1. Do you have any brothers or sisters?
No, I was an only child.
2. What was growing up like for you?
I grew up in a small town in Texas before the depression. When I got out of diapers, before I turned 3, my father began to take me to work with him on horseback every day. It was about 6 or 7 miles to work and he would teach me my ABC’s and numbers, then books of the Bible and verses that he liked, the States and the Capitols of each state of the USA, and addition, subtraction, multiplication, & division. He owned wooded acreage that he was clearing off for pasture land. He had a crew of men working for him. They cut down the trees and cut them up into cord wood for our woodlot in town. We sold cord wood to the community. The men then dynamited the stumps out of the ground, leveled the ground and then burned the rubbish. My first job was pulling the little water wagon around to the men. By 5 or 6 years, my favorite job was helping the man who blew the stumps out of the ground set the dynamite. My father decided I needed a change in occupation. So, I went to work the summer after the 1st grade for a neighbor, Mr May, who owned the gristmill in town. At 7 years of age, I greeted the customers, weighed the corn, sent it thru the mill, sacked it up and gave the customer ¾ of the milled corn and kept 1/4 for the mill. There was always a domino game going at the gristmill and Mr May disliked stopping the game so he was pleased with me .I also answered the phone for the livery stable next door if Mr Swearingen was playing dominoes too. And sometimes if the blacksmith was busy, he would call me over to pump the bellows for him. I also took orders and delivered cornmeal to the local grocers in my little wagon when they needed it. I was a busy boy. I had many other jobs, but I don’t want to bore you. I had a wonderful childhood. Wharton, Tx was a great place to grow up.
3. Were you drafted or did you enlist?
I enlisted in the Texas National Guard before the USA joined the war. I had been a heavy equipment mechanic for Wharton County and joined the Guard as a tank mechanic. We were federalized January 2, 1941 into the US Army.
4. How old were you then when you joined the Texas National Guard?
I was 21 when I joined the Texas National Guard.
5. When you were in the Army, what rank were you?
My rank was First/Third which was a Specialist between Corporal and Sergeant when we were federalized. I was a Staff Sergeant after the Pearl Harbor attack. I made Master Sergeant before we left Hawaii.
6. What was your assignment?
In the beginning, I was a Heavy duty mechanic. Later in Europe, I was in charge of Battalion Maintenance – All vehicles: 12 jeeps, 75 tanks, 12 Half-tracks, 35 2-1/2 ton trucks.
7. Where were you stationed first?
I was sent to Fort Benning, GA, then after the bombing of Pearl Harbor to Hawaii.
8. Can you list other places stationed and approximate year?
We left Hawaii in March of ’43 and went to Camp Campbell,TENN for school on medium tanks – Sherman M4A3. Then shipped to Ft Chaffee, Arkansas. Shipped to La Havre France in Dec of ’44.
9. Before being enlisted/ drafted and after being deployed in Europe, what did you know about Czechoslovakia or Pilsen?
Not much, but we were blessed with lots of Czech and Bohemian citizens in my area of Texas. I just knew these people to be friendly, honest, hardworking people.
10. What were your impressions when meeting the local citizens of the Town of Pilsen?
They were so happy to see us! They threw flowers and wreaths all over out tanks. A huge carnival including rides appeared out of nowhere. We got lots of hugs.
11. Speaking about the Town of Pilsen, what is your very first image?
We came into town past the Scoda works and it was completely flattened. But, downtown, the cathedral was not damaged at all, that we could see.
12. How did the local citizens welcome you?
Lots of smiles and lots of hugs.
13. Do you recall any humorous or unusual event from that time in Pilsen?
We were camped across the road from the Russians after they arrived. Every Saturday when they received their ration of vodka, they would shoot off their guns in all directions. We had to move our guardhouse and keep a low profile on the weekends.
14. Do you recall the day your service ended? Did you work or go back to school?
I went back to my hometown and walked from the train station to our church because it was Sunday morning. I’m afraid my arrival disrupted the whole service. I cannot remember being hugged and slapped on the back that much any other time in my life. I went to work a week later.
15. Can you tell me about your most memorable experience?
We went to the river in Pilsen, but were told we could go no further, that Russia was taking that side. Patton was there and he was very upset that we could not go on to liberate Prague. He had tears in his eyes and said this was a mistake and we would have to fight the Russians later. I remember hundreds and hundreds of German soldiers coming in to surrender. They were given rations and told to go home if they were not suspected of being SS.
16. What were your living conditions in Pilsen like? Did you live at a family house or where?
We were camped outside of Pilsen. Then we were sent on to a small village with a large duck pond and several houses surrounding it and we were given the 2nd floor of a home. The family lived on the 1st floor and the stock lived below the house.
17. Did you learn any Czech words?
“Thank you”, “How are you”, “I am fine”. I can still say them, but I can’t spell them.
18. Did you become friend with a Czech family?
Yes, when we lived with the family, but our Polish speaker had already left, so we could not converse very well.
19. Did you like the Czech food and drinks? Do you still remember some of the traditional menu?
Unfortunately for us, we were still eating rations and did not get to sample food. The people we knew had very little food. Mostly cabbage, beets and turnips.
20. What would your daily schedule be like?
During the war we repaired all the vehicles as they came in. The tanks usually came in after the day’s battle, or we had to send wreckers out to pick them up. This meant that our group had to work all night repairing vehicles, changing tires, refilling gas tanks, replacing ammunition, for any of those vehicles that I mentioned in question #6. We had a huge blackout tent as our shop and we were usually set up in the woods hidden by trees from the air. During the day, if we did not move our camp, we might be able to catch a nap in between vehicles coming in for repair. If we had to move camp, we had to break it all down and stow it away and move forward to then get it all out and set it up before tanks and vehicles began to come back in for the night.
After the war we were sent all over the area to collect all the German vehicles we could find and store them at an old airfield. That was interesting and there were many German vehicles abandoned all over the area.
After that we moved to the small farming community who’s name I cannot spell, but sounded in English like “Pill-ink’-en”. We worked on vehicles from our unit, but also on many things that were brought in by local people from miles around: broken tools, plow points, wagons, etc.
21. Did you meet the general Patton in person? If yes, what was he like? How did you soldiers perceive him?
I was honored to work for Patton and the 3rd Army. Patton was strictly business. For almost a year before we left for Hawaii, I saw him drive by our area every day. If you saluted him as he went by, he always saluted back.
I met Patton personally once when I was using his tanks to push over some trees. That is a whole other story, but as I was orchestrating the tanks to push over the trees, I felt someone tap me on my back. He chewed me out royally with words I cannot repeat. He asked me if I knew what those machines were. They were FIGHTING MACHINES! He said that I was never to use his fighting machines in that way again. There was an entire unit of engineers right down the road with all the dozers I needed to take down those trees. He was right, but I have always used what equipment I had at hand to do the job. After that, he called me “The Tree Man” whenever he saw me. I saw him riding thru Pilsen in his jeep that day with the tanks when the war was over and he pointed at me and said, “Look, there’s The Tree Man!”
Our troops felt that Patton was focused on winning the war. I thought he was a wonderful General and I was proud to serve with him. His language may have been a little vulgar, but he said what he thought.