Oral History Interview with Robert M. Himmler, Sr.

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Record 8/959
Copyright Oshkosh Public Museum
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Admin/Biog History Oral history interview with Robert M. Himmler, Sr. by his nephew for the Oshkosh World War II project. A transcript is on a computer file in the archives.
Classification Archives
Collection World War II Oral History Project
Dates of Accumulation 1985 - 1985
Abstract Oral history interview with Robert M. Himmler, Sr. by his nephew for the Oshkosh World War II project. A transcript is on a computer file in the archives.

Interview with Robert Himmler
By Russ Cumbier

C: Hello. I'm Russ Cumbier. I have the pleasure and the honor to interview my Uncle Robert Himmler Sr. who is a veteran of the European Theater in World War II.

Uncle Bob, when did you get over to England?

H: Ah, got there on March 10th, 1944.

C: Okay. What were your duties in England?

H: Ah, we were in the antiaircraft and were stationed at Ipswich. Until we were moved from there to Southampton after the invasion.

C: Did you see any action while you were in England?

H: Well, we saw some. We had ah, we had a couple American planes shot down over our airport. And at Southampton we saw the buzz bombs going over. Things like that.

C: Did the buzz bombs really scare you at all or…?

H: Yes, until they got beyond us.

C: Unh huh. Did any of the buzz bombs land near you?

H: No. They had one that went on and off and that was the one that scared us because they said that when they went off, they were coming down and they kick in again and it must have been a faulty one.

C: Okay. When did you go over to France?

H: Ah, we landed in France on June 21st, 1944.

C: So that was D-Day plus fifteen?

H: Um, yeah, about…

C: And were you still in antiaircraft then?

H: Yeah. I was antiaircraft all the way through the war.

C: Were you stationed with 1st Army then?

H: We were with 1st Army. We were semi-mobile. And we were changing groups when we were moved. And we were 1st Army, sometimes 3rd Army.

C: Okay. Semi-mobile. Could you go into that a little bit?

H: Well, they had two trucks for four guns. Every time they moved, they had to get other vehicles to help us move. Otherwise the vehicles were used for supplying wherever we were located.

C: During, while you were in France, were you considered front line?

H: No. Because semi-mobile, you're never front line.

C: You're mainly rear area [ ] near airfields?

H: Well, ah, I was on the outpost mostly when we were over in France. The guns and all that was guarding bridges. We were the last line of defense, we had was 40 millimeters. They were the last line of defense.

C: Did you see much action while you were in France?

H: Well, enough to get scared a few times. We moved at least five times.

C: Did you participate in the break-out?

H: No, ah, we were called up to the French and Belgian border when the Germans broke through…

C: The Battle of the Bulge. But you never saw any action during that time?

H: Well, we saw some of the guys come back from the front lines that was disoriented and all that, and outside of the planes going overhead, we didn't see anything.

C: Okay, about the Battle of the Bulge. Were there a lot of rumors floating around?

H: There were plenty. They said the Germans were practically on us. Yeah, you being semi-mobile, you didn't have nothin' to move with. Yep.

C: Until the end of the war, what did you do say, from January through March? From January through March, what were you doing?

H: Well, we were on outpost. If enemy aircraft went over, we had radio communication. Like one time they gave us orders: if anybody asks directions, give them directions but radio in what the number of the vehicles was. This one time we radioed in and there was German officers in the vehicle. They picked them up fifteen miles away from where we were.

C: They were dressed up as Americans?

H: Yes. As Americans. And the one spoke real good English.

C: This was during the Battle of the Bulge?

H: Ah, shortly after it started.

C: Shortly after it started. Where was this that all this happened?

H: Well I was stationed in Vitry-le-Francois. That was quite a ways from where the Battle of the Bulge was.

C: Was this going like on a road to Paris or something?

H: Yeah. I really couldn't say definitely but it could have been.

C: Okay. We get to the end of the war and you got selected to guard the big Nazi prisoners. Do you know why?

H: No I don't have any idea. When we were put in the unit, all of us were supposed to have at least a 120 I.Q. It was supposed to be an outfit with a high I.Q. to be put in with, to see what kind of people we would turn out to be but it turned out we didn't see much action but then our unit was chosen to guard the prisoners as they were captured.

C: You think that because you had a high I.Q. that they had more confidence in you?

H: I couldn't say. It could be something to do with the officers or something like that.

C: Okay. Now at Monsdorf itself, could you describe what the prisoners were held in?

H: Well they took a hotel in [ ] Luxembourg. It was a nice hotel and they put up ah, fences twelve feet apart, about twenty feet high. And they had towers that they put up. They had five towers. And the prisoners when they were brought in, were never allowed to leave. They were free to roam wherever they wanted to go inside. The guards that were inside never carried no weapons. We were free to go through anything the prisoners had in their rooms. And the guards on the outside a machine gun, hand grenades and a rifle.

C: Okay. What was the prisoner's life like? How did they live?

H: Well, they lived real good. They just didn't have to do nothin' and they got their three meals a day, they wore their civilian clothes and everything. And I guess they were free to walk around the hotel and outside any time they wished.

C: The rooms that they stayed in, were they pretty luxurious?

H: Well,they removed practically everything except the bed and a table and a chair.

C: Okay. What were your impressions of these prisoners? They were the leaders of the war…

H: They were the leaders of the German army and that and. At first it was an honor but after you see 'em so long they get down to being like anyone else.

C: Did they act arrogant at all?

H: No.

C: Did they act just like one of the guys?

H: Just like a prisoner. When they were told to do something, they did it. But we never had no problems with none of them.

C: Okay. What precautions did you have to take to prevent suicides?

H: Ah, all we hadda do was watch 'em. We couldn't predict…

C: Okay. What was your surveillance like? What did you do?

H: Well, [ ] we just observed 'em. The guards in the hotel, so many guards to so many rooms and all they did was walk around. They never had no weapons. And, like one time we had fourteen prisoners and one of the guards found a pill. He turned it in to the medics and the medics found it was poison. Right then and there, everybody out. The officials went through. I mean they found enough poison to kill 500 people. And there was only fourteen prisoners at that time.

C: Okay. Um, did anyone say anything about your last name?

H: Well, not there, but when we got to Nuremberg. But in Monsdorf they all knew me. They [ ] that if I was going overseas, I almost had a fight with one of the guys going overseas. And I told him I never wanna hear anybody speak like that again, and nobody ever did.

C: What did he say to you?

H: Something referring to Hitler.

C: My mother always said that she got harassed when she was around here.

H: Well, I never did.

C: You laid the law down, which was pretty good because you know it's something that's distracting. Having the last name…Gestapo, so. What were your impressions of these former German leaders? Did you hate them at all or did you hate what they did or…?

H: Well I hated them because I didn't like being in the service but after all, the Germans that were in service were like me - they didn't wanna be there neither. Just the true leaders shoulda got together and one shot the other one and call it quits. That was my feeling.

C: Okay, nobody committed suicide while you were at Monsdorf. Okay, we'll get to Nuremberg now. When did you transfer the prisoners to Nuremberg.

H: To tell you the truth, I really couldn't say but I think it was sometime in August.

C: This photo from a paper Stars and Stripes. That was taken just before the transfer?

H: That was taken before. But was put in the paper way later

C: Forty five…

H: But that's the prisoners they had at Monsdorf that they moved to Nuremberg.

C: Okay. You can see Goering right in the center. He looks pretty slim. What was Goering like?

H: He was all right. The first night he come into the room, he had a blue suit on and it lit up the whole room. Kinda dark in the room but it lit up the room so you could see everybody sittin in the room. Even the walls got light.

C: Yeah. He was one of those special…

H: I figure that was the first time I ever saw anything like that.

C: Yeah. He was a pretty elaborate dresser. Okay. How were the quarters, the prisoners quarters different from Monsdorf?

H: Oh, in Nuremberg?

C: Yes.

H: They were in regular jail cells. Each one was in a cell of his own and all they had in there was your toilet and table and bed and place to wash up. But that was all.

C: How much privacy did the prisoners actually have?

H: Well, the privacy they had would be when they were on the stool. The guards would be able to see the whole area.

C: How was the security different? Was it more intense? Was it more thorough?

H: In Nuremberg?

C: Yes.

H: Oh yeah. At Nuremberg we had ah, the guards inside had ah, a little rubber [ ] about eight inches long. That they could use… a rubber, a rubber [ ] about eight inches long and a half an inch thick. And they could use that in case somethin' happened but nothin' like that ever happened.

And then we had, your ground floor was three tiers. I don't know how many cells were there but ah,one guard had ah, about six prisoners. And he walked from one end ah, to the other of those six cells. There must have been 24 cells on a tier on each side. And the guard had to look in and check each and every [ ] cells. And make sure everything was alright. If the prisoner was on the stool, we were told to leave them [ ].

C: Okay. I see you have a security pass card there. Can you explain something about that?

H: Well, that's the pass we hadda show every time we went on duty. Even the people, the ones that came in to relieve us, they hadda show it to us. And if they didn't have that pass, they couldn't get [ ].

C: Okay. What…

H: You were always being told you hadda have that pass.

C: What was your duty schedule like?

H: In Nuremberg? You were 24 hour on, 24 hour off. And your shift consist of four hours on and eight hours off. And you worked your four hours. The next four hours you were free. But you hadda be back in the area four hours before you went on duty.

C: Okay. Was that any different than it was at Monsdorf?

H: Yeah. Mondorf, we ah, toward the end, we were working 52 on and 24 off. They were short of ah, guards.

C: Okay. Did you have any incidents with any of the prisoners ah,?

H: Well, I had one with Rudolph Hess. They always allowed the prisoners out of the cells, ten minutes to walk outside. And I had Hess outside and she stopped and picked up something. We were told no prisoner was supposed to stop. They were supposed to keep walking. And I took him back in and told the commanding officer in charge and they took him into the interrogation room and he picked up a cigarette. And he was penalized ten days. He couldn't go outside for the ten minute walk. For ten days he had to stay in the cell. All the time.

C: That was the only incident?

H: That was the only incident I had.

C: They were doing that mainly so the prisoners wouldn't pick up something on the ground, maybe like a cyanide pill or something like that?

H: Ah, they weren't supposed to stop walking and they weren't supposed to bend over. Just supposed to walk.

C: Okay. There was a couple of the prisoners that committed suicide ah, maybe the first one was Robert [ ] how did he…

H: No. No. The first one was Ponte.

C: Bernardo Ponte.

H: Yeah. He was up on the top tier. And they came around with lunch and the guard was supposed to go around with the one that was dishing out the dinner because they were Germans. And all that was supposed to pass was the pencils and the food. And the guard was supposed to watch that. And Ponte was on the end and he must have timed it and everything. The guard wasn't back in 30 seconds because it took time for them to dish up the food. And by the time the guard got back, Ponte was hanging by the top of his nightgown. He had the top tied to the top of the bars and he had the other end put around his tonsils. At that time, they had all the cells locked. And they had to call from the top down to the first floor to get the officer of the day to come up and open up the deal. By that time he was gone.

C: After that time, they kept the cells unlocked?

H: Then they kept the cells unlocked.

C: Okay. The second prisoner then that killed himself was Robert Lea. How did he kill himself?

H: Well, he was on the stool and he tore up a towel. He took the two ends of the towel and tied them together. And he took the center part of the towel, soaked it in water and shoved it down his throat. He took those two pieces he had tied together. The stool had your flush at the top of the stool. He put that over there and he put the other over his throat and he had a spoon that he twisted the deal with the spoon. Either way he woulda died from what he had down in his tonsils. And the guard, well when they're on the stool, we were supposed to let 'em sit. And the guard let him go for about twenty minutes. Then they changed that, that they couldn't be out of sight for ten minutes.

C: Okay. So you could actually walk in on them…

H: Yeah. Because the door was open.

C: Okay. You weren't… You didn't find any of these men, did you?

H: No. I wasn't on duty at any time when it happened.

C: Was there any length of time between when Conte killed himself and when Lea killed himself?

H: Yeah. I'd say about three weeks. And actually Lea wasn't supposed to know that Conte killed himself because the guards were instructed not to say anything to any of the prisoners but when they carry a guy down from the third tier, chances are somebody saw.

C: Were the prisoners allowed to talk among themselves?

H: No. The prisoners were all kept separate and when they brought the witnesses in, the witnesses were all kept separate until they opened up another wing. And then the witnesses were all ah, allowed freedom to intermingle and everything but nine o'clock, they all had to be back in their cells.

C: Okay. I see you have a list there of everybody who you guarded?

H: Yeah. Witnesses and everything.

C: That's in the order that they came in.

H: Yeah. After the group we took in there, then I started keeping a list of, 'cause as they came, I didn't know if they were prisoners or witnesses.

C: Okay. Are these numbers, were those the cell numbers?

H: Maybe but I couldn't tell ya. I don't remember what those numbers were.

C: You've got, you listed the big boys. You've got Ribbentrop and we come down to Jodel and [ ] and Goering and Frick. You also have dates on here of when they ah, went…

H: They took them up it must have been for questioning or something and we never found out where they took them or what it was for.

C: Okay. Heinrich Himmler, the chief of Gestapo ah, who killed himself. His wife and daughter were brought to the prison and you actually guarded them.

H: I talked to the daughter and she spoke good English. I guess she was only about fifteen I think. I've got it marked down on there.

C: Fourteen or fifteen..

H: She spoke good English. They had the mother and the daughter together in a cell. In the one cell. They were the only ones outside of the prostitutes that they, I guess they had six prostitutes on there, secretaries of different ones. We referred to them as prostitutes [ ].

C: Why did you refer to them as prostitutes?

H: Ha. We figured they lived with them, they just [ ]…

C: Okay. Did she ah, ever say anything to you, you know, about anything?

H: Oh yeah. We talked every time I had that ah, section. Ah, we always talked for a few minutes. And the, in between. Because I still hadda walk the deal. But then when they were put over in the other wing we got to talk a little more. I went into the service from Berlin, Wisconsin so we were supposed to meet two years from a certain date in Berlin, Wisconsin. But I never got up there to find out if she [ ].

C: I see. Did you talk to any of the other Nazi prisoners?

H: No. I, I couldn't speak German.

C: Okay. Okay, there was another German that tried to commit suicide. What was his name, Rueckert?

H: Oh ah, he took a little pair of scissors and put it in both wrists. And he come to the guard and he says, "Before you can get me any help, I'll bleed to death." And he [ ] both of his veins. But then we had another doctor when we were leaving and he was starving himself to death. He was so weak then that ah, that he couldn't even sit up in bed and they were giving him intravenous feedings.

C: Okay. He had those scissors hidden in the collar of his c….

H: Collar of his overcoat and that was inspected at least five different times. And this stuff was all x-rayed and everything and they still never picked it up.

C: Okay. After he tried t… was their another shakedown?

H: No. No.

C: The prisoners themselves. Were they allowed to wear their own clothing?

H: Well, that's, they had their own clothing.

C: Did you ever wonder why, to prevent suicide more, why they weren't issued like fatigues of something?

H: I couldn't tell ya. I never gave no thought on suicide or anything like that. Like they say, they didn't have no belts or shoelaces or stuff like that.

C: Yeah. They took away the obvious suicide methods and then they left it up to the imagination…

H: That's right.

C: See if they could find some other way to kill themselves. Okay, we get towards the end of Nuremberg beginning late October and the beginning of November. You were relieved. How come your unit was relieved?

H: Well, we had enough points to come home and them that wanted to go home were able to go home and them that wanted to reenlist, they could reenlist.

C: You didn't reenlist?

H: No. I wanted to go home.

C: Why didn't you reenlist?

H: Well, I just figured I was there too long and I wanted to go home.

C: And you felt like you were putting your time in and that was all you wanted to…

H: I didn't like the army.

C: A lot of people didn't like the army.

H: I didn't ask for it and, ha, ha, ha. Like I held the second day I was in the [ ] three different times in one day and I didn't like it. I just put up with it and I keep my nose clean.

C: You were drafted?

H:: Yeah. I was drafted in Berlin, Wisconsin.

C: Now to a different subject. What were your feelings toward the regular German infantry soldier or …?

H: Well, I felt he was like me. He didn't want to be there any more than I wanted to.

C: So, the big guy started the war and the little guy had to fight it.

H: The little guy had to fight it.

C: You didn't have any hard feelings or anything toward these…?

H: Nope. Because they were in the position that I was in. Of course, if I woulda saw 'em, I'd hadda shoot them because if I wouldn't, they'da shot me. I had no choice.

C: You traveled just before you left?

H: While we were still in Nuremberg, like we were 24 hours on and 24 off and I took some trips when we had the 24 off. I took one week-end, well three day pass I got to go up in the mountains.

C: So what were your impressions of Germany as a country?

H: Oh, beautiful. After seeing France and going into Germany, Germany was more modern, electric trains, autobahn that was a straight road as far as the eye could see.

C: Was it better, like highway 41 out here?

H: Oh, yes. They didn't have no turns or nothin'. It was just plain straight.

C: Okay. While you were over there, you got to meet Russians. How, how did you manage to meet the Russians?

H: Well that ah, that was through Nuremberg. They was stationed in Nuremberg too. We had ah, we had our own bar and somebody invited three of 'em to our bar and we got talking there.

C: Could these Russians talk English?

H: Well, broken. We ah, somehow you could communicate. You'd be surprised. When I was in France, we had ah, one family when there was three of us on the outpost and the family invited one of us into their home to sleep. And we got the okay from our commanding officer because then the other two guys would take over the duties. And the guys would go there and get a good eight hours sleep in a nice bed. And I couldn't speak no French or anything. And they had two daughters and husband and wife and we'd go over there and sit there and they'd talk and try to talk to me and we'd make signs and all that kind of stuff. And then when it was time to go to bed it was in December I guess, or January. Anyway the mother had bricks in the oven and she'd take the bricks out and go and put two in each bed. One at the feet and one at the belly. And she'd come back and warm up some cider. Give you a nice six ounce glass of cider and you drink that down and in about ten minutes, you crawl right in the bed is warm and the minute that cider hits ya and you can sleep.

C: Okay. Now we have some, you have some things right here. Tell us a little bit about these things. [ ]

H: Well, that's a German [ ]

C: You don't remember where you got it?

H: No, I don't remember where I got it.

C: Could have been hanging on a building or…

H: Could have been hanging somewhere.

C: Car or something.

H: I don't remember where I got it.

C: You just permanently commandeered it and..

H: That's right.

C: You didn't think the Nazis were going to need it anymore. Okay, we have a little article here about Technical Sergeant Bach and ah, Richard Raabe, or Rabe. Ah, can you tell me something about these two.

H: Ah, they interrogated the prisoners. And…

C: Both spoke German.

H: Yeah. They both spoke real good German. And Raabe, here he got some nice gifts from Goering. His lapel [ ] They said they were solid gold and inlaid gold.

C: Yeah. It says here that he's got Goering's collar ornaments, Marshall Kessler and Marshall Kessellring's, and he has Admiral Doenitz' collar insignia. So… Could you tell me a little bit about Technical Sergeant Bach?

H: Well he was a Staff Sergeant, we called him. Well, he was up there, we never had much to do with the sergeants. And the ones, like our beer hall, it was just for buck sergeants down. And the officers and all that, all you did was see them in formation. Somebody else come along and told me what to do.

C: He went out and compiled a list of autographs of all the Nazi…

H: Yeah. He put it on a scroll.

C: You put it on this scroll.

H: We've got forty some German…

C: Forty seven German. Each autograph …

H: Each one autographed by himself.

C: And below that is…

H: What he…

C: What the person was. What the guy did. Ah, like number six is

{here the first side of the tape ends and some of the interview is apparently lost}.

H: Put on the scroll. But see, he was in the interrogation of all the prisoners.

C: And that's the way he got it.

H: That's what I figure the way he got it. He was in the interrogation of all the prisoners.

C: This is?

H: Yeah. That's that pass we had to show to get in to the, to go on guard duty and that.

C: So you had to show them both sides, or…

H: No. All you had to do was show them either side and they recognized it and of course they recognized you because you're in the same outfit.

C: This, this is ah,

H: That was on the boat, I think.

C: This for interviewing the prisoners. This is…

H: Oh, yeah.

C: Official …

H: Questions they asked the prisoners and that.

C: And we've got a picture. Of one of the jail cells? At Nuremberg? Ah, Herman Goering's jail cell. Ah, he's a heavy man.

H: Well, he wasn't too heavy I wouldn't say.

C: He had slimmed down during…

H: Oh, yeah. Because he didn't eat like…

C: Not like he was used to. In one of the papers, I think it was the one I just had, it said when he first laid down on his cot, he almost broke it because he was so heavy.

H: Ah, I don't remember all that.

C: It's been forty years. Okay, here we have ah, here we have a picture of Keitel and Jodel as they were discharged from the Wehrmacht . And right after they were discharged, they were ah, arrested. Arrested. And it must have some information about your group that was guarding them. And what do we have on this one? This is ah, from Stars and Stripes magazine and it's a lengthy article on the Germans and Nuremberg. This is before the trial started.
H: This is the cells where we hadda look through to see the prisoners. There's a cell again. I don't know what this is.

C: This is Nuremberg where they had all the rallies. Is that the little stick you were talking about before?

H: Yeah.

C: Okay. He's the only one that got out of being hung, or dying.

H: Yeah. I don't remember.

C: That was - that was on top, not sure on that. Don't quote me but you had a lotta information on that. But okay, we're going to get back more on Germany itself. You met ah, a very interesting woman while you were there.

H: [ ] Neumann? The one with markings of Christ on her body. We went an, one day I guess we had to go 75 miles from Nuremberg. They said she bled on the second and fourth Fridays, the same as Christ. Ah, thorns around the head. She had the ah, holes in her hands, holes in her feet and hole in her side. She, they showed us the blouse, that was pokadot that was red that they say markings of what Christ was stoned.

C: Was she pretty interesting?

H: She couldn't speak English and none of us could speak German. And a guy from Stars and Stripes came to interview the same day. And he was, he would communicate with her and ah, that's the only way we were able to communicate. I got a picture standing next to her. You can see the scar on her hand on the picture.

C: Okay. You have here the medals that you were given for guarding…

H: This here was the insignia.

C: The insignia.

H: It's supposed to show the balance of justice.

C: You've got the jailer's keys on the top and then you have the scales of justice and then the cracked German eagle burning in the fires of hell. If I remember how it was described right. Does this mean a lot to you?

H: Well I've had it since I… I always - supposed to be wearing it on their collar of their uniform. There ain't many that got it. The unit that came and relieved us, them people got it too but there were only two groups that have the insignia.

C: You're proud to wear it then?

H: Well, you wore it, ha ha ha.

C: Did you feel honored to be one of the guards?

H: Yeah. Because when we were in Nuremberg, all you had to do was say you were with the 391st and everybody knew you were a guard.

C: Did you get special privileges or ?

H: Maybe they looked up to us a little bit but I wouldn't say we got special privileges. I wouldn't say we got special privileges.

C: Okay. Now after you were relieved there ah, Hermann Goering committed suicide. Sometime after that, after you had been relieved and the other unit took over. How do you think he committed suicide? How do you think he got the pills that…?

H: I think he got them from an American officer.

C: How do you justify that position?

H: They were searched so many times that if Goering had had the poison before the trial, I think he would have destroyed himself. Before the trial.

C: Was he pretty down in the dumps? At times or…

H: Well, I never paid that much attention because they were always in their cells by themselves. A lot of them were doing a lot of writing and like that. We never paid that much attention.

C: You still feel that, because he was searched so many times and he still committed suicide with poison, that someone…?

H: Somebody …

C: In a position of trust gave him the poison. They had to. So it was somebody in the unit that took over.

H: Well, I couldn't say because ah, he didn't, as far as I know he didn't commit suicide until the day before he was supposed to be hung. So it might have been another outfit that came in and took over after the outfit that took over for us.

C: Did you feel sorry for any of these Nazis?

H: How could I feel sorry. It was because of them I was there.

C: Do you, did you think that they were getting a just reward at Nuremberg?

H: Well that I won't argue with. I didn't know enough about that.

C: You had the, I can't really say privilege or honor, but you did go see some of the concentration camps. What was your impression about these concentration camps?

H: Well, it was after the war and they were already cleaned up but they still had the ovens where they burned the people and pointed out the garbage cans where they threw the ashes. They showed us where holes were dug where they buried people alive. Where some areas where they froze people to see how much cold they could take and still bring 'em back to life, that kind of stuff.

C: Being in this concentration camp, make you feel, did it make you sick?

H: Well, it was something to look at. Something different, and it still had a smell to it. That they didn't take out of it yet. It still had a smell to it.

C: But did it make you sick as a human being to see what other people…?

H: No.

C: What other people put their fellow man through. Did it make you angry that somebody could be so cruel or?

H: No, I really didn't have that.

C: Okay, now when you left Germany, you went back to England?

H: No. We ah, left Germany, we went to France and now we got on the boat in France to come home.

C: Okay. Now could you tell us something about how, what your boat ride home was like?

H: Well, we were on a cruiser…

C: Do you know what the name of the cruiser was?

H: Portland. We got 800 miles off the coast of France and we had a storm that had hundred foot waves and it cracked one side of the ship in, flooded three compartments, broke down the hanger on people in bed. Three was killed. Fifty two was injured. They hadda throw all the food overboard, all the fuel overboard and everything to lighten the ship. Then we had to go down to the Azores to get more food, to get more fuel. And the next day, well the day after the storm, all they had was cheese sandwiches to eat. And they had the water on for two hours and if you weren't lucky, you didn't get no water.

C: The ship, was it at any time in danger of sinking?

H: Well, they said it was on a 47 degree angle. They had everybody on "D" deck to try to hold the balance up. Well, I was scared, ha, ha…

C: At any time was there a warning to prepare to abandon ship?

H: When they gave the warning for everybody to go on that one deck, that was the next to the last one.

C: The ship was actually in grave danger of sinking?

H: The radar was broken, the steer…the top of the ship. And the U.S.S. Washington, a battleship, was standing guard but they were overloaded. And with 100 foot waves you ain't going to swim anyway.

C: So, it was a pretty precarious situation.

H: When you can look up and see the water up here and the water down here, ha, ha, ha. It ain't great. Then when we got into New York, the Washington was there and their superstructure had three inches of solid ice on it. Of course we went down to the Azores, that was down in the southern, so we didn't get in until three days after the Washington. We didn't have no ice or anything on us but the Washington had three inches of ice on the superstructure.

C: When did you get home then?

H: Ah, January 2nd, '46.

C: Your birthday.

H: Yup.

C: Good birthday present?

H: Yeah. It was in a way. Two days after my birthday, I got the notice that I was being drafted.

C: Okay. Did you have any problem readjusting to civilian life?

H: No.

C: When you got back, what did you go to do? Did you go to school or did you…

H: Yeah, I went to school for two years. I laid around a month and [ ] at Oshkosh Business College. I started there in February and went to Business College for two years.

C: Okay, then you got married and everything…?

H: Yeah.

C: And here you are today. I'd like to thank you Uncle Bob for doing this interview…

H: Oh, you're welcome.

C: A good history, and you participated in a lot, and again, I'd like to thank you very much.

H: You're welcome.
Event World War II
Category 6: T&E For Communication
Object ID OH2001.3.16
Object Name Tape, Magnetic
People Himmler, Robert M., Sr.
Subjects World War II
European Theater of Operations
United States Army
Title Oral History Interview with Robert M. Himmler, Sr.
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Last modified on: December 12, 2009