World War II

of the Greater Quad City Area

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BARTON,  William

BUCKMEYER, Arnold

CLEVE, Carl R.

CORBIN, Ricard S.

HALPERN, Paul

HARTZ, Henry

HUGGINS, Harold H.

JENS, Wayne

JOHNSON, Pershing

LEWIS, Wilbur C.

McCORMICK, Harold E. (Pete)

PHLEGER, John V.

RUDDY, Douglas

WEINDRUCH, Archie

WELTY, Roger

WOLFE, Warren

 

ORIGINAL INTERVIEWS

PERSHING J. JOHNSON

Davenport, Iowa

LETTER
 

Here is a brief account of my military service.

I was a T4 Sergeant in the Ninth Armored Division, 16th Field Artillery Battalion, Headquarters Battery.
We arrived in Europe August, 1944.  Our 9 Armored fought in Belgium, Luxembourg, and Germany.  After May 9, 1945, I was
with the Army of Occupation.  In March-April, 1945, after crossing the Rhine we struck on into Germany.  With that sweep we
caused the liberation of concentration camps, slave labor camps and many that I do not know what they were called.  I know of
no camp that was ever liberated until the German SS and the Wehrmacht were first driven back or captured. 
 

Here is a quote from my service record: 

Service Stripe - two overseas Service Bars. American Campaign Medal - European, African-Middle Eastern Theater, Ribbon with three Bronze Battle
Stars, Good Conduct Medal, Distinguished Unit Badge, World War Victory Medal and Certificate of Merit.
Battles and Campaigns - Ardennes, Rhineland and Central Europe                                      
Personal Citation - This Certificate of Merit is awarded to Sergeant Pershing J. Johnson, 16th Armored F.A. Battalion, in Recognition of
Conspicuously Meritorious and Outstanding Performance of Military Duty, Belgium, December 16-25, 1944, C.W. Wesner, Lt. Colonel, F.A.

(Wow, it's been 49 years since anyone noticed this.) If I can be of help, let me know.

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INTERVIEW

Q.  How were you involved in the War?  What were you doing in Europe?
A:  We sailed in July of 1944, after D-Day.  It took about a month to get our equipment into England across the Channel.  In
August we went across the Channel into France.  The first shot was fired in September.  I was a Sergeant, with the
Headquarters Battery.  Mostly, I was a radio code operator with the job to direct fire from the command center to the target.   I
now live in Davenport 

Q:  How did you become aware of the Holocaust?  What evidence of it did you see?
A:  I hope my emotions stay put.  There were lots of displaced persons as we moved in.  Late in 1944 and early in 1945, a
magazine called Stars and Stripes came out, so I was aware of what was going on. I was in Belgium, Luxembourg, and
Germany.  By February I was in Germany exclusively.  I spent six weeks in Nance, France.  On February 8, 80 some divisions
started out, to finish Hitler off.  Our combat command was the first to hit the Rhine. 
    On March 7, we took Ramagen Bridge.  They put up a good scrap, but we got across.  More and more displaced persons
showed up by March. We liberated factories and camps, mostly Poles.  We did pretty well in helping them.  By that I mean we
fed them a lot.  The kitchen truck moved up, and the cooks fed nearly 300 a day.  I've seen movies, but they can't depict an
emaciated person.  I thought we did a remarkable job.  We always did the best we could.  We tried to bring order out of chaos. 
I remember a factory worker who had a severe ear infection.  The medics took care of it and in two or three days he looked
like a different person.  Sulfa drugs did good work on a mean infection.  We saved lives.  The troops felt so much better when
they saw hope, when they saw others being helped.  The Russian soldiers didn't help.  The had lots of territory.  We tangled with some. 
I was in the Battle of the Bulge.  We met Hitler's First Panzer Division in December, 1944.  History fails to point out how well
trained our divisions were.  The Panzer Divisions couldn't match us! 
    In May I ended up 30 miles from Berlin.  On May 5 we finally got a cease fire.  We started heading back then.  It's hard to
believe that the Russians were occupying part of Germany.
    I did get to help round up top Nazis for the Nuremberg Trials.  I didn't know their names.  I wish I had.  We rounded up three or
four one night.
    It's not mentioned in history what a tremendous transformation we made in such a short time.  It's difficult to describe.

Q:  You were the most battle-tested group.  How did it change the soldiers to see starving people, etc.?  How do you think it changed them?
A:  When we came up to smashing a building, we wanted to put up a white flag and have them come out, or we would blast. 
We needed to use our heads and let them come out, not do what a conquering army does.  Sometimes we had to be
resourceful.  We had to level enough towns, but we didn't want to do that.  DPs (Displaced Persons) sometimes mixed in with
the troops.  They wanted revenge.  We knew that an all-out war was the only way to win!                                                                                                                               

Q:  Did you see any other camps?   Were you coming across those from camps and factories? 
A:  Divisions came in to take care of them.  The Germans emptied out the camps before we got there.  Buchenwald was
among those liberated first.  Dachau was liberated later.

Q:  What about Nazi symbols today...the activities of unbelievers?
A:  The world was slow to believe.  In 1938, the first activity was Krystallnacht.   It was out of the ordinary to behave this way!
Propaganda machine was going to discount what was happening.  People in this country had doubts.  Stories always say they
were liberated, but they don't say by whom.  U.S. troops were the only ones that could do anything about it.  U.S. was the final
hope.  You hear, "Why didn't we do something sooner!"  There was the shout of disarmament.  In the 1940's you couldn't do
much.  In 1941, it finally started. 

Q:  What's the important lesson?
A:  Keep the military strong!  Look at the military in a favorable light!  Decisions are made by civilians, and it's good to keep
the military at our service.  It's a tough world.  Keep hoping for the best.