||Arthur W. "Art" Steinhilber was born in Oshkosh on February 6, 1915. His parents were Germans who immigrated to Oshkosh. His father worked in the lumber industry in Oshkosh. Art had three brothers, all deceased. They lived in the 6th Ward on the South Side where he went to Franklin and South Park Schools and graduated from Oshkosh High School in June, 1931.
Art attended Oshkosh State Teachers College for a few months, gave it up and went to work with his brother in a local biological supply business. They supplied small animals such as frogs to laboratories and schools. The family weathered the Great Depression well because Art's father always was employed and the biological supply business remained viable.
In July 1942, Art was drafted into the Army and was assigned to the 95th Infantry Division at Camp Swift. The division trained there as well as in Louisiana, the dessert Southwest, Texas and Pennsylvania. Art was trained as a Military Policeman. The commanding general came through and picked out men that were over six feet tall - Art was one of them.
The 95th sailed for Europe in August 1944, spending a few weeks in Winchester, England before landing in France. The 95th was attached to the 20th Corps, commanded by Gen. George Patton who spoke to the Division, giving them a sort of pep talk. The Division's first real action came in October 1944 when they were assigned to take the German fortresses at Metz. Art's job was directing traffic, a stressful job because directions were constantly changing and officers fed the M.P.'s new orders continuously. And it was important that supplies and troops were sent in the right direction. Another job was evacuating German prisoners. Art's unit had interpreters attached to it for the purpose of interrogating prisoners. He found the Germans to be a formidable foe, well trained and disciplined.
The 95th had 103 days of more or less continuous combat and casualties were heavy. Art came under small arms fire only once. The M.P.'s that worked on directing traffic at road intersections were often referred to as "The Purple Heart Brigade," the reason being that the Germans directed artillery fire at important intersections to disrupt allied traffic progress.
Art was attached to Headquarters Company so his living arrangements were better than most. He was able to go on leave to the Riviera and even played a game of golf there. He was there only two or three days because so much time was eaten up just getting down there.
The 95th was at Ludinghausen in Germany when the war ended. They were sent back to Shelby, Mississippi to train for the invasion of Japan. The 95th was supposed to be part of the second wave of assault troops. The Japs surrendered and Art was discharged in September of 1945 with the usual decorations and a Bronze Star.
Art went right back to work with his brother and remained there until his retirement in 1968. He married Erna Sutter who hailed from Zittau. They had no children. Art's favorite pastimes were hunting, fishing and trapping. He trapped a lot of mink and muskrat in the [Terrell's] Island marsh.
||World War II Oral History Project
|Dates of Accumulation
||February 16, 2005
||Cassette recorded oral history interview with Arthur W. Steinhilber. In July 1942, Art was drafted into the Army and was assigned to the 95th Infantry Division at Camp Swift. Art was trained as a Military Policeman. The 95th sailed for Europe in August 1944. The 95th was attached to the 20th Corps. The Division's first real action came in October 1944 when they were assigned to take the German fortresses at Metz. Art's unit had interpreters attached to it for the purpose of interrogating prisoners. He found the Germans to be a formidable foe, well trained and disciplined. The 95th was at Ludinghausen in Germany when the war ended. They were sent back to Shelby, Mississippi to train for the invasion of Japan. The Japanese surrendered and Art was discharged in September of 1945 with the usual decorations and a Bronze Star.
Arthur Steinhilber Interview
16 February 2005
Conducted by Tom Sullivan
(T: identifies the interviewer, Tom Sullivan; A: identifies the subject, Art Steinhilber. Open brackets
[ ] or bracketed words indicate that either a word or phrase is not understood, or that proper spelling for the word is unclear - in that order).
T: It's Wednesday, February 16th, 2005 and I'm Tom Sullivan at the Oshkosh Public Museum with Arthur Steinhilber who served in World War II. Art is going to be telling me about his experiences in that war.
Let's begin then Art, by having you tell me when and where you were born.
A: Born in Oshkosh February 6, 1915.
T: Were your mother and dad also from this area?
T: Were they born here?
A: I'm not sure but either one or both of them were born in Germany.
T: Do you happen to know why they came from Germany to the United States?
A: To better their life.
T: The reason I ask that is because there's been a number of people that we've interviewed that said their father or grandfather came to avoid the draft over there because there were wars going on all the time. And some of them wanted to avoid that conscription which was going on.
A: I don't know about that but I think they mainly came here because they were poor people, to better themselves.
T: I see. What did your dad do for a living?
A: He was a wood worker in the local woodworking plants.
T: Did he work at just one plant or did he word at more that one?
A: I think more than one but mainly at the Morgan Sash and Door Company.
T: Did your mother work as well or was she a homemaker?
A: She was a homemaker.
T: Okay. Do you have any brothers or sisters?
A: I had three brothers. They are all deceased.
T: Tell me about your childhood Art, where you lived and where you went to grade school. And some of your activities that you did outside of school when you were a kid.
A; Well, I lived in the bloody 6th Ward on Fourth Street on the South Side. Went to the Franklin School, then to the South Park School and then to the Oshkosh High School. And we played ball. I wasn't playing with any organized teams but we had a lot of neighborhood teams. Softball, hardball, football, everything like that. Basketball. And I played in the Muni Leagues.
T: That was probably when you were older, in high school and beyond.
A: When I was in high school and right after high school.
T: Was that Oshkosh High School that you graduated from?
T: After you got out of high school, let's see, you were born in '15 and how old were you when you got out of high school? It was in '31 that you graduated?
T: How old were you then Art?
A; I was sixteen.
T: They had just had the stock market crash and the start of the depression. Did you find it difficult to get work? What kind of work did you do?
A; Well my brother was already in the biological supply business. In Oshkosh we were known as frog dealers. So I had to work with him - for a few dollars a week.
T: Did you actually go out and catch the frogs?
A: Very seldom. We were dealers. We bought from the catchers and sold. I did a little catching on my own. Not as much as being in the business.
T: Did they catch those frogs all around Oshkosh or did they have to go further away?
A: Well in this general area; around Lake Buttes Des Morts, Lake Poygan. The Fox River.
T: I've often wondered how you would go about catching a number of frogs. You know, you can get one but if you're going to harvest them for a business, how did people get a large number of frogs?
A: Well this was a natural area for frogs. There were frogs in any direction here at that time. And it wasn't too difficult for fellows. It was hard work, very hard work to tramp around in the marshes and catch em but they were plentiful in this area.
T: Now were these all live animals that you supplied to these various schools and so forth.
A: Well, mostly live but we also preserved them for biological work, for dissection and that.
T: I see. How did the Depression affect your family? Were they seriously affected by the Depression?
A: Well naturally my family was affected but fortunately my father was a real good worker and he was an excellent machinist. And he managed to keep his job at Morgans or wherever he was working at that time.
T: Was he able to work full time? I know a lot of fellows got cut down to maybe a couple days a week.
A: No, he worked, I guess, his forty hours a week, whatever it was at that time.
T: You probably had pals where their families were more seriously affected by the Depression. And probably had to do a little scraping to get by.
A: Yes, I did.
T: In the late 30's and early 40's there was war in Europe and war in the Far East. And you were working and you were of an age where you could be thinking about getting drafted or having to go in the service. Did you give any thought to those wars that were going on over there or didn't they really enter your mind at all?
A: Oh, naturally we talked about em all the time. And figured sooner or later we were gonna be drafted.
T: Where were you when Pearl Harbor was attacked?
A: I was in Oshkosh.
T: Most people can remember that pretty well.
Now after the United States got into the war, were you drafted or did you enlist?
A: I was drafted?
T: When were you drafted Art?
A: In June of '42. And went in the service in July sometime. In '42 we went to Fort Sheridan if I remember right.
T: When you were drafted did you have a choice of where you could go or did they just tell you that you were going in the Army or the Navy or…?
A: No, you gotta go in the Army. I probably woulda had a choice but they never asked me.
T: Well, I guess it depended on where we were at that particular time in the war. Sometimes they needed guys in certain services and that's where they went.
So your first stop was Fort Sheridan, where we all went when we were drafted, I guess. Then where did you go after that?
A: I went to Camp Swift near Austin, Texas.
T: And I suppose that was where you got the basic training.
A: That's where we got the basic training. And they were just forming the 95th Division so I was one of the new members of that division. They had the cadre there at that time and they were just putting it together.
T: What was life like down there? Was it a tough life or was it a fairly easy thing for you?
A: Well, it wasn't easy; it wasn't real tough either. Basic training. You hadda be on the ball like they said, you couldn't goof around too much.
T: What were the instructors like? Were they fellows that, were some of them that had been in World War I? Or didn't they go back that far?
A: No, no. Our cadre was mostly fellows that came from the 7th Infantry Division. And as I remember, none of em were World War I people. Most of them were enlisted Army people that has been in for several years.
T: After you completed the basic training, what was the next phase of training?
A: Well then we went to various camps and maneuvers.
T: Now you were with the 95th all that particular time?
T: So then the whole 95th moved as a unit more or less.
A: Yeah. First of all, we went out to the desert for desert training. And then if I remember right we went to Louisiana for the maneuvers, for maneuvers down there in Louisiana.
T: How long did that perio9d of training last, and what were you trained to do then? You know when you get out of basic they usually put you in some sort of slot.
A; I was in the military police platoon all the while I was there.
T: Why do you think they put you in the military police? Was there any special reason for it?
A: I think, well the main reason, when we got to Camp Swift, the general interviewed different ones and for the military police platoon, he wanted everybody over six foot. Later on they got some fellows that were under that, were ex policemen or someone like that. But his first platoon, everyone was six foot or more. He wanted all big fellows.
T: Well, you could handle the rowdies then.
T: How long did your military police training last? Was that a lengthy thing?
A: All the while, yeah.
T: What kind of things did you do to learn how to be a military policeman?
A: Well mainly traffic control. That was our main job to control the traffic of the whole division. Handle prisoners.
T: You didn't have to go into town and arrest drunks or anything like that? Or was that part of the duty too?
A: Yeah, but we had very little of that duty because the infantry military police platoon, the general didn't want us to do that. He wanted us to do the work of an infantry division of fifteen thousand people. Which was traffic control, handle prisoners, special assignments, you know. Guard duty or things like that.
T: I see. When did you complete your training then? When was the division considered more or less completely trained and ready for some sort of action?
A: Oh, possibly after a year, year and a half of training.
T: So that would have been some time in late '43 or early '44?
T: After your training period was completed, where did you go then?
A: Well, after maneuvers and that we ended up in Indiantown Gap in Pennsylvania. And that's where we were getting ready for - we didn't know it but they had already planned for us to go overseas, to Europe.
T: I guess most guys didn't really know which way they were gonna go. Whether they were going to go to the Far East or Europe.
A: That's right. But I can tell you one thing. The higher command knew where we were going because our first assignment in France was the assault on Metz, the seven forts of Metz. And when we got over there, some of the officers remarked, "This is exactly what we trained for in maneuvers." He said they had a mock village of Metz set up in Louisiana and they knew already that they were the ones that were gonna make the frontal attack when we go there.
T: I'm surprised to learn that even the higher ups knew that far in advance where they were gonna go. But that's interesting.
A: Well I don't know if they knew exactly but the maneuver, the problem they had, when they got over there and saw it, "Geez, that's what we practiced on maneuvers."
T: It sounds like there must have been some sort of correlation there.
A: They really had things planned out a lot better than people think. They thought, you know, that the army was goofing up. They knew what they were doing most of the time.
T: Now you're going to go to Europe. Where did you leave from and what kind of a trip was it?
A: We left from Boston.
T: What time of the year was it?
A: It was in the summer, I wish I had my Army records. I think it was probably August.
T: So, being that time of the year, you probably had a fairly easy trip.
A: We had a very rough crossing. The weather was rough. And we went over, during the war it was called the West Point. It was the biggest ship that we had. And that was commercially, it was the SS America. It carried almost the entire division on that boat.
T: Were you in a sort of a convoy or did you go all by yourself?
A: We were surprised there was no convoy because that boat could outrun any submarine; it was that fast. But I don't know how you could get away from them if they were in front of you.
T: Out there waiting for you, to come right at you.
A: Oh I imagine they had communications between the Navy and that. Telling em where to go and how to go.
T: I heard that about a couple other boats. They were so fast that they traveled alone and didn't worry about the subs.
A: they said this one could outrun any sub.
T: So I suppose there were a lot of sick guys on that boat.
A: I couldn't take it. We were way down in the hold . I got up on the deck and you had that gentle sway. Were you in the Navy ships?
T: I made a crossing that was a rough one.
A: So I went right down to the hold again where it was quiet.
T: They used to say, "Get the troops out on deck so they can get some air and feel better." But a lot of the guys were just hanging onto their bunks. They didn't want to go anywhere.
A: Oh, there was four of us there from Wisconsin and we played cards almost the entire trip over. Sheepshead.
T: How long did it take for you to get, where did you land? In England?
A: Liverpool. I don't know. It was six or seven days.
T: Well that's a pretty fast crossing. Even in bad weather they must have moved right along.
Did you spend any length of time at all in England?
A: Yes. I would say we were in England about three weeks.
T: Not long enough to get the lay of the land and meet people and so forth.
A: Well, we were in Winchester and you know, everyone heard of the Winchester Cathedral. And we were right there. And we were in England until they got our supplies all over, our equipment, you know. and had it ready for us.
T: Just going back a little bit, before you went overseas did you get a chance to go back to Oshkosh and visit your family before you left for Europe?
A: Just normal furloughs. Not close to that time. But I was home on a furlough on D-Day. On June the 6th. Here I was in the United States and I was home on a furlough. That was the last one.
T: Now after three weeks you went to France. Tell me how you got there and where you landed?
A: Well, we went over on these little Liberty Ships, I guess they call em. And we landed at Omaha Beach, which was long after the big fight there.
T: Was that probably in the early fall? September or October?
A: If I remember right it was in September.
T: Where did the division go then after you landed?
A: We were in Normandy for several weeks. Got all our equipment and then our big trucks, our engineers were put on the Red Ball Express which was delivering supplies across France to the troops fighting in eastern France.
T: The area where you were at that particular point was fairly quiet then. There was no German activity.
A: No. We could see though, all the effects of the big battle. Everything was laying around yet.
T: I suppose it was really a messy thing.
A: Especially the barricades on the coast and all that. They were still there, a lot of em.
T: There was probably a lot of destruction in many of these towns. And at that time I imagine that you were doing your job of traffic control. Is that correct?
A: Not much. Because we were more or less bivouacked there and there wasn't a lot of movement around of anybody. We didn't have the means of getting around a lot unless you walked, you know.
T: did you have any contact then with the local population?
A: A little bit, sure.
T: What were they like? Did they welcome the American soldiers?
A: They were friendly.
T: I suppose there was a language or communication problem.
A: That was it. If you could speak French, you could do real good.
T: At that particular time, what were your living conditions like? Were you in pup tents?
A: Originally we were all in pup tents. Then when General Patton came over and told us we were going to be in his Third Army he said, "I don't want you laying on the ground out there. You take over any building you want, tell the people to go upstairs and live in one room. You stay inside. If it's a barn or a school, or a hall, or a home or anything." He says, "From now on you don't live in pup tents anymore."
T: Did you actually do that then? Did you put the tents away and go into a home?
T: What kind of living quarters did you have then?
A: Well, we'd try to find a big building like a schoolhouse or a town hall. Any kind of a big building where you could put the whole gang in there.
T: How big was your military police unit? How many guys in the bunch?
A: Seventy-two in the platoon. That was all the enlisted men and non-coms. Then we had three officers, Major Pingle and two lieutenants.
T: Did you exist on C-rations then or did you have cooks and that sort of thing?
A: No, we were attached to division headquarters for our rations, for our food and clothing and that. For our supplies.
T: So maybe you got a little better type of thing?
A: Oh it was pretty much the same. Maybe sometimes the officers could scrounge a little more for themselves. See, we were under direct orders of the general and that. And being attached to division headquarters.
T: Now you were attached to Patton's Seventh Army at that time…
A: Third Army.
T: Third Army.
A: He knew already where he was going to use us.
T: Were there other divisions that were also attached to that army?
A: Oh yeah. If I remember right it was the 20th Corps. And it was the 5th Division, the 95th and the 90th Division. Three divisions formed the 20th Corps besides all the little units, you know. Anti-aircraft and your extra artillery and all that was attached to that 20th Corps.
T: When did your division start to move then Art? When did they start to…
A: If I remember right it was in September and we moved across France. And I forget exactly the little town we were in. It was just west of the Mozelle River and that was going to be the first attack, on the Mozelle River, against the city of Metz.
T: How did you move across France? Were you in trucks or were you guys walking?
A: In trucks.
T: Was this fairly rapid movement that you made across the country?
A: I think it was about three days.
T: At that time did you encounter any enemy action?
A: No, no.
T: When was your first encounter with the Germans?
A: When the division was committed to the battle of Metz on the Mozelle River. And our division made the frontal attack and the 90th was on one flank and the 5th Division was on the other flank; go across the river and go into Germany.
T: At that point were you doing you traffic direction duties?
A: Working traffic and handling the prisoners.
T: Tell me about what your daily workload was like? What sort of things did you encounter during an average day?
A: Well on a fast moving situation you probably had what we call a Purple Heart Corner to direct traffic. And bringing up supplies, you had to know where the various units were, you know. Like your quartermaster and your engineers. And then after the battle started then we would get prisoners from the headquarters of different divisions.
T: How about wounded coming back from the front?
A: Well, we didn't have to handle too much of that. Your hospital people handled that and evacuated them with ambulances. And we had to direct the traffic and tell em where the hospital was, you know.
T: I suppose then that you had to know where to tell these people to go. You couldn't just say keep going. You had to direct them.
A: Well that was up to our officers to tell us and give us the information in the morning.
T: I suppose every day you got information about what was going to transpire that particular day.
A: Especially like you say, if a hospital, if an ambulance was coming back you'd have to tell em the hospital's down there now in that corner or that little town. "You go back there now."
T: When German prisoners came back were they marching or were they transported in vehicles.
A: Up in the front they were usually marched. But after they got back to a certain, or unit headquarters, then they were trucked from there on.
T: When you saw these prisoners, what did they look like? Can you describe them for me?
A: Well, they were a lot like we were. All ages.
T: Were there some walking wounded in there?
A: Yes. Oh yeah. Sure.
T: Did the 95th, when they made this frontal attack, did they suffer a lot of casualties?
A: Yes they did. When we were committed there we had 103 straight days of combat. From across the Mozelle we went to the Saar River. And that's where we were, on the Saar River, when the Bulge attack come. And everything stopped, into a defensive position. And the different divisions went up to the Bulge and we did too finally.
T: Tell me more about this attack on Metz. I don't understand it too well. I have the impression that Metz was sort of on the German border, between France and Germany.
A: Right. It was the kind of hub of a road system and I don't know if there was much commercial traffic on the Mozelle River. It was a pretty good-sized river. But it was well fortified. It had seven forts. They called em the Sever Dwarfs. And those were tough you know. And I guess they figured they had to take them and not go around them.
T: How long did it take to conquer the Metz area? Was it quite a prolonged battle?
T: Yes, I would guess it was probably two weeks. I would guess that.
T: I'm sure the Germans suffered a lot of casualties too in that particular battle. From what you observed and what you heard, what was your opinion of the German soldier? Was he a pretty formidable enemy? Was he a tough enemy to fight?
A: Very good. Very tough. Well trained.
T: I guess they were pretty well equipped too except right at the very end When things just fell apart.
T: I guess they had good armament and …
A: Their "88" artillery piece was the best artillery piece ever made. Probably is, you know.
T: That's what everybody says.
A: That's what officers said, it was the best.
T: And I guess that "88" was a threat to the guys that were flying the bombers as well. They used it as an anti-aircraft weapon.
A: I guess you could use it any way, you know. I'll tell you one about, you talk about the prisoners. The first prisoner that I got through me, that we handled and I sent back with that was an older man in his fifties who had fought in World War I. He was so happy. He had been a prisoner in World War I of the Americans and he got such good treatment and he was so happy to be captured by the Americans that he offered me a gold watch, a beautiful watch. Of course as a military policeman I couldn't take that. We were supposed to stop looting so I had to refuse that beautiful gold watch! But I'm sure someone along the way took that watch right away!
T: I'm sure they did. It would be pretty hard to resist that temptation I guess. Being of German heritage as a lot of guys from Oshkosh were, did you find it hard to dislike the enemy? How did that work? Did you just try not to think about the fact that they were Germans?
A: That's right. I wasn't gung ho to go and shoot a bunch of Germans. Not me. Being from my heritage. And my folks, they didn't believe all the things that they heard about Germany, you know.
T: Well, when you were in action, what was your life like then as far as food and accommodations? Were you able to commandeer a house or a school or something like that?
A: Always. Yeah. One time we went into a cattle barn and they set up the mess hall right along with the cattle there, you know. It was warm in there so they set up where we could get something to eat.
T: I guess in some little German towns, their cattle were corralled right inside their house. People would sleep upstairs and there was a warmth factor there too.
Did you ever have occasion to go into a German home, to requisition a German home to stay in?
A: Oh we did that a lot. They moved upstairs - we're staying here for awhile.
T: At that time did you speak any German at all?
A: A little bit. I could understand it pretty well. I couldn't speak it too much. It was spoken at home so most of the time when something was said, I knew what it was.
T: At that time did you hear from home very often?
A: Oh, we'd get a letter, not a lot. Maybe a letter about every two weeks or so.
T: And your food at that time, what was that like?
A: Not too bad. It was, you know it wasn't always C rations or K rations, whatever you want to call it.
T: Well I know that the guys that were up on the front lines, they existed a little bit differently. So apparently you had fairly decent duty. You might not agree with that but…
A: Well, in Germany and France you could requisition a little bit, for somebody's chickens or rabbits or something, you know, once in awhile.
T: I would think that by then supplies were getting pretty scarce, first to supply the Germans and then you. I imagine those people were probably scrabbling for food and so forth.
Can you tell me about any memorable experiences you had when you were there. Things that really stuck in your mind that you remember very vividly?
A: Well, there were many things but one of the most humorous things was, whenever we got bunch of prisoners, like say ten-fifteen twenty or so. We tried to have a schoolhouse or big building and they'd line them up for interrogators. And these fellows were mostly Germans and they came here during the thirties and they were our interrogators. They were of the Jewish faith; let's put it that way. They come out of Germany and they were very smart and they knew as much about Germany as…
So they'd line em up and they were good psychologists. They could tell who would talk and who wouldn't, you know. But anyway we lined up a bunch of them one day and one of the fellows says, "Anyone here from Fond du Lac, Wisconsin?"
T: Was that one of the Germans that said that?
A: Yeah. So I cornered him right away. I said, "I'm from Oshkosh." Oh yeah, he knew people around here. He had been over here looking for a job in the thirties when it was so tough. And he went back to Germany. And he was in the Army. But he knew people here in Oshkosh that I knew.
T: Well that's really interesting.
A: I think I told you that in the first interview.
T: I don't remember that Art.
A: He knew Adolph Leitel, you remember from Leitel's Tavern?
T: Yes. On Bowen Street.
A: Yup, he knew Adolph Leitel.
T: Yeah, Helen was in my high school class. Now after you met him I suppose he was herded off with the rest and went somewhere else.
A: Went to a prisoner's camp.
T: How about some of the guys that you served with that were in your unit. When I was in the service, we had some guys that were real characters. Real odd balls. Can you think of any fellows like that, that were a little bit strange maybe?
A: Yeah. Well this was in camp here and we had a fellow by the name Valentine from Chicago. And this was, well most of it happened in desert maneuvers. And he told me, he said, "Art, I'm going to get out of this outfit. I'm not going overseas." And he did everything wrong, you know. He never did anything right. I know they put him on KP duty and the mess sergeant, he says, "Don't ever send him down there again." He swiped everything there was and carried it back to his tent.
But the biggest thing he did, you remember in the desert they had rows of pup tents perfectly in a row. Everything was just measured out and a sidewalk in front. And Valentine had a big white flag in front of his tent, see. And our sergeant [Lancey] went down there and tore the flag down, you know. And took it away. And he come charging out. He said, "You took down my flag."
T: Sounds like he was doing everything he could to draw attention to him…
A: He got out; section eight.
T: He wasn't so dumb, I guess.
A: No. And he went to the officers and he said, "Sergeant [Lancey] tore down my flag," he says. And he told me when he got out, he said, "I'll make a lot of money in a few weeks back in Chicago with batteries and tires and that."
T: Now Art, after the battle of Metz, you mentioned the Battle of the Bulge. Was your army unit involved in that as well?
A: When we were sent up there it was pretty well resolved so we were committed, I think it was a British, no it was the American First Army and that was clean-up duty in what they called the Ruhr pocket. And that was toward the end of the war. And the reason we weren't sent up there right away, we were just getting our replacements. On the Saar River we were more or less in a defensive position getting all our replacements.
T: In percentages, what kind of casualties did you division suffer? You know some of them had very high casualty rates. What was, do you remember or did you know what the casualty rate was in your division?
A: I don't remember offhand. We had fairly high casualty rates. Nothing like they had in the invasion or something. Nothing like that. And the Battle of the Bulge, there was the 106th Division, was made up of what you might as well say, misfits from all over. And when they made up the new division they'd say to some company, "We want ten men," or something. Well, who are they going to send down?
T: Send out your worst guys. The ones you want to get rid of.
A: Sure, you're going to send someone you didn't want. And that division was made up like that and they bore a frontal attack and they were just terribly wiped out, you know. Yeah.
T: Now at that particular time, right after the Battle of the Bulge, this was in the dead of winter, was your unit pretty well equipped to handle the winter weather? I'd heard that initially there were a lot of troops that didn't have all of the winter clothing that they needed? How did you guys fare in that respect?
A: Well I think we ah, were in pretty good shape. Probably they could have used better boots, I think, and shoes. Leather shoes like that, they weren't warm, you know. We, the 95th was mainly middle westerners and they knew how to handle it. There was a lot of newspaper used in their clothing and their shoes and everything else for insulation. Really!
T: I remember using that when I went ice-skating out on the lake. I'd wrap some newspaper around under my jacket and it worked.
A: Yeah. A lot of fellows took sleeping bags and cut armholes in them and wore a sleeping bag.
T: I'd never have thought of that.
A; Like I say, us middle-westerners, you know, they knew how to handle the cold. (Laughter).
T: Then when the war in Europe ended you were involved in this Ruhr pocket area.
A: We were up in the Ruhr pocket then and taking lots of prisoners. There really wasn't fighting. Everyone knew the war was over. There was so many prisoners you couldn't evacuate em. They disarmed them and said, "Go ahead, go home." Yeah, "Go home."
T: Were a lot of your prisoners older guys or young kids at that particular time? I heard that they had started scraping the bottom of the barrel.
A: In the end we got, you had a lot of older fellows, yeah. And one of our interrogators told me, they called it "The Magen[fatoleum]". (Probably Magen Verteidigung or "stomach defense." A sort of slang expression according to Virginia Gross who researched the term). Magen is German for stomach. These were fellows that all had stomach trouble so they made a unit out of em and then they'd feed em accordingly, you know? And that's the way they got more people in.
T: When the war ended in Europe was that a joyous occasion for you guys or was it sort of subdued?
A: It was. We went out and celebrated if we could find some beer or something, you know. But we knew it was coming. We knew it was coming for a couple weeks ahead of time.
T: I see.
A: In fact, for about two weeks before the end, we weren't committed in any way to any battles and there was to be no fighting. And I guess the Germans understood that too.
T: I guess that makes sense. Why waste lives needlessly when you know the thing is just about over? Then when the war ended, what did your unit do? What was their next task over there in Germany?
A: We weren't long in that town and we were sent to LeHavre, France to go home. Only in a few weeks.
T: So you didn't have to serve as occupation troops.
A: No. We were destined for Japan. Yeah. And our division was destined for Japan. And we came back to Mississippi, yeah, Camp Shelby. We came back to Camp Shelby to get our training there. And our officers, when they told em they were gonna be sent to Japan, we didn't have too many regular army and that, we had a lot of enlisted people. And they put up a protest that we as a division with so many days of combat, so many casualties, and let's send someone there that's never been anyplace. Well then thank God for Harry Truman; he dropped the bomb and that took care of everything. And it wasn't long after that they got the order from Washington, break up the 95th Division.
(The first tape ends here).
A: They were right there, all reserve officers and all that. Major Pingle and all of them. You might as well say they were all civilians but drafted in or being in reserves they had to go in, you know. And they weren't gung ho for goin over there and fighting.
T: This protest, did it bear…? I suppose you never had a chance to know if it bore any fruit since the bomb was dropped then.
A: I think it did because they sent, I forget who they sent from Washington there. And we had some, our officers, Majors or Colonels maybe, you know. They knew what they were talking about. They cited figures and told them how many people here had never served. "Send them."
T: Tell me again where you went when you got back to the states?
A: Camp Shelby, Mississippi.
T: Okay. How long were you there then before you got out of the service?
A: Well the war ended in May, didn't it?
A: We got in June in Mississippi and I got out in September. We were training there already. I got out in September of '45.
T: Were you awarded any medals or citations?
T: What were they Art?
A: well you got all the routine medals that everybody got but I got the Bronze Star.
T: Why did you get the Bronze Star? It was for your unit's action more or less?
A: No, it was for individual action. In Metz the amount of prisoners we handled. And we worked day and night. We didn't sleep. And maybe fifteen, twenty of us got it because they gave you so many medals to hand out. That's the way it works. "Well here's the guys that worked like hell. Let's give em something."
T: Well, that doesn't hurt I guess.
A: Oh no.
T: After you were mustered out of the service, what did you do? You came back to Oshkosh?
T: And did you go back to work then?
A: Right back into handling frogs.
T: Your brother was still in the business?
T: Did you have any difficulty adapting to civilian life, you know getting used to being a civilian again?
T: How did you meet your wife and when did you get married?
A: Well I met my wife on a boat ride on one of the houseboats here and I got married in September of '46.
T: What was her name, her maiden name?
A: Her maiden name was Sutter. But they pronounced it, they were from Larson over here, and they would pronounce it "Sooter." S-U-T-T-E-R.
T: Do you have any children?
A: No children.
T: Well, I don't either. Do you think the war changed you in any way Art?
A: Well, not really. I guess it hardened us about quite a bit, you know.
T: Of course you were probably a little older than some of the guys that you were with. You were probably a little more mature at the time.
A: When I went in I was twenty-eight years old, you know. Went in, in '42 and 1915, yeah. Twenty-seven.
T: Were any of your friends from Oshkosh killed during the war? Fellows that you knew and palled around with?
T: Who were they? Can you give me their names?
A: Ah, let me see. I know off hand, hmm. I'd have to think a minute.
T: That's okay. If you happen to recall later on, we'll hit that. Do you think of World War II very much today? Or have you sort of put it aside?
A: I've put it aside. It's so long ago.
T: Has your army unit ever had any reunions that you went to?
A: Yes. We have an association, the 95th Infantry Division Association. I attended one in Milwaukee and two at Green Bay. When they're close by here, I went to em.
T: Did you run into guys that you knew then?
A: Oh yeah, sure. Right now I don't know of any that are left from my platoon. I'm sure there are some but I don't know of any.
T: Well, you're all getting up there in years. Now when you went back into the frog business, did you stay in that business all your life?
T: When did you retire?
A: We sold out in, we sold our company out, I was a partner then, in 1969.
T: Did you handle any other animal material besides frogs?
A: Oh yes.
T: Frogs weren't your only thing.
A: Frogs, turtles, earthworms, guinea pigs, rabbits, white mice, white rats, crayfish.
T: So it was pretty much the whole gamut.
A: Everything they study in biology. Just about everything.
T: Did you supply any material to hospitals where they use it for testing?
A: Yes. Lots of em. Lots to the VA hospitals.
T: So this was probably a good-sized business you were involved in. It wasn't just a little mom and pop thing.
A: Nobody knew it in town here but we did a big business because very little of it was sold around here you know.
T: I never really thought about it much. In college we dissected these frogs and I think they came to us live. Because I remember we had to kill it in a prescribed way.
A: Pithing it.
T: Yeah, pithing it. You put this thing through it…
A: Cut it. Incidentally, the way we conducted our business, you couldn't conduct it like that anymore.
T: Why is that Art?
A: Many reasons but the main reason, the vivisectionists, you know, they got a lot of the states where you cannot work on any live animals anymore.
T: I guess that's a problem for all kinds of research facilities and even the universities.
A: Oh yeah. They've cut down on the use of specimens so much, the research. And ah…
T: Was that happening when you retired?
A: It was happening already way back. You know almost every major development in medicine was made through the use of live animals. Almost every one. Yeah.
T: Well I guess they have other options available now. You can't use live animals so you think up something else and they use these computer models…
A: Computer, all sorts of things.
T: What kind of activities do you engage in now that you are retired? How do you have fun?
A: Well, hunting and fishing.
T: Those have always been big things with you?
A: Yeah, always was. From kid on. Because all my brothers were hunters and fishermen. And now arthritis has got me so that I can't do much of that anymore.
T: Did your experiences in the military influence how you think about war and so forth today? You know when you read the news and hear the news. When you were in the service does that have any bearing or come into your thoughts when you hear what's happening today? I don't know just how to put it?
A: I don't know how to put it either. It's terrible what's happening over there but it's a different deal now. We knew who we were fighting. They had the uniform and everything. Now you know, you don't know.
T: And you were fighting to win, as they say. Is there anything else that you'd like to talk about that happened in World War II that happened that we've missed, Art? Something that we didn't go over.
A: Not off hand. I remember General Patton. I saw him a couple of times.
T: I imagine that he was rather an imposing figure.
A: When we were waiting in Normandy, getting our equipment and that, he come to tell us that we were going to join his Third Army. They had a big field for the whole division. They built up a big platform, the engineers did, for him to get up there. And about every other word was a swear word. And you knew what to do with the Germans and the only good German was a dead German. And all this and that, you know.
And we were taught in basic training, some of the thinking was the idea was to wound an enemy soldier because it took three people to take care of him. That's the kind of training they got but that wasn't Patton. (Laughter).
T: Yeah, I think if my life was threatened by a German or any enemy, I would want knock him down real fast, kill him.
T: Anything else that you remember about Patton?
A: Well, one time we were working a traffic corner and Patton's, one of his drivers there was a Major, full-time Army man with a Jeep. And he was waiting there. He was supposed to meet him there. And I don't know how many hours he waited there. And he says to me, "If that son of a b comes, you tell him, 'You know where to go.' '' Yeah, I'd tell him where to go! Patton never showed up. That guy waited so many hours, he said, "That's enough of that." He swore at him. He was older Army than Patton maybe.
T: Well it's been great talking to you Art. I really enjoyed our visit. It was just as good or better than the first time around.
A: I imagine it was about the same.
T: I thank you very much for your cooperation.
||World War II
||6: T&E For Communication
||Oshkosh Public Museum
|Location of Originals
||Oshkosh Public Museum
||Steinhilber, Arthur W.
||World War II
United States Army
European Theater of Operations
Prisoners of war
||Oral History Interview with Arthur W. Steinhilber.