistant driver but he rarely ever drove, always Broussard
-Took a four-man tray to carry the projectile; if you didn't have a good balance the concussion would knock you down

Casino (24:20)
-Could hear Anzio Annies going above them; had them at Casino
-Was firing at the Monastery, "the Abby"; ordered to "fire at will"
-Germans had a tunnel that would go to the railroad station under the Abby; so they (U.S) bombed the place
-Everyone went to the north; Broussard was 23 then

(28:38)
-Altogether Broussard thinks his outfit earned 8 battle stars
-Reached the Battle of the Bulge on Christmas Day of 1944
-Broussard's brother was a captain in the infantry at the battle
-Kept pushing north and eventually went over into Austria

-When the war ended they were able to take over Salzburg without a shot (32:47)
-Stayed there until the company was split up and took all the high-pointers (point system); Broussard was one as he had a child at home and had 112 points

-Recapping on when Broussard left the U.S. and his travels in the beginning

Back to the Battle of the Bulge (35:24)
-Germans made a push through Belgium where the Allies' position wasn't being defended
-Huge snowstorm came through, Allied planes couldn't land or help defend; Germans were going to the river Muse to cut the Allied forces into two but they ran out of gasoline

-That day (Christmas Day) they were eating turkey and all the trimmings; at night they left
-Broussard isn't sure where they were as he stayed with his tank to keep it ready
-At night when they left it was really a retreat as the Germans were coming, but they didn’t know that, no one told them

Through Europe (44:05)
-Landed in Naples and then went north to Bologna when they got word to move into France
-At the Bulge, which they didn't know until a reunion a few years ago that they were there
-In Salzburg, Austria when the war ended and the company was broken up

-Was put in CQ (chargers quarters) at an ammunition factory
-When men came through from Germany they'd stop there and then in the morning head out to Paris
-One day as CQ Broussard sees a friend from Jeanerette, Vince DeVeasay

-First person he met from the area while in service was Allen Landry at Casino, Landry was going to Naples
-Saw Elles LaGrange in Rome; ran into the entire National Guard group from New Iberia (156th Reg.) there too
-Never saw his brother while overseas, he went over before Brossard and came home before him

After being split up (52:40)
-On the outskirts of Salzburg; crossing borders into Germany and rivers
-Theriot tells a story from another interviewee (Prince from Loreauville)
-Went through Hitler's Eagle's Nest (Austria); 5-6 stories down in the mountain with hospitals, operating rooms, nurseries etc.

End of the War (56:17)
-May 1945 when the war ended; in Salzburg
-Railroad battalion gave them a bunch of stuff; like tents to sleep in
-Celebrated that night; near Salzburg so they went into town

Wine Story (57:20)
-Was in Italy and the German had vats that they pulled the plugs on in a wine cellar
-Someone found it and they filled as much as they could in their cans; used things from the tank to make a still and finish making bootleg wine
-Officer caught them one day, they bribed him and set up a trade with him; two whiskey bottles for a can of wine

Coming home (1:01:05)
-In the outfit he was in at the ammunition factory; made bullets
-Found a German rifle and took it apart and sent it back home through the mail; still has it
-After Salzburg went through Holland or France to a ship
-Landed in Newport News and got on another ship that sent him to Boston
-From there Broussard went to Camp Shelby and then took a train to New Orleans (Sept. 1945)

Transcription Begins:

July 30, 2001
Claude J. Broussard
New Iberia, La.
Born October 1, 1920.
Tank Driver-697th Field Artillery, Italy & Southern France
Interview conducted by Jason P. Theriot

I volunteered for the service. My brother Paul went in, so I decided to go too. I went to basic at Fort Knox in 1942. I drove a tank. I went to Camp Polk. From there I went into the 3rd Armored and from there I cadre into the 7th Armored. Then I cadre into to the 697th Field Artillery that was shipping out overseas.

They had tractors pulling the trailers for those 10-inch guns, 240mm; well the tractors were too slow so they used tanks. We pulled a trailer. We put the tripod on one trailer and the barrel on the other. We had to carry a crane to dig a recoil pit; you needed a pit dug 6 feet for close range.

We left X-Mass morning from Newport News, 1943. We had a year and a half of training. I was married in April of '43, and then they sent us to the desert in California for 5 and a half months. We were going to Africa you see. So we had to get in the heat every day at noon till three o'clock in just our boots and our shorts to get a tan in that hot desert. It was 120 degrees in the shade. When this was going on I was in the 7th armored. Then when we got to Fort Benning I cadraed into this outfit, because they needed tank drivers. So I had more experience than all the others did, so they put me this outfit (697th). We had two 40 howitzers. That's a big gun. The projectile weighed 365 lbs. We had it on trailers.

We went overseas. We landed in Africa, then Sicily, then Italy. We landed on top of those sunken ships (Liberty Ships) in Naples. Casino was our first real battle. We caught hell there… Ooh man… Mud, rain, and cold at night.

We went through the Messina Straits and hit bad water. When we got there Africa and Sicily had been secured. We had pushed the Germans back up through Italy. We had just taken over Naples when we got there. We were firing on Casino.

Then we pulled back and the English came there and made cardboard dummies of our tanks and armor. And when we left at night, the English put up those dummy tanks, so that the Germans thought we were still there. We crossed the Menturner River twice that night and I didn't even know. We didn't use headlights. We had five tanks in our outfit. We carried two guns on trailers; one trailer for the tube and one for the tripod. Then the spare tank was used to help get the guns in place. We were attached to the 3rd Armored Division, 7th Army. See we were a bastard outfit. We were used all over the place. When they couldn't get through, they would call us. Captain Fletcher was in charge of our battery.

Well we went to Santa Maria Italy, we were firing on Bologna at the time. Then we went to Leghorn. We board those LST's with our tanks and our guns. We landed in southern France at Marseilles. We then loaded our tanks and guns on to French flatcars (railroad cars). From there we went to Bessencorn, close to the Chzeceslovocia border. (Right flank) I was with Patton three times; once in California at basic, and twice in Europe.

We were using a radio fuse in those artillery shells. This was a secret weapon that we had. We had captured a few Germans and the first thing they wanted to know was about this new weapon. It was quite accurate.

When we left from Rome we had the Germans on the run and we ran for 5 days and 5 nights without sleep. We had 300 gallons of fuel in the tank and we had fuel trucks following behind. The tank was my home, which is where I slept.

We had a four-man tray to carry the projectile to the gun. If you were walking by and didn't have good balance the concussion would knock you down. I saw a lot of guys get knocked down.
You could hear Anzio Annie, and the other big rail gun at Casino. We were firing on the Monestary at Casino, the Abby. At Casino we were ordered to 'fire at will'. So as soon as you loaded that charge, you would fire and then load up again, without stopping.

The Germans had a tunnel from the Abby to the railroad station where they had that big rail gun firing on us. We caught fire from them many times. After they bombed it every thing was gone. You could see heat waves, like radiator heat, all in the sky. After we pushed the Germans out we all moved north. I was 23 at the time. All together we had 8 battle stars. My brother was a captain in the infantry at the Battle of the Bulge. We had a good time, if you like that kind of fun.

When the war ended we took Salzburg, Austria without firing a shot. Then they broke up the company and took all the high-pointers, see I was a high-pointer because I had a child back home. I was in charge of CQ for awhile at an ammunition factory. Them boys would come and spend the night there and then ship off the next morning. I ran into Vince DeVeasay, from Jeannerette. I was in charge of the CQ that day and I saw him standing in line and I said, "whatcha doing here you dago. He look at me and said, "hey Bruce whatcha doing here." We talk about that every now and again when I go get a haircut.

I also met up with Allen Landry. It was near Casino, and he was passing on a jeep going to Naples. I met up with Elles LaGrange in Rome. I met up with that whole group, the National Guard group from New Iberia. (156th Reg.) They were MP's. I didn't venture out much like others. I stayed by my tank and wrote letters to my wife. Our great-granddaughter sat down here one night and listened to the stories and was mesmerized. I went through Hitler's Nest in Austria. It was about 5 or 6 stories down from the mountain. There were hospitals, operating rooms, nurseries, etc..SS troopers. This was his haven.

When we were in Italy, the Germans had pulled the plugs out of those vats in the wine cellar. Somebody found out they had wine down there. So we brought up some empty 5-gallon water cans. We went down there and the cellar was covered with wine. So these guys knew how to make a still and I had the cooper tubing from my tank, to clamp on the hose. So we made a worm and these guys, they were from the Carolina's so they knew how to bootleg stuff you know. So they'd put that worm in cold water and put the empty can on the side and let it drip. We would heat the water can and then the vapor would come through and fall in that can. It was red wine, but it would come out white, from the vapors, about 150 proof!

There was an officer who came and caught us. I had furnished the tubing so I was in with them. He asked what we were doing. One of those guys threw him a canteen full with that stuff. The officer wanted to buy some. We said it's not for sale. The only way you can get some is if you give us two of your bottles for one of ours. You see they'd get rations of liquor, the best. We only got beer every six months or so. He followed us until we left for France. He'd find us and come trade two bottles of whiskey for one of ours. One of those guys was a crane operator and he flipped it all drunked up. Those guys drank all the time.

At that German factory in Austria I found a German rifle, and I took it apart and shipped it to myself back home. As soon as I got home I put it back together. I still have it. From there I went through Holland and boarded a ship at Newport News. We went across the Atlantic and landed in Boston. From there I went to Camp Shelby and my wife and my daughter picked me up from the station in New Orleans.

Language: 
English
Media Type: 
Audio
Collection: 
Jason Theriot
Subject: 
Oral History: World War II; Army; Artillery; Europe
Creator: 
Jason Theriot
Informants: 
Claude Broussard
Recording date: 
Tuesday, July 30, 2002
Coverage Spatial: 
New Iberia, La
Publisher: 
Jason Theriot
Rights Usage: 
All Rights Reserved
Meta Information
Duration: 
01:18:30
Cataloged Date: 
Wednesday, September 12, 2018
Digitized Date: 
Monday, July 22, 2013
Original Format: 
Mircocassette
Digital Format: 
WAV
Bit Depth: 
24 bit
Sampling Rate: 
96 kHz
Storage Location: 
Archives of Cajun and Creole Folklore-Drawer 20

Interview with Edward Broussard

Accession No.: 
TH1-020

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

(35:20) Overseas/England
-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

(50:20)
-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

(55:53) France
-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

Transcription Begins:

Edward Broussard
15 February 2004
11 Allen St.
New Iberia, LA 70563
337-365-9080
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.)

Language: 
English
Media Type: 
Audio
Collection: 
Jason Theriot
Subject: 
Oral History; World War II; National Guard; Infantry; Europe
Creator: 
Jason Theriot
Informants: 
Edward Broussard
Recording date: 
Sunday, February 15, 2004
Coverage Spatial: 
New Iberia, La
Publisher: 
Jason Theriot
Rights Usage: 
All Rights Reserved
Meta Information
Duration: 
01:44:08
Cataloged Date: 
Wednesday, October 10, 2018
Digitized Date: 
Monday, July 22, 2013
Original Format: 
Mircocassette
Digital Format: 
WAV
Bit Depth: 
24 bit
Sampling Rate: 
96 kHz
Storage Location: 
Archives of Cajun and Creole Folklore-Drawer 20

Interview with Eugene Broussard

Accession No.: 
TH1-021

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

(4:22) Training
-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

(7:47) Teaching
-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

(47:48) Talking
-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

Transcription Begins:

Eugene D. Broussard, Sr.
Born Dec. 13th 1917.
Interview was conducted by Jason P. Theriot, July 30, 2001.
Bombardier Instructor/FBI

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.

Language: 
English
Media Type: 
Audio
Collection: 
Jason Theriot
Subject: 
Oral History; World War II; Air Force; Insructor; FBI
Creator: 
Jason Theriot
Informants: 
Eugene Broussard
Recording date: 
Monday, July 30, 2001
Coverage Spatial: 
New Iberia, La
Publisher: 
Jason Theriot
Rights Usage: 
All Rights Reserved
Meta Information
Duration: 
01:17:10
Cataloged Date: 
Wednesday, October 10, 2018
Digitized Date: 
Tuesday, July 23, 2013
Original Format: 
mircocasstte
Digital Format: 
WAV
Bit Depth: 
24 bit
Sampling Rate: 
96 kHz
Storage Location: 
Archives of Cajun and Creole Folklore-Drawer 20

Interview with Jack Broussard

Accession No.: 
TH1-022

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
-The islands
-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

Transcription Begins:

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.

Language: 
English
Media Type: 
Audio
Collection: 
Jason Theriot
Subject: 
Oral History: World War II; Navy; Ship Medic: Corpsman
Creator: 
Jason Theriot
Informants: 
Jack Broussard
Recording date: 
Wednesday, October 10, 2001
Coverage Spatial: 
New Iberia, La
Publisher: 
Jason Theriot
Rights Usage: 
All Rights Reserved
Meta Information
Duration: 
01:10:44
Cataloged Date: 
Wednesday, October 10, 2018
Digitized Date: 
Tuesday, July 23, 2013
Original Format: 
Mircocassette
Digital Format: 
WAV
Bit Depth: 
24 bit
Sampling Rate: 
96 kHz
Storage Location: 
Archives of Cajun and Creole Folklore-Drawer 20

Interview with John Broussard

Accession No.: 
TH1-023

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

(14:00)
-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

Transcription Begins:

John Broussard
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.

Language: 
English
Media Type: 
Audio
Collection: 
Jason Theriot
Subject: 
Oral History; World War II; Marines; South Pacific
Creator: 
Jason Theriot
Informants: 
John Broussard
Recording date: 
Saturday, March 2, 2002
Coverage Spatial: 
New Iberia, La
Publisher: 
Jason Theriot
Rights Usage: 
All Rights Reserved
Meta Information
Duration: 
00:39:32
Cataloged Date: 
Wednesday, October 10, 2018
Digitized Date: 
Tuesday, July 23, 2013
Original Format: 
Mircocassette
Digital Format: 
WAV
Bit Depth: 
24 bit
Sampling Rate: 
96 kHz
Storage Location: 
Archives of Cajun and Creole Folklore-Drawer 20

Interview with Carol Mestaye, Lloyd Broussard, and Louis Prince

Accession No.: 
TH1-024

Carol Mestayer, Lloyd Broussard, Louis Prince, 2 women, Jason Theriot, Hewitt Theriot:

Carol Mestayer
(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
(part 1)

-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

Transcriptions Begin:

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.

Lloyd Broussard.
Born: Dec 24, 1924
Marines-Quarter Master
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.

Language: 
English
Media Type: 
Audio
Collection: 
Jason Theriot
Subject: 
Oral History; World War II; Army; Marines; Infantry
Creator: 
Jason Theriot
Informants: 
Carol Mestaye; Lloyd Broussard; Louis Prince
Recording date: 
Sunday, July 15, 2001
Coverage Spatial: 
New Iberia, La
Publisher: 
Jason Theriot
Rights Usage: 
All Rights Reserved
Meta Information
Duration: 
00:49:55
Cataloged Date: 
Wednesday, October 10, 2018
Digitized Date: 
Tuesday, July 23, 2013
Original Format: 
Mircocassette
Digital Format: 
WAV
Bit Depth: 
24 bit
Sampling Rate: 
96 kHz
Storage Location: 
Archives of Cajun and Creole Folklore-Drawer 20

Interview with RJ Broussard

Accession No.: 
TH1-025

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

(28:09)
-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)

Transcription Begins:

RJ "Chink" Broussard
Born: 9-9-19
New Iberia
Company G, 156th Infantry Regiment LA National Guard
Boxer
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

Language: 
English
Media Type: 
Audio
Collection: 
Jason Theriot
Subject: 
Oral History; World War II; National Guard; Boxer; Infantry Entertainment
Creator: 
Jason Theriot
Informants: 
RJ Broussard
Recording date: 
Monday, November 18, 2002
Coverage Spatial: 
New Iberia, La
Publisher: 
Jason THeriot
Rights Usage: 
All Rights Reserved
Meta Information
Duration: 
00:44:28
Cataloged Date: 
Wednesday, October 10, 2018
Digitized Date: 
Friday, July 26, 2013
Original Format: 
Mircocassette
Digital Format: 
WAV
Bit Depth: 
24 bit
Sampling Rate: 
96 kHz
Storage Location: 
Archives of Cajun adn Creole Folklore-Drawer 20

Interview with Rene Broussard

Accession No.: 
TH1-026

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

(24:07) Stories
-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)

Transcription Begins:

Rene J. Broussard
Born: July 30, 1921
Iberia Parish
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.

Language: 
English
Media Type: 
Audio
Collection: 
Jason Theriot
Subject: 
Oral History; World War II; Navy; Atlantic
Creator: 
Jason Theriot
Informants: 
Rene Broussard
Recording date: 
Monday, September 17, 2001
Coverage Spatial: 
Iberia Parish
Publisher: 
Jason Theriot
Rights Usage: 
All Rights Reserved
Meta Information
Duration: 
01:14:53
Cataloged Date: 
Wednesday, October 10, 2018
Digitized Date: 
Tuesday, July 30, 2013
Original Format: 
Mircocassette
Digital Format: 
WAV
Bit Depth: 
24 bit
Sampling Rate: 
96 kHz
Storage Location: 
Archives of Cajun and Creole Folklore-Drawer 20

Interview with Dot Broussard

Accession No.: 
TH1-027

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

Language: 
English
Media Type: 
Audio
Collection: 
Jason Theriot
Subject: 
Oral History; World War II; Homefront; Husband
Creator: 
Jason Theriot
Informants: 
Dot Broussard
Recording date: 
Sunday, September 5, 2004
Coverage Spatial: 
New Iberia, La
Publisher: 
Jason Theriot
Rights Usage: 
All Rights Reserved
Meta Information
Duration: 
00:44:38
Cataloged Date: 
Monday, October 15, 2018
Digitized Date: 
Wednesday, July 31, 2013
Original Format: 
Mircocassette
Digital Format: 
WAV
Bit Depth: 
24 bit
Sampling Rate: 
96 kHz
Storage Location: 
Archives of Cajun and Creole Folklore-Drawer 20

Interview with Dr. Agapito Castro

Accession No.: 
TH1-028

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

Transcription Begins:

Dr. Agapito A. Castro (3/9/2002)
Philippine Native
1100 Andrew St.
Suite 201
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.

Language: 
English
Media Type: 
Audio
Collection: 
Jason Theriot
Subject: 
Oral History; World War II; Philippines; Japanese Occupation
Creator: 
Jason Theriot
Informants: 
Dr. Agapito Castro
Recording date: 
Saturday, March 9, 2002
Coverage Spatial: 
New Iberia, La
Publisher: 
Jason Theriot
Rights Usage: 
All Rights Reserved
Meta Information
Duration: 
01:10:06
Cataloged Date: 
Wednesday, October 17, 2018
Digitized Date: 
Wednesday, July 31, 2013
Original Format: 
Mircocassette
Digital Format: 
WAV
Bit Depth: 
24 bit
Sampling Rate: 
96 kHz
Storage Location: 
Archives of Cajun and Creole Folklore-Drawer 20

Interview with Ambrose Champagne

Accession No.: 
TH1-029

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

(24:43)
-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

(47:00) Leaving
-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

Transcription Begins:

Ambrose Champagne
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.

Language: 
English
Media Type: 
Audio
Collection: 
Jason Theriot
Subject: 
Oral Hisotry; World War II; Armored Division; European
Creator: 
Jason Theriot
Informants: 
Ambrose Champagne
Recording date: 
Saturday, July 31, 2004
Coverage Spatial: 
St. Martinville, La
Publisher: 
Jason Theriot
Rights Usage: 
All Rights Reserved
Meta Information
Duration: 
00:57:58
Cataloged Date: 
Thursday, October 18, 2018
Digitized Date: 
Wednesday, July 31, 2013
Original Format: 
Mircocassette
Digital Format: 
WAV
Bit Depth: 
24 bit
Sampling Rate: 
96 kHz
Storage Location: 
Archives of Cajun and Creole Folklore-Drawer 20

Interview with Caesar Comeaux

Accession No.: 
TH1-030

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)

Transcription Begins:

Caesar Comeaux
Born: December 3, 1925
New Iberia
Marine-Aviation Mechanic

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.

Language: 
English
Media Type: 
Audio
Collection: 
Jason Theriot
Subject: 
Oral History: World War II; Marine; Pacific; Aviation Mechanic
Creator: 
Jason Theriot
Informants: 
Caesar Comeaux
Recording date: 
Monday, October 29, 2001
Coverage Spatial: 
New Iberia, La
Publisher: 
Jason Theriot
Rights Usage: 
All Rights Reserved
Meta Information
Duration: 
00:26:11
Cataloged Date: 
Wednesday, October 24, 2018
Digitized Date: 
Thursday, August 1, 2013
Original Format: 
Mircocassette
Digital Format: 
WAV
Bit Depth: 
24 bit
Sampling Rate: 
96 kHz
Storage Location: 
Archives of Cajun and Creole Folklore-Drawer 20

Interview with Homer Comeaux

Accession No.: 
TH1-031

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

(9:15) Overseas
-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

(13:50) Africa
-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

(20:57) Italy
-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

(24:34) Talking
-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

(33:55) Rome
-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)

(49:50)
-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

Transcription Begins:

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.

Language: 
English
Media Type: 
Audio
Collection: 
Jason Theriot
Subject: 
Oral History; World War II; North Africa; Italy; National Guard
Creator: 
Jason Theriot
Informants: 
Homer Comeaux
Recording date: 
Monday, July 21, 2003
Coverage Spatial: 
New Iberia, La
Publisher: 
Jason Theriot
Rights Usage: 
All Rights Reserved
Meta Information
Duration: 
00:57:47
Cataloged Date: 
Wednesday, October 24, 2018
Digitized Date: 
Thursday, August 1, 2013
Original Format: 
Mircocassette
Digital Format: 
WAV
Bit Depth: 
24 bit
Sampling Rate: 
96 kHz
Storage Location: 
Archives of Cajun and Creole Folklore-Drawer 20

Interview with Lynn Curry

Accession No.: 
TH1-032

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

(31:41)
-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

(36:20)
-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

(39:26)
-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

Transcription Begins:

Lynn J. Curry
Born: 1926
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.

Language: 
English
Media Type: 
Audio
Collection: 
Jason Theriot
Subject: 
Oral Hisotry; World War II; European; Paratrooper
Creator: 
Jason Theriot
Informants: 
Lynn Curry
Recording date: 
Saturday, September 4, 2004
Coverage Spatial: 
Bayou Chene, La
Publisher: 
Jason Theriot
Rights Usage: 
All RIghts Reserved
Meta Information
Duration: 
00:57:42
Cataloged Date: 
Thursday, October 25, 2018
Digitized Date: 
Thursday, August 1, 2013
Original Format: 
Mircocassette
Digital Format: 
WAV
Bit Depth: 
24 bit
Sampling Rate: 
96 kHz
Storage Location: 
Archives of Cajun and Creole Folklore-Drawer 20

Interview with Irma Darphine

Accession No.: 
TH1-033

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

(3:42) D-Day
-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

(14:43) Nancy
-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

Transcription Begins:

Irma Boullier(?) Darphine
Born: August 8, 1922
Crowley, now living in Iota
ETO
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.

Language: 
English
Media Type: 
Audio
Collection: 
Jason Theriot
Subject: 
Oral History: World War II; Army Nurse; Europe
Creator: 
Jason Theriot
Informants: 
Irma Darphine
Recording date: 
Sunday, April 11, 2004
Coverage Spatial: 
Iota, La
Publisher: 
Jason Theriot
Rights Usage: 
All Rights Reserved
Meta Information
Duration: 
00:40:26
Cataloged Date: 
Thursday, October 25, 2018
Digitized Date: 
Thursday, August 1, 2013
Original Format: 
Mircocassette
Digital Format: 
WAV
Bit Depth: 
24 bit
Sampling Rate: 
96 kHz
Storage Location: 
Archives of Cajun and Creole Folklore-Drawer 20

Interview with Beulah Dugas

Accession No.: 
TH1-034

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

(26:00)
-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

Transcription Begins:

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.

Language: 
English
Media Type: 
Audio
Collection: 
Jason Theriot
Subject: 
Oral History; World War II; Home Front: Welder
Creator: 
Jason THeriot
Informants: 
Beulah Dugas
Recording date: 
Sunday, May 25, 2003
Coverage Spatial: 
St. Martinville, La
Publisher: 
Jason Theriot
Rights Usage: 
All Rights Reserved
Meta Information
Duration: 
00:43:27
Cataloged Date: 
Wednesday, October 31, 2018
Digitized Date: 
Thursday, August 15, 2013
Original Format: 
Mircocassette
Digital Format: 
WAV
Bit Depth: 
24 bit
Sampling Rate: 
96 kHz
Storage Location: 
Archives of Cajun and Creole Folklore-Drawer 20

Interview with Samuel Delcambre (part 1)

Accession No.: 
TH1-035

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

(15:00) England
-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

(29:38) Stories
-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

(37:19)
-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”

(1:03:15) Tunisia
-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

Transcription Begins:

Samuel J. Delcambre
6606 Daspit Rd. on Hwy. 86
New Iberia, La. 70563-8945
Born: January 21, 1921
Waist Gunner—B-24
North Africa
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)

Language: 
English
Media Type: 
Audio
Collection: 
Jason Theriot
Subject: 
Oral History; World War II; Waist Gunner; North Africa; Air Force
Creator: 
Jason Theriot
Informants: 
Sam Delcambre
Recording date: 
Sunday, January 19, 2003
Coverage Spatial: 
New Iberia, La
Publisher: 
Jason Theriot
Rights Usage: 
All RIghts Reserved
Meta Information
Duration: 
01:27:17
Cataloged Date: 
Thursday, November 1, 2018
Digitized Date: 
Monday, August 5, 2013
Original Format: 
Microcassette
Digital Format: 
WAV
Bit Depth: 
24 bit
Sampling Rate: 
96 kHz
Storage Location: 
Archives of Cajun and Creole Folklore-Drawer 20

Interview with Sam Delcambre (part 2)

Accession No.: 
TH1-036

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

Language: 
English
Media Type: 
Audio
Collection: 
Jason Theriot
Subject: 
Oral History; World War II; Waist Gunner; North Africa; Air Force
Creator: 
Jason Theriot
Informants: 
Sam Delcambre
Recording date: 
Sunday, January 19, 2003
Coverage Spatial: 
New Iberia, La
Publisher: 
Jason Theriot
Rights Usage: 
All Rights Reserved
Meta Information
Duration: 
00:29:00
Cataloged Date: 
Thursday, November 15, 2018
Digitized Date: 
Monday, August 5, 2013
Original Format: 
Mircocassette
Digital Format: 
WAV
Bit Depth: 
24 bit
Sampling Rate: 
96 kHz
Storage Location: 
Archives of Cajun and Creole Folklore-Drawer 20

Interview with Avery Derouen

Accession No.: 
TH1-037

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

Transcription Begins:

Avery Derouen
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.

Language: 
English
Media Type: 
Audio
Collection: 
Jason Theriot
Subject: 
Oral History; World War II; Navy; Amphibious; Pacific
Creator: 
Jason Theriot
Informants: 
Avery Derouen
Recording date: 
Sunday, July 7, 2002
Coverage Spatial: 
Delchambre, La
Publisher: 
Jason Theriot
Rights Usage: 
All Rights Reserved
Meta Information
Duration: 
01:22:10
Cataloged Date: 
Monday, November 12, 2018
Digitized Date: 
Monday, August 5, 2013
Original Format: 
Mircocassette
Digital Format: 
WAV
Bit Depth: 
24 bit
Sampling Rate: 
96 kHz
Storage Location: 
Archives of Cajuna dn Creole Folklore-Drawer 20

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