Kaetlynn Dickstein: This begins an interview with Anthony Machuzak on November 20th, 2009, in Hillsborough, New Jersey, with Katelynn Dickstein and Sandra Stewart Holyoak.
Gwen Prowse: Gwen Prowse.
Jeannette Machuzak: Jeannette Machuzak.
Sandra Stewart Holyoak: Thank you so much for having us here and agreeing to do this oral history.
KD: To begin, could you tell me where you were born?
Anthony Machuzak: Perth Amboy, New Jersey.
KD: When you were born?
AM: January 14th, 1920.
KD: What were your parents' names?
AM: My father's the same name, Anthony. My mother's named Frances.
KD: Starting with your father, can you tell me a little bit about his side of the family?
AM: They came from Europe when they were in their teens, seventeen, eighteen years old. They never talked much about it. All I know is they came from a town called Sanok, which was on the border of Poland and I think Austria, somewhere around there. My mother came first. My mother met my father in Perth Amboy. That's how they met and later on got married. She came over, worked as a maid for some wealthy French industrialist. In fact, they wanted to adopt her she was so good. [laughter] My father, he worked some kind of [job] where they made copper wires or something. He never did talk much about that. I'm not really up on their history, you know, family history.
SH: Did any of their brothers and sisters come to this country?
AM: One did come, a younger brother, and he passed away not too long later.
SH: Of your mother or your father?
AM: Father's side. Now, my mother had two sisters, and they came over after the war, after the First World War was over, because they were stuck there. They couldn't get out. My mother came before World War I, so they sent for them and they brought them over. One lived here, and she passed away at 103. The other one used to live in Brooklyn, and they moved to Long Island. She passed away there. I don't remember how [old] (Tessie?) [was], how old she was, but, boy, she was a character. [laughter] Man, she loved a good fight.
SH: Did she really?
AM: Oh, yes. If she couldn't start an argument, she started one with two other guys. She was something.
JM: She was so different from his mother.
AM: Oh, yes. My mother, she had ten children.
SH: Your mother?
AM: Yes, we had thirteen, right. Three died when they were infants. Two I know I took care when they passed away, because my mother depended on me. I was one of the oldest, next to the oldest. My oldest brother lost his hearing from scarlet fever. My mother depended on me a lot, so I would take care of the little ones. I'd feed them and change their diapers. I told my sister one time when she was growing up, and I'd come out of the service. [My sister was] going out with some guy, and I said, "I don't like him. I don't trust him." She'd started arguing with me, and I said, "Now, listen, don't argue with me. You don't remember it, but I used to change your diapers when you were a baby." That shut her up. [laughter]
SH: What languages did your mother speak?
AM: My mother spoke Polish and my father Ukrainian, although they spoke both. They were able to converse in Polish and Ukrainian.
SH: Where was your father from? When did he immigrate?
AM: Believe it or not, not too far away from where my mother was living in Poland, but he lived on the border of Ukraine and Poland. The borders used to change so much during the wars, back and forth, so the one who won the war took a chunk of the other's territory, and then, you were on theirs. You could never get it straight. Anyhow, that's the history of them.
SH: What was your mother's maiden name?
AM: Bak, B-A-K. I said, "Why couldn't Pop have a short name like that?" [laughter]
JM: What was her first name again?
AM: Frances Bak. My mother learned to speak English with these people that she worked for as a maid, and the woman liked her so much she used to teach her English, teach her how to cook. That's why people were amazed that my mother knew a lot about modern ways of cooking, different dishes that most Polish women didn't even hear about. "Where did you learn all this stuff?" "Well, I had a good teacher." They used to take her with them on vacations down the shore and every place. I said, "Mom, you had a good thing going, and then, you go and got married," and I said, "and had thirteen kids." [laughter] Like I say, I was one of the [oldest]. She depended on me for everything and with the children, and then, later on when my father became [sick]. He worked in Pennsylvania in the coal mines.
SH: That is why you moved out of Perth Amboy.
AM: No, it's because my oldest brother Mike, who was deaf later on, was a sickly baby, and the doctor said, "Get out of the city," because in those days, my mom said that [in] Perth Amboy, the air was polluted because everyone burned soft coal. The factories burned soft coal. People burned soft coal. She said it was like a cloud over the city. He told her, "Get out of the city to where the air is clean and he'll live because otherwise he'll die over here." He couldn't breathe very good. They came to Pennsylvania. Then, Mike and I, my mother lied about my age about going to school, I went to school at five years of age. At that time, you had to be six, but she wanted me and Mike together, see, because he was beginning to lose his hearing little by little. Mike, later on, I think he was in fourth or fifth grade, when my mother finally discovered that every time he was called or to do something, he never paid attention, and she told me what she did. She had him go in the next room, and [she would] call him. He wouldn't come, and then, she had to go closer and closer. Finally, she realized [he could not hear]. She took him to a doctor, and he said, "Yes, his ear drums were deteriorated from scarlet fever." After that, it was Tony this, Tony that.
JM: It's still Tony this, Tony that. [laughter]
AM: Even after we were married, I remember every time they needed something, I'd have to say, "Jeannette, I've got to go down and give them a hand," or do something or fix something. I learned to do all types of trades, whether it was plumbing or electrical.
GP: Even today.
AM: Yes, even today, at my age, jeez. [laughter] I always said, "Well, when I get old, who's going to help me?" I'm old, and I'm still helping others.
SI: Let us go back and talk about your father. Did any of your father's family come over to this country, or were some already here?
AM: The younger brother that died, he came here, but he died. My father never talked much about him, how he died, but I think he was an alcoholic. He drank and drank, and in those days, you didn't have good liquor like they have today. The government, they check everything out, alcohol and all that. In those days, heck, they would even drink, what you call it, anti-freeze with one hundred percent alcohol you put in there. They were telling me stories about some of these guys that were alcoholics, and they needed a drink. They didn't have money, so they'd drink some of it out of the car. It didn't take long before they were buried, too.
SH: I can only imagine.
KD: You were a young child and had a lot of siblings, like you said, that you took care of. How did the Great Depression affect your family?
AM: I don't even like to talk about the Great Depression. It was bad, very bad. In fact, my mother had me go to high school where they bought a farm in Pennsylvania. When the depression came, the mines closed, and they had money saved up and bought a farm. Well, the farm wasn't at that time producing. The previous owner neglected it a lot, and it wasn't producing enough to make a living. We had to scrimp and work out in the fields. Then, I walked [to school]. This high school was four miles from the farm. It had no bus service. My father couldn't drive, and I often told him, "Why didn't you learn to drive and buy a car?" [Editor's Note: The economic downturn known as the Great Depression began after the stock market crash of 1929. Industrial production fell by half. By 1932, there were over thirteen million unemployed Americans. The effects of the depression were felt by many Americans until mobilization during World War II stimulated economic growth and created jobs.]
SH: Where in Pennsylvania was the coal mine, and where was the farm?
AM: The coal mine was in a little town called Mary D. It was near, I don't know if you're familiar with towns in Pennsylvania, it was between Tamaqua and Pottsville. [Editor's Note: Mary D in Schuylkill County was named for Mary Delores Dodson, the wife of a local coal mine owner. During the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the regional economy of northeastern Pennsylvania centered on the mining of anthracite coal, a natural hard coal used as fuel. Pennsylvania's anthracite coal region extends from the Northern Field near Scranton and Wilkes-Barre to the Southern Field, where the towns of Mary D, Tamaqua and Pottsville are located. After World War I, the coal industry began to decline as Americans discovered other sources of fuel, such as oil and gas.]
AM: Do you know that area? You came from there?
SH: No, no, but I have done an oral history out in Tamaqua.
AM: You did?
AM: Then, they bought the farm in Pine Grove, Pennsylvania. Pine Grove, if you were going from Pottsville towards Indiantown Gap Military Reservation, well, it was about, I'd say, halfway. Most of the people there were Pennsylvania Dutch. I even learned some of the Deutsch language. [Editor's Note: Pennsylvania Dutch refers to the inhabitants of eastern Pennsylvania who emigrated from Germany in the eighteenth century. The language Pennsylvania Dutch is a dialect of Deutsch, the German language.]
SH: Did you really?
AM: Then, in high school, I had two years of German. When I was drafted in the service and was overseas in Europe, first in Africa, Tunisia and Algeria, and I picked up French over there a lot, because being under French rule, they spoke French. I won't tell you who taught me how to speak French.
SH: You were talking about Pine Grove and the farm.
AM: It was pretty bad. Money was scarce. At one point, my mother says, "I don't know how you're going to finish school, because we haven't got money to buy your shoes. They're getting worn out, and you can't walk four miles, especially in the winter, when there's snow." When I went to school at the time, I told the teacher. She was a very pleasant woman, nice, and she taught English. I told her, "I'm going to have to quit." She says, "Why?" I said, "Take a look at my shoes, and I'm walking four miles a day, back and forth." She says, "Come on with me." We went up to see the principal, told him the story. He writes a note, "Go downtown and go to that shoe store." There's one shoe store in town run by an elderly Jewish guy. He's the only Jew in town. They're all Pennsylvania Dutch here. I gave him the note from the principal. He looked at it. He said, "I'll get you a good pair of shoes, last you a long time," and that's how I finished high school. Well, later on, when I was sixteen, things were picking up in the farm. My father bought an old jalopy, so I learned to drive it. I found in the glove compartment the manual, and it says how to drive the stick shift. I had the car by the house. Do you know how to move the stick shift? A little bit, I'd go forward, and then, a little bit backward, then a little more and more. Finally, I got enough nerve to go down onto the road, and the dirt road [had] ruts. I'd go up and down, and that's how I learned to drive. I went to school. Then, I started driving to school. I remember one time we had a school guard, well, he's like the only policeman in town. He couldn't even read. I had a friend in school who took me to get a permit, so I had a permit. Going around the corner, I almost ran over his feet. He wouldn't get out of the way. [laughter] "Stop." I said, "Okay." I stopped. "Where's your license?" I took out my permit. I show it to him." "Okay, go." [laughter]
SH: It looked official.
AM: Then, my brother Johnny, he went and started high school, and so we both finished high school over there. After high school, it was hard getting a job. I joined the National Guard there to get a few dollars. Later on, I went to Jersey and got a job, and that's where I stayed.
SH: When you joined the National Guard to get a bit of money, it was in 1938.
AM: Around there, yes.
SH: Where were you assigned, and what were your duties then?
AM: This guard was called a quartermaster company, because we had all vehicles, trucks, when we went on maneuvers, like in Manassas, Virginia one year, then we were down in Indiantown Gap, we would carry soldiers from the other guards and supplies and stuff like that, and that was our duties. In case of disasters like flooding and all that, we were called upon to help the people out, which was great. I enjoyed it.
SH: Was there a disaster that you were called as part of the National Guard?
AM: I missed it by one year. The year before Harrisburg, Pennsylvania was flooded, including the courthouse. Did you ever hear of that? [Editor's Note: On March 18-20, 1936, Harrisburg and other cities in Pennsylvania experienced severe flooding. The Flood of 1936 has become known as the St. Patrick's Day floods. (Deb Kiner, "The St. Patrick's Day floods of 1936," from PennLive)]
SH: No, but I know where the river is and where the courthouse is.
AM: Yes, Susquehanna River, sure. They said it was up so high. At that time, the Guard's duty were [if there was] a looter, shoot him. If you shoot one looter, you're guaranteed the rest aren't going to loot. So, that was our instructions in case of a disaster and you find people going looting other people's homes. You've got a gun, shoot them.
SI: To go back to your family, how many years apart are the children? Are they close?
AM: Mostly two years.
SH: Mostly two.
AM: Yes. Johnny was two years younger. Mike was two years older.
SH: Did Mike finish school? Was he able to finish?
AM: No, my father needed him on the farm, and so he quit. He went to the eighth grade. When he finished the eighth grade, then my father says, "I need help here." He kept him there, and like I say, my mother babied him. Naturally, she would, because she felt sorry for him in a lot of ways.
SH: What was your favorite chore?
AM: Mine? Name them, anything.
SH: Milk the cow.
AM: Milk the cow and everything, help to butcher, butcher hogs.
AM: I used to see this big buck coming out of the next field over. We had the woods up above us. There were the mountains there. When the sun went down, the buck would come out, and he fed on the clover, corn. I said, "Boy, he's getting fat. I've got to get him, but I can't wait until hunting season." I waited I think a week or two before hunting season, and I grabbed a shotgun. We used to have what they called pumpkin ball, one-ounce ball. I ran up the field halfway, and then, I looked up. I said, "Oh, he's there." He didn't see me. Then, I went on my hands and knees up to where there's a little embankment going between the two farms, and I got to the end, where the wood started. I looked because the other farmer's field is a little further, and he was grazing there. I stick my head up and doggone it if he didn't spot me, too. I said, "Ah, jeez, that's it." I put my head down. I said, "Well, I guess he'll be gone now." I went and looked to see if he's there, put my head up, he's looking down at me. [laughter] See, the wind was in the right direction. He didn't smell me, and he was curious of what's that on the ground, because a man, if you were walking, he'd have took off. I just pointed the gun at him. Wham, down he went.
SH: No kidding.
AM: I ran home, "Hey, Pop, I shot a deer." "Ah, get out of here." My father wouldn't shoot a deer or anything. Johnny was there, the other brother, and Mike, and he [my father] said, "Don't tell the kids." [I thought], "I'll just tell Mike and John," so I told them. Johnny said, "Let me see. I'll let you know, Pop, if he did." We ran up there, and I showed him the deer. He runs back again, "He did, Pop. He shot it," all excited. [laughter] We got a wheelbarrow and put him on the wheelbarrow and brought him down into the basement, so nobody would see it. The three of us dressed him there, and my father took the hide and he buried it. He was scared; he thought if the game warden ever saw it. It was dark already, so he didn't bother us. Boy, we had meat for the rest of the winter. He was big. I think three tubs full we had of meat. Everybody got fat. [laughter]
SH: How did you cure your meat back then?
AM: Smoke. My father made a little smoke shanty. Then, he dug a little trench from underneath the shanty, and at the end of the trench, we would burn wood, mostly dead apple trees. They'd give a nice flavor. We'd start a fire there, and that smoke would go swirling up into the smokehouse and smoked sausage, hams and everything in there.
SH: Your mom and dad knew how to do all of this.
AM: Oh, yes. We had one neighbor, he was great. When butchering time came, he'd show us how to do it and how to dress the hog. He'd bring all his utensils and everything, and the fat, they'd get tubs to put them in. We'd get to scrape, with hot water you put on it. We used to like it. Boy, they'd make scrapple, sausage and all that. From one pig, you had enough food for a couple of months. Those were some of the good times, but most of the time, like I say, in the beginning, it was rough.
SH: Did the Pennsylvania Dutch children go to the same school that you went to?
AM: Yes. When we went on to the farm, I was still in the eighth grade, and we went, I think it was in October of that year. The children, believe it or not, from the Pennsylvania Dutch families, when they started school in that one room schoolhouse, they couldn't speak English because they all spoke Dutch. You'd go to town, everybody was speaking Dutch. We used to have some arguments too between, "Hey, what are you? What are you?" I said, "We're not Dutch, that's for sure, not with our name." [laughter] Otherwise, we got along. In high school, I never had any problems with the others. I made friends wherever I'd go, even in Europe. I'll tell you that later, how to make friends in Europe during the war and in Africa and Algeria and Tunisia with the Arabs. Oh, I made a lot of friends with the Arabs. I learned things from them that French intelligence never knew what was going on. They told me they were going to have an uprising five years after the war ends, because they wanted to get their independence. In fact, they invited me to this, one [man], he was a middle-class Arab, he had a nice little home there, and he invited me there and another GI that I met there who came from Brooklyn of Arabic descent. He spoke Arabic a little bit. He was a translator. The two of us went there, and it had a big long table, where you sat on the floor, and you had all these different dishes, a big bowl of couscous. The big thing about that [was] you ate with your hands. Then, we got to talking there, I had a pack of cigarettes. I passed it around, and, God, you'd think they were in heaven. They'd die for American cigarettes. Then, they opened up, and we start talking. They were telling me about what's going on behind the scenes, how they were stealing arms from the depots, arm depots that were left behind when the Germans were retreating. When he told me this story, he says, "In five years, we will have collected enough arms, trained enough men, and we're going to fight the French." I'm looking at him. I thought, "They're telling me this." In five years, I can spoil their whole [plan] if I report it, but they trusted me. I never said a word until one time, after the war was over, and I got a job working in a plant [that was] a little lab where you test quality control. At lunchtime, I'm reading the newspaper, "Civil unrest in Algeria and Tunisia. Uprising by the Arabs." I told the guys, "You see this headline here?" I said, "I knew that back in 1943 what was going to happen." "You did?" I said, "Yes, they told me all about what they were going to do," and I said, "That's just what's happening there." [Editor's Note: Algeria became a French colony in 1830. In 1954, Algerian freedom fighters of the National Liberation Front (FLN) sparked an uprising that lasted until France recognized Algerian independence on July 5, 1962.]
AM: I said, "It's amazing what a pack of cigarettes will do." [laughter]
SH: To go back then to the farm.
AM: Pine Grove, you know, like a pine tree.
SH: You were still able to go to school and graduate, and then, you go into the military for the two years.
AM: The National Guard.
SH: Did you think of staying in the National Guard? Did you think of staying in? Were you in the Reserves at all?
AM: No, I quit after the second year, because I went to New Jersey to look for a job because there was nothing there in Pine Grove. These little towns had no work, and everyone that graduates from high school leaves. They go either, the ones that parents can afford to send them to college, they go to college, [and] the others just go to the bigger cities, Harrisburg, Lebanon, Reading, you know, those places looking for work. I had an uncle in New Jersey. He told me, he wrote and said, "Why don't you come up? Maybe you can find a job up here." That's how I got started out up there.
SH: Where did you go in New Jersey? Where did he live?
AM: Roselle. Was it Roselle Park or Roselle? I always get those two mixed up. One is Roselle; across the street is Roselle Park.
SH: I wanted to ask you, before we talk about Roselle and your work there, when you were in Pennsylvania Dutch country, what church did you attend?
AM: We went to, until I got my jalopy, we didn't go to church. My mother, we're Catholics, and when we were living in Mary D, we went to Catholic Church. When we went to learn for First Holy Communion, you'd get a prayer book, and it tells you about the mass and everything. All that time, until I was sixteen and was able to drive, we never went to church, but [on] Sunday morning, Johnny and I, both of us, our job was milk the cows, put them out in pasture, and while we're watching them, because we didn't have them fenced in, watching them, we'd read the prayer book. She said, "You read the book," and so that's how we learned about Catholic religion until we got that old car. It's an old Studebaker, built like a tank. I hit a car one time, knocked it against the bank, and none of us got damaged. If you got a dent, you use a sledgehammer. I mean it.
SH: You said after you got the car, you could go to church.
AM: Church was, I guess, nine miles away. It's four miles to Pine Grove and about five miles to the other town where the Catholic Church was, and then, I used to take my mother and I. My father, being Ukrainian, he went to the Ukrainian church. The Ukrainian church was twenty miles away, so Pop only went there on Christmas and Easter. [laughter]
SH: Because it is a little different, the calendar, right?
AM: Yes, yes. What did we do now? In the meantime, my father, you know, in those days, back in the depression, when the mines closed, guys who worked in the mines would go and start their own little mining [operation]. [Editor's Note: Mr. Machuzak is describing the bootleg coal industry in Pennsylvania's anthracite coal region during the Great Depression of the 1930s.]
AM: Say, for instance, now, when the miners are digging down below in what they call robbing the veins that go straight up, and when they get most of the coal out, usually the surface would cave in and you'd have a coal hole there. Now, it was in sections. The center section, the miners kept solid to keep the roof up, and then, they'd take another. So, if there's a cave-in here and a cave-in here, you dug between them and you're getting at coal. Usually, you hit coal within ten feet, not even that. My father, being a first-class miner in the mines, he was making good money. In fact, we lived pretty good in those days. There was another farmer. He was, I think, also Ukrainian. He heard about my father, that he had worked in the mines. He started this coal hole with another person, and the other person quit. He asked my father if he'd go along with him. He said sure. Then, they start digging. They made a ramp going up and a buggy with no wheels, just slides on the two-by-four, you grease it, you know. You've got a cable and you've got a wheel up top and it goes down and you've got on the rear wheel of your car a drum attached to it, so that was my job then. I got my jalopy, put the drum on the wheel, tied the cable to it. Then, I'd stand at the top of the hole. It was going down, and it wasn't going straight down, the vein was going at an angle, and they'd yell, "Okay, pull it up." I'd pull it up, get it all the way up there. It had a little gate in the back, open it up, and let it all dump on the ground. Then, when we'd get enough there, these truckers would come and pick up coal, because they would maybe give you half what they'd get when they'd resell it. The truckers would come, and then, when we had a big pile there, I remember I said, "How many tons do you take on that truck?" He said, "Four tons." "Okay." He doesn't do the shoveling. I shovel four tons of coal while I'm pulling up, filling that truck up. When we got paid for it, you know, boy, that was pretty good money. So, this went on until this fellow who was working with us who had the coal hole, he got a little bit greedy. Now, my father was a good miner, and he knew how to shore up the tunnel. This guy, he was picking coal around what they call a header, the post that goes up. He was digging around it, and it weakened it. This was pretty close to the surface, too. Down it came, and the buggy was right next to where he was digging. The post fell over on the buggy, knocked him down. He was laying alongside of it. All the other dirt came down. My father is down below digging. I said, "Pop, get up here fast," so he comes running up. Just as he got opposite where the cave in is, the dirt caught him around the legs. He couldn't pull up. The opening up ahead where the stuff was coming down, the rocks and everything and dirt, I see this big boulder coming, sliding down towards him. No, I didn't think twice. I run up on that edge, prop my feet up on the ceiling there, and held my back against that boulder. The other men came running over, threw a rope down to my father, and he tied it. As they were pulling, I said, "Hurry up, Pop, push the dirt away." He pushed the dirt away, and they finally got him out. I zipped away from that boulder just as it went down. In the meantime, this poor guy was still alive, and he was yelling and yelling. My father told him, he said, "Keep quiet because you're going to use up all the oxygen down there." He didn't. He kept it up, and after about an hour or so, two hours, we heard him moaning a little, and then, that was the end. They pull him out. Quite a few people, men came over there. They came with, you know, pulls and everything, shoring it up, digging him [out] little by little, first up this head, then down. He was going with some widow in St. Clair. You ever hear of St. Clair? She bought him a new pair of boots. Big deal. He was giving her most of the money; she bought him a pair of new boots. Do you know they couldn't pull his feet out of his boots? I was there watching. They had the rope tied around him, and they're pulling. When they got down to the boots, they said, "Pull," and he should be able to pull his feet out from the boots because, you know, the boots they wear are roomy. They couldn't. They had to dig all around the boots when they got him out. The worst part, which I thought was a rotten thing to do, this woman's son had come down there to get the money, figuring that we sold some more coal, you know, and then, this fellow would give him money to give to his mother. When he saw what happened, [he left]. They had the ambulance there. Somebody says, "Who's going to take the body? Who knows this fellow?" This kid, young fellow, wouldn't say a word. He just turned around and took off. Then, he was just buried in a potter's field, I guess. I said, "That's it, Pop. No more for me. I'm heading to Jersey." [laughter]
SH: What a story.
AM: Like I say, the depression days I don't like to talk about. My father later on decided to divide up the farm among the kids. He said, "What section do you want?" I said, "I don't want any." He said, "But you did all the work. You put a roof on the house. You painted it. You did all this work. You overhauled the tractor." I said, "Pop, I did it for you and Mom." I said, "I don't want a cent." I said, "But if you insist on it." Now, the house was set up a little above the road to where it was down, and the two fields on each side were three acres each. I said, "Either that three acres there or the other three acres." "Why? That's not much." I said, "For me, it is. It would be." "Why?" I said, "Because where we live in Cranford, we've been getting flooded out all the time and I will never build or buy a house on a flat land," because the rest of the fields were flat. I used to remember heavy rains and water would come rushing down the mountain, but being the house is up higher and the field was higher. He said, "Well, let me talk about it." About a month later, I go back down, and he says, "Well, we divided it up. You get the seven acres down there in the field." I said, "I don't want the seven acres. I wanted the three acres." Well, we gave that to my sister. [Her] husband, he was a shrewd guy. He knew the value of the land. The one on the hill is where everybody was building or buying property and building homes there, you know. I said, "I don't care if you gave me ten acres, Pop, I don't want it. It's flat. I don't want no more water to come rushing at me." I said, "But give it to somebody else." One of the youngest brothers, he was in the Marines, and he had hurt himself while he was still in the States. He had done something to his spine and he was getting terrific headaches, so he was out on disability. He had money, you know, and all that. He said, "I'm going to do some farming." I said, "Okay, do you want to buy that property, that seven acres?" He said, "Yes, I'll buy it from you." I said, "You can have it for a dollar." "Oh, no, no, I figure it's worth a little more than that." I said, "Well, whatever you say." He took it over, and so that was the end of my ties with the farm. Somebody told me later on, "Why?" I said, "Because what I went through during the depression and on that farm, I don't want no part of it." Anyhow, that was the end of farming. Of course, my daughters Patti and Toni, when they were teenagers, I told them, "Are you girls interested in property down there?" They said, "No, we don't like it down there." They said, "It's nice to go and visit, but I wouldn't want to live there [and] go to an outhouse." [laughter] Later on, I put in a bathroom and I put in running water and, you know, a well. They had electricity coming through there. They paved the roads when [President Harry] Truman got in. Remember, he said, "I want every farm road paved. Every farmhouse in the country, I want electricity going through it." I say the best president we ever had was Truman, and how can I forget our one who gave us social security? [Editor's Note: The government spearheaded many rural modernization projects during the presidencies of Franklin D. Roosevelt (1933-1945) and Harry Truman (1945-1953). Congress passed the Social Security Act (1935) and Rural Electrification Act (1936), which was amended in 1949 to spread telephone communications to rural areas. Although credit for building the Interstate Highway System frequently goes to President Dwight D. Eisenhower, the federal government designated the highways in 1947 when Truman was president, and Truman signed into law the Federal Aid Highway Act in 1952. This authorized funds for two years during Eisenhower's presidency to construct the interstate system.]
SH: Franklin Roosevelt.
AM: Franklin Roosevelt. The rest of them ain't worth squat.
SH: You did all this modernization to the farm when your parents were still there then or later.
AM: See, when I started working, I was always interested in working with my hands, making things, and I still am. Gwen, you ought to know, I built you when you were little your rocking cradle, her Jae, the rocking horse, you know, all that stuff. I built a lot of things too for everybody and the same thing in the trades. We're in the shop, and I got into maintenance. I used to be [in] quality control, but I don't care for paperwork. God, I hate it.
SH: What did you do in Roselle? What was your job? Who did you work for there?
AM: When I left the plant there, where I worked in quality control, I went to Standard Oil. At that time, it was called Esso, and I learned a lot of trades there from guys I would work with, guys in different trades, like in plumbing and carpentry and even masonry work. Then, I took a course in electronics. The company had classes going for electronics, so I took a course in that, as I was interested in electronics and electrical work and all that. Like I say, anything that had to be done or made, I wanted to know how to do it. The first time I overhauled the car engine [was] down on the farm. We got a better car later on after the war, so it had about thirty-some thousand miles. In those days, cars did not last. The engine didn't last long, as you know. It had to be overhauled all the time. I had a neighbor down there. I said, "The doggone thing is smoking." I said, "I know it needs new rings and bearings, but I never did it before." He said, "I'll take you to Harrisburg and we'll buy the parts." I said, "Good." Now, he says, "There should be a manual in your car," and I said, "Yes." "Study your manual and it will tell you what kind of parts go here and there." I said, "Okay." I had some beat-up tools and all the wrenches. I took the top of the engine off, the head off, and then, I took the pan off. Then, I studied it some more, "Now, what do I do?" They've got pistons. They were getting disconnected down below, so I did that, you know. Finally, I got everything out. Everything I took out, I marked where they came from, so I'd know where to put the new parts. I put it all together, and being that the house is on a little hill, I said, "The battery is not too good yet." I said to Pop, "I'm going to go down the hill." I put it in gear, go down the hill, and then, finally it started [makes engine sounds]. The engine started running [makes engine sounds].
GP: That's such a good feeling.
AM: Yes. After that, everybody asked me, if they have car trouble, "Hey, Tony, I've got a problem with my car." "Okay, what is it?" I go over there. Even in Florida, when I retired and we lived down in Florida, the neighbors, "Tony, I have trouble with the car." "Tony, I'm afraid that that tree is going to fall on my house. Do you think you can take it down?" I said, "Okay." I took trees down on the farm. I'd take the trees down for them, you know, and stuff like that.
SH: I think living on the farm really does make you a jack of all trades.
AM: Yes, it does. You have to know [how to do] everything. If you had to hire someone to do it, forget it.
SH: The animals that you had on the farm were just for food or produced food, like chickens.
AM: Yes. Well, we had a pair of horses. First, it was mules. Oh, can they be stubborn, unless you shook that whip at them. Then, they listen. Then, we started the farm up when I came home from the service and my father and I went down and started up again, because in the meantime they lived in New Jersey. Everybody was working in New Jersey, so they rented an apartment.
SH: What did your father do during the war?
AM: He worked in a factory. I got him a job before I was drafted where I used to work, so he worked there for a while. When I came home from the service, he had gotten pneumonia and that's bad for someone with black lung and that's when the doctor told him, "Get out of here and go out in the country." He said, "Let's start the farm up again." The first thing we did was there was a farmer who was selling horses, and he lived over the mountain. We went over the mountain, bought the horses, and I rode them back over the mountain back to the [farm]. [Editor's Note: Coal miners often suffered from pneumoconiosis, or black lung, from inhaling coal dust.]
KD: Would you say that the farm made you very strong?
AM: Well, if you had a sack of wheat that weighed at least sixty [pounds], I used to throw a hundred pounds on my shoulder, nothing, no problem. That's what kept me going. All my life, I had to do something, always keep busy. If there wasn't any work, I'd look for work or do something, even down in Florida. I remember down there we went down there, and we bought sort of like a ranch-type home with a two-car garage. I told the builder, I drew up a plan for the house, and I told him two-car garage, but one door only for a one-car garage. "What about the other part? This is supposed to be a two-car garage." I said, "The other part is where I'm going to do all my work." He's looking at me. He said, "You know I never did this before. I'll tell you what I'm going to do though. I'm going to put windows in, so when you're doing your little shop there." Then, I told him, I said, "As far as the windows are concerned, double-paned windows." He said, "What? In Florida, double-paned windows?" I said, "Yes, it keeps out the cold up north, doesn't it?" He said, "Yes, that's why they have them." [I said], "Why you couldn't keep out the heat?" "Jeez, I never thought of that," [he said]. So, I got all double-paned windows. The guy next door, in practically the same kind of house, he was paying more for his [air conditioning] bill than I was.
SH: It was air conditioning, right?
AM: Air conditioning. It [the double-paned windows] kept the house cooler.
SH: There is the older brother, you, and then, the next brother, and how many sisters are there?
AM: Three sisters.
SH: Then, the rest are boys.
AM: Yes, seven boys and three girls.
SH: That is good to have on the farm.
AM: Yes, but none of the girls ever learned to milk the cow though. Oh, forget it. None of them milked the cow.
SH: Did your mother teach them to sew and cook?
AM: Me. I learned to sew. I learned to cook. I even taught her how to cook. [laughter]
KD: How much did you know about the war before Pearl Harbor?
AM: Before Pearl Harbor? Well, you know something interesting. When I was a kid in Mary D, a lot of these older folks who came from Europe were talking at the house and they were talking about World War I. Even then, they said the next war will be with yellow people, with the yellow race. Later on, I said, "How did they know that?" You know, the yellow race is Japanese, Chinese. She said, "There was one young man in the village who can tell the future." Everything he told everyone what was going to happen up until a certain day, and from that day on, he couldn't tell you anything what's going to happen. That was the day he died. Before that, he predicted everything, and it came true. You can see, even out in the country, in the sticks, there are some people who know more than some of our top people in Washington.
SH: You were in the military when Hitler invaded Poland. Is that correct?
SH: You were in '38 to '40.
AM: '38 to '40 in the Guard. Then, I went to Jersey and worked, worked a couple of years, and then, we got into the war.
SH: In 1939, Hitler invades Poland. Did your mother and father talk about that at all?
AM: Oh, yes, well, their main concern was with their relatives over there, yes. Jeannette was there. In her hometown in France, the Germans occupied.
SH: Where in France?
AM: [In Concarneau], Brittany.
JM: On the west coast.
AM: She lived in Paris too for a while before the war, right? See, her father was an American, and he was in World War I in what they call the Merchant Marines. When they docked in France and the war was over, he got off and stayed in France, got married and voila. [laughter]
SH: That is a great story.
AM: Everybody says, "Where did you meet her in France?" I said, "I didn't meet her in France." I met her over here. I worked with a guy, he was French Canadian. They spoke French, a dialect. She was going out, well, you know the story with your aunt.
JM: I was friends with Jerry's sister. That was Tony's friend, and that's where we met because she took me to her house and you were there that time.
JM: Oh, yes, and we went out, a group of us, and it was bad weather. I think that's why I married him, because it was bad weather and he was so particular. He was just worried that I [would get wet] or something like that. He was so nice. His brother called me up to have a date, John, Uncle John, [laughter] and I refused because he didn't help me that day. I think they must have said something between the two of them. After that, Tony called up and asked me for a date. I said, "Okay," and that was it. [laughter]
AM: I said to Johnny, he was in the house when I called you up, and I said, "Well, that's funny. Jeannette says okay, she'll go out with me." I said, "John, you don't know how to do it." When I called her up, I said, "Bonjour, Mademoiselle, comment ca va," you know, talking in French and all. Then, never mind Johnny and I have something [planned]; you and your aunt had it all rigged up.
JM: He called and asked for a date, so I said okay. He came to pick me up at home. My aunt used to live with me, I mean, with us, my mother and father. When I came back from that date, she said, "I knew that was the one, and you're going to marry him." She said, "I'm going to stay alive until you get married." You know she did. We got married in May, and she died in July.
SH: I have a question with you being the daughter of an American when the war began. Was there no way to get you out of France?
JM: He was not my real father. I was adopted. He came over before the war because his mother was dying.
SH: He was here in the States.
JM: Yes. The war broke out, and we were stuck there. All during the war, we were living in Brittany. That's Brittany in France. After the war, he sent for us and that's when we came, but all during the war, we were alone.
SH: It was your mother and you.
JM: It's a little complicated, because my mother and father that raised me were not my real parents. My mother that raised me, she was my cousin, my first cousin, and she took me where they were living in Paris and I stayed with them until I became a young lady. In the meantime, the war broke. Her husband, being American, his mother was very sick in America and he went to see her. After that, two months after, the war broke, so he couldn't come back to France. We were stuck over there because we couldn't come over here. We were separated for almost four years from him. When the war ended, he sent for us and we came. I was twenty-one years old at that time, so that was a long time ago.
SH: Now, you came to Roselle.
JM: No, in Elizabeth.
JM: I even remember the name of the street, Walnut Street. [laughter]
GP: Walnut Street.
JM: Walnut Street, and it's funny because don't ask me what the street of the house where we lived in Florida. I almost forget. I couldn't tell you now.
AM: Mayan Place.
JM: Mayan Place, that's right, [laughter] because it's funny sometimes you keep [certain memories].
SH: What you remember.
GP: That was your first home in America.
AM: We'd take her to Disney here and there. They [the grandchildren] saw one of these [arcades]. "We want to go in there." I said, "Okay," so I changed in twenty bucks and get them quarters, you know, to play the machines. When they're ready to go home, "Well, what did you like the most in Florida?" "The arcade." [laughter] I spent money taking them on these rides and all that stuff, and all they wanted was the arcade.
SH: To go back then, you were working and because you have been in the National Guard and Hitler has invaded Poland, did you think it was just a matter of time before we got involved in the war?
AM: I knew we were going to get in it.
SH: You knew.
AM: Yes. I have always been a history buff. I read every book from the ancient history up until the present time. This is the big mistake of our educational system is when they eliminate history. When the twins were going to high school, history and geography were two of the most important subjects. When this one young girl was in college and a reporter was investigating, you know, checking on students on their education, and he got to them where he says, "Where is Canada located?" She didn't even know there was a Canada. Now, doesn't that tell you something? No wonder the Europeans say the Americans are not educated enough. They can tell you more about the U.S. When I was in Germany, when the war ended, we were walking through this one part, and there's a group of students, young teenagers. They're gathering around a phonograph, and they were playing, "When the Saints go Marching In." I said, "I have never heard that song before. Where did you get it from?" "We have ways of smuggling things in." Like I say, they know everything. Was it your niece (Monique?) when [George W.] Bush got elected the second time, she said, "What's wrong with American voters? What's wrong with them? They elected this terrorist a second time." That's what she used to call him.
SH: Let us go back to where you were when December 7th occurred, when the Japanese did attack Pearl Harbor.
AM: A couple of us guys, well, we went to a football game in New York at Giants Stadium, and we were watching the game and sitting. Then, all at once, the loud speaker goes on, and they were naming these men who are in government. It was name, "So-and-So, report immediately to Washington." Then, later on, calling, "So-and-So, report to the department of," you know. It was going on. We were talking, "What's going on?" We get out. We get to Times Square, and there we see it, "Pearl Harbor attacked by the Japanese." I said, "That's it, we're in for it now," and then, sure enough. Of course, I was surprised when Hitler then declared war on the U.S. because they were partners with Japan. I knew sooner or later I was going to be called. I said, "I'll be doggone," I had a good job, I was making good money, "I am not going to rush into this. They'll have to call me first," so I waited until they drafted me.
SH: Having been in the Guard did not give you any kind of exemption?
AM: No, no.
SH: What about your brothers? They were so close in age to you.
AM: Yes. Johnny was drafted. When they draft you, you go to this induction center, and then, he was always interested in planes. He asked if he can be transferred to the Air Force. I hated planes; I wouldn't go up in a plane if you paid me a million dollars. I told him, I said, "You can take your plane." I said, "I'll be down with two feet on the ground," but he did pretty good. He never did go overseas though. First, they sent him to that university in New York for two years. I forget.
SH: Syracuse? In New York City?
AM: No, Upstate New York.
AM: Syracuse, somewhere around there. Anyway, he made that his, what you might say, vocation. Then, when the war ended, most of them then were pilots. They had so many that they were all farmed out, you might say, or, we would say, laid off and gone. When the Korean War broke out, they were calling them back again, so he went back. During World War II, he was trained in the bombers, the big planes, and he said they used to fly up and down the Atlantic Coast looking for German sub[marine]s. That was their job. He never did go overseas until later on after the Korean War. Then, he went over [in the] Army of occupation for a while. He stayed in the Reserves and did pretty good, but he loved to fly. [Editor's Note: The Korean War began in 1950 and pitted South Korean and American military forces against North Korean forces and their Chinese allies. The war ended in 1953 with the peninsula still divided along the 38th parallel.]
SH: Did you have another brother in the military as well?
SH: You were just two years apart.
AM: Joe, he joined the Marines. Now, Joe was a musician, and he learned at home. He went to school and learned to play accordion and he played the saxophone. When he joined the Marines, he went in the Marine Band. He was in a while, and then, they were shipped overseas in the Pacific, some island. He was there for a while. Joe, he didn't say much about what he did, and I never, you know, my family never knew anything I did when I was overseas or where I was. I blocked it out of my mind. I didn't want to know anything about the war. It wasn't until the last ten years that these memories [have been] coming back to me. I said, "Oh, yes, I remember when I went there." Before that, I didn't want to even talk about it. My aim was making a living, working. As far as the war, that was history. Joe, he told me one time he was sleeping in tents on this island, and he was a sleepwalker. When we were on the farm when he was a kid, he would come downstairs and start walking out. My mother would go after him and bring him back. [laughter] He said, "You know I once woke up, I was in the jungle and I didn't know where I was." He says, "There were some stray Japs, you know, who were hiding in the jungle." He said, "Boy, was I scared. Finally, I saw a light and I knew where the tent was and I ran back." He said, "No more would I sleep in it." [laughter]
SH: Tied himself to the bed.
AM: Yes. Me, I was different. Even when I went [to] basic training, when we would go on hikes and stuff like that, when we'd get a ten-minute [break on a] hike, what they called cigarette breaks, I didn't smoke, I would stand there, get my rifle, and go like this and I'd sleep.
SH: Standing up.
AM: Standing up. Ten minutes later, I'd wake up, and we're on our way again. We had this one twenty-three-mile hike.
SH: Where was your basic training?
AM: Basic training was in North Carolina, Fort Bragg, in the artillery. Believe it or not, when I went overseas, I was transferred in everything else but the artillery. [laughter] Isn't that something? They train you in one thing and when you get over there, you're in something entirely different. I used to laugh too sometimes. The longest place that I was in was MPs [military police] in Algeria, and I had some interesting things there.
SH: Let us go back to your basic training in Fort Bragg then.
AM: We were trained in surveying, I&S they used to call it, instrument and survey, where you would survey the gun positions and all that. Only the ones who had an IQ of so much were in this unit. Near the end of our training, an officer come over to me. He said, "We want you to sign up for the officer's training school." I'm an independent sort of a guy. I said, "I don't really care for it." Now, you don't tell that to an officer. You have to do what you're told. I said, "To become an officer," I said, "I like to have experience first. I don't want to make mistakes and have men die under me because of my foolish mistakes." He just looked at me. It was a board, yes, three officers, [and they said], "Well, think it over and take your tests again." I didn't. That's when I was shipped to Indiantown Gap to be shipped overseas. While at Indiantown Gap waiting there, we were there three months, they were forming a group called special forces who were trained in hand-to-hand combat, so I trained with them for a while in hand-to-hand combat and bayonet training. I never used a bayonet once we went overseas, because the Germans didn't do it, so we didn't do it. Besides, it was useless with these high-powered guns and machine guns and everything. You never got close to the enemy. I think from then on, I was blackballed.
SH: Because you did not go to Officer Candidate School.
AM: Training school, yes. I didn't care for that. I like to do things my own way, because in all the books I read about wars and in history, I came to the conclusion that we had the dumbest, not only us, but most of these countries in war, even including Germany in World War I, were the dumbest officers. I couldn't believe how stupid they were. Now, during World War I is when the machine guns were invented, fast firing, artillery, lots of artillery. Yet the Germans, when they were advancing, would advance in mass formation. Machine [guns] were mowing them down like grass, and I'm saying to myself, "This is dumb. There's other ways to get that machine gun. You've got mortars in the back. You've got artillery in the back." To prove the point, I was in a hospital in Algeria [during World War II]. It wasn't for a wound or anything. I was too cautious to be wounded. I never took chances. I had a spinal cyst on my back. We used to call it jeep-itis because I drove a jeep a lot when I was patrolling and you're bouncing all the time. First, they said, "Take a cyst bath. Get a basin of warm water and sit in it." I did it once. I said, "This is dumb." I went to an officer. I said, "I want that doggone thing cut out, all right?" They had a hospital not too far away, a field hospital. They sent me over there, and this doctor, he was good. They give you a spinal [epidural]. They don't knock you out. I can feel everything going on. Anyhow, it was done. We get in a tent there, and next to me, in the next bed over was a guy. He got wounded by shrapnel in the back. He had a lot of shrapnel wounds in the back. I learned a lot from some of these guys, too. Never go hide under a tree or dig your hole under a tree because the shell, if it hits the tree and explodes, shrapnel goes down. He said that's what happened to him. He was from Kentucky or somewhere, but we got along pretty good. He used to be an amateur boxer, so he said, "Let's exercise." Here I am, I had this bandage on me. The next day, we had to take a one-mile hike, and I'm walking while holding that bandage on my back. Then, we get back to the tent, and after chow, he said, "Want to wrestle?" I said, "Sure, why not?" So, we're wrestling, and with the stitches. The nurse comes around. She looks at us. She said, "What!" They don't mince words. [laughter] "What in the hell is the matter with you? Are you crazy? What did you do now?" I said, "I fell off the bunk." So, she started patching it up again, and, boy, what a mess. Anyhow, then this guy was telling me the unit he was in; he was in, I think, the First Division. The Italians were fighting with the Germans in Africa, as you know. There was a machine gun nest up ahead, and he had a lieutenant [who] broke them down in squads of five, six men to go and attack the machine gun nest. They had to go across open ground he says. They just mowed them right down. This lunatic of a lieutenant sends a second squad out; the same thing happened. The captain comes by, and he said, "What's going on?" "We're trying to get that machine gun nest." The captain tore into him. He said, "You've got mortars right in the back. Tell them to fire at the machine gun nest." They did and knocked the machine gun nest out. Ten men died through his foolish [mistake]. You see, that's what I meant about some of these officers. They were dumb. I went through the infantry and was transferred when we landed in France.
SH: Let us back up before we get there, because there is a lot of territory we need to cover here.
AM: Oh, yes.
SH: When you are at Indiantown Gap then, who are you assigned to and where do you disembark?
AM: We left from New York City. We boarded this [ship]. It used to be a former passenger ship going from Los Angeles to the Orient. It was a mixed two-stacker. It was a big one. We boarded there.
SH: Do you remember the name?
SH: I have heard other stories about the Mariposa.
AM: We had an escort going up to Nova Scotia, and then, they usually from there go across to England. When we left Nova Scotia, the escort left us, and we're on our own. We get into the North Sea, and we hit a storm that was unbelievable. It tossed the ship like a cork. Being that I had training in the artillery, I was assigned to the forward gun deck with a sailor, one sailor, one soldier to the 90 millimeter gun out front. Now, anybody who knows anything about boats or ships in the war knows that a submarine will not attack you in heavy seas because a torpedo will not go exactly where you're sending it. With huge waves going, it'll knock it off course. So, it didn't matter. You're on the fore, and then, you had a gun in the rear with two over there. We hit that heavy seas. The sailor gets sick. [laughter] They sent us a relief. He comes over because two men are supposed to stay there to man the gun. He gets sick. He goes back down, so I'm there by myself for a while. Nobody's on deck. You don't see anybody. They're all below deck. They're all sick, the whole doggone shipload of babies, you might call them. Do you know what kept me from getting seasick? I'm on there, and when that ship would go up like this, I'd pretend I'm on a roller coaster, and as it would go down, I'd [say], "Whee." [laughter] When I was doing that, [there was a] raft that's laying down below the turret, and I'd say, "If we ever get hit, I'm the first one on the raft." Anyway, I pulled two days duty, sixteen hours, only been relieved to go down and eat chow, get a couple hours sleep, and then, back up again. Everybody got sick. Two days later, we [were] into the Irish Sea, and it was like glass. I swear I don't know where those people came from, but the decks were loaded with soldiers. I said, "Where the heck were you people when I needed you?" So, anyway, as we're getting off in England, at Liverpool we docked, and an officer came up to me. He said, "For exceptional duty I'm going to see that you get a promotion." We get off the ship. We go to, we stayed in the British barracks. I never see the officer; I never got the promotion. I said, "That's one." This happened a couple of times where I did something exceptional and never got recognized for it, and that's the journey that's the military.
SH: What are you assigned to when you get to England to Liverpool?
AM: We weren't assigned to anything.
SH: Were you a replacement?
SH: What time of the year is this?
AM: I remember it was before Thanksgiving. It was in November, around this time, yes.
SH: November of 1942?
AM: Yes, because when we were leaving England, it was just before Thanksgiving Day. In the meantime, we just kept drilling here and there and getting acquainted with some of the British soldiers, especially the little Cockneys from Liverpool. They're usually the small guys, you know, and they curse the king out and they curse the queen out, you know. That's all you heard, "F-ing king." "F-ing queen." [Editor's Note: Cockney refers to natives of London, particularly the East End of London.]
SH: Were you given any instructions on how to interact with the British people?
AM: No, I got along with all of them. I didn't care whether they're Cockney or we were with the British Royal Marines in North Africa, billeting with them for a while, great bunch of guys. We had a lot of fun, especially they almost drowned me one time because they're trained to go in the water with a full field pack and explosives and tread water. Heck, I couldn't tread water if I was naked. [laughter] We're at this dock, and the Royal Marine said, "Why don't you jump in and take a swim?"
SH: This is the Mediterranean.
AM: Mediterranean. They had also stripped us to our shorts. [They told us], "It's only up to here. Don't worry about it."
SH: Up to your chest.
AM: Yes. So, I jumped in. Down I go, and I go down and I'm going down. I'm looking at a ship that's docked there. Thirty feet, forty-five feet. I said, "Wait a minute, it's not up to my chest." So, I did everything, but get to the top. I get to the top. I did everything, but swim, and I get back to the top. They're laughing their heads off. [laughter] I wasn't mad at them. I laughed twice. I said, "Yes," I said, "I learned how to swim a little." He said, "But that wasn't called swimming."
KD: Can I bring you back to the training camps in the United States at Fort Bragg? Did you experience any racial segregation?
AM: Yes. We had a guy. He was from Puerto Rico. He was in the Puerto Rican National Guard, I think, and he was a sergeant. He was a light-skinned guy, you know, and one time, they came to him. They said, "We're transferring you out." He said, "Where?" "The black outfit," because the black soldiers were segregated from the white soldiers. He said, "Why?" "Because you're colored." I remember when they were talking to him. He said, "What do you mean I'm colored? Sure I'm dark complexioned, but are you calling me am I a Negro or black?" "Yes." They transferred him out. I said to myself, "God, what kind of a[n] Army [is this]?" I was never against anybody. I don't care what color he is or nationality. I got along with all of them. In Indiantown Gap, I was walking by one time, I'm nosy, I always walk around everything and I hear this, "Hut two, three, four. Goddamn it, I told you to stay in step" and cursing. Then, I look over this embankment, and there's a black sergeant drilling white officers. Some of them are doctors, lawyers, and when they get in, they're automatically an officer, some of them with a potbelly. I said to myself, "Give it to them," [laughter] and he did. He made them march up and down until they learned how to keep in step. Now that I enjoyed.
KD: Back in Algiers, Algeria.
SH: Let us go chronologically. When you got into Liverpool, you were just in a replacement depot waiting.
SH: Were you in the military police at this point?
AM: No, I wasn't assigned to anything, any place, which was all right with me. [laughter] Heck, I wanted to go and do anything I want. I wanted to go into town. I went to town one time with another guy. We went to a pub. There's two black soldiers from, they're usually in a quartermaster [unit], sitting at a table with two British girls, white girls. They're telling them that they're white, but they paint their face black because if they're black, they can't see them at night. They're night fighters, yes, that's what they called themselves, night fighters. Actually, one of them said, "But actually we're American Indians." Well, he said the wrong thing. The next table over is "Big Chief." He was one of the guys within our bunch, an Indian guy, big man. [He said], "So, you're a night fighter, huh, and you're an Indian, huh?" He grabs one of them, heaves him right through the doggone door. [He went to] get the other one. He took off. He said, "I'll show you who's a night fighter."
SH: Well, all this from a little country kid from Pennsylvania, right?
AM: Yes. I learned more and I got to see more and did more. Somebody told me, "Why don't you write a book?" I said, "Because I don't like to write." [laughter]
SH: How long were you in England?
AM: A month.
SH: Okay, so then December of 1942.
AM: No, October, yes. In November is when we went to North Africa. We left England in a huge convoy of ships. You couldn't see the end of them, and while we were at sea, it was Thanksgiving Day and I'll never forget it. We were down in the hold there, a whole bunch of us guys. They point one guy to go upstairs and get the meal. So, one guy goes up, comes down, got a big container of fish. The doggone thing hasn't been cleaned. The eyes are in it, and it's half raw. Who's going to eat that crap? So, everybody looks at it, and one guy [said], "Go and get the lieutenant down here." He called him down [and said], "Look at that. We're supposed to eat that." Well, he got mad. He took it, bring it back up, brought down pork chops. It was only half cooked. On deck, they all have like a little [place] where you can buy crackers and stuff like that, you know, and then, we also carried our emergency rations, C rations. They're in cans. Everybody has them in their pockets, and so we lived on C rations, our own rations until we got to Africa.
SH: What kind of a ship were you traveling on?
AM: It was a big ship, passenger ship.
SH: Who was the crew?
AM: The crew was English. It was an English ship. Oh, then my turn came up to get the tea. Oh, this is good. I go up there, and I see these cooks there in big vats, and the floor is nothing, but muck, stepping in that muck. I [said], "Holy smokes, don't they ever wash the floor in this place?" I'm looking at that big vat, and he's making tea. He's got this big paddle, and he'd go there and stir it a little. I was watching him and what he's going to do with that paddle. He put it on the muck against the wall. I'm waiting there, [thinking], "Is he going to take that out and stir it again?" That's what he did. So, I go down, and I tell the guys, "You don't want to drink that tea." I explained and tell them what happened, what it's like up there. That was the end of the tea. [laughter]
SH: How long did it take you to go from England to North Africa?
AM: Almost a week because it was a big convoy and you're slow. You have to keep up with all the other ships together. We landed near Oran in Algeria. I forget the name of the port. It's on the outside of Oran. Now, let me tell you about ports there that the French built. We should be ashamed. None of them are built on wooden piles. [They were built on] big stones and concrete. When we got off there, then we went into town. They had a French barracks. Every place had French barracks because they had soldiers all over the place. [Editor's Note: On November 8, 1942, British and American forces launched Operation Torch, the invasion of Italian and German-occupied North Africa. Three landings took place, one in Morocco at Casablanca and two in Algeria at Oran and Algiers. Mr. Machuzak served in the Center Task Force that made amphibious landings near Oran and gained control of the city by November 10. Since Morocco and Algeria were French colonies, the success of Operation Torch depended on convincing the German-allied Vichy French government to join the Allied side, which was achieved two days after the landings. By May 1943, German and Italian forces surrendered in Tunisia, prompting the Allied invasions of Sicily and Italy in mid-1943.]
SH: Was the convoy ever attacked by submarines or aircraft or anything?
AM: When we landed there, a few days later, we were billeted in homes, because there was a cliff and a high point there. A lot of the well-to-do French people, businessmen and all that, built their villas up there because it's in a higher point and cooler than down below. So, they would get a bunch in each house. We would be in each of them. I'm up in the top there. You can see ships coming into the port. Now, coming in is like a narrow inlet, and then, it gets bigger. I was looking up in the sky, and I see planes, a dogfight between the Germans and the English. A British aircraft carrier was coming in called the Ark Royal. A tanker was hit coming in, and they were rescuing the guys. Some of the guys were in the homes where we were in there. They all had British uniforms. They had oil and stuff on them. We got to talking. I said, "Without warning, we didn't know it." Here we had escorts ships all around, and they somehow got in. They go for the tankers, because it's the fuel. Without fuel, you're lost. From there, where did we go? Oh, the city of Oran, we stayed there a while. That's where I was assigned to the MPs from there on. All you did was patrolling. You'd get a jeep patrol sometimes, and other times it was walking patrol. [Editor's Note: While the HMS Ark Royal was involved in the naval war in the Mediterranean Sea, the aircraft carrier was struck by a torpedo and sank on November 13-14, 1941, a year before the Allied invasion of North Africa.]
SH: How hard was that to keep all these soldiers, these GIs, under control?
AM: They were a rowdy bunch, holy smokes. Then, they had a brothel area. You had a sign there, "No American troops allowed." There I am, "You stay out here at the first street there. You go in there. Don't let any GIs go in." Oh, you should see the guys coming there [and saying], "Twenty bucks, let me get in." "I'm sorry, buddy. Orders are orders. I can't let you in," because of venereal disease. A lot of them used to get it. That was my experience within a brothel area. I said, "Don't tell me to go back there again." So, then they put me on another patrol around town. After that, we're all broken up in small units. Each one went to different little towns and ports, because there's a lot of ports there in Algeria. We were in one port, let's see, where was it? Philippeville [Skikda], yes, it was another port where troops and everything came in, just a really small town, not a big one. I remember I was on jeep patrol. I don't know what the other guys did. It seemed I was the only guy always on patrol, yes. [laughter] [Editor's Note: GI, short for government issue, was the nickname for American military personnel. The modern city of Skikda was known as Philippeville when Algeria was a French colony.]
SH: Were they paying you to take their duty?
AM: No. I'd go back. They're either playing cards, or they're not doing anything. I'd take the jeep and go out on patrol there and patrol there. So, I was driving along, and I hear somebody yell, "Hey, MP." I look, and it's an American captain from the First Division. You know, you can tell by their insignia.
SH: Now, what division are you assigned to? What group are you with?
AM: We were just the 79th MPs. A French officer was with him. He says, "We're going along with you. We've got to round up the Senegalese soldiers," that went on a rampage there. Each town has a brothel on the outside of town. One of the Senegalese soldiers got stabbed by an Arab civilian who was at the brothel there. I don't know what it was about. All at once, the word spread, there's two hundred stationed there. They were going to be shipped to the frontlines the next day. They went and broke into the arms room. They got bayonets and arms and rifles, and they went out killing only adult Arab males. No women, no children were touched, but the Arab males, they were killed as soon as they spotted them. We're driving along, up and down the streets, and the French officer is yelling in French to them to get back to the barracks. I remember we were going through town in an intersection, and some Senegalese down on one end there fired at some Arabs down there. I said to the captain, "Do you want me to drive through?" "No, damn it, no. Back up, back up, back up." He was scared. Previous to that, these Senegalese soldiers were there about a week, and like I say, my cigarettes made a lot of friends among them. I wasn't worried about them shooting me. [laughter] He didn't know that. The French officer knew one of them who played the bugle, and he told him to blow recall. Now, they're well trained. Then, they start coming back, slowly straggling back. The next day they had the type of funeral that they have. They were just carried on stretchers through the street. They killed sixty-three Arabs. I'd seen one. We were going down this one street. There was an Arab hiding under, they have outdoor cafes where they have the tables out, he was hiding under the table, and one of the Senegalese come by. He had the bayonet [makes a sound] and just like that and kept going. So, yes, I had my share there watching the butchery there. [Editor's Note: Mr. Machuzak is referring to the Senegalese Tirailleurs, infantrymen in France's Armee d'Afrique from Senegal and other French sub-Saharan colonies.]
SH: As an American MP, can you interfere in any of that?
AM: No, not supposed to. The French, they're under a French command. All I did was drive on the road. Wherever they wanted to go, I drove them. I see one Arab down the end of a street, and then, there was a wall. The wall was maybe six, eight feet high. Usually, on those walls around there, they put them around their homes, and on top of the wall, they put broken glass on the top in concrete. Well, don't ask me how this guy got up to the top of the wall and over it, because you can see the bullets hitting around him. He got over, but he must have gashed himself. I didn't know until one of the Army MP reunions back here in the States, one of my better buddies there got in touch with me [and said], "When you come to the reunion." I said, "But I transferred out. I was in the infantry after you guys." I don't know what happened to them after that. [He said], "That's all right. We know you." Everybody knows me, the crazy Polack. [laughter] One guy who was at the reunion, he said, "Tony, did you ever get your medal?" I said, "What medal?" "For that incident that happened with the Senegalese soldiers." I said, "I don't know." I said, "When it was all over," I said, "I forgot all about it. Why?" "Well," he said, "I was in headquarters when a letter came in from this captain from the First Division to your captain stating that he is advocating or authorizing a medal for exceptional bravery and all that crap."
SH: What was this captain's name? Do you remember?
AM: You know I made an enemy out of him. That's why he never got me the medal. Before that, I was directing convoys for they were going to invade Sicily, and I was on this one intersection way out in the boondocks there. It was a hot day. I was there for ten hours there because convoy after convoy's coming. They had hospitals here, hospitals there. They would come down and bring me lunch, and by the end of the day when I was finished, I had had it, you know. We were in the French barracks. I'd get back to the barracks, and I'd shower. I'm going to lay down on the bunk, and the sergeant comes over to me. He says, "The captain likes the way you press your uniform." That's one thing about me, I always was a neat dresser. I learned how to make pleats in the shirt. A guy told me how to do it, Ivory soap. Wherever you want to pleat, you rub Ivory soap inside, and then, you press it and the pleats stays there. I had a sharp crease in my trousers. [The sergeant said], "He wants you to press his uniform like yours." Well, he said the wrong thing. I was so tired, and I didn't care. I said, "Who the hell does he think I am? Some damn flunky. You've got a guy in here that does nothing. He stays here because they don't give him duty because his face breaks out, and so they made him like, what do you call it, doing odd jobs and cleaning and stuff like." I said, "I'm out there ten hours in the hot sun and you're telling me to press a uniform." He's like, "Sh." The captain was in the next room over. [laughter] I went and laid down on the bunk and went to sleep. [laughter] After that, who got all the dirty duty, I did, and the dangerous ones. Instead of having two guys on patrol, I'd be by myself. There's a couple of other incidents when I got suspicious later on. When we left Algeria going into Tunisia, you go across a mountain range, the [Atlas] Mountains, and we went driving over that mountain range. The road goes at an angle, not the sharp one, you know, going straight, and we come into Tunis. Tunis is the capital of Tunisia. We were supposed to stay there for a while, go on patrol. We were driving out in the desert area. We're looking for German deserters. I come back from duty, and the sergeant says to me, "The captain wants you to take his jeep, take it back to Algeria" in this town where we were just before that called Constantine, that's the name of it. We used to call it Constantinople. [laughter] It was Constantine. It didn't dawn on me then. The captain doesn't have a jeep. He rides around in a command car, and he has a guy doing the driving. What is this? This is about taking a jeep, this is after chow, and it's going to be dark soon and I'm going to drive over that mountain, but me, no, I take orders. So, I did. I'm going up the mountain, and I'm driving. I'm already on top of the mountain, going straight to get to the other side. I get splattering on the windshield, and I tell you it was bugs hitting the windshield. I worked the windshield wiper. So, I kept going, going. Finally, I get over the mountain, down, and I get to town where the other group of the MPs were and they had some of the vehicles there, too. I go, and I pull the jeep in there. Then, I went to where the other guys are sleeping, and I slept there. In the morning, I get up, and the guy who was in charge of the motor pool, they call it, he calls me over. He said, "Hey, Tony. Did you know the jeep you brought in here didn't have a drop of oil?" I said, "What do you mean?" He said, "The oil line going to the engine was loose." The fitting was loose and oil was leaking out, and that was oil that was splattering on the windshield. That engine should have seized up before I got there, right, and it never did. He said, "Boy, you've got a good guardian angel." I said, "Oh, boy, he's earning his money because I've been in more trouble." [laughter] It wasn't until years later, you know, and I'm thinking about some of these things that happened to me that shouldn't have happened. Then, he started getting suspicious, too. He said, "Do you know who did it?" I said, "No. I think I do, but I'm not going to say because I don't want to get in trouble again." The second time, when we were in the city of Strasbourg in eastern France, I was put on a[n] intersection of one of these main intersections coming out of town to direct the convoys. The sergeant came later. He pulls up. He said, "We just got word that German soldiers dressed in American uniforms are infiltrating the American lines, so keep your eyes peeled." "Okay." Then, I'm directing, and another jeep comes up and I'm stopping them. You're supposed to question the driver to see if he's on the up and up. So, I said, "Any identification?" "I've got a driver's license," and he's just looking straight ahead. I said, "Hey, what do you think of them Yanks, huh, winning the series again?" Not a word. There's five in the jeep, two in the front, three in the back. Where I got suspicious [was] the one in the back, he was sitting in the middle, he had lieutenant's bars on. Officers never sit in the back. They're always in the front with the driver. That's when I started saying, "I better watch what I'm talking about, what I'm saying." I'm looking, and that lieutenant, he's got a carbine, and it's pointing straight at me. I pretend to be dumb, "Ah, what the hell? So, what. It doesn't matter. Go ahead, take off." They took off. The sergeant pulls up not even an hour later. There're always two or three guys, always, [but I was by myself]. He said, "Anything new?" I said, "Oh, yes, oh, by the way," I said, "I just let five German soldiers through." "You what?" I said, "Yes." He said, "You let five German soldiers go. How do you know they're Germans?" I speak German. I know a German when I see one. I said, "Not one word came out of anyone of them, so I knew they couldn't speak too good English. Plus, the guy in the middle had a carbine pointed straight at me. One false move and," I said, "I'll be laying over there." He didn't say a word because you know why. You never put anybody on the road block unless you have at least four men, one to question the driver, three men as back up. I'm by myself. Five armed men in a jeep. Boy, they never questioned me on that after that either. I said, "What's going on? Why did they put me by myself?" These things started to bother me later on, but I never said nothing. I did what I was told. Believe it or not, when they said, "You're being transferred into the infantry," I felt safer. [laughter] I did.
SH: You went into Tunisia.
SH: From there, where did they send you?
AM: Then, we went back to Oran. We all boarded LCIs, these landing craft, infantry, and we made a landing in southern France. The Germans were down there, so we made a landing down there. Another division, American division, was coming from the north. We were trying to catch them in a pincer movement, but they took off fast. So, when we landed, they were already retreating. It's funny, too, we landed there and there was a clump of woods. The sergeant said, "Okay, you pulled guard duty tonight." It was dark. I always stand with my back against a tree, so they don't sneak up on the back. I feel a tap on my shoulder. I jumped. It was a Moroccan soldier. The French had troops landing, too, and he was from the Moroccan division. [He said], "Got a cigarette, Johnny?" Man, I took it, I gave him a whole pack. [laughter] He could have slit my throat, and I wouldn't even know it. [Editor's Note: Following the Allied invasion of the Normandy region of France on June 6, 1944, American, British and French forces invaded German-controlled southern France along French Riviera on August 15, 1944. French forces included Algerians, Moroccans and Tunisians in the Armee d'Afrique.]
SH: You are still an MP with the 79th when you go in there.
AM: Yes. Then, when we were in France, eastern France.
SH: How long did you stay in southern France? What do you do there?
AM: We didn't stay there long. We kept moving because the Germans were retreating, and we're trying to catch up with them.
AH: Okay, so you are moving up through France.
AM: Yes. You ever hear of Grenoble in southern France. We went up past Grenoble and the French Alps, Grenoble, yes. On the way, we stopped for a break. I remember on the road there was woods over there. I see this little building down in the woods. Everybody [was] staying there by their trucks. Me, I go down there to see what's in there. It's a French underground fighters camp. I got acquainted with them talking, and one of them said he's lawyer from Cannes, from that city Cannes on the Riviera. He gives me his card, "Anytime you're down there, you come and see me." I figure it won't hurt to make friends wherever you go because you never know. We go up to this one town. We were there for the day. A guy calls me, he says, "Hey, Tony, you understand Polish, don't you? You speak it." I said, "Not speak it, but I can understand it." [The first guy said], "Some guy, some civilian over here, he's going [to] everybody, he says, 'You speak Polish?' 'You speak Polish?'" So, I went over there. I said, "I don't speak Polish, but I understand Polish. I know more French than I know Polish." He says, "What is your name?" So, I told him, and he says, "Where did your father come from?" I said, "From some kind of a town called Sanok." He's getting all excited, "What's your mother's name?" I said, "Frances." He said, "Bak." "Yes." He grabs a hold of me. He's kissing me, you know. "Get out of here." I said, "What are you doing?" "I went to school with your mom." He's from the same town. [laughter]
SH: He is a civilian there.
AM: Civilian, yes. He and his family, they lived in Paris, and he worked in an automobile company. Ford automobile had a factory there, and he worked there. When the Germans were coming, most of these who weren't French took off and went into the countryside and they were staying with the French farmers until the Germans left. He said that's how they wound up [there], and he told me where they're staying. I said, "That's nice to know." When I was transferred into the infantry, we weren't too far away either, and we were going to go up towards Belgium. That's when the Battle of the Bulge was raging, and our division was told to go up north into Holland, link up with the British Army, and then, we cross the Ruhr River into Germany.
SH: You are with the 79th Infantry, but you are now an infantryman.
AM: Yes, I was in a mortar squad. I was a mortar man.
SH: Now, you were back to what you were trained to do.
AM: Yes, partly. [laughter] We had two days leave, two days, yes. We were going to be here two days, two or three days there, the sergeant says. "Okay," I said, "I met somebody who knew my folks, so I'm going to see if I can find them."
SH: Do you remember what town this was where you were?
AM: I think it was a town called Epinal up in eastern France. You ever hear of Epinal? I remember hitching a ride in a truck. The truck broke down or got in an accident or something. I got another ride. I kept asking questions where this place was. It's a little village, farm village. They told me, and then, I had to walk about a mile up this dirt road to get to it. I come to the first house, and I asked them where So-and-So, lives. "Oh, they live down on the other end, but come on in." I'm the first American soldier he saw. He dragged me into the house. I always carried stuff with me, candy for the kids. I asked the cook to give me some food. This family there, I saw a couple of small kids in there. I took them candy, and I saved some in case this guy has got a family. I said, "I can't stay here long. I want to go because I have to get back." I went down the other end, and these homes, farm homes, one half is the living quarters and in the other half, you have the livestock. On the top, they had the big loft there, and this is where the family would sleep up there, stay there. He says as soon as the Germans leave, he said they're going back to Paris. His wife was pregnant, and he says, "When the baby is born, I would like you to come and be the godfather." Of course, they went to Paris, and I was going the other way. I wound up in Czechoslovakia. So, anyway, we go up to Belgium, and we stayed there a day. Then, we went to Holland, and there we waited until we got orders to cross the Ruhr River. In the meantime, we did some practice firing. Then, we get to the river bank. While we're waiting there, I'm digging my hole there. Artillery in back of us comes up at night, started blasting away. I swear the vibration almost threw me out of the hole. I got out of my hole, and I'm yelling at this guy, "Are you crazy? Don't you know you've got the gun right in back of me?"
KD: Did that happen often?
AM: No. Once is enough. [laughter] I made sure the artillery wasn't close. I felt sorry for the cows. A lot of milk cows were there. I'd see some of them where shrapnel had taken a chunk out of their back. There's one there is mooing so much. I can tell her udder was full and hadn't been milked, so I went over there [makes the motion of milking a cow]. The guys are looking at me, "That guy's crazy." [laughter]
KD: Did you ever have any contacts with your brothers during the war?
AM: No. I didn't see any of them until I got back home, and he came home, yes.
SH: Did you save any of that milk?
AM: That wasn't any good. It all went into the ground.
JM: You should have put that milk into the helmet.
AM: Oh, the helmet. Yes, but I felt sorry for that cow.
KD: We were successful at D-Day. Do you remember having a celebration? [Editor's Note: Allied forces invaded the Normandy region of German-occupied France on June 6, 1944, known as D-Day.]
AM: When the war ended?
KD: No, at D-Day, was there a little bit of a celebration?
SH: Did you know in June what was going on?
AM: We knew where the landing [was] because we used to get the Army newspaper, Stars and Stripes, all the time, so we knew what was going on and talking to others that were going in. There's soldiers landing all over and in the different areas to try to corner the Germans there, the Army, and that's when the Germans Army started retreating as fast as they could. There was a stage when we didn't see [any Germans and] had no contact until we got to Strasbourg. I had an interesting night there, too. I was on patrol with another MP from another company, and he was a Cajun from Louisiana and this bunch were from Louisiana. We were supposed to make sure there's no [people out]. There's curfew at seven o'clock, all civilians to be picked up, and watch out for German snipers and stuff. On the way, he sees a French woman. Now, over there in Strasbourg, that's in Alsace-Lorraine. They speak in a dialect, part German, part French, but I got along with them pretty good. He hooked up with this woman. I don't know where she had come from. He left me, and I was there by myself. I said, "This always happens to me." I see this civilian walking down the street, and he was happy. He'd had a few drinks, I guess, somewhere, and he comes up [to me]. I was going to take him down to headquarters, which is quite a ways, and then, come back. I said, "Where do you live?" He says, "A couple of blocks down there." We're walking down. He said he owns a jewelry story, and he lives in this one block of homes, apartment homes, well to do. You can tell they have money there. We get down there, and I said, "Okay, you can go up into your apartment." I was going to go back. I wasn't going to do any more patrolling. I was going to go back to the barracks. He said, "No, come on up, meet my wife." "Okay, what's the use? It's better than hanging around in the street." I go up there, and he had a couple of bottles of wine. His wife and two others from the other apartments [were] there. He said, "Now, I have a little party." We run out of wine, so he says, "I know where I can get some wine, but I have to go down the street." I said, "Don't worry, you're with me. I'm taking you down to headquarters." We go down this one street, and on the end of the street, there's a door with a little thing there. A guy opens, and he sees him and he says, "American soldat." He says, "No, American camarade, bon ami, bon ami." "Okay, come on in." We go in. He loads a basket up with wine, and we go back again, continue the party. When I got out of there, I was like [makes a swaying motion like a person who is intoxicated]. Strasbourg is a big city. You've got the Rhine River running through one part of it. We were on the one side of the Rhine, the Germans were on the other side. Now and then, they would broadcast that they were going to be back on the other side, they're going to drive us out by Christmas. The big cathedral called the Minster Cathedral is located there, and in front of the cathedral is a huge, big square. You can have thousands of people there. Now all streets go to that square, end there, and then, it continues out the other end. Now, I had to come out this street, and then, I had to go down and meet this street where it starts on the other end. It was a bright moonlit night, full moon. It was like almost daytime. Just as I get to the end of this street to cross the square, something hits the side of the building next to me. I said, "Oh, jeez, I wonder what the heck that is." I just glanced, and then, I start walking. A truck pulls up, armored half-track, with the guys from our company. They are riding around in an armored half-track patrolling. I'm walking by myself with a little .45, and they've got a machine gun. [They said], "Where did that shot come from?" I said, "I don't know and I don't care," and I start walking. I heard one guy, he looks up at the belfry, he said, "There's something moving up there." I hear the machine gun [makes the sound of a machine gun firing]. Then, I hear a guy say, "I think we got him because I see hands falling out of the window." I said, "Good for you," and I kept going. I went back to the barracks and went to bed. [Editor's Note: The cathedral referred to above is called the Strasbourg Cathedral, the Cathedral of Our Lady of Strasbourg or Strasbourg Minster.]
SH: That angel looking over your shoulder.
AM: I said, "There he is again. He must be getting tired, that guy."
KD: At this time of the war, how much did you know about Nazi Germany and the concentration camps?
AM: A lot. When we went down the Ruhr Valley, after I was in the infantry, we crossed the river, we were going down the Ruhr Valley, and we had liberated a bunch of DPs [displaced persons] that were working in the coal mines and in the factories. By this time, when they saw us, they all come out, you know, because you know the Germans were back. Even though once in a while a German shell would land, they were quite a ways back. I would ask, "Anybody speak Ukrainian? Anybody speak Polish?" There was a lot of them too, and women. There was one coal mine where there was a bunch of women working in the mines, and then, they were showing us the building they were sleeping in. They had bunks there. They were being rounded up. There's another outfit that comes in and takes care of all of the DPs, displaced persons, and workers, and they take them back to the rear in the camp to be sorted out and brought back.
SH: Do you remember the dates when you went into France, to southern France?
AM: It was in 1944. It was in September because I remember the people were along the road. The fruit was ripe on the trees, and they were handing it to us. As we were going by, they're throwing apples and stuff. Then, we went to Cannes, and then, what's that other famous resort on the French Riviera? [Editor's Note: The French Riviera landings began on August 15, 1944 and entailed amphibious landings on beaches ranging from Cannes and Saint Raphael to Hyeres. This area of the French Riviera, or Cote d'Azur, is southwest of Monaco and Nice. Allied troops reached Grenoble by August 22 and Besancon by September 7, giving the Allies control of southern France.]
AM: Cannes, yes.
JM: On the Mediterranean.
AM: Mediterranean, yes, that's where we landed. We landed in Saint-Raphael.
AM: Yes. Then, from there, we drove down through these different areas that we went, and then, we went east towards Grenoble up in the French Alps, yes. We entered one town right after we landed. They just finished executing some French collaborators in back of a building. I went back there, and they were digging graves for them. The women who collaborated with the Germans, they shaved their head and they were marching them down the street. I tell you the people there went wild when they saw us coming.
SH: When was the first time that you were under fire from the Germans?
AM: From the Germans, well, actually when we were in North Africa at these ports, we had German planes coming to bomb us every night.
SH: Did you?
AM: Yes, but they had set up such a smoke screen. They had smoke pots all around outside of town. The ships had smoke pots. When you looked up, you couldn't see anything. It looked like all clouds, and the German planes never did hit a ship. Most of their bombs dropped on the town. One peureux got killed. It's funny, there were some English soldiers billeted in that town, too. We were in an apartment building. We hear the German planes going, and you know when they're going to bomb, they dive. When we hear that roar come diving, we all hit the doorway to go down in the basement. There was about three to four guys who hit the door at the same time and got stuck. [laughter] We were standing there laughing. Finally, everybody ran downstairs. Out in the street, there's the English soldiers walking, drinking, singing, "It's A Long Way to Tipperary." They couldn't care less. They had been through bombings in England, so it didn't bother them at all. [Editor's Note: Peureax means fearful.]
KD: Did a lot of soldiers drink?
AM: Oh, every chance they got.
KD: Alcohol was very accessible to them. It was easy to get.
AM: Only if you knew their language, like I did. [laughter] I remember when I was in the infantry this time we stopped at one place. There was a DP, and he told me, I understood, where some wine [was]. [He said], "You can get some wine bottles the Germans had stashed." I went there, you know, filled my jacket up, and I'm going back into the camp where we were waiting to get orders to move up. Just as I was coming in, the lieutenant's coming out, "What have you got under there?" I said, "Do you want a bottle of wine?" He looks around, "I'll take two. Can you get some more?" [laughter] Before that, when I was telling you I was in that hospital.
SH: This was for the surgery.
SH: I thought this was another one.
AM: Well, while I was in there, the medic, he was a soldier medic, would come in, and the ones who are being discharged, he would bring their uniform. He brought mine by mistake. I didn't say anything. I put it under the mattress, the mattress we have there, and after he's gone, I put the uniform on over the pajamas, because I'd been patrolling in town. I knew what the owners of the pub wanted. They want American clothing, and for pajamas, they'll give you a few bottles of wine. I put the uniform on over, and I'm going out. I get out of the hospital area. A jeep's coming by. It's the captain who operated on me, but he didn't know me. He operates on so many. "Where are you going?" "I'm going to town. I've got a friend there." Oh, okay." I told him where to dump me off at this café, and I go in there. I see the owner there. There's a bunch of soldiers in there, and they're all drinking. I go like this to him. He comes over. I go, "[How much will you give me for the pajamas]?" "Four bottles of wine." I said, "Three bottle wine, one bottle brandy, okay?" "Okay, okay." I go in the back room. I strip the pajamas off, give him the pajamas, put my clothes back on, get the wine and brandy, and I ride back. Just as I'm coming in the tent, the nurse, Army nurse now, she was there checking everybody out, and I wasn't in there. [She said], "Where the hell have you been?" I said, "I just took a short walk." "Oh, yes, what's under your jacket?" I said, "Okay, here, have a bottle of wine." She looks around, "Okay, but don't let me catch you again." I go in there, and there's a young fellow from Brooklyn. He had trench feet, and they would cut his toes off, because they'd get black. I think three were cut off. They'd come and they'd poke to see if there's any feeling anymore. He would pray, and he had the rosary. He kept saying the rosary and praying and that he's going to die, he's going to die. I said, "How long's he been this way?" "Oh, he's been that way quite a while now, since they brought him in. He thinks he's going to die." I took the brandy, not the wine, that's powerful stuff they had. I said, "Have a drink of brandy." He says, "I don't know." I said, "Oh, have a little sip." He gets a little sip and he goes [makes a gulping sound]. I grab it away, "That's enough." [laughter] Half an hour later, he's walking out. I said, "Where are his crutches?" They dragged him back, put him back in bed, and he passed out. The next morning, we told him that, "You were walking out." "Get out." "Yes." After that, he got his crutches, and he started walking. I said, "See that. I'm better than a doctor. I should be paid for this." [laughter]
FM: What were some ways that you coped with war and battle?
AM: In battle, by forgetting what's going on after. I was never afraid. It's funny. You're not afraid until it's after a while. Then, you say, "My God, I was crazy." I threatened to shoot a guy, a GI, too. He wouldn't bring the damned ammunition up for us. We were firing our mortars. The German shells are landing around us. I was doing the firing. The other guy, there's two to a mortar when there's a sighting, and we got orders to keep firing, keep firing. I'm down to a couple of shells. Our ammo bearer, he was a guy from Texas, young. When we had captured five German soldiers, they surrendered, and they were eager to go back. The Army officer said, "Who wants to take them back to the rear?" This guy says, "I'll take them back." We heard some shooting, and then, he comes back grinning. He said, "They tried to run away. I had to shoot them." The officer said, "If I had a witness, you would be on your way to Leavenworth." He says, "I know you killed them because they wanted to surrender." So, anyway, he was our ammo bearer. We had our gun like this, dug in, and then, I had a slit trench here and the other gunner had a slit trench there. The ammo bearer had his over here. [Editor's Note: Mr. Machuzak is referring to the military prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.]
JM: What is an ammo bearer?
SH: What is an ammo bearer?
AM: He's supposed to bring your ammunition. He's the ammunition carrier, bring the ammunition up. I said, "Hey, Cole." That was his name. How do I remember these names? It comes right out. I said, "I'm running low on ammo. Bring some up. Get some more up here right away." He's leaning in this trench, and he says, "F-you. I'm not getting out of here. I don't want to get killed." I thought to myself, "This is a guy who murdered five German soldiers. He's afraid." This other [guy], my partner, he was from New York. He wasn't overseas very long. He's a little, timid guy, you know. I get up from the hole, because when you fire, you've got to keep your head away from it. I get over there. I said, "Cole, are you going to bring that ammo up?" He says, "No, F-you." We carry .45s. I carried a .45. I cocked it. I said, "Well, take your choice, bring the ammo up, or that's going to be your grave, okay." Well, you never saw somebody move like he did. He brought up the ammo. The second time I almost shot him the war was over, and we were stationed in one little town. The officer said, "Get the truck, take Cole with you, and bring up some supplies in town," because we were outside of town. We're
going down this road, and there's all these German refugees. They're coming from the country with food. One was telling me the farmers would take anything, gold rings, anything, so they were getting rich. On this side, my side, because I was driving, a guy was maybe around fifty. He had a little mustache. As he's coming up, he's pushing his bike and he had his bag of whatever he went to get. He's pushing along and he called, "Stop, stop." I said, "What's the matter?" It was hot, so we had our windows down. [Cole] had a little pistol. I didn't know he had one. It was an Italian pistol. Where he got it, I don't know. He said, "Watch me shoot that mustache off his face." I said, "Are you kidding?" He says, "No, I don't like his looks. I'm going to shoot it off."
SH: Now, this is a German civilian.
AM: German civilian, yes, going home. The guy gets down on his hands and knees, and he's praying. He says in German, "Gott im himmel" [God in heaven]. "I've got a wife and four children," I knew what he said. He said, "What did he say? What did he say?" I said, "He's got a wife and four children." "So, what. I'm going to shoot it off anyway." I pulled my .45, put it up against his head. I said, "You shoot, you'll never hear the next one, because that will be your head blowing off." He looks at me. He says, "You wouldn't." I said, "In a minute." I said, "You shoot," and I said, "You're dead, believe me." I said, "You're not killing. The war is over. The killing is over." Finally, he put his gun away. The guy said, "Danke, danke" [thanks, thanks]. I said, "Okay, get going." The guy, I never saw him after that. He stayed away. He was afraid of me after that, because twice I almost shot him. What they say about psychopaths, they're cowards, and they are. If they have a gun, they're king. They wouldn't hesitate to kill anyone, but if you have a gun and point it at them, forget it. They'll faint with fright.
SH: Where were you when the war ended in Europe?
AM: In Europe, when it ended, we were in this German city that we just took, Dortmund, and we stayed there for a little while. Then, we headed towards Czechoslovakia, where we met and linked with the Russian Army there. We put on a parade. There was Eisenhower, there was the British general, there was Montgomery, there was Zhukov, the Russian general. [Editor's Note: Mr. Machuzak is referring to American General Dwight D. Eisenhower, British Field Marshal Sir Bernard Montgomery, and Soviet Marshal Georgi Zhukov.]
SH: Review stand.
AM: Review stand, yes, as we were going by. We were all in vehicles going by. I don't know the Czech language too much, but I said, "What are the people saying? What are they cheering about?" They were cheering the Russian Army going by. The Russians told them that the Russian materiel, Army, trucks and everything [was for them]. [laughter] Yes, the Russian propaganda mill was working fast. [Editor's Note: In 1938, the terms of the Munich Conference ceded the Sudetenland of Czechoslovakia to Germany, and the next year, Germany invaded all of Czechoslovakia. In early May 1945, as Germany was on the brink of surrender, Soviet military forces poured into Czechoslovakia. On May 11, German forces surrendered to the Soviets in Prague. Under the agreements of the Potsdam Conference, Czechoslovakia regained the Sudetenland and expelled the region's German population after the war. The Soviet Union's wartime presence in Eastern Europe became a permanent influence in the postwar decades of the Cold War. Communists seized control of Czechoslovakia in 1948.]
SH: What was your duty? What were you doing in Czechoslovakia?
AM: After that parade, then we were going back [to] did you ever hear of the Sudetenland? Okay, the Sudetenland is a part of Czechoslovakia. Hitler took it over. Now, the Germans, what they did when they took over the Sudetenland, they forced all the Czech people off there and brought the Germans over, the farmers and anybody else that wanted to come from Germany, and they were in there when the war ended. When the war ended, being that I knew some German, I was always getting these jobs looking for German deserters and all that. They told me, "Your orders are you work with the German Burgermeister," which is the mayor of town, "and you have to separate the people who were born in Germany and came over here to the Sudetenland. They have to go back. Now, the mayor has the names of every one of them that came over here when Hitler took over." Now, if a German man came over here and married a German girl in the Sudetenland, she had to stay. The ones who were born and raised in the Sudetenland stayed. The ones who weren't had to go back to Germany. I remember we had one truckload of German civilians. This woman's coming by. She's carrying one little one, a baby, got one in a stroller, and another little one is walking along the stroller. They're coming to get on the back of the truck, and it's filled all the way to the end. I said, "Okay, come on. You go in the front with the driver." I'm bringing them around, and I hear somebody yelling, "Hey, soldier, what in the hell do you think you're doing? Put them back in the back of the truck like everybody else." Now, where are they going to sit? On the floor on that steel plate with the little kids? So, I looked at him. By this time, I'd had it up to here with officers. We had some good ones, mind you. There's a lot of good ones, and a lot of the good ones are dead, too. I said, "How long have you been over here?" I never say sir to them. He says, "I've been here for a few months." So, what. I said, "I'm going to tell you something. I've been here over two-and-a-half years overseas already," and I said, "We fought German soldiers, not the women and children. She goes in the front with the driver, period." I went and got her up, and then, I got the kids up. I turned around. He was gone.
KD: Where were you on V-J Day?
KD: Where were you on Victory in Japan Day?
AM: That's a good question. Oh, in Japan, I was still overseas, yes, when the war ended in Japan. Yes, after that job was done, now, the guys in the company were getting leave before they get shipped home. Some went to Rome, some to Paris. All I got was more duty, more duty. Then, from there, after we finished that job, we had a job in Army post office there. [Editor's Note: V-J Day, or Victory over Japan Day, is August 15, 1945, the day that Japan unconditionally surrendered to the United States to bring World War II to an end. On September 2, 1945, the formal surrender was signed onboard the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay.]
SH: In the Sudetenland?
AM: In Germany. We were close to the Austrian border. All the mail would come to this big building, and you would sort it out for the different battalions or companies. I was transferred then to 16th Armored Division. First, I worked in the post office, and we sorted out the mail for when the mail orderlies came in to pick up mail for their outfits. Then, from there, I was transferred to the 16th Armored Division. When the captain found out I worked in a post office, he told me to take over the battalion mail clerk's job, which is a sergeant's job, tech sergeant, which I never saw, but it wasn't long because the 16th Armored Division was going to be sent to fight over in the Pacific area. See, I had higher points. I [would] be going home soon. They transferred me to the 14th Armored Division, which was going to stay a[n] Army of occupation. When I went to that division to that battalion, the captain says, "So, you took care of the mail there. How about taking care of the mail here?" I said, "Okay." I had to do something. I couldn't stay still. I went in there. I took one look at this room where this tech sergeant [had worked], and he just left to go back home. He did not sort any of the mail out. When the company clerks came with the mail, he threw the bags of mail on the floor, and there it laid. I'm looking at that pile of mail that has to be sorted out, and he said, "Oh, pick one of the guys to give you a hand and see what you can do with it." I said, "Okay," so we started. We sorted it out, and then, had three bays. I made Company A, Company B, Company C. I said, "Now, we'll have a mailbag for each one, and when their clerk comes in, they can pick it up." Little by little, by the end of the week, we had it all sorted out. I went to the cook shack, and I said, "I want two big boxes." I said, "I want a hammer and a saw." With the big boxes, I made pigeonholes, and then, I got letters A,B,C, D, E, F, you know, because I didn't have enough holes for the whole alphabet, hung it up on the wall there in the headquarters company, and I put down officer's mail, headquarter company. Then, I got the other box, and I did the same thing. This is headquarter company for the servicemen, soldiers. I hung that up. I said to the guy now, "Get the mail for them. We put it all in there. If they want their mail, let them come and get it there. It's all sorted out." Then, we concentrated on the other one. Finally, we got all that sorted out. The mail guys would come in, pick it up. Then, I would go, the captain gave me a truck, it's a truck bigger than the jeep, and I would go to the main post office, mail all the letters and whatever the guy's packages, and then, pick up the mail and bring it. I had it so regulated in two to three hours I was finished, and the captain says, "That's all you do. You don't stand up for reveille. You eat when you want to eat. I gave orders to the cook. The truck is yours." He said, "Please sign up for another three years." [laughter]
SH: I can tell by that look that that was not something you agreed to do.
AM: I said, "Sir," and he was a nice guy, Captain Lopez, he was from Texas, and I said, "I'd like to, but," I said, "I come from a large family and I got a letter my father isn't feeling well." I said, "I've been here three years. I've never had one day of leave." I said, "We're allowed one month a year of leave," and I said, "I've never had any leave." I said, "I'd like to get back home." Oh, he tried his best to keep me there. He said, "I'm going to write a letter of recommendation about the job you did here. That's what I like to see." I like everything orderly [to] make my job easier, like I used to tell the women in the shop at one place I worked in the packaging department. They were doing things the hard way, and the floor lady got sick and she was going to be off for quite a while. So, they told me to take over, even though I was doing maintenance work. I knew all the operations. When I got finished there, that little company was running in the black. They were using that for a tax write-off [laughter] without so much production. They had to go look for more customers.
SH: The bottom line came up, but it was not supposed to, right?
AM: Yes, so, like I say, I was always that way. I don't even know where I left off.
SH: You had talked about some of the officers who had said that they would recommend you for medals, awards, that kind of thing. What, in fact, did you receive?
AM: My son-in-law, he's a computer expert, by the way. Anything that can be done on computers, he can do it. I'm telling him the story, and he says, "You never got any word." I said, "No." So, he contacted St. Louis, where they keep the records, and they told him that the year that my records were was destroyed by fire. They sent him the discharge and the information about where I was. They're the ones that sent back information, and the medals, the Bronze Star and all that, they said the Bronze Star was for the Middle East, like Algeria, Tunisia, and the other three stars were for the European Theater. They gave me one extra one that I didn't even know I deserved.
SH: Those medals actually were awarded. Had you known that, would you have gotten to come home sooner?
AM: I should have.
SH: Captain Lopez had known that you had this.
AM: He told me, he says, "I'm going to tell you, if you sign up for three years, you can go home, take two months leave if you want for the holidays, Thanksgiving and Christmas, come back and I'll see that you always get your regular leave and this is your regular job and that's it." In the back of my mind, do you know what I always wanted? I was thinking if I did stay there and I had all this time on my hands I would have went to a university there and take up more languages. I was always interested in getting a job in a consulate in different countries. I [wanted to be] a language expert and all that, but it so happened that didn't happen that way. I don't regret it.
SH: What was the town that you did the organization of the mail? Do you remember the name of the town you were in where you organized the mail room so well?
AM: Oh, I don't remember now the name of it, because I moved around so doggone much [that] I forgot the names of a lot of the places there. Like I was telling you, had I taken him up on this [offer to reenlist in the Army], he says, "I'll have someone fill in for you. Take as long as you want." Sometimes, I wish that I would have went back.
KD: Did you make any strong relationship with people during the war?
AM: Yes, I made a lot of friends, and I had a lot of marriage proposals. [laughter]
SH: Could you tell us where you learned to speak French? You promised you would.
AM: In Algeria and Tunisia, oh, yes. I worked with the French police, too. We had one Frenchman, a cop, a young guy. He was a jerk, no, he was a nice guy. He was a good-looking guy. In this one city, Constantine, they put him and me on patrol. We were walking down the street, and I see this woman coming down towards us. He says to me, "Now, you listen to what I tell you to tell her." He says, "Bonjour, madame. Voulez-vous coucher avec moi ce soir?" [Editor's Note: This means, "Do you want to sleep with me?"] You know what that is. Me, dummy, I said that, and boy, she went like this and slapped me one. He's laughing his head off. Then, she looked at him, and she knew that I didn't know what I was saying. [laughter] Well, he would tell me some of the French words, and then, I would [learn from others]. I almost learned a little bit of Arabic. One old French guy, he was an elderly man, he's sitting on a big stone. He had a big pile of little stones there and other bigger stones, and he was breaking them up into little stones. I stopped there. I'm curious. No other MP would have looked twice at the guy. I said, "What are you doing with the stones?" He says, "For roads." We've got stone crushers here; he's doing it with a little hammer. We get to talking there. He was teaching me how to count in Arabic, and I'd give him another cigarette. [laughter]
KD: You were very friendly with the Arabs. Were a lot of the other soldiers friendly with the Arabs too?
AM: No. Some of the guys were what you call thinking they were low and didn't talk to these people. There was nobody low for me. I don't care how poor they were. I was poor, so I knew what they were going through. I tried to help them out. When we were in Germany, in this one place, I don't remember where it was, and we stayed there for a little while. When we had chow, I'd always leave some on my skillet, whatever we used to call them, because there would be a line of kids waiting out there. A lot of the guys would save some and give them scraps of food. When we were in Holland, we lived in a house with a private family, and we slept in the attic. They had two kids. When we had pancakes, I would save some of the pancakes, and I'd bring it in. Boy, these kids, they hadn't had anything like that in a long time. They loved it. The father was like an office worker. They had a piano there, and he would play the piano. It was nice there, but we weren't there very long because we were waiting for orders to cross over into Germany. When we were in Germany, I made friends with some German people. Like I say, the husband I'd give a cigarette and the kids [I would give candy or food], so they invited me to their home for dinner.
SH: You were allowed to fraternize now at this point.
AM: We're not supposed to, but who cares? I wasn't paying attention. [laughter]
KD: What was your reaction to the atomic bomb because of the bombing on Pearl Harbor?
AM: They deserved it. See, I used to follow that Japanese war, they started it way before.
KD: I mean atomic bomb on Japan.
AM: Yes, the Japanese, what they did to the Chinese was unbelievable. I don't know, you probably saw some pictures. The worst one I saw was the one they dug this huge big hole there in this town, and then, they went and they threw all these men in, and then, got the bulldozer and buried them alive. I said, "I hope they get theirs and get it good and teach them a lesson that they will never forget." [Editor's Note: In 1931, Japan invaded Manchuria. In 1937, Japan launched a full-scale invasion of China. In late 1937 and early 1938, Japanese forces took over the city of Nanking, and then, proceeded to loot, pillage and rape to such an extent that the event has become known as the "Rape of Nanking." The Sino-Japanese War lasted until 1945.]
KD: When you came back to the States, how did you adjust back into society?
AM: Like that [snapping fingers].
SH: I want to ask one question before we talk about when you came back. Do you think being raised and having worked on the farm like you did prepared you to better survive as a soldier in North Africa and in Europe?
AM: Oh, yes. I used to love to walk through the woods. I always carried a gun, you know, in case there's some game, but most of the time I didn't even shoot them. I felt sorry for them, too. [laughter] A lot of the guys that come from the cities, I felt sorry for some of them. They didn't know how to cope for themselves, but me, I don't care where I went. I can do it. I can cope.
KD: That is pretty phenomenal. You really were everywhere.
AM: I was a nosy kid. This place where I was telling you I almost shot the ammo bearer, well, the Germans finally retreated. We shot across the field to this one farmhouse, and we stood in there and we were going to stay overnight. Me, nosy, I go up in the attic there to see what's up there, and I see this big chest there up against the wall. The roof is at a peak part way, and then, from here onto the floor, there's a chest there. I'm opening the drawers to see if there's anything interesting or worthwhile. I can't take nothing. They were looting. I went in one house there, and it was a German officer's home because I'd seen his picture on [the wall]. Most of the people left their homes when we used to come to the village. I see the picture of the German officer. I go down in the basement there, and [there were] all these crates of chinaware, silverware all from Holland, Belgium that they looted from these other countries. I said, "Okay, buddy, I'm going to do the same thing."
SH: What did you find in the chest?
AM: Nothing. I finally come to the good part. While I'm there looking, the sergeant's yelling, "Hey, come on down, the coffee's ready." Okay, I go down, have coffee, and I said, "I'm going back up. I didn't finish looking in the chest." I go back up. You know where the roof comes down. There's a big hole there and a big hole there. A shell went right through without exploding. My head would've went with them. [laughter]
SH: Did you look in that chest?
AM: Nope, that was it.
SH: Leave it be. [laughter]
AM: Good thing you didn't have a partner like me. We would've had a lot of fun.
KD: How did you reach out to other soldiers who could not cope the way that you did?
AM: When I was in the hospital at that time in Africa, there was one soldier who bunked next to mine on the other side. When they'd bring the mail in, they would hand the mail to the guys, and I'd see him. He'd get a letter, he didn't get much mail, but once in a while, he'd get a letter, and he'd put it under his pillow. I said, "Aren't you going to read it?" He's looking around. He says, "I don't know how to read." They always pick me, because they know this guy is not going to say anything. I said, "That's nothing. I'll read it for you, and I'll write the reply. Anything you want me to write back, I'll do it." I would get the letter and I'd read it to him, the two of us heads together, because some guys made fun of them, guys that are illiterate. I took care of him. The next time was when a young fellow from, I think, Arkansas or somewhere in a tent. There's all these other soldiers around. He comes up to me. I don't know him. This is first time I've seen him. He says, "Would you read a letter for me?" I said, "Sure." I said, "I'll write the reply." He gets a letter from his girlfriend in Arkansas. Should I tell you what the first sentence was? [The letter said], "I've been writing to you for nine months. I ain't heard from you yet." Anybody else would have laughed their head off. I just kept my straight face. I said, "Okay, now," then I finished reading the letter to him, and it's funny. I said, "Now, do you want me to send a reply?" "It doesn't matter," he said, "She'll know that it's not me that's writing." I said, "I'll write down that I'm writing for you, this is what you want and tell me." I said, "Just don't be afraid. Anything personal I'll write down and I won't say anything," and I never told anybody. I felt sorry for them guys. One guy was from Upstate New York. We get to talking, and he says he lived on a farm and he had a father that was very demanding. He was maybe third grade and his father yanked him out of school because he needed him to work in the fields. He says, "I never did learn." I said, "You can go to school now if you want to after the war if you survive it."
KD: Did you make use of the G.I. Bill?
AM: I went to [school for electronics]. I remember I said, "I'm going to take up electronics." I took up electronics, and I went to school at that time to learn all about TV. They were just coming out with TV, you know, and electronics. I, for a while there, went there, and then, I worked in Esso and we also had a class in electronics in Standard Oil, or now it's Exxon. You come on the board. They had jobs that are listed that are up for bid, but you've got to have the seniority. It came up on the board a bid for [an] electronics job, and I put my name down. Do you know who got it? The guy that don't know beans about electronics, but he had more time than I did. When I went back to school, I told the instructor. I said, "Where I'm working," I said, "it doesn't matter whether you know anything or not." I said, "You only get the job on seniority." He said, "Do you mean to tell me that somebody got it and don't know anything about it and you do?" I said, "Yes." "I'm going to call up and find out. I don't believe this." He did. He called up the plant, and the next day, when I went back to school, he said, "You're right." He said, "I don't believe it." I said, "I'm just wasting my time here." Then, I went to learn to do welding, and I did a lot of trades. I always loved to do trades.
KD: What were some changes that you saw in society when you came back?
AM: Well, I'll tell you one thing, everybody was too busy trying to get a job. You see, they were converting, for the first year or two, there was a lot of soldiers like me who couldn't get a job because all the factories were converting to civilian goods. I remember one time I went with another guy. He was a hot head. He was in the Pacific War, and he was a neighbor of when I stayed in Elizabeth. I said, "I'm going out looking for a job." He said, "I'll go with you." So, we went to this one place and go up to the office. I said, "I'd like to put in an application for a job here." "Sorry, but we have no openings." So, this guy, oh, I had to pull him out. I thought he was going to clobber this guy. "I fought over there in the Pacific two years and I come back here and I can't get a job." I didn't want a fight getting started there, so I told him, "Come on, we can go somewhere."
KD: Following the war, did you watch any war films? Did you want to? Did you have any urge to go watch war films?
KD: War films.
SH: Did you go to the movies?
KD: Did you see any movies that depicted the war?
AM: I don't care to see them anymore.
SH: Finally, the war was over, and it was time for you to come home. Where did you report to, to come back to the States?
AM: They called me.
SH: Where did they send you?
AM: The next thing I knew the truck is coming to pick you up, we're going to go to Marseilles, France and pick up a boat there, and then, from there we go to Boston and from Boston then went up to Indiantown Gap.
SH: What ship did you come home from Marseilles on?
AM: It was a Dutch freighter. Do you know what the toilet was? You had a little platform built on the side of the ship with holes in it. Then, you had a rope there, and you sat there. [laughter]
SH: You never got the first-class seat. [laughter]
KD: What do you think when people call you a hero because you served in World War II?
AM: No. Hero, I said they're all dead. They're the heroes. They gave their life. I'm home. I never considered myself a hero. I went there to do a job. I did a job, more than a job, but, like I say, I don't regret it. I learned a lot.
SH: From Marseilles you went to Boston.
SH: Then, you went out to Indiantown Gap, and then, where did you go?
AM: Then, I took the train home.
SH: Your mom and everybody is there, your father.
AM: They were there, yes. Do you know what was interesting on the bus? You know in Elizabeth, you had two bus lines, one that goes from Newark to Elizabeth, and when you picked up the one going from Newark to Elizabeth, when you're at the halfway mark, you didn't pay until you get off, and then, the other one, you had to pay when you got on just in Elizabeth. So, [I have been gone for] three years. I said, "I know there's one that you don't pay until you get off." I took the one that you've got to pay. So, I get on, get my barracks bag, put it down on the seat, and I'm sitting down. The bus driver turns around and said, "Hey, you, the war is over. Pay." So, I got up. I learned to control my temper. I used to have one when I was overseas. In fact, I told an officer off one time.
SH: It sounds like more than once. [laughter]
AM: This one thanked me. He had just come over. He replaced the one that was sent back, and we were on the march. The Germans were retreating. We come to a main intersection, and he stops the platoon there and everybody's around that intersection. Now, I'd been over there long enough to know the Germans have every intersection zeroed in with their artillery, and to zero in artillery usually you have to throw at least three shells. I yelled, "Who the heck is the stupid So-and-So, who stops right in the intersection? Don't they know the Germans have it zeroed in? One shell will wipe all of us out." The next thing I hear, "Everybody get going, get going, get going," so everybody took off. Then, later on, I didn't know it was him, he comes over to me. He says, "Thank you." I said, "For what?" "For telling me about the Germans having that." He says, "I didn't know about that." See, they're not trained over there. No, wonder they call them ninety-day wonders.
SH: To go back to your story, I am sorry about that horrible bus driver in Newark. So, you had to pay.
AM: Oh, I had smaller change, but I picked out the biggest one. I had a twenty-dollar bill [makes the sound of smacking money down to pay]. "Is that all you got?" I said, "That's all I have," and [makes the sound of the bus driver grumbling and complaining] he gave me the change. [laughter]
SH: What a welcome home.
AM: I used to laugh, laugh it off. What the heck? That's life. That's what I used to say. I learned that from the French. C'est la vie. That's life.
SH: How long after you came home from the war did you meet Jeannette?
AM: Oh, we met at a New Year's Eve dance.
SH: Right after this.
AM: It was two or three years later, yes.
KD: How long were you in the United States before you met Jeannette?
JM: About six years.
AM: Was it that long?
JM: When I came over here.
AM: We met in 1949.
JM: Oh, no, not six years, three years.
AM: Three years, yes.
SH: Was it all the French that you had learned that charmed her? You knew what not to say. [laughter]
AM: Tell her what happened when I was kissing everybody Happy New Year. What did you tell me?
AM: [You said], "I knew you were the one when you kissed me. Bells were ringing." [laughter]
SH: I thank you so much. Is there anything else?
KD: One more thing, how has World War II contributed to your life?
AM: I think maybe it made me a better person, because I learned a lot, and, like I say, I'm always curious and still read a lot when I get a chance. I have to take care of [my family], and Jeannette can't see too well, so I have to take care of that. How about it, kiddo? What are you going to make for supper?
JM: You're taking me out. [laughter]
SH: Spoken like a wonderful wife. Well, we thank you so much, and we thank Gwen, your granddaughter, for making the suggestion that you would be a great interview and you have been.
KD: I really appreciate it. You have wonderful stories.
AM: There's some more I didn't say yet. [laughter]
AM: In eastern France, I was asked to get on this one intersection in directing convoys. Now, we had a new division that came from the States, and they were going to relieve the division that was up on the lines. We were close to the line, so you could hear the artillery going. I watched as the trucks came, coming towards me to go up towards the lines for them to relieve the [old] division, which I think was the 45th [Infantry] Division. Anyway, it doesn't matter, but each truck was jammed with young GIs, young fellows, standing up, jammed up on these trucks. Truckload after truckload, I'm looking at them, and I'm slowing them down because I didn't want any accidents. Some of the drivers they get a little carried away. I'm looking up at these kids. I said, "Holy mackerel." Some of them didn't even shave yet. [I said], "All these kids, they're going up there to the frontline. I hope that the division that is up there is going to show them the ropes, instead of them coming up and they're falling back." The Germans then broadcasted, they had a big loudspeaker, they use that for propaganda, and they says welcome, division, and they named the division, when they left the States, when they arrived there, and they were now going to relieve this division and they were in for a surprise. Well, three or four days later, here comes trucks, and behind the trucks are these trailers, two trailers. They were loaded with bodies. The blood was going all along the highway, you know. I go like this and, "God, look at them kids." They're all dead. I started to cry. That was the hardest thing. I never wanted to see that again, so many bodies.
SH: What a horrible thing to see.
AM: Hundreds and hundreds of them. They took such a beating that half of the division was then called back and the other ones had to go back again. When I looked at them, you know, these high school kids.
SH: Well, I thank you for talking with us.
AM: Yes, I'm sorry I broke down like that. I usually don't. These kids, they're not trained enough in the fighting, because the way you're trained in the States is not the way it's done in battle. It's altogether different. I mean, you always have another guy, a partner, you know, and you're always looking out for the other guy. To throw kids like that into battle. The Germans were right. They were waiting. They said, "These are untrained kids."
SH: Did you hear Axis Annie? We have heard stories.
AM: I heard stories about [her], yes.
SH: I am so thankful that you got home safe, and you talked to us. Share that story, because that is something that this generation would need to hear.
AM: War is not necessary, especially this war that is going on now. It should never have happened. If they would have known history, you know the history, because when I was at that dinner with those Arab friends, they told me this and it so happened it still goes for that today. He says, if any Arab country is attacked by foreign troops, "We've been fighting each other for two thousand years," this is what the guy told me. He says, "If you look at Arab history, Arabs have been fighting each other for two thousand years," and he says, "but let any foreign troops come into one Arab country, we will all get together, drive them out, and then, we go back to fighting each other again." Now, doesn't that tell you something?
SH: Thank you so much.
AM: You're welcome.
KD: Thank you for the interview.
----------------------------------------------END OF INTERVIEW------------------------------------------
Transcribed by Domingo Duarte
Reviewed by Kathryn Tracy Rizzi 6/8/17
Reviewed by Patricia Guidi 11/2/2020
Reviewed by Kathryn Tracy Rizzi 12/14/2020