WORLD WAR II
Oral History Interview with Ray W. Connick.

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Record 46/959
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Admin/Biog History Oral history interview with Ray W. Connick. Ray was born September 17, 1918 in Oshkosh, WI. He attended local schools and graduated in 1936. He married Audrey (maiden name unrecorded) in 1940. He was drafted in 1943 and assigned to the 542nd Field Artillery, 42nd "Rainbow" Division. He arrived in Europe early in 1945 and was attached to the 7th Army in the Alsace Region of France. He was an eye witness at the allied liberation of the Nazi Death Camp of Dachau. He was dicharged in March 1946 and managed Kroger Grocery Stores before retiring.
Classification Archives
Collection World War II Oral History Project
Dates of Accumulation April 30, 2003
Abstract Oral history interview with Ray W. Connick. He was drafted in 1943 and assigned to the 542nd Field Artillery, 42nd "Rainbow" Division. He arrived in Europe early in 1945 and was attached to the 7th Army in the Alsace Region of France. He was an eye witness at the allied liberation of the Nazi Death Camp of Dachau.

Ray Connick Interview
30 April 2003
Conducted by Tom Sullivan

{T: indicates the interviewer, Tom Sullivan; R: indicates the subject, Ray Connick. Empty brackets [ ], or brackets enclosing words are used when a word or phrase is unintelligible or one is unsure of the correct spelling - in that order}.

T: It's April 30th, 2003 and we're at the Oshkosh Public Museum. I'm Tom Sullivan and Ray Connick, who served in World War II is going to be telling me about his experiences in that war. Are you ready Ray?

R: Yes I am.

T: Let's begin then by having you tell me when and where you were born, Ray.

R: I was born in Oshkosh Wisconsin September 17th, 1918, on Algoma Boulevard across from Riverside Cemetery. On my birth certificate it would probably say 965 Algoma because that's where my grandma and grandpa lived.

T: I see. Then your grandma and grandpa and your mother and father were natives of this area?

R: No. Grandma and grandpa came from Kenosha County. He was the superintendent of schools in Kenosha County. And why they came up here, I don't know. But my mother was born in Kenosha County near [Summers]. They had two cows and horses and they raised a lot of onions and cabbage and sold a lot of fresh vegetables to stores and people that stopped at the house.

But also across from the cemetery there were no houses. There was, it had been plated off but there was acres and acres of field and at one time they planted cabbages there and then when I was a kid, after Grandpa was gone, it was all in hay, good clover hay. And they continued to cut that oh, way, well I can remember from '23 until about I think 1929 when they sold the eight acres.

T: Did you have brothers and sisters? You mentioned one brother before.

R: I have, I had an older brother and a younger brother, and a sister in between me and my younger brother.

T: Are any of them still living?

R: My sister and younger brother are. My older brother died in about 1992 or something like that.

T: I'm going to stop this Ray, just for a moment. Tell me a little bit about your childhood Ray, where you went to school and perhaps some of the things you did for pleasure when you weren't in school.

R: We lived in what they called the old Algoma Park area. That was in the cemetery area, north of Murdock on Plymouth and Sheridan. And the cross, that was north and south streets, the cross streets at that time were not even developed. There was nothing but dirt road. And that was called Algoma Park. It was in the Town of Oshkosh and at first, just about all of us, the whole neighborhood went to the College Training School. And we all, then some years later, maybe about fifth or sixth grade, they said the country school was too far. And then they measured it off and then when they did build a new country school, the Slew Bridge School out there…

T: What did you call that Ray?

R: I think it was Slew Bridge School. Now it's Sunset School. It wasn't always named that. At first the little schoolhouse was right behind the fountain, right on the corner. That was a fountain and people would come to get water. But then when the new one was built, then they divided the neighborhood and about half of the neighborhood went to the country school and they transported em and the other half, those of us that were in… But our whole family, my brothers and I, even my younger brother, we all went to the training school. In fact, we were there when it was just, it was just the Normal School, the main building. And then they built the Rose C. Schwartz Training School when I was in 4th grade. And when we got there, we had a little cafeteria. If you could afford it you could buy a little something besides your sandwiches.

T: How much did it cost you?

R: Well, what they served was maybe a nickel or seven cents or something. Because they did have a domestic for the girls. They learned how to sew and learned how to cook a little bit. But one thing we did have [an advantage of] because the biggest share of the elite in town sent their children there. Because the tuition was something like $2.00 a year or a semester. And of course they wanted their kids to be all in that.

And they got a good education because at that time it was, the college was strictly training teachers. So in fifth grade we got industrial arts; learned how to saw a board and make a few things. And the girls likewise. But we were in with the well, like Hardy girls; they owned the Northwestern. I could probably name a few. Oh, the Schreibers; he was the president of the bank. And we were, that was the type.

So us poor kids, we were probably out of our range but we all got along and even, even after I got back from the service, I would meet like Doris Hardy or one of those people on the street and they always they always spoke, and fine, you know. It was, a lot of those kids in school in my grade, they came from Stony Beach, or Washington Avenue or Algoma Boulevard you know. But it was a good mixture because you had people from all walks of life. And these teachers knew that and I think they got a better-rounded education in teaching than probably they do now.

T: What did you do when you weren't in school? What did you do for fun and recreation?

R: Well we had a lot of fields out there. And the whole neighborhood, we played baseball every night and football and all this stuff. But I myself, I started carrying, my brother had a paper route and it was his own because we had bought the customers. At that time there were about 25 or 30, and the rest the Northwestern owned. But that was called a private route and in the summertime, let's see, he was about five years older than I am, so when he got to be fifteen or sixteen, he went to caddy out to the Country Club. He would sometimes earn $2.00 a day, with the paper route that only paid us $13.00 a month. So from the time I was ten years old, every summer until he graduated from high school, I carried the paper route and that was my money.

So, like I never went swimming in the afternoon, down in the river behind the cemetery. Because I always had to be on the paper route. So we swam at night.

T: Wasn't, wouldn't that be sort of dangerous to swim in the river at night?

R: Everybody watched everybody else. We never lost a, never lost a person. Because, see there was still Paines that was while the logging was going on. And we could run out on the logs, the booms that they had to hold them. And on the piling, we called it [ ] piles. I don't know if that's what they call em, that held these logs in, they were probably all the way from four feet, depending on, four or five feet above. And we used to dive off that into the river. And where we were diving it was 12 to 15 feet deep.

T: That sounds like a dangerous activity to me Ray!

R: No. They was barging in the logs. When they'd pull em out, there was an opening and they had what we called the [spiles ]. That was maybe, well it might have been sixty feet across because I don't think they ever had a log over sixty feet. But the older ones that could swim, when you went out there, you had to swim over and back to the three [spiles ] without stopping. Or they shot you ashore. And in shore they had all those logs. It was probably only two or three feet deep. You had to go out probably 75 feet to get up to your neck. And that's how I learned to swim. I was, I nearly drowned when I was five years old, had my dad not been there and pulled me out. That's another story. But anyway, I was afraid of the water.

T: When you were near the river, could you see loggers bringing the logs down the river?

R: No. No.

T: That was all over with?

R: They were all coming by train. And that's another story. Back in Depression Days, in our neighborhood maybe half a dozen guys were working. In our family, my mother always worked in the wintertime at Waite's. So you had to get your coal and that. We used to go down at night, through the cemetery/ We had a two-wheeled cart. This was with the old regular buggy wheels on it. The wheels were probably three and a half feet [ ]. We used to go down there and we'd load six or seven or eight of those car stakes. They were probably four or five inches round and seven or eight feet long. And that's what they had to hold the logs in on the flatcars. They were like this and then they were piled up and they had wires over there. Well then sometimes at night or in the daytime, they had a regular unloader like these hooks that you grab something and lift up. And they'd unload those and put em in the river wherever they wanted them. And then they'd leave em soak, I don't know how long. They kept track. Everything that they put in there. Well we used to go down there at night and we'd pick up those car stakes. We were stealing but so was the whole neighborhood. I remember that one year we had a just a single garage. It was, at the most it couldn't have been over sixteen or eighteen feet long. And a one-car garage and we had that thing packed clear to the ceiling from one end. Except we could in the side door. That was all the wood that we had gathered.

We also cut down trees in the neighborhood too. We'd get permission from the realtors. "Sure, cut it down." We cut a lot of em.

T: So you were burning wood then at home.

R: We were used to working. But we played a lot. After school we played baseball and football. In the summertime everybody, the whole neighborhood, went swimming. Some used to take a bar of soap along and take their bath in the river. That was okay then. The river was a lot cleaner then than it is now.

T: Did you go to high school in Oshkosh?

R: Yes I did. Yeah. I went. I only went part time. The Training School had a ninth grade so I went to 9th grade at the Training School and then three years of high school.

T: What did you do when you graduated from high school? What was the year that you graduated?

R: 1936. In June.

T: So you were, Oshkosh was in the depths of the Depression then. Tell me about how the Depression affected you and Oshkosh as well?

R: Well for one thing, I can go way back and tell you things that happened on the paper route. See I took that over about in 1930 and I worked at it until 1936 till I graduated. Actually it bought all my clothes in high school. My mother or father, very few clothes they ever bought for me because $13.00 a month went a long ways. And then when I got out of high school I fibbed my age a little and the first job I got was with Joe Lang Flashing. 15 cents and hour and I figure, I kept track, and then that Social Security just come along. And one cent was taken off for each dollar you earned. So anyway that was a summer job and I forgot what I averaged. We worked long hours. We'd start seven in the morning, and this is in July in '36. And that was a dry year. Everything was dry and it was hot. And I was pitching bundles for the thrashing crew. And when I got on that job, I sold my paper route to a boy for 35 cents {There is a lot of static in the tape at this point}. He is probably retired by now. He was ten years younger than me and he kept that paper route until he finished college. It kept him in clothes and spendin money all through college. Thirteen, well maybe they made more then before… But from 13 to 15 dollars a week, er a month. Hard to believe.

T: Yes. I guess things were really a lot different in those days.

R: Well, when my wife and I were first married in 1940 we kept track of our food. The first month that we were really housekeeping, she was working and I was working. It cost us $17.50 for the month for food. And we ate good. We had pork chops or whatever we wanted. Neither one of us were great meat eaters but we had to buy everything. Didn't have no garden.

T: What other jobs did you have between 1936 and 1940?

R: Well, my dad, my mother wasn't working. My dad, until fall so I applied for the Works Progress thing.

T: The WPA.

R: The Works Progress Administration. The WPA. And they dug ditches. They put in storm sewers and sanitary sewers all over Oshkosh. I started there in October 1936 and I worked about two years and a half.

First we did the drainage ditch that went by Hrnaks and west of the quarry. And it ended up by South Park Avenue because that whole area from 20th street and that's all business now, that flooded every spring. And our ditch that we dug was about four feet wide and it sloped down. And that took all the water from 20 Street down through Hrnaks and into Campbell Creek. Which is you know, practically, I can show you where it goes. But I worked on that project and that was from October. And then in spring that was done.

Then we worked on High Street. You know they just just covered the railroad tracks - the streetcar tracks. So they had to raise the curbs to cover that with blacktop. So they had to raise the curbings and we raised the curbings from the museum clear down to Jackson Drive on both sides. And this was all by hand, pick and shovel and cement. They had cement men and all that.

And from there, from there I went with a painting crew. And we started out, we painted out West Algoma Bridge. And Oregon Street Bridge; I think that was all. And then for the winter, and then we painted the old City Hall. We painted that on the inside and then we did something in the park in the wintertime. The next winter, which would be about… we were in the park all winter.

And from that I got laid… then everything was kaput. Then I looked for work like everybody else. And finally in, I was going with my wife, we started going together in 1936. And lookin for work all the time. And I got a job settin pins at the Eagles. And I averaged over $18.00 a week settin pins when my brother in the factory was lucky to make $12.00. It's unbelievable.

T: Yes. Yes.

R: But one thing I had, I never bowled much. I didn't know a thing - I didn't even know how to bowl. When I got the job they showed me how to set the pins. The pin boys had to be down there in the afternoon and there was no business of course. It was about 15 cents a line I think and the pin setter got five of that and the house got the other. But when the pin boys bowled, they only had to pay the pinsetter. And boy when those guys bowled, you had those pins down. The ball was coming. You could make twice as much settin for the pin boys as you could waiting for these guys to go to the bar and back. And I set lotta afternoons a couple hours for the pin boys. I got off with a… and they always paid you in cash. I come out with a buck and a half in my pocket. Otherwise I woulda sat there and did nothin.

T: Ray, back in those years, in the late 30's and the early 40's, there was a war going on in Europe and a war in China and so forth. Did you and your pals ever think much about those conflicts when you saw newsreels and so forth. Did it ever occur to you that the United States might get drawn into the thing at some time?

R: Oh yeah. That did occur. I'll give you - in 19- we were married in 1940. And I didn't have a job. But I knew I could set pins if I had to. You know? But then I had worked for Waite Carpet for three weeks. [ ] finishing up the year. They'd have carloads and carloads of rugs to ship out. And I got a job in the shipping room helping em to load those cars. And then they said, "Well, if you're available in fall, we'll keep you in mind." They didn't say, but I kinda knew. My mother had worked there for oh, ten, fifteen years. And I kinda knew I'd get back there.

So we got married in September and in October, the middle of October, I started to Waite's. Well that job was always good till the middle of April, first week in May. In 1941 or '42, one of those, one of those years, see Morgans was making, they were starting these camps around. Because the draft hadn't started yet. Maybe it did. But they were preparing. Morgans was making windows for the army barracks all over. They were paying 35 cents an hour. But if you worked, if you worked on the windows for the army, you got 37 cents an hour.

T: Do you remember Pearl Harbor? Where you were?

R: Yes I do. Audrey and I went to church that Sunday morning and when we got, we only had the radio of course. That's all there was. And we listened. We heard, we heard about it. And the thing that I noticed right away. I says, well we're lucky. The aircraft carriers were out to sea. If they woulda got them, it woulda taken a lot longer. Because you know it wasn't too long after that the Battle of Midway, that we lost ships. And we disabled their entire navy there. And so that was one good thing.

T: Were you drafted into the service or did you enlist?

R: No. I, when this all started in 1941 yet, I volunteered. They were looking for officers training. And I went down, we had our own car. Audrey went down with me, and spent the day. We had to stay overnight. Spent the day at Fort Sheridan taking the test for officer's training. I passed the entire test with flying colors. But when they come to interview that was fine too. They didn't scare me, you know with their gruff army talk. That didn't bother me. That was just another guy. But anyway then, when they come by, I was rejected. I was too light. I only weighed 155 pounds and I was foot three and a half. They say you're too light for the service. But I kinds got even with them. In 1945 when they were sending all the men home, they had a special ah, three month 90 day training for training officers. And my commanding colonel, he had called me down to headquarters. He says, "Ray, it says on your record here that you were interested in officers training." I said, "Yes sir, I was." This was back in 1941 or '42. No, '41. But I says, "I wasn't good enough for em now and," I says, "Now I have a wife and daughter at home and I don't want no part of the army. I'm going home and support them." So I evened up the score. It was tempting because, you know.

T: So you enlisted then.

R: No. I was drafted.

T: Oh, you were drafted.

R: But for drafting, one thing that helped me. I had taken that nine-month course in the Signal Corps. And when I got to the Rainbow Division, they were, the whole bunch, there were probably 200 of us. They would call your name and they would say you hadda, they'd call your name and you had to give your name and the middle initial. So when they called "Connick, Ray W., Artillery. Go over there." So I went over there.

T: You really didn't have a choice in the matter.

R: No, you didn't. I coulda just as well been infantry. But in the meantime…

T: When were you drafted, Ray?

R: Ah, I was drafted in 1943 in the August quota of 1943. And the August, my daughter was born on July 21st. So we knew it was coming up. 'Cause like I say, I coulda went New Jersey for General Electric. But in the meantime I had always worked for Krogers part-time. And the manager needed a man. I was working at the Pluswood. I didn't like that so I says, "Well as long as I only got a couple of months before I'm drafted, I might as well get in the grocery business. Something I love."

So I went over and talked to Miller on the south side. That's where Kossel's is now. That was a pretty big grocery store then. And I worked in the grocery from about May or June until I was drafted in September.

But anyway the August quota was, we went to Milwaukee the last day of August. So then you had 21 days. You were sworn in. You were a member of the army. You had 21 days to settle up your affairs. So we knew we were going to go on the 21st of September. And my daughter was just two months old that day and I had just had a birthday. I had just had my 25th birthday on September 17th. So really by August quota, being the last of the month, I got really about an extra three or four weeks. If I'da had it in the first of the month, I would have been long gone, you know. So I got really about a three month's extra. And so that turned out all right.

Then we went down to Camp Grant. And the day I left…

T: Was Camp Grant where you got your basic training or unit training?

R: No, no. Induction center. And my younger brother who at that time was 15 years old, the day I got into Camp Grant, the day I left Camp Grant for Muskogee, he came in on the other end. He volunteered for the army and he lied his age. He was only 15. So the result was, I was in the states. Had basic training. I was a sergeant already and he had his basic training and he was sent over to Italy and he landed, he was in one of those pockets that landed on the Italian peninsula. And he got wounded and they found out from his blood pressure that he wasn't no 18, 19 year old. So they booted him out. But he still, he served later. He's still a member of the DAV and he got a Purple Heart and all this. So the veterans take care of his physical needs to this day. But ah, yeah, you might say we almost, we almost both got in the same day and he was wounded and back home and everything and I was still down in Oklahoma.

T: Well, where did you get your unit training?

R: Right in Camp Gruber. Camp Gruber, Oklahoma.

T: How long were you there, Ray?

R: Well, my total time in the states, I served just lacking 30 months. And it was about 50/50. See,. The Rainbow Division had an APO number from Day 1. So if my wife wanted to send me something, she had to get a special slip from the post office and write what she was sending me. But you could send packages to any guy. Any camp in the country. But with an APO number [ ]. We were APO number 411 from the day I got down there. But ah, we, eight weeks basic training and then see, we had all career old timers for cadre training us. We had sergeants that were 38-40 years old, just a step away from retirement.

T: Were any of these guys World War I veterans?

R: We had a couple in our outfit. Not in my own particular one but I remember one, they had an article about that. There was guy in, in one of our headquarters units, an artillery headquarters unit that was a World War I veteran. Well, you see if he was 18 in 1918, in 1940, that would be 20, he was probably in his early 40's. Of course you could volunteer regardless of your age.

T: That was a question that I wanted to ask you because Brad was interested in that too. Wondered if there were any veterans from World War I that were still active in the…

R: There were a few. Yeah. I remember one in particular 'cause he was just across the kinda like street from us. And yeah, and then what happened of course with your training, we were training and given these assignments. And then a lot of us guys took the place of the cadre. Like I was the only one in the outfit that knew anything about a radio. So they automatically gave me, I was a radio operator whether I wanted it or not. Actually I only served, I served guard duty twice and I only served, pulled KP once.

T: You were very fortunate.

R: I pulled KP a couple times because a couple times I volunteered for the week-end to take a guy's place because I wasn't goin anyplace anyway. I did that a few times. But no, because…

T: Now you were in…

R: When I got done with basic training, they made a whole lot of Pfc.'s. Well I didn't think, I wasn't even thinkin about promotion, you know. And then this First Sergeant said to me, "Don't," he said, "How do you feel about these guys makin…?" "That's up to you. You guys know what you're doin. I don't, you know." And he says, "We got other things in mind."

And about two or three weeks later I was a T5 which is the same as a corporal. And before I got all my, this had to be well, eight weeks from September, October, November. Probably in early December I was a T5. And right after Christmas I was a T4. I didn't even get all my T5 stripes sewn on and I had the next jump.

But the hardest part of that, all the greenhorns were in together. And doing whatever; calisthenics, marching and following order. Whatever. And then all of a sudden you're one of em and you have to give the orders. That's the hardest part but you go ahead and do it.

T: Now you were in an artillery unit. What kind of weapons were you fellows trained to work?

R: Well actually we were in the service battery. Now the firing batteries, there were three of those: A, B and C. There was about 90 men in them. But we learned to fire the guns in basic training. They had, they had old World Warf I howitzers. That's what we trained on and a firing battery for each gun is nine men. And each one is supposed to do. One guy is supposed to put the shell in, one guy puts the powder. Another guy puts the powder in and so forth. And the last guy puts the fuse in, the cap that sets it all off. And then there's another guy pulls the trigger. Pulls the lanyard. And we trained in that. I was in the group. Every, in our outfit they made three or four groups and we were out on a field problem. So our group had to fill the cannon, the howitzer, once. And you're right up there. I helped. I did my job, nine, seven or eight, I don't even remember. But we did fire em.

T: After you got all your training, what was your particular assignment? What did you have to do as far as your particular job goes?

R: Actually we were the service battery so, headquarters we had the service, we had to supply all the other batteries with ammunition, with gas, with water, with food, with clothing, the whole works. So there was probably 6 or 8 people doing the book work for that. And like I was in the ammunition train. The ammunition train is three sections and actually each section, A, B and C, each one hadda haul the ammunition for one of the firing batteries. So the first section, they took care of the needs of A, and there were six men in that. They hadda have a driver and an assistant driver. And then the guys to load the… the shells were 95 pounds. So they had to have guys to load em and unload em.

And every morning or whenever we went out on bivouac, that was always not just to go out there to sleep under the stars. It was, they had a field problem and they were training the guns, the battalion, the other batteries how to fire em and how to aim em and all that. And we had to take the supplies to em.

T: When did your unit go overseas?

R: Well, we went overseas a little after January 1945. That's another story that's a very sad…

T: Do you want to tell me about it?

R: Well I could. Basically what happened, see our battalion had been down to Fort Sill as a firing unit. We had all new guns by then. And at Fort Sill, they trained the artillery officers. So we were down there in 1945 in June, July and August as training troops wherever these young officers, we had our own officers and that. But whatever the problem was, they had to come and see us and say, "We want so many guns or so many firing, whatever."

So anyway, and then while we were there, they took about a third of our people. Artillery, infantry, a third of the division. And that wasn't the first time. They had taken more quite a bit before. And sent them to other units all over the world. So anyway, then we got back in, and in the meantime, I was one of em, you could join the Air Corps. And train. They needed so many people in the Air Corps so a lot of these fellows that had been in the war and been sent up to Alaska, right from 1940-41 on, they were guarding that you know.

They, everybody, not all of em but a lot of em enlisted in the Air Corps just to get out of Alaska. They didn't like that six months darkness and six months daylight. They said you're playing baseball at two o'clock in the morning. And anyway, about a third of our division including a third of our own battery was gone. And then all of a sudden the Air Corps deal, they didn't need anymore and they took all these fellows from all over that had all volunteered for the Air Corps and we got em.

There were sergeants. Some were green and some weren't. And the infantry got em too. But they weren't infantrymen. So when the division was loaded, was alerted, this was probably in September of 1945. We were alerted to go overseas. And the battle plan was to take the infantry regiments first and land em over there, and then we would join them. And this is the anti-tank guns and the whole works, the artillery, the supporting part of the division would come later. And then we would train these new men gradually as we went up through France, up toward the lines.

Our infantry was over there and then came the Battle of the Bulge and they just cleared that camp out entirely. There wasn't a soul there. And took em all up on the 7th Army front. Can you imagine that? Infantry with 1/3 of em greenhorns? And then they were attacked by, on the 7th Army front. Strasbourg was there and the French controlled it and the Germans wanted to take it away from em. And that's where our men, our infantrymen were holding a line that probably three divisions held. Because everybody, they took all the ammunition, everything they could find up at the Battle of the Bulge.

So here we're sittin, getting our stuff all ready to go and December, right after Christmas, they were fighting for their lives. We didn't get over till January and we had to get our stuff ready. We weren't in Marseilles very long. It wasn't hardly a week and we went to join em. But we had to get the cosmoline off and get everything ready to go. Well after we got there.

T: So you feel that you should have been in that area earlier to support your fellows?

R: See, the high brass didn't know what the Germans were gonna do. They didn't realize the Battle of the Bulge, but there our infantry was fighting Germans and a third of the men hadn't had any training. But they lost quite a few. I don't remember if it's in the book or not but they did lose quite a few men.

T: So you actually got over there in December or January and when did you get up on the line so that you …?

R: When we left Marseilles, we went right up, right up to the 7th Army front right away. Because we were ready. And it was just to kind of poke a hole in there to make, where they wanted the guns situated.

T: Can you recall just where that was geographically?

R: It was in the Alsace, in the Rhineland area. See, they were back there, and 7th Army had retreated but they didn't retreat beyond Strasbourg because that's the French, they had to hold that for, because that was a French city and you know, that was the idea. But yeah it was, they called it the battle of the Rhineland but it's in the Alsace where they spoke both German or French, whichever you wanted to speak, you know?

T: What was your opinion of the German soldier? Was he a tough opponent from your recollections?

R: We had very little contact with em as artillerymen. The ah, it says that, and I remember hearing it too, after we got going and at first we were there, the first two, three weeks we're on the line was just kind of a holding operation while they probed the enemy and probed the enemy. And then at midnight on some day, we all took off and everything went. It took only maybe a week. Just a few days they cleaned the whole thing out. Well then we had, we crossed the Rhine River, we were over across the Rhine River but to get everything over, they had to take their turn. So we had to wait a couple days and we crossed at Worms. And from Worms, we headed down to Wurzburg. And from there to Schweinfurt, down to first Nuremberg, and then Donauworth and Munich. We were across the Austrian border when we got done.

But from the time we went on the line, there was never a, never a retreat. It was, the howitzers at that time would shoot 14-15 miles. And sometimes we had to move em three times a day in order to keep in range.

T: Did your unit suffer any casualties?

R: Our particular, our 542nd Field Artillery only lost two medics. And this was when we went, I have to look in the book, we were back at [Boost] and the line was just about a mile or two, a couple miles ahead of us. And ah, in fact my, our command car, Lt. Hodges and [Turrier] were up that night. Of course we drove in the dark to get the ammunition order for the next delivery. And they got it, see the three batteries were all around that town. And they got the ammunition order. And the Germans lobbed in a couple shells and killed two medics. About the time they landed, our Lieutenant says, "Let's get the hell outta here." I wasn't with em that night but that's the only two artillery that I know lost. I mean our artillery. See, there's three other artillery units. That's the 105's. They were ahead of the 155 because they don't have the range, see. So they may have…

T: How was the ammunition delivered to the units, the firing units?

R: We had to do that.

T: Did you do it by truck or did you use some other means?

R: Oh yeah, truck. 2 ½ ton GMC's or Dodge.

T: What were the roads like? Were they passable?

R: We were in the back country. It was just like going around Winnebago County on all the blacktop roads. Once in awhile, I can't remember ever hitting a gravel road anyplace unless you would… because see, we passed through mountains and all kinds of things.

T: When you thought about the German soldiers, did you dislike or hate em, or did you just try not to think about them?

R: I think the infantrymen probably, if they hated anybody, sure, they hated the, hated em because they were being fired directly on. I don't know how you can… but kinda like you're doing a job, you know. But like these guys say on the TV, they're volunteers. That's what they're supposed to do, you know.

The only comments we heard was from some of the Germans was, "That Artillery, oh." They just couldn't figure it out. But see, we had something the Germans didn't have. Our fuses were, in fact we didn't even know it. Well we knew it but the first shot we fired we knocked out an entire German field kitchen with one shell. Now there's 15-20 men there. Our, they were fused so that about 10-12 feet above the ground, they burst. And that took out the whole works. So when, and even the 105's had the same thing. {Another Oshkosh veteran who fought in France and Germany states that the Germans used similarly fused artillery ammunition which detonated several feet off the ground}.

So whenever an infantryman or wherever they called, where they needed to knock out a bunch, all they had to call on and it was there. We never, after the thing got going, we, I had the radio on, I was sitting in the back or outside, I'd be driving. I had the radio on and knew what was going on. And you could hear the infantry. They'd come to a town and they'd name it, some little burg, you know. Well, shell landed over the church on one side and a shell landed before the church on the other side of town. And all the white flags come out. Because they knew the next one was going to land right on em.

{The first tape ends here}.

T: So then you did see some casualties on the other side.

R: Oh, yeah. I couldn't even tell you where it was. Because you know, we were moving so fast and sometimes we had to kinda hunt out where the artillery was. They'd move you know, and we'd either hear by the telephone or kinda, the officers had the maps and stuff you know. Us guys…

T: Well you must have had pretty good communication with…

R: Well you see, every firing battery had a wire section. And they were, they hadda, when they moved forward, they hadda quick lay wire back to headquarters because the guns were fired by a fire direction center which was a part of headquarters battery. And to get your range, the number of yards, number of miles or whatever, that was all done with slide rule. There wasn't none of these computers and all that.

In fact one of my friends, we were on the swimming team after the war was over, and he was in fire direction center. And he stayed in the reserves. And when Korea started, he was close to 40. He ended up in Korea in fire direction center. So in Korea they were still doing it this way. Well one thing, they were pretty good at it because like I say, what we aimed at, we hit. And we found that out when we were at Fort Sill. Just in the last few days, they had a training exhibition I think for the officers they were training. And one of our guns was there and they had a tank go on a track you know. Just like when they wreck these cars to show how much damage? Well this tank was goin about 30 miles out in the field there, and ping! That was the end of it. So like I said, what the firing batteries aimed at, they hit. And the Germans knew the artillery, oh!

T: The 42nd Division as I understand it, was the liberator of Dachau, the German concentration camp. Did you get close to that area at all? Can you tell me about that?

R: They made sure that, according to the, I couldn't remember what day it was but at 8 o'clock in the morning they said they liberated it. Now I don't remember if I was there. I was there in mid-morning but I can't remember. This was just outside of Munich. If it was the same day or the next day. But when I got there, there was what's the [ ] like? I can't think of it. But I didn't go much beyond the gate. Because way back where the gas ovens… But I did see there was 30 box cars of displaced persons. And you could tell them by the way they were dressed. They had these striped woolen robes on or something. And that's all they had. They looked like walking skeletons. And they were there, the doors were open. And the Germans had machine-gunned the whole works. There was at least 30-40 men in each box car. It's probably in there, how many there were. And there's only one survivor. One guy was way down in the corner and a bullet missed him. And he's today living right there near Dachau. He stayed in Germany.

The SS, that's what I was trying to think of.

T: The SS.

R: And these guys were big. I mean they were, you had to be at least six-foot, I'm sure. And great big husky brutes. You wouldn't want to meet em on a dark alley or even if you're armed. They were big husky people and doing Hitler's will. And there was two or three of them laying around. Now I don't know if our guys shot em first or if the inmates got em first. But they were literally laying there. They started to puff up already. They were beaten to a pulp and nobody was paying any attention to em. And some of the, when they come, they ran into an electric fence and electrocuted themselves. Not watching. But it was, you knew darn well, and then to this day these guys say, "Oh, that's all propaganda." Well I seen those three boxcars there so don't tell me that.

And then I was only to one Rainbow reunion. See, the Rainbow has had a reunion since 1919. Gen. MacArthur, he was a colonel then, he, we were the first division retiree unit or whatever you want to call it, veterans unit in the United States Army. And we were also the first, had the first bagpipes of any unit in the United States Army because they were noted, in World War I there was so many Irishmen in there they didn't have the bagpipes. But this was part of Gen. Collins idea and wherever the band went, the pipes did. It's kinda, it's really, when you hear them.

T: Going back to the camps Ray, did, when you saw these camps did that change your opinion about the Germans. Did that make you feel differently about them?

R: No. I, we didn't. We didn't. Because I'll tell you the truth. The media, if it was like nowadays, but the general public in the United States and even us soldiers didn't even know a concentration camp existed.

T: I was going to ask you that. Had you heard any rumors about it?

R: The infantry that took that, it made em all sick. A lot of em just puked right on… Couldn't believe it, you know. See, by the gas ovens, there was skeletons and skeletons. They didn't even have a chance to bury em. You see all these cremated people. They couldn't even burn em completely. It was just a complete break down and there they were. But there was worse, see, Dachau was the first camp Germany had. And he used them to start, to get rid of the ones he didn't want. The insane, the gypsies and anybody that was, that wasn't… you know if you were a slow learner or something, that's where they went. Well then afterwards, when they got going on the Jews and they made these bigger plans. Belsen and all over. And one in Poland. Those were a lot bigger and executed far more than Dachau did. But the thing that at Dachau, the biggest share of em at first was all their own citizens. Or anybody in the country they didn't want. But it's unbelievable.

T: Aside from the concentration camp, which I'm sure was a memorable experience, what were some of your other experiences from the war over in Europe. Not necessarily unhappy ones but other things that you…?

R: I suppose, we were in Bust, France, that's when we first went on the line. And occasionally somebody would rustle up a bottle of beer or something. And of course the officers, they always had their liquor or something. You'd police up, some were good at, even in some of the prisoner camps, they'd save the potatoes and manage to make their own "moon", you know.

T: Improvise.

R: Especially the guys from North Carolina that are used to it. They know how to do it. But anyway, and it was raining. This had to be in February of what, '45? Yeah. And we were in [Boost] and we were somewhere billeted in barns, you know. Slept up in the hay mow. And once before we got there, we were at Hericourt which was a farming community. And my driver and myself, we were taken in by an elderly couple that were farmers. No heat in the house but they gave us a bed upstairs and we slept inside. That was better and a lot warmer than sleeping in the barn. And then every night when we were sacking up, he'd come up with a bottle of Mirabelle, he called it. It was made out of Mirabelle plums and it was more like a liquor. And it was real thick and he'd give us a little shot. About a half a shot. When you poured that down, ohh, that warmed… that was bedtime! But he did that and we used to give him, if we'd get like some rations or something that we didn't or tea. They didn't have no coffee or anything like that. We'd give em that, you know.

T: I imagine they appreciated that.

R: Oh yeah. But anyway I was, when we were at bust, different guy, I was…

T: How do you spell Bust?

R: Bust. B U S T.

T: B U S T. Bust. {Pronounced boost}.

R: But anyway, this is a funny story. I wrote it to my uncle who was in World War I and he just died. It was kind of muddy and all that and I stayed with two maiden ladies or widows. I don't know what they were. Well I was 25 and they, I would say they were 50 ish or so. They could talk some English. They asked me about the 23rd Psalm. And I knew that but they wanted to know how you said it in English. And I didn't understand it and I never did get a chance to recite it for them.

But anyway, if you asked any questions like every Saturday the town crier, this was out in the boondocks. The town crier come and he'd make the announcement. And then I'd ask them, "What did he say?" Well, the village over there, they didn't have many apples so next week they're gonna send a wagon through and anybody that has extras apples, throw em in the wagon and they're gonna take em to them. That was one, like the announcement.

But anyway, they had an inside toilet but you had to go down the steps you know. It was something like, it wasn't modern plumbing or anything. And gee whiz, I come in about 11 o'clock at night and they had a pot under the bed. I always, they got up at so darn early, 5 o'clock in the morning. I just couldn't see myself taking that dang pot half full or whatever and going down the steps and pouring it where I was supposed to. So outside, it was all mud. They had a big garden and they had these openings like French doors you know. So when I piddled, I'd take it and give it [ ] and sail it out in this direction. And the garden was muddy. Well that one night I use the pot and I gave it the heave-ho and the handle of the pot came off and the pot went out in the garden. Ohh, what to do. Boy, I'm a light sleeper and I made darn sure that I got up about 4 o'clock in the morning and went out there and retrieved that pot without them knowing it. Now they probably found out about it eventually but the next day or two, we moved on. But I wrote that once to the Rainbow Reveille and they printed it.

T: Aside from when you were in combat, what was daily life in the army overseas?

R: Overseas. Well, afterwards, after it was over, they did give guys, a few at a time, some of em went to Switzerland, some of em went down to the Riviera for two or three days.

T: So you did get a leave or pass?

R: Yeah. You'd get a pass and things were cheap. The guys that went to Switzerland, they bought a lot of watches that worked and they cost 50 cents or a dollar apiece, you know. And stuff like that. I was fortunate. I got a ten-day plus travel time to England. And if I hadda known where our relatives were from, I coulda went to Ireland. But I didn't know for sure what county they were in. Because my dad was Irish and my grandma and grandpa were full Irish, you know. But I didn't.

But then I went to England and it took awhile to get across the Channel but after we was there, I did see London and I went to Edinburgh and I saw the castle there. And I saw the Scottish, the put a , in the summertime there's a, right down from Princess Street which is the most famous street, it goes down to the river. And they had a platform there. And they put on entertainment, not just for troops but for everybody all summer long. The shopkeepers [ ]. And then you see that castle. That was quite a…

And I always was, I had studied in school, geography, and I saw the bridge at the Firth of Forth that was at time, there was only two bridges. They called that a cantilevered bridge. It was the only, there was only two of them in the entire world. And I remembered this so when I got up to Edinburgh, it was another 15-20- miles. I took a bus or something out there. And I did see that bridge, which was very interesting. The way it, it was something like, well I don't know how long you lived here but the old one, the old Wisconsin Avenue bridge used to be something like that.

T: Okay, I understand.

R: All that steelwork. Well the old Main Street bridge was not quite like it but almost.

T: Right. Right.

R But that was interesting. And when on furlough, I went to the theatre because we never had none in Oshkosh. I always liked the theatre so I saw a couple good plays and the same in London. In Paris, I, in London and in Paris both they had a, you know gasoline was short there. But the service, out government would furnish cab drivers all the gas they needed and they would take us on tours of the city. So when I was in London I took a tour with, maybe two or three of us in the cab and for a couple bucks it took us for maybe half a day. He took us past the castle. [ ] Hyde Park and Westminster Abbey and the whole, you saw everything that a tourist sees in summer. And it only cost you, and the same way with Paris. You couldn't go to the Louvre. Because that museum, and that's a week just [ ] it you know. That was closed. But you could go out to Versailles, Versailles or whatever. And of course you couldn't go up on the tower either. You could go to the first level where the shops were.

T: On the Eiffel Tower.

R: Yeah. You couldn't go beyond that. But there was a lot of things to see. And I took the, oh I can't even remember all the places. When I look at the travel thing in Paris and they tell you where you go, And I [ ] Eiffel, you know?

T: When you were over there, did you hear from home a lot? Did Audrey write to you?

R: See, there was E-Mail, not E-Mail, V-Mail they called it. And what you did, you wrote your letter on a sheet, on a full sheet and then when this went in, they copied it and so you got a little letter, about 3 x 4 at the most. And you opened it, flipped open. And then you read your E-Mail. Now we could, we could send as much home and it was free. We could send as much home as we wanna. But our officers had to censor it.

T: Did your mail come regularly?

R: No. You'd go along and you wouldn't get any mail. Maybe then, about ten days later you'd get maybe some of it was 10-15 days old. You don't know. They were all dated of course. Then you could go and you'd see which one and you'd read em in sequence, you know. It was nothing to open 7-8 letters at a time. In fact, I don't think my wife ever saved one but I wrote to a few people in Oshkosh like the choir director at Grace Lutheran Church. [ ] I sent him a couple letters because I was a member of the choir when I left. And he died here about two years ago and his daughter knew I was from Grace Church. She got my address and she sent me the letters back that I had sent to him.

T: I'll be darned!

R: That's why I gotta look. I can't remember. I'm pretty, I can't remember if we put Rainbow or 42nd Rainbow but I know my address was my rank and serial number and then Service Battery 542nd FA. I don't think we needed the division. I think it was just APO 411 after that.

T: Where were you when the war ended Ray? And was that a joyous occasion or was it just another day?

R: Well I don't know what I was doing. I was with the command truck of course. And we had three sergeants of the, we were right at the, some units were over. We, I think we were, we probably were still in Germany some place but right down on the border. And Sergeant Chick Lowell, who was in charge of one unit, our ammunition train, he took his men, they were right close to Berchtesgaden. And they went down to Berchtesgaden and they got wine from Hitler's own cellar. And they were all pretty inebriated when they got back but they brought us some.

So I was in one of those little villages close to the Austrian border. But I had some wine from Hitler's cellar. And that was about another drinker. But this guy, I'll always remember that sergeant. He was one of the boys that came from Alaska. And he was cussing that little paperhanger. You wouldn't believe it, you know? {Laughter}.

Had I been on the fighting line, I probably wouldn't be talking, but I realized what they went through. Many times when we were in Camp Gruber training, we'd be up at the what did they call it, the entertainment; there was one on each end of the camp. I don't remember. I'd have to look it up. But we were up there watching some entertainment or something and you could buy a soft drink. It wasn't like the PX - you could buy beer there. But we were up there. It would be raining like everything and you'd see a squad of infantrymen, maybe 15-20 with their backpacks going out on field problem in the afternoon. So probably in camp I think maybe there was a little enmity between the slogging infantry and the artillery and the other. But when we got over there, were they ever glad to see us. Having been through that, you know.

T: Yes. When you heard about them dropping the atom bomb, what were your thoughts on that score?

R: I'll tell you what our thoughts were. They gave many of us leave, you know, to go around. But at the same time we were filling up what we lost and were training from June, or from when the war ended in May. From May till August we were training for the invasion of Japan. And when that sucker dropped, there was joy, believe me.

T: The answer to your prayers.

R: I've said many times, historians can say, "Well, Japan was done anyway. Japan would have surrendered anyway." And all this baloney. Truman didn't have to do that, but he saved my life. And then you talk. If you talk with guys, and you probably will, that were in the Japanese, in the Asiatic Theater. In fact I talked to one last night and he was in a searchlight outfit. But he gave some example where, well I think it was Roger, My [ ] offspring. He's quite a historian. And he said, well, when they took Saipan, to give you how fanatic Japan was, when they took Saipan, they were so indoctrinated, so fearful of the Americans and all that, that hundreds of them took their families and jumped off 100-foot cliffs. Committed suicide because we were there. So when they say Japan was defeated, if we would have had to invade Japan, not only would a lot of them committed suicide but just think what a cost that would have been in lives. They found that from when the island-hopping all the way out in the Pacific, every place they, the Japanese put up a fight on every doggone island. And I've talked to fellows. One is a pastor, now retired. He was a machine gunner. And in the morning there was 10,000 dead Japs. They had run those machine guns all night. They were red hot. So any talk about the Japs giving up, that's a bunch of BS.

T: Early in the war, when things weren't really going too good, was there ever any thought in your mind that - gee, maybe we might not win?

R: Never. Never.

T: Were most of your friends of the same opinion? Did they figure we were gonna win?

R: Well I don't know. When they started this drafting and all that stuff, considering that there was seventeen million men in the military, there wasn't too many left at home any more. Those that were left had jobs that were needed. No. I said right away when they said the aircraft carriers were out to sea, I says, "That's the mistake they made." And that, because the battle, it was only a few months after that, that they had the Battle of Midway. Then it was a case of dislodging em from where they were. And that was costly.

T: When did you get out of the service? When were you discharged?

R: I was discharged in March 1946.

T: What did you do when you got out of the service? Did you get more schooling? Did you go to work? What was your…?

R: I had, I coulda went back to Waite Factory and been a factory man the rest of my life. But having worked for Krogers the last time, they had me back there. And then the store on the South Side where I worked, they were just going through a remodeling so they needed somebody and I was there. I was mostly in groceries but then I ended up in Krogers, produce manager. And I used to manage stores for vacation in the summer. Oh, I was down where? Fond du Lac. I managed the Oshkosh store, the one on the North Side. They took Bill from there to manage the South Side store. I managed his store.

T: You came home to a wife and daughter. How old was your daughter when you came home? Was she still an infant?

R: She was two months old when I left and I was gone 30 months so she was not quite three years old. I came home in March and she was three years old in July.

T: I imagine that was a joyous occasion when you saw your wife and daughter.

R: Well, my daughter didn't know me then, see. She was afraid of me. Took awhile to get used to me. I bought her a tricycle and oh, she was deathly scared of it. Of me helping her, you know.

T: I suppose a lot of fellows had experiences like that, where their family, where their little children didn't know them?

R: A couple times, I did get that one furlough when we were in about six months. They gave everybody in the division a furlough and, those that wanted it. And some 9,000 men and they wanted to do it in something like six weeks. You talk about logistics. That was something for the guys. They made all the arrangements for the railroads and everything. And we left, I can't even remember. We ended up at, in Kansas City. They sent us on the Sante Fe. Well after that when I went home, I always took the K.D. into St. Louis and the Alton to Chicago and home. I could get one way from Oshkosh to Muskogee in 26 hours, and the other way in 22. So I had that one furlough home and so my daughter was probably about 8 months old and I got a picture: I was a T5 already, with Audrey and holding the baby. And that's really the only, well once, and the other time was only for a weekend. When we were overseas, this was in December just before we left. I asked the captain if I could have a three-day pass. My wife came down to visit me just for a couple days. And I says I want to take her home. And he says, "Can you make it in three days?" I says, "Yes, sir." I went. Of course my wife could have killed me. I didn't tell her until we got to St. Louis.

T: Ray, do you think that the war changed you? And if it did, how did it change you?

R: Well, for one thing, all my life I guess, I don't know if it made me a better leader or a worse one. And now I can't talk, like at church meetings any more. My spine just hardens right up. But I used to be able to talk to anybody. But ah, I always ended up, even when I worked to Waite factory, I was a helper for we hauled the spools to the looms. And he'd go around and see what they needed but then he'd disappear and who did they ask? Me. So partly I was doing his work. And the same way in Krogers. I ended up in management.

In service I was in maybe 10-12 weeks and I had to wrestle these guys around. That's leadership. And then when I ended up as First Sergeant in charge of 72 men. And the guy who was the first one we had, he was an old army man. He was gone so one of the sergeants of the munition train, Sergeant Goldstein. At that time he was at least a $10,000.00 a year man. And back in 1943 that was, he owned two taverns, what we call taverns. And they were gambling joints in California. If he'd lose $5,000.00 in a crap game, he'd call his mother up, "Ma, I lost a bundle. Send me some." The next day on the telegraph would be a check for 5 or 10 grand.

But he was our First Sergeant and I happened to be on the swimming team, they had a football team. They didn't know nothin about football but they all signed up so they stayed right there. We were in [ ] in a resort town. We stayed in the hotel. That was unusual for servicemen. But anyway I got back to the outfit and this was like whatever it was, late in the afternoon. And Goldstein says, "Connick, here's the morning report. You're so and so. You know how to make it out anyway. Goodbye. We're leaving tomorrow morning. And that's all the instructions I got being a First Sergeant. So I don't know.

T: Were any of your friends from Oshkosh killed during the war? Can you think of any that didn't make it?

R: Only one that I knew, and his name is on the monument at South Park off of Ohio Street, right on the corner. And he was, I won't tell you his name. He was from the Polish district out where I was. See I was in Algoma Park, but around St. Joe's Church {St. Josephat}. Cedar Street [ ] That was all Polish district. Just like West Algoma was Russian district, you know. But I knew him from school and he got killed, let's see, the war wasn't declared over, he got killed on the autobahn just like Patton did. So his name is on there as a war casualty but he, it was after the war that he got killed.

T: I understand.

R: Now there's another one, Bill Rule, he was our Kroger manager. I knew he was in the Rainbow. But he was in the 222nd, the infantry regiment. And when I went to London, we were lined in some truck around Paris, you know in staging area. And here on the next truck was Bill Rule. I knew him from High School. He was from our class in high school and I knew that he had worked at Krogers, you know. So I knew Bill. "Bill, how are you?" We shook hands and he was gone and I was gone.

But in the Rainbow Reveille, some guy, see we still get that six times a year. And now they're having war stories. Some are very interesting. I've got the whole stack of em. And ah, he mentioned in this battle before we got there, in the battle of, I don't know what town, but in the Alsace area, you know. When they were fighting that. But he came. He had the message. They didn't have no telephone communication. It was all send a runner. The runner came and he gave the message to the 10 or 12 guys and they wanted a fellow to do something. And Bill Rule went with em. And he says the fact that Bill went with me probably saved my life because I found out later that everyone I gave that message to was dead.

So then I see Bill Rule's name and we had, oh he's up in Green Bay. He worked for a grocery store. He was a good manager. But I tried to get ahold of him when I saw that article and the phone was disconnected. Now I think he's either dead or he's in a nursing home. He had some distant cousins but they don't communicate.

T: Do you think very much of the war today? Or is it something you put in the past?

R: Well, I think the guy they got rid of, that was a good thing. But I feel sorry for the country. We can't go around all over the world just because they don't like somebody. {Ray apparently did not understand the question}. It has yet to be proven if he had all these. I wonder what the reaction of the press will be if it turns up that he didn't have any arms of mass destruction. But the way he used them on his own people, he must have had them sometime.

T: Do you ever think about World War II What I mean is, is it something that is in your thoughts frequently, or don't you think about World War I very often?

R: Well, I very seldom think of it because, like I say, I was fortunate. I didn't have to, I probably had a hand in killing thousands, because we were the ones with all the ammunition to do it. So I'm not lily white or lily pure. That was our job and we did it. You take a 95 pound shell and we had smoke, they maybe had chemicals to protect themselves. But we were close enough where we had to cross a river, probably was the Main River because we crossed that bugger four or five times between taking Wurzburg and then see, Schweinfert was a ball-bearing works and that was all underground. Even the day they surrendered, the ball bearing works, the machines were all working underground. And that was kind of interesting.

But I know, crossing one of them rivers, we heard on the radio "smoke," so we know. And then right at the river's edge, on the opposite side, and then they'd hit and orange smoke would just … And you couldn't see nothing. All you could see was that orange. And then the infantry would infiltrate in that. And make their landing, you know.

But when we were at Schweinfert, see they had all these Tiger tanks. Those were the "88" guns and we didn't have anything to compare with it. And they used them for anti-aircraft fire too. They were dug in. Well, the infantry took it but previous to when they took it they had a terrific air raid along the perimeter that knocked a lot of them. I always thought it was a Sunday but we were probably outside of town. But you could see the action. And see, we had the little, the little ah spotter planes and you could see them fly in and then see, they'd be just be close to [rain]. They knew how far they could… They'd just be close to [rain] and then we'd see "bang, bang!" These 88's you know. And then fire direction, so and so. Lob one in and then they'd go back and then they'd go again. They'd knock these out one at a time. Boom, boom boom. But that went on all afternoon. I bet that I watched a couple hours of it. Boy! Gee, they're going to get em! No, they didn't.

The best that ah, while we were up in the, before we took over, before we started clearing out the {static here}. I happened to be up at this forward base where we had all the ammunition in the afternoon. And a flotilla of B25's went over. And then you see, just before they got to us the bomb bay would open up, you know. And I looked up and I said, "Boy, I'm glad you're on our side!" Cause when they went just beyond us and then you could see em fall. And then I think that night or the next night is when they just advanced. But boy I said that was one of the nicest…

T: A glorious sight. Along that line, did you see any German aircraft or were they pretty much kaput by then?

R: Well, I'll tell you where we saw one, was when I was telling you this instance about taking Schweinfert. It was in the afternoon and we were all out… See, we had one 50-caliber machine gun. That was t guard us. We had a regular machine gun and we had it on the back of a truck. Nothing was happening. We were all, not clustered, but in various places around that. And our truck happened to be there, machine gun. And all of a sudden, whoosh! We'd never seen a jet before. This bugger come in and when we saw him, he was gone. Now he coulda strafed the whole bunch of us. We all would have been dead or whatever. But apparently he was only on a scouting mission. And he went over so fast. Well then of course we manned the machine guns and everybody was [ ] come back again. We'd try anyway, you know. But that's the only, that's the only German thing we saw.

But there are several instances we heard of. This one road was kinda like a supply like. See, sometimes we hauled the ammunition. We hauled the food and everything. Sometimes our trucks had gasoline. The gasoline dump might be a hundred miles back. And the ammun… sometimes the guys were three trucks would go, or three, four trucks would go back for ammunition. They'd be gone for three days. And they drove all day and loaded up. And night, they didn't stop at night or wait for daylight. We drove blackout, you know. I went back with em one time and the sergeant was with me, Davis was driving. He says, "Davis, wake up! You're sleeping!" We're driving along with a hundred rounds of ammunition. But see, they kept the fuses in the glove compartment, and not the fuses, the thing that set em off. And then the fuses were just a little thing. They kept them in a separate box. They had to be in… the ammunition wouldn't go off by itself unless somebody fired at it. But the main thing was this little cap. Kept it in our pocket. That was the safest place, you know.

T: Is there anything else that you want to tell me about, Ray, that pertains to the war?

R: Well, we were sometimes, when we'd be gone for two or three days, see the ah, the password changed every morning. You got the password. Well if you weren't with the outfit, how the heck you gonna know the password? So we come back with ammunition, we get stopped by a roadblock. "What's the password?" And this could be at night. Well a little cussin goin on. "How the sam hill you expect - we've been gone for…" Or they'd say, "Beats the hell out of me!" You know. Whatever they said, the guys would know that we were GI.

T: You could probably tell one of your own.

R: Put a couple words in there that the Germans couldn't pronounce very well. And then of course, we had, another thing, we had to have a guard set up. And we had the machine-gunner on the [ ] by the road. It was pretty close to the front. And you always think the general is way back. At that time, a command car stopped. "Halt." They stopped. "What's the password?" They had it. It was the commanding general. And that machine gunner [ ], I'll tell yah.

T: Well, that's the way it has to be, doesn't it?

R: Yeah. The Germans, one of the things they complained about was, you know ah, see the difference between the two armies was, Americans can think for themselves and very often do, even at the lowest level. If you're from the wrong side of the tracks, you still got a mind you know. But the Germans are trained and because they're trained this way, they think that's always the way you gotta do it. And their big complaint was, "We were trained that the Americans never fought at night. So we'd run all day and we'd get all sacked up for the night and who comes over the hill? The GI. Then we'd have to get up and run all night too." But that's the way they talked. There was constant pressure on the enemy.

And the other thing is, like Nuremberg, they expected, that's in the book too but we heard the same thing. You see, that's where Hitler got his start.

T: We're getting close to the end of this second tape.

R: Anyway, that's where Hitler got his start and they thought they'd really defend [ ] Well you see we had experience. Wurzburg, we had to threaten em. They were going to kill every guy. Or they would have put up a battle, you know. But when we got to Nuremberg, what they did, officers and the remnants of the German Army and all that. They give the civilians and everything, "We're gonna make our stand here." And they set up the perimeter and the line. Then they'd jump on their motorcycles and run to beat heck 50 miles down to the next town. And this happened. The Germans, like I say, it was kinda like a rat race…{Lots of static here}.

T: Well, it's been nice talking to you Ray. I really appreciate your coming down here and telling us.
Event World War II
Category 6: T&E For Communication
Legal Status Oshkosh Public Museum
Object ID OH2001.3.50
Object Name Tape, Magnetic
People Connick, Ray W.
Subjects World War II
42nd Division
Artillery (Troops)
Concentration camps
Genocide
Title Oral History Interview with Ray W. Connick.
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Last modified on: December 12, 2009