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Interview on experiences in World War II

View at Kansas Memory

Creator: Mitchell, Lewis Elwin

Date: February 22, 2007

Level of Description: Item

Material Type: Manuscripts

Call Number: World War II Oral Histories Project

Unit ID: 211423

Biographical sketch: In the fall of 1942, Elwin Mitchell was enrolled in the Engineering School at the University of Kansas, and scored high enough on the test for the Army Specialized Training Program that he got to complete his year of college before enlisting. His basic training was at Fort Benning, Georgia where he learned how to deal with field problems, hiked , and was on the rifle range and firing machine guns, etc. When he completed basic he was assigned to go to the University of Oklahoma but the war in Europe had increased so President Roosevelt did away with the program and he was assigned to the 94th Infantry Division, in Mississippi. However, because of his score on the ASTP tests he was put in the 445th Heavy Automotive Maintenance Company and sent to school at Fort Crook, Nebraska. In November of 1944 his company went overseas, landing in France, where they were in charge of the Seventh Army Motor Pool. They checked all incoming vehicles to be sure they were okay before sending them to the front lines. During the Battle of the Bulge they received orders about two o'clock in the morning to get all the vehicles they could and go load up the company as the Germans were pushing in their direction. He was a sound sleeper and by the time they woke him up the only vehicle left was an Amphibious Duck so he took it and followed the rest of them. When the war ended he spent a year in Germany in the Army of Occupation and their shop was set up in Augsburg, Germany which was on the Autobahn Highway. The Colonel of Ordinance Headquarters decided that the morale of the soldiers that couldn't go home would be low so he put together a dance orchestra. Elwin was interviewed and they needed a bass fiddle player, which he had played in jazz band in high school. They were about fifteen in the band and he spent from June of 1945 until April of 1946 traveling all over West Germany, also playing over the Armed Forces Radio Network and in Heidelberg. The name of their band was the 52nd Ordinance Group Headquarters Band. In talking about staying in touch with some of the guys he said he got on the computer one day to look up Norman Barole, and found his address and telephone number. He called him and they "talked for an hour," and he told him that the singer that was with their band and called himself Joe Bari at the time, actually was Tony Bennett. After his discharge, Elwin completed his college degree in engineering from the University of Kansas, using the G.I. Bill and graduating in 1950. As a member of the Inactive Reserves he received orders to report to Fort Riley and take a physical to go to Korea. At the time he had 300 acres of sugar beets planted and his wife was about to have a baby. He went to Fort Riley and took his physical and a week later got a letter from the Army saying he was to report to Fort Lewis, Washington to go to Korea. His attorney suggested he talk with Representative Cliff Hope, who got him a deferment until his harvest was over and his wife had the baby. By that time his term was over and he was discharged. He farmed for twenty-five years and then became the general manager of Wheatland Electric for eighteen years, also serving on the board of Sunflower Electric. During this time Holcomb One and the largest gas fired generator in Garden City were built.

Summary: Staff Sergeant Mitchell enlisted in the Army in 1943 and served until 1946 in the 445th Heavy Automotive Maintenance Co., 7th Army. Interviewed by Joyce Suellentrop on Feb 22, 2007, Mitchell talked about military experiences in the Second World War. The 2005 Kansas Legislature passed a bill funding the WWII Veterans Oral History grant program. This transcript is from one of the nine community institutions that received these grants. The transcript from the interview is presented here; the original audio copy of the interview is available through the Gray County Veterans Memorial & Archives and through the Kansas State Historical Society.

Space Required/Quantity: Audio

Title (Main title): Interview on experiences in World War II

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019-14-04-09  Cassette Audio Tape (2) 

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