Oral History Interview with Henry Kimberly, Jr.

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Record 19/959
Copyright Oshkosh Public Museum
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Classification Archives
Collection World War II Oral History Project
Dates of Accumulation 2001 - 2001
Abstract Oral history interview with Henry Kimberly, Jr. conducted by Dr. Peter H. Liddle at the EAA Museum and donated by Adam Smith, Director at EAA, for the World War II project. He discusses his experiences in the 345th Quartermaster Depot Supply Company, 1st Army. He was present during the Battle of the Bulge, winter of 1944-1945. A typed transcript is on file in the Archives computer.

Henry Kimberly Interview
Captain, 345 Q.M Depot Supply Co. U.S. Army.
Assigned to first Army, Battle of the Bulge.
Interviewed by Dr. P.H. Liddle
December, 2001

{K: denotes the interviewee, Henry Kimberly; L: denotes the interviewer, P.H. Liddle.}

L: It is December, 2001. This is Peter Liddle of the Second World War Experience Center in Leeds talking with Henry Kimberly whose address is 3810 Pau Ko Tuk, Oshkosh, Wisconsin, 54902-7334, U.S.A. I'm talking to {Paul} with regard to his service with the army in the Second World War and his army service is in the European Theatre.

But we need to get your background please if we may, Henry. First of all, when and where were you born? And tell me just a little about your family background.

K: I was born in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, July 7th, 1919.

L: Your father's work or profession?

K: My father was vice president of Morgan Company, a major door manufacturer in the country.

L: And your schooling?

K: After Oshkosh High School, I went to college at Williams for two years and then came back and graduated from Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin. And I think that three days later I had a job. Three days later I was a private in the Army. The Navy wouldn't, all my friends got Navy commissions, Air Force commissions, Coast Guard commissions. Marine commissions, But I couldn't see very well. I could never figure out why the Navy had to see; they never got closer than fourteen miles from what they were shooting at.

L: So let's come to the evolution of your army career. The regiment?

K: Beg pardon?

L: The regiment?

K: No ah, I was drafted three days after I got out of college as a private. $21.00 a month. Probably overpaid. I went down to Fort Sheridan in Illinois just outside of Chicago. And I stayed there for about two weeks. And then was shipped out to Cheyenne, Wyoming, in a replace...a basic training camp.

L: How would you later, on completion of your training, be drafted to a regiment?

K: No, not quite. I spent my 90 days, whatever it is, in basic training at that time, through the end of June, July and August into September. Then I worked in the post headquarters in Cheyenne, Wyoming for about three weeks and then was, luckily, selected to go to Officer's Candidate School.
And the officer candidate school was also at Fort Sheridan. Quartermaster Corps, Supply. I graduated from that on December 23rd, 1942, got home and was married on December 28th.

And then I was assigned to go to, after a week's leave, to go out to Ogden, Utah. And assigned to a quartermaster depot in Ogden, Utah. And we stayed there for about two or three weeks and then I was sent out to Vancouver Barracks, Washington and assigned to a quartermaster railhead ah, truck, 560th , no 345th Depot Quartermaster Depot Supply Company just organizing at that time. It had a young captain, a West Pointer, Class of '41. And there were several of us being activated out there in Vancouver Barracks. Okay?

L: Yes, that's fine. Now with this unit, would you go overseas or not?

K: Yes it was. I, we went, we trained in that unit in Vancouver Barracks for several months and did all the basic training of road marches and all the things you do. And then we went down to Salem, Oregon at a camp, I don't remember the name of the camp right now, but it had two divisions that were organizing on the same thing. And we worked on the supply depots at that camp and we were there until about the end of April, first part of May perhaps.

And then were assigned across country to Camp Sutton, outside of Charlotte, North Carolina. And while we were at Charlotte, North Carolina, I was promoted to a First Lieutenant. And we stayed there until sometime in the middle of June and were shipped up to an embarkation port just outside of New York.

L: Now remember that I am asking you about things not as an older man but I'm trying to make you young again. And so when I ask you about your arrival in England, and reaction to the English people you met, whether they were girls or ah, people in pubs, or wherever it might be, I want to know what your impressions of English people were at that time.

K: Okay. Well we shipped out in early July.

L: July '44

K: July '43.

L: '43.

K: '43. On the, I think it was the British ship the Mauritania. My mother and father had gone across in l928 on the Mauritania as a luxury ship. And we were on it now as a, same ship, but a troop ship. And we arrived in Scotland, Gourock I think.

L: Yes.

K: At that point, the company boarded onto trains and the company was divided. I took one platoon over to Stowmarket in East Anglia and the other part of the company went to Liverpool with the captain and the company headquarters. I was stationed in Stowmarket for the better part of 2-2 1/2 months.

My impression of the English people. I never met more wonderful people in that town. We lived in town, the officers. The enlisted men lived out at the supply depot.

L: Were you a lieutenant at this stage?

K: Yes. Ah, a first lieutenant, yes. A first lieutenant. And about the second day there I was just sort of meandering down the street and I thought I heard something like tennis balls [ ]. And I, well I just looked through the fence, well I found later I'd walked about thirty feet inside the yard to look through the fence. And there were two fellows playing tennis. They said, they saw me and said, "Do you play tennis?" I said, "Yes." They said, "Do you have any other officers over there that play?" I says, "I'll check it out. It'd be wonderful if we could play doubles. I went back and there was another young officer, a second lieutenant, and we played doubles for a couple of months every night that we weren't on duty. And they were just a wonderful family and I kept close contact with them for many years and with the family whose son was older and they ran a British foundry of some kind making naval guns or equipment for naval guns or something. I'm not sure what it was.

L: But because of the constraints on time, we've got to take this interview forward, much to my regret as a matter of fact because it is clear that you remember the things very well and yet you were overseas. Just remind me once more of the unit you were in as first lieutenant.

K: The 345th Quartermaster Depot Supply Company.

L: And going overseas...

K: With that company. We were a separate company all the time. We were not assigned to anybody. We were assigned to headquarters of something.

L: Now I need to know Henry, when you go overseas, when you first get into ah, when you first get into a scene of action, and a particular responsibility your unit had and you in com... and you as a young officer in that unit had in fulfilling the requirements of their role.

K: While we were in Stowmarket, we were supplying the 8th Air Force with rations and all supplies out of that place. 8th Air Force was stationed in that whole area around there. Then when I was transferred over to Liverpool, we worked in a general depot, a large one. And basically we were receiving supplies coming in from the 'states. We weren't issuing very much from there. We were, just when units came in and needed something yes. But mainly we were working the docks of Liverpool helping unload and supervising the unloading of ships coming in.

L: And then you went over to Franc in what year?

K: Well, we'll just stop right there. While we were in Liverpool, the company was reorganized into a depot headquarters and then the company itself. So my commanding officer was promoted to a major and I was selected to take his place as a company commander, and promoted to Captain. This was in, I don't know when it was. Winter of '44. Spring of '44. Sometime, and we worked in Liverpool until...{interruption here}

We were assigned to 1st Army as Class 2 and 4. That's supplies. And we shipped into, out of England and arrived on Omaha Beach on D-4, I think. We were, my instructions were to go to [Treviers] in France. And I got to the fork in the road that said Treviers and the M.P.'s stopped us and said, "They haven't taken it yet. If you go down to Treviers, let the 1st Division know because they haven't taken Treviers yet." So we were just assigned on the beach for, until well into August when we finally moved across country very rapidly and ended up in Belgium. In the town of Butgenbach, Belgium. We were there from early, middle of October, and I was reassigned to a quartermaster railhead company [ ]. And as the company commander of that one had been relieved and I was sent down as the company commander. It was a truck-head supplying 5th Corps. V Corps. And ah, that was the middle of October. So we were in this town of Butgenbach, very quiet front in front of us. Not much going on, until December 16th. On that morning, six shells landed, oh, couple hundred yards away from where we were. And the First Sergeant came in and woke us up, and of course we were awake from these. And later checked on and found that yes, there was some activity on the front, both in the Losheimergraben area, Wolsheim, and up near Monschau. {Wolsheim and Grabben and are spelled phonetically because they cannot be found in the Atlas.}

L: Yes, this is the Battle of the Bulge.

W: Yes, this was the start of the Battle of the Bulge. I kept checking throughout the day. An antiaircraft company, an antiaircraft unit came in and parked and said they had just moved out of the area way up in front because of the activity further ahead of em. Things were moderately quiet that day but by late that night we kept getting announcements from V Corps Headquarters and First Army and everybody else that we should be ready to move out. That it looked there was a break through occurring. At midnight we got orders to load up what we could up and be ready to load up, ship out, ship back the next morning. We received orders to get out about 8 o'clock in the morning.

And the alternate position was to move supplies back to Malmedy which was about eight miles behind where we were. And ah, we started to do that. With our own trucks and a few other trucks that were supplied to us, and the people that were coming in to draw rations - it was a Class 1 truck end. That's a ration company. And ah, we loaded up our own company supplies. One platoon, the headquarters and the first sergeant, I sent back to Malmedy. I stayed back in Butgenbach.

And throughout that day we moved out whatever we could. And about, oh shortly before 12:30 - 1 o'clock, the M.P.'s from the 99th Division, whose headquarters had been in Butgenbach with us, but they'd moved out at 8 o'clock that morning and left us sittin there. Undefended, by the way. And we ah, we looked out and were gettin ready to, we had all the rations supplies. We had gasoline on top of em. You'd pull a rope and tip em over and flip a grenade in to spoil whatever rations there were so they'd be of no value. And I guess, we told em how to get back to, Camp Elsenborn was back in the army depot supply where that was . {Elsenborn is spelled phonetically.}

Well, at 1:30 all of a sudden, coming into town was a couple of tank, couple of tank destroyers and the 1st Division. 26th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Battalion came in town with two companies and set up a line just outside town about a half a mile. The Germans had advanced about two miles from Butgenbach. So we felt that we were pretty safe with the 1st Division coming in. We had in the Class III depot in Butgenbach, about 200,000 rations. And we were getting them back either to Malmedy or back to the army supply depot. To our retrograde movement. But what had happened was about midway through the afternoon, the commanding officer of the gasoline supply company called me and said, "All my men have gone. All I have is four men and myself. Can you bring over some of your men to help load out the gasoline which is important to save?" He had about 500,000 gallons to be moved. I sent my men over, my platoon over. There were only about 20 men left. And my sergeant, with a couple sergeants and my first lieutenant. We spent the afternoon until darkness loading out whatever trucks were available and then combined the headquarters of the gas supply company and my railhead company which actually operated truck heads in Germany and Belgium. During the night about 60 come people escaped through the lines from Bullingen, a town about two to three miles away. And we bunked them down for the night and fed them a hot meal. They were from the 2nd Division signal corps, quartermaster, engineers, antiaircraft and a few other miscellaneous people.

During that night, the 2nd Division M.P.'s brought in about 170, 142 actually, prisoners and had no place to put them. They wanted to know how we could protect them. And I suggested, "Let's put em in the basement of the church." Which had just one small window, a door with one small window. And we shoved 142 prisoners of war in there. During the night, the 2nd Division M.P.'s from army headquarters came in and picked up about half of them. And we loaded about 70 people into a two and one half ton truck. How'd we do that? We'd load up whatever we could, start up and go about 6 to 8 feet, jam the brakes on, everything moves forward, put in ten more people.

The next morning early a bakery truck came in that supplied our company with fresh bakery every day, and in that bakery truck, we put the balance of the 72 people in doing the same procedure, starting up and jamming em in.

Early that morning, I went over to the 2nd Division battalion headquarters to see what the situation was. And they said it was quiet overnight and they had proceeded out about a mile. But ah, it was quiet. And I said I'd like to go back to Corps headquarters to get some troops because we still had of gasoline to salvage and a little bit of hash and whatever food was left. And they said it'd be okay so I went back to the army headquarters which was in Eupen, Belgium. {Eupen is a phonetic spelling}. On the highway coming down, to our immediate right is where some paratroopers had landed the night before. German paratroopers. They were all confused by history, I later found out and didn't really know what was going on. But, I felt mighty safe because on one half the road the 1st Division was coming down to the troops in Butgenbach, and on the other half of the road the 30th Division was coming in to set up a line around, in the Malmedy area. And I was driving actually on the side of the road going back to Eupen.

When I got back to Corps headquarters, I checked in with the Corps quartermaster. He said, "Where'd you come from?" And I said, "We came from Bootkenback." And he said, "My God, we got hell from the army quartermaster that we'd lost you and the commanding officer of the gas supply company." Because they'd heard that Butgenbach had been captured the night before. I said, "No, it's still safe and we still got a lot of gasoline and we need help." And they sent down a service company, colored, a platoon of trucks. They came down about two hours later and we loaded out the balance of the 500,000 gallons and a little bit of the hash that was left over and a little bit of some salvage.

And then we pulled, I went back to army headquarters and was told that my company had moved from Malmedy back again to Frankerchance which is another three or four miles back. Just up fairly close to army headquarters and the spa. They told me to go down there and get that truck head moved back to army head - army depot near Eupen. Which is a Corps area. We were on the road that was of history where all the information was that [ ] gas dump was being evacuated. And because they thought that might be captured, that is where they rolled the barrels down the road ah, and set them afire. And we could see the fire going but not knowing at the time just what it was.

But we moved back to the army supply depot in [ ]. One was in Germany and one was in Belgium in the old days. And we set up a truck head back there to operate for the balance of the Battle of the Bulge. Ah, I lost no supplies, lost no men, no records and ah, because of that I was later awarded the Bronze Star for saving the 500,000 gallons of gasoline. I knew nothing about it, but when I went down to the Riviera after the war, my C.O. was with me and we ran into the headquarters commandant of the 99th Division. And he knew what had happened in Butgenbach because they were there for the same part of that time. And he told my C.O. what I had done. And my C.O. said, "Did you ever get anything for it?" And I said, "No." So the headquarters of the 99th Division, headquarters commandant of the 99th Division and my C.O. put in for a Bronze Star for me. Which I go several months later.

L: Now, in what you told me, you haven't referred at all to a state of mind and morale. And because after all, to put a finer point upon it, if you had been, if you were to have been in the British Army Service Corps, which is in effect what you were doing with supplies, you're not expected to be combat troops. You're not expected to be in the front line and you have been in the front line. And I just wonder if you were so busy, so preoccupied with the necessary duties that it didn't give you any opportunity to be alarmed. Still less fearful about your circumstance. Can you look back on this overly 58 or so years, whatever number it is to think as how you reacted to these emergency circumstances?

K: I don't, I suppose I was scared. I don't know that I was. I knew the job I had to do and I knew the job that had to be done. I didn't think I was anything special going over to help out the gas supply company with my troops and saving that gasoline. I thought that was just normal procedure. A little abnormal, but certainly something you would do and expect

At all times I was calm enough to know what I had to do to get out of the place. There was a dam. The dam had formed a lake and I could have gone across that dam to get back to a town back toward Camp Elsenborn. Or I could have gone around on the road. Ah, there were probably seven or eight or ten artillery batteries on the hill behind it. On the [ ] the Elsenborn ridge. It was very noisy, I can say that. And was I scared? No, I don't think I had time to be scared. I had a job to do and I did it.

L: Right. Your next memories. Remember that this is December '44 and are you to last out up till May the following year?

K: Yes. I ended up in Weimar, Germany. But in the meantime, I'd been promoted to battalion executive officer. As a result of I guess what happened in Butgenbach. And two battalion officers were let go and a friend of mine who became C.O., a West Pointer and myself were promoted to that position. And we finished the war up there, later to end up as the executive to, as the S-3 of the regimental command scheduled to go to Japan but thankfully the war ended.

L: But what memories have you got of crossing the Rhine for example?

K: Well, when we went up the Rhine, the Remagen bridge was still in existence. And we were stationed, we were stationed, took over a house a very short dist... oh, a couple of miles from the Remagen bridge. And what we found there, it had been bombed considerably by the Germans and I suppose worked over pretty heavily by the American troops who had just gone across a couple days before. While we were down there there were two ME-109's being followed by two P-38's. And the P-38's were called off and the aircraft, antiaircraft was gonna take the ME-109's. And the interesting thing was the antiaircraft did shoot down the two German planes but the two P-38's touched wings and they crashed about 200 yards from where I was standing. There was a woman in a house knitting, German, and she never even looked around. I suppose she'd seen so much activity by that time that one more plane coming down was nothing to her.

L: What impression did the destroyed nature of so many of the German towns through which you were passing, in which you would perhaps need billets, to make new supply dumps for petrol or food, what impressions were left upon you?

K: Well, by the time we got into Germany, we were taking over the German homes for living. We were taking over hard standings or whatever they might be for, and usually railroad depots. Because they had a hard standing for supply distribution. Some of those homes were wrecked. Ours were not. But I went back to Butgenbach after the Battle of the Bulge. The house that I had lived in for two or three months, a shell had landed in my bed the day after I got out of that house. It was occupied by that time by the 2nd Division aid station. But the houses were, many of the towns were semi-destroyed. Some of them were pretty badly destroyed.

L: Do you have any memories of interchange with Germans? Perhaps you needed, whether it was accommodations or whether it was ah, some form of assistance from the Germans?

K: We had very little contact with the German civilians. If we'd go into a town and need homes, we'd go to the burgomaster and say, "We want that home, and that home and that home." And it was his job to clean em out and ten minutes later, we'd move in. We moved into one house that we took over. It's my command post for the truck head and one of my sergeants went up to the third floor to take that over as a place to live. And as he pulled the sheets back on the bed, there was a fellow who had just died. And of course, he covered the guy up again and got the first sergeant, took him up there and said, "That's your bed, sergeant." Pulled it back and the first sergeant darned near passed out. Well, we just got the burgomaster to come and take the guy out of the house.

One very interesting experience I had after I'd gone to the battalion headquarters. It was up near Castle [ ] in Germany and I went to visit my old company. While I was there the M.P.'s came over and said, "We have a prisoner of war, a high ranking prisoner of war that would like to talk to the highest ranking officer." And because I was it, I went over to the prisoner or war compound. And they had concertina wire strung around the [ ] and they had probably four or five thousand prisoners in it. And they only had four M.P.'s. And then they had a barn with straw and what the animals had been in that they had for the German field officers and above.

And there were probably, I don't know how many there were but I was introduced to a gentleman, a lieutenant-general. He was chief of engineers of the German Army. And he'd been captured. And he wanted to know if he could just come over and sit and have supper with me and just sit and talk for awhile. I explained to him that I just couldn't do it. My instructions are, no fraternization. Ah, he had trained at M.I.T. He worked for the German, in civilian life he developed the water system in the Pyrenees Mountains between France and Spain and then had been drafted into the German army as chief of engineers of the German Army. And he was a very impressive guy. Spoke perfect English. But I had to say no; I couldn't do it.

Now that's the first mistake I made. The second mistake, he wanted he and his aide. I looked over my shoulder and she was the best looking girl I'd ever seen. And a major. But I had to say no. And I reported to army that he was there and the next morning they sent back a couple of command cars and picked him up. And two or three days later he was having a drink with all the high generals of the United States Army. And here I had the guy to myself a couple of nights before. The perfect [ ] no fraternization. I could have kicked myself in the butt for 58 years.

About the only contact I had. We had very little contact the German civilians. Even when we got into central Germany and the war was almost over, we would see them. Some of them were dyed in the wool Nazis. Some of them could care less. Ah, I can remember in Weimar we were getting instructions to move back when the Russians were to take over that part of the area. And there was one woman, she'd been very haughty, she went back and she had her nose in the air all the time. Soldiers would make remarks and she'd just [ ] down the street with her nose high. And she wouldn't speak to anybody. And the day we were ready to pull out and we had to pull out for the Russians [ ] four or five miles. Mostly they pulled troops back and we'd draw them back. And she came over to my C.O., the colonel, and she just begged him to take her with him. Realizing what was probably going to happen to her when the Russians moved in. From past history, the Russians made use of every woman they could, and maybe Germans had done it before in Russia. Who knows?

L: As you look back on your service, do you feel that it was a shaping influence on you as a man in any way for your future?

K: Yeah, I'm sure it did. It gave me the responsibility for people who worked for me. It gave me a leadership that I could never have gotten as a young kid. Remember that I'm only 23, 24, 25 years old during all this time. And assuming responsibilities far and above what any kid that age could, would do in civilian life. But I came back to it. I went back to a company as a family, semi-family company. Three families owned it. And started there at the very bottom and worked my way up. But I'm sure my military service gave me a lot of experience that I could never have gotten any other way.

I had a son born while I was overseas. I didn't see him until I got home in late October of 1945. And he was almost two years old. That was an experience, to see a son for the first time. He's now by the way, a college professor.

L: It's been a pleasure for me to work with you. Thank you very much indeed.
Event World War II
Category 6: T&E For Communication
Object ID OH2001.3.26
Object Name Tape, Magnetic
People Kimberly, Henry H. Jr.
Subjects World War II
European Theater of Operations
United States Army
Title Oral History Interview with Henry Kimberly, Jr.
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