WORLD WAR II
Oral History Interview with Herbert Clark.

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Record 41/959
Copyright Oshkosh Public Museum
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Classification Archives
Collection World War II Oral History Project
Dates of Accumulation March 5, 2003
Abstract Oral history interview with Herbert Clark, he recalls his World War II experiences as a member of the Cannon Company, 422nd Infantry, 106th Division. Clark was born October 28, 1924 and was 17 years old at the time of the attack on Pearl Harbor. He was astudent at Purdue University and had a military deferrment until the May 23, 1943. He arrived in France with his unit in December 1944 and was transferred out two days before they were over-run at the Battle of the Bulge. He was a truck driver and also hauled artillery pieces. He was discharged February 16, 1946 and returned to Oshkosh in early 1946. A typed transcript is on a computer file in the archives.

Herb Clark Interview
5 March 2003
Conducted by Bradley Larson

{B: indicates the interviewer, Mr. Larson; H: indicates the subject, Mr. Clark. Closed brackets - [ ] are used when the spoken word or phrase cannot be understood.}

B: This is Brad Larson and it's March 5th, 2003. I'm sitting in my office with Herb Clark. So Herb, if you are ready to go, I guess we'll roll.

H: I'm ready.

B: We'll start by, if you give me your full name and date of birth and your folk's name.

H: My full name is Herbert H. Clark, Jr. I was born October 28th, 1924 in Oshkosh. My dad's name of course was Herbert H. Clark. My mother's name was Marjorie Barber Clark. And so I was bred, born and raised in Oshkosh.

B: Did your family, thinking back now before we were at war, and before Pearl Harbor, did your family talk much about the war that was happening over in Germany or about Adolph Hitler, the Japanese? Was it a topic of conversation?

H: Not really. We just didn't discuss it. My father of course, was a veteran of World War I. But he didn't go overseas. He was in officer's training when the war ended. But ah, nothing was mentioned, really. I was aware of what was going on over in Europe with Hitler. Primarily ah, the first idea I got was when Lindbergh came back and said that Hitler has and was building a tremendous airforce.

And then Germany invaded the Sudetenland of Czechoslovakia. And of course we didn't have television, but we did have Pathe News in the theaters where ah, something they put on before the main show was world news. And it showed a picture of Neville Chamberlain, Prime Minister of England, waving a piece of paper saying we're going to have peace in our time. This was after the invasion. And it was shortly thereafter that, all of a sudden, you hear of Stuka bombers bombing Poland. And that's when World War II started over there.

I didn't think that much of it because FDR hated war. We were not going to war. In hindsight, I think maybe he knew we were eventually. But on Pearl Harbor Day, I was laying on the living room floor, seventeen years old, my mom was darning socks in her chair. My dad was looking at the newspaper, and we were listening to a Packer football game when all of a sudden they interrupted and said Pearl Harbor had been bombed. And I looked up and my mom and dad were both looking at each other, I being 17 years old, and then they looked at me. And apparently it was going through their mind that, yes, I was going to get involved in it.

B: Did you have any brothers and sisters?

H: I had two sisters but no brothers. So at that time I was still, well I was a senior in high school and of course we declared war and some of the kids in high school - and yes, we were all kids - left school and volunteered immediately.

I was going on to college so, and still 17 years old, but when I got to college in the fall just short of my birthday, I joined the inactive reserve simply because they guaranteed they would not call us up during a semester. They guaranteed that when the call up came, it would be in between the semesters. So I prevailed upon my parents to sign the necessary papers and of course in 1942, the draft age was lowered to 18. So I would have been eligible shortly after I joined the reserves. As it was, I was called up in late April, the end of my first year down at Purdue.

So I got on a bus here in Oshkosh. My girlfriend, my dad and mom saw me off. I was all alone. I had reported to Camp Grant and while at Purdue I took a test for the Army specialized training program, which was comparable to V-12 that the Navy had. It was to, we were to go to college and receive our degree and then be commissioned. When I got to Grant, they interviewed me and I said I was from Purdue and I had a year's field artillery in the ROTC. And the officer asked me if I'd had any surveying. And I said yes. I'd completed the course work for surveying. And he said, "Well, we can send you down to Fort Sill and you'll be a training instructor. They need people that know what surveying is all about, for the artillery." Well this was great until I said, "Incidentally, I have this paper. I took a test for ASTP." Well, he was picking up a small rubber stamp to stamp my assignment and when I showed him that he says, "Oh." And he picked up, I swear, a rubber stamp that he had to whack on the inkpad eighteen different times. It had to be a foot long and three inches wide. And when it came down crossways on the paper, it said INFANTRY.

So I was, and all those that ah, came out of college and were going into ASTP were assigned to infantry basic training. And I wound up thirteen weeks at Camp Wheeler, Georgia, just outside of Macon. May, June, July and August, the hottest time of the month. Sand and cockroaches like unbelievable.

But we did survive and I was assigned to the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. And it was great. I mean we used to say, "Take down your flag, Mother take down your flag in the window. Your son's in the ASTP." Well, two semesters later, that collapsed. And ah, half of the guys there were assigned to a combat engineering outfit. And the rest of us were shipped up to Camp Atterbury, just outside of Indianapolis, to the 106th Infantry Division. Which at that time had been stripped of a lot of their infantryman. It was shipped overseas as replacements for those guys that got nailed when they invaded Europe. Well, that wasn't too bad because I wound up in Cannon Company because I had artillery experience. And I wound up as a vehicle driver in the Cannon Company of the 422nd Infantry Division.

That was fine. I got home on a three-day pass on August 4th of '44. And got engaged to Phyllis Heisinger whom I'd met on a blind date the day after my 18th birthday. And after the day, I told John Reddy that he could be the best man. Well, she waited for me. (Laughter). So anyway, on October 23rd of '44 we boarded the Aquitania, a British liner, and left New York and landed on the Firth of Clyde, just outside of ah, well, I can't think of it now. I should. In Scotland. Unloaded on October 28th. And of course I'm never going to forget that date. That was my birthday. And we were met on this train, of course it was all blackout, and the British Red Cross gals passed out these pasties. I kept wanting to say pasties {short a} which is the wrong word. It's one or the other. And in paper sacks, brown paper sacks. And they were just drippin with grease. So when we pulled out of the station, the thing - platform - was littered with bags. We'd take one bite and that wasn't our cup of tea. So we wound up in Sheltenham.

And we were there for six weeks and then we got, went down to the Channel and got on an LCT and crossed the Channel. And we pulled into LeHavre and they dropped the mud hook to take our turn landing. Of course the place was pretty well shot to pieces. And then it was our turn to go and they started pulling up the anchor and all of sudden, "Whoop, whoop, whoop." All these sirens on the ship were goin off. And the swabbies were all running around putting on their life jackets. And we didn't know what the heck was goin on. And finally one of em stopped and said, "Get your life jackets on. We hooked a mine on our anchor." Well, they lowered it and cut the anchor chain and we went in and landed. So that was our first experience. Welcome to the ETO.

Well, we went through St. Vith ah, on December 11th. We were going to relieve the 2nd Infantry Division up in the Ardennes. And we went through St. Vith and those people were primarily of German decent. And they weren't too happy with us.

B: What did they do?

H: Well, they just weren't happy. They didn't welcome us going through their village, which was 3,000 people.

But we got up on line and our accommodations were excellent. The 2nd had been up there for I guess, a couple months. And they claimed it was a recreation area. You know, a little shootin and maybe a few patrols but ah, and they had cabins that were half below ground and half above, that would hold six guys. And it had a little pot-bellied stove that you could burn wood in. And they'd insulated these log houses or whatever you want to call em with straw. So they were fairly comfortable.

And of course we had our cooks and everything else. And ah, the first day we were there, why it was noon and we were going through a chow line, muddier than heck from all the tromping around when some artillery shells went over. Well, we all hit the ground. There was still guys there from the 2nd and they laughed at us like crazy. They says, "That's outgoing artillery. You don't worry about that." Well, we're covered with mud.

But anyway, it was pretty good. But then on December 16th, that's when all hell broke loose. They started the artillery, all this jazz, and it went on and on and on. Well, a day later I was reassigned and I was mad about it, to Division Forward, because they needed a truck driver. And I was the youngest in the outfit so they sent me back to Division. And I was just starting to get to really know the guys. And now I'm up there on temporary assignment and still not realizing just what was going on. That ah, really what happened, our division and a division's front was normally seven miles. Ours was stretched out 22 miles. So it was pretty thin. And on our left flank was a cavalry outfit. And that's where on the 19th, 18th-19th, the Germans broke through at that point and surrounded the 422nd and the 423rd of the 106th. No more, they ran out of ammunition, they ran out of food. Consequently, they had to surrender. They had no other option. On the 19th, I got assigned to a 6 by 6 weapons carrier that they loaded up to the plimsol line and told me to head back to St. Vith with it. Ah, there were, it was slow go. I left at about 2 o'clock in the afternoon and got into St Vith , or St. Vielsalm at three the next morning. And I mean the road was just chopped to pieces. There were tanks comin down. There were trucks and it just was, I coulda walked faster.

B: Do you remember Herb, what was the mood at that time? Did you know what was going on?

H: Well, on the 19th I did. I thought everything was going to hold. But then they were supposed to resupply both the divisions, regiments, with airdrops. But the weather was so crummy that they couldn't do it. It was the worst winter in the history of weather statistics over there. I mean it was cold, cold, cold. We had snow two feet deep. We didn't have galoshes. We just had our combat, our leather combat boots.

B: Did you suffer from Trench Foot?

H: No. But a lot of guys did. Frostbite, what have you. But then I got back to Vielsalm and the motor sergeant says, "We'll unload your truck and then you go back for another load." And I says, "Hey, look. It ain't gonna work. There's no way I can get back. Nobody can get back there." And he says, "Well, you can go get your, the mess hall is open, go get yourself some hot food." I says, "No. Look, I'm tired." There was a cot there. "I'll lay down and sleep. Wake me up when it's ready to go." Well he woke me up at 8:30 in the morning. And says, "Saddle up." And I says, "Okay. Back to St. Vith?" He says, "No. We're pulling out. We're headed west. You're right. It's real bad."

And of course about that time I said to myself, "My God, you know, how come I got so lucky being pulled out of the company and sent back here?" Because of the company, the company clerk and I were the only ones that were not captured. Of the regiment, there were only thirty-one of us left that had not been wounded prior to and got out. The balance were captured or killed. In my company, we lost one lieutenant. Lt. Kassenbaum. And he would, I guess to be about 22 years old. But a bunch of kids went up and, I'll tell you, we aged tremendously. And on Christmas Day four of us were leaning up against what was left of, I guess, a barn wall. The rest of the barn was leveled. And I had a can of C-ration beans under my armpit, trying to thaw it out. Merry Christmas!

And the sun had finally come up and a flight of 12 B-17s went over. It was very vivid in my mind. I'll never forget it. And I looked up and I thought, "You son-of-a-guns, you're gonna fly over Germany," because that's where our line was. We were inside the Siegfried Line when this thing started. I wasn't aware of that until I went back in '94. And this couple gave me a tour and showed where the company actually was situated. And here just west of where we were situated were the German pillboxes. Of course, covered up with growth and what have you.

And I thought, "You suckers, you're gonna be another hour and you're gonna be dropping those bombs and three hours you're gonna be back in England. You'll have your Christmas dinner. You'll be down in Piccadilly Circus with the dollies having a gay old time." When one of em just disintegrated in a big puff. And another one got ah, hit. I don't know why. I don't think it was ah, fighter planes. I think it was probably anti-aircraft fire but I saw no flak explosions either. But the one lost a wing and it caught fire and one guy bailed out. And he must have pulled his ripcord too soon because his parachute caught fire. The only one that got out. And I remember just watching him. And I thought, maybe I'm better off here. (Laughter). \

But we finally got the line stabilized. Patton got up there. We of course were wiped out. The 99th, well our 424th Regiment survived. The 99th got badly, badly whacked. The "battling bastards of Bastogne" of course, were about 40 miles south of us. And they weren't surrounded until, I don't know, the 22nd or the 23rd. And they were just about on the ragged edge of food and ammunition when the Air Force was finally able to get in there and make a drop. And Patton came in and relieved, relieved the pressure.

But I also have another memory of the first American GI that I saw that was dead. And this was in a long shed, apparently for equipment where they had these bodies of the American GIs. That graves registration had picked up. And there was, there was a Chinese fella, very peaceful looking, that had on his overcoat. Well, we wore everything we could. It was so damn cold. But it was spotless. So I assumed that he was probably a replacement that never even got a chance to fire his rifle. So that was the start of it.

B: Do you remember what you thought when you saw that?

H: It shook me up. All of a sudden, yeah, we are not indestructible.

B: Prior to that, had you had any thoughts about what it was gonna be like?

H: Oh no. No. Nothing whatsoever. It just, but once, once that whole thing took off, hey, it was a rude shock for all of us. We had to, you know, go through an infiltration course where they were shootin machine guns over us and exploding charges. But hey, not this artillery fire and ah, machine gun and machine pistols and all this other jazz going on. The whole nine yards, I mean the Germans unloaded, and really unloaded on us.

B: How would you describe the Germans?

H: They were doin just what we were. They had a job to do and they were trying to do it. Once the ah, Bulge was stabilized and we started movin back, of course one of the things, I went through St. Vith again. This village of 3000 people, and, here's what it looked like.

B: Well, we're looking at a photograph in the book and there's just nothing there.

H: It's just totally destroyed. The same thing happened in World War I. Then they rebuilt. When I was back there in September of 1994, 50-year anniversary, the town was all rebuilt again except one wall they left as a reminder. So to give you some idea if I can find it, [ ] here. I'll be darned if I can. I should have looked at this thing. It's been so long since I've reminisced on this. Maybe I should have before I came. But ah, anyway it was a real mess. I thought maybe I could pick up where we actually were. But when 5 German divisions hit us on this front, it, it, and they loaded everything up. And then once we were, were driving back, retaking the Bulge, of course I got into Stavelot a lot where I was amazed at one of the big, big, big German tanks. It got, had gone down a narrow street and apparently they spotted an antitank gun, so they tried to turn around. And they got perpendicular to the buildings and they were jockeying back and forth. And the walls on this one bank building must have been three feet thick that they'd knocked down. And then in backing up, they dropped into the basement and they had to abandon the tank. It was a big son of a gun. That was in Stavelot.

And then just outside of Malmedy, I was with Capt. Luke [Piscorrelli] of chemical warfare division. Chemical warfare because I was permanently assigned to him. The company was gone. And they were sweeping the bodies, the snow off the bodies of the guys that were killed in the Malmedy massacre. And ah, a lot of people aren't aware of the fact, but that also six or eight of the Belgian citizens were also killed on that deal. And what also is not known is that there were some black GI truckers that were massacred in another spot by the SS. So that we, we, and I use the term loosely, the guys that found about that were not real happy with any prisoners they took. And a number of those prisoners never wound up in a PW camp.

B: Did that change you, seeing that?

H: Well, it ah, made me angry that this wasn't a gentleman's war. But I wasn't in a position to take any action, thank goodness. Because I was not on the line. But I know of it. It affected an awful lot of the infantrymen that saw it or heard about it. And then of course, as things progressed, we started taking prisoners and my gosh, they're kids, 14 years old. And old men in their 60's. And they were carrying rifles that were junk. I mean, there were just no more bodies available in, in the normal military age group.

B: Do you remember what you thought when you saw those 14-year-old boys?

H: I thought, Holy Toledo! They're scraping the bottom of the barrel but the war is just about over. If this is all they've got left. So ah, I did get down to Koblenz when they were gonna jump the river. When Luke, my CWS, second in command said he wanted to go east, I didn't know why. But we got just outside of Koblenz and on the west side of the river and it was, we had to get there by 11:30 that night. And at 12 o'clock, they cut loose on every piece of artillery they had. And they must have been hub to hub because that whole horizon was just one big ah, flame of these guns cutting loose. It was one whale of a fireworks display! But ah, the end was just about there.

And then of course V-E Day, there was no happiness, really. Oh it was nice it was over but we still had the war in the Pacific. And we're sittin over in Europe. We aren't in Paris or any other place.

And speaking of Paris, I did have an experience in February of '45. I lucked out and got my name drawn for a three-day pass into Paris. Well of course you wore everything you owned. I had two pairs of long johns on. Two pairs of OD pants and shirts. My fatigue pants and fatigue jacket. My wool cap and my steel helmet of course, with the liner. Combat boots. My field jacket and my army overcoat when I went into Paris. I got off the truck and I got picked up by the M.P.'s They said, "You can't go around looking like that." My coat was covered with Cosmoline and a little blood and dirt and I looked like Willie, if you ever seen pictures of them, that ah, well, "You gotta go get cleaned up. New uniform." Well, come on now!. He says, "Look, we'll take you. And then we'll take you to where the action is." So, okay.

When I got in the shower, when I peeled off all these layers, I got down to my long johns and there weren't any. There was just a label on my back. (Laughter). I hadn't had a bath since early December, or a shower. It was rough. And so I got a new set of, a new uniform, the whole nine yards. And I damn near froze because I'd lost all that insulation. So anyway, we persevered. We won.

B: Well, what happened in Paris? Did he take you to all the action spots?

H: Well, they took me down to the Place Pigalle. Where Moulin Rouge and Casino de Paris and the Lido was. Yeah. And also the USO club. All those good things. Did I get messed up with any of the women? No. (Laughter) I had a gal waitin for me and I figured what's sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. That we'll play it on the square. But it, for a country boy from Oshkosh in the lifestyle in Paris, it was outlandish. The outdoor urinals for the men. That they have the sunken gardens on this one street. And of course they had sort of a barrier up against this wall. But you could look down into it and see the guys.

And of course the co-educational loos that they had. That ah, Fred and I walked into one. We were waiting for the truck and the truck was late so we were in this bar drinking beer and all of a sudden we both decided we'd better visit the head. And we walked into it. Fred made it to the urinal first so I went into the other one which was a hole in the floor. But when I opened the door, this gal was squatted over it and looked up and says, "Allo." And I hollered, "Fred, we're in the wrong place!" That's when we learned that if the, they weren't immoral but they sure were amoral. I just wasn't used to that kind of living.

But after VE Day, I was transferred out of the 106th. I requested it because I was going, found out the 117th Infantry Regiment was going back to the States on 30 day leave. I thought, gee, I can get married. 30 day leave, and then they were going to be stationed on the west coast as a strategic reserve to the reserve, going to be stationed in Hawaii to back up the invasion of Japan. I thought that was a good deal. Well, five days before we were to board our transport, they dropped the atomic bombs and the war was over so I was stuck. (Laughter)

B: Do you remember that day?

H: Yeah, I sure do. Because we weren't going home. Nice sunny day and all of a sudden the war is over. We're not goin home. We were told that we were gonna be in a, well we were acting as a military unit at the time, or a police, M.P. outfit. So we were stationed in Nancy, France. And on December 1st, I was transferred to Camp Lucky Strike, a redeployment camp, that we were supposed to stay there for five days and then we'd get on a troop transport and head back to the states. Which meant that we were going to be home for Christmas. The only problem is it was a casual group of 3000 guys and the commander was a colonel who had a mistress in Paris. And every time our number came up, he wasn't around. To make a long story short, we marched on the commandant's office in late January and demanded we get sent home.

So instead of being home for Christmas, I finally got home on February 16th. And was it a wonderful feeling? You betcha. My dad and my fiancée met me at the train, down at the Northwestern. Got home. Mom was there. She really wasn't in good health but there's a Christmas tree with the presents underneath it, that they'd saved. And my dad said, "Are you ready, Bud?" He said, "I'm going to turn the lights on. And he did and then he unplugged it. He says, "Alright." And I reached under the tree for a package and every needle on that tree fell off. (Laughter) Welcome home!

B: What happened then? Did you get a job right away? Or how was it? Did you go to college?

H: Well, I joined the "52/20 Club". And by that, jobs were hard to get. And ah, so they guaranteed that you could draw $20.00 a week for up to 52 weeks or until you got a, found a job. And you had to go every week to the unemployment office. Well, I had problem with my feet. I didn't have trench foot but I had some frostbite. So the third week I went down there, here are a bunch of the guys lined up waiting. And the office is open. Well, I walked right in ahead of the whole bunch. And walked up to the window and this gal says, "Oh, we have a job for you." And I says, "Well, fine." She says, "It'll be outdoor work. Putting up signs. Advertising signs." Well gee whiz, I couldn't take that with my feet so I told her. So she says, "Oh, well. Okay." And she gave me the 20 bucks and I signed and walked out. Well everybody else was lined up right behind me. That poor, the guy behind me, he got the job. He wasn't happy about it but, I never went back. I got a job on my own hook.

And then in June I went back to Purdue. And picked up where I left off. I was retarded. I started in '42 and finally got my degree in '49. But in '47, Philly graduated from Oshkosh State Teachers College and a week after that, June 15th, we got married. So she got her "putting hubby through" degree, along with my degree.

B: What did you get a degree in?

H: Mechanical engineering.

B: And then where did you get a job?

H: Well, I went to work for Modine Manufacturing Company in Racine. I drew a circle around the City of Oshkosh, a 100-mile radius. And said I would not accept a job within that circle. That I was far enough away so the no-accounts wouldn't bug us. But those that counted would take the time to drive at least 100 miles.

{End of tape No. l}.

B: Tape 2, Herb Clark and Brad Larson, March 5th, 2003. Herb, I'm wondering if you would describe for me a typical day on the front during the winter of '44 or '45. What would be a typical day for you?

H: Well, a typical day, once I got back, well a typical day when we got up on line, there was not a whole heck of a lot to do. We traded guns, howitzers - 105 howitzers with the 2nd. They took ours and we took theirs. Everything was in place so it was a question of ah, guard posts really. And just laying around because of the snow. There was no, no training, no phys. Ed, no nothing. It was just you know, write letters or read, or chew the fat or play cards.

B: What was the infantryman's life like? You mentioned you saw these B-17's up there and at first you felt envious. What was an infantryman's life like?

H: Well, an infantryman's life was a whole heck of a lot different than the one I was leading. Because they were right there, stuck in a hole, living like animals, once, once the parade took off. And I mean they were in snow up to their ears and cold. If they got wounded, the shock could kill em. Trying to get em out was tough. I really was lucky, real lucky that I didn't get involved in that kind of deal. It was a, I've been there, I've seen it, I've done a little of it but it wasn't a great amount. I was really, I didn't sleep out in the open at any time. Crawl into a building or, if there were ah, people in residence, they'd put us up. I've slept in barns with cows. And it was very, very warm.

Oh, driving a jeep with, with ah, Piscatelli, that was cold. And occasionally we'd ah, come under fire from 88's, maybe. But that was just periodically. Sort of scare you a little bit but we would survive.

And ah, I know one time when we were, we'd gone up to visit this company because they had a pillbox they were worried about. Well, we had a flame-thrower so we went up there to try the flame-thrower out on the pillbox. That scared me. But Piscatelli was with me. We got up there and we squirted the heck out of that pillbox. And come to find out, it was a pillbox for an artillery piece and the back end was open and there was nobody in it. (laughter).

But one time we were zipping along and we got flagged by M.P.s just before we got to a crossroad. And they said that crossroad is under direct 88 fire. And we sat there and it was getting late in the afternoon. We wanted to get back to the division. We didn't want to be sittin there forever. And we timed the distance between, or the time between each round and we had it pretty well figured out so when they fired, then we took off and, like wow! It was a rutted road and we got through all right but about 200 yards down the road I lost it and we wound up in a ditch. And Lou and I were sittin together on a snowbank lookin at each other. "Are you alright?" "Yeah, yeah." The jeep was a mess but…(laughter).

B: You mentioned that you went, well first I have a question. Do you think you changed at all between the time you arrived in France in 1944 and the time VE Day came? Did you change?

H: I've always said that I was well manured by that time. I was mature. I was a kid really. It was still fun and games. Well, not all the time but I mean, nothin to really scare you to death or make you afraid. Until all of a sudden the shootin started. Then, then, oh boy! Somebody's out there that ah.. {Herb is showing Brad some pictures here}. See, some of these, see this is my infantry book that talks about, and you look at em. This is before we got, when we went overseas. You can see how young those guys looked like. This is my company. It didn't look like a bunch of mature men. They were by and large, most of em were kids. We were 18, 19. When I got off the Aquitania, it was my 20th birthday.

And you can still, I do have [ ] that you can see, this is…

B: This was taken over in…?

H: In Belgium. That was after the Bulge had been sort of stabilized.

B: Which one of these is you? Are you on here?

H: That's me.

B: Now, you've got the Garand. Would you allow us to copy these for the book? Could we borrow them and copy them?

H: Certainly. Certainly. And then there's the old man, me. And I think that that's Stavelot. And that's VE Day and me again.

B: Look at all the flowers here.

H: Yes. And then this is…

B: Where was this taken? The VE Day picture?

H: That was, that was in Belgium. Then the rest is family and the '94 visit [ ].

B: Why did you go back, Herb?

H: Well, it was funny. One of the guys was trying to put together a tour group of guys from the division. And I got sort of interested in it. And I started doing some research. And I wrote a letter to this guy in, well, just outside of St. Vith. He was headed up [CREBA], which was an organization dedicated to looking after servicemen that returned, that had fought in the Bulge. And offered their services in gratitude for what they'd done.

So I contacted him and ah, got a lot of information from him. And so the tour fell through but I had a lady friend then and we decided that, by gum, we'd go there by ourselves. And it so happened that it was on the 50th anniversary of the liberation of Belgium. And we had a car and I'd written this guy and he set up a deal with a couple that volunteered to guide us for a day. [Carl Noel and Anna-Marie Simon]. And they were in their mid-50's.

Well, they met us in Eupen and they wouldn't take our car. Carl drove and Anna-Marie navigated. And they took us all through the area that we had been in. And I was treated as a returning war veteran. I was a hero in every town I was in. and of course there was lots of celebrating going on. And even the little kids wanted to shake my hand. It isn't like Veterans Day or Memorial Day here. I mean, we just ignore it. It seems like it's a day off of work. It isn't the way these people remember it. In fact St. Vith has a memorial they built to the 106th Division. This was the one that was primarily occupied by Germans. But after the war, they did, it changed.

And one of the things that, on our returning, is we stopped at [Honore Chapielle] Cemetery and here's this field of crosses and Stars of David. And it's like the feeling - I don't know if you've been to the, the Viet Nam Memorial in Washington - it'll break your heart. At least it did me when I visited it. But the cemetery over there that we visited, going down the rows, and I was looking for Lieutenant Eric Wood's marker. He was with the artillery of the 106th. And he was out all by himself, a one-man army for a couple of weeks before the Germans caught up to him. When they found his body, there were 16 Germans around him. It must have been a firefight. One against six, or more. But we found the spot and there was a marker there at the spot he was found. And he was a ROTC graduate of Princeton in the reserves as a lieutenant. And when we found it, when Carl and Anna-Marie drove us to the spot, there was another couple, and another gentleman in it. The guy was a classmate of Woods at Princeton. So it's funny. And the two others were very active in the CREBA and recognizing the 106th. But to walk through that cemetery, you're walkin down lookin and all of a sudden, "Known only to God." And then maybe a little farther on, "Known only to God." They didn't find any dog tags so this was, they knew it was a GI but they had no way of determining who he was. And that was heart breaking. Well, it's just heart breaking to see all the lives that were ended before they really began.

B: Is the war something that you think of very often today?

H: I'm thinking more of it now with the goins on with Hussein. And also the North Korean situation. And it reminds me that we keep dragging our heels and we have the French, and the Germans and the Russians that don't want to go in there. But the longer we wait, the worse it's gonna be. It will have to happen. And again I'm not, this is not glory and it's not about oil. It's about terrorism. It's about an animal that thought nothing of going up and murdering the Kurds up in northern Iraq. He's a monster and something's got to be done. Because it, hey, I thought we had a wake up call when the world towers were brought down. But people seem to forget that. Let's negotiate, let's, let's not go to war. Well, we've been negotiating for what, 11 years now? And nothin. It's the same old mickey mouse. He's playing us like fools. And we're acting like Neville Chamberlain did back in '39.

B: The current world situation aside, do you, is there anything that might bring to mind your experiences during the war?

H: Not really. I guess maybe I think I watched, "We Were Soldiers." That HBO miniseries, and when I watched No. 7, which was fighting around Bastogne, yeah, it scared me. All of a sudden it was, the only thing different about it was that the snow wasn't two feet deep. But other than that, yes. So I still do think about it occasionally. No, I don't have any nightmares.

B: Is there any story or anything else you'd like to relate as it might pertain to this. Is there any thing else we may want to talk about?

H: I really don't think so. As I said, no, I wasn't a GI in a foxhole. And I think that's a tough, tough situation.

B: There's a question I like to ask all the people that I interview. So I'll ask it to you Herb? During the course of the war, did it ever occur to you that the United States or its allies would not win the war? Even in those early days?

H: No. Not even in the early days. Because I didn't get involved into it really, until '43. In '41 and '42 they were, they didn't have all of the military hardware they needed, just for the guys that were taking basic training. They didn't have rifles. They were using the old Springfield when they had em, or broomsticks. And for mortars, they were using stovepipes to train with. So they were lacking in that equipment. Well when I got to Camp Wheeler, we were short maybe a couple Garands. But that was taken care of within a week so that we were fully equipped. And there was no shortage of military supplies or what have you. And of course I, this two semesters at the University of Alabama, I mean it was class, we had a half an hour of PT a day and the rest was study or open campus.

B: So you always felt we would win the war?

H: Oh yeah. There was no doubt about it. It was just a question of when. And it wasn't going to be easy. This we knew. But then again when, well, one of my close friends, Howie McClue was engaged to Jean Gettman, was in the Marines. And he got a posh job as an official Marine photographer. Well he was killed on, I don't know, Saipan by a sniper. One of the islands. Nineteen years old. Dave Lem, Don Hayes. Both Air Force pilots. They never came home.

B: Did you know the Lem family?

H: I knew Dave from DeMolay. But no, I did not know the family. But he was a wonderful guy. So was Howie.

B: When you got back to Oshkosh, were there a lot of your friends that had been killed during the war.

H: No, those, Dave, and Howie and Don were the only three that I knew of.

B: Well, I guess I don't have anything else unless you want to add something.

H: Well, Jack [Rosenkranz], he signed up as a number two man in a torpedo bomber, an enlisted man. And of his squadron, of 25 planes I guess was in it, that his was the only one that got back from an attack on a Japanese aircraft carrier.

B: How did you feel about the Japanese as opposed to the Germans? Did you have a difference in how you viewed those? Because of Pearl Harbor?

H: Yeah. I think so. I thought they were dirty Japs. But I didn't like the Germans either when they were shootin at ya. But I did not want to go to the South Pacific and fight. Because those Japs were fanatics. Whereas the Germans would give up. At least that was my feeling.

B: Had you heard anything about concentration camps or death camps? Had you had any inkling? Had you or your men heard rumors or anything like that?

H: Not really. Dachau, Auschwitz, Bergen-Belsen, no. It wasn't until the war ended that all of a sudden this became quite well known. That ah, it's hard to believe of man's inhumanity to man. And that's what it was. And of course we had the survivors of Bataan and Corriegidor and the ah, harsh conditions those people were put to by the Japanese. And actually the executing of so many people by the Japanese. Whereas no, the Germans did not, to my knowledge, execute any of our military people. Everybody from my company came home. Course they were 60 and 70 pounds lighter than when they were captured. And that was over what? January, February, March, April, four and a half months. So it wasn't easy for them.

B: Thanks a lot.

H: It was my pleasure.
Event World War II
Category 6: T&E For Communication
Legal Status Oshkosh Public Museum
Object ID OH2001.3.46
Object Name Tape, Magnetic
People Clark, Herbert
Subjects World War II
Soldiers
European Theater of Operations
Title Oral History Interview with Herbert Clark.
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Last modified on: December 12, 2009