Oral History Interview with Frank I. Chalupa.

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Record 48/959
Copyright Oshkosh Public Museum
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Admin/Biog History Oral history interview with Frank I. Chalupa. He was born in Oshkosh, WI Feb. 26, 1922; graduated from High School in 1939 and attended the State Normal School in Oshkosh; drafted into the US Army in 1944 and was trained as a combat medic; assigned to the 276th Regiment, 3rd Battalion, 70th Division; saw combat in the Alsace Region and Germany; dicharged 1946; graduated from OSTC in 1947; taught for 30 years at Luxembourg/Casco High Shool; retired and lives in Oshkosh. He died February 20, 2007.
Classification Archives
Collection World War II Oral History Project
Dates of Accumulation July 16, 2003
Abstract Cassette recorded oral history interview with Frank I. Chalupa, drafted into the US Army in 1944 and was trained as a combat medic; assigned to the 276th Regiment, 3rd Battalion, 70th Division; saw combat in the Alsace Region and Germany.

Frank Chalupa Interview
13 August 2003
Conducted by Tom Sullivan

{T: indicates the interviewer, Tom Sullivan; F: indicates the subject, Frank Chalupa. Empty brackets [ ] mean that a word or phrase could not be deciphered; brackets around a word mean that transcriber was unsure of spelling}.

T: It's August 13th, 2003 and we're at the home of Frank Chalupa. I'm Tom Sullivan and Frank, who served in World War II is going to be telling me about his experiences in that war. Are you ready Frank?

F: I guess so.

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

F: I was born right here.

T: Right in this house?

F: In this house. 81 years ago.

T: What year was that?

F: 1922. February 26th.

T: I see. Then you've lived a good portion of your life in Oshkosh but I assume that at some point when you were teaching, you taught somewhere else.

F: Yes. I taught at Luxembourg/Casco for 30 years. One place. Didn't go anywhere else. I had room and board up there.

T: Were your mother and father from this area, from Oshkosh?

F: My mother was born in, let me just think, Greenville area. My Dad was born in Prague, Czechoslovakia. And I learned from some research at the museum that the museum was doing that he came over to this country in 1910, and I never knew that. I figure he never came over here until after the war. He was in a Czech division in the French army in World War I. So he must have went back over there and joined up. I didn't know that. You know when you're kids, your parents don't tell you much anyway.

T: That's very true. What did your folks do for a living?

F: Well my dad worked at various lumber companies like McMillan's and Paine's. And then the last number of years, he worked at the State Hospital, for the mentally.

T: Do you have any brothers or sisters?

F: Well, I have one brother living yet but there were four boys. Four boys altogether. I'm the oldest one.

T: Tell me about your childhood. Tell me about where you went to school and…

F: I went to grade school out here in Nordheim. And the building is still there. It's a brick building about three blocks down the street. And that's through the 8th grade. Then I went to Oshkosh High School for four years and I graduated in 1939 from Oshkosh High School. And then I went to Oshkosh College. It was called Teachers College then I guess.

T: Tell me about some of your activities that you engaged in when you were a kid, when you were quite young. Things that you did for recreation and so forth.

F: I started pretty early doing a lot of umpiring. In my lifetime, I umpired professional baseball for about 10-12 years. I officiated in wrestling, basket, softball, baseball, football. All those sports I was…

T: When you were a kid, did you play those sports? Were you interested in them?

F: Played basket, softball when I was in my low 20's, I guess. Matter of fact, I was on the city championship, Chief Oshkosh team in 1943. But I left before the season was over. I left in August, 1943, the 13th. So that was before the season was over. But the team did win the city championship that year. I played with other Chief Oshkosh teams prior to that, a few years. So that's basically what I did in sports. But I was very influential to my younger brother. He was pretty good.

T: Did you do any, did you have any jobs when you were a young fellow? Part time jobs and that sort of thing? A lot of us did.

F: The only thing I can remember is peddling a lot of papers. Including a Sunday paper route. I can't remember anything other, special.

T: How was your family affected by the Depression? I'm sure you remember that very well.

F: Well, we had enough to eat. But not a tremendous variety, I can tell you that. My mother was German by nature and she was a good cook. She could make a little look pretty good. And then you know you're brought up as a youngster, in this day and age, a lot of em are fussy eaters, you know. In those days if you didn't eat what was there, you didn't get nothin.

T: Your dad was, he kept his employment then, all through the Depression?

F: Yes. As far as I know, yes.

T: That was important, I guess, to keep bread on the table.

F: I remember that we had a woodshed where a little place is outside that kitchen door. And the bathroom was part of that woodshed. Woodshed and coal bin. And I remember we got hardwood blocks from McMillan's or Paine's delivered here. We used them for burning in the kitchen stove. I remember that.

T: Can you remember how Oshkosh in general was affected by the Depression? Anything that stands out in your mind?

F: Well, I know what the prices were at that time. I'll tell you that. I did the grocery shopping for the family from a little kid on. And I do it now and it's hard for me to get used to 2003.

T: That bag of groceries costs quite a bit more than it used to, doesn't it?

F: Oh, my!

T: In the late 30's and 40's there was war going on in Europe and over in the Far East. Did you give any thought to that? You or your family? You know when Hitler was coming to power and the Japs were starting to do their thing over in the Far East?

F: One thing that is outstanding in my mind, I was taking German in high school. And finished two years. Then they dropped it because of Hitler. That I remember. And that helped me so when I was in Europe, I could talk German pretty well. When we captured German soldiers, I talked German with them. That was kind of interesting.

T: Were people that you knew in Oshkosh, were they at all concerned about us getting drawn into World War II? I don't remember myself, a great deal about it.

F: I don't remember. Well I suppose you're young; you don't pay attention. That's probably the story.

T: Can you recall where you were and what you were doing when they bombed Pearl Harbor?

F: That would be 1941. I think I was home here at that time. And I probably heard it on the radio.

T: I guess that's the way most of us remember, hearing it on the radio.

F: Now all the movies that come out since, they're really amazing.

T: Were you drafted into the service?

F: I was drafted.

T: I see. And what year was that you were drafted?

F: 1943. I was drafted, I went through a Menasha board and I was inducted in Milwaukee, I guess. Then as far as I can remember, I must have went to Ft. Leonard Wood for basic.

T: Okay. I was going to ask you about your basic training and your unit training. Where you were located.

F: I think for maybe a number of months in Ft. Leonard Wood. Then most of the time I was in Camp Adair in Oregon. Near Corvallis, Oregon. Near Corvallis, Oregon.

T: Camp Adair?

F: Adair, year. And that's where I got most of my training. And I remember that when I left Camp Adair, I got on a train and went all the way to Boston. All the way across the country. In an old train.

T: Were you, was your specialized training as a medic?

F: Medic, yeah.

T: Tell me about that kind of training. How did you get there? What did they do?

F: Well basically they taught you what to do when you're involved in the field, you know. First aid stuff. Who to take care of and who not to. That was the toughest thing to do in combat. When a bunch of your friends were injured, you know. Men that you were with. And then you had to select which one you're gonna handle. [ ] other ones.

T: I suppose those that you know are going to die, you have to ignore them and try and save the other ones that have a chance.

F: I was the medic with a rifle company. I was in the front lines.

T: After your unit was trained, where did you go and how did you get there?

F: Well, like I said, we went from Camp Adair near Corvallis, Oregon all the way across to Boston, Massachusetts. And I was in Boston, maybe a month, maybe a few weeks and then I went overseas. That was late in December, 1944. The exact date, I could look it up but it isn't that important. Anyway it was after the Battle of the Bulge. I wasn't there then, 'cause that was in early December. And landed in Marseilles, in France. Jumped in an old French railroad car and traveled to the front area.

T: Where was the front area where you participated?

F: I was in an area between France and Germany quite a bit. Called Alsace-Lorraine. You probably heard of it.

T: Yes I know where that is.

F: And quite a bit of the combat I was involved in was in that particular area. But I wound up in Germany near Saarbrucken. And that's way on the eastern, the western side.

T: Tell me about your job. Well first, what was the name of your unit. I know you were probably attached to a division at some point but what did your medical unit call itself?

F: Oh, 276th Medical Detachment I guess it was called. That was one of the three battalions in the 70th Infantry. And I was with Company K in combat.

T: So for the most part, you were backing up the 70th Infantry Division. And you were attached to a rifle company?

F: Yes.

T: How many medics were, like you, attached to that company?

F: I think two.

T: Just two?

F: The other fellow was from Oconto Falls, Wisconsin. Happened to meet him.

T: So you were responsible for how many men then?

F: That's a good question. Ah, I don't know how many they had in a company. Let's see there was three battalions. Must have been somewhere around 5,000 in a battalion. So each battalion ah, I'm just trying to remember. It was several hundred in there anyway.

T: So you were responsible for quite a few guys. Aside from combat, were there any other duties that you as a medic had to perform for this company that you were attached to?

F: No. Not really. No.

T: Okay. You didn't have to do anything about sanitation or that sort of thing?

F: No. As a matter of fact, interesting story. When I was in Boston, I was attached to Company K. They never had me on their roster so I could have gotten in some vehicle and took off. That part was, that's a fact. That's the way the army was. And the army really goofed up. They pulled a lot of snafus.

T: Yeah, I guess so. So you were in combat in the Alsace Lorraine area. Tell me about your duties in combat. Tell me how things went.

F: Basically I was with a rifle company, right in actual combat. And if anybody got injured, then it was your job to take care of em, you know. Fix em up and then they were trans… sometimes you helped transport them on a litter out of the area.

T: What did you carry in the way of equipment? What was in your sack that you carried?

F: Morphine, I remember. And other, we used a lot of, not penicillin because that wasn't in the vogue then. It was, what the heck was that other stuff?

T: Did you have sulfa?

F: Sulfa, that's what I'm to think of. Mostly a lot of sulfa. Matter of fact, they had a wound, you sprinkle sulfa on and bandage it. I remember that.

T: How about plasma? Did you carry any plasma?

F: No.

T: Alright. I know that in the Korean conflict, that was available.

F: That was a very important thing because if somebody went into shock, that's the best treatment, plasma.

T: Right. So then after you'd patched this wounded fellow up as best as you could, it was also your job to help transport em to the back?

F: Sometimes.

T: Did you have stretcher-bearers that were assigned to that?

F: Some of their own. Some of the members of their unit, you know. Maybe help you with it sometimes. But I remember doing it. Me and another fellow carried about two, three miles on the shoulders, two of us with a litter, you know. I remember that.

T: Did you carry a weapon when you were in combat?

F: No. Never did. Never did. You had a target on your arm, they had a red cross. And your helmet had one on. Matter of fact, I got a snapshot here.

T: Good. Did your company suffer many casualties?

F: Yeah. Percentage-wise, maybe not too bad. But in certain situations there were quite a few, yeah. The overall percentage, I have no idea. But …

T: Can you tell me about some of the actions you were involved in? Some of the battles.

F: Well I remember when we first got there, we were in a town called Wingen. W I N G E N. And the thing that impressed me, there were dead German soldiers on the ground and it must have been cold enough so they froze. And some of them laid on the ground as they hit the ground, their hands forward and their feet up in the air. And they froze that way. And that was, that impressed me.

Another thing that impressed me later, this must have been not too far from a town called Forbach. That must have been in Alsace Lorraine.

T: Do you know how that's spelled?

F: F O R B A C H. And I don't remember which of those two countries. It was in one or the other. It's just a little country, well you know, between France and Germany. But anyway, I was in combat there in another battle, I was only in a few seconds and our outfit was moving forward into an area that the Germans had previously occupied and they had all of their foxholes and stuff there. And we captured three or four German prisoners right then. And the Germans shelled the area. And there was a great big German foxhole right next to me. I dove in the bottom and I don't know how many soldiers on top of me. And the shells cut some of those prisoners right in two. I remember that. Only a few seconds in combat.

And other times we captured Germans and I talked to em in German, you know. I suppose they kinda smiled. Anyway some of them were in their 60's. This was a German, what they called the Wehrmacht, you know. And it wasn't that fanatical outfit.

T: If there were some in their 60's, I suppose also there were some that were quite young, on the other end of the scale.

F: Yeah.

T: Toward the end of the war I think they were…

F: They were in that SS elite, the younger ones. I don't, as far as I know, I never ran into any of those.

But oh, a lot of situations where the German soldiers, they coulda shot you, you know. Only a short distance away. And one time…

T: Do you think your red cross had any effect?

F: I thought that was a better target. But anyway I know I seen em a short distance away and they never shot at you. They could have, you know. And I remember fixing up German wounded and we were gonna give em a morphine shot. And I hadda explain in German that I wasn't trying to kill em. You know how they would be. And I tried to explain that they would be transported to our rear area and would probably get better treatment [ ]. But that was hard to do.

T: Were you pretty well supplied with the things that you needed to treat the wounded? Did you ever run out of supplies?

F: Ah, not that I can remember. Not that I remember.

T: What was your, talking about the Germans again, what was your opinion of the German soldier in general? Was he a pretty formidable foe?

F: I would say yes. One thing that impressed me in this Alsace Lorraine area. There were a lot of small villages there. And the Germans would dig a trench from one village to the other, about five feet deep. All the way from one, several miles, you know. And that impressed me. And of course I was in there a lot of times. Sometimes sleeping in there and sometimes water up to your chest when you're sleepin.

But somebody from Washington, DC called me after the war. They wanted to know what happened to a 2nd Lieutenant. That was in our outfit. I think what happened, he might a got wounded and he might a wound up in this trench and oozing mud might have covered him up. That's what I told em I thought happened. And I thought that would probably be the best explanation they could get from anybody. I never heard any more from the government.

T: Were you personally acquainted with many of the wounded that you treated? Or were these fellows that were really not well know to you?

F: No, they weren't well known. No, that was basically the story.

T: Maybe that's all for the best.

F: Yeah. The sergeant that was the head of the battalion, I knew him much better after the war. He lived in Chicago at the time and we had a reunion for our division or for our unit in Chicago at the Palmer House. And they had a big banquet or something there. But I went to Chicago with this guy from Oconto Falls. He was the other medic in Company K. And he went up there with a used car dealer. Instead of going to the Palmer House in the evening, this sergeant took us all over Chicago all night long. So we wound up in the Palmer House about seven, eight o'clock the next morning. I remember that. Now he's still alive and he lives in Texas.

T: When a man was wounded in combat and you treated him and got him a little bit to the rear, what happened to that wounded soldier from then on? Where did he go?

F: He must have been transferred initially to a battalion aid station, I would guess.

T: Where did they go from there? Did they go to an evac hospital or a field hospital?

F: Probably a field hospital.

T: Before we started the tape, we were talking a little bit about choosing the wounded. Which you would treat and which you wouldn't. Can you tell me more about that Frank?

F: Well the only thing I can say, some of em looked tremendously beat up and cut up from shrapnel and that. And from your experience you know, some of those you would treat before somebody else probably didn't look like they had any wound. But they were hit in a vital spot, you know. And so that was kinda tough. But I never had any discussion about it or anything. None of the soldiers ever said anything that I can remember.

T: So generally then it wasn't a big problem making a choice between who to treat and who not to treat. You just did your thing…

F: And that was it, I guess. One situation I remember, we were not too far from Saarbrucken, Germany. You probably heard of the town. And the whole underground was a big wine cellar. Because they produce a lot of wines and stuff there. And I remember that we had jeeps with trailers and somebody went there and loaded up with the wine. And so we on the front, a couple of times we had our share. And one time another fellow and I carried a wounded guy on a litter for several miles. We must have wound up near our Company K headquarters because the First Sergeant was moaning at us because we were a little bit on the inebriated side. Anyhow I said, "You're only mad because you didn't get any." That was the only time that I can remember anything like that happening.

And we were billeted a lot of times when we weren't in combat, in German homes. Or in homes in the area anyway.

T: During those winter months, and its been said that was, the winter when they had the Battle of the Bulge, that was one of the coldest winters on record in Europe. During those winter months did your guys have enough clothing? How were they equipped as far as clothing went?

F: As far as I can remember, we were pretty well equipped. I remember one time our battalion aid station was in a barn and in those areas the barn and the house, they're all in one, you know. And they had all kinds of medical equipment. Oh, and the battalion stored ammunition there and everything. Somebody in the battalion kicked over a lantern or something. Set that on fire. Biggest 4th of July celebration you could ever see.

So I remember, I was staying there. I remember I got out of there in a hurry and I remember that night I stayed in some private home. I wonder what the Germans thought. What was goin on.

T: So all you soldiers had enough in the way of winter clothing to keep you warm. You didn't suffer in that respect?

F: Not as far as I'm concerned. It never got as cold as it got around here. I remember there was some snow. I remember that. And it was a little, well we were in forest areas a lot and there was a lot of woods. In fact this street here, Gruenwald Avenue, is a German word for green forest.

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

F: Well my experience with em, I don't think I disliked em. Of course it was the regular German army. They called it the Wehrmacht.

T: They were trying to kill you.

F: Yeah, I suppose. But we were trying to kill them too. But the experiences I had, I really can't complain. It really interested me when I was speaking German. And even though I wasn't an expert at it, I could speak it well enough so that they knew where I was coming from.

As a matter of fact, after the war, this must have been in late 1945 or early 1946 I went to Prague, Czechoslovakia to visit some shirttail relatives. And in the house where I visited, it was partially bombed out. This was in the city of Prague. And there was a little girl there about 12 years old at the time. I don't know how they were related to me. I have no idea. But anyway I was there for about 10-12 days. And at that time, the people in Czechoslovakia were mad at Americans because we let the Russians come in here.

But there's a story back of that. Two of the Czech presidents were educated here in this country at the University of Chicago. I remember one's name was Benesh but I don't remember the other one.

T: I remember that name Benesh.

F: Yeah. That was one and there was another one and they were both educated here so they had a pretty close tie with the United States. So in a big city like Prague a lot of people could speak English. They wouldn't talk to me. I'm lucky they didn't shoot me.

T: Really?

F: Yeah. They were mad at Americans. Anyway I had a reasonably good time. I remember the Czechs bakery. They had a lot of those [kolaches] in there. I remember getting those. They did have beer. I remember that. When I went there, I went on the train and the army gave me three or four bottles of booze. So I got rid of one on the train and I took one or two with me there. So I remember that and that's unbelievable. The army did give it to us. Maybe around Christmas or whenever it was.

T: So when you visited Prague you were still in the service.

F: I was still in the service. The war was over. And we could go, somehow they would communicate and let us know when we were supposed to head back to the United States. So I was there at least ten days, maybe longer.

By the way this girl that I'm talkin about, 12 years old, I've been writing to her. She's about 69 now. But I sent her a letter several months ago. So maybe she is no more. I don't know. But up until recently we've been, she could write in English.

T: When you were overseas Frank, what was the food like there? Outside of combat. I know that in combat conditions it's a different story. But when you weren't actually in combat did you get fed pretty good?

F: Well, you know the way I was brought up, I had a high opinion of the army food. It was good as far as I'm concerned throughout the army. I was taught to eat you know, what's there. And I didn't see anybody complaining. They hadda eat you know. But even on the field we got meals.

T: When you were in combat?

F: When we were in combat on occasion, yes we did.

T: When you didn't get hot meals, what did you eat?

F: Oh we had K rations. We carried some of that stuff. Some was in cans and some in packages, you know. I remember that.

T: It tastes good when you're hungry.

F: Oh yeah. There's some instances that happened that I better not talk about. It wouldn't sound right.

T: Well I don't care.

F: It wouldn't sound right. Well I'm going to mention one anyhow. If you don't want this on the tape, well you can cut it out. Anyway this other fellow from Oconto Falls was with our outfit. We were in a forested area and the Germans were shelling the area and so you had to hit the ground. And so this guy dove behind a tree right in a big pile of human excrement. I always told him, "I always figured you were full of it." But I don't remember how he ever got cleaned up. But that was one thing I remember.

T: I suppose things like that can happen very easily. When we're in the service, we meet all sorts of guys and you know some of em are jerks and some of em are just great fellows. Can you recall any unusual characters that you met, knew in the service? People that stand out in your memory?

F: Well, I remember some of them in our unit. A lot of em were college people, you know. Some, there were a few college graduates. It's surprising. Of course they got desperate. When I was out in Oregon I passed the test to get into the Air Force. It was a pretty good test; you had to have a pretty good IQ. But I passed it, all ready to go to Denver, Colorado. And all of a sudden they needed more [ ]. So that ended that. But I remember that.

T: That happened to a number of guys. A fellow that I interviewed just recently told pretty much the same story. He was on his way to becoming an Air Force officer and all of a sudden he was an infantryman.

F: I don't know what I would have been in the Air Force. Maybe I was better suited for the infantry. But you know, as snafued as the Army was at times…

T: Did you receive mail from home very frequently? How did that work?

F: Pretty good. I'd say it was pretty good. Some of the snapshots that they got, couple of them must have been taken over there. At least taken, because I got one where I was, had the steel helmet on. Must have had the army because I seen the red cross on the arm bandage and that. That's the only one I noticed. Most of the other ones might have been taken when you're on leave, you know.

T: Where were you Frank when the war ended, the war in Europe that is?

F: Well as far as I can remember we were right, not too far from Saarbrucken in Germany. We were at the bottom of a great big hill or, I don't know if it was a mountain. But we were there for a long, long time and we were supposed to advance, fight the Germans, over, and over and over. And I don't know how many days we were there. You know what happened, that was the time of George Patton. So he went sailing with those tanks and the Germans took off. So we never did get involved. I remember that. I was happy for that. Because we would have hadda go up a steep, well it wasn't a mountain, a steep hill. And you know that D-Day thing, that was unbelievable.

T: You were able to go to Prague on leave; were there any other places that you were able to visit while you were over there?

F: I think, you coulda went to a lot of, you coulda went to Austria, I think. Number of other places. Because I went through a lot of southern German cities on the way to Prague. And some of them I might have visited. Switzerland maybe, or Austria.

T: What happened after the war ended, the war in Europe? What happened to your particular unit? Where did you go from there?

F: From Europe?

T: When did you leave Europe?

F: It must have been in early 1946. If I wanted to get the exact date, it's on my discharge. I can't remember offhand. But it was in early, it was in the spring. March or April. And we got on a small vessel. Now where the heck did we leave from? I can't remember but it was rough sea. But I never got seasick. But going over, coming back, three-quarters of the people on there were seasick. I remember that. I don't remember where we docked and I can't remember that either but it must have been on the East Coast somewhere. But I was discharged at Camp McCoy. I remember that.

T: Were you still in the service when the atomic bomb was dropped or had you been mustered out at that time?

F: I mighta still been in because I remember, now I don't have to go to Japan. I remember thinkin about that.

T: I guess a lot of guys that were in Europe felt that was. They were so glad when that happened.

F: Well, I give Harry Truman a tremendous amount of credit. Because that was a terrific decision. It saved jillions of lives. American lives. And a lot of presidents maybe wouldn't have the intestinal fortitude to do something like that. I remember when we were comin home from Europe, we were still in the German area. One of the soldiers said to the Germans, "Weir gehen heim und maken kinder fur Harry S. Truman. You know what that means, "We're goin home and make kids."

But that was impressive. I give that gentleman a lot of credit.

T: So in general you approved, like a lot of the guys, you approved of dropping the bomb. We hear a lot of the pros and cons today but then I think things were a lot different.

F: You shouldn't now, under probably no circumstances. But you know what bothers me now, our country starts wars. And we never came out very good starting a war, you know. Getting involved as a starting out. Like this Iraq business. That don't impress me. If I hadda vote on it before they went in, I'da voted against it. But the heads of government probably know more about the details than we do. It's very obvious. You gotta remember that.

T: Early in the war when we were suffering a lot of setbacks, in the months right after Pearl Harbor, did you at any time think that we might not win?

F: Oh, no. No I didn't.

T: Did most of the people that you knew feel the same way, that we probably would win?

F: Yes.

T: I guess that's pretty much true.

F: Things turned out pretty good because those Germans, they invented a lot of rockets and stuff, you know. And we got some of those great scientists and got em over here?

T: Were you awarded any medals or citations when you were in the service?

F: Well, I've got a number of medals on that ETO jacket that I've got in there. I couldn't tell you all of them but there's a little picture of a, how would I word it, oh, what you carry wounded on, you know.

T: A litter?

F: Yeah, there's a little litter on there and a few other. I never got no Purple Heart or anything, but…

T: Well, be glad of that.

F: Well some guys got it for cutting their finger or [ ] or something. But I do have a little scar on this arm. When I was out in Oregon we were out bivouacking and we had a lot of bonfires going. And some dummies, they throw blank shells in there. And the casings from when they explode got in this arm. So that's the only came that came close. A lot of shells over in Europe, they hit the trees and chunks dropped down around you, you know. Lot of pieces of shrapnel but I never got clobbered.

T: I heard that the Germans had some of their artillery shells set so that they would explode a distance off the ground and they just sprayed the shrapnel all over the place.

F: Yeah, I think so.

T: I think that was a very worrisome thing for a lot of guys.

F: Yeah, you were just hoping you were covered enough or something so that it didn't affect you.

T: After you were mustered out of the service, what did you do?

F: Well that first year, in 1946, I umpired professional baseball. When I got out I had no experience. Never went to umpire school or anything. But I umpired professional baseball. It was a Class D league in this town. This town had a team in there. So I umpired in this town and all over the state. And it was a pretty good experience. I got broke in pretty good.

T: The name of that team was the Oshkosh Giants.

F: Giants, yes.

T: Who was the manager of that team? Was his name Garcia or something like that?

F: He came later but there was one earlier. But Garcia was a good guy. I would praise him.

T: He was a player as well, wasn't he?

F: Player as well. Yes.

T: Sort of a coach-player, manager-player.

F: Real good guy. Nice guy. The other guy, he probably wasn't, well I didn't know him that well. But there was a guy playing second base for em called Erickson. And he lived here in town. He just died about a year or so ago. I knew him pretty well. And he's got a grandson playing now in professional ball in triple A. Matt Erickson. He's a grandson of this guy. I see in the paper he's batting over 300. Maybe he'll be lucky and make the majors.

T: Yes. It sounds like it.

F: He's the son of an Appleton North High School coach. That's Bruce Erickson. That's a son of this guy I knew.

T: When did you go back to Teachers College to get your degree? Was that after the year of coaching?

F: Now I umpired in 1946. I must have went back to college in September of '46. Must have been. Because I graduated in June '47. And I taught, started teaching in fall of '47. So I taught from '47 to '77. Thirty years. All in the same place.

T: And where was that Frank?

F: Luxembourg. It was in Luxembourg but now it, they joined two high schools and it's one. Luxemboug-Casco it's called now. They were about five miles apart.

T: How do you spell Casco?

F: C A S C O.

T: Okay, just the way it sounds. Did you get married?

F: Never got married. Single old bachelor.

T: Didn't meet the right one, eh?

F: Well, I had my affairs. Most people did I guess.

T: Did you find when you got back that it was difficult to adapt to civilian life or did you go right back in the swing of things?

F: Went right back in the swing of things. Didn't seem to have any problems. I was impressed by the fact that I got much better grades as a senior. The only thing that college never teaches you is how to handle kids. You learn that by experience I guess. But the kids were great as far as I'm concerned. Maybe they're a little different now. But only a few, only a few probably. Stir up the bucket.

T: As I remember, most of the guys recently back from the service that were in college with me were there for business. They didn't play around a lot - well some of them did but most of them really hit the books.

F: As a senior, I was much more serious, well I was more mature. Maybe was about 23, 24 years old then you know.

T: The war obviously changed you that way then, made you more mature. How else did the war change you Frank?

F: Ha. Changed from a kid to a full grown man, I would say. But you know when I taught, I taught world history for a year or two. I'd set aside one of the days of the week and tell them about wartime experiences. And they, the students really ate that up. That was the best day of the week for them.

I taught chemistry. I had about 50 or 60 kids in the chemistry class, believe it or not. No laboratory. Once in a while I'd have an experiment out front. One day that I really remember, there was about 50-60 kids and in between periods all the big wheels were there: state superintendent, county superintendent and a bunch of other big wheels. And they sat at the back table in my room. So the bell rang and the kids came in. The last kid to come in, before he sat down, he hollered at the top of his lungs, "No free beer today, boys. The state men are around." And they're all sittin there! But you know in those days there were 18-year-old bars at that time.

T: Yes, I guess so. Do you recall any of your friends from Oshkosh being killed during World War II?

F: No. Right off hand I can't remember. I have a neighborhood friend that was with the 32nd Division but he was in the Far East and he must have got yellow fever or whatever. He lived close by. He wrote a book about this area. I still got it, got a copy of it. And he died of a massive heart attack about a year after he wrote the book.

He lived just a couple houses down the street. Before he went in the service, he met this girl. He asked me, "Would you advise I get married now?" I said no. But they got married anyhow. You know they're not going to take your advice. And some of the best things didn't happen I suppose. But then he became, he couldn't be involved in making children, you know, because he had yellow fever. So his wife had one child out of wedlock while he's gone. You could expect I was going to say something like that. And that girl, she was a girl, she's a banker out in California. I don't think she ever got married. She must be 40 or somewhere up there, 40, 50. Because the mother is my age, just a couple of months difference in age. So you don't know if you're givin good advice or not, but [ ] good. Oh well, so what.

{The first tape ends here}.

T: The other interesting things that you've done with your life after World War II?

F: Like I said, I umpired professional baseball for almost ten years. After this league disbanded here, they had a 3 I league which is a higher class and I did a lot of games in there, filling in for umpires that supposedly were sick or something. But I did 50-60 games sometimes.

T: Was this something that you were able to do in conjunction with the teaching?

F: Yeah. It was a summer job. It was a summer job.

T: I see. Just in the summer.

F: Yeah. So I think almost ten years. I never went to umpire school. But then I did a lot of umpiring. I did almost 20 Legion state tournaments. Here in Wisconsin. Ten summer state tournaments - high school. All at West Bend; ten of em in a row. And I did a couple of spring state tournaments. One of em was in Marion, one of em was in Wausau. I can't remember, several anyway. So I was pretty well experienced in that particular…

T: I would think so. Frank, you umpired baseball. Did you umpire any other sport besides…?

F: Football, high school and some college. I refereed wrestling matches, wrestling tournaments. I refereed basketball. I refereed fast pitch softball, tournaments galore, you know. And my brother and I teamed up in a lot of baseball. He worked pro ball with me some years, you know. My younger brother, and he's passed on ten years ago already.

T: So he was umpiring as well?

F: Yes. But I was involved in all those sports. As a coach, an official and if I wasn't head coach, I was helping in the other ones. That's the way it was in those days. And the equipment was adequate but the facilities were pretty crude in those days. But I'm comparing with now. It's unbelievable now. Tell the kids how good they got it and they wouldn't believe me.

T: Well our parents probably said the same thing to us.

F: Oh, yeah. Probably so. You know, speaking about working. I remember working on the farm when I was goin to high school in the summer. That was back when I was in high school and I worked on the farm. Everything was done with a team of horses. I remember mowing a field of hay with a team of horses. As a youngster you don't think of anything that might happen. But I think to myself, what if you run into a bee's nest? And that could happen, you know.

T: The farm that you worked on, was it a relative's farm?

F: It was a friend, a friend of my folks near Greenville. Not too far from there. And I remember loading hay and putting it in the mow. I remember one load of hay, as I came out of the field, the whole load tipped over. I remember that. And thrashing, I remember that, you know. Sometimes I was in the grain bin, shoveling it around. But that was kind of a dusty job.

T: Yes. It sure was.

F: I remember a lot of… I was involved in so many varied number of things, you know. Unbelievable.

T: Well, tell me about some of them, Frank. I've been told that you do some gardening.

F: Well, not any longer. But up until a couple years ago I had a pretty good garden out here. Not too many trees around. I planted all these trees in the yard. They were like this when I planted em, every one of them. This one, the newest one on this side, they grow faster than a field of corn. Anyway those spruce that I got here, and pine, I got one pine in the back. They were like this when I planted them. And there's one on the corner. That's the only one I didn't plant. The city cut it down when they put the sidewalk in. They said it's blocking the view for the vehicles. It blocked the view for years before that. But anyway they never put the corner block in there. Now a few years ago I see they put black top one way here. Well, that's the city. Then I went and questioned it and they said, "You don't pay for that anyhow. That's the city's concern." The corner blocks. So you learn.

T: How many years in total did you teach?

F: Thirty. From 1947 to '77. I retired and my pension was 45% of what it would be if you waited to 65. Now, if you put in thirty years and you're 55, you get the full boat. You know my salary after 30 years was less than half of the beginning salary now. And I tell people that I've got proof. I've got the last contract.

T: Well that bag of groceries didn't cost us as much either.

F: No. And you could drive a car, that was no problem. I remember driving the car, well I had a car. I come home on weekends quite a lot. And I drove back I remember, on glare ice making it. And I remember hitting deer twice. Once coming home and once going there. And that must have been a few months apart. And that can wreck a car. I remember that.

T: Well, if you retired in the late 70's then you've been retired for quite a few years. What did you do during that space of time between retirement and now? Were there other things that you got involved in? Were you still umpiring then after you retired?

F: I still umpired after I retired. As a matter of fact I had two hips replaced, both hips replaced in 1980 two weeks apart. One hospitalization. This was done in Neenah by Kennedy. And after I had it done, I refereed football and umpired baseball for nine years after that. Nine years with those hips.

T: They must have worked pretty good.

F: They worked pretty good so I gotta remember that part. What's happening now I gotta forget. Now I'm having lotsa grief. But I went to the Kennedy Center a year ago and again a few months ago. All they do is take x-rays. The fixtures are intact. They put me on a table and took that left leg up so, it's the one that's in there 23 years. And they wiggle the leg around - that's it. And I told em, well they told me that after, a year ago that I should go to Walgreen's or Shopko and get Scholl's inserts. Anyway I did. There's two in a package, one for each foot. They go in your heel and they go through your arch and it's a plastic and the part in your arch disintegrates in nothing flat. But then a friend of mine told me, you don't have to do that. Out of corrugated cardboard, cut out inserts. So I got five of them in the left foot, plus both of the heels from Scholl's. But I don't, the only thing that they said at the Kennedy, "Is it helping you?" How the heck do I know. I don't really know but I'm still able to hobble around. It isn't getting any better; I know that.

T: Since you were a young fellow in Oshkosh, there's been a lot of changes in the City of Oshkosh. What do you think of the changes that have taken place in the city? Have they been for the good?

F: I wonder sometimes if some of them are for the worse. But anyhow what they did, they tear down a lot of buildings all over town. A lot of wide open spaces all over town. And that's what they do now. They didn't like this house, they rip 'er down and build another one. Years ago they never did that, you know. But that's something, and I said, "Well, that younger generation is something else." But all the new modern conveniences like computer, I never been involved with the computer but I guess they're okay. I remember when they first came out, you'd get a bill or something and it was wrong. Well the computer made a mistake. The heck the computer made the mistake! But anyway that was the excuse you got then.

But I guess the things that are going on, some of them are great, I guess. One has to have an open mind about it.

T: When we were young, everything was on Main Street, you know; the movies and a lot of other stores. And that's where all of us did most of our shopping and now of course, it's completely changed.

F: I used to walk from here down there lots of times. And I just wish I could do it now. You can't do it now. But anyway I remember as kids, we'd sneak in the theaters. The Raulf Theater, you know.

T: How did you manage that?

F: Well maybe one paid and was in and they'd open the back door. We did a lot of that. We snuck in the football games. They'd have a carnival and they'd have wrestling in one of the tents. We'd sneak in there or we'd crash the gate to get in the fair. But that was kids, you know. I guess there was no harm done or anything.

T: Well Frank, is there anything else that relates to World War II that you'd like to tell me about, that you can think of?

F: I was happy that it didn't last any longer than it did, I'll say that.

T: You were in a total of how long?

F: Maybe just short of three years altogether.

T: That's long enough.

F: Combat was from late December '44 until the war ended in '45. So that wasn't really that long. You don't have to be in very long.

T: So when you started in combat, you remained in combat all of that time. You didn't get any relief?

F: No. No. Maybe, I'm just trying to remember if we pulled back and I can't remember. But it wasn't, it wasn't real fierce all the time. I remember that. And you sit there shivering all night long sometimes. Out in the field or wherever you were. But as far as the food, they did a pretty good job. What amazed me is those people that lived in those villages, they had a barn, all the animals in the barn. They'd come in and wonder around in the kitchen. The house was attached to the barn, you know. And the animals would walk in the kitchen. It was amazing. It was something different. And the villages were only two, three miles apart; pretty close together, a lot of em. Pretty close together. So that was quite a change from over here.

The people were okay. I really didn't, I remember the kids; they'd always come and say, "Cigaretten fur papa, und chocolaten fur mama." You know what they wanted.

T: And I guess our troops had that sort of thing that they could give out to create some good will.

F: I remember I never smoked in my life, you know. We got packages, or cartons of cigarettes that we sold on the black market and sent the money home. I remember that. Because I never smoked. And that's the one thing that I'm happy for.

T: Well, I think we've reached the end of the line here, Frank. I'm really very glad that I was able to talk to you about your experiences, and we appreciate it very much. Thank you.

F: I hope that it was satisfactory.

T: Oh, I think it is.
Event World War II
Category 6: T&E For Communication
Legal Status Oshkosh Public Museum
Object ID OH2001.3.52
Object Name Tape, Magnetic
Location of Originals Oshkosh Public Museum
People Chalupa, Frank I.
Related unit of descrip Frank has donated his uniform, which is in the Curatoril Department, and photographs also in the Archives.
Subjects World War II
United States Army
Wounds & injuries
70th Division
Medical aspects of war
Medical personnel
European Theater of Operations
Title Oral History Interview with Frank I. Chalupa.
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Last modified on: December 12, 2009