John Eiche: This begins an interview with Mr. Ralph E. Logan in Hockessin, Delaware, on October 11, 2002, with Sandra Stewart Holyoak and John Eiche.
Sandra Stewart Holyoak: Thank you, Mr. Logan, for having us at your home today and sitting down for this interview. I hope that today will be a good experience for all of us. Would you tell us where and when you were born, and then, a little bit about your father and mother?
Ralph Logan: I was born in Audubon, New Jersey, … born and raised there, and my father was born in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, and my mother was born in Westville, New Jersey. … We lived in Audubon, … [went] through my entire schooling there, through the high school, and then … I went to work, and then, I went into the service, and then, went to Rutgers. My mother moved from there, in '89, to Delaware and my father, he passed away in Audubon in 1965.
SH: Where did your father work?
RL: He worked for the Moores of Haddonfield, who was the founder of the American Tobacco Company, [Henry D. Moore], and he was a gardener with a family background of farming. … My grandfather, Thomas Logan, came from County Donegal in Ireland and he came over in the 1880s, got married in Burlington, New Jersey, moved to Haddonfield. He was the dairy foreman for Gil's Dairy Farm, out on the Gil tract in Haddonfield. He passed away … in Haddonfield in 1923, and, at that time, my Grandmother Logan came to live with us in Audubon and passed away twenty days after I was born, in Audubon. So, I really never knew either of … my grandparents.
SH: What about your mother's family?
RL: My mother's family, well, they were also farmers and the amazing thing about my mother's family was that my grandfather, William Stewart, had a farm … at Eagle Point, New Jersey, which was Westville, New Jersey. … Some of my aunts and uncles were born there. The odd thing was that I, later on, after I graduated from Rutgers and went to work for Texaco which built a refinery on the Eagle Point farm … where my grandfather had farmed, and said, … "The soil was so sandy there, he couldn't make a living." He had to move away from there, and working there, … as an engineer, I can confirm the fact that … it was so sandy, it wouldn't hold any equipment. You always had to drive pile or everything would sink. … It was a problem. I could understand why [my] grandfather couldn't make a living there.
SH: Did you know those grandparents?
RL: [Only] my grandfather. My Grandmother Stewart died when my mother was five. So, my mother had a stepmother, which wasn't the best of relationships, I guess, but she died before I even knew her.
SH: Do you have any brothers or sisters?
SH: You are an only child.
RL: … That's right. In fact, … of my generation, I'm the only Logan left.
RL: Yes. … My other uncle, Joe, had three boys, and the interesting part there was, Melvin, who graduated from Haddonfield High School in '44, joined my division after I got hit. Now, I never knew this until after the war, and he got killed in Germany on April 6th of 1945, and I never knew this until after I'd come home. … One other cousin, Rev. Tom, got shot in New York by someone looking for some money, and then, the other cousin I had, Joe, who was Class of '41 from Haddonfield High School, he was a genealogist … and created all the interest he and I [had]; he got me involved in going back to Ireland to research and find out where the grandparents came from, et cetera, and he just passed away about two years ago. So, as a result, in my generation, I'm the only one left.
SH: It is good that you have all of that research behind you.
RL: Yes, oh, I've got books that I could keep you going [with] for hours. [laughter]
SH: Would you say that your town was very agrarian when you were a child and young man?
RL: Yes, Audubon was a town of about ten thousand people. I would say they were all working class people that lived in there. Actually, in Haddonfield … that was a town where they had some money. … There was money in that town and that's one reason my father was working there, I guess. [laughter]
SH: What did you do for fun as a young man?
RL: Well, naturally, [I was] always interested in sports and a lot of kids in the neighborhood played sports.
SH: What was your first job?
RL: Well, … after I got out of high school, I went to work for an electrical contractor in Philadelphia, Cates and Shepherd; they were one of the main electrical contractors that covered the printing industry in Philadelphia, theInquirer, Bulletin, the Record, the last two went down the tube, and Curtis Publishing. They, more or less, had the printing industry sewed up, from the electrical contracting end, in the … Philadelphia area.
SH: Was there something that you had studied in high school that directed you towards that line of work?
RL: [laughter] No. Unfortunately, when I got out of high school … I wanted to go to college, but the finances weren't there. It wasn't possible to go to school, so, naturally … I guess you just had to go … find a place to get a job. So, I did.
SH: Which high school did you attend and when did you graduate?
RL: I graduated from Audubon High School in 1941 … and I did right well in high school. I was in the National Honor Society and I stood well in my class (eleventh out of 185), but it was impossible to go to college. … However, … when I started to work, I went to Drexel, night school, when I was working to try to continue my education. Now, … I questioned whether I would ever have got a degree in night school, because that was a chore, when you worked and went to night school. I thought, "That's almost [impossible]." I took my hat off to those who succeeded in that line.
SH: When you graduated in 1941, you were only eighteen, correct? Had you registered for the draft?
RL: … No, I was seventeen. … No, I didn't register for the draft, yet, and let's say [laughter] I was happy with what I was doing and I can't say that I was bubbling about going in, … signing up for the draft, or being drafted, either.
SH: In your history classes at Audubon High School, did you ever discuss the situation in Europe in the late 1930s and after the invasion of Poland?
RL: Well, I seem to remember the war in, maybe … junior high, in Ethiopia, I think. The Italians were fighting in Ethiopia. … War in no way appealed to me. I just didn't see that. My father had served in World War I. He had went to France and that was supposed to be "The war to end all wars," and even as smart as you think you are, and my father even told me, when it looked like [I was] going to have to go to serve in World War II, he said, "Join the Navy." He said, "You've got a place to sleep and you get three meals a day." Well, you know, "What's Dad know?" He had been there. He had encountered the infantry, and, no, he knew what it was, and I thought, "If there's anything I don't want, it's to go in the infantry." [laughter]
SH: Did your father join any veteran's organizations when he returned from World War I?
RL: Oh, yes. He was very active in the American Legion, and that … was the main veterans' group in Audubon, and, naturally, I was an American Legion brat, in the parades, and this and that, and all these functions that they had. I kind of got to know a lot of the men and I'd seen what some of them had went through and how they suffered from World War I. …
SH: Do you recall if there were any political organizations, like America First, in Audubon?
RL: I don't remember any, no.
SH: Can you tell us where you were when you heard about Pearl Harbor?
RL: Yes, well, I was … going to work then. … It was a Sunday afternoon. I happened to be down [with] a friend of mine, one of my buddies, and there was all the kids on the street. … We were out in his backyard, listening to the football game on the radio … when it was announced that … the Japs had hit Pearl Harbor, and the amazing thing to me was, that Monday morning, going to work, I was amazed at the number of people who were going to the post office, or the customs house, or someplace to sign up already. I can't say that I was moved that much, to that point, that I was ready to join them. I don't think so.
SH: Did any of you know where Pearl Harbor was when you first heard the news?
RL: No, no, I guess … we didn't.
JE: Other than his American Legion activities, did your father ever discuss his service in World War I with you?
RL: No, no. … That was mum, but I would go to various parades and I could see. You know in World War I, they had what they called mustard gas and some veterans had [been exposed to] mustard gas and were affected by it, and I remember, just as a kid, being at a parade and they would fire rifles off and [play] Taps and I distinctly remember one man that I knew there, and when the rifles fired, I'd seen him run right out of the parade and right through a screen door in a house. You know, it affected him that way. I could tell, … "This is not good."
SH: After Pearl Harbor, did your work change at all?
RL: No, no, my work didn't change. … I wasn't that moved, but I just continued working and going on [with] my normal life, and I wasn't ready to go, and I, naturally, signed up for the draft, and, when my number came up, well, I guess it came up. "I guess it's my time to serve," because, at the time, oh, I think two other buddies from town, … that I had gone to school with, went at the same time.
SH: You all decided to go together.
SH: What kind of discussions do you remember from within your peer group about what was going on?
RL: Well, … I think, more or less, it was just, "Well, when's our number up?" "We're going to be next." It looked like it was inevitable. We had to go. That's all it was and it was just a case of, well, who went next and I would say, maybe, some of the smarter ones went and joined the Air Corps or they joined what they wanted. In my particular case, which I always felt was another mistake I had made, I was working for an electrical contractor, my general foreman was a retired Navy electrical chief and he said to me, … "You know, with your background, you ought to go over to the customs house." He said, "I know somebody over there and I'll get you a third class rating in the Navy." I could probably [have] went to electrical schools and probably made out a lot better than [I did]. [laughter] I thought I was so smart, that I'll go … with the draft and, in fact, when I went in, physically, I was in good shape. … I even remember, when I was drafted, the recruiter there said, "Would you like the Army, Navy or Marines?" "Well," I said, "oh, … I'll go in the Army Air Corps. Oh, yes." Well, that didn't work out either. … Naturally, we went to Fort Dix.
SH: What time of year was this?
RL: April, April of '43, we went to Fort Dix, and we got to stay there for a few days, and then, we got on a train, and, naturally, I still had some of my buddies from Audubon with me that I went to school with and palled around with, and so, we got on the train, and we're heading south … and we get down there. Nobody knew where we were going. [laughter] I guess we cared, but … what could we do about it anyway? So, anyway, before we know it, we're in Florida. "Oh," I said, "man, that's great." I said, "Man, we're going in the Air Corps here." We might get down to Miami in the Air Corps, but, little did I know that we went to Camp Blanding, Florida, and [laughter] we were in an infantry division. Well, ho, ho, ho, wasn't that great? and I said, "Yes, just what my father told me to avoid." … They were forming the 66th Infantry Division at Camp Blanding, Florida. So, I was a charter member. [laughter] That was great. I did my basic training there, and so, after … I completed basic training, they came up with, probably a program that you've heard of from other guys, the Army Specialized Training Program, and they told me, well, … they wanted me to go that, so, off we went, to DeLand, Florida, to Stetson University, to go to school. We stayed there for a few weeks and took some basic math and science courses, and then, we went down to Rollins College. … We stayed there for a few weeks and got a little more schooling, and then, all of a sudden, we ended up in Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York. … I didn't know, at the time, … what the problem was; evidently, the Mayor of New York, I guess, (and et cetera?), realized that many of these colleges were suffering because of lack of enrollment, and so, they took the, what do you call it? the cream of the troops and sent them to school, so that maybe they could educate them and save them from combat, and loss of life, and all that. So, anyway, … I stayed there at Pratt Institute for about three semesters, taking basic engineering courses. So, then, all of a sudden, they found out that they didn't have enough personnel to fight the Germans and they disbanded the program and loaded us all back on the train and back to the sunny South again. Well, this time, we went to Camp Polk, Louisiana, and we stayed at Camp Polk, Louisiana, for a few days, and then, they assigned us to different outfits, and I ended up with the 75th Division, Infantry Division, which was on maneuvers in Louisiana at that time. Well, naturally, all these guys that had been out there … thought, oh, here comes … all these smart smart alecks from school that know all about this and, now, they're subject to the infantry. … As a result, they had trained some men and sent them out as replacements. So, we went through maneuvers in Louisiana, and then, the outfit shipped up to Camp Breckenridge, Kentucky, and sent more people out as replacements, and then, replaced and trained the division. So, finally, the division, staffed in October of '44, went overseas. We went up to Camp Shanks, New York, and, at that time, we got a pass. I remember, before we left, … got a pass, and another guy from New Jersey and I, we went home that night, extended the pass a bit and went home and that was it. We went back and shipped out. We went down to Southern Wales. … I guess we stayed there until … late November, the beginning of December, training in Wales, and then, we went over to Europe, and what got me was that it took us seven days to get across the Channel on a ship, because we went into the Port of Le Havre and they had so many … sunken ships there that … they had to wait for the tide, and all they could do was take about two ships in with the tide and unload them, and then, take two more. So, it was all dependent on the tide. … We laid out there and the food was lousy, but, finally, we did disembark and went into France. … From France, we went up, in forty-and-eights, to Belgium, because, about that time, the Germans had assembled their crack troops and they were ready to engage in what we call the Battle of the Bulge.
SH: Before we discuss the Battle of the Bulge, I would like to backtrack a bit. During your training, what did you note as you traveled up and down the East Coast by train? Do you remember any incidents? Did you notice the build-up of troops and training facilities?
RL: Yes, I don't know. … I guess I took it as a matter-of-fact; "Well, this is it." … Like I say, you were always in the dark. You didn't know what was going on. … I can't say that the average individual is well versed in what was happening and what was going on, what was in store for him or her.
SH: Do you feel that your basic training left you well-prepared?
RL: Yes, I think so. In fact, well, I was trained in a .60 mm mortar squad, in my original division, and, naturally, I got out of there, and … it's a possibility I would have been a squad leader, originally, if I hadn't gone to school, but, naturally, I didn't have much choice, and I went to school, and I always thought that was a blessing, because [it was] far better than combat, and, when I went down to join the 75th Division, having had that training, as soon as … some of these individuals realized what training I had, well, then, "We want this guy in our squad, because he's been trained in this," and they were getting guys from the Air Corps. At that time, I felt sorry for … some of these guys that went into the Air Corps, went to ASTP, and what did they do but put them in the infantry. … Hey, that was no prize, and they [had] no training, and so, naturally, they were trained from scratch, but I guess they thought that, … with their background and possibilities, that they would [have] probably made better soldiers.
SH: When did you split off from your friends from Audubon?
RL: After we left Camp Blanding, Florida, the 66th Division. It's amazing, they went to school, too.
SH: Oh, really?
RL: Yes. My best buddy went to Bowdoin College in Maine and I had one in Clarkson. Never did I end up with any from Audubon that went to Pratt. …
SH: You must have received a good education in Audubon.
RL: I think I did. I really do.
SH: What do you remember about the Louisiana Maneuvers?
RL: [laughter] I go to my division reunions, and my buddy there, who was originally with that division, the 75th, he will always kid me about the Louisiana Maneuvers, "And you smart alecks, they come down here, thought you knew it all," and it's pouring rain, … you get in a chow line with your mess kit, and they put mashed potatoes in there. … You get your helmet to sit on, and the mashed potatoes have all of the rain in them and they're all cool and that's what you got to eat. Can you imagine if I sent you, John, to eat out there today, [Editor's note: the interview was conducted during a fierce rainstorm], say, "Hey, John, you're going to eat outside today." [laughter] You go out there, … no protection. You're out there and you've got to sit on your helmet and it's wet, and you just went through the chow line … with your mess kit and they throw that stuff in there. … You say, "Well, it's food," but … I still remember the mashed potatoes, because I thought, "Boy, they ought to be really good, hot mashed potatoes," but it's raining and you get all that cold rain on the mashed potatoes, and then, you've got to eat them. Oh, that's just like heaven. [laughter]
SH: What else do you remember about the Louisiana Maneuvers?
RL: … I call it, "Lousy-ana;" [laughter] "What are we doing here? Come on." [laughter] At first, I thought, "My gosh, combat can't be [as] bad as this," but it was. [laughter]
SH: Were the men in your unit from all over the country or were they primarily from the East Coast?
RL: … By that time, they were all mixed up. Originally, the 75th Division was formed … from people from Illinois, Indiana, Missouri and Kentucky and they went to Fort Leonard Wood for their basic training, the same time I went to Camp Blanding for mine with the 66th Division, of which comprised the people from New Jersey, New York and New England. That's what basically made up the 66th when we first went into training.
SH: Were most of the men who trained you in Louisiana cadre or replacements?
RL: Mostly, I would say cadre and men who had made their non-com [rank]; the officers were cadre, all the officers. The non-commissioned officers were men that, many of them were cadre and many of them were men that had moved up and … become a non-commissioned officer after their basic training.
SH: Were they the ones who took exception to you, the college educated newcomers?
RL: Oh, yes, oh, yes. "Get these smart ass kids. They know everything, huh?" … and I still get it today, [laughter] and they remind me of that, you know, because I guess I was known; I'll tell you my feelings, if I didn't like something, you knew it. [laughter]
SH: Did you do any volunteering?
RL: No, no, you never volunteered. [laughter]
SH: You learned that lesson
JE: Lesson number one.
RL: Right. [laughter]
SH: When you left Camp Shanks, do you remember the name of the ship you boarded?
RL: No, I don't, but I could look it [up], I've got it here someplace. [HMS Franconia]
SH: Did you travel in a convoy?
RL: Yes, it was a convoy and … it wasn't, like, I hear a lot of guys went over on the Queen Mary. … They shipped thousands then. No, we're a little one, but it went good and, at that time, … as I remember going over, I kind of felt that we were cattle again. The officers, they were by their self and … there were Army nurses, Red Cross workers, and they all accumulated, and then, us cattle. … We went along for the ride. …
SH: Did you ever apply for OCS?
RL: No, no. [laughter] While we were in Camp Breckenridge, I hadn't had a pass or furlough for some time and, incidentally, maybe that was another mistake I made, but, you know Senator Bob Dole? Well, he was in the same position, only he went to OCS from there. He got out of the outfit and went to OCS. Well, I had an opportunity to go into the paratroopers and could go to Fort Benning and … get training there, and then, they would give you a ten-day furlough, and then, you were off to Europe. … At that time, my buddy, he talked me out of that, and I don't know, maybe it was good, maybe it was bad. I don't know. [laughter] Let's say I didn't join the paratroopers at that time, when I had an opportunity to, and I didn't go to OCS, like Bob Dole. Maybe I could have been a senator today, right? [laughter] … No, I guess maybe I didn't take advantage of some opportunities that I should have.
SH: Did you travel in convoy when you went over to Europe?
RL: Yes, yes. It was convoy.
SH: Did you train at all on the ship? What did you do while you were onboard?
RL: Walk around the ship and eat, no training, nothing, it was just, "We're going." I don't know. It wasn't stimulating by any shadow of the imagination, because you knew where you were heading and this was for real, no playing around here.
SH: Do you remember which port you disembarked at in South Wales?
RL: Well, we got into Liverpool, and then, we went down from there, by train, into South Wales, and then, … we took part in training there, a lot of hikes and everything.
SH: What were your position and duties?
RL: I was in the .60 mm mortar squad.
SH: They pulled you back into that.
RL: Yes. I trained, originally, for that in Camp Blanding, and then, … I returned to that in Louisiana.
SH: How did the people in Wales treat American GIs?
RL: Very well, very well, I thought. … They thought well of us and treated us well and they'd share anything they had. In fact, I think, in many cases, we probably had more than they had and many of those folks, they had … sons that were fighting on the front, also. So, they … could accept why we were there and what we were doing and just made the best of it, that's all.
SH: Did you ever get to go on liberty?
RL: Oh, yes. … Oh, I remember once going into London and running down in the subways when the buzz bombs came and [they] did quite a bit of damage in London, I thought. … It was those buzz bombs.
SH: What does an American GI do on liberty in London in 1944?
RL: Yes, well, you'd go to the USO or [laughter] you'd go to a pub, drink your warm beer. [laughter]
SH: Did the American GIs pretty much stick together or did you interact with British soldiers?
RL: We stuck together, as GIs, yes.
SH: When did you learn that you were going overseas? Was it in November or December?
RL: To Europe? That was in the end of November. [laughter] In fact, one of the civilian girls there knew it before I did.
RL: Oh, yes. They knew that this outfit's shipping out. … Of course, they had good reason, you know, because a lot of them were probably looking for a ticket … to the States. You hook up with these GIs, and then, some of them, they got engaged and were ready to marry these girls from Wales, but I can't say, … at that particular time, that didn't interest me.
SH: What was the nearest village in Wales?
RL: Swansea, you ever hear of Swansea? You did? Yes, that was the nearest one. … I remember going in there quite often.
SH: Right on the coast?
RL: In Wales, yes.
SH: How many ships were in your convoy going overseas?
RL: To go over to Liverpool?
RL: … I don't know how many; it was a good number that went from New York to Liverpool. That was a big convoy. There were so many ships out there in the Channel, when we went from England to Le Havre, I don't know how many there were. There were a lot.
SH: Where did you leave for Le Havre from, Plymouth?
RL: I don't know, I think it was Southampton. [laughter]
SH: Do you remember the name or the number of the ship, by any chance?
RL: I have to do that; think I ought to get the book now?
RL: Okay. "The night of October 20, 1944, the men of F Company, 289th Infantry, boarded the HMSFranconia. The next day, at 1300, from Pier 54 in New York, the Franconia put out to sea. After seventeen days on board the Franconia, it finally docked at Liverpool, England, on the 4th of November. … F Company debarked and immediately entrained and rode to Llanelly, South Wales. There, they detrained and marched through the darkened streets of Llanelly to the town drill hall, which was its quarters, and those men … with their eyes open to tell (what company was definitely on the foreign soil?). … Stone buildings pressed the narrow, winding streets together made this that more evident. Three days later, on November 8th, the company moved six miles by foot to Burry Port, South Wales. There, it was quartered for the final time on the British Isles in the old harbor camp. The company stayed there until December the 9th, but the company was called to combat on December 9, 1944. The company left Burry Port by bus for Llanelly. By 0300, December 9th, they'd boarded a train at Llanelly for Southampton, England. The company detrained at 1000 the same day and boarded the Belgian ship, Leopoldville, at 1430. This time, the company was experienced in boarding the vessels and adjusting to the life aboard ship. While descending the rickety ladder and left [moving] from the Leopoldville to the LST, which finally docked, the company slipped and fell into the cold water. Immediately, the call, "Dog overboard," brought members of the crew from both the LST and the Leopoldville into action." I don't remember that.
SH: Who wrote this history?
RL: Hal Lindstrom, one of my squad members.
SH: Thank you. He has done a good job.
RL: Yes. … "They finally rescued the dog," well, okay, "2200, the company moved by truck to the vicinity of Freville, France, … where they stayed for five days [in] a field," and I remember, they were muddy and pup tents were the only shelter. "It was there that the men heard the final word of their commanding officer before combat. Colonel Smith said, 'The happiest day of my life will be the day I lead this regiment through the last engagement. The second happiest day of my life will be the day I lead it into the first engagement.'" I didn't realize that … he would be so happy about that. … [laughter]
SH: You mentioned earlier that it was very difficult to disembark at Le Havre. Did you see any of the destruction there?
RL: … Well, I guess it's the old story, "War is hell," and my gosh, oh, that was terrible, the sights there. Everything had been bombed and, oh, it was … something I guess you really don't want to remember, because it was terrible. It was terrible, and … afterwards, I've talked to people who had … went into Le Havre, and they [had] the same impression, bombed and bombed. … I guess that was the most convenient port that they could land troops in.
SH: How did it compare to the destruction that you had seen in London?
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SH: Please, continue.
RL: Well, now, let's say, being in London and seeing what damage the buzz bombs had made there in London didn't produce a very good feeling, and to go into the Port of Le Havre and see the way that that had been torn up by bombs, and all kinds of planes, and artillery, and everything else, … it woke you up. You knew … it was no picnic that was ahead, but you just kind of went along with the flow and your buddies were going and you were going, too.
SH: Do you remember when you got off the ship, what time of day?
RL: I thought it was night. It was dark, kind of dark, … but I do remember, like I said, we came to move up, and the regiment stayed in this area, and, I remember, it was muddy and pup tents. The conditions weren't good, but they were bound to be getting worse.
SH: Where did you stay the first night? Were you still at the port or did you move out?
RL: No, we moved out to this Freville.
SH: Did you have to wait in Freville for awhile before you got the word to move out?
RL: Oh, yes, we waited there for awhile before we loaded on forty-and-eights and went up to Liege.
SH: You went straight into Belgium.
RL: Yes, from France, and, again, those buzz bombs, … when you're in the forty-and-eights, … I often wonder why, [if] these Germans were so smart, that they should have sent the … buzz bombs into the forty-and-eights and wiped us all out, because they would have accomplished something easier than what they were trying to do. [laughter]
SH: They were passing over on their way to England, is that what you are saying?
RL: No, going up in the train to Liege. … There were buzz bombs flying over the train on the way up. You could tell that and that was good living in the forty-and-eights, I'll tell you, which you've probably encountered many stories of how people lived on the forty-and-eights. …
SH: Do you know where the term came from?
JE: On the side of the boxcar, it said, "Forty men, eight horses." They were leftovers from World War I.
RL: Right, and we'd stop in different spots and the people would come out, because the GIs always had chocolator something. … These people, they didn't have much … and they were really glad to see you.
SH: Were they?
RL: Yes, and naturally glad to have you give them something that they didn't have.
SH: How much interaction did you have with civilians in France and Belgium?
RL: None, practically none.
SH: What did you do in your mortar unit?
RL: Well, I was a mortar man. I was responsible for operating the mortar.
SH: What was your job as you were moving?
RL: Just go along, carrying a mortar, one of the gang, and my favorite expression is, after, now, today, that it's all over, I say, you know, it may be one of your favorite questions, … "Were you a hero? What did you do? Did you do this or did you do that?" I was just another pebble of sand on the beach, [laughter] just one of the gang. I just went along; whatever you're supposed to do, I'd do to the best of my ability, another pebble of sand on the beach.
SH: Well, we want to know what this "pebble of sand" went through. [laughter]
JE: Did you notice any difference between your reception in England and your reception in France? Was there any difference in the way the people reacted to your presence?
RL: … In France, we didn't have, I would say next to no contact with people, … where we did in England, and even going up in[to] Belgium, I would say the Belgian people were tremendous.
JE: I am sure that they were happy to see you.
RL: Yes, they were happy to see us.
JE: You were only in France for a few days before the German offensive started. How did you and your regiment react to being thrust on to the frontline after only a few days?
RL: Well, it sure opened your eyes, because, before you knew it, we were into it. The Germans had broken through and had overrun a couple of the divisions and … you heard the stories about what happened in Malmedy, … they just lined them up and shot them.
SH: You had heard about those atrocities?
RL: Yes, that word … got around pretty fast, and so, … we're just there, and the next thing you know, I think it was Christmas Eve, we were put on the offense and the mission was laid out for us, what we had to do. It was Christmas Eve of 1944. … Probably this incident is one of the major ones that … still sticks in my mind, because … the mission was to attack Grandmenil, and we were assembled in the woods outside of Grandmenil, looking down on the town that's nothing to really [look at], a crossroad with a few homes in there, and we came out of the woods, … single file, and there was a foot, foot-and-a-half, maybe two feet of snow on the ground, and we're going down, down this hill, towards the town, to attack the town. Moonlight night, the moon was out bright, really, really nice, and down to our left, I remember seeing the battalion commander, Lieutenant Colonel Kluff, they called him Big Joe, and he had his carbine on his shoulder, and he walked down there, "Come on, let's go, let's move out. Let's go down there," and I see this, it was so nice, and we were like ducks on a pond, and the next thing you know, … I guess we might have gone, well, maybe, I don't know, … maybe a hundred yards out of the woods, machine gun fire opens up. We hit the snow and you'd lay there and you could see the tracers … flying over you, over your head, and you encountered that in training. They'd have you crawl around and shoot fire over your head, only this was the real thing, no fooling around. This was no training, and so, we're there and the next thing, you know, I could hear the guy in front of me, Davidson, which I must have been in contact with, and he got hit. Sergeant Hannigan, in back of me, he got hit, hear him laying there, moaning, and you know they got hit, and we're there, and, man, these machine gun bullets are coming up, flying over. I have the mortar there and I could see the machine gun bullets bouncing off this mortar base, there's base plate on it, bouncing off that. … Today, I realize, … if the machine gun bullets had come about a foot or a foot-and-a-half over, they'd probably kill me right there, but, anyway, fortunately, we had a platoon Sergeant Ives, who was a regular Army man, enlisted during the Depression, and he'd been down there, and he knew what the score was, and so, we didn't know why somebody [had not] gone ahead and knew that the Germans had set up a machine gun down there, or what the situation was, at that time, but Ives told us, he says, "Let's back out of here." He said, "Get back to the woods, as best you can, before they kill us all," and I think, if they had enough ammunition, they would have killed us all, but they must have been limited in ammunition. So, here we are, [laughter] in snow, and I'm trying to crawl backwards up this hill, to get back in the woods, and that overcoat comes over your head and my thighs are wet with snow, cold, but, anyhow, I was fortunate enough to get back in the woods there, and they got the injured out, those guys that were wounded, and they got out of there. … Standard bearers made facilities to carry them back to the aid station, and so, we stayed there … in the woods that night and, the next morning, we went back to find the mortar that I'd left there. Come to find out that they had [destroyed it]; I could see where the machine gun bullets had hit the base plate of the mortar and, also, the control, the sight and everything, that had been hit, damaged. You couldn't use the mortar anymore. It was gone. It just needed a complete replacement. Anyway, we went back and we were going back to regroup that morning and we went back [on] this road, and we could see where, I guess, the Krauts had damaged … the whole convoy of the Third Battalion. We were Second Battalion. The Third Battalion, man, there was equipment, trucks, everything, all alongside the road. … One story was … after that day … the clouds lifted and the Air Corps could come in and the airplanes could fly over and provide air support. So, I'd say, we often wondered if maybe our own Air Force didn't hit our own troops, too, because they were supposed to have things over on top, you know, with marks and everything on them, indicating that it was American troops, but, anyway, our Third Battalion was really, really hit hard. Yes, we got back and reorganized, and then, we went on to many other encounters there, right there in the Bulge.
SH: That was your first encounter with the enemy.
RL: That was the first encounter, yes. Well, I thought it was [laughter] a very thoughtful Christmas Eve, because, usually, when I was a kid, at home, you went to church on … Christmas Eve, you went to candlelight service, and, here, we're looking at tracers and bullets coming flying over your head. I often thought, "Well, man, what a Christmas Eve this is. It's a little different."
SH: This happened on Christmas Eve and you regrouped on Christmas, the next day.
RL: Yes, it was. It was Christmas Eve and, in fact, the guy that wrote this history, … I would say that he's an individual that's a good Christian. I often heard, … you'd get different stories, depending on the unit you were in, that, "Oh, boy, this outfit had turkey for Christmas, and they had this, and they had that." We didn't have anything. I was fortunate, myself. I still had a K ration, which was a cheese K ration, which was what I considered the best K ration. That's what I had for Christmas dinner, with no turkey. I'd never seen the mess truck come up with any food, hot food or anything like that, but I always remember that as my Christmas dinner, and, often, when I read things about these guys that had this and they had that, I thought, "Well, that's strange, because I sure never had anything like that." [laughter]
SH: Did you have a chaplain in your unit?
RL: No. I don't ever remember seeing a chaplain.
SH: I just wondered if there was an attempt to have services.
RL: No, I never remember seeing a chaplain up there. Yes, in fact, I think the one I thought that was closest to God was the medic, and we had a little medic, he must have been about four foot-ten, a roly-poly guy from Massachusetts, Johnson, and he was good, and I always thought, later, that was the toughest job, I don't think I could have done it, would have never been a company combat medic, tough job, tough job.
SH: Were there litter bearers also?
RL: Yes, they were, normally, your own men. … Those that were physically able to do it were doing that.
SH: How long did it take you to get regrouped and re-supplied?
RL: Well, they provided us with a machine gun for a few days before we got a mortar, and then, we got a mortar back.
SH: Were you moving forward by truck or on foot?
RL: … No, everything was by foot, in the snow and cold. Man, it was cold and you probably have people tell you about the fact that we didn't have the … proper equipment. We didn't have special shoes, the combat boots that were for that particular weather, but we never seen them until … the Bulge was over, and even the equipment we had, I think the Germans, … everything they had was far superior than what we had. We had quantity, but we didn't have quality. [That] was my feeling, but that particular event is probably the one that sticks in my mind the most. … There were other things, you know, that, at times, you encountered. One time, we were there and we'd be in our foxhole, and I remember hearing, you could hear the Germans talking over there, you know, and they were conversant. How far away they were, they couldn't have been too far or we wouldn't have heard them. … One time, we were there, and … one of my close buddies, from North Carolina, this is where he got hit. I think, at that time, … it was probably one of the worst feelings you'd had, you know, when the word got back, "Mitchell got hit," and you got up there, and he's laying outside of his foxhole there, and blood from head to toe, bad feeling. … I remember being in a foxhole, … when you were in the woods, you know, they'd throw the .88s in and … everything would go, the branches and everything. … I remember seeing a guy in the foxhole, from Upper Darby, Pennsylvania, here, and he was in the foxhole next to me. He got buried in there. That was the end of him. That's it, but that's the way it was, very, very difficult situation. … Yes, I think you got, to a degree, … hardened by this. Somewhere along the line, … being a squad leader, I picked up a Thompson submachine gun, which was a pressed steel machine gun. You could really spray a lot of lead with that, more bullets, good, especially for cleaning out houses. We were in Belgium and … I remember, specifically, the one house in Beck, Belgium, where we took it, and there were Germans in there, and we took over this house, cleared all the Germans out, and there must have been, oh, I don't know, a couple of dozen Germans outside. They're all standing around, hands up and all this and I guess, maybe, I was just so hardened to it, well, after I had gone through this house and chasing them all out and gathered them all outside, go through the house, spraying the .45 slugs around, and then, I come out and they were all standing there, with their arms up, and I was about ready to mow them all down, and I remember, our first sergeant comes up, "Oh, no, no." He took the gun away from me, because I would have; I think, at that time, I would have killed them all, right on the spot. I was [livid], and the way I always looked at it, I was trained to kill them. They were … trained to kill me. So, hey, who's first? Who's got the best opportunity? If I'm going to kill them, I'm going to kill them, and if I don't kill them, they're going to kill me, because we've seen, … again, these Germans were excellent shots, good snipers, and they could get you. … I've seen guys get it right between the eyes. A sniper drops them down and, like I say, boy, … if you didn't get them, they were going to get you, so, hey, rise to the occasion.
SH: When did you become squad leader?
RL: [laughter] I think it was very few days, … maybe two, after I was in combat, because … I had a section sergeant, … I don't remember the last time we'd seen him, but he never got into combat at all, and then, we had two machine gun squad leaders killed, two mortar squad leaders were wounded, so, then, at that time, … oh, heck, it couldn't have been, I don't think, but a couple of days before I had a squad, and the guy that wrote this, … he moved up, he was my assistant. I moved up, and then, he moved up to be the gunner. … Let's say, this time I was telling you about, we could hear the Germans in their holes, out in front of us there, and somebody said, "We got hot chow," that night. Oh, boy, that's, well, an occasion. We sent one guy back with two mess kits and he's supposed to bring the food up. Well, the next thing you know, they come back and say, "Well, they got the mess sergeant." The mess sergeant got hit and the assistant mess sergeant, he got hit, but we did get some hot chow there, but that was bad times, and there were other times, … you hear a lot after you get out. In fact, I'm quite active, here, in the Military Order of the Purple Heart, … the local chapter here, in New Castle County, and so, one guy, one day, he said to me, "You were with the 75th Division?" I said, "That's right, yes." … He said, "I understand that you had a lot of trouble. Your officers … weren't up to snuff. They weren't good at all." "Well," I said, "I guess I know that some of them weren't." I said, "I know that." Because, like I told you, this Christmas Eve, this lieutenant colonel that's leading us down here, I don't know where he sent the scouts or what reports he had, and, like I said, we were ducks on the pond, no wonder we got shot at, and some got wounded, and, one day, I remember, we're standing around, waiting to attack, and our company commander was a former Pennsylvania State Trooper, big guy, six foot-three or four, something like that, and you had a lot of respect for him, Oscar Tingly, and you thought, "He's a good man." He got in combat, he wasn't too good. I remember standing right next to him and he was so scared stiff, he didn't know what to do. He was wearing a PFC overcoat, so that the Krauts wouldn't see his [rank], any identification that the Krauts would have picked up and say, "Hey, we need the leader. We're going to shoot the leader." Well, he didn't want to be recognized as that, and he and the exec officer in our company were standing there, and it was pathetic. Here I am, I'm only a young kid. I don't know all about this, but, here, he's supposed to be our leader and he's trained, and he was terrible. It's amazing, these officers that I talk about. Later, I understand, they were court-martialed because of not performing their duties. This is a lot of responsibility there, to be taking a group of men into combat and know that, say, "Somebody is going to get killed here," and, incidentally, when our company pulled out of the Bulge, they pulled us back, … for replacements and everything, there were only thirty-eight of us remaining, out of one hundred-and-eighty plus. … You just kind of thought, "Well, [the] good Lord, he's been looking after you," I guess. It was tough. …
SH: How hard was it to stay together?
RL: … That wasn't hard at all. No, well, you're dependent on each other, right. When … the Battle of the Bulge was over, and then, we pulled back, and then, they assigned the three infantry divisions, the Third, the 28th, which was the Pennsylvania National Guard, and our division, the 75th, and they shipped us down to what they called the Colmar Pocket and assigned us to the French First Army.
SH: You were assigned to them.
RL: Yes. We were fighting under their command. I guess a lot of politics went on there, too, from what you could read later. At that time, you didn't know it. … Those French, … I think they fought on cognac and a good time. [laughter] They were … different soldiers than … the Germans were, that's for sure, man, and you were fighting alongside of them, but they were something else. …
SH: Can you tell us about that?
RL: Okay. Well, we got down there, and so, we were under the command of the French First Army, our division, and so, we were given a responsibility down there to attack this one village of Appenweier, France, and we went in, and there was quite a struggle there, in the fields and getting into the village, and once we did chase the Germans out of this village of Appenweier, we went and took shelter where we could, and so, naturally, the Germans are pretty smart, they just got chased out of there, and they knew where the Americans were going to go when they got in town there, got in that little burg. So, as a result, [laughter] we're in there, and we're in this village, and we're waiting for orders. Well, next thing you know, the Germans sent the .88s in, and that was the end of me, and, in my squad, I had a fellow [named] John Hill, from Texas, who was assigned to me as a replacement, and he had a wife and two kids, and we're in there. … I bet he hadn't been with me three days, and the .88s came in and shelled the buildings there, in Appenweier, and, God only knows, the next thing I know and he's yelling like a baby. He had got hit and, at the same time, my leg's burning up. I had been hit, also, and we had got these new combat boots, and so, naturally, the first thing we did, we called for the medics, because two of us got hit and the medic came in, and I said, "Well, you'd better take care of John there, because, evidently, he must be in real serious hurt," even though my leg was burning up, and John, the medic, I guess he gave him morphine and settled him down and got him … out of there, and then, he cut my boot off, and we called for the section sergeant, and he came up, and they got a jeep up there, and they got Hill on the jeep, and I was able to get up. They'd helped me up on the hood, but my right foot was just dangling. … I had no control over it, because I had been hit in the back of the leg there. … After the medic got done and put sulfa on it and all that, … it eliminated the burning feeling that I had originally, and so, they loaded me on a jeep, and they sent the jeep back to, … I guess, the battalion aid station or something, and so, … that was the end of combat for me. So, the next thing I knew, I woke up in an evacuation hospital. … Well, I woke up the next morning in the Ninth Evacuation Hospital in France. I didn't know where it was or what it was, but, later, I had found out, … at that time, it had been a French artillery barracks in … Ramber Villers, France. The last time I went back, I tried to get the bus driver, the guy, to get back there, because I'd never seen that and it took me a while to find out where the Ninth Evac Hospital was, but I finally found out, and then, after that, they operated on me, and I remember waking up in this French barracks and I didn't know where I was, but, in fact, I thought for sometime I was in the schoolhouse or something. They had blankets all over the walls and everything, and I could understand … how they felt about things, and they would try to boost your morale and all this, and they asked me, when I woke up, "Hey, did you see Mickey Rooney?" Now, you know, I could have cared less about Mickey Rooney. "Oh, yes, Mickey Rooney was here." Well, whether he was or not, I don't know. To this day, I don't know. If I ever … found Mickey Rooney, I'd ask him, "Hey were you there?" He probably wouldn't even know that either. [laughter] … So, they told me that, well, "Oh, you'll be back with your gang in no time. We'll fix you right up."
RL: [laughter] Yes, that was a morale booster, I guess, or something, because that sure didn't happen. So, they sent me back to the First General Hospital in Paris and I remember the ride back, because, also, we talked about food, on the frontline, well, we … didn't have that much food. I mentioned that one time we had K rations, which were good, but we also had C rations, which were cans of beans and hot dogs, and, also, there was one … which we seemed to have a surplus [of], because nobody liked it, a can of hash, which was, I don't know, chopped meat and, I guess, potatoes or something, and grease, and we couldn't heat it. They wouldn't let us have any fire. So, here, you open this can of hash, delicious, cold, greasy hash, really, really, "Ummm." It just steers your appetite, but, anyway, needless to say, what did you develop from that but diarrhea? Okay, so, here I am, I have diarrhea, I'm in it, on a stretcher, in an ambulance, going back to Paris and I have to get the guy to stop, stop the ambulance and get the bed pan, because I've got diarrhea. I got to go and I don't know how many times he stopped that ambulance. [laughter] … I always said it's [the] responsibility of that damned hash … and maybe if we could have heated it up and ate it, well, it might have been good; I wouldn't have had trouble. Anyway, I remember going through Paris there and the ambulance driver said, "If you look out the back window, you'll see the Eiffel Tower." Oh, yes, I look out there, see the Eiffel Tower, and I said, "Isn't that nice?" Well, it was a nice hospital they had there and I still don't know, the First General Hospital in France, where that was, but, anyway, I always told my wife, afterwards, after I come home, she says, "We ought to go over there again." I said, "I've seen Paris. I've seen the Eiffel Tower. I don't want to go back there." Well, we went back. [laughter] … I remember there, in that hospital, they took the bandages off from the initial operation that they had done in the evac hospital. … Oh, I thought I'd die, because, I don't know, the blood had all dried up and what[not], but, then, it all stuck to this. … Man, when they took the bandage off, I'll never forget that, in that hospital, but, anyway, they looked at it. … There was nothing they could do there. It was too big a wound, too big of a job for them to do anything. So, then, … they flew me back to England and I was in the general hospitals in Erlestoke Park, Wilts, England, and then, they fooled around there and they tried to fix me up, and then, I went to another [place, the] 117th General Hospital in Bristol, England, and each one would try to take care of my leg there and they tried this and tried that. There was such a hole in my leg that they had tried skin grafts and that wouldn't do any good. They couldn't close the wound and, I guess, at one time, they considered [that] they'd probably have to amputate, because … it was such a big wound that they couldn't close it up. So, the next thing I knew, from England, I got on a Liberty ship and they were going to send me back to the States. We were going into Boston, and there was a storm and these Liberty ships, the props got out of the water. Boy, you thought the whole thing was going to break up, because these ships, maybe you've read stories or heard about it, they weren't constructed too well, anyway. So, I thought, "Well, maybe we won't even make it to Boston," but, anyway, we got into Boston, Camp Myles Standish, and, again, these morale boosters, Jane Wyman came through to visit us. Man, that made your heart go pitter-pat, but that wasn't helping my leg out any. … They said they reviewed … my case and I guess they felt that, well, maybe they could save my foot, but … I needed to go to either Atlantic City or Martinsburg, West Virginia, and he said, "Where would you like to go?" I said, "My gosh, if I'm going any place, I'd rather go to Atlantic City." My friends could come visit me, my parents and everybody. So, you know where I went? Right, the typical Army game, I go to Newton D. Baker Hospital in Martinsburg, West Virginia. So, here I am. … Anyway, they reviewed my case there and, evidently, they had a doctor, … I can't remember his name now, but he was from the Jersey City Medical Center, … red-haired guy, bald, drank a lot. In fact, sometimes, they wouldn't even let him in the operating room. So, anyway, … I feel that I owe … the fact that I still have a right foot to him, because he thought he could close that up, fix that leg up, after they had fixed everything else up in the leg. There's just a big, big hole in the back of my leg, and so, they said that they were going to have what they called a cross leg flap, and what they did was take the back of the calf of my left leg and transfer that over to my right leg to close that, and so, as a result, the whole back of my left leg, everybody [would] say, "Oh, my gosh," they'll look at it and think, "Man, man, you really got hit bad there." "Well," I say, "hey, that's my good leg," [laughter] and so, anyway, I'm in for this cross leg flap now. I have a cast, from here all the way down to my toes, … that was my left leg, and they bring the right leg over like this, and they take the flesh and the skin off … my left leg and grow it to my right leg. Well, I'm in this cast for twenty-seven days, and so, it turned out successful. … They were able to save that right leg by transferring that. … There was such a hole in my right leg there and I always give them credit, because I know, at times, they figured, well, they couldn't close it up and they'd probably amputate and take … my foot and my lower leg off, but I give the medical staff and everybody a lot of credit. They did a good job, even though it was in Martinsburg, West Virginia; it wasn't in New Jersey. [laughter]
SH: Do you remember any of the doctors or nurses from the first station in Belgium?
RL: Oh, yes, yes. [laughter] You know, I've tried to contact some of them. I remember one especially, Marie Riley, who was from Wisconsin. She was a doll. [laughter] She didn't like to give needles, when they'd give you shots of penicillin, to [protect] you.
-----------------------------------END OF SIDE TWO, TAPE ONE----------------------------------------
JE: This continues the interview with Mr. Ralph Logan, tape two. Please, continue.
RL: So, we'd be in the ward there and Riley, she would give you a shot of penicillin, she'd take it away, and the needle would still be in your arm, and all the guys in the ward, … oh, my gosh, they'd open up, "Ohhhh." They'd carry on and Riley would turn red as a beet, because she didn't like to give the shots to start with, and then, she leaves a needle in your arm, but, she was good. … It was great and the other thing was, you know, as a young fellow, I never drank that much, but, like I told you, I was in this cross leg flap and I couldn't get out of bed for twenty-seven days, and I'd be in there, and … they'd just throw the sheet over this big cast that I have on both legs and up there, and some guys were fortunate; they would go into town and they'd buy a bottle of booze, and then, they wouldn't know where to put the booze. They couldn't hide the booze in the ward there and I was their number one source to conceal the booze. So, they'd come back from town and they'd put the booze between my cast and I'd keep it. So, if anyone needed any drink, they'd either come over in their wheelchair and they would get the booze and get their self a drink. At the time, I didn't drink, so, I didn't care, but I'd help them out, but, the odd thing was, well, every now and then, the nurse would come around and want to change your dressing and, here, she's going to open up [the sheet], and, here, I've got a bottle of booze. So, they'd see the nurse coming, [laughter] and they'd come over, and somebody'd come over in a wheelchair and pull up [to] the side of the bed and get their bottle and put it in their lap, under their blanket, so that they could hide the booze until I got my dressings changed, and then, when I got back to normal, back came the booze. These are interesting things that, you know, now and then, a little of it had to be fun, although it wasn't much fun. [laughter] … I can't remember that doctor's name. At some time, I would have like to have known that doctor from the Jersey City Medical Center. I remember the doctor, … Dr. Lyle, from Arkansas, in England, who tried the skin grafts on me to close the wound and he wasn't successful, but, anyway, after [it] healed and they got it closed up and they gave me therapy and I was able to get around and, by that time, actually, the war in Europe and the war in Japan was over. So, I was discharged from there.
SH: When were you sent from England back to the United States?
RL: Right after … President Roosevelt died, because I remember being in the hospital in England when President Roosevelt died, and they flew the flags at the hospital at half-mast. I remember that.
SH: How did the men around you react to Roosevelt's death?
RL: Oh, it was sad. … I think the majority of the troops took that hard. …
SH: What did they think of Truman?
RL: I don't know that they knew too much about Truman. … I really don't, and, actually, a lot of them were concerned, because they knew that there was a good chance they would be going over to the Pacific to fight, and, naturally, nobody looked forward to that. So, when the atomic bomb was dropped, oh, that was great.
SH: To back up, when your unit was attached to the French First Army, did you have any interaction with the French soldiers?
RL: Well, like I say, you've seen them. … You'd be marching along the road and maybe they would come up in a tank, had no helmets on and whooping it up, like, "Hey, we're at a big party," and maybe they were, maybe they had enough cognac to have a big party, [laughter] I don't know, but I thought, "Jeez, this is a … little more serious than what they … might have led you to believe."
SH: Did they lack discipline or leadership? Was it something other than the cognac?
RL: Well, I guess it could have been, maybe that their leadership wasn't that great. Maybe that's their way of life, I don't know. It's amazing, in that situation. … I've told you, I've been back a few times since … that time, and those people were right close to the German border and, at one time, I remember, one guy told me he went to visit one of the buildings where he had been in the war and they didn't want him in for a while. He found out later that they took all of Hitler's pictures down before they let him go in that building again and, I think, in that area, there were a lot of German sympathizers, rather than real, true French people there.
SH: Did you conduct any operations in conjunction with them? You mentioned that you were under their command, but your officers were still Americans.
RL: … Yes, our group, … we were more or less doing our fighting. We weren't side by side.
SH: You did not have to stand guard with them.
SH: Basically, you were separate but with them.
RL: Yes, we were … under their command.
SH: When you were involved in the fighting in the Colmar Pocket, did you know it by that name then?
RL: Yes, we knew that. We were in the Colmar Pocket and, supposedly, we were sent down there because that was the last German stronghold on that side of the Rhine, and the French needed help down there … to push the Germans back across the Rhine. So, that's when they sent the three American infantry divisions down there and, from what I've read, it was politics with Ike and the French, that he would assign three divisions to them, rather than taking charge down there and pushing the Germans back, like we should have done. They had to kind of cater to the French.
SH: Sometimes events are named afterwards. I just wondered what the GIs called it then.
RL: Yes, we knew we were in the Colmar Pocket and we knew that it was the last German stronghold on that side of Rhine when we went down there.
JE: Was it ever an issue that you were fighting in the Colmar Pocket, which was considered a secondary operation, instead of participating in the race to Berlin? Did that ever enter your thinking?
RL: No, I don't think so, because soon as they pushed the Germans back there, across the Rhine, naturally, I had been wounded and had been evacuated, but, as soon as they pushed them back there and had control down there, they pulled our division back and sent them … up north again to go into Germany.
JE: Did you ever think that you would have preferred to fight in Belgium rather than under the French in Colmar?
RL: Oh, no. I guess, like I say, "Hey, this is it. This is your assignment, go, get in there."
JE: You just followed your assignments.
JE: Did you ever feel that, because it was a secondary theater, you were passed over for supplies or equipment?
RL: No, I don't think so. If anybody was passed over [for] supplies, it was the Germans, [laughter] because you'd go through some of those towns, and you'd see oxen, dead oxen, and carts there that they used to carry their ammunition. They didn't have any gas to operate their trucks. You'd go down to the center of town; there are dead oxen there, with the oxen cart, … where our shells had killed them. They were just laying there.
SH: You mentioned an incident where taking some Germans prisoner almost got out of hand. Did you have any other opportunities to take prisoners? What was generally done with German POWs?
RL: Well, generally, when they would, … initially, I think we only found maybe some stragglers. We'd come through and [they would] surrender, and they would assign somebody to take them back to the company headquarters, and then, battalion or wherever, and we had, at the time, I didn't know, but … some of our boys that surrendered, too, and went as prisoners of war into Germany.
RL: Yes, we had one guy that came back to the reunion, … well, at the time, I didn't know how he got lost, but he had been a prisoner of war.
SH: He had gotten separated.
RL: Yes, yes, surrendered to them.
SH: When you were sent south to join the French, were you given any extra supplies to bring to them?
SH: I am assuming that they were already in the Colmar Pocket when you arrived.
SH: You did not travel with them.
SH: Were you able to get mail from the States? Did you have anyone writing to you?
RL: Oh, yes. You would get mail, now and then, … and you'd get packages, and some of them would be pretty well beat up by the time you got them, but they were there, yes.
SH: When you occupied a house in the field, obviously you were not there as guests, but were the occupants of the house still there or had they been evacuated?
RL: Well, that's an interesting question to me, because I always felt so sorry for those people. You would see, somehow, and I don't know how the command got [this], the word would get to a town that they were attacking this town, and you would be going down the road to attack the town, you'd see people coming out, women pushing baby carriages and broken down express wagons or something, with everything they owned right there, and then, you would get down in the town and you probably shelled and cleaned [it] out, and you'd see … maybe their house on fire or what's left, maybe four walls, maybe not even four walls, and you always thought, … you feel so sorry for those people, because you realize that they don't have anything. They didn't have anything. …
SH: So, they were basically out of there by …
RL: [They were] lucky to be alive, I guess, maybe you ought to say. Maybe they should have been grateful that they were still living. … I always had a bad feeling about that. I'd see that, "Gee, that's a shame [that] people would get hit like that."
JE: You wrote on your pre-interview survey that you were awarded the Bronze Star. What did you receive that for?
RL: I guess because I was there and did my job. … Like I say, as far as I was concerned, I was just another pebble of sand on the beach.
SH: What did the citation say?
RL: "For meritorious achievement in ground operations against the enemy."
SH: Which action was it for?
RL: Belgium, Battle of the Bulge.
JE: In general, could you share your thoughts and reactions to combat?
RL: Well, I guess, the best statement I could make to you on that particular item was that I just feel that war is hell. It's just plain hell, and having been subject to the Battle of the Bulge, where the weather conditions were absolutely horrible, with the snow, and the freezing temperatures, and everything, just made it that tougher. That was, to me, I can't think of how you could have done any fighting under any worse conditions than there were … involved in the Battle of the Bulge.
SH: How did you keep warm?
RL: That's a good question. I don't know whether we ever got warm. You've mentioned the fact that so many people had frozen feet, it was a combination, I think, of not having the proper equipment and not taking the proper care of your feet. I always had an extra pair of socks, which I kept next to my tummy, between my shirt and my tummy, and every night, I would change socks. If I was in the foxhole, … take my shoes off and kind of dry my feet, and try to get some circulation in them, and put the warm socks on. Take the damp, wet socks and put them next to my tummy, button my shirt up and my jacket, and I really feel that that probably saved my feet, my toes, and I know that everybody didn't do this. I know that for a fact. … It was amazing to get back into a hospital and see the number of men there in the hospital, because you could tell, you'd just go look down a ward and if their feet were not covered with a sheet or a blanket, you knew they had frozen feet. … There were many, many cases of that and another thing is, men got a Purple Heart for this, and I happened to be one who voices my opinion on that, because the Purple Heart is supposed to be awarded to men that were wounded in combat. These men were not wounded in combat, and I will find people that take the other side of that argument, but I voiced my opinion on that numerous times, because I think the government didn't provide some of the … men with proper equipment, and then, the men didn't take care of their own feet. That's my stand on that particular subject.
SH: Did you ever hear about self-inflicted wounds?
RL: Oh, yes, yes, and many will have done that. In fact, it's amazing, my closest friend that went into the service with me, from Audubon, was with the Yankee Division [26th Infantry Division], and he won't talk about it, but, supposedly, … he was subject to court-martial because of self-inflicted wounds. I can't say; let's say I understand why an individual would do this, because, like I said, you asked about [combat], in general. Now, that's just plain [hell], combat is plain hell, and you just want to get away from it, and, actually, I think that some of … probably the smartest soldiers you ever run across were some of the Germans that waved a white hanky and surrendered to us. When I got back in the hospital and saw the way they took care of some of these German PWs, [prisoners of war or POWs], I thought, "Good gosh, who would want to go up there and fight, and get somebody to shoot at them, when they could live like that back in the hospital?" We took such excellent care of these PWs.
SH: Was this in West Virginia?
RL: No, in England.
RL: Oh, yes, yes. … I thought they treated them like kings. [laughter]
SH: What were they doing?
RL: … Well, they were supposed to be aides and would do jobs to help out, and, no doubt, they did a good service to our hospitals and everything, helping out, but, my gosh, I would have loved to have that duty, rather than going up there and having somebody shoot at you. I thought, "Gee, whiz." Naturally, the Germans, from stories that you have read, didn't take that good [of] care of our men that were captured as PWs. No, man, some of those guys … went through hell, [did not have] any place to eat, cleanliness. That's bad.
SH: You have stated very succinctly that combat is hell. What happened to men who suffered a mental collapse?
RL: Oh, they had to go back, had to send them back.
SH: Did you see that?
RL: Oh, yes, and, you know, at the time, … especially in the Bulge, where there was a shortage of soldiers to go up there and fight. They didn't have enough, and they took guys, we had guys in our outfit, that, my gosh, when they originally went in, they went in as MPs, because they couldn't walk. They had bad feet or this or that. They were too old. I know, we had this one guy in our outfit, Pop Mayhew. … I think he might have been forty and he couldn't walk from here to the front of this building, and they put him in the infantry. … After he got up there and got a taste of it, they had to get rid of him. They shipped them back, but I think the Army, in one respect, … [if] somebody's warm, "They're warm, put them up there. We need bodies."
SH: Did anybody suffer a collapse when you were literally under fire? How did you restrain someone or protect them if they lost control?
RL: Oh, I told them I'm going to shoot them. … You received orders and, [if] you didn't want to obey or anything, my God, "Hey, … [I will] shoot you. We've got a job to do here. We can't have you rebelling and not following orders and going through with it." You'd threaten to shoot them.
SH: Have you seen any movies or read any books that depict what you went through?
RL: Well, … naturally, at this time in my life, I've had an opportunity to see [Saving] Private Ryan. At first, I wondered if I really wanted to see that film again, at the theater, but did go to see it, and I thought it was an excellent film, and I take my hat off to Tom Hanks and Spielberg for what they did for that, … to do that, you know, and I know Steve did it in due respect to his father, who'd been in World War II, and having known the family, living across the street from them in New Jersey.
SH: "I knew him back when."
RL: Yes. [laughter]
SH: Before we continue, John, do you have any other questions about combat or his experiences in Europe?
JE: Did you notice any difference between the fighting that you took part in during the Battle of the Bulge and the fighting in the Colmar Pocket?
RL: Well, I would say, number one was the weather conditions were so much different. We didn't have … all that bitter cold and snow. …
JE: You were farther south.
RL: Yes, down in Colmar. It was muddy, but nothing … anywhere near what it was like in the Battle of the Bulge. … Like I said, the conditions there were, man, I wouldn't send anybody into combat … under those conditions. Man, what is the saying? "You wouldn't do that to your dog." That's the job you had and it's amazing that we did as well as we did, really.
SH: Did you dig foxholes?
RL: Yes, foxholes, yes.
SH: Did you dig a foxhole every day or were you able to find shelter in a barn or a house or something else? What was the norm?
RL: Well, now and then, … we would be quartered in a house, but, the majority of times, when you're in the field, you started to dig a foxhole. I can remember the time, in the Bulge there, that we started to dig a foxhole and we couldn't do it. You just couldn't get down; the ground was frozen, it was hard, you couldn't do anything, and I remember, one time there, where we went down, I don't think we got down six inches, and we said, "Forget it, we can't do it." We're dead tired, and we took, an ammo bearer had a thing that went over his head and back, and we carried the .60 mm mortal shells in that, we just laid in that hole there, and the three of us got in there and laid back-to-back, took the overcoats over and covered up the best we could. Like I told you, I've seen this, dig a foxhole, … then, we get shelled and a guy gets buried, … killed then buried, right in his own foxhole. … Yes, we did a little bit of digging, though. … That was the other thing, what you were equipped with. We only could carry so much and it seemed, maybe you've run across [this], they tell you about the shovel that they had, the entrenchment … shovel, and that was the best, one of the better tools that the Army provided you. You could do something with that. You could bend it at a ninety-degree angle and use it as a pick, and then, straighten it out and use it as a shovel and that was a valuable tool. … Some people had picks, which were about useless, I would say, but those combat shovels, they were good, a good tool.
SH: Was there anything in your background in Audubon that you feel may have helped you to survive in Europe?
RL: Well, I guess, like I said, or may have said before, I always felt my father was a workaholic. He would work from before the sun came up until after the sun went down, … and he expected that in me, too, which, at the time, I always thought, "Well, I should be playing ball. This work is not for me," but I think, maybe, after you look back, maybe it was a good trait that I picked up from my father, but I don't know. Other than that, I'd say, "Well, he did a lot of good things, but there was a lot of things I sure didn't agree with." [laughter]
SH: Let us discuss your recovery in West Virginia. Were you there for the entire rehabilitation? Where else did you go?
RL: That was it. Yes, I went there and, after they performed the cross leg flap on me and did therapy, well, then, the war was over and what were they going to do with me? They were ready to get rid of me.
SH: When did you start making plans past the Army?
RL: Oh, I did that … when I was in the hospital down there, really, yes. [laughter] … It's probably interesting to note that some of these buddies that I had in Audubon there were more or less in the same boat I was. They had … the ability, but they didn't have the money to further their education. So, after the war is over, there's a chance that we were offered to further our education and I remember, well, this one guy, a real close friend of mine, he went to Dickinson College and he ended up being a school superintendent in New York, and the other guy, he went into industry. … At one time, we thought about, "Oh, we could all go to school together." Well, two of them ended up at Dickinson and, naturally, I went to Rutgers. At one time, we were going to Baldwin-Wallace in Ohio. You ever hear of that, Baldwin-Wallace? and I was going to major in math. I thought maybe I could be a math teacher. … I had enough trouble with English, let alone taking another language. So, as a result, I thought, "I'd better get out of this educational field and go into engineering, where … extra language is not a requirement." [laughter] So, that's probably one of the reasons [that] swayed me to engineering, plus the fact that the VA said that I should take a test to see what I was qualified to do. I should mention to John, that's where I went, Mine Street, where the VA had offices, before I came to Rutgers, and I took tests there, and they kind of thought that maybe I might be a little better qualified to go into engineering than I was into liberal arts. [laughter]
SH: When did you decide to go to Rutgers? What made Rutgers your choice?
RL: What made Rutgers my choice? That is a very good question. Prior to [the war], when I got out of high school, Rutgers College of Agriculture's tuition was, in those days, what you would probably call "dirt-cheap." [laughter] Would that be the right terminology? and I thought, "Man, … I'd sure like to go to school, but I can't afford this, but, if I went to the College of Agriculture," if I recall, honestly, I think the tuition was about one hundred dollars a year. … It was [no contest], compared to any other school. So, I had thought about Rutgers. … When the guy from the VA interviewed me, and I still remember, [to] this day, he said, you know, that maybe I should go to engineering, and where should I go? What school … would I want to go to? He said, "Have you considered Princeton?" [laughter] "Huh? Me, attend Princeton?" I didn't have two nickels to rub together to go Rutgers, let alone go to Princeton. I said, "Well, I don't really think that I would fit in at Princeton." So, he said, … "Well, we also have Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken." He said, "You could go there." I said, "Well, that sounds good, a good school." So, I applied to Rutgers, as well as Stevens. I was accepted at both, so, there was a decision to be made. … What really swayed my decision was the fact that, if I went to Rutgers, I could start in February. If I went to Stevens, I had to wait until May. So, I thought, "Well, I guess, maybe we better go to Rutgers." So, anyway, I thought, "I've got to get out of this work and get an education," and so, the sooner, the better. So, Rutgers offered the first opportunity, that's where I ended up at. [laughter]
SH: When did you take the exam? You said you started in February.
RL: Well, I got out in October. I got out of the service in October and, right away, the VA had contacted me, and they had me run a series of tests. I went up to that VA office on Mine Street. The VA counselor … wasn't necessarily steering me to Rutgers, but he was steering me into engineering, and then, from there, it ended up, I went to Rutgers because … I think they were on … a two-semester basis. I don't know what Stevens was, but, anyway, they were in a semester and … that wouldn't end until May, and I figured, … "The sooner, the better."
SH: Where did you work from October to February?
RL: I was back … with the tools, electrician, yes, and I felt I didn't belong there, either, because I had a bad leg and the climbing and construction and all this and that. I said, "I've got to see if I can [get out]. I've got to do better," use your head rather than your physical body, which was somewhat incapacitated. I had a disability and I don't think I found out, in construction, that a lot of the people felt that us veterans thought the world owed us a living, and who was I to say, "Hey, I can't climb up there, do that and do this." … As much as I enjoyed making money, I don't think that that was the way for me to go. Plus the fact I had thought I should be attending school before and never had the money, and here was the opportunity. "Here's the silver platter; it's right in front of you. You're going to turn your nose up?" [laughter]
SH: Where were you housed when you came to Rutgers?
RL: Oh, that was another story. I came … up to Rutgers with a suitcase, thought, "Well, I guess they have a nice dorm here to live in. Well, they'll have a nice room and sheets and all that." [laughter] I went in there, into the Registrar's office, and, oh, yes, they knew who I was, and, "Oh, you need a place to live?" "Yes." "Okay, well, here's a list of people in town that will rent you a room." "Oh, oh, that's great. Where is this? How do I get to [there]? Where is this Fulton Street?" You know where that is?
RL: You know where Fulton Street is? okay. "Oh, Fulton Street, how do I get there?" "Well, there's a bus, number dat, da-dat, da-dat. You can get on that bus and you go out … there and tell the guy to leave you off at Fulton Street, and you go up there and see Mrs. Cleland. … She's got some rooms there." "Oh, okay." I turn around and I look in the Registrar's office there, here's another kid who went to high school with me. He ended up being athletic director at Audubon. I don't know whether you ever heard of him, John Kling. He was a basketball coach.
RL: Well, anyway, John Kling, "Hey, John, what are you doing?" He's in the same boat. Hey, great, John's got a car. I don't have a car. "Hey, this is great. Let's go out here to Fulton Street." [laughter] So, out we go, and Mrs. Cleland, her son graduated in the Class of '27, and her husband was retired, a lovely older couple, lovely, couldn't ask for better parents, really, [laughter] and so, we went out there, and we looked at this room, and, oh, man, I guess we'd be all right. Bed's up against the wall on one side and the one where we were going to have to crawl over the other one to get in bed, but, anyway, "Oh, yes, man, well, we've got a place to lay our head down, anyhow. How we going to study here?" He's a phys ed major. [laughter] You know how hard they study? [laughter] and so, … John and I, well, it worked out well, but he would clear out and he'd go out with his buddies and I would study, and then, fortunately, there was another [guy], this fellow died, so, I don't imagine you interviewed him, Loper, Bri Loper. His wife, she was a secretary in, I think, the Zoology Department, but, anyway, they also rented out a room off this lady, because there was a shortage for the married people. They moved out when Rutgers University built some kind of barracks facility out … somewhere on, what do you call that?
SH: Busch Campus, now.
RL: Yes, that's it. Well, anyway, they moved out there.
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RL: Oh, yes, well, here we were, in this room on Fulton Street, … John Kling and I, and we managed well together. I don't know how we did that. … I guess the number one reason was that John had a car, and so, I had some transportation, and, plus, the fact [that], on weekends, I could go home on weekends, but that worked out well. … It wasn't too long until I had to get some transportation, too, because we were out there, and our classes didn't mesh, and that bus ride out there, that wasn't the greatest, and … all the study facilities, and so, at that time, I think after about two years, I think, I joined Theta Chi, and I got to know some of the brothers there, and they all didn't live in that house. We had quite a project rebuilding that house and turned it into a fraternity house. Professor Kliensmith was an engineering professor; he had lived there once. Professor Kliensmith sold that house to Theta Chi, and then, there was a lot of labor involved by the brothers to remodel that or try to remodel, make it livable and separate rooms, and I hooked up with another one of the brothers, who was an engineer, and we lived up, oh, I don't know, on the other side of town someplace. By that time, I had a car, though, and it didn't make much difference, and then, … I think I finally, the last year or so, lived right across the street with the Fentons, … Mr. and Mrs. Fenton, they also rented rooms to students. … They must have had six or eight students there, in their house. … So, I never did live in the fraternity house, but I didn't think that would really [be] the place for an engineer, … although we had them living in the house, but study conditions weren't the best.
SH: What was it like, as a veteran, going to school with young men who were eighteen and nineteen coming into school, just out of high school?
RL: That's a very interesting question, because many of the students, … the younger ones, came out of high school. I think, … maybe, we were a bad influence on them, right?
SH: No, you tell me. [laughter]
RL: … As you look back, you might say we might have been a bad influence on some of them, because … [of] what we had been through, and some of us drank more than we should, which I understand is a big problem up there now, but … we'd party it up, and some of these young kids, they just couldn't handle their booze, and I would say there were pluses and minuses to it, and I'd say, probably, the minuses overtook the pluses, what they gained from us towards their livelihood. Did you have any other [questions]?
SH: How do you think the veterans influenced the younger men positively?
RL: I think it probably matured them more. I really, really do. … I remember one young fellow we had in the fraternity there, who had came to Rutgers, joined the fraternity right out of high school, and he got on the wrong track, and I'd say, maybe, booze was part of the problem, intelligent kid, and he quit Rutgers after a year, because he wasn't doing good and went in the Navy. He came out of the Navy, came back, was a star pupil in the fraternity, got his PhD from MIT in chemical engineering and was very successful in private life, in business, and I thought, "Well, … he'd probably learned a lot from us." I used to bring him back and forth, because I had a car and he didn't, … a good kid, smart. … We used to wonder, "What will ever happen to that boy? Look, man, he's on the wrong track. He's never going to amount to anything," you know, and next thing you know, he's a vice-president at Owens-Illinois. [laughter]
SH: How did the professors deal with this mixed student body? Did they treat anyone differently?
RL: I don't think so. I think that the professors varied, in my opinion. Quite a few of the professors, I think, were outstanding and others, well, I don't know, maybe they were fine in their way, too.
SH: Who was your favorite professor?
RL: Dr. Stet, in charge of [the] metallurgical lab there. In fact, I think he just retired. I was up there, say, … '99, I guess, and they said he was about ready to retire then, and the amazing thing was, my son, who graduated from high school here in Delaware, that one of his classmates now is dean of the College of Engineering, and I thought, "Holy smokes, that's amazing, the dean of the College of Engineering," and I think, maybe, my son, if he had been so inclined to do that, he would have.
SH: Which type of engineering did you major in?
RL: Yes, and I guess that was my field, because I ended up in the oil/petroleum refining business and I retired as mechanical superintendent here at the Texaco Refinery in Delaware, in charge of all the maintenance.
SH: Where did you meet Mrs. Logan?
RL: [laughter] Oh, that's an interesting question, working for my cousin, who was an electrical contractor, and her brother was working there and her cousin, three against one, [laughter] my cousin, her cousin and her brother. …
SH: What year was this?
RL: '49, … yes. She was teaching school in Dover and I still had a year to go at Rutgers. We made it and, now, we've only been married fifty-two years and she still puts up with me.
SH: You mentioned that you have a son. Do you have other children?
RL: No, one son we have, yes. He graduated from Davidson.
SH: How do you think your experiences in World War II made you the man we interviewed today?
RL: Well, I think it probably matured me more than anything. … I would say maybe you have a better feeling for facing the problems in life, by what you went through. Like I mentioned to you, how I felt about these people over there in Europe, you see them coming out of the town, you know, with all their possessions, everything that they ever owned, that they had left an old, broken-down wagon, or baby coach, or whatever, and then, after we bombed the place and, see, they go back, and some of them see the place burned out. … You kind of felt sorry for the people. Who gains from war? That's why I'm so much against George W. [Bush] right now, because, hey, what are we going to gain by going to war here? [Editor's Note: Mr. Logan is referring to the tensions leading up to the 2003 War in Iraq.] I can see his point. Maybe he knows more than we do about … Saddam. I would hope so, but, to me, there must be, always, a way around the problem beside war. … "Can't we sit down and let's talk about this?"
SH: For the record, you have been involved in many veterans' organizations. Can you tell us about that?
RL: Well, when I first came out, I joined the Disabled American Veterans, and … I've been in the 75th Division [Association]. It's amazing, like I told you, my father was very involved in the American Legion, because that was the veterans organization in our hometown, you know, and I never did understand why he never encouraged me to join the American Legion, where some of his fellow veterans from World War I were in the American Legion and told me how much the American Legion did for the veterans, by getting the GI Bill, and all this and that and the other thing, you know, but my father never encouraged me to join the Legion, but I went out and joined the Disabled American Veterans, and then, afterwards, I went to a meeting, I guess, of the division and … hooked up with the Military Order of the Purple Heart, and, when they started the chapter here in Delaware, I … attended the first meeting and got involved in it, and, I guess, maybe because it was new and the fact that those men, … you know, you felt closer to them, because … many of them had been in combat and had been wounded, and so, I [have] become active in the Military Order of the Purple Heart, here in Delaware. … I'm not as active as I should be, because, naturally, being a snowbird, I'm not here year-round, either. … I really feel that, I told you about my feeling on medals, and all this and that, and even the Purple Heart. … I'm usually, unfortunately, one of those that will get on the soapbox and tell you my thoughts and what my feelings are, and you recall, just recently, over there in Saudi Arabia, … some of those terrorists bombed one of the barracks, [Khobar Towers] and quite a few people got killed and wounded, the … men and women that were in service over there. … Incidentally, I went down here to Dover when they were awarded the Purple Heart. Now, I wasn't in total agreement with this, because, even though these people were in the service of their country, they were not in combat. These terrorists bombed them and it's up to the political forces in this country to determine who is awarded the Purple Heart and, incidentally, the first commander … we had of the first chapter in Delaware was a woman who got the Purple Heart in Desert Storm. There were numerous nurses who did "above and beyond;" many of them got killed when they shelled the hospitals there.
SH: Do you have any other questions, John?
RL: Sure? I took enough of your time here, anyhow.
JE: This concludes the interview with Mr. Ralph E. Logan, October 11, 2002. We would like to thank you for your time, Mr. Logan.
RL: Thank you, it's been my pleasure.
----------------------------------------------END OF INTERVIEW------------------------------------------
Reviewed by Shaun Illingworth 6/10/04
Reviewed by Sandra Stewart Holyoak 6/13/04
Reviewed by Ralph Logan 6/25/04