WWII Oral History Interviews

From 1941 to 1945, the United States engaged in a global conflict that witnessed the mobilization of more than 100 million military personnel and during which more than 70 million people were killed – making it the most widespread and deadliest war ever. The following audio clips capture WWII experiences – from service life and the home front, to VJ Day and VE Day. These are just a few excerpts from the many oral history interviews available to the public during open hours at the Scott County Historical Society. For more information, or to access the entire oral history collection, contact Tyler Kinsella at 952.445.0378, or send an email.

Anderson, Gerald

Residence: Shakopee
Gerald Anderson of Shakopee served in the US Navy.Branch of service: Navyfa
Location served: South Pacific
Dates served: 1943-1944
Gerry Anderson joined the Navy and went to boot camp in Farragut, Idaho, earning a Bakers Third Class rating. He shipped out to the South Pacific on board the USS Perida. Gerald was a baker in the U.S. Navy. While working in a ship’s commissary, the ship was hit, and Gerald floated on a raft in the ocean for three days. The raft was picked up and taken to Bouganville, Solomon Islands, and Gerald remained there for 18 months. In this portion of the interview, he discusses survival on the island.

Excerpt transcript: “…you know they teach people how to protect s by putting them in a foxhole. Well you know we never had any training to be in a foxhole because I joined the Navy, I was going to be aboard a ship. But you know quickly you can dig down and with your bare hands, and when you get into it, you think it isn’t too bad as you realize now your bottom’s getting wet little by little. Now you’re – you’re sitting in water, now you’re going to have to try to learn to sleep in that. One of us, we always seem to be paired off, cause there was two people in a foxhole. One could sleep, and one had to stay awake for that reason, but you finally learn how. You would fall asleep sitting in water.”

“There’s three things, I would say that you live with; one of them is the smell of bodies decaying. Bodies smell terrible decaying. The other one is the sound of a bullet going through a body, how it makes that popping noise that you don’t forget. When you pull the trigger and you can see your enemy’s eyes. Those three things live with you.”

Bisek, Blase

Residence: New Prague
Blase Bisek of New Prague served in the Army in Europe.Branch of service: Army
Location served: Europe
Dates served: September 1944
Blase Bisek was born on January 30, 1920. Blase served in the 10th Armored Division, 11th Tank Battalion Combat Reserve in General George Patton’s 3rd Army. Blase was drafted in 1942 and served in Europe with a tank company. His company arrived at Cherbourg in September 1944, and he first encountered resistance at Metz, along the Maginot Line. In this excerpt, Blase talks about handling fear.

Excerpt transcript: “…when we went through the first encounter around Metz, a person was scared – you didn’t know if you were going to live the next day. You were scared. But as time went by, you kind of got hardened to that, and I guess it didn’t mean that much to a person anymore. You’ve gone so far without getting killed or hurt so you just…I remember the time when we were in a woods in a (illegible). There was bombs coming in and somebody said, “How about if we make a cup of coffee?” So we jumped out and run in behind the tank and make a cup of coffee – it didn’t matter. But yeah, from the beginning you were scared.”

Busch, Wilbert

Residence: New Praguebusch_wilbert
Branch of service: ArmyingLocation served: Europe
Dates served: 1945
Wilbert Busch was born on June 5th, 1921. He was living at home on his parents’ farm near St. Benedict when he was drafted in August of 1942. Wilbert left the farm on September 19, 1942, when 32 other Scott County draftees took two Greyhound buses to Fort Snelling. He served with the Thunderbolt Division, the 83rd Division, 330th Company, fighting through France, Luxembourg and Germany. The plan was for the Russians and Allied forces to meet at the Elbe River. This is the same time as Germany’s surrender. In this audio clip, Wilbert talks about the meeting up at the Elbe.

Excerpt transcript: “The Russians came from the other side. We were about 30 miles from Berlin. That was all so quiet because the Germans were so anxious to give up. They were comin’ all over, just give up. The Russians came from that side. The Germans don’t want to see Russians. They’re tougher than hell. They rather come to the United States and surrender. That’s why we had so many of them. Twenty thousand of them that got captured, they all give up at once.”

Conroy, Jim

Residence: Prior Lakeconroy_jim2
Branch of service: Navy
Location served: South Pacific
Dates served: Spring 1945
Jim Conroy was born on February 28, 1918. He served in the U.S. Navy aboard the USS Pinkney, a hospital evacuation ship. Jim was in five battles. On April 29th the USS Pinkney was hit by a Kamikaze bomb. He served throughout the Pacific. Here he talks about raising the flag at Iwo Jima.

Excerpt transcript: “My GQ station had doctors so I was in a good position to watch the activity – to see all the fighting that was going on. I saw the first group that raised the first flag, and it was a little thing on a pole…when the flag went up all the ships in the harbor started blowing their horns, and they all raised, and they were so happy that they were making some headway.”

Dols, Earl

Residence: Shakopeedols_earl_portrait
Branch of service: Army
Location served: Europe
Dates served: Spring 1944
Earl volunteered for the Army and served in the 34th Red Bull Division, 1st Battalion, 168th Infantry and 175th Field Artillery Combat Team, except for the time he was detached from them and served with the British 1st Division. Before joining the Army, Earl had finished the program for mechanics at Dunwoody and was assigned to maintain military vehicles. Third and fourth battle of Monte Cassino (battle for Rome). He was meant to link up with Allied troops when they landed at Normandy, but the battles (four total beginning in January 1944) didn’t succeed in capturing Rome until the time of D-Day.

Excerpt transcript: “The Germans were dug into the mountains. They had been preparing that line for a long time. That was their Winter Line defense. That was the Liri Valley and Highway 6 come through there going up to Rome. We were trying to get through there to take Rome. We couldn’t get through there. So about ten o’clock in the morning, B-25s – the 13th Air Force came over, and they dropped everything that they had. We had 500 artillery pieces firing at the same time. I would have swore to God that if they shook it any more, the bottom of Italy would have fell off the bottom of Europe. They said it didn’t do any good. All that rubble gave the Germans protection. We decided we would try a different way of getting there. We went up to Anzio and took LSTs, loaded some of the equipment on that, and the guys went up. They took about four men out of each section of ten men because there wasn’t room. About the 16th of March – we broke through about the fourth or sixth of June about a day or two after the invasion of Europe.”

Eischens, Leonard

Residence: New Pragueeischens_leonard
Branch of service: Army
Location served: Europe
Dates served: 1943
Leonard Eischens was born on September 1, 1925. His family lived on a farm in St. Benedict. He was a 1943 graduate of New Prague High School. Leonard was in high school when Pearl Harbor was attacked in December 1941. Here is a quote from when he was drafted after graduating from high school.

Excerpt transcript: “…we were at war. That was in what, 1941? So I’d be a freshman in high school or sophomore. We all figured if the thing lasted, we’re going to get drafted. You couldn’t get a permanent job anywhere. They also knew you’re able-bodied and you’re fifteen, sixteen years old, and in a couple of years, you’d be gone…I was drafted into Fort Snelling. They gave me a choice, so to speak; they says ‘Which would you prefer?’ I said ‘I’ll take the Navy.’ ‘Sorry, we’re all full today. You’re in the Army.’ That’s the choice I had.”

Farrell, Bill

Residence: Prior Lakefarrell_bill
Branch of service: Marine Corps
Location served: South Pacific
Dates served: September 1944
Bill Farrell was born on March 28, 1920. He joined the 1st Marine Division on December 24, 1941. He was involved in the invasions of Guadalcanal and Peleliu in the South Pacific. Listen as Bill talks about fighting at Peleliu in September 1944.

Excerpt transcript: “We had some different adventures – especially on Peleliu, where we were carrying water and ammunition…There was one instance where we had a trail that we worked on the whole night long. We must of made about six trips…Right in the middle of the trail was a mine, and nobody stepped on the trip, for two-three trips up and back and forth, all night long. And all these guys carrying all this stuff, and nobody stepped on the God damn mine. It was unbelievable, how close you are to death – just one footstep and you’re dead.”

Goemer, Bertrand

Residence: Shakopee goemer_bertrand_portrait_color
Branch of service: Navy
Location served: Europe
Dates served: Late 1943-early 1944
Bert Goemer was born on September 26, 1921. He patrolled the coasts of Italy and France in a PT boat. Bert and his crew stopped German transport ships, took British commandos on missions behind the lines, and rescued downed airmen.

Excerpt transcript: “We operated out of Bastia all the time. Our main purpose is as we patrolled Italy, we patrolled the whole coast of Italy. Army frontlines are here, and we patrolled from there all the way up to France, off the shore to keep them from sending any supplies or men or anything to their frontline. We patrolled every night; every night there was as many boats as we could put out there patrolling. That’s what we did during the war, we stopped these convoys coming down, and we stopped a lot of them. I’ve always thought in my life on the PT boat how many hundreds or thousands of lives we might have saved by not letting them get any supplies to their frontlines.”

Huber, Arthur

Residence: Belle Plainehuber_art
Branch of service: Marine Corps
Location served: Pacific
Dates served: April 1945
Art Huber was born on August, 14, 1922. He became a Marine corpsman and served on Okinawa. He enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1942 and was transferred to the Marine Corps. Art volunteered with the Anti-Aircraft Artillery Battalion and served in the Pacific. He was part of the first landings at Okinawa on Easter Sunday, April 1, 1945.

Excerpt transcript: “Easter Sunday I landed on Okinawa among a bunch of LSTs with their ramps down, and all I could see was guys that were wounded laying in there on the cots – bloody bandages and stuff. But these Kamikaze planes were coming over every damned night and diving on our ships, so I was glad to hit the beach the next morning and take my chances. And I hit the beach at Nago, and we went north with the Marines and the Army went south on the island of Okinawa. And we secured the northern part of the island, and then we had to go down and help the Army out in the southern part.”

(Talking about securing the southern part of the island:) “…it took a long time to secure it; they were holed up like rats. I made a lot of trips across that island to the evacuation hospital; that was my main job – transporting the wounded…One night we were going across the island and, Jesus, we run into a nest of Japs, and I know we had to get out of the damned thing and get underneath it until the shots quit firing. We finally made it across.”

Hyatt, Kenneth

Residence: Shakopeehyatt_kenneth
Branch of service: Army (POW)
Location served: Europe
Dates served: 1944-1945
Ken Hyatt was born on February 19, 1917. He served as a lieutenant in the 79th Division, 314th Infantry Regiment, Charlie Company. After D-Day he was sent to France. On November 29, 1944, during fighting at Hagenau, Germany, Ken and 14 others were captured. He spent time as a prisoner of war at Stalag 12A in Limberg, Germany. Around Christmas they were transferred to Oflag 64 in Schubin, Poland. At the end of January 1945 the POWs were made to march for 48 days to Hammelberg, Germany to Stalag 13. Ken and others escaped from Stalag 13 but were captured. He retired from the National Guard as a Major in 1964. Hear Ken talk about the capture.

Excerpt transcript: “They took us to a schoolhouse and put us up in a school room. Then one of the sergeants who could speak good English came up. He wanted to know if there was anything he could do for us. We said we needed something to eat and some candles would be nice. Then he explained that his wife and his child were living in town. They knew that the Allies were not that far away. They knew that sooner or later they were going to be in town, and he was concerned that the Americans would rape his wife and massacre his family…One of the guards was a Sergeant Schultz type from Hogan’s Heroes. He was excited because the Allies were so close. He couldn’t speak English but he could draw. He drew Amerikanish and pointed where they were and Deutsches here on the blackboard. Finally he handed me his rifle so he could draw better. I’m standing there holding his weapon, not that it would have done me any good because we were outnumbered.”

Koenig, Joe

Residence: New Praguekoenig_joe_at_desk
Branch of service: Army
Location served: South Pacific
Dates served: Late 1945-1946
Joe Koenig was born on May 17th, 1922. He was drafted and reported to Fort Snelling and then sent to Camp Roberts, California. He was later assigned to a National Guard unit in Wisconsin as a replacement in the infantry, but he served in Battery “A” of the 121st Field Artillery Battalion, 32nd Infantry Division. In the summer of 1945, Joe was sent to Manila in the Philippine Islands. After the Japanese surrendered, Joe served in the Army of Occupation until May of 1946. In this clip, Joe talks about visiting both Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Excerpt transcript: “I saw people with their faces all peeled off. Yeah, there were some survivors. It was very pitiful to see one of those people. And, of course, they didn’t have enough hospitals and medical people to take care of those people. They suffered very severely. Suppose it was Scott County that was all devastated – it would be like Henderson, Lonsdale and maybe some of those outside cities – that’s where you saw the real suffering. It wasn’t in the target devastated area – they were burned up.”

Krautkremer, Omer

Residence: New Praguekrautkremer_omer_flag1
Branch of service: Navy
Location served: Pearl Harbor
Dates served: 1941
Omer Krautkremer was born on August 10, 1918. He joined the Navy in 1940. On December 7, 1941 when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, he was serving aboard the USS Whitney. The Whitney was a repair and supply ship that serviced destroyers. The ship had a foundry, carpenter shop, typewriter shop and so on. He also served in Germany on General Eisenhower’s staff as an interpreter. Later Omer served in the South Pacific. He served 20 years. Krautkremer was a Carpenter’s Mate in the U.S. Navy. Hear his eyewitness account of Pearl Harbor.

Excerpt transcript: “…the morning we got bombed – it was a Sunday morning – I figured I’d get up early and scrub my clothes. We had to scrub our own clothes. You got a bucket, and that was your bucket, and then you go in the washroom – there was a faucet there. I was scrubbing my clothes, and all of the sudden an alarm went off, fire and rescue. I said, ‘Them crazy nuts on Sunday morning, having drills.’ They said, ‘Belay the last word, all hands to general quarters,’ which means, battle stations. After the bombings we recovered bodies; we had to help bury them up at the… what they called Red Hill. They had mass graves, ya know, they had they made graves with a bulldozer, DA Cats, ya know, make just like a ditch and pile them in there. You couldn’t recognize them, they were burned so bad, but each one that died there has a cross in that cemetery. It was awful – something you’ll never forget.”

Loggers, Aletta and Walter

Residence: Shakopee (moved to the U.S. after the war)loggers_lette_and_walt-composite
Branch of service: Dutch Marines
Location served: Europe and South Pacific
Dates served: 1940
Walt Loggers was born in 1924 on the island of Sumatra in Indonesia. His parents, who were Dutch, ran a plantation, where Walt and his siblings were born. After the war in Europe ended, Walt joined the Dutch Marines, trained in the United States, and fought the Japanese in Java, where he was wounded. Lette Loggers was born and raised on a farm near the city of Doelinchem, Holland when the Nazis attacked Holland. She lived through the German occupation. Her family helped hide and transport Jews, and her brothers were members of the Dutch underground. She discusses the occupation, speaks for Walt because of his health problems.

Excerpt transcript: “…the first year they occupied. Then they pressured people that they had to work for them. Eventually they had everybody have to have an identification of their own with a picture on it. Then the third year was when they started rounding up Jews. They were shipped away and they never knew where they had to go and [we] never found out until after the war. We thought they also had to work in Germany, and that’s what they said.”

Robe, Dorothy

Residence: Savagerobe_dorothy
Branch of service: Navy, WAVE
Location served: Stateside
Dates served: 1944-1945
Dotty Robe was born on December 17, 1923. She was a Petty Officer Third Class in the WAVES, (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service) from 1944-1945. She attended boot camp in New York and received training as a storekeeper in Georgia. After training she worked at the Glenview Air Station outside of Chicago. She talks about veterans.

Excerpt transcript: “You can’t find better people than veterans. I have found that, not because I’m a vet, because I’m only lowly vet compared to what has transpired ahead of me and will come in the future…I think people don’t realize this is the greatest country on God’s green earth, and they don’t know how close they can come to losing it when they have apathy and lack a desire to keep this country the way it’s been.”

Schmitt, Joseph N.

Residence: Shakopeeschmitt_joseph
Branch of service: Army
Location served: Europe
Dates served: 1945
Joe Schmitt was born on December 6, 1922. He served in the 14th Infantry Regiment, 71st Division and later joined General Patton’s 3rd Army. Talks about “sweeping” through the woods after the Battle of the Bulge. Allied troops crossed the Rhine River, and his group was moving through Hanau and Darmstadt.

Excerpt transcript: “This is the way that worked. You’re in a woods alongside of a road. The tanks are gonna go down that road. You’re out there and you have to stretch out a company out on this side of the road. On the other side of the road there is another company out there, and you’re going forward. And you do this and you go on to the next place. We did that for a long time. I was in the 14th Infantry then. Generally you walked a day. You rode a day, and you rested a day. That’s how Patton liked to do it.”

Soller, Dave

Residence: Belle Plainesoller_dave
Branch of service: Army
Location served: Europe
Dates served: 1943-TBD
Dave Soller was born on August 5, 1924. He was 18 when he was drafted into the Army in April, 1943. After basic training at Camp Roberts, a ten-day leave, Dave shipped o,ff to England from Fort Mead, Maryland. Dave served in the 23rd Infantry, Company I. He was wounded in France.

Excerpt 1 transcript: “…and me and my buddy we were – James – we were walking about ten feet apart, watching the trees for snipers. All of a sudden we heard a shell,… and it went over our heads, but it landed behind us. It didn’t go off; it was a dud. I said to James, ‘If that baby would have went off, they would have never even found our dog tags.’ About five minutes or ten minutes later, they really threw it in there and that’s when I got hit, and … James, my buddy, he was only ten feet from me, and all he got was a bunch of brush on top of him. I got hit … and I stayed laying there until it was pretty near dusk. I heard two guys talking and after they got closer, I found out it was two Americans. I thought maybe it was a German patrol going through, but here it was my buddy and another guy. He came back; he wanted to see if I was dead. Then he and this other guy, they took my … Oh no, they took my medicine bag. There was powder and a shot in it.

(Interviewer: Morphine?) “Yeah, and he gave me the shot, and then they took the powder and put it on my arms to plug the bleeding. So then he carried me from there back up to the frontline… and when they brought me in camp… and I could hear the lieutenant say, ‘What did you bring him up here for? He’ll be dead before morning.’ So then they dug a little hole there, and they put me in that and put brush around it. Then he took out his medicine bag and he gave me his shot too. I stayed laying in that hole until the next morning. During the night they had captured two Germans. When they were pulling this brush away from the hole… and here there was two Germans and I thought, ‘Oh boy, now they got me,’ and here they were going to pick me up and carry me back out of the woods.”

Excerpt 2 transcript: “I should tell you, one time in this old house… and there was one wall left on it, and there was a stairway to go up to that wall. And about half way up, there was a cupboard built into the wall. Of course, we were all there; we wanted to know what was in that cupboard. So we got a big long stick and piece of wire, made a hook and opened the door, and here she was piled full of wine bottles. ‘Wine for the table,’ it said. We had a little party that day. The platoon sergeant got called back down to the headquarters, and while he was down there, he got sick from the wine. So the big shots came up to find out what was going on. There was a little guy there from Missouri. This colonel, or whatever he was, said to him, ‘What would you do now if the Germans came over that hill?’ He said, ‘I’d have a lot more guts now than I had ten minutes ago.'”

Stief, Burdette

Residence: Jordanstief_burdette
Branch of service: Army
Location served: Europe
Dates served: June 1944
Burdette Stief was born on March 23, 1924. He served with the 28th Infantry Division, the Bloody Bucket, whose motto was “Roll on.” Burdette fought in the Battle of the Hürtgen Forest and the Battle of the Bulge. He was a member of the 28th Infantry Division, which landed at Omaha Beach ten days after D-Day – June 16, 1944.

Excerpt transcript: “…I remember landing on Omaha Beach, and the boats were still there. They had been sunk, you know. I remember walking from the big ship down to the landing barges, and the landing barges were rocking, very much so, and the ship would stand still. And the secret was to go from the ship down the ladder into the landing barge without getting crushed in between…when you looked into Omaha Beach there, all you saw was a high hill and a pillbox – and how anybody got through there, I don’t know, because it had to be a slaughter.”