Harold Harrison's World War II

My uncle, Harold Harrison, served as a paratrooper in the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the famed 101st Airborne in the final months of World War II. He had a cagey joie de vie that made him popular with the opposite sex all his life. He went on to have a distinguished career as a judge and trial attorney, taking clients no one else would touch. And he was a master story-teller.

The following vivid account of his World War II adventures was taken from a video my sister conducted during his final years. We asked only a few simple questions and let the stories unfold. I tried to transcribe his words exactly as he spoke them.

How did you get into the army?

I worked out at Fort Harrison [near Helena, Montana] in the summer of 42. We were building buildings out there for the First Special Service Force. They came and did their parachute training out there. I watched them jump. So I thought eventually I wanted to be in the paratroopers.

So, in September of 42, a bunch of fellows volunteered to join the army and they swore us in and said "Go back to school - it'll be a few weeks. Get all the schooling you can before you go in." So went went back to school expecting to be called on a daily basis and didn't get the call till March. We went to Helena on March 14th.

One fellow was the only child of a widow, his father died when he young, went over to Garrison - we got on the train at Garrison - and I don't know why but it fell to my lot to have the papers. And so that night, well before we left the platform, I could see he was crying and his mother was crying and the rest of us were kissing girls goodbye. As night fell I could see his face getting longer and longer.

We had to sleep two in a lower or one in an upper. So I put two of the other guys in lowers and I think there were two others I put in uppers and I put him with me. He cried all night and kept me awake. Later on he was a lawyer - he just died a few weeks ago - and practiced law in Butte for years. We often visited when I was in Butte, but of course I never alluded to the fact that he cried all night and kept me awake.

We got off at Fort Lewis and they didn't even have uniforms for us. We wore the same clothes for over two weeks, got pretty stinky.

Then we went down the coast to Los Angeles and they let us stop there for a few hours. When we got back on the train they fed us some tainted meat. Everybody got diarrhea that night.

We were headed east toward Camp Walters, Texas. Everybody had the diarrhea at once and couldn't get into the bathrooms. In those days they had spittoons on the cars; so all the fellows used the spittoons. The next morning the black porter would go along and get those spittoons and heave them out the window as far as he could send them.

We got down to Camp Walters which had been a goat ranch. And when they bought the ranch they bought the goats along with it and they fed us some goats. Some of them were alright but some were pretty strong and kept those bells ringing.

Then we got through there at old Camp Walters with the paratroops there. They had us in to go aboard. They explained about something called the Army special training program. And this kindly old colonel said don't you think it would do your country more good by going up there and getting some engineering education instead of by going to the paratroopers? I was kind of undecided about it. He said I'm going to send you to Chicago to the Illinois Institute of Technology.

Transferred to Chicago

So we arrived up there in the summertime. Of course, that was hog heaven. They had servicemen centers where you could have anything you wanted. They had legitimate play tickets, Aragon ballroom, Lawrence Welk some times and the like, and all the movies in town of course.

We were stationed in an army installation. We slept under the bleachers, we had classrooms, took our physical exercise. In the mornings we'd go to south Van? street, several black neighborhoods. We were supposed to be helping to keep the peace but I don't know why because we didn't have any weapons. Anyway we ran through the neighborhoods then back to classes.

I was doing alright in the things I knew anything about, but I couldn't handle that higher math. We had a German teacher in one of the classes who used to say "Harrison, if you don't buckle down and study I'll throw you out." Finally they did throw me out and I was devastated.

They sent me up to Camp McCoy Wisconsin, probably the nicest place in the United States to be. Pine trees and so forth. Immediately we went on maneuvers up on the Michigan peninsula. For months we were able to stay outdoors except for huts that had been built out of logs and pine boughs and were only nailed infrequently.

I was on a machine gun crew so we'd set up a machine gun and put down pine boughs and we were laying fanned out. When it became your turn to sit on the gun the guy would wake you up and you'd sit up in your sleeping bag and sit around the gun...

We were dressed for it; we had heavy clothes on in several layers. The first night we learned not to take our boots off. The ? took their boots off and they froze up during the night. We never took our boots off again...

They shipped off a bunch of people but said another fellow and I hadn't had sufficient training. I don't know why; we'd both had extensive basic training. Anyway, they said we didn't have enough so they set us to firing the stoves all summer which meant that one of us could sneak into Chicago on the weekend.

We'd catch an elevated back to downtown just in time to catch the train back across Wisconsin, get a bus over and get off the bus just before it got to the gate and sneak around the gate. We had a book of stamps to get out, we'd sign it Lieutenant Spencer. The other one had an alarm clock. The alarm would go off every half hour or so and he'd keep the cook's fires burning.


...At the last minute my buddy backed out. The guy said your buddy backed out, I guess you won't be going. I said "I'm going." I went down to Fort Benning.

Jump School

I went to communications school. But I never could learn the Morse code; I had to have a guy sneak in and do that for me. So whenever I was on duty with the communications crew I always had to crank the generator and carry the generator all over.

We had jump school, five jumps in jump school. On one day we went out for jumping off the two hundred foot tower. They raised you up on a cable and let you loose. It was a very windy day. The sergeant said we have to jump one man and as windy as it is we probably won't jump anymore. We'll see how it works.

He said "Harrison, it's your turn but if you want I'll get a volunteer to jump." And I very foolishly in my youth said "If it wasn't my turn I wouldn't volunteer, so I don't expect anyone else to volunteer."

So they pulled me up 200 feet. They give you a piece of paper to let go of to check the wind direction. He said "When I cut you loose I'll talk you down with the megaphone." When he cut me loose I took off for Alabama and he never had a chance to talk me down.

When I finally hit the ground a long ways from where I was supposed to, I bounced several times before I could crawl up to the risers and spill the air out of the chute. I didn't know what was wrong with me but I was all out of wind and everything.

The sergeant came running up and said "Is anything broken?" and I said "I don't know. Let me lay here awhile." It turned out nothing was broken but years later it developed I'd lost two intervertebral discs in my neck, and I think that's what had happened - I didn't know at the time. They were telling us how tough we were in those days so I didn't go to the medics for anything. I just hobbled around.

I hobbled after my first jump too, because after the chute opened I was so thankful it was open I didn't work the risers the way I should have and consequently I hit a rock on the edge of a ditch. Those were minor problems. We had a night jump and I thought I was coming down in trees. I did all the things you are supposed to do if you are going to land in trees only to find to my relief that it was a corn field and I finally landed with no trouble there.

A Tragic Detour to the Azores

Eventually I wound up in a camp whose name I can't remember near Baltimore. We started overseas in a boat called the S.S. McAndrew that used to be a pleasure cruise ship between New Orleans and the Caribbean islands. They gutted it and put in bunks. We got into a convoy with about a hundred ships and started across the Atlantic.

There was a French aircraft carrier on our right and the power went off on it. It had been zig-zagging, so when the power went off it just kept coming right around and hit us and tore a great big hole in the front of the ship. There was a guy on watch but it was a foggy night and he didn't see it coming. It was right on top of him. It turned the machine gun over and just crushed him. They buried him at sea the next day.

They ran down and closed the water-tight doors including door number two where I was. And those guys were banging on the doors but they couldn't do anything about it. So we lost 60 and they lost 40 off the aircraft carrier.

So the next morning they gave us a DE [Diesel Electric] boat to accompany us and headed us toward the Portuguese Azores. We all had to stay up on deck. I crawled into one of those big horns they had - a sounding unit. If they ever would've turned it on I would have got my ears blown off. It was close to a life boat. I was going to go in it because I never could swim. They tried to teach me. The guy said I was the only one he couldn't teach to swim in his career.

Note: The USAT J.W. McAndrew, originally the Deltargentino, collided with the French aircraft carrier Bearn March 13, 1945. Armed guardsman Carlos A. Inman and 68 army soldiers were killed. Both ships were then escorted to Ponta Delgada, Azores by the Earl K. Olsen (DE-765).

Anyhow, we started out for the Portuguese Azores. The second morning out the D.E. started throwing ash cans [depth charges]. They thought it was a submarine. Turned out it was a school of whales. I don't know how many whales they killed before they discovered their mistake.

My friend Kaiser from Pennsylvania, he drank quite a bit and he got pretty thirsty. And I still had two pints down in the hold. So he insisted I sell him one of those pints. So I gave it to him and he went down there much against everyone's orders, endangering his life perhaps, and got that pint of whiskey and finished it. He was with me a great deal later on.

Anyway, we went into Ponta Delgada down in the Azores on San Miguel and they wouldn't let us off the ship because Portugal was still technically neutral. But the guys started sneaking closer to the merchant marine and slide down the ? and swim in and the girls would come up in boats anyway and take the men in.

So finally they made a deal with the Portuguese government to let us come ashore. Beautiful islands - the mountains stick up out of the sea like the Hawaiian islands. The first place they took us to was a house of ill repute. There was a big Greek ship in there, and a big English boat. The girls looked too tired to most of us. A few of the boys stayed and the rest of us went downtown to a place called the Port Lymington.

We got back down to the dock and they had the sentries there every hundred feet or two. Being quite foolish in those days I yelled "Viva La Salizar!" and you could hear them snap together for about two miles on either side. This looey in our bunch was so mad at me he tried to put me in the brig.

We finally got picked up by a British ship, but they couldn't come into the harbor so they took us out in small boats. We had to climb a rope net with our barracks bag on one arm and our rifle on the other. I just about didn't make it. A couple of English sailors leaned over and grabbed me and pulled me on.

We got on that ship and it was stinking dirty as so many British ships are. The food was terrible. The meat was rotten. We threw it overboard and a big controversy developed over that. They called our transport commander and he said he wouldn't eat it either.

We were supposed to sleep over the tables where we ate in hammocks but it stunk so down there that as soon as it was dark we'd sneak up on deck and park where we could. One night I pulled my sleeping bag under a light post. The next morning, a couple of - we called them limey sailors in those days - a couple of British sailors came along hosing down the deck. But rather than hit me with the hose, they grabbed the bottom of the sleeping bag and dragged me down the deck for about a hundred yards. I was cussing for all I was worth - I was riding pretty hard.

So we got to Liverpool and marched across Liverpool by moonlight. I stopped once in awhile to talk to the Liverpudlians, pretty bitter about the war. We got on a train and crossed England in one day to South Hampton. They put us on another British ship and that damned thing - the motors quit on it about half way out in the channel. We had to turn around and come back.

Then we got on a Polish boat called the Enski(?). The Polish sailors were very disillusioned with the way the war was going. They said they would've been better off if they had sided with Hitler the way the Allies were treating them.

The Red Ball Express

Eventually we got to Le Havre. We went up to this warehouse-like building on the dock. That's the first time I saw people standing with spoons to scrape our mess kit they were so hungry. We couldn't see it on the men because they had trousers on but on the women you could see the big sores on their legs from malnutrition. They'd come and scrape every last drop of gravy or whatever out of the mess kit. Shocking.

They sent us over to Charleville where they split us up. After we were there for a few days, my good friend from North Carolina, Hamby was his name, was next in line. They split the group between the two of us. I had one pint of whiskey left so we finished that up before we shipped out.

They shipped us up to Mourmelon. The first morning I slept in. Everybody fell out and I slept right through it. The sergeant came and shook me awake and said what the hell do you think you're doing? I said I don't know what I'm doing - I don't even know where I'm at. I finally convinced him that I just couldn't wake up.

So he says well, come on, I've got to walk on over through the forest to the town take some messages over there and pick some stuff up. You can help me carry the bag. We eventually got to be good friends.

After a little while in Mourmelon they put us on the Red Ball Express. Those were open trucks. Mourmelon is in northern France. We were headed to Landsberg, Germany. Three days in these open trucks. It rained on us. We got dirty and out of sorts. We'd stop along the way. They'd have a mess line set up and half the time the food would be cold.

So we got to Landsberg in the evening and the Germans had just evacuated to Austria. They took us over to the hospital and we climbed into bed - some of them were almost still warm from the patients. Got a good night's sleep over there. Some of the boys, before they went to bed, looted a lot of the medical instruments.

There was a concentration camp just outside of Landsberg. The inmates that could walk, most had run away, but they started coming back. Terrible condition, emaciated. Some of our guys got a little bit drunk and when some Germans came back they went and just slaughtered them. I guess under the circumstances I understood.

The people there were very pathetic. They rode along with us down to what they called a DP encampment, a displaced persons camp, towards the redoubt area. They also went about sacking German homes which the Americans didn't do anything about stopping them. They really cleaned out the German homes along the route which nobody blamed them given the condition they were in. Ot course there were a lot of dead ones that had to be buried.

Then we started up to what they called the redoubt area, which was in the Alps, Berchtesgaden and surrounding places. And on our way an ambulance driver had trouble with his ambulance, got separated with us, took a different route, and for about seventy-five miles Alpine residents surrendered to him by throwing sheets out their windows as he went by. Took a big area all by himself.

We were going to Berchtesgaden, were assigned to headquarters company, and somehow I got picked to run messages between the regiment and headquarters company. When I went up to regimental headquarters it was in the Geiger Haus, which was a fancy hotel where Goebbels and Goering were likely to stay while Hitler was in the Eagle's Nest. You could see what was left of the Eagle's Nest from there.

When the sergeant was sitting at the desk about half potted I asked him where I was to stay; he said just go upstairs and pick out an empty room. So I went upstairs and picked out the first room I could find. It was all red plush furniture with a sunken bathtub. I opened a closet and there were seven cases of good old French champagne and I don't know how many cases of Italian wine.

So the next day we went out and they had a mess line set up out in the yard of the Geiger Haus. We got in line and some Schwarze SS cut loose at us from a machine gun nest. They were hold-outs, expected to be killed I guess - a suicide effort.

So we ran and jumped into a ditch. I got to talking with my old buddy Kaiser. He was in demolition and they had him up there on guard duty. So I made the mistake of telling him about this booze I had in the closet. So he went AWOL and had to stay with me for a week. He'd just get sober and I'd have to leave the mess behind for him to do anything with.

On V.E. Day I had liberated a silver goblet from a German doctor's house and Kaiser was drinking champagne out of it. He set it up on the rail of the balcony and knocked it off just as Colonel Smith, the regimental commander, and General Maxwell Taylor, the divisional commander walked underneath. He was AWOL and I was on temporary duty so they never even suspected us. It fell to the communications platoon. I sat around the bar while the captain was given the worst chewing out I ever heard.

So after a week Kaiser was still not back on guard duty. Actually they missed Kaiser and said he would be court-martialled when they found him. I said if you help me carry him down and put him in the jeep, you can have him. So we carried him down, put him in the jeep, they went back and court-martialled him and fined him fifty dollars and confined him to the area. But his brother showed up from another town in a couple of weeks and cried all over the captain, who was a pretty good guy anyway. He let him go down and see his brother and that kind of broke the ice and he never really did keep to the restriction. But he had to pay the fifty dollars.

A Bunch of Hannibals

Anyway, we were there for I guess a couple weeks and then the plan was that we would cross the Alps. The captain told us "You're going to be a bunch of Hannibals. You're going to cross the Alps. You're going to get some heavy clothes." This was about the time the Italian outfits were still going but not very well; they finally collapsed. Then they decided to go to Austria.

On the way we were going down through a valley and some Schwarze SS opened up and shot up our column. They killed all the people in the first jeep and they killed the driver and wounded the others in the second jeep. There were a lot of bullets flying but fortunately most of us didn't get hit.

We camped overnight there, we'd come so far, and went on down the next day. So I don't mean to imply it was all fun and games.

We rode down from Berchtesgaden through the Alps to a place called Bruck which is a little town on the side of a canyon with the river and the railroad line down below and they billeted us with the native population. I stayed with some folks. They had a little thirteen year-old girl named Vent and she used to go up on the berg, upon the mountain, and pick Edelweiss for me every day and put it in a little vase on my dresser.

We wanted to sleep in the halls but the old folks moved out in the halls. We didn't want to disturb them so we got a ladder - we were staying out partying at night - we put a ladder up the dock and the old man took it down; he said when we came in he wanted to know about it. So we traipsed pass him in the hall every night.

I tried to talk politics with these people. All they could think of was the good days of the Habsburgs. They hadn't had any good times since then. I brought home some food and medicine one time. They saw the white bread and it turned out the little girl, thirteen years old, had never seen white bread. So I gave them a supply and they cut it up into cubes like a delicacy. So I started stealing a loaf a day for them.

At one point we stayed in a building that Hitler had provided for unwed mothers. Sommewhere I still have some of the very sleazy type of tin metal awards they were giving if they had a child for the Reich.

I got acquainted with a number of refugees from various places including one unreconstructed Nazi named - her real name was Maria but she went by the name of Mootz. Mootz was kind of my girlfriend and taught me some German.

As I said, Mootz was still an unreconstructed Nazi. She would say "Goebbels and Goering nicht gut. Hitler gut man." She was still going to meetings where they were trying to revive the Nazi youth. Her mother caused some trouble one time - she hated Americans and nearly beat Mootz to death because she was visiting an American soldier.

Then I had a lovely job in communications. There was a fellow named Miller. He was a good driver, but he was kind of a reckless driver. He was driving a jeep up to deliver milk to the outpost in the Alps and nobody wanted to ride with him. So I volunteered. We started up those Alpine roads and we see a big truck coming and we don't stop the truck, no need to, we just take off over the side and go down to the last switchback and climb the wide spot with a truck coming out - which kind of thrilled me. Never had a wreck.

We'd take milk to the outpost and on one occasion we got there just after a little Austrian kid had gone to an American soldier who was standing guard and had his rifle loaded and up against his side - which he shouldn't have, it was really uncommon at the time - hit the kid with a bolt? trigger and killed him. So we were there for the entire inquest. The parents were crying and cursing that he was killed because they were used to killing.

The night before we got to Graz a family took mattresses and made like a cave in the basement of their home and were listening to Allied radio. They wanted to find out, they knew that our army and the Communists were on their way into Graz. And these Schwarze SS came in, crawled to about three yards, and shot all of them. These old folks said an American solider had killed their son and daughter. But they didn't. It wasn't their fault.

Anyhow, we stayed up there through the summer. About that time they put out a directive that anybody that could type could work in Personnel. I don't why anybody would want to, except I was worried about when I got out, I thought I wanted to go to law school and I was afraid it would be hard to make the change back to school. So I volunteered, which was very stupid. I worked while I could have been taking trips to Rome and a lot of other places.

In Personnel I had an old typewriter that was a rattle-trap and my friend next to me would loan me his when he got through doing his work. So on one occasion they gave me a roster of all the PFCs in the regiment and I took my old typewriter and I made a column of PFCs and the names and then he loaned me his typewriter and I put in the serial numbers. I started with a column of numbers and when I wound up it all looked just great, nice and neat and everything.

Somehow, because of the two typewriters being slightly different there were more names than there were numbers or more numbers than there were names. It was a great puzzle to the people up in regimental headquarters. When they finally discovered what it was they had this Captain Keanen who ran the Personnel office up. As he put it to me, he said because of your distinctive mistake, Harrison, I stood hard for two hours and got the worse hayseeding I ever had in my life.

I wanted to get out of there anyhow. We went out and we had to make a qualifying jump to keep our jump date. They took us up to five thousand feet, over a nice, level place to land. It was a piece of cake. So I came in with my jump clothes still on and said "Captain Keanen, this work is too hard on my nerves. I need to transfer out of here."

Vive La France

I hadn't heard about Captain George W. Bartlett III, but he had been a captain longer than any captain in the ETO [European Theater of Operation]. He was captain of a service company. Captain Bartlett was a BMI [Bordentown Military Institute] graduate. He was always immaculately dressed. He spoke fluent French. He was a total gentleman. Out in the yard we had a trough for a urinal and it used to get stuck up. I can still see Captain George W. Bartlett III out there with a swagger stick, immaculately clothed, poking at whatever the obstruction was.

Joigny France circa 1945 (Source: Donald Straith) Because he could speak fluent French, the colonel, who disliked him fiercely, who was a real sourpuss anyway, had to take Captain Bartlett with him to meet with the local French authorities. We were now in a place called Joigny 90 kilometers south of Paris.

They would go to these meetings, they would take one of Hitler's Mercedes, which we had, and the Mercedes would always break down and always have to be towed back in by a jeep which always rankled Colonel Lindley. And then Captain George W. Bartlett would come back in just a fine mood, drinking wine all afternoon, translating with the French officials and being very friendly with them. The colonel would look like he'd been eating worms, disgruntled with the whole thing.

So Captain George W. Bartlett would leave me in the laundry room of the service company alone and he'd say if anything comes in just sign it "George W. Bartlet III, Captain, Infantry." But he'd always leave me a phone number in case of emergency.

When some guy brought in something that looked awfully important, a delivery of trucks or something, and I didn't want to take the responsibility I would call him at whatever Mademoiselle's house he was at, she'd get him on the phone, he'd say "Goddamn it Harrison, I told you just sign it George W. Bartlett III, Infantry", hang up on me, and I'd sign his name.

We stayed in Joigny through the summer. We got to Paris a lot, which was wonderful even though they didn't have very much to eat. They still made pretty good meals. The people were extremely friendly. Unfortunately most of the girls who worked in daytime and other occupations were unable to make enough money to live on, so a great many of them prostituted themselves. That's just the way it went.

Of course the first night I got there I saw the Folies Bergere. Later on we saw Napolean's tomb, Versailles, Fontainebleau a little bit. You couldn't go up the Eiffel Tower - it was shut down. There were no fish left in the aquarium because they'd all been eaten up. Of course all the old buildings were there and it was great seeing those and getting acquainted with the people.

Joigny was divided into two parts, the new town and the old town. The old town was full of cobblestone streets. Turning the corner into the old town one day I saw this lady oogling me, a lounge singer at a restaurant. So I went over and got acquainted. Her name was Paulette.

I was sleeping in a cavalry barracks which were very drafty and uncomfortable. We didn't have anything like modern toilet facilities. We just had basins with two blocks. So it was a kind of miserable way to live. Paulette was very hospitable and had a lovely apartment over the lounge. So I used to stay there quite a bit. When I got up in the morning her cook would be preparing breakfast for the restaurant anyway and he prepared breakfast for me.

Then when I left the MPs were always checking the area. I started out on the cobblestone streets and they started after me. They were crooked and windy so I had no trouble as long as I could stay on the cobblestone streets. But then when I hit the avenue I really had to pick 'em up and lay 'em down for about five blocks to the entrance of the cavalry barracks.

When I got there I would throw my barracks bag out of the bed which I'd put in the night before, jump in with all my clothes on and cover up. The MPs would come around with flashlights and say "Did somebody come in here?" My buddies would say "Nobody's come in here but you waking us up and bothering us. Why don't you go about your business?" or something like that. So I managed to avoid some of the hardships of living in cavalry barracks.

Eventually they decided to deactivate the 101st there at Joigny. Every night the band used to play Lily Marlene, our regimental song. The last night as it was playing, Captain George W. Bartlett was standing at the window saluting, tears running down his cheeks. I couldn't miss the opportunity. I had to say "Captain, don't you think the next war will be fought with machines?" He spun on his heels and said "Harrison, the infantry will always have to go in and hold."

So they put us on a train - I'm leaving out a great deal of course. There was one fellow named Sago who had been a bellhop down in Florida, had some pretty weird experiences as such. He had a girlfriend there in Joigny who had saved up quite a bit of money. Of course, we all had more money than we could use. Besides our pay we always had something we could sell. I didn't smoke so I sold cigarettes.

This lady had her money on a shelf and Sago kept saying he was tempted to take that money and I kept telling him "Don't take her money. You've got more Francs than you need." He was going down to the Riviera to get discharged there and was taking parachutes, overcoats, everything he could find. He was going to open a store down there, which he did.

We got on this boxcar and went rattling down the track. He pulled out these cans - he had yielded to temptation at last and had robbed her. We had another southern gentleman who took wedding rings off all the Austrian German wives who were foolish enough to wear them out to the prisons.

We went down to Camp Lucky Strike and in the order room I had a big bottle of Sulfathiazole I think it was called which would temporarily abate the symptoms of venereal disease. While we were in Joigny there was, down the road a couple of miles, a camp of Senegalese troops. There was no VD control in their outfit at all. And some of our boys, especially the ones from the Ozarks, didn't like to go to the pro stations, so they'd just take their chances.

At one point this colonel said that there's more VD in this outfit than anywhere in the ETO and if doesn't get better I'm going to resign. The administrative officer in our company, an Italian, a nice young fellow, made the mistake of saying loud enough that he heard it, that he was going to punch holes in all the condoms. He got fined severely for it.

As a result, by the time we got out of the camp, Camp Philip Morris, I had this big bottle of Thiazole and these guys were coming down with the symptoms of gonorrhea and syphilis and whatever. They'd come and they were willing to pay anything for it but I didn't take any money for it, I just gave it out to them. If they could get on the boat then they could get home; if they got caught before they got on the boat they didn't go. So they used up my great big jar of Sulfathiazole pretty fast.

The Road Home

We got over to Tidworth England. Everybody got sick on this small boat except a few of us going over the channel. We went to Tidworth which was a little town south [actually north] of Southampton and spent Christmas there.

The sergeant came around and said "You can type some can't you?" I said "Well, some." He said "How would you like to be a priest's assistant?" I said "Outside of the fact that I'm not Catholic, I don't see anything wrong with it." Of course I'd gone to a Catholic college so it wasn't as strange as it might have been. He said this priest needs someone to type for him, he's writing a book on the 82nd (by this time we'd joined the 82nd).

One morning he said "Harold, can you find me some bailing wire?" So I said "I'll see what I can do, Father." I went upstairs in the attic looking for bailing wire and I found these two girls; there was a bed there and some blankets. They begged me not to turn them in and offered me a reward if I didn't, which I declined because it was kind of suspicious. They didn't have to hide anyway.

A little while later the loudspeakers came on all over the installation: "We've stopped two girls at the gate. So far we've found they have gonorrhea and syphilis and soft chancres and hard chancres. Anybody who has had any contact with them had better report to the medics immediately." So I was I very glad I didn't have too much to do with them.

We came back from England on the Queen Mary. There was a tremendous storm but it was no trouble in that huge ship. We went to Camp Shanks, New York. I had a very good friend who had jumped the Rhine with the 17th Airborne. His mother lived in Manhattan. His father lived in White Plains, I think. His name was Albert Oz. His father had been a purser on the Europa and quit his job when the war started.

We were at Camp Shanks for a couple of weeks. On the first day when they turned us loose in the morning Oz said "I know a lot of people in Manhattan. If you come with me I think we could get some free drinks." It turned out that he knew ALL of the bartenders in Manhattan.

At any rate I had learned previously that if we hadn't been shipwrecked that I probably would have jumped the Rhine with the 17th, so that shipwreck may have saved my life because there were tremendous casualties in that operation. Oz was one of three people who got out of his company alive.

He took me across Manhattan and when we arrived at his lovely apartment house we had to climb a couple of stairs, and her first view of her son coming home from war was as he dribbled up the steps to their apartment. So we had a very good time in New York for two weeks. He knew lots of people so we got to a lot of parties and get-togethers of various kinds.

I had maneuvered to get discharged at Fort Sheridan, Illinois because I had a girlfriend in Chicago and I was also thinking of going to law school there so I wanted to get out in the Chicago area. We got to Fort Sheridan and they sent us home on a furlough and I got the mumps while I was home so my time was extended. A couple of fellows that were with me owed me money and of course by the time I got back to Fort Sheridan they were long gone.

I went in on the 14th of March and I got out on the 26th of March three years later. There were some rough aspects to it, especially rough for those who didn't get through it, but the rest of us had an awful lot of fun.