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Interview on experiences in World War II

View at Kansas Memory

Creator: Schmidt, John E.

Date: June 19, 2006

Level of Description: Item

Material Type: Manuscripts

Call Number: World War II Oral Histories Project

Unit ID: 211455

Biographical sketch: After getting a farm deferment for 2 years, 20 year old John Schmidt got a letter from the draft board in 1944 to report for duty. He was sent to Fort Leavenworth to take his physical and never got to go back home. For basic training he was sent to Camp Robertson, California but never got it finished before he was sent overseas. He did receive a three day delay to go home and never got another furlough the whole time he was in the Army. There were twelve thousand men on the ship that traveled at thirty-eight knots and they changed course every five minutes to they wouldn't be hit by submarines. He was put on a train at La Havre, France and sent across the channel; eighteen days after he left the states he was on the front line. It was the last of January and he remembers the truck ride was terribly cold, they carried a gas mask and a blanket, along with K-rations. His squad leader ordered him and another fellow to go first and he started praying because he thought he would be shot. The Germans had been firing at them for a while, but when he got to the woods he saw a machine gun and two Germans but "they never pulled the trigger." He said the good Lord looked after him because he only got a little shrapnel in his back and that his parents prayed for him everyday and he prayed a lot, too. "I don't think there is an atheist on the front line." As soon as they would stop they would dig a foxhole and he says that you would sleep on one blanket and cover up with the other one but sometimes they would lay in water all night. He said he had never been so cold and miserable. One place he remembers was a big salt mine that the Germans had gold and art treasures stored in and they had to clean it out. They loaded it on trailers but he doesn't know where it was sent to. His outfit was near Prague when they were told the war was over and then he was part of the Army occupation of Germany. His job was to arrest someone if he was told to, he had a boat to run around with and said he "had it made." They lived in a house and had maids and a cook to cook for them. After a year of the occupation, he returned home to be discharged at Fort Sheridan, near Chicago. John earned two Bronze Stars, two Overseas medals, Army of Occupation medal, Good Conduct medal and the Purple Heart. For a while he and his wife lived in Michigan, then moved to Arkansas where he carpentered and had a cow-calf operation before returning in his later years to Montezuma. Their interview concluded with discussion of growing up in a family of thirteen children and how the depression affected them. Being on the farm, they always had plenty to eat and he said his mother would bake thirteen loaves of bread every other day.

Summary: Corporal/Specialist Schmidt was drafted into the Army (Infantry) in 1944 and served in the 357th Regiment, 90th Division. Interviewed by Joyce Suellentrop on Jun 19, 2006, Schmidt 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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019-14-04-12  Cassette Audio Tape 

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