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Interview with Ralph Youngmann [4/23/2003]

Tom Swope:

This is the oral history of World War II veteran Ralph Frank Youngmann. Mr. Youngmann served in the US Army, Armored Division, 16th Armored Infantry, Battalion Company A. Ralph served in the European theater, and his highest rank was Private First Class. I'm Tom Swope, and this recording was made in Mr. Youngmann's home in Parma, Ohio, on April 23rd, 2003. Ralph was 80 at the time of this recording. Where were you living in 1941?

Ralph Youngmann:

Cleveland, Ohio.

Tom Swope:

How old would you have been then in '41?

Ralph Youngmann:

I would have been 19.

Tom Swope:

19?

Ralph Youngmann:

Yeah. I was born in '22, so that's right, 19.

Tom Swope:

So were you working at that point?

Ralph Youngmann:

Yes, uh-huh. I had graduated from high school in January of '41, Lincoln High School, and went to work for 35 cents an hour at the Cleveland Brass. Then I got a job at, just before I went into the service, with Cleveland Pneumatic Tool. I was working as a -- with a war-related job, 12 hours a day, seven days a week before I got in the service.

Tom Swope:

Do you have specific memories of December 7th, 1941?

Ralph Youngmann:

Yes. We were --

Tom Swope:

Tell me as much as you can about that.

Ralph Youngmann:

Well, we were at that time -- I think it was a Sunday. We went to a -- a bunch of our guys, we shot a lot of pool in those days. We went to the pool hall and were playing pool up there in the late afternoon, early evening. And somebody come up and told us, says, well, we heard that there's some kind of a bombing that went on in Pearl Harbor. And of course the first thing everybody says was, where is Pearl Harbor? Nobody had known anything about it. But it didn't take long before we read all the stories, and we knew pretty well where Pearl Harbor was after that.

Tom Swope:

What was the recollection of you and the guys when you heard what was happening?

Ralph Youngmann:

Didn't really know what it was, didn't know what it was. You know, everybody was concerned about it. But as it went on, why, we realized it was more important than we thought at first. We just didn't have any feelings of how massive this thing was going to be overall.

Tom Swope:

In thinking about it before December 7th, did you have any idea that we were going to be drawn into the war?

Ralph Youngmann:

No, not really. We read the papers and listened to the radio, the news broadcasts about some of the foreign affairs, but we really never give it any thought. We were having too much fun and just out of high school and buying our first cars and doing all that sort of thing. So it didn't really affect us at that time.

Tom Swope:

So none of the guys in your group decided to run out and sign up the next day?

Ralph Youngmann:

Not as such. But in a very few months we started seeing people going in who were our friends and who we did know. And after a while it was just a normal thing that, yes, you're going to go into the Army. It was just a matter of when. Funny part of it was, my friends were all leaving me and I couldn't get in anywhere. I had -- my eyes were very bad at 200/400. I was very nearsighted. So I was trying to get into the service and I thought, well, I want to be a Marine. So I went to the Marines and they give me a physical. And the first thing they said was, take your glasses off and read the chart. Well, when I take the glasses off and read the chart, I couldn't even see the big E. So they turned me down. I then went to the Air Force, Army Air Corps, and told them I wanted to get in, and they did the same thing. He says, take your glasses off, and I couldn't read the big E. And I did this through all of the -- the Navy, everything. So finally I was in the Army recruit, and he says, you really want to get in the service? And I says, yeah, I'd like to. And he says, well, with your eyes as bad as they are, he said, you can volunteer for the draft, he said, and I think they'll take you. So I pursued that. And I went to the draft board and told them what I wanted to do and everything, and they said, fine, you can volunteer. So that's what I did. I volunteered for the draft. And I went in for my physical for the draft, and they said -- I got up for the eye chart test again -- and, of course, otherwise I was physically fit. I got up for the eye chart test and I was going to take my glasses off, and the fellow there says, no, no, leave your glasses on. So I left my glasses on and I read the whole chart at 20/20 or 20/30 or whatever it was. And he says, okay, you're passed. So he says you're in the Army. But it was so funny that nobody else would accept me. And then I thought, well, maybe they'll put me into limited service because of my eyes. Well, I got full service and no repercussions about the eyes, other than I carried two extra sets of glasses with me all through my combat experiences. So --

Tom Swope:

So when did you go into the Army then?

Ralph Youngmann:

It would have been -- let's see. It would have been September or October of '42. I think that's what it was. We was on 30-day leave or something right at the start. You got called in, and then you had 30 days to get your stuff in order and so forth. And I can't remember -- I think it was in October when I went into active duty. And we met down at the Cleveland -- in front of the Terminal Tower, and there must have been -- I was in Ward 7, it's outside of Cleveland, and there was probably 50 or 60 of us there that first -- that day. And they had a band playing, and they took our picture and put it in the Plain Dealer. And I got that picture, by the way, still. It showed my father and sister there seeing me off. And a lot of the people that ended up in my same company in the service, they took a lot of our local guys and put us all together in the service. So that was very interesting.

Tom Swope:

What can you tell me about your training?

Ralph Youngmann:

Well, I got into Camp Perry the first -- took a railroad train to Camp Perry, and at Camp Perry we -- they issued all of our clothes and what have you and got more shots and so forth. And we were there about three or four days, I guess, and then they called our names off and we -- a whole bunch of us from this same group that I entered the Army with all got on a troop train. And they didn't tell us where we were going, other than that we were going on a train trip and we'd find out where we were going later. Well, it took us three or four days to get to Kansas City, Missouri. And when we got there a jaddery (ph) got on the train with us, and I think he was a lieutenant. He told us, he says, well, you boys are now -- he says take your -- we all were wearing overseas hats. And he says, take your hats and put them one finger above your left ear and one finger above your left eyebrow. You're in the armored infantry. He said, that's the way we wear our hats in the armored infantry. So he said, you're with the Ninth Armored Division, and you'll be with the 52nd Infantry Regiment. And it happened to be a brand new division they were just starting up. That's why they needed a lot of people in this one area. So I guess we probably had 200 people on the train at least, and many of them right from the Cleveland area. So we went to Fort Riley, Kansas, and we stayed at a camp just outside of Fort Riley called Camp Funston. And it was a wooden barracks camp, not like Fort Riley. Fort Riley was all brick buildings and an old calvary thing. They still had stables there with some of the old mules. And we used to go down there and ride the mules on weekends just to give them exercise. They were happy to have us do that. We spent about, probably about three months there doing basic training, just learning -- we had no vehicles or anything. We were just foot soldier training. Then we got a scattering of a few Jeeps and some half-tracks; not enough, maybe one or two per company. And we trained on those a little bit. Eventually -- and I don't know how long it would have been. Probably about six, eight months before we left Camp Funston and then decided we should go on desert maneuvers. And again, we got in an old troop train and headed west. It must have taken us four or five days to get to California, sleeping just in the chairs. We didn't have any bunks or anything; eating meals in a, they had a chow -- what do you call them? A boxcar --

Tom Swope:

Right.

Ralph Youngmann:

-- set up as a kitchen, boxcar. And they'd stop the train and we'd line up alongside the train and we'd pass the boxcar, and they'd feed us that way on the side of the road somewhere. We finally got to California, and we were outside Needles, California in the Mojave Desert. I can't remember the name of the camp, but it was a camp that many of the armored units were using as their central base while they pulled desert maneuvers. We pulled desert maneuvers I guess for about six months again, maybe eight months. It wasn't that long; six months probably. And terrible weather, 120 degrees in the shade, and there was no shade. We got passes occasionally to go to Las Vegas or to Los Angeles. We were about midway between the two. And, but we took our morning hikes every morning in our shorts and our shoes, and that's all we wore. And then we did our training and running and exercising for an hour or two before we had breakfast even. And we finally got into an area where we got all of our vehicles, but we got the old vehicles that somebody had left from the last group that was out there, and they were all beat up and terrible equipment, but we used them. And we had some pretty exciting experiences out there. We had a -- we pulled a maneuver that they invited much of the Washington brass out to see. And they had several of our battalions going through a mock attack, and they did this in a position where you could get up on a hill and watch this going on in front of you. And they had the armored out front and then followed by the tank battalion and then with an artillery battalion behind them. And they -- I can remember that they started throwing artillery shells out in front of the infantry. And for some reason there was a short round, and it got into the infantry group and injured quite a few members while this was going on. They immediately called off the exercise and stopped it, but they -- I don't know how many were injured. Because we were in reserve. We weren't in the attacking battalion. But, so we even started having injury before we even got out of the States. You hear about friendly fire even today. We had a lot of it in World War II. Let's see, where was I?

Tom Swope:

When you took those passes to Las Vegas and Los Angeles, do you remember any of the --

Ralph Youngmann:

Oh, yes, very much so.

Tom Swope:

Do you remember anything about that?

Ralph Youngmann:

Very much so. In fact, we were there long enough that I got a pass in both, in each direction. So the first time we went to Las Vegas, and they just put us in the back of a truck, a two-and-a-half-ton truck, and we'd sit on the benches on the side there and we'd go overnight. It took us, I don't know, maybe six hours or so to drive there, and we would do this in the evening, and then we'd be up in the mountains, crossing the desert into the mountains over into Nevada. And it would be colder than hell in there and we'd be freezing in the back seats, because all we had was our khaki uniforms on. I can remember the first little town we got to in Nevada was called Searchlight, and it was just maybe five or six buildings. And it was -- but they had a casino and they had several beer gardens. So a lot of the guys would get off there and say, why go any further? We can gamble right here and have all we want to drink. So they'd stay there. But we went on, the group of fellows I was with went on to Las Vegas. And of course at that time everything was right downtown. We were downtown and gambling and having a good time. We were on, I think it was a three-day pass, and we stayed there for quite a while and just gambled and had a lot to drink. And finally somebody says, why don't you go out and see the new casino? And we says, well, where is the new casino? And he says, well, it's about 15 miles out in the desert out here. And I says, well, why the hell would anybody want to go all the way out in the desert to gamble when you can gamble right downtown here? And he says, well, maybe we ought to go look at it anyway. So four or five of us got into a taxi cab and had him drive out to this new gambling area that they were making. And there was one casino down this old road going up the middle of the desert. And I forget the name of it, but it was one -- it was the first one they had established out there. This would have been 1942 or '43. And we stayed there for probably four or five hours and gambled and didn't think too much of it because it was so damn out in the middle of nothing. And so we decided to come back into town; and that's what we did, we come back into town. And we spent the rest of our time in town gambling and drinking and having fun. And we were -- we had to go to catch our buses or our trucks when we were just about done. One of the guys had one silver dollar left and he said, what shall we do with the silver dollar? And somebody says, well, why don't you throw it on the crap table? So he threw his silver dollar down on the crap table. And the man, the roulette guy or the -- yeah, the roulette guy says, where do you want this? And this friend of mine says, well, what's the highest odds? And he says, well, 30 to one is boxcars, 12. So this guy says, put it on 12. Well, to make a long story short, 12 came up. So we had 30 bucks to spend between the four or five of us, so we went out and had a couple more drinks before the bus came, before the truck came. And then we got on the truck, and it was a miserable trip back because we were all feeling pretty good and had no place to go to the john. So you had to use the facilities and you just -- I don't know if I should say this here. Some of the guys were drinking rum and Cokes, which were the thing in those days. That was the big drink, rum and Coke. But it was almost like a laxative. So some of these guys had to go pretty bad. They just got at the end of the truck and took their pants down and hung over the truck with the strap, the protection strap across their back, and just leaned back and let go. And I said, I hope nobody was following us too close. But anyway, just a bunch of drunken young kids. And we had a good time in Las Vegas, and I've been back there about three times and always marvel at the way that strip has built up --

Tom Swope:

Right.

Ralph Youngmann:

-- since the first time I saw it. We also got a pass, a friend of mine and I, to Los Angeles. We did the same thing, got on a bus or a truck and they drove us to Los Angeles. And again, we had a three-day pass, but fortunately this guy had an aunt that lived in Glendale. So we went to Glendale and we spent two nights with them in Glendale, and they took us all around in their car and showed us the whole area. And it was kind of a -- it wasn't a knock-down-drag-out three-day pass. It was a real nice pass. And we had a good time there and saw Hollywood and all the things that were good there. Never did get to the USO Hollywood band, which was supposed to be a real good one. We never did make that. So let's see. We're back in the desert. You want to know where we went next?

Tom Swope:

Sure, yes.

Ralph Youngmann:

Okay. From the desert then we piled into the troop trains again, and they took us to Camp Poke, Louisiana, and we were going to pull maneuvers there. And this was quite a change because it was now, if I remember right, in the rainy season and very chilly and cold, lots of mud, lots of swamps, lots of bad maneuvering for the vehicles and what have you. We got -- we couldn't get into Camp Poke because there was still a group of, I think it was the 101st Airborne or the 82nd Airborne. They were still in camp and they were supposed to pull out of there. But we couldn't -- and so we had a bivouac outside of camp for about a week and just lived in pup tents in the rain and mud. So it was pretty bad. Of course, we could get off evenings to go into Leesville or one of the little towns close by. And it got to a point where the drunken armored guys got in fights with the drunken paratroopers, telling them to get the hell out of the barracks so we could get in where it was dry. So they had a few skirmishes in Leesburg (sic). Leesburg was a town that I don't know how anybody could ever live in. But some of our guys that were married, their wives lived there, and some of them were living in chicken coops or whatever they could get their hands on. Because it was terrible. You know, they had no housing at all. But this place was one prostitution house after another in between the beer gardens. And they had so far so many VD cases that they had a place they called the chicken farm. And it was with a big high-wired fence around it, and all it was was a big farmhouse. And this is where they took the girls that had venereal disease and put them in the farmhouse with a fence around it and made them stay there until they got cleaned. And when they got cleaned they give them a card that says, I've been cleaned and got out of the, you know, the center. They called it some kind of center. It was so funny, though, because we'd have to go by this thing every time we got in our vehicles to go out for the day for our maneuvers. And they'd be standing at the gate, waving at the troops as we went by in our vehicles. And I said it was first time I ever saw anything like that. The chicken farm they called it, and that was just outside of Leesville. We stayed down there for, oh, I don't know how long again. It must have been at least four or five months. And at that time I had put in for radio school, and they finally called me and told me that I passed the test to go to radio school. So they sent me to radio operator school at Fort Knox, Kentucky, and I think it was a 13-week course or something like that. I went from Louisiana to Fort Knox, Kentucky and spent 13 weeks there training as a radio operator for CW, with the dots and dashes. Well, after I had done this for about four or five weeks, they realized that I'm not going to be an operator. My hands don't go along with what my mind is thinking. I didn't have the coordination. So they finally told me, they says, well, you'll never be a CW operator so, he says, but would you like to be a voice operator or a maintenance, radio maintenance? So I said, that would be fine, whatever. So I went then to -- still in Fort Knox. I stayed there and finished my course up as a voice radio operator and a maintenance man. Well, I graduated from that school and went back to Louisiana, finished up the maneuvers there and started to do some voice radio operating with the one that was in our half-tracks. We had in our squad -- each platoon had a radio, and I was in the headquarters squad, platoon squad half-track. And I used -- I did the communications while we were in the half track and so forth. And when we got out of the half-track I had I guess an SCR-310 or something which was a strap-on-your-back-type thing, and I had to do that out in the field. So at that time then I was classified as a rifleman, radio man. And, well, we finished up the Louisiana maneuvers, and it was time to head for overseas. And this is now -- we've had almost two years of training, which is unusual because, I guess it's because we were starting a new division. And we had all good high marks all the way through all these training programs and so forth, and we were coming together as a combat team. They finally got us up into, took us to New York, and I don't remember all the details. We stopped at a camp outside of New York somewhere, and then they took us into New York by train. And we got off and I seen this huge, huge ship. I've never seen anything as big as this. It ends up it was the Queen Mary. So we loaded our whole division, plus I think two other divisions and some oddball other outfits. I don't know. We had 5, 6,000 on this troop ship. And this I guess would have been in late August of '44 maybe. Yeah, late August '44, I think. So this was unusual, the trip on the Queen Mary, something -- I had never seen a ship that big. I seen Lake Erie ships, but I never seen the big ocean-going ships. And we went in and we settled where we were going to sleep. The group I was with, our platoon, was in the swimming pool of the ship. And what they had done -- they had, of course, emptied the water out and leveled off the bottom so that they could build bunks. And they had four-high bunks all around inside the swimming pool, and that's where we were, down there in the swimming pool, where we slept. We got fed two meals a day, because there was so many people they couldn't feed everybody. Usually when you got done with the first meal you almost had to run back and get in line for the second meal because it was going to take you that long to get through the line. And the food was terrible. The British cooks, I don't know, they fed us mutton stew for breakfast. It was so greasy you couldn't eat it. The food was just tremendous, and you had to wait so long to get it. A couple of friends of mine and I, we used to go up to the top deck after we had eaten or whatever. And we had a few hours, and we'd go up to the top deck and hide. And we'd get into the -- we took the covers off of the lifeboats up there on the lifeboat deck, whatever it was. And we'd get inside the lifeboat and we'd play three-handed pinochle in there because we didn't want to get pulled in for duties. Because they were swabbing the floors and KP duty and what have you. So we'd get up in there in our free time and hide and play cards. So we did that for, I think it was, six or seven days it took us to make the crossing. Of course, we weren't in a convoy because the Queen Mary was too fast for any of the other ships. So we would go -- their speed, I don't know what it was, 24 knots or something. I don't remember what it was. But it was the fastest thing on the ocean at the time, I believe. We would go like 15, 10 or 15 minutes in one direction and then you could watch the boat, and it would go 15 minutes in this direction. It was going, zig-zagging across the Atlantic. And we had a very nice crossing. It wasn't bad at all. It was real calm, no problem at all. So let's see. Oh, the funny part of it was, everybody was hungry because the food was so bad. The British mess people, out of the back of their kitchen, were selling baloney sandwiches, one slice of baloney with two pieces of bread, for about five, six bucks. I forget what they charged for the sandwich. And a hell of a lot of guys were buying sandwiches because they were so damn hungry. But they made money off of the Yanks before we even got into the place. We landed up in, up the Firth of Forth in Scotland in Greenock, something like that, right near Glasgow. It wasn't Glasgow. And they took us in on tenders. We couldn't get to the -- we had to anchor out in the fjord, and then they put us on tenders and we went into the land. They put us on trains again, and these were real small, little trains that we were on. They had seats fortunately. They weren't boxcars. And they took us down through, down into England and took us to a little camp out there, and I don't even remember the name of the camp anymore. But they -- we settled in this camp then for about five or six weeks, I guess. We didn't do much there. We were getting all new equipment. We got new vehicles, we got new weapons, and we got -- pooled all our ammunition, got everything we were supposed to have. This was now -- let's see, the D-Day was on June 6th. We were July, August -- it was maybe two and a half months or two months after D-Day. Well, we got back to camp and we were ready to go overseas. And again, they loaded us on the -- I think it was called the Isle of Man, which was a large ship that went across the channel. We got across the channel, and when we got to -- we landed, were going to land at Omaha Beach. And the weather was so bad they put us into small boats to get us off again to go into shore, and we couldn't get from the shore to the beach because of the bad weather. So we tied up to -- they had sunk a bunch of vessels to make a break wall outside of Omaha Beach. This would have been, like I say, about two months after D-Day. Lots of equipment was still there, broken-down tanks and stuff floating in the water, and there may have been bodies even that were still there after two months. Nothing had been cleaned up. I'm sure it had been cleaned up somewhat, but it still had a lot of debris all over everything. We couldn't get in for 24 hours because of the bad weather, and everybody was sick on this little LCT or LST, or whatever it was. It was a small landing craft. And again, there was no facilities for going to the john or anything. But with this many, this group on there -- I don't know how many we had on there, that little boat. But we were just standing there thinking we were going to be -- so we stayed there for about 24 hours. And we didn't have anything to eat. I think there was four or five Navy guys on the ship that were trying to give some of us some food that they had, but they didn't have anything really because they don't spend that much time on board. And we finally got off and everybody -- I think if the Germans were still on the shore we would have still gone on because we wanted to get out of that damn boat. Everybody was sick. We got on finally and found our -- they took us by truck then to a bivouac area which was just off of Omaha, maybe five miles inland. And we bivouacked until we got all of our group together. And I don't know long -- we stayed there a day or two until we got everybody on shore and the vehicles all there and everything, and then we started out and went across France. And we spent about three or four days in bivouac going across France. We even -- some of our troops went right through Paris. We didn't, though. For some reason we bypassed it, and I never did see Paris at that time. So we went to Luxembourg, and we went to a bivouac area I think near Fels, Luxembourg, and we stayed there I don't know how long. Maybe a week, ten days. We finally got a call. We got told that we were going to go up and have a chance to go into the front lines. They were going to put us in the front lines. They said the area is relatively quiet. It will be a good experience for you. So they put us up there. Now we're into late September maybe, something like that, and early November. Well, we get in our vehicles and we drive up to the German border, and right outside of the town called Beaufort, Luxembourg. And we went right up to an area there was overlooking the Sauer River. And we could -- we took over from an infantry outfit that was in there and they were all dug in. They had been there for, I don't know, a couple months. And they had all this -- fox holes were dug, machine gun ports were dug. They had sleep areas that were six-foot deep covered with log roofs. And they really had a dug-in position up there. It was on top of a hill and it was all woods, and we were -- we could look across and see the Siegfried line right across the river from us. You know, maybe, I don't know, 2,000 yards maybe across there. And we stayed there for about seven or ten days, I guess. This was the front lines, of course, this was the Ardennes we were in. We didn't have much to do up there. It was kind of an easy time. If we didn't shoot at them, they didn't shoot at us. We had artillery shells come in but we were so heavy dug in it didn't bother us at all. Occasionally some hotrod would come up with a sniper rifle and lay up on our side of the hill and try to pick off the Germans as we'd see them to come out to do their morning exercises and to hang their laundry up. This was an officer that come up, and he had an .03 with a scope on it. And I guess he felt that he was a pretty hotshot shooter. So he'd get up there in the morning when he knew these guys were coming out to do their exercises -- and as I say, it was 2,000 yards. It was so far away. I don't know how they could do anything with it. But anyway, he would come up occasionally and try to pick off a German. I don't think he was told to do this. I think he just come up on his own to do that. But every time that happened, we'd all bunk in our holes because you know there was going to be mortar coming back in on top of us because this egghead was shooting at them. So we had little incidents like that. And then every night we would have to pull guard duty, and we had outposts, and we had trip wires across all of the trails that were coming up to our position. We had a mine that was heavily fortified because these guys had been working on it for months and months in that same spot. One of my first times under fire, I went out on a night patrol, and we'd just go down to -- there's a little town just across the river from us where we were. Again, I don't remember the town. But we'd go in there and see if we could find any -- we were looking for prisoners, trying to pick up prisoners to interrogate them. And the first time we went out we looked all around and went up different draws and stuff and didn't get contact with anything. But it was scary because we had never done this before. And it was pitch black, and we were almost into the German territory. One day we were -- I was on patrol again, and this was just at dusk, and we had never been under really heavy fire at all. We had just a few mortar shells coming in and very little artillery. And we were out about probably 3, 400 yards in front of our lines, and we hear this -- we hear this airplane sputtering. And as we -- we were in the woods, and we saw this plane coming over and it was trailing smoke. And it was a German fighter plane and it was heading back to Germany, but it had been hit. And as we were watching this thing go overhead, pretty soon all hell breaks loose over our head and all the antiaircraft shells, our antiaircraft shells are hitting in the trees and blossoming in the trees right above us. So we all fell down, and fortunately nobody got hurt. Like I said, the first time I was really under any heavy fire was friendly fire again from our own antiaircraft guns. So we got back all right, though, and nobody was injured. We got pulled back then after 10, 15 days on the line. They pulled us back into a bivouac area, and we spent probably at least a week, maybe longer, in a rest area. And then that's when they brought us in -- we got baths, showers. The showers we got were, they'd bring in these big -- they'd bring in these big trailer trucks, and they had a thing set up where they would heat the water in another trailer and so forth, and they had it all set up, and they had two trailers in back of each other. And the one trailer was -- you could take off all your clothes as you got in line. And you remember now, this is in November and it's getting cold up there in the mountains. It was colder than hell, in fact. But we'd go to get our showers, and we'd line up. I think they took almost a platoon at a time up there to get showers, because we hadn't had any showers in a month, or maybe longer. And I remember they would tell us to go into this first trailer and strip, take all your clothes off and just throw them in a pile. Then they would march you outside again and into the other trailer. And the guy says, well, you're going to have -- I forget the amount, he says, but you're getting two minutes of hot water. And he said, then you, you know, do your thing with your soap. And he says, I'll blow the whistle and then they'll turn the water off. He said, then they'll turn the water back on and you'll have it for another two minutes to rinse off. And he said, you better rinse off, because after two minutes I blow the whistle and the water shuts off. So you had two minutes to get the soap on and two minutes to get in the shower and get rinsed off. And then they gave you towels and you had towels there and you'd wipe off. And then again you'd go up to -- there was another like a tent up there, and inside the tent where the quartermaster is giving you clean clothes. Well, you're never sure what kind of a -- what they gave you, you know. The only thing I think we kept is our boots. I think we kept our boots and then we just put them somewhere where we could get ahold of them. And then we'd get all clean. It wasn't new but it was clean because it had gone through the laundry. And you even got stuff that fit you, but most of the time it was just six-foot-three guys were walking around in a five-foot-two shirt or something, you know. But then we would swap around trying to get the clothes to fit. So that happened maybe three times I think while we were in Luxembourg that -- no, twice, I guess it was, that we had showers, and that was the real luxury, though, to have that. And we went back -- oh, we were in rest camp for the Thanksgiving dinner, and we had heard about all this good food that we were going to get. We were going to get turkey and cranberries and mashed potatoes. And they were telling us, every soldier is going to have turkey for Thanksgiving. So we looked forward to that turkey for Thanksgiving, and we were in a rest camp so we thought, boy, we're really going to get some good stuff here. Well, we were waiting for the supply truck to come in with the turkeys and all the dressing and all the other stuff. And our cooks said, they checked and they said that the food, something is wrong with the food truck; it hasn't come yet. So they waited and waited and waited, and this is the day before Thanksgiving. So, of course, cooks were noted for drinking; at least our guys were. So while they were waiting for this supply truck to come up, the night before Thanksgiving they all got smashed. So they were all feeling pretty good by the time the truck got there. So then they had to go to work on this, clean the turkeys and do all this and get everything ready for tomorrow's meal. Raining like hell, cold rain. Of course, all we got was shelter halves. We were sleeping in shelter halves, no place to go. We went through the chow line for our Thanksgiving meal that we were thinking so highly of getting after eating K-rations and C-rations all this time. I went through the line and, boy, I got a nice big piece of white meat, breast, and I thought, boy, this is going to be great, and mashed potatoes and gravy and the whole bit, just two big things full of food. So I was trying to find a place that's dry, and it's raining. And I finally got underneath a truck where that I could crawl under and stay a little dry. And I started eating this stuff. And, boy, it was good. It was hot. We hadn't had a hot meal in a long time. And I'm eating the turkey and had a big bite out of it, and the meat side was up. And for some reason I turned the thing over, and I looked at it, and here chicken guts were still hanging on the inside of the piece of chicken that I was eating on the outside. END OF CD FILE NUMBER ONE AND BEGINNING OF CD FILE NUMBER TWO: I got so disgusted. I just took the whole damn tray and dumped it in the garbage can, went back to my vehicle and got a can of C-rations and had a Thanksgiving of C-rations. So much for the turkey dinner. It was something I've always remembered, how terrible it was to see that. Well, we went back up to the front. I think it was about the 10th maybe, 10th of December. And we went right back to the same place, same place. We relieved the same people, and their turn was now to go back to rest camp. So we did the same thing. We pulled guard duty and we pulled the patrols. The only way we were in contact with any of our battalion headquarters or regimental headquarters was through telephones. Couldn't have any radios. For some reason they didn't drop any radios off, so we didn't have any radios. So on the morning of the 16th I had just got off of guard duty, and we used to pull guard duty just outside of our -- outside of our dugout that we slept in. The whole squad slept in one dugout. 12 men in one big dugout they had. And it was like six-foot deep and with big logs over the top. Very good shelter really. Didn't get wet hardly at all. And we had -- just outside we had a foxhole, just outside the door that -- where we stood guard. And, of course, there was guys, guards out all around the perimeter, too. And I had just got off of guard duty maybe about -- I pulled guard for two hours. I think it was two hours on and four hours off. And I got off I think at 4:00 o'clock. And I -- the guy who relieved me was a good friend of mine, and we always stood guard with a Tommy gun because it was easier to handle and we didn't -- we always didn't shoot the gun anyway. We would use hand grenades so they couldn't see where they're coming from. If we had a problem, if they attacked, we would throw hand grenades at them rather than shoot, because they could see the flashes. So this other friend took it, and I crawled into my sack and was just about trying to get back to sleep again when all hell broke loose. This was like 5:30 in the morning or something, shells coming in from everywhere. Just -- and the guy that was the friend of mine that was on guard duty, he says, boy, you got to come up here and see this. He said, my God, it's like the 4th of July. He said, there's flashes all over. Well, I stuck my head out. I didn't stay out there very long, but the stuff was busting all over in the tree tops and shattering artillery shells, the fragments down. And neither one of us stayed up there very long. We got down in the hole. And, of course, by that time everybody was awake and talking on the telephones there. I was in the headquarters spot, so we had a telephone with us, talking to the squads out front, and they were telling us they were getting hit pretty hard. This went on for a good half hour, I don't know, 45 minutes maybe. And then it all stopped. We're still not light yet. We're still hazy, and there was a lot of fog in the area, so we didn't know what it was. This is an experience that we had never lived through, had never heard of. And so after the shelling was up, everyone starts sticking heads out of the holes and looking around. And pretty soon our officer came by and said that we should watch for an attack. And he contacted all of the perimeter guys and told them to be watching and the machine gunners to be watching. Well, it wasn't very long before we started seeing enemy action coming in. And they couldn't get up our hill because we had it so fortified, and we had all traps on there. We used to make -- we used to make traps out of hand grenades. We'd take hand grenades, unscrew them, and then snip off the fuses so it would be short-fused and screw them back together and put them in a C-ration can. They'd fit right in the C-ration -- pull the pin and put them in the C-ration can, and tie that can to a tree, and then stretch a string across to another tree that was out there. It was like a booby trap. And we had those all the way up and down these trails. There was deer trails and stuff through the woods. So we heard a few of those go off and we knew somebody was coming up. And when we would hear one of them we'd hear somebody scream, too, you know, at the same time, so we knew we were getting a bunch coming up at us. Well, we repelled the first group that came up. And I don't know, we fought them for maybe 15 minutes or 20 minutes. It wasn't a very long fight. But because they were coming up a very steep hill, up to where we were at at the top of the hill, we were in a perfect position. And then after about another half hour or so we were pretty quiet. We didn't hear much. We could hear them whistling and bugles blowing and horns going off. And lights, they had lights they were shining through the fog. You could see the lights from the other side of the river. And finally they started to hit us from the right I think this time, trying to get up. There was a draw running down along our right flank. And we were spread out so thin, we couldn't even see the outfit on our right or the outfit on our left. We were spread way out. I don't know how many miles our company was in, but they were spread way the hell out. And a couple of our guys got hit. One squad was completely surrounded and they were captured. The first -- I think the first or second charge that came up, they were taken. It was our machine gun squad. So we tried to contact them and we had no contact with them. They were gone. So they were our first real casualties of the Battle of the Bulge, that I knew of. We had a couple other fire fights which weren't very -- they weren't very organized. They were just a few riflemen shooting at us from different angles and so forth. But it was very frightening, no matter what the hell, especially kids that had never seen this, that much fire fighting, however long we were there. Things got pretty quiet about, I'd say, 12:00 o'clock, 1:00 o'clock in the afternoon, something like that. But there was a few, some -- we found out that there was a sniper up in a tree. So our lieutenant told my sergeant, who was -- Ray Lancaster, also from Cleveland, was my sergeant. So he and I and two other fellows were told to go up and see if we could find a sniper. So we circled around our position and came up on a left flank trying to see what they were getting. It was all full of trees. It was trees everywhere. Well, we got up where we could hear firing, and we were laid out, four of us were laid out in a scrimmage line. And we were shooting in that general direction, but I really didn't see anything to shoot at. But one of the first few shots that went off, the sergeant was on my right, he got shot through the helmet and he was killed immediately. The fellow on my left was also shot. And it was just a few shots, and then it was stopped, and then a few shots, so we knew there wasn't many people there. Well, about this time, well, I got hit, and I was laying under my rifle, firing my rifle in prone position. And I got hit in the left shoulder, across the shoulder, and across my back. So I got three scars from one bullet. And when I lay down in that position they all line up. So I rolled over, didn't feel any pain, just -- I was numb. The left side of my arm was all numb. And I grabbed my rifle and -- I had lost my helmet. And I started to crawl back from where I were. And I hollered to the other guys, I said, we better drop back, and none of them moved. So I finally crawled back to our platoon dugout, and I told them there what happened. And I says, I think there's at least two of them that are killed up there. And I said, I think these other two are wounded. And they said, well, we'll get the medics, so they called the medics. And by this time I was -- they were putting a field bandage on my thing. And one of the medics says, well, I'll go up there and see what we can do. So he -- two of them went up there, and I was told later that both of them were shot and killed by the same sniper, they think. So I told them that I thought that Sergeant Lancaster, I think he was killed, because I had touched him and tried to wake him up and I couldn't. He didn't move. So they had me there, in there, and they couldn't get any vehicles up in there or anything to evacuate us. We had maybe four or five by that time that were wounded, and they brought them back to this little aid area that we had set up. And I don't know how long I stayed there. I -- finally a Jeep come up that had stretchers on the side. And I could sit up, so I didn't get in the stretcher. And they put other guys in the stretcher, and I sat next to the driver, and he was one of our battalion aid men. And I finally found out later that they took me to Beaufort, Luxembourg where our aid station or battalion aid station was set up, and I don't know how long I stayed there. It couldn't have been too long, because they encircled Beaufort. I think Beaufort left -- fell the night of the 17th, so I would have been there the night of the 16th and then in the field hospital, in the aid station. And I know there was fighting going all around me. I could hear all the thing. I was so cold, I couldn't get warm. I was on a stretcher, and I kept telling them, I'm cold, I'm cold, and they kept throwing blankets on top of me. I must have had five, six blankets but nothing under me. I was freezing from the butt down, from the underside. Because there was -- I think we were in a basement of a hotel, I think, or something. And, of course, they were so busy with -- mine was called a light wounded in action. It wasn't threatening, death threatening. So I guess I laid there and just -- I can't remember anything then of what happened to me when I was in the aid station. It's just a blank. And I could never figure that out, all these years why it was a blank. Until three years ago I was in a Ninth Armored Reunion, and I met the guy that drove me out of there. I met the guy that drove me out in the Jeep. His name is Culltier (ph) and he's from outside of New Orleans. And he was the only one that was evacuating -- he was the only one that was evacuating prisoners that day out of our platoon, out of our company area, so he was sure that I was one of them that he took out. And I met him at a reunion here. But he told me, he says, no wonder you didn't remember anything. He said, we couldn't do anything for you. All we could do is give you morphine. So he said, we just filled all the wounded up with morphine because we couldn't get any vehicles in to take you out because we were surrounded. So I don't know when, but they finally got an ambulance in, and they took as many as they could get in the ambulance out from that aid station, and I don't remember. I finally ended up back somewhere in -- I was in the 100th General Hospital in Paris. And that's where I spent -- they operated on me there and put me in a cast. I was in a cast. My left arm was in a cast all the way down to my waist and up to my neck. And I could only have use of this arm, and the rest of it was all in a cast because they wanted -- the muscles in the shoulder were all -- fortunately, I didn't get hit in the bone. Just muscles were shot away. So I ended up in 100th General in Paris for Christmas. Christmas I was there, and they gave me my Purple Heart there. I still got a Bible that the chaplain gave me from there. I don't know how long I spent in recovery. My arm was useless for a long time. But they didn't send me back to England. They just left me in France because it was a light wound. I was in the hospital there with a lot of the -- well, not a lot, but several of the guys from the Normandy, the Malmedy massacre. And I can remember one guy that was in the same ward I was in. He was in there, and I was hearing his story about how they got gunned down. And he was only saved because he was under two or three dead bodies when they come around and start kicking them and shooting them. He was fortunate that he was down, so far down below them they didn't get to him. He was shot in this side of his cheek and come out this side and never injured his bones. He was shot on both sides. He must have had his mouth open and it went right through. That's the only reason he lived. So it was very interesting to be in the hospital after being out there for a few months. And dirty! The nurse used to come in with a scrubbing brush. She was scrubbing my hands and my fingers and getting them clean, because they were filthy. And I remember her saying, well, you know, what happens to the guys out there that don't get hurt and come back to the ____? They don't get clean. I says, they just stay filthy. And it was -- well, then after I started to recuperate they put me on some kind of -- and I didn't stay in that hospital very long. They put me in another hospital I think in Reims. I went to a hospital in Reims, and I stayed there for most of my recuperation. And they put me on some kind of therapy where I was working a wheel to get my arm back in shape and everything. So I -- this now -- of course, I'm listening to all the Stars and Stripes, reading the Stars and Stripes, reading about what's going on, trying follow my outfit. They were cut off for three days up there in the position that I got wounded in, and they were surrounded for three days. And my company and another company finally got together, and they walked out at night carrying their wounded, and disabled all their guns and everything they couldn't carry. And they walked out at night about 20 miles to get back to the American lines. And they have a whole story in itself about how they had to go to get out and trying to carry the wounded with them. I heard about this from my lieutenant that I hadn't seen in 55 years. And he told me about it because he was still there when I left, and he told me about how they got the whole group out like that. He's still alive. He's a lieutenant colonel now. He retired. He went through -- he even was in Vietnam with a group. I mean, he went through Korea and -- World War II, Korea, and he was even in Vietnam. Of course, by that time he was a battalion commander or something. We still correspond, and I see him at the reunions all the time. I don't know how long it took me to recuperate. But eventually they put me on a 40 and 8 troop train going through the repo depos, replacement depos, going back to the front lines, which was a horrible experience. First of all, you don't know where you're going. Second of all, you're in these 40 and 8 boxcars, which are just boxcars. They had no facilities in them but a bucket. And I don't know how many guys they had in them. They had as many as they could get in there. You were just on a troop train. The troop train had the least priorities of anything. You'd go maybe 50 miles a day or something, and you'd pull off to the side to let all of the other transportation go by you. I was I think four days on that. And you had to watch all your clothing because they were stealing rifles and everything else. The guys didn't want to clean cosmoline off their rifles so they'd steal somebody else's. It was a terrible experience. After I had been on a troop train about, well, I guess three or four nights, I got a terrible pain in my stomach. I mean, I was doubled over in pain. Well, they always have a morning sick call. Well, when you went on a morning sick call, half the troops would fall out for it because everybody wanted out. Nobody wanted to go back. So the sick call was almost nothing. They have a doctor or a medic there that would look you over and ask you what's wrong with you, and then say, well, we'll get you the next stop; go back on the train. Well, this happened to me on two stops. But I told them I had this bad stomach ache and I was all doubled up. And they finally said, well, just get back on. You'll be all right. Well, they didn't do anything for me for two days. Finally the third day I couldn't hardly get out of the boxcar. And they called me in there and I told them about it. And, of course, I'm throwing up all over the place now. They finally said, well, maybe we better look and see what's wrong. I guess he's not faking it. So they got me into a field hospital. I don't remember where it was, but it was a tent hospital. And I went in there and, first thing, they look at me and says, you got appendicitis. So he says, how long have you had this? And I told him three days, three and a half days maybe. And he says, well, boy, we have to do something real quick or that's going to bust. He said, we don't have anything, you know. There's nothing that can -- all the sulpha we'll give you won't help. So they said they're going to operate on me immediately. Just before I went in the operating tent, why, one of the medics came up and said, do you mind if we take pictures of your operation? And I says, no, I don't mind. At that point I wanted to get it over with. So anyway, I went in and I was operated on for appendicitis. They did take pictures of me. I got a picture of me laying on the table ____+. One guy's got his finger over my thing and he's showing that. Fortunately, I got the picture. I don't know how I ever got it, but I got the picture. I guess I, you know, I gave them my name or something and they forwarded it to me. I don't remember. I was there then for, well, I don't know, a week, ten days. I didn't stay there very long. I was still kind of doubled up. And I got back on the, I got back on the next 40 and 8 that come by and I went back up. And fortunately I went right back to my old outfit, right back to the same company. By this time we were well into Germany. We were, our division -- we were the ones that took the Remagen Bridge, the Ninth Armored Division took the Remagen Bridge. So in my trip back with them, I didn't go over the bridge. I went over to the -- the pontoon bridge was right next to it. By this time it was already knocked down. So I got with our outfit, and we were just outside of -- when I joined my outfit again we were just outside of Czechoslovakia. We had swung down south to the last pocket in Czechoslovakia. It's got to be late April or early May. And when I was there I met my company commander, who was still alive. And we talked to him, and he was telling me, first time he saw me, he says, Christ, Youngmann, I thought you were killed. We figured you were dead. And he took all of us old soldiers that were coming back wounded and put us all on one squad so we wouldn't have a lot of extra duties. So he said, you know, we found out after you'd left, he said, we found out who was doing all the killing. And I says, oh, yeah? Well, who was it? And he said it was a sniper up in a tree, and he had killed, he thinks, three medics. He killed three of the group I was with, and the other guy was wounded and got out of it. He said, we don't know how many he killed like that. He said -- but I said, well, what happened? He said, we finally found him up in the tree and we shot him. And he says, I made sure, he says, we shot him with everything we had. He said, finally he fell out of the tree. He said, I personally bayoneted him when he hit the ground. Well, when I got back to my outfit they needed a radioman in B Company, which was in their same regimen, or same battalion. But I was in A Company, and they transferred me to B Company about seven days after I got back. I didn't know anybody anyway. There was nobody there that I knew anymore. I think there was three people that I knew from our old outfit. They said the outfit turned over 300 percent in that time. So I went to B Company and I spent my time with them, and I was a radio, voice radio operator for them until we got into outside of Pilsen, which was maybe only, I don't know, two weeks, ten days maybe that I was with them. And we got this word to stop, don't go forward, just stop where you're at. So we were, I'd say, 20, 25 miles outside of Pilsen, Czechoslovakia. And we got this call to stop where you're at, don't move forward, and don't fire unless you're fired on. We stayed there for about six to eight hours, I guess, and then we finally got the word over the radio to move forward to the next town and secure the town. So we went up -- maybe 3 or 4 miles from where we were was this little farm town. And there was all these German soldiers in there with their hands up in the air and with their rifles stacked up in a neat pile in the city, in the square. And I think it was about that time we realized the war was over. Nobody ever said the war was over to us, you know. They just said, hold 'em and don't fire. Of course, we were all hoping. But anyway, when we seen all these guys with their hands up in the air -- and there were a lot of real young kids and old men. That's all. They didn't want to fight. They didn't have any fight in them. And we secured the town then and took the prisoners and took them back up the road. I don't know where the hell they took them. They had a barb wire enclosure for them somewhere. But we realized that the war was over. That's the first we had heard of it. Of course, you had a bunch of happy drunken guys then. Everything we could drink we drank. And after we got that secured and we got squared away, they told us we had to pull back into Germany, that this area we were at was going to be Russian. We met the Russians there, too. We were on outpost, and these Russian tanks came up to us, and we got out. And there was men and women, all dressed alike, all just as dirty as one another. You couldn't tell a man from a woman, and the odor was terrible. I don't think they'd had a bath in years. But they got out, and they were real happy to see us, and we had a couple bottles of scotch there. And we give them some of our scotch and they poured us -- poured me about that much in a bottle of my canteen cup of their vodka. And I was drinking pretty heavy at that time. I drank that vodka and it almost set me on my ear. I couldn't believe it. It was like -- I couldn't talk, it was so bad. I said that was the worst drink I ever had all the while overseas, was that vodka that they fed me. But we saw them, and they were, you know, shaking hands and being real happy and everything. As I said, the women were all dressed in these full coveralls. You couldn't tell a man from a woman, and all of them were just black, dirty. They -- you know, of course we didn't stay long together. They pulled back and went back their way and we went our way. We then had to pull out of there because the Russians were coming in. And the little town that we were -- the people were crying. They don't want the Russians. They wanted the Americans because they were afraid of the Russians. Everybody was afraid of the Russians. The Russians had no principles at all. They would come in, pilfer, and they would just wipe a village out, taking no mercy on anything. So these people were not happy when we were pulling out. They all took their white flags out and put their red flags out when we were leaving, welcoming the Soviets coming in after us. We pulled back then to a little town called now Neustadt bei Coburg, and we went into the Army of Occupation there. And we were right on -- again, right on the edge where the Germans -- where the American and Russians were. We had outposts all along there. And that's all we did there, was try to keep the civilians from going home. And I finally learned a little bit of German there, and I just -- we would tell them as we stopped them, nichts spatsien, kein gayen and kein blieban (ph). Don't walk around, go home and stay home. At least that's what I thought I told them. I wouldn't know. I'm German but I don't speak any of it. We -- I was only there about probably three or four months in occupation. Then I got a call that I was going to be transferred to the 8th Infantry Division who needed radio people. So they made me acting sergeant and transferred me to the 8th Infantry Division, 28th Regimen. And I can't remember how we got out of there, but I think it was by trucks, and we got back into the staging areas in France. And I come back from overseas with the 8th Infantry and I was on a liberty ship coming back. It took us about 10, 12 days coming back, I think it was. Food was excellent. We had -- the best meals I've ever had in the Army, I think, was on that liberty ship. So they fed us real good. We got into New York Harbor, and it was at dawn, early morning. And they had all these ships come out greeting us. There was, I guess, six or seven of our ships together that were coming in. And they had the fire ball with the hoses up, and we passed the Statue of Liberty, and it was just enthralling to be back home. We landed then at one of the docks there and unloaded, and they took us to a little camp outside of New Jersey somewhere, I believe it was. I don't remember the town, but they kept us -- they gave us clean uniforms and they said, you're going to stay in the quarters here. You're not going to be here that long. Well, as we were coming back on the boat, these friends of mine had set up a crap table on board, and they were having a crap game on there, and they were the operators of the crap table. So they had cut the pot many times, and they were in good shape. I think the one guy had 3,000 bucks on him that he had made on the boat. So he says, well, we're not going to stay around here. We're not going to stay in camp. We just got home. We ought to go out and have a few drinks. Of course, I'd just go along with them. That's great. So we jumped the fence and went out the back of the gate and went to the closest town we could find. All it was was a crossroads somewhere in New Jersey. And we started drinking Old Overholt, and we were having one shot after another sitting up there, and we were taking them on and on. Pretty soon the MPs came in, two MPs. And he says, let's see your passes. Well, we don't have passes. Well, where are you from? And we told him we just landed today and this is our first night in the States. And he says, you know, you're all combat troops coming in and going to have a few drinks. And he says, well, you can't do it. You have to be back in camp. So we said, oh, the hell with you. We're going to drink. So we sat there and -- I think there was four of us, and we were drinking and drinking. And the two MPs say -- look, he said, if you guys don't go peacefully, he said, we're going to have to bring in enough guys here that will have to take you out. By this time we're smashed, and we said, the hell with you. Get out of here. We don't want to bother with a stateside MP. The hell with you. So we were there, and pretty soon they come in in force. I don't know how many there were. But they took us, and I ended up -- I didn't know where my glasses was, I didn't have my wallet. I ended up on a bunk in a guardhouse somewhere, and all four of us were in the same cell, and we were all batted on the heads and what have you, drunk, sick. This is now early in the morning, maybe 4:00, 5:00 o'clock in the morning. And the MP comes in and he says, well, you drunken bastards. You know, you almost killed yourself last night, and so forth. He said, we had a hell of a time with you. And he said, I know you've just got off the boat, he said, and we're not going to charge you. He said, we're going to let you go. So he had all our glasses and our wallets and everything, and we picked out what was our stuff. He put us in the back of a two-and-a-half-ton truck and took us back to camp. And he says, if you guys will fall out for revelry, no one will know you had problems. So we fell out for revelry, didn't even have time to shower or anything, and fell out for revelry, and I don't know how. We were sicker than hell and bloody. But anyway, we made it. We got back -- by the way, when we come into the New York harbor, we heard through the grapevine that there was a big bomb that had dropped. The United States had dropped some kind of a mysterious bomb on Japan. Well, this is a shithouse rumor that we've had all during our careers, you know. The next day when we were pulling into New Jersey we heard another one, they says, they dropped another bomb on Japan. Well, this is bullshit again. Well, anyway, to make a long story short, that was Hiroshima. And we came back and got into another camp where we were issued clean clothes and got a chance to clean up and everything and drew whatever we needed for our thing. And they were going to give us a 30-day furlough, and they give us a 30-day furlough. That's what they told us, you have a 30-day furlough. And then you have to go back to Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri and join up with the 8th Infantry then. So I got back to Cleveland on VJ-Day. It was VJ-Day. I said hello to my folks and told them, I'm going to go downtown and see what the celebration is. So I went down Euclid Avenue. And, boy, everything was just crazy. I said, I couldn't have landed in Cleveland at a better time than I did, right at VJ-Day. Well, I again -- by this time I'm almost an alcoholic, and I'm drinking anything I can get ahold of. Of course, they closed the bars. They said the bars were all going to close for VJ night but they were all open. We went down Short Vincent, and all those joints were open. And every time I would come in -- of course, I had my -- I had my combat infantry badge and my Purple Heart and all this on. As soon as they saw you, they just grab you and pull you up to the bar and give you a drink. It was a hell of a time. Well, I had a real good time that night. I'm sure somebody told me I -- I ended up early morning somehow, and I was with a sailor. And he had just got off his ship in the Coast Guard -- I think it was the Coast Guard. And we were up in the Hollanden Hotel on the balcony overlooking the lobby, and both of us just trying to come out of a drunken stupor. And there was a whole tray of soft rolls that they had been serving I guess to someone there. So we got the soft rolls and pulled a tray up, and we started bombing the people down in the lobby, until we were told we better get the hell out of there or they're going to throw us in the can again. So somehow we did get out of there and I finally got home. And my mother was very worried about me because I was gone for 10, 12 hours and she didn't know where I was. So we got home and then I spent my 30 days at home, and I had all the good home food, home baking, and I must have put on 10 pounds in that short time. After the 30 days were up I went back to Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri and, of course, they didn't need us anymore. So I spent 30 days at Fort Leonard Wood, and then they gave me my discharge from there. So I got home -- because of being transferred to the 8th Infantry, I got home like six months ahead of my outfit. They were still there in occupation for another six months. So I got out and come home and tried to lead a calm civilian life after that.

Tom Swope:

Did you have any trouble adjusting to civilian life?

Ralph Youngmann:

Not really, not really. Two friends of mine wanted to go to college, and they asked me, they said, how about you going? I said, well, hell, I could hardly get through high school. I had a C average in high school. They says, well, come on. We're going to try it. So I says, well, you guys pick the college, so they picked Ohio University. So in the meantime I had gotten a job in the steel mills as laborer making as much money as I could. I worked at that for maybe three, four months. Then the third guy says, well, he was working for the C&O Railroad and he had a good job with them. He was a male secretary for the vice-president, and he said he could get his job back and they want him back, and so he's not going to college. So the other fellow and myself, we went down to OU. We were only there a week, and this other fellow said to me, he says, hell, I can't cut this. He said, I can't go back and study. He said, I got to get the hell out. So he left me. So I ended up by myself at Ohio University, and I stayed there for two and a half years and graduated with honors. I married my wife, brought her down there. We spent the last year together down there married, and that was 55 years ago. So that's about the story of my life.

Tom Swope:

Any other particularly vivid memories of your time overseas that you have?

Ralph Youngmann:

Oh, of course, there's a lot of incidents, you know, that come up with -- most of the bad stuff you try to forget. I could remember a lot of the crazy stuff we did because it was fun things. I was just going over -- I got an old roster from our company that I got, and I was going over the old roster the other day marking all the ones that were my buddies that were killed. For 50 years I never talked about it. I never talked about it. I never joined a veterans' group. I never wanted to talk about it. For some reason, I realized that the kids don't know about it. The youngsters don't know anything about World War II, and I didn't want them to forget the guys that never came back. I was one of the lucky ones. I only saw a few months of combat. Some of the guys in our outfit went all the way through, you know, they saw almost a full year of combat. We've got guys in VBOP there that landed on D-Day and went all the way through to the last thing. One guy got wounded four times. I just can't, can't fathom it. It's an experience I just didn't want to see these kids go through now in Iraq. I just hated to see them go over there. We saw a lot of things on TV that happened to us which you never knew about it, you know. All these people that come back as POWs, we had hundreds of POWs, and these guys were treated terrible. You know, it just -- it's good we know about it. But I just hate to have anybody go through it, no matter for what reason. I guess I've turned from a hawk to a dove. I just don't want any more wars. Terrible. (Interview concluded.)

 
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  The Library of Congress >> American Folklife Center
   May 26, 2004
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