Louis Belville

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Interview with Louis E. Belville
Interviewed by Kayla M. Seacott

Interviewed on May 4, 2003
At the home of Louis Belville 282 E. Highway Dr.
Marion, Indiana

KMS: Sunday May 3, 2003 and this is the beginning of the interview of Louis Belville at his home 282 E. Highway Drive, Marion, Indiana. Mr. Belville was born on April 10, 1918, and I am Kayla Seacott the interviewer and Mr. Belville is my great grandfather.

KMS: Were you enlisted? Or drafted?

LEB: Drafted.

KMS: What were you feeling when you were drafted?

LEB: I was a conscientious objector, I don’t believe in war. Had I been single, I don’t know what I might have done but since I was married, had a child, I submitted to the draft against my conscience.

KMS: When you got to where you had to go to boot camp, exact where was that?

LEB: Camp McCain Mississippi.

KMS: What was it like during that time?

LEB: Rough. Physically, mentally. I was 26 years old {Pause} and I was bossed by people younger than me, and I couldn’t do anthing about it. {Laughs} and uh, anyway like I said it was psychically and mentally rough. I’ve forgotten what the question was now {Laughs}.

KMS: The question was, what was boot camp and training like?

LEB: Well, let that be it. KMS: How did you get through being in the war?

LEB: Now, I don’t know what you mean by that. Do you mean did I suffer any side effects? After effects?

KMS: Um, like, were you happy about being in the war so you could protect your family? Or were you just wanting to get out of there and come home?

LEB: I wanted to get out and come home.

KMS: Okay. And so that was what got you through the war? Thinking about getting home to your family?

LEB: Time got me through the war. {Both Laugh}

KMS: Where all did you go for the war?

LEB: England, France, Belgium, and Germany

KMS: Oh. Did you fight any?

LEB: What do you mean fight? Hand to Hand?

KMS: Hand to Hand combat, shooting, etc?

LEB: No, No

KMS: Okay. Do you remember arriving at the different places and what it was like? What was going through your mind or anything?

LEB: Well, we arrived at Plymouth Rock, England. We arrived in the daytime. The first thing we saw was the English Shoreline. I was impressed by how green it was. We stayed on ship until nightfall. We got off after dark and marched to a small town named “Tiverton”. Beautiful, moonlit night. And I can still remember our marching steps down the streets of this small town. It was “trump, trump, trump, trump”. The beautiful weather, and then a war. Two opposites.

KMS: And that was how it was with each of them? Or were they all different?

LEB: Well, everyplace is different. Like our first arrival in Germany, I’m trying to think of the name of the town now. Anyway, we were in England, and then we crossed the channel to France. Well the first thing I saw in France was a big sign, “Shell Oil”. I’m thinking to myself, “now that’s what I’m doing over here. It’s all about MONEY”. That’s what the war is about. Then we left France to go to Ulich, Germany. Anyway, we left at night with no headlights. We were getting to Ulich Germany and I’m hearing machine gun fire and the lights were out and it’s not too pleasant.

KMS: I don’t think it would be. What jobs did you have in the war?

LEB: Basically bridge building, but we did some home construction in England to build homes for the families that had been bombed out. But when we got to Germany we were building bridges.

KMS: Did you have any really memorable moments?

LEB: All kinds. Some bad…some good. I’ll tell you one. It was a bad one in a way. Anyway. We were not allowed to associate with the Germans during the war. These German families were broken up and packing up whatever little clothing and things they could have. Leaving their homes. It was sad. Old people, children on the countryside, nowhere to go only “get away”. Then one food line, “chow line”, we had set up, after we eat we dump whatever’s left in a trash can, a garbage can. I’m talking about our individual meal. Empty our canteen and things in the garbage can. Across from the garbage can is a fence. Old women and children over there crying for food, and we had to dump it while they stood there crying hungry. That’s one of the things that depressed me.

KMS: Yeah cause I know that you would get even more depressed if your family was going through the same thing wouldn’t you? Like had they come over here instead and you were off fighting and that had been your family?

LEB: That would be speculation. I don’t know how I would have reacted.

KMS: Were you ever a prisoner of war?


KMS: Were there any medals or citations awarded to you?

LEB: Well, I can show you what it says on my, … you might want to shut that off while I….

{Tape interruption} [LEB gets out a piece of paper that lists information about him, with his awards listed.]

LEB: Citations from the European Theatre of operations. The Theatre ribbon with two bronze stars, good conduct medal, the victory medal of World War Two, that’s all.

KMS: Hum. Did you get to write to your family? LEB: Yes, yes. But all of my mail was censored. In fact, one letter I wrote, they didn’t send it. They called me in and chewed me out for some of the things I had said. And then they cut off all the stuff they didn’t want said, and mailed the letter all cut up.

KMS: Did you have enough supplies for everything?

LEB: Not always. We had some frozen feet. In England, during some winter training, because we didn’t have boots. I had two frozen toes that took years to get over, and some of the guys ended up in the hospital. And some guys deliberately took their shoes off and stuck their feet in the snow to freeze their feet to get out of the rough training we were going through. Well, that’s enough on that.

KMS: Did you have packs that you carried?

LEB: Oh, yeah.

KMS: How much did they weigh?

LEB: Well, the rifle was eleven pounds, and the pack on our back, I would guess twenty pounds, I don’t really know. We couldn’t carry everything we had. All we did have was two duffel bags. That’s two huge bags of our clothing, blankets and stuff. Usually they were on a truck.

KMS: Did you feel stress or pressure while you were over in war? Or after you got back?

LEB: There’s always stress or pressure in war. I don’t even know how to answer that. I mean, when you’re getting bombed, there’s a little bit of stress.

KMS: Did you receive leave ever?

LEB: Yes

KMS: So you just came home and visited your family?

LEB: Well, right after basic training in the United States I had a leave to come home before I went over seas. Then after the war was over in Germany, I got a leave to go back to London, England for a visit, and then back to Germany.

KMS: Were there any humorous or memorable experiences while you were in basic training? Did you guys just play around? Or was it always serious?

LEB: We had weekends off if we behaved during the week. We’d go to the bars and get drunk. We had some good times. KMS: Did you ever keep a diary?

LEB: No, I wish I had, but I didn’t.

KMS: Were there any really good friends that you just “clicked” with them and stayed that way for a while?

LEB: Yes. Almost everybody in the service has one good buddy. I don’t know why that is, but you do. And I kept contact with mine, and he died last year.

KMS: That’s no fun. What did you do after the war was over? Did you have to go back to school for a different career? Or did you return to the one you had before?

LEB: You said after the war was over, do you mean after I got home?

KMS: Yes.

LEB: Ok. I went to Marion Business College, but that wasn’t “my bag”. So I quit that and went back to work in a factory.

KMS: Did your military experiences influence what you thought about war?

LEB: It didn’t change my opinion of war. I’ve always been a pacifist. I’ve never wanted to injure or hurt anybody. So, it didn’t change my opinion of war.

KMS: I can understand that.

LEB: To me, the only good war is a defensive war. I would fight on my home ground for my own life, my defense. But to invade other countries, I’m opposed.

KMS: Are there any other friends that you had, not as close as your one friend.

LEB: I’ve lost contact with all of them. I never went to the reunions. I always wished I had later, but I didn’t. So had no contact with any of them any more.

KMS: Well, you’ve already taken care of one of my other questions. It was did you ever attend any of the reunions?


KMS: How did it effect the rest of your life, being in the war?

LEB: It’s hard to tell how it effects the rest of your life. But I was sick for years. See I lost my train of thought there… I’ll give you one example. I would constantly dream of being in the army. And excuse my language coming up, but even in my seventies I was still in the service and couldn’t get out. And I remember saying “here I am seventy-five years old and I still can’t get out of this god damn army”. That’s in my dream, so it has effected my whole life. I still dream that I can’t get out.

KMS: Yes that’s tough. What exactly, in your opinion, started world war two?

LEB: Well, they say Pearl Harbor, but we were involved in the war before Pearl Harbor. We were shipping materials to England. We hadn’t declared war, but we were indirectly involved. And perhaps that’s the reason we got bombed at Pearl Harbor. So, I don’t know what started the war. I have heard it was over the fishing industries with Japan. I’ve heard all kinds of stories, but all wars, in my opinion, are over money, land, or power. It’s not for the benefit of the people.

KMS: Were there many different types of areas in the army that you could go into? Or just “army”?

LEB: Well…

KMS: Like, now we’ve got marines, army reserve, air force and all those different types. Were there those different places that you could decide to go? Or was there just one?

LEB: Do you mean, “could I have picked somewhere to enlist in?

KMS: Yes

LEB: Well, since I didn’t enlist… {Laughter} Yes, at that time yeah, you could enlist and choose the branch of service you wanted to be in. Now, when I was drafted they asked me, “do you want the army? Or the Navy?” I said “huh?” The guy said, “you’re in the army”. So he made up my mind for me, he didn’t care for that “huh”. {Both Laugh}

KMS: Yes

LEB: And I got in the engineers because of my IQ. In other words we had an IQ test, and if I remember right I had checked one hundred forty five. So that put me in the engineers instead of the infantry.

KMS: That’s pretty good, high IQ.

LEB: Pretty good

KMS: Was there anything else you would care to tell me that I haven’t asked about?

LEB: Well, I don’t know. {Laughter} You ask anything you want to ask and I’ll either answer it or I won’t. There were all kinds of experiences, and you don’t want to hear all of them.

KMS: Is there any that you think would be interesting to hear about? That isn’t too bad?

LEB: {Pause} Well, you ask me questions and I’ll answer them. {Pause}

LEB: I’ll tell you one thing. I was in New Jersey before I went over seas. We got on the ship in New York to go over seas. I’m seeing the statue of liberty fade in the background and I’m thinking, “I wonder if I’ll ever see it again.” I mean when you go to war you don’t know whether you are coming back or not. Fortunately I got to see it again. Anyway, one of the things on my mind during our bombings. You can blow my head off, but for god’s sake don’t blow an arm or a leg off. I didn’t mind dying, but I don’t want to be mutilated.

KMS: Did you sustain any injuries?

LEB: No, --only -- yeah I did-- but that’s another story.

KMS: Were you ever, while you were building, were you ever attacked?

LEB: Well, at one point we had barrage balloons, which you don’t know what they are.


LEB: They were balloons on cables suspended above the bridges we were working on to keep us from getting “strafed” or bombed. We were bombed several times in London. The B1’s or the B2’s I don’t know if you know what those are or not?


LEB: Probably not, history probably don’t tell that. But, one night in London, a bomb hit. The windows went out, the lights went out. Things that we had there on our tables, I mean, it shook everything all up. It happened at 1:10 in the morning, well at night 1:10AM. The next night at 1:10AM I suddenly startled awake. So, there’s some kind of a clock built in you. So, anyway, the second time- but nothing had happened- but the first one impressed me enough that the same time the next night I startled awake. Bombs are a little bit scary.

KMS: “Especially if you are sleeping”.

LEB: One night we had an air raid warning, it was over in Germany. That means there are bombers approaching. Well, we were in sleeping bags. It was time to get out of that sleeping bag and head for cover. I had gotten turned around in my sleeping bag and couldn’t find the zipper. {Laughs} Here I’m wanting out of here now, and I don’t want to fool around. So, it took me a little longer to get out. But I never zipped it up anymore. From then on I grabbed each side of it, pulled it around me, so that I could get out NOW.

KMS: That’s scary.

LEB: Not that night, but another night after that, they shot down a German bomber over us. Artillery shot him down. The next day we went over to see the plane. I can’t describe the distance that plane was spread out when it crashed. I mean, little debris… the engine was the last thing, this is -oh I would guess five hundred yards, part of that plane. At the end of it with the motor and the wheels, the heavy parts, were the guys in the plane. One guy had an arm off. The rest of them, you couldn’t see a thing wrong with them. They were still in uniform. It was sad. Good looking, young German men, and we had to shoot them down.

KMS: So you guys never took any prisoners either?


KMS: Do you have any pictures?

LEB: Yes, I have some pictures?

KMS: Are they just of you in uniform? Or are there any that you have with your friends? Or before the war and after, or just a mix?

LEB: Well, before the war and after {Laughs} I’ve got some pictures. Us guys in the service. Some of them on the job, some of them where the destruction is. If you haven’t see it you can’t imagine a city being blown apart. I’ve got some pictures that will show you.

KMS: I can safely say other than seeing the destruction from the trade centers, I’ve never seen anything other than that.

LEB: Well that’s the way this is. {pause}

KMS: I guess that’s about it.

LEB: Good. {Laughs} Now I’ll show you some pictures, if you want to see some.

KMS: Yes, and thank you.