Sandra Stewart Holyoak: This begins an interview with Joseph Parisi, Jr., on December 18, 2007, in West Orange, New Jersey, with Sandra Stewart Holyoak and ...
Ji Hyeshin: ... Ji-Hye Shin.
SH: ... Ji-Hye Shin, who is a graduate student at Rutgers. Mr. Parisi, just for the record, tell me where and when you were born.
JP: I was born in Newark, New Jersey, on August 1, 1925.
SH: Let us begin by asking questions about your father. What was his name and his background?
JP: Okay, my father's name was Joseph Parisi and he was born here in America, in Brooklyn, New York, in 1901.
SH: Had his parents emigrated from Italy?
JP: Not my parents.
SH: No, his parents.
JP: My grandparents, his parents, yes. They came from Sicily, yes.
SH: What was your father's profession as a young man?
JP: Well, my father was in the clothing manufacturing business. He manufactured ladies sportswear.
SH: Did your father participate in World War I?
JP: No, no.
SH: Did he have a large family?
JP: Well, ... he had three brothers and two sisters.
SH: Was he older or younger?
JP: He was, like, in-between. [laughter] He had two older brothers and one younger brother.
SH: Since he was born in 1901, I thought maybe he might be too young for World War I.
JP: He was. He was too young.
SH: I had to ask. I did not know whether any of his brothers had participated in the war or not.
JP: No, none of his brothers were in the war, either.
SH: Did he talk at all about his experiences as a young man growing up in Brooklyn?
JP: The usual, you know, nothing exciting happening. [laughter]
SH: Did he talk about his schooling at all, where he went to school?
JP: He never graduated high school. He had to leave early to work, you know, with his father. His father was a stonecutter, from Italy, and he worked with him for awhile and he was just a plain, old guy, you know, nothing fancy.
SH: Do you know where your grandfather worked as a stonecutter?
JP: Well, he worked in Sicily.
SH: What about when he came to New York?
JP: Well, when he got here, ... I don't know too much about what he did when he got here. I know, when he came, he came alone and he wanted to work here as a stonecutter, but, somehow or other, he was shuffled around. He ended up building railroads out in the West somewhere, for awhile.
JP: Yes, and I don't know whether he ever did get into stonecutting at all. I don't know. I really don't know.
SH: He did make his way back to New York then.
JP: Oh, yes, and then, the family came, his wife came, my grandmother, and one brother and a sister came. The other three [children] were born here. ... Two were born in Sicily and the rest were born here in this country.
SH: As a young kid, growing up, did your grandparents speak Italian when you were around?
JP: Well, they did and he, my grandfather, wanted to teach me Italian, but I was young and I wanted to go out and play football and stuff. [laughter] He wanted to teach me in the kitchen, you know, "Come after school, I teach you," and I sat there for it, but he wasn't a teacher, you know. ... Anyway, he said, "Forget it, go play football." [laughter]
SH: Let us talk about your mother; what was her name and where was she from?
JP: My mother, ... her name was Grace and she was born here.
SH: Do you remember what her maiden name was?
JP: Warner, W-A-R-N-E-R, and her father was of German descent and her mother was Irish, yes.
SH: Had her mother emigrated from Ireland?
JP: No, no, my mother was born here.
SH: No, her mother.
JP: Oh, her mother, no, ... she was born here, in Boston.
SH: Was she?
JP: Yes. She's a Bostonian.
SH: Your grandfather?
JP: My grandfather, you know, I really never knew my grandfather, because he died. I was young when he died. So, I never knew him at all.
SH: Your mother was then raised in Boston.
JP: Yes, and then, came to Jersey.
SH: How did she come to New Jersey?
JP: How? I don't know. I really don't know.
SH: Do you know how your parents met?
JP: I don't know that, either. I really don't know.
SH: I just wondered if your father had met her in Boston or New Jersey.
JP: Oh, no, not in Boston. It was ... in New York or Newark, wherever.
SH: Did she have a large family?
JP: She had three sisters and four brothers.
SH: That is a nice sized family.
JP: Yes, a pretty large family, yes.
SH: What did her parents do for a living?
JP: I don't know. Oh, I think her father was a fireman.
SH: Do you know where she grew up?
JP: Well, in New Jersey.
SH: In New Jersey?
SH: She went to school here in New Jersey.
JP: Yes. I don't know that part.
SH: Do you have any brothers and sisters?
JP: I had one sister.
SH: Is she older or younger?
JP: Younger, two years younger than I am.
SH: Were you close to any of the people in your mother's family?
JP: Oh, yes. We all lived pretty close together, you know, in Newark and Irvington and East Orange, and we were all pretty close.
SH: Were you closer to your mother's family or to your father's?
JP: No, it was both, yes. They all were from around the same area. ...
SH: Were you guys involved in the Church?
JP: Well, it was near St. Joseph's Church in East Orange. That's where I went, Catholic church.
SH: Did you go to parochial school or to public school?
JP: I went to public schools, yes.
SH: Did you have a favorite subject?
JP: Not really.
SH: We have already documented that you liked football.
JP: Yes. Well, I didn't play football in high school. [laughter] ...
SH: You went to Elmwood School.
JP: Yes, Elmwood School, yes.
SH: That was the elementary school.
JP: That was elementary school, and that went up to six grades, and then, they had built a new school across the street from Elmwood School. It was called Vernon L. Davey Junior High School. So, that went from grade seven to nine. So, I went there for three years, and then, I went to East Orange High School as a sophomore. ... I graduated there, East Orange High.
SH: Vernon L. Davey, do you know who that was? Why did they name the school after him?
JP: I don't know who it was. [laughter] I don't know. Probably some big shot in East Orange, I don't know.
SH: Where did you grow up in East Orange?
JP: In East Orange.
SH: I mean, do you remember the street?
JP: Oh, yes. ... I grew up on Norwood Street in East Orange. It was in the, they called it the Third Ward. It was mainly an Italian section and some Irish, and they even mixed a couple of Germans in there somewhere. [laughter]
SH: Geographically, were you part of Newark?
JP: We were right on the border. We were on South Orange Avenue. ... My street was one block away fromNewark and one block in the north and west direction. You went one mile, you were in Newark, if you went a mile north, you were in Newark, and a mile west, you were in Newark, so, right in that Vailsburg area. [Editor's Notes: Vailsburg is the name of a neighborhood in the West Ward of Newark, New Jersey.]
SH: What do you remember about growing up there? What were some of your early memories?
JP: It was fun and I enjoyed school.
SH: A lot of kids?
JP: A lot of kids, and, you know, at that time, nobody had any money. So, we played our own games and grew up, well, mainly, you know, playing on the street and back lots and stuff.
SH: What were some of the games that you played which kids probably do not play today?
JP: Oh, you [would] shoot marbles and kick-the-can and, you know, ringolario. [Editor's Note: Ringolario or ringolevio was a popular game played by kids in the twentieth century, similar to the modern game of manhunt.]
SH: What is ringolario?
JP: You know, I don't hardly remember. It was a game. You would run, and I've forgot. Now, kick-the-can was, you'd get a can and we'd all stand around and somebody would kick it. Then, everybody would hide and whoever kicked the can first won, or something like that, crazy stuff, but, when you have no money, you do things, you know. We got five cents a day and that was a big deal. It had to last you all day.
SH: What did a kid do with five cents?
JP: Well, you could buy penny candy, you know, or you could buy a five-cent [soda], you know. At that time, Pepsi-Cola was, like, five cents. So, either you drank your Pepsi-Cola in the morning or you drank Pepsi-Cola in the afternoon. That was it, you know. [laughter] ...
SH: Did you have any jobs?
JP: When I was growing up? not really. We would wait for it to snow, and then, we'd go out, shovel snow, or I used to cut grass sometimes or cut the neighbor's hedges, little things. I always made a buck, some way or other.
SH: Did you live in a two-family house or an apartment building?
JP: Two-family house.
SH: Two-family house?
SH: Who were your neighbors? Were they relatives?
JP: No, just friends.
SH: Where was your father's business?
JP: In Newark.
SH: Did he take the bus? Did he drive? How did he get there?
JP: Well, actually, it was within walking distance from the house and he had a car, but he used to walk there.
SH: Did he put you to work?
JP: I worked there a little bit, yes.
SH: How did the Great Depression affect your family?
JP: I never really knew [the] Depression. ... In other words, ... my father always seemed to have enough money to [get by]. You know, we ate and [had] clothes and I never really suffered, you know. We didn't have a lot of money, but there were people who had a lot less than us.
SH: Your mother, did she work?
JP: She worked with my father.
SH: Did she?
SH: Who took care of the children when she was at work?
JP: Well, what I remember, when I was small, my aunt, my mother's sister, used to come and stay with my sister and I. We got along pretty well, you know, by ourselves, too.
SH: You were the boss.
JP: I was always the boss. [laughter] No, I wasn't the boss.
SH: Were you involved in the Boy Scouts or anything like that?
JP: No, I didn't.
SH: Were there any youth organizations that you belonged to?
SH: Did you see any of the WPA projects?
JP: Oh, yes. We used to see plenty of those, WPA, and the CCC camps. [Editor's Note: The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) and the Works Progress Administration (WPA) were organizations created as part of President Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal to create jobs during the Great Depression.]
SH: Did you know anybody who went to those or worked there?
JP: Yes, I knew a couple guys that went to the CCC camp and the WPA were men that went to work and got paid by the city, I guess it was, and they did a lot.
SH: Was your family involved in politics at all?
SH: Were they Democrats or Republicans?
JP: I don't know what he was, and I guess he was a Democrat. I don't know.
SH: Did he say anything about Franklin Roosevelt, such as what he thought of him?
JP: ... Oh, yes. ... I was old enough to know about Roosevelt. When I was, let's see, and he ran [in], what? '32, ... I was seven years old then, but, even before that, when I was six years old, I can remember the signs, you know, Roosevelt and Hoover. ... Yes, he voted for Roosevelt. [Editor's Note: President Herbert Hoover, the Republican incumbent, was defeated by Democratic Nominee Franklin Delano Roosevelt in the 1932 Presidential Election.]
SH: Did he?
SH: What would a family gathering be like in your house for the holidays?
JP: Well, we all got together. There was always a big thing, you know.
SH: Where would you gather, your house?
JP: Well, it depends, you know. They used to jump around, my uncle one time, this one on Thanksgiving, and this [one another holiday], you know, but we were always together.
SH: Did they keep any of the traditions that were indicative of being either Italian or Irish?
JP: Well, yes, it was mostly Italian, on my father's side. ... You know, they had all the fish and everything on Christmas Eve [the Feast of the Seven Fishes] and all that stuff. It was nice. We always had a good time.
SH: Did you learn to do any of the cooking yourself?
JP: No, I just ate. [laughter]
SH: Were you expected to do any chores around the house?
JP: Me, oh, yes, I was always doing something. I remember, when I was small, you know, a young teenager, I had to scrub the kitchen floor every Saturday, with a scrub brush. Sometimes, I'd try to cheat and use the mop; my mother always knew. She says, "You used the mop." I said, "No, I scrubbed it, I did." I used to even wet the brush and make that [so] it was wet when she came, so [that] I'd fool her, you know; couldn't fool her, [laughter] but I used to do things around the house, you know, wash the windows and beat the rug. In those days, you used to take the rug out in the back, hit it with a beater and get all the dirt out of it.
SH: Did you have boundaries, where you could only go so far this way or that way?
JP: What do you mean? ...
SH: Were you able to go anywhere you wanted to, as far as to play, or did your parents say, "You can only play in front of the house?"
JP: Well, ... we stayed around the house, but I could go anywhere. We used to go down [to] the park, Elmwood Park, and other, you know, parks around. There were a lot of parks.
SH: What did you do in the summertime?
JP: ... What age?
SH: Around junior high school.
JP: ... We'd be around the house, play with the kids, you know. We played baseball in the back lot, things like that.
SH: Any swimming?
JP: No, not too much, because we never went down the Shore, until later on.
SH: What interested you in high school? What were your favorite things to do in high school?
JP: With sports, you mean?
JP: Oh, yes, well, I was a champion fencer in high school.
SH: Were you?
JP: Yes, and I did some track, but I was never good at that, but I was good in fencing. ...
SH: How did you get interested in fencing?
JP: Well, my friends ... went through Seton Hall [Prep] and they used to practice in their backyard. So, one day, I was there and I started doing it, and then, one of the fellows became the coach at East Orange High School. So, I got on the team and I was good. I had a good [career], got three letters.
SH: Did you travel to different matches?
JP: Yes, just around, you know, like Irvington, where else? Bloomfield, Seton Hall Prep. It was good.
SH: Did you travel into New York City at all or take family vacations?
JP: ... Well, we used to go down the Shore, we used to go down to Keansburg, at that time, and I went to New York a couple times. I even fenced in New York once, at NYU [New York University].
SH: Did you?
JP: The university, yes, ... they had the state championships there. That was there.
SH: What year did you graduate from high school?
SH: Can you talk a little bit about, including your fencing and going around to different schools for competitions, what was it like to go to high school during the war? What were some of the things that you saw about how the war was impacting your neighborhood?
JP: Not that much. I knew some of the kids that went in, especially in high school. When I was, like, a junior, the seniors from before ... were in the service and, sometimes, they'd visit the school, you know.
SH: Were you hoping to go to college?
JP: You know, the funny thing, ... every captain, I was a captain of the fencing team, and years back, the captains always ended up getting a scholarship to Seton Hall, because Seton Hall was a power fencing team at that time. ... As luck would have it, I got drafted in the Army and I never did get to go to college. [laughter]
JP: I know. ...
SH: What do you remember about Pearl Harbor? How did you first hear about it?
JP: Well, yes, ... nobody ever forgets that day. I was down in Newark. We went to the movies on a Sunday, a couple kids and myself. When we came out, on the corner of Broad and Market Street, they used to have, you know these flashing lights, they give you the news, on top of the building? and I saw, "Japanese Bomb Pearl Harbor." I didn't even know where Pearl Harbor was, really, and so, I got home. I told my father, "You know they bombed Pearl Harbor?" "Yes, yes, I know all about it." He had the radio on. Everybody was upset. That was the beginning.
SH: In 1941, you would have been a sophomore. You would have just entered high school.
JP: Yes, 1941, yes, I was a sophomore. I was fourteen at that time. ...
SH: Had you been paying attention to what was going on in Europe? Were you aware of Hitler?
JP: Well, I knew about Hitler, ... you know, but that was so far away, though. You know, it wasn't [immediate]; we weren't really involved and, you know, America, ... we were still going along fine.
SH: There was no discussion around the dinner table about Mussolini or Hitler.
JP: Yes, well, my grandfather used to talk about Mussolini.
SH: What did he say?
JP: Nothing great about him, but we used to listen to him on the radio.
SH: Did you?
JP: Mussolini, yes. My grandfather's brothers fought with Garibaldi, and Garibaldi was a general at that time, and he lost five brothers ... in Garibaldi's Army and ... he was against Fascism, you know, Garibaldi, and that's what I remember about that. [Editor's Notes: Giuseppe Garibaldi was a nineteenth century Italian revolutionary who fought numerous wars for Italian independence and a unified Italy. He died in 1882. Mr. Parisi may be referring to ideological differences between Garibaldi and the Fascist Party that took power in Italy in the 1920s.]
SH: Very interesting.
SH: Did they send packages to family or anything like that?
JP: No, I don't think so, no.
SH: When you graduated high school, were you immediately drafted or did you enlist?
JP: Yes. I was seventeen when I graduated in '43, and, in August of '43, I turned eighteen. So, I had to register for the draft. Two weeks later, I was 1-A [laughter] and, in October, I was in the service. I was only eighteen. ...
SH: They called you in; you did not decide to enlist.
JP: No, I didn't volunteer. ...
SH: What were you doing from the time you graduated until you went into the service?
JP: I worked in Pepsi-Cola. I had a job there for awhile and I worked where they bottled Pepsi-Cola.
SH: With your father working in clothing manufacturing, did he change what he was doing because of the war?
JP: No, he didn't do anything as far as the government goes. It was just ladies sportswear.
SH: I thought maybe he changed then and started something else.
JP: Well, he wasn't that big. He had a small, you know, ... business, but he made out, you know, well. ...
SH: What do you remember about rationing, because you would still have been in high school then?
JP: I remember, in high school, the rationing, yes. It was started then, go to the store with the stamps. Sugar, they'd give you little packs of sugar, half a pound, and gasoline. Shoes, you were allowed one pair of shoes a year, tires for cars. My father had a car at that time and everybody had bald tires on the cars. Nobody had new tires. [laughter]
SH: Did you notice anybody who was able to get around the rationing laws?
JP: You mean like black market? Well, there was a guy that we used to get stamps [from], sometimes, for gasoline. ... Then, they paid a dollar a gallon. At that time, that was a tremendous price, you know, because, at that time, it was about maybe fifteen, twenty cents a gallon. Oh, sure, yes, you could go and [say], "Give me a dollar's worth of gas," and you could drive to down the Shore, you know. Now, you can't go around the corner for a dollar. [laughter] ...
SH: There were people who were working in the black market, so-to-speak.
JP: No, I didn't know; I knew of people, but nobody in my family did anything like that.
SH: What about the war bond drives?
JP: Well, when I was in high school, we used to buy stamps. I think they were, I don't know, ten cents apiece. ... You'd buy them and put them in a little book and, when you had ... eighteen dollars and fifty cents' worth, you turned it in, you get a bond, which matured in, what? ten years, and you got twenty-five dollars back. I never did complete a whole book. [laughter] I used to take the money and spend it.
SH: They made no money on you, right?
JP: No. My father'd, you know, give me ten cents for stamps.
SH: Did you have family members, such as cousins or anyone else, that entered the service before you did?
JP: Yes, I had a cousin [who] went, too; he was in the Army. He was older than I and he was in Alaska and he drove on the ALCAN [Alaska-Canadian] Highway, up in Alaska, drove a truck, but he was a soldier, Army, and then, I had another cousin who was in the Navy, but he was younger than I. He didn't see any action.
SH: Can you tell us what it was like when you were inducted into the Army? Did you report to Newark?
JP: East Orange.
SH: East Orange.
JP: East Orange, yes.
SH: Then, where did they send you?
JP: Then, they sent me to Fort Dix.
SH: How long were you at Fort Dix?
JP: Oh, only a few days, a week, and then, ... they sent me down to Camp Blanding in Florida. That was a basic training/infantry replacement training center.
SH: What were you trained to do?
JP: You're becoming a rifleman in the infantry, and that's what I trained for.
SH: Did you try to get into any of the special schools or anything like that?
JP: No. They were dead set on having soldiers, you know, cannon fodder.
SH: What kind of a shock was it to go from East Orange to Fort Dix?
JP: In the service? Well, I'd never been away from home alone. You know, the first couple days, it's kind of tough, [but] you get used to it.
SH: Did anybody that you knew go in at the same time that you did?
JP: One of the guys from East Orange went, reported with me. Well, actually, a few of them, but there was one that stayed with me for awhile, and then, I ended up alone in Florida.
SH: Did your father and mother take you to the station?
JP: To the train station, yes.
SH: Were they pretty emotional about it?
JP: Well, yes, they didn't want me to go, you know, my mother mainly, you know, and my uncle, he was an old,gung ho World War I guy and [said], "You get one for me," you know, all that business, yes.
SH: This was your mother's brother.
JP: ... Yes. He gave me a money belt to put on. He says, "Come in the men's room." We went in the men's room. "Take your shirt off." [I] put my shirt [up], he put the money belt around [me] and he put a ten-dollar bill in there. He said, "Leave that on, because they'll rob you down there, especially in Fort Dix." So, I kept it on.
SH: Was he right?
JP: Well, I was never robbed, and I don't know anybody else ever wore it, but I [wore it] to make him feel good, you know.
SH: Did you have KP [kitchen police] duty?
JP: Oh, yes. You get KP automatically, soon as you get in there, but, then, you get all your shots, you know.
SH: Were you able to stay healthy through that period?
JP: Yes, pretty much so.
SH: Do you remember what month of the year you were down in Camp Blanding in Florida?
JP: Well, I went to Camp Blanding for; let's see, when did I go down there? I went in the service on October 24th and, I guess, in November, I was down in Camp Blanding, for sixteen weeks.
SH: That was just basic.
JP: That's the basic training, yes.
SH: In the training, was there any differentiation between the enemy that you were going to face?
JP: I didn't know, at the time, who I was going to face.
SH: Were there any images or anything that would tell you that?
JP: It was always a target, but it never really was a German target or a Jap target.
SH: Did you have a preference? Did you think that there was a branch where you wanted to serve? How did you feel about either fighting the Germans or the Japanese?
JP: I wanted to be home with mama. I didn't want to go anywhere. [laughter] ... Really, you don't know, at that time, about where you're going. So, I ended up going to [Europe]. Well, after basic training, I ... came home for a ten-day leave, and then, I had to report to; where'd I go?
SH: Was that when you went to Fort Meade in Maryland?
JP: Fort Meade, I went, it was one of the stops. ... Yes, I went to Fort Meade, Maryland, and I stayed there for a little bit, maybe a week or so, then, I went up to Camp Shanks, New York. That was a port of embarkation and I got home a couple weekends, ... or, sometimes, just a day. ...
SH: When you were at Meade, you were just being held there, no training.
JP: That's all. It was just like an assembly area, and then, they'd ship you wherever you were going. ...
SH: You talked about being able to come home before you went to Blanding; is that right?
JP: No, I never got home from basic training. No, I came home after I finished basic training. I came back home.
SH: Did you do any exploring around Camp Blanding? Did you get off the base?
JP: Oh, yes. ... We used to go to Jacksonville and Gainesville, some of the towns around there, yes, on weekends.
SH: Was anything shocking to you?
JP: No, it was nice to get off the base, you know. People were very nice.
SH: Were they? I was going to ask, how did they treat the GIs?
JP: Oh, yes, [they would] take you into their house. No, they were good.
SH: When you went to Camp Shanks, how long were you held there?
JP: Well, Camp Shanks, I was there for about, oh, I guess, maybe a couple weeks, at the most. We'd get down into New York City once in awhile, for a day. You know, you'd go down and come back. You had to report back. I saw Frank Sinatra there, at the Paramount.
SH: In New York?
JP: Yes, and they let us in for nothing.
SH: You were in uniform.
JP: Oh, yes, so, they let us in.
SH: What was it like to come back home dressed in your uniform? Did people treat you any differently?
JP: Oh, yes. Well, you were, you know, a big shot, a scared-to-death big shot. [laughter]
SH: Did you have girlfriends?
JP: I had a couple of girls from high school. ...
SH: Did you like to dance?
JP: Oh, yes, I was a jitterbug, yes, did all the dances. ... It was good. I guess I had a normal high school life, you know.
SH: Did you participate in any music programs or anything like that?
JP: No, ... I couldn't sing and I couldn't dance.
SH: However, you liked to dance.
JP: Yes. ... I liked to dance, but, I mean, I couldn't dance on a stage.
SH: I just wondered if you played any musical instruments.
SH: Were you ever in drama or theater?
SH: When you were sent to Camp Shanks, did you assume then that you would be going to Europe?
JP: Well, ... it's a funny thing, yes, I knew I was going to Europe, but, when I was in Camp, Fort Meade, that's where they issued you your [gear], you know, what clothing you're going to wear. Some of the guys were getting mosquito netting and stuff like that. So, you knew damn well they were going to the Pacific, but we had our winter clothes, you know. At that time, it was around; let's see, when was that? March, yes, that was in March, when I was in Camp Shanks. ... We had our regular clothing, you know.
SH: This would have been March of 1944.
JP: March of ... '44, yes, because, in April, I was in England.
SH: What did you go over on?
JP: I went on an old ocean liner, was the USS George Washington, and it was a captured vessel from World War I, was a German liner, and it was a pretty big ship.
SH: Did you go alone or in convoy?
JP: We were in a convoy. Actually, we were in the center of the convoy, because we had a lot of men on there. We had a cruiser on one side and a battleship in the front and destroyers flying all around all the time.
SH: Did you know what the name of the battleship was or the cruiser?
JP: No, no, I didn't know the name of the ship.
SH: What was the routine? What did you have to do?
JP: Nothing, just try to keep busy, you know, reading. ...
SH: Were you seasick?
JP: ... You had duties to do, you know, to keep you busy. I was on the cleanup of the men's room, you know. Well, it's all tiled, and so, all you did [was], everybody had to get out when you came in with the hose. ... Everything got hit with the hose. Razor blades went flying all over, went down, until ... you cleaned it all out. If anybody was stuck in the toilet somewhere, he got wet. You had to get out at a certain time, just for a few minutes, and you'd wash the whole thing down.
SH: Were you seasick?
JP: No, I never got seasick. As a matter-of-fact, I used to eat what the other guys didn't want. [laughter] ... Yes, a lot of them got seasick, but I didn't, funny, ... never got seasick.
SH: What port did you enter first?
JP: Where in England? We landed in Liverpool and it was at nighttime and, when I got to Liverpool, we got off the ship and I remember walking through the city. You know, we had to walk to where the train station was, and all I could see are these bombed-out buildings, you know, and that's the first time I really realized what the war was, to see these buildings, you know, all destroyed and it was real eerie looking, you know. So, we got on the train and headed up to where our camp was.
SH: Where was your camp?
JP: It was called Camp Hinton St. George. It was up, well, near the ports, you know, of embarkation,Southampton and up around that way, but Bristol was the closest to us.
SH: Did you have any training there then?
JP: Oh, yes, we used to train a little bit, you know, and it was mostly just waiting, yes.
SH: You were still just a rifleman.
JP: Yes, that's all I was, and we stayed there for a couple weeks, I guess, April, May, ... most of May.
SH: Did you go off of the base at all?
JP: No, there was a little town there we used to go in ... where we used to buy everything, and the people didn't like us that much, because we had the money and we'd go in and buy out the whole damn store and it wasn't that nice.
SH: Were there any directions given to the US soldier on how to behave?
JP: Oh, yes. Well, you know, you were told what the age of consent was and things like that, but it was nice, though. [laughter]
SH: Did you go to the pub?
JP: Yes. There was a pub there, but I wasn't really, you know, into drinking. I was an athlete in high school; I didn't drink ... or smoke. I didn't even smoke at that time.
SH: Were you interacting at all with the Brits in any way on the base?
JP: No, we were all Americans. ...
SH: You had barracks for yourself.
JP: Well, we lived in tents, five-man tents.
SH: Did you get into London at all?
JP: No, the only part I saw of London [was] when we were on our way from Liverpool to our camp and ... we went under[ground] to London. ... At that time, they were bombing London and we were stopped in the station inLondon now and there were people there giving us doughnuts and stuff, coffee, because we couldn't go ... until the bombing stopped. Then, we got to our base, yes, where we were going to be.
SH: Your training was all right there.
JP: Yes. Well, actually, what it was is just a stop-off, waiting to go across, you know, and I remember nights, you know, when you'd see planes pulling gliders you know. Then, they'd circle, and then, they'd come back with the gliders and, on D-Day night, I was on guard duty and I was looking up and the planes went, you know, and then, they came back with no gliders.
SH: This was the night before the invasion.
JP: Yes. Well, yes, that's [why]; well, they had gone over and let the gliders go, because they were coming back without the gliders. I said, "Wow, something's going on," and, in the morning, they told us, you know, "Get ready," and that we, you know, had invaded and they moved us down into Southampton, and then, all we did was wait there until the [spots opened]. We were replacement soldiers and we had to replace the guys that were killed or wounded or whatever, and that was scary, you know.
SH: What were you hearing of how the invasion was going? Was there any information?
JP: Well, at that time, there wasn't too much, you know. They weren't really sure what was going on, but, while we were at the port there, and around the area, we could see some of the wounded coming back, you know, our guys. So, we were on the ship, waiting to go across. We were on there for a couple days. It was terrible. The English ships aren't really that clean and I ate lamb, cold, [laughter] and there was really no hot water to clean your mess kits with, you know. It was terrible.
SH: Do you remember the name of the ship you were on?
SH: However, it was a British ship.
JP: A British ship, and then, we transferred on; let's see, let me get this right now. We stayed on that until we got to the beach, you know, outside the beach. ... We went down the rope ladders onto the landing craft, and then, we went in, but that was, like, six days or seven days, something like that, after the initial invasion. Thank God, I wasn't there that first day.
SH: Which beach did you go in on?
SH: You landed at Omaha.
JP: Yes, landed at Omaha. So, I was there for a couple days.
SH: What did you see?
JP: Well, it was still a lot of mess around. I didn't see any dead bodies, you know, on the beach. They had cleaned that all up and we went inland.
SH: Did you see vehicles or ships or anything?
JP: Oh, yes, there were some ships there, and then, tanks, some of the tanks that were knocked out, you know, the obstacles on the beach. Did you see The Longest Day? Well, you saw those things. [Editor's Note: Mr. Parisi is referring to the iron antitank obstacles known as "Czech hedgehogs," which appeared in the 1962 film The Longest Day.] They were there and I went up that hill, up to the top, and then, we went inland and we dug in there and we stayed there for awhile, until they decided where they were going to send us. ...
SH: This was about June 12th or so.
JP: Yes, around that time, maybe a little later, and we went around and somebody had said there was a dead German down the road, you know. So, "Let's go see." That's when I saw my first dead soldier. Then, I saw a dead American, too. He was laying [there]. He was shot right through the neck. I said, "Oh, my God."
SH: His body had not been reclaimed by Graves Registration.
JP: Well, no, they were still going around, you know. Yes, he was dead. So, then, they told us where we were going. So, I went up to Utah Beach. They sent me to the Fourth Infantry Division. So, when I got there, they assigned me to a heavy weapons company, which is part of the [regiment], and I wasn't a rifleman anymore. I was on a ... heavy-caliber machine-gun, and I was on the machine-gun squad and, at that time, they were just cleaning up the Port of Cherbourg. We took the Germans out of Cherbourg and they all surrendered and, from there on, I wasn't a rifleman anymore.
SH: Did you like that better?
JP: No. I was glad to [not be in the infantry]; [laughter] ... it wasn't that, you know.
SH: You were glad not to be a rifleman.
JP: Yes, yes.
SH: In your squad, what kind of training did you get on the heavy machine-gun?
JP: Well, nothing. I carried the boxes of ammunition. They had, like, a leather thing. You put a couple boxes in the leather ... canvas carrier and you went around and followed the gunner and the assistant gunner.
SH: Do you remember their names?
JP: Yes, one's Sergeant Parker. He was my sergeant. Oh, there were a couple other guys. ... As a matter-of-fact, the first night that I was with them, ... he took me under his wing, so-to-speak.
SH: Who was this?
JP: My sergeant.
JP: Parker, and he said, "We're going to dig in here." So, I knew how to dig a hole; we practiced that. ... He says, "I'll start first. ... You stand guard and I'll dig, and then, I'll call you, and then, you can finish." Well, anyway, he dug the whole thing. He said, "Now, get in the hole, relax." He was good.
SH: Where was he from? Do you remember?
JP: ... He was a Southerner, somewhere, I don't know, Alabama or somewhere, nice guy. ...
SH: You were just telling me how Parker had taken you under his wing.
JP: Yes, right.
SH: That was your very first night with this group.
JP: Yes, that night, first night.
SH: Was this near Cherbourg?
JP: Well, yes, the Cherbourg area, and that battle was finished at that time. I just had gotten there and, there, I saw some of the Germans coming in, that had surrendered. Then, from there, we started our trek, you know, across France, through the hedgerows then.
SH: Can you talk a little bit about what you first remember and what you saw?
JP: Yes. ... We were marching along, and then, we'd stop and, you know, ... we would attack, and the hedgerow country was like a checkerboard. It was all little plots of land that were surrounded with big bushes and hedgerows and mounds of dirt, and they separated, like, different farms. Your farm was here and you'd build a hedgerow around it, and each one was separate and you had to fight for each one of these. ... The Germans were all dug [in] all along there, you know, and it was tough, a lot of casualties. ...
SH: What do you remember of first being under attack? What were your first memories of being under fire?
JP: Well, I remember, we were in an apple grove. It was a backyard, you know, on a farm there, and we were dug in along this trench, or along this hedgerow, and the Germans were shelling us. ... The shells were hitting the apple trees in the back and all you could smell is this beautiful smell of apples, you know, mixed in with the smell of the cordite from the exploding shells. ... That was my, really, first experience of being shelled, you know, "eighty-eights" [German artillery] and mortars. ...
SH: Was the noise deafening?
JP: It's like a sizzling, you know, "Zzzzz, boom," you know. ... They had an "eighty-eight," they called it, and ... it was a straight trajectory weapon. I mean, you can shoot it far, too, but accurate, you know, ... like a rifle. ... I remember, there was, in my foxhole, this man comes, this soldier comes, and he was a major and he ... was an observer, forward artillery observer. ... He's there, you know, and standing up with his glasses and I said, "You know, you'd better watch out, sir. You know, ... you might get hurt, you know." "No, don't worry, everything's okay." Well, a shell went off and he got hit in the head a little bit. Well, he wasn't dead, but he got wounded, and he fell down and I'm there, you know, this little eighteen-year-old kid with this guy, you know. So, I said, "We'll try to, we'll get a;" I call for a medic. ... He says, you know, "Take your first aid kit and, you know, put something on me." I said, "No, I'll take yours." We were trained, "Don't use yours on somebody else's [wound], because you might need it." So, I took his and I poured the stuff on him, [perhaps sulfa powder], like that, wrapped him up. He was scared. He was an all gung ho guy, you know, and they took him back.
SH: Do you know his name?
JP: No. ... I knew he was a major. He still had [his rank insignia on]. You weren't supposed to wear those, because the Germans could tell what you are, cleanly shaven, smelled nice.
SH: [laughter] Which, by then, you did not.
SH: How many people are in a machine-gun squad?
JP: Well, ... we had the gunner, assistant gunner, I don't know whether we had two ammo bearers or not. I remember, maybe there were two, I'm not sure now. Then, you have to go back and get more ammo, if you needed it, you know.
SH: That was your job, to go back.
JP: ... To do that, yes.
SH: How often would you have to do that?
JP: Well, a lot of times.
SH: Did you go only at night?
JP: Not often, maybe once, you know. See, we used to fire; all right, the thirty-caliber, water-cooled, it's bigger. It's the same caliber as a light machine-gun, but it has a canister around it where you can put water through it and it circulates and keeps the barrel cool, ... because, when you fire it for a long time, it gets hot, you know, ... and the bullets go crazy. ... You never really fired that long, but we would fire it over the heads of our men, so that the bullets would be hitting in front of them, you know, give them a little cover, for the infantry guys, the riflemen.
SH: That is a good reason to no longer be an infantryman.
JP: Yes, definitely. [laughter]
SH: When you would go back to get ammo, how far back would you have to go?
JP: ... Well, not too far, not too far, maybe a couple roads back.
SH: Were you traveling alone then?
JP: Oh, yes. I'd crawl around like a snake.
SH: Did you carry any weapons with you at that time?
JP: I had a carbine, small carbine.
SH: How would you communicate with other squads and with headquarters? How did you get orders that it was time to fire or to go?
JP: Well, the Sergeant would know, you know. They'd tell you when the attack was coming and he'd get, you know, information from the lieutenants. I just followed along like a puppy dog. [laughter]
SH: What were you eating, C rations, K rations?
JP: K rations. Well, at that time, we were eating, no, K rations. When we landed in Normandy, we had D bars. They were like little chocolate bars and they gave them to us when we got on the ship ... to land and they gave us, like, I don't know, six of them or eight of them, something like that, and you ate one bar for each meal and it was just a bar of chocolate. Of course, we ate ... most of those on the ship, you know. When we got on the beach, [laughter] we didn't have anything left.
SH: What did you do for food then?
JP: Well, we found stuff around, you know. There was food. A lot of the dead guys, you know, they had, not that I took them off [the remains], but they had stuff that they had accumulated, you know, on the beach.
SH: You could just pick from that pile if you needed some.
SH: Did you take any souvenirs? Did you find anything?
JP: I had a couple, yes. I've got a swastika that I got and ... I had a luger. ... Later on, I took it off of a German lieutenant, you know, an officer. He didn't want to give it to me, because ... I was not an officer, he was an officer. He says, "I will only surrender my gun to a..." I got my [rifle]. I says, "Give me the gun." I had the rifle. I would have blew his head off. At that time, I was a hardened guy, you know, but this is later on, but not at that particular time.
SH: Let us just proceed chronologically from there.
JP: Okay, okay.
SH: We are in the hedgerows and you are making your way slowly. The first time you were under fire, can you talk a little bit about that?
JP: ... Then, we just kept moving along and, through the hedgerows, it was, you know, just a drag going through there. It was costly, you know, a lot of casualties, and then, we got to this area called St.-Lo and it was a town where a lot of roads came through and we wanted to break out. By that time, Patton had arrived with his Third Army, which was silent. Nobody knew about this, and they came over and they landed in Normandy and he was going to breakthrough at St.-Lo. So, we sent, I remember that day, we had, like, eighteen hundred airplanes flew over this one little area, like about a four-square-mile area, and they just bombed that place to oblivion, and then, Patton came through. So, they said, "Patton's coming and don't leave anything on the road, because he's going to run it over."
JP: And then, the tanks came, and so, then, they told us, "Jump on anything you can jump on and go," you know, because they were traveling and the Germans were running. They were surrendering all over the place.
SH: Had any surrendered near you?
JP: Well, I've seen some of them, none directly that I grabbed, you know. So, we traveled along, and then, we got to ...
SH: During these bombings, were you ever in danger from friendly-fire?
JP: Well, yes, you could hear them bombs; they weren't that far away from us. Some of the bombs fell short and we were all out there watching, you know, such a spectacular sight. [Editor's Note: Operation: COBRA, the breakout from Normandy at St.-Lo, began on July 25, 1944, with a massive attack by Eighth Air Force bombers which resulted in a high number of Allied casualties through friendly-fire.]
SH: Was it?
JP: Yes, all these planes. A couple of them went down, you know.
SH: You were in a position, on a hill or something, where you could see.
JP: Yes, well, we're laying on the ground, behind the hedgerow. I could see them coming over and you could hear it. Then, from there was just [that] we were trying to travel.
SH: What did you jump on? They said jump on anything.
JP: Well, a jeep or, you know, [anything].
SH: What did you get on?
JP: I got on a jeep and we traveled along with them. We got to, I don't know whether [it was] Mortain; there was a big battle there. [Did] you hear about the Falaise Gap? That was in Normandy. ... [Editor's Note: The Battle of Mortain took place between August 7 and August 13, 1944, and set the stage for the Battle of the Falaise Pocket or Gap, which took place between August 12 and August 21, 1944.]
SH: Were you part of that?
JP: Yes, we had the Germans trapped there, but they got through. We caught a lot of them, took a lot of them, and that was the Battle of Mortain, I think. That was another French town, a strongpoint that the Germans had, and, one night, they were gone. They just upped and left, because ... they were trying to get through that gap, you know, and then, we were on our way to Paris, after they got through there. ... Then, we went into Paris, but we were held up outside of Paris, in the town of Fontainebleau, and we stopped there and it was a resting [place]. We were going to rest, because ... the French were going to go in and take the city, ... which was all right with me. ... Then, we heard, "Okay, let's get up, go. We're going there. We're going to take Paris." So, we got up and got on, I was on a truck, and we drove down into Paris, came down there in the morning, and [were] the first troops inParis, the first American troops. ... It was great and we ended up ... right in front of Notre Dame Cathedral, where the town was just [jubilant]. Everybody was running [around]. I never got kissed by so many women in my life, yes. [laughter] They were all over the place. Here I am, a little eighteen-year-old punk, you know, women all over, hugging you, kissing you. It was really great.
SH: There was no resistance.
JP: Well, there were some snipers still around. They were popping around, and because Charles de Gaulle came down just a little bit later, during the day, ... they were shooting at him, and then, that didn't last long. I remember them taking the women that used to [sleep with the Germans], sympathizers with the Germans, and they were cutting their hair off. I saw all that going on, too.
SH: Did you really?
SH: When you went into Paris, were you still together as a unit or was it more like a liberty?
JP: No, we were a unit. Yes, we stayed [together], you know. We knew where everybody was.
SH: Did you march in?
JP: We came in on trucks. Then, the trucks stopped, we got out and formed [ranks], you know. So, then, I went up the steps of Notre Dame Cathedral and they opened the doors and I looked inside, but I didn't do anything, I didn't go in, but, then, the next day, they had [Mass]. We stayed overnight, in a park, in Paris, and then, I went to Mass that next morning, in Notre Dame Cathedral. It was really nice.
SH: Did a lot of GIs go?
JP: Oh, yes, ... some. People were nice, ... but that was short lived. We left there and ... traveled on again, attack, you know, and the big parades came later, where you see them walking down the Champs-Elysees, you know, they're all marching, but that's all. They didn't do anything, you know. ... We went in and, hey, we're already fighting somewhere else and they're coming down with, you know, all the fanfare and everything, kind of made us mad, you know. We should have been marching there.
SH: Where did you go from Paris then?
JP: Well, then, we traveled around and went into Belgium.
SH: What kind of resistance did you have between Paris and Belgium?
JP: Sporadic, you know, some fighting. Actually, that's where I got wounded, in Belgium. I got hit with a piece of antitank [ordnance], you know, artillery fragment, hit me in the knee.
SH: Can you talk about that? What happened exactly?
JP: Yes. Well, we were in this town and an antitank grenade went off, or an artillery [shell], I forgot what it was. There was an explosion.
SH: A German antitank shell?
JP: Yes, and I got hit in the knee, a small piece, but it was bleeding, and a couple of guys got killed. ... The medic came and he dressed it and he said, "Well, you got yourself a Purple Heart." I said, "Well, I wish I was going home." He said, "No, not for that." [laughter] So, I didn't even go back to an aid station. He just bandaged it up and, you know, it wasn't that bad. I said, "That's really nothing, though." "That's it, you're getting it." I got a Purple Heart for it. ...
SH: You just went right back to your duties.
JP: Yes, we were still there. He just bandaged it.
SH: What did you have to do then? With a hurt leg, were you still able to be an ammo carrier?
JP: I was able to move around, yes. Well, I was, at that [time], then, I changed. Then, I became; when did I become [that]? I got into Headquarters Company. You know, each company had it, then, they had a little headquarters, with the officers and a couple of men, radioman, wireman, stuff like that. So, I became a radioman, carried a radio, a 300-set radio, [the SCR-300]. ...
SH: When did you switch to that, before Paris or after Paris?
JP: ... Well, that was after Paris, after Paris, and I'm trying to think when exactly it was, because the original guy got hurt and I had been friends with this guy that was injured and I knew about the radio. So, the Captain said, "You want to be the radioman?" I said, "Sure," because I traveled around with him, you know. I used to ride around in the jeep, yes. [laughter] So, that was pretty good.
SH: Did you feel like a target, though, with that big antenna?
JP: Well, I had just a 300-set, that one you carried on your back. ...
SH: How did you get trained on how to operate it?
JP: Well, there's nothing to it, really. You just [say], you know, "Roger," all that stuff, and I knew what they were talking about and it was pretty good, because, you know, the Captain always found a nice safe spot, when we stayed at night, you know, and I'd hang around with him, yes. He was already a little shell-shocked. [laughter]
SH: Was he?
JP: No, I'm only saying that. [laughter]
SH: Do you remember his name and where he was from?
JP: Yes, ... his name was; he relieved Captain (Thompson?). I can't think of his name.
SH: Do you know where he was from?
JP: South, in the South somewhere. They were all from the South.
SH: All from the South.
JP: And, I'll tell you, they all had that accent. ...
SH: What did they think of your Jersey accent?
JP: Yes, well, yes, [they would say], "He's from the North," yes. [laughter]
SH: Did you eat a little better if you were with the Headquarters Company?
JP: Yes, it was okay, yes.
SH: What about showers and hot meals?
JP: Well, that was few and [far] in between, you know.
SH: When was the first hot shower that you got?
JP: Well, we'd get them once in awhile. You know, they'd bring up a truck or something, I forgot, and then, they have a little area, you'd take your clothes off. "One minute wet, one minute soap up, one minute to wash off," and that was it.
SH: Did you get clean clothes then, after that?
JP: Well, ... they'd bring your duffle bag up, you know, and you have your own underwear in there. You change and throw the old stuff in to be washed and they take the bag back.
SH: It was your own gear. I did not know how they did that.
JP: Yes, ... and your duffle bag traveled around with you. Whenever they got caught up and they had enough time, they'd bring your duffle bag up and you can go to it and get your shaving stuff out and shave, you know. If we were going to be there in a quiet area for a day or so, you know, they'd bring it up.
SH: How did you dress? Did you figure out different ways to keep warm?
JP: Whatever you had, that was that. You know, ... sometimes, we didn't change underwear for sometimes a week, two weeks.
SH: By the time you got to Belgium, it was wintertime, right?
JP: Oh, yes, and we didn't have ... clothes that were that warm, ... because we were traveling through, went through Belgium and Luxemburg, and then, we went into Hurtgen Forest, and that was a big battle there.
SH: What do you remember about that?
JP: Well, it was all forest, of course, and it was just that we had to take that area, you know, and that was right outside of Metz, I think it was Metz [Aachen], and it was a tough battle. Did you watch the last The War? [Editor's Note: Mr. Parisi is referring to the Ken Burns documentary film The War, which aired on PBS during this time. The War focused on the American experience in World War II at home and abroad.] They had it on. Well, there was one scene in there, in the episode, with the Battle of Hurtgen Forest. There was a lot of people killed. ...
SH: When you were in Luxemburg and Belgium, how did the people treat you?
JP: Oh, fine. ...
SH: Before we talk about Hurtgen Forest more, let us talk about going into Luxemburg, and then, Belgium, or did you do Belgium, then, Luxemburg?
JP: Well, that's the same area, pretty much, yes. They were nice. People were nice. Well, we were friendly, you know. They were glad to see [us].
SH: Were you staying in their homes, in the farms?
JP: Sometimes, you know. ...
SH: Now, you were with the Captain and you said he found a warmer place to sleep.
JP: Yes, well, I used to hang around with him, but, a lot of times, he didn't need me.
SH: Then, what would you do?
JP: I'd go with my other guys.
SH: The ones that you had been with in the machine-gun company.
JP: Yes, right, yes. We were all in one group, you know, wasn't spread out all over the place. ...
SH: Were you getting letters and cards from home?
JP: Yes. Sometimes, we wouldn't get anything and, sometimes, we'd get four or five, you know, if they caught up with you.
SH: When you were in Luxemburg, was that your first Christmas in Europe?
JP: Okay. First Christmas was, oh, that was during the [Battle of the] Bulge and ... that was in Luxemburg. I was in the town, it was called, I think, Walsdorf, somewhere in there, and we spent Christmas Day there and I got a package that day. ... They had a bar there that they opened up. The owner opened the bar up and we went in there. We were drinking and everything, ... but the fighting wasn't ... in that particular area at that time, because we had chased the Germans out of there. So, we had a little party there. The guy never saw so much money, because we had money all over. We had no place to spend it, and we're throwing it on the bar and he's grabbing it up. [laughter]
SH: What was in your package? Do you remember?
JP: Oh, I ... remember having pineapple, Dole's pineapple slices, in a can like that, and cookies and, you know, stuff.
SH: This is from your mom.
JP: Yes, my mom, and I told her, one time, I said, "Gee, I'd love to have a Pepsi-Cola," and, one time, I got a package with a bottle of Pepsi-Cola in it. ... Just to look at a Pepsi-Cola, it's like being home, you know. [laughter] I showed all the guys, "Pepsi-Cola."
SH: It actually made the trip in one piece. It had not broken or anything.
JP: ... No, it wasn't broken, no. It was in one piece, yes. They wrapped it up in, you know, cotton around it and everything. That was good, and then, I opened the pineapple and I didn't have an opener. So, I had my bayonet and I chopped it all around. I gave all the guys a little piece. It was good.
SH: You did not get the proverbial fruitcake at Christmas.
JP: No, no, no fruitcake. Fruitcakes never go bad, do they? The people trade them, year after year. They go on forever. They never rot or anything. [laughter]
SH: All that booze in there, I think, that brandy.
JP: Yes, I know, but you'd think, after awhile, something would grow in there, maybe an alcoholic bug. [laughter]
SH: Then, what was the term that was used? I know "Bulge" is the name that is given to it later; what were you calling it? What was the word?
JP: Breakthrough, that the Germans had broke through at something.
SH: Were you involved in the push back then?
JP: Oh, yes. Well, we were mainly [on the flank]. We did see a lot of action, but we were holding one of the flanks, so that they couldn't get through our area to get into Luxemburg City. So, we were mainly in Luxemburg and we kept them from getting through. That's why we got the Presidential Unit Citation, for that action, but we were fortunate in not being right in where the tanks were running you over and all that, the German tanks. ... You know, we had just left Hurtgen Forest and we were supposed to be going to a rest area, which was in Luxemburg. We were going to go there for a long rest, recuperation, because it was a quiet area, and they were training our troops, some of our troops, there. We weren't there one day and the damn Germans start shelling us. It was just like being [in combat] all over again, "What rest?" you know, and then, we heard they broke through. ...
SH: We kind of goofed up our chronology here. I guess we should talk about the Hurtgen Forest then.
JP: Yes, okay.
SH: Tell me what you remember about that and what you remember about Metz.
JP: Well, Hurtgen Forest is a forest located out; that was on the road, you know, that we were traveling on to get into, that was in, Germany. ... Actually, they say that it was a battle that should have never been fought, you know. ... We could have easily bypassed that whole area or something. Of course, at that time, we didn't know that and it was just one hectic place, that the shells used to hit the trees and all the shrapnel would fly down, you know, and it wasn't even safe to be in a foxhole. It was safer than walking, of course, but, you know, the shrapnel would come down this way. So, we'd get down, dig in, and then, dig into the side a little bit, so that if anything came down, you know. ...
SH: With you being a radioman, where are you and what are you doing?
JP: At that time, I wasn't with the radio.
SH: You are not there yet.
JP: No, no. ... I was back and forth with this radio business, you know. I'd fill in, if I had to, you know, but I was mainly with my [machine-gun] squad.
SH: Were you pinned down or were you actually moving forward?
JP: Where, in Luxemburg?
SH: In Hurtgen Forest.
JP: In Hurtgen Forest? Well, we were trying to move forward, but it was a slow process. It was a stagnant area, most of the time.
SH: What was the weather like?
JP: Terrible, like this, [the weather the day of the interview], snow and rain and cold.
SH: Were you right on the front?
JP: Oh, you're always on the front. [The] Germans were, like, over there and we're here, you know. There was really no line, because it was all trees, you know, and it was hard to keep track of where your guys were, but we got through that.
SH: Then, you go into Luxemburg.
JP: Then, from there, we went to ...
SH: Supposedly, on this rest-and-recreation time.
SH: Then, there was the breakthrough.
JP: Right, went to Luxemburg.
SH: Then, you went right back to the front, so-to-speak.
JP: Oh, yes. When we left Hurtgen Forest, we went, like I said, to the rest area, and then, that's when they broke through and it was just more fighting.
SH: That was where you held them and got your Presidential Unit Citation.
JP: Yes, for the Luxemburg City thing.
SH: Okay. Do you have any other memories of that to share or incidents that you recall?
JP: Where in?
SH: Any of that area.
JP: Well, not really. I remember, one time, and [I do not know] just exactly where it was, I know there was snow on the ground and we were in a valley, you know, a little town. ... There was a hill and they needed a radioman to go up there [on the hill] and relay messages from the other side of this hill, because there were tanks there, our tanks, and I was sent up there with a couple of riflemen as guards. So, we went up there and dug in and I had my radio and I was relaying messages from that other side, because they couldn't get over the mountain with the radio. ... They would radio to me, and then, I would, in turn, radio back to this other valley, you know, back and forth there, and using all the codes, you know, "Our son, Ray, wants to talk to your son, Ray," and, "We need an ashcan up here," meaning a tank, you know. It was really exciting, but it was scary, though, [laughter] but that was just for that day.
SH: Did you go up at night or during the day?
JP: No, I went up in the daytime. We went up there and, actually, we didn't get any fire from them, you know. Well, they weren't up there, either, you know, just me and two other guys.
SH: Then, you went back to your squad.
JP: Then, I went back down.
SH: No longer the radioman.
JP: No more. ... I was still a radioman, but ... I was off that hill. See, in Headquarters Company, you know, in the Company Headquarters, you did everything. I didn't string any wire, though. Some of the guys that used to go stringing wire, you know, from one place [to another], they'd run with that thing under fire, you know. I stayed in the hole. I don't think I stood up straight until the war ended. [laughter] I was always running like this, [hunched over].
SH: You had mentioned Metz. What do you remember about Metz?
JP: I don't remember the city itself. I can see the churches, you know, the skyline of it, you know, but I was never in Metz, and, also, Cologne, we were around [the] Cologne area, too, and I remember seeing that cathedral, you know, the spire up there. ...
SH: You were with the Fourth Infantry.
JP: Fourth Infantry [Division], yes, the 12th Infantry Regiment.
SH: Moving into Germany, where do you remember being? You talked about Cologne.
JP: Yes, and then, we went ... through the Siegfried Line.
SH: What was that like for you and your group?
JP: Well, ... it was really no big deal. We went right through that. We went through two, three times, [laughter] yes, in there, ... because I have a map. I don't have it to show you right now, and, one night, I slept in one of the bunkers, the German bunker there. It was safe, you know, and "the dragon teeth," [concrete antitank constructions], you know. So, once we got into there, then, it was pretty much clear sailing through Germany.
SH: Was it?
JP: Yes, it was just a matter of time. ... The war ended in May. ... Well, March, we were in Germany. The war was pretty much on the way [out], you know, it was ending there. Then, we crossed the Danube River.
SH: Was that the first major river crossing?
JP: No. Well, we had crossed the Rhine, too, and we went to the Danube and went across this bridge, I remember that. ... The Germans were sending down, down the stream, logs. ... On the front of the logs were dynamite, you know, and they were trying, [with] the logs, to hit the supports of the bridge, to blow them up. So, we had sharpshooters up on the [high ground], and they're shooting these logs before they could hit the [supports] and we're supposed to cross there and there's a big sign there, "Waltz Across the Danube, Courtesy of So-and-So Company," you know. [laughter]
SH: "Waltz Across the Danube."
JP: Yes, yes, "Waltz Across the Danube," one of our, you know, companies; what do they call those guys? not CBs. ...
SH: Combat engineers?
JP: Yes, combat engineers, they put the bridge up.
SH: It was a pontoon bridge that you were crossing.
JP: Yes, but it was a pretty strong bridge. Damn Germans, they were sending those logs down. They were always thinking of something, you know.
SH: What were some of the other river crossings that you did and how did that go?
JP: Well, whatever we did cross, it was without any fire.
SH: Was it?
SH: After you crossed the Danube, where did you go?
JP: Well, that's where we were, pretty much ended there, and I ended up in the Bavarian Alps area.
SH: They sent you south then.
JP: Yes, we went south, in Bad Tölz, and, from where we were, we could see the Alps, the Austrian border, and stayed there for awhile. Of course, then, the war ended in May and we were on occupation duty for awhile, in the town of Neustadt. It's called Neustadt, and we occupied there for a couple weeks, and then, we got orders to go home. So, they put us on trains to go back to; where did we leave from? [the] French port of ...
SH: Le Havre?
JP: ... Was it Le Havre? What's the other one? I think it was Le Havre.
SH: You did not go from Marseilles, did you?
JP: No, no.
SH: You went north.
JP: No, we went from the [north]. Well, anyway, we went on ... this train that was for; during World War I, they were forty-and-eights. It was either forty men or eight horses would go on these trains. So, of course, we didn't have forty men on each train, but we had quite a few, and I spent the trip across with the Captain, and they had no special treatment for them, either. They stayed on the [floor] with us, you know, and it was a long ride. ... On the way back, we had the refugees coming back to Poland and Russia, on other trains. ... Sometimes, we'd stop at the same place, you know, for water or whatever they had, and they'd be yelling back and forth. We'd say, "Ruskie?" "No, Polski," they're yelling, you know. They'd run over and kiss us, and some of the guys were making out and everything, you know. [laughter] It was something.
SH: You talked about, "Now, I'm hardened." When did that transition happen for you? When did you go from being a scared eighteen-year-old to this hardened veteran?
JP: I was a hardened, scared veteran.
SH: At what point?
JP: I was always scared.
SH: When did you think that you ...
JP: Well, after awhile, you got to a point where you accepted what was going on and, you know, if it happens, it happens. You're not afraid anymore, because you know what a shell could do, but I was always afraid. I'd do my job, but I didn't want to die, either, you know. I worried more about being mangled up or blinded or something like that. I'd rather been killed, you know.
SH: When did you adopt a more fatalistic attitude, like, "So, it happens?" How long had you been in combat before that happened?
JP: I don't get it; before what happened?
SH: Before you got that fatalistic attitude.
JP: That, "What's going to be will be?" not long, didn't take long.
SH: Before Paris, after Paris?
JP: Oh, before, even during the hedgerow thing.
SH: Did you?
JP: Yes, and you got used to the fact that, "This is it," and, you know, "What's going to be is going to be."
SH: Did you lose any of your close friends?
JP: Oh, yes, we lost a couple, yes, a couple of guys that were with me in England.
SH: Were you there when they died?
JP: I saw one die. Some of the others, I only heard about, you know. There was one fellow from Union, [New Jersey]. He worked ... at the Newark Evening News. At that time, they had a newspaper, Newark Evening News; you remember that? ... He worked on that newspaper, and he was quite old. I mean, "old," we were eighteen, so, he was maybe twenty-five. They were old, you know. [laughter] We had one guy who was thirty; we called him "Grandpa."
SH: Really? [laughter]
JP: Yes, "Hey, Gramps," you know. Yes, he died. That was terrible. His name was (Arthur Nadel?), I'll never forget his name, worked for the Newark Evening News.
SH: Where was he killed?
JP: He was killed in Normandy, in the hedgerows. Yes, he was a rifleman. He was one of the riflemen, and he used to write to his wife and talk about me and I would write little things in there, you know, "I'm keeping an eye on him," and all that stuff. ... So, when he got killed, then, I was quite upset about that, but, when the war ended, I contacted her. I called her ... to tell her who I was, and she knew who I was, and I told her, you know, that I wasn't there with him when he died, but I heard about it, and that was it. That was the closest that, you know, I came, knew of. ... Then, there was another fellow in our outfit, he was hurt at the same time that I got hit and he lost his one eye. ... He was from New York and he came to visit me after that and came with his wife. They stayed overnight at our place. I was married at the time, yes. He would never accept his false eye; he always wore a white patch.
SH: Did he?
JP: Yes. He felt more comfortable with the patch on his eye.
SH: Did you know how the War in the Pacific was progressing? Were there any updates? Did you read theStars and Stripes?
JP: Yes, I had the Stars and Stripes and we knew pretty much what was going on. I'll tell you the truth, actually, I would rather have been in Europe than in the Pacific. [In the] first place, I don't like hot weather and I don't like the bugs and the walking in the swamps and all that stuff, you know.
SH: How was the news of Roosevelt's death received?
JP: Well, everybody was upset, you know, because we knew the war was coming to an end, and [we thought], "Geez, he couldn't even be here for the end of it," you know, because the war ended only a couple weeks after he died and we felt bad about that.
SH: Did you have confidence in Harry Truman?
JP: Well, I didn't even know about Truman. I knew he was the Vice-President, but I'd never really heard of Truman, you know. I knew he was the Vice-President.
SH: Had you voted yet?
JP: No, I was too young. I wasn't twenty-one and the guys were voting, and then, he ran against [1944 Republican Nominee New York Governor Thomas] Dewey, wasn't it? ... The guys that were older than me, they were voting, and I was only nineteen and I couldn't even vote. Here I am, fighting, and I couldn't even vote, right? for who's going to be my boss, ... but I was glad Truman did what he did, you know, with the H-bomb, or the atom bomb, because we were set to go invade Japan.
SH: When you were being sent back?
JP: Well, ... after we left Europe, I came home for a thirty-day furlough. ... After that furlough, I was supposed to go to California, Fort Ord, California, and go to the Pacific, but, while I was on vacation, while I was on furlough, they dropped the bomb on Hiroshima and they said, "Geez, this could end the war." ... I was sitting in the barber's chair, on South Orange Avenue in Newark, and then, I heard about the atom bomb. This guy came in, he was an Italian guy, he says, "Oh," he says, "we drop a bomb. It was only this a big;" this big [a few inches], right? The thing was a monster, just big. "It blew everything up." He was, ... like, so knowledgeable.
SH: The size of a quarter.
JP: Oh, yes, he's like the town wise guy, you know. "That big, it was, little thing like that. From the sun, it came from the sun, il sole."
SH: He had it all down. [laughter]
JP: Yes, he knew, he had it all figured out, but, anyway, it was good that it happened, because, then, instead of going to Fort Ord, California, I went to North Carolina, to Camp Butner, ... for mustering out. From the dire thoughts of going to Japan, in the space of two weeks, I'm a free man again. [laughter] So, they were trying to entice us to stay and they were going to give me [incentives]. I'd be a staff sergeant, and this and that. I said, "Just give me my paper." I got my paper and I came home.
SH: I want to go back a little bit and talk about crossing the Danube. Did you see the Russian troops at all?
JP: I ... only saw Russian troops ... when we were on occupation duty in Neustadt, [Germany], because that was the main road going to Nuremburg and this road came right through our town. ... Sometimes, you'd see some Russian officers riding through on [transports], but I never really, you know, "buddy-buddy-ed" with them or anything, and I saw them, you know.
SH: What were your duties in the occupation? What did you do?
JP: Well, ... we had a little switchboard there and I worked on the switchboard. ... I got all the information, you know, the lieutenant talking to the captain and the captain to the major, or whatever, and I used to listen in a little bit, see what's going on.
SH: Any juicy stuff?
JP: ... No, no. I was waiting to hear when we were going to go home, you know. So, it was good there, though.
SH: Where were you billeted there?
JP: In a house, in one of the houses.
SH: Then, you would report to the mess hall for meals.
JP: Yes, we had meals and they set up a kitchen.
SH: We spoke earlier about souvenirs that you had. Where did you collect those along the line?
JP: Well, I got one off a dead German, was a swastika.
SH: The person was dead when you got it.
JP: Yes, yes. He had it in his pocket, and I think I still have it. I think I have it here; no, I don't. I lent my book, ... the book that they gave us after the war was over, from the Fourth Division, and I lent it to David [Sive].
SH: Did you?
JP: Yes, and he's reading it now.
SH: He has got all of our information.
JP: He said, "I never got a book like that." So, he still has it, and that swastika is in there.
SH: When did you take the luger, during the surrender of the German officer?
JP: Oh, that was near the end of the war, because they were surrendering like crazy, you know. They'd walk out of the woods. One person could capture a whole company, you know. They just wanted to get it over with and that's when I took ... that luger off him, and then, I also got a rifle, a sniper rifle, from [a pile of confiscated weapons]. You know, when you take a town, the burgomeister was the mayor, you know, of the town and ... anybody [who] had any weapons had to bring them to the burgomeister's house, the city hall or wherever, and leave them there. So, I went in there and I found this. There were a couple rifles and I went for the one that had the scope on it, but I couldn't get it. Somebody got it before me and I got the next one. So, I sent it home in pieces, and I still have it. It's a Mauser.
SH: When did you think that the German people realized that the war was coming to an end?
JP: Oh, I'm sure that they knew. Once we were established in France and moving ahead, I'm sure they all knew it was inevitable, because Hitler was a madman then. They followed him, but nobody knew. Oh, everybody hated Hitler, if you talked to any of the people, you know.
SH: How did the people treat you then?
JP: Cold. You know, they'd smile, but you know they'd like to stick a knife in you, you know.
SH: Was it any different as you came through the towns? Did they treat you any differently after the surrender, after the war ended?
JP: No, not too much. They were kind of aloof, you know. Nobody knew anything. "Hitler was no good. Hitler crazy," you know.
SH: Did anyone talk to you? Did you run into anyone who spoke English?
JP: Some of them did. Most of them, you know, spoke German, of course, and I didn't know German. I knew some of the words.
SH: When the war ended in Europe, what was the celebration like for you as a soldier?
JP: Nothing big.
SH: What did you do?
JP: We were in a town, you know, nothing. We didn't do anything.
SH: Nobody shot off a gun.
JP: Well, you know, I was always afraid to walk around, because maybe some nut would still be trying to shoot somebody, you know. We had to be, you know, on the alert. No, it was no real big thing.
SH: Nobody broke out a bottle of brandy.
JP: No, we didn't have any at that point.
SH: You had not liberated any.
JP: No, we didn't have any. You know, ... you don't have to even record this, but, when we were back inNormandy, you know the little French houses I told you about? Everybody made what they called; it's like a French brandy.
JP: Calvados, yes, and we used to, ... one canteen, we'd fill with calvados and the other one with water, you know. So, at nighttime, we'd get in the foxhole and get the calvados, a couple of drinks. It was terrible stuff. I got heartburn every time I drank it, but it was, you know, it was manly, [laughter] you know, "Hey," but it was good.
SH: What were some of the most interesting things that you saw as you went across Europe, the homes inNormandy or in Belgium?
JP: Well, the houses and the farmhouses all along there are pretty much the same. They're built to last hundreds of years, and the walls are that thick, you know.
SH: Two, three feet thick.
JP: And cellars, and, in the cellars, they used to store their eggs and potatoes. ... We used to go down there and steal their stuff, you know, the eggs. I remember, one time, ... we were in this house and they had the fire going and the stove and we had all these eggs in a big frying pan, with butter. ... I must have ate like, maybe, seven or eight eggs, sunny side up. Why, they were so good, but we always left the people some. We didn't take everything.
SH: Did they act like they were glad that you were there?
JP: No. [laughter] They weren't happy that we were there. They smiled. ...
SH: As part of the occupation, were the Nuremburg Trials getting underway while you were still in Europe?
JP: No, that was [after]. I was home when that went on. Yes, that came in later on. That was in '45. ...
SH: When did they send you home?
JP: I was discharged in 1945.
SH: No, when did they send you out of Europe?
JP: Oh, I left Europe [in] July, because I was home on furlough in August when they dropped the atom bomb. So, we left France in July.
SH: What did you come home on?
JP: Came home on a Liberty ship, the SS Sea Bass, it was called, and we landed in New York and I went toCamp Shanks.
SH: Did you?
JP: Yes. From there, we went to Camp Shanks, where I left from, and do you know that I went into the same barracks that I left from? I remembered it, the same barracks. I said, "I can't believe this," because there was one fellow that was from New York City, his name was Walter Baer, and he and I, we were together through the whole thing.
SH: Were you really?
JP: Yes, and I met him ... after the war. ... I was in New York one day and I was crossing Seventh Avenue and we're in the middle of the street, crossing. ... I see this guy. I says, "Walter." He looks at me, "Joe." [laughter] So, we were standing in the middle of the street, said, "We better get out of here, we'll get run over." So, we went back on the sidewalk. We were talking. So, he was on his lunch break and I was on the way to go see a doctor. I had this surgery done and it was done in New York and I had to go see him every few months. So, he called in that he wasn't coming back to work and we stopped in a bar and we sat there for hours, drinking and talking about old times, and then, he came to visit me at my house. ... Our sergeant, not Parker, this is another guy, Sidney, his name was Sidney Goldstein, [myself] and two Jewish guys from New York, we were together through the whole thing. Yes, that was something.
SH: Did you keep up the friendship?
JP: We did for awhile, and then, I lost contact, you know. I don't know. I tried to locate him, on the website, and I got hold of a Walter Baer that had moved up to New York State somewhere. ... I got the phone number and I called and there was no answer. I left a message. I said, "If this is Walter Baer from Fourth Division, this is who I am, here's my number," ... but I never heard anything, so, that probably wasn't him.
SH: How did you spell his name?
JP: B-A-E-R. ...
SH: Too bad you could not keep up with him. You said that they tried to talk you into staying in the military.
JP: Yes, they wanted to entice you to stay.
SH: What about the GI Bill?
JP: I never used it. When I came back, when I got out, I went to work with my father for awhile, and then, I went to school at night and I learned X-ray. I became an X-ray tech.
SH: When you came back, what was the homecoming like?
JP: Oh, it was great. We were coming up in the harbor in New York and the Statue of Liberty, we're on the ship, everybody yelling. ... This guy next to me, he says, "The next time I look her in the eye, she's going to have to turn around." In other words, he's never going out that way again, said, "She has to turn around if I'm going to look at her again." [laughter]
SH: He had had it.
SH: Have you ever been back to Europe?
JP: Yes, I went with my wife. We went in 1972. We went to England and France, for a week each place. ... We went to France and, from Paris, I went to Caen, that's on the coast in France, and we rented a car. We had met another couple and we went together, four of us. So, we rented a car in Caen and we drove out along the beaches. I went to Utah, I went to Omaha, and we stopped and ... we stopped where the road was that I walked up [in the war]. I said, "I walked up this road and there was the bunker," and that was still knocked out, and I remember that like it was so [fresh], like it was yesterday, you know. It was so serene and so nice. ... Right down on the corner was this big restaurant/bar place, and they sold cheese and bread. So, we got [food], this other couple and I, and we bought a big bottle of wine, a loaf of bread this long and cheese. So, we went and we sat on the beach and we had a little, you know, sandwiches and wine. It was nice.
SH: Nice return.
JP: Yes. Then, we went to Notre Dame and we went around. We saw all the sights in Paris that you had to see, but right next to Notre Dame Cathedral is the, they call it the Prefect of Police Headquarters. ... That day [during the war] that we went into Paris, ... they had liberated all the prisoners out of that prison, and I showed her the bullet holes that are still on the wall, on the outside bricks then. I told my wife, "I stood right here." She said, "You sure it wasn't over there?" "It was right," I said, "right here." [laughter]
SH: Did you not talk about the war with people for a long time?
JP: To whom?
SH: When you came back, did people talk about their experiences?
JP: ... Not too much, no. We don't talk too much.
SH: You said you came back and went to work for your father for awhile, and then, you became an X-ray technician.
SH: Did you use the GI Bill to pay for that schooling?
JP: No, no. I went nights and, at that time, they had, you know, these commercial schools, where you could do that. Now, you can't do it anymore. You have to have at least an associate's degree, you know, two years in college, community college, to be eligible to be an X-ray tech, but I was there in the primitive years, you know, [laughter] but I did well in X-ray.
SH: What interested you about X-ray that you would go into that field?
JP: Well, I liked the medical field anyway. You know, I always imagined myself as being a doctor someday, but I saw this ad in the paper. ... I was still working for my father at that time, and I said, "Oh, I'll go to school at night, you know, see what it is," and got a job. I ended up being the manager of the United Hospital Medical Center inNewark and it was a nice job. It was good. As a matter-of-fact, that picture on the wall, when you go out, you can see that, they gave that to me on my retirement, yes.
SH: Did you marry right away when you came home?
JP: Two years afterwards, yes.
SH: How many children?
JP: Two, I had two girls.
SH: I notice in the material that you sent that you have also been the resident of the month here.
JP: Oh, here, yes.
SH: What did you get the Bronze Star for?
JP: Well, that's for ... saving the City of Luxemburg. ... It wasn't that I charged some machine gun nest, it wasn't for that kind of [individual action]; it was the unit, the whole unit citation.
SH: Your Combat Infantry Badge, how soon did you get that?
JP: Well, we got that in June. Yes, it didn't take long, yes. [laughter]
SH: Had you stayed involved in any of the VFWs?
JP: Yes, I joined the Veterans of Foreign Wars in Maplewood and I stayed there until I moved to Verona. Then, I didn't go anymore, yes.
SH: Verona is where you raised your children then.
JP: No, no, I raised my children in East Orange and Irvington. By the time I got to Verona, ... they were already married.
SH: When you came back from the war, did you live with your parents or did you get your own place?
JP: Yes, I lived with my parents.
SH: Did you have a hard time making any kind of adjustments?
JP: No, no, not too much.
SH: You did not suffer from any kind of nightmares.
JP: No, no nightmares.
SH: Good. When you were in combat in Europe, did you see people who just could not take it anymore, combat fatigue?
JP: Well, I saw one guy shoot himself in the foot. He said he was going to do that and, sure enough, he did it. I didn't actually see him; I heard that he did it that night, shot himself in the foot, so [that] he wouldn't have to fight. ... I wouldn't have the guts to do that anyway.
SH: As scared as you were?
JP: I'm not going to shoot myself. [laughter]
SH: What about taking prisoners of war? Were you involved in that at all?
JP: Yes, we saw [some], I took some, yes.
SH: Then, you just moved them to the back.
JP: Yes, and then, you just send them back, and then, they had other people that take care of them, yes.
SH: As the Fourth Division moved through, did you see any of the concentration camps?
JP: I saw one, yes. It wasn't one of the big names. It wasn't like Auschwitz or some of the others. It was a smaller camp, and we went in there and the people were pretty much gone by then, because it had been already liberated, but I went in and I saw that, at that time, they had the shower stalls. It wasn't just a massive room where they let the gas go in and kill them. They used to tell them that, "You're going in for a shower and you leave your clothes." Then, they had all these stalls. They'd go in and, instead of water coming out, the gas came out and killed them all in there. So, I saw that part, and I saw some of the bodies that were still in the railroad cars, that they were going to ship out because they didn't have time to burn them, you know. ... Then, we fed some of the prisoners, you know, from some of the; not prisoners, some of the ...
JP: Yes, that were held.
SH: While you were there on occupation duty, you said, as you were traveling to get to the western side of France to ship back to the States, you saw the displaced persons, but, before that, had you seen anyone trying to come back through the little town that you were occupying?
JP: Well, there were always people moving around, you know, civilians, and it was hard to tell who was what, you know. I'm sure there were some that were roaming around.
SH: What did they do to entertain soldiers that were part of the occupation forces?
JP: Well, they had movies, yes. At that time, you know, we didn't need any entertainment. We were just so glad that we weren't being shot at, you know. [laughter] To go to bed at night and sleep in a bed and not worry about getting shot or shells coming in or anything, we didn't need much entertainment.
SH: Was there a non-fraternization rule?
SH: Was it followed?
JP: I guess. [laughter] Cigarettes and candy goes a long way during a war.
SH: You spoke about General Patton earlier. Did you ever get to see him?
JP: I never saw Patton, no.
SH: Did you see General Eisenhower or any other military leaders?
JP: No. I almost saw de Gaulle. I just missed him. On the day we took Paris, he came around.
SH: Are there any other memories that we have not asked you about you would like to share with us?
JS: I was wondering about your background. Your father was Italian-American.
JS: Was there any issue, coming from an Italian background?
JP: You mean in the service?
JS: Yes, in the service.
JP: No, not really. ... There weren't any ... feelings like that, you know. We didn't care whether you were Irish [or what], ... as long as you could shoot your gun, you know.
SH: What about chaplains? Did you have a chaplain with you?
JP: Yes, used to come and ... he was a good chaplain. ... He'd have Mass on the front of a jeep, he'd set up the thing. ... Sometimes, you could hear the shooting in the background and he'd be saying Mass, and then, they had the Jewish [chaplain], you know, the rabbi and whatever.
SH: Do you remember the chaplain's name?
SH: All right. What about the Red Cross? Did you have any interaction with the Red Cross?
JP: Some. ... The time when I told you we were in under the ground, ... on the train in London, they were there with donuts and coffee. Then, a couple times, you know, in quiet areas, they'd come in. Salvation Army, too, were there, too.
SH: What about the USO?
JP: USO, I didn't see much. I saw one show. I never saw Bob Hope or any of those guys. I saw some guy, his name was (Joey Faye?) or something, some comedian.
SH: Were you keeping up with the news of what was going on back home?
JP: Well, we always wanted to know who was winning in baseball, you know, but we got that in the Stars and Stripes.
SH: Did you?
JP: Yes, and you could see, you know.
SH: When Glenn Miller was lost, was that a shock to everybody?
JP: I guess so. Yes, he died, and there was another guy [that] died, too, wasn't it? Leslie Howard, didn't he die in a plane crash or something? [Editor's Note: American Big Band leader Glenn Miller, who served in the US Army Air Force as an orchestra leader, disappeared on December 15, 1944, on an airplane lost en route from Great Britain to Paris. British actor Leslie Howard was killed when the military transport he was flying on was shot down by the Luftwaffe over the Bay of Biscay.]
SH: When you were preparing to go forward, after St-Lo and the battle in the hedgerows, was there anything that you carried as a good luck charm?
JP: Not really. I had, you know, a cross that I wore, but that's all, and I kept ... a couple of American dollars in my wallet and a quarter and a dime, I remember, a quarter and a dime and a nickel. Every once in awhile, I'd look at it, [think], "You know, gee, American money," because they used to give us all kinds of money. Every time we went in a different country, if you got paid, they would pay you in that money, you know.
JP: Yes, it was, well, we called it "funny money," but it was ... negotiable, ... but, of course, there was nothing to buy, so, you just saved it. I used to send a lot of money home, you know, because we were making pretty good money over there, because you were getting combat pay, you were getting, ... you know, (FNC?) pay, overseas pay, you know, plus your monthly, and so on. ... You know, you're making, you know, a hundred and something dollars a month, instead of forty-five, you know.
SH: Did you see any of the other Allied troops?
JP: Yes, we saw British, Canadian.
SH: Did you interact at all with them?
JP: ... We'd see them, you know, and not really, not like they were on your side, you know, next to us. You'd be in different areas. We saw them.
SH: How often did you have to have an inspection or be ready? Did you ever have to be spit-and-polished for any reviews or anything?
JP: During combat?
SH: When you were pulled back at all.
JP: No, well, ... we'd take a shower, change your clothes, you know. ...
SH: No inspections.
JP: No, you mean like spit-and-polish stuff?
SH: You talked about trying to go for an R&R and it lasting one day. Were there any other times that you were sent back for an R&R?
JP: No, no.
SH: Not even when you were on occupation duty.
SH: You never got a chance to go see any of the other sites around.
SH: Okay, I just wondered if you got to go.
JP: No, that was all for the people in the back, you know, headquarters and all that stuff. Some guys never leftParis, you know. They were there for the whole war, and they're the ones that talk the most about the war. [laughter]
SH: That is true. I thank you very much for taking time to talk with us today.
JP: Oh, I appreciate it. I'm honored to have you here. I'm glad that there are people still interested in us old guys hanging around yet. [laughter]
SH: If there is something that we did not cover that you would like to add, please let me know, if there are certain incidents where we did not trigger the memory today.
JP: Sure, okay, all right.
SH: We thank you very much.
JP: Well, thank you very much, nice meeting both of you.
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