November 2007

Haywood's Reminisce

The following article comes from "Memories of World War II," a book written about the residents of the Concord Deaconess community.

We actually went to school together in ninth grade in 1939 in the state of West Virginia, when June's father, who was a minister, got transferred to another church out of the area. We were just friends and wrote to each other for the next seven years, not seeing each other again until 1946.

Earl's Experiences

I enlisted in the Army in November of 1943 and was shipped off to Fort Sill in Oklahoma, and Fort Bragg in North Carolina for basic training. We were shipped to the European Theater of Operations in 1944, as part of the 16th Field Artillery Battalion. I was an instrument man and surveyor as part of a survey/sound unit. We were involved in battles in Normandy, Northern France, Rhineland and then finally in the Ardennes.

In December of 1944, when the Battle of the Bulge started, we were behind enemy lines, caught between two heavily armed enemy groups, near Bastogne, Belgium. So we hid behind tombstones in a graveyard. There was a new open grave, and I got into it. German troop trucks were driving down the road on the other side of the cemetery wall, so I just waited until they cleared. After the German troops passed by, we pushed on to Bastogne and rejoined the Allied forces. Bastogne was under siege by then and food was in short supply. It was also one of the coldest winters they ever had - it was terrifically cold.
I told my wife after we married, I'll eat anything, just don't cook me spam! There had been too much in our rations.

Before the battle started, we had been living in a Belgian bowling alley, with a local family. Twenty years later, we went back to Belgium with our friends, the Williams. We visited the Belgian family again, and they remembered that Christmas of the Battle of the Bulge and how we as American soldiers had shared our chocolate with them. We also visited that graveyard where I had spent that terrible night. Because they had lost so many officers, I was sent to Infantry Officers Candidate School at Fountainebleu, France, where we graduated from a 90-day program in 56 days. My first assignment after graduation from officer's school was to the Pottsdam Conference where I served as an assistant to Major Gen. Harry Vaughn, who was an aide to President Harry Truman. It was amazing to be at such a historic occasion!
As the war ended and we occupied Germany, I was sent to Berlin, and served as executive assistant to the director of the military government in the U.S. district of Berlin. I have a picture of myself being saluted by people from four countries there! When we got to Berlin, the Town was in ruins - no food supply, minimal sanitation, no safe water, epidemics under way due to lack of medical care and supplies.

Displaced persons and refugees were everywhere needing assistance. So the 4 nation military government was formed, comprised of representatives from the U.S., the British, the Russians and the French. I have a copy of a 6 months report of progress by the military government, from July 1945 to January 1946. It is remarkable that so much was accomplished so quickly, though the rebuilding all over Europe and Great Britain went on for many years. I finally got home in August of 1946.

June's Memories

I was in high school and college through the war. Earl and I kept writing, we were good friends, dating other people. My dad was a minister, and changed churches in my senior year of high school, so I entered college at West Virginia Wesleyan. Then Dad took another church, and I transferred to Fairmont State. We had not seen each other for seven years when Earl came home in August 1946. When we all got together, my Dad said to Earl, "I never had any sons of my own, but I could not have loved them any more than you." Earl proposed and we got married in November of 1946, with my Dad performing the ceremony.

Other memories I have of the war, are that department stores would announce they were going to get a shipment of nylon stockings, so we would go down at 7:30 a.m. and get in line. When we didn't have stockings, we'd paint our legs and use eyebrow pencil to draw the seam. Troop trains would go through the middle of town with black shades drawn so people couldn't see in and the troops couldn't see out. When I worked at jobs, I got pay, but also got stamps for sugar, canned goods and meats. We made our clothes, often recycling another garment for the fabric. We had more meat than most people because my Dad did a lot of freshwater fishing, and we always had a garden.  

For more information contact Dick Krug, director of Veteran Services for the town of Concord, located at 105 Everett Street. He can be reached at 978-318-3038 or by email.