Interview: Thomas Hale (th) Medium: Audio Tape Date: Monday, April 13, 1998 Place: Home of Thomas and Olive Hale, 525 E. Charles Street, Marion, IN 46952
Collected by: Andrew Behm (ab)
ab: Okay, well, I've got to go through some formalities here. Uh, would you state your whole name and where we are.
th: Uh, we're at 525 E Charles street in Marion, IN and my whole name is Thomas Wilford Hale.
an: Okay, and what's today's date?
th: Today is uh 13th
th: Of April
an: And do I have permission to tape you with an audio tape?
th: Right, you do have
an: Okay, and do I also have permission to submit this to my teacher at Marion High School, and to the Marion Public Library?
an: OK, uh, first question is what was your life, what was your family life like during...before the war?
th: Well, I just got married. I'd been married about uh (pause) about uh, about two, let's see, I got married March 29, went into the army June the 20th, got drafted of course.
an: What year is this?
th: Uh, '41.
th: Yeah, '41.
an: So you were right in the war at the very beginning?
th: Well I was drafted and I was supposed to be back in a year uh, but I didn't make it. In fact, it's five years later.
an: What was...how did your life change after the war? how different was it?
th: Well, uh, that's a good question. I (pause) I went back to my old job, uh, in the shoe factory. Of course, it was a little different. I mean, um, I lived a lot of excitement during the war. And uh, in fact, first, first jet airplane I heard over at, uh, Kokomo, they were having an air show over there, and I went over there and I heard that jet buzzing in, and I was ready to hit the ground. When you do...we did that when we was in combat, just, uh, you know, sounded like an artillery shell. That, if you haven't heard a jet go over, that's what an artillery shell sounds like when it's coming in. and uh, (pause) well, uh, I don't know. Pretty, pretty, much, I had about the same job that uh, when I come back that I had when I left. But, uh, (pause) yea, I don't know. Shoe factory was about the same as it always was. I worked at the shoe factory and I ... when I went overseas I was what's called a bottom polisher, when I came back I advanced a little bit. Thanks to (inaudible) made me foreman and that, and that, wasn't no good. Being a foreman I, I decided, after I got the foreman job, that, uh, it was better to know something and be needed better than, than it was to be boss. Being boss is not really... now a foreman uh, he gets all the guff, you know, and he gets none of the glory anything that's done. So I decided I'd rather be (?). and uh, bought all I can say about that. Do you want, what, what, what do you want to know about the war? Do you want uh, want me to take you through the...
ab: Sure, you can tell me what you did, and what it was like.
th: Well, I ...in the States, of course, we, we had about two years in the States. Uh, started out with the uh, with the blue army. First uh, went in, they had me down there is Conscientious Objector. What I'd been taught all my life was that war was wrong, you know, and killing your fellow man was wrong, but they finally got that straightened out. But they sent me to Oklahoma and Texas National Guard out there. Uh, Fort Sills, otherwise, I'd a probably wound up in Fort Knox, Kentucky. Uh, we, we went from uh, Fort Sills after we got the basic training at Fort Sills, we went to uh, Louisiana on the maneuvers. There was a blue army and a red army. And uh, the red army, Patton was in charge of it, and he said them M-artillery pieces couldn't knock, couldn't stop them tanks. And uh, he was wrong. (laughs) They was...they was pretty, uh, pretty aggressive bunch those 889th. They'd take, put charge seven in there and they'd lift them tanks about two foot off the ground, course the guys (?). That kind of embarrassed Patton. Patton gave us our send-offs, each when we did get overseas. He uh, he had us thinking we were gonna be walkin' over dead body with our buddies and so forth. You know what I mean, he had us believin' that anyhow. When we actually got into combat was in (?), and I was, I thought I was lucky I got to stay on the beach and wait for the B-bag to be put over. All the clothes we were going to use in an A-bag, and we carried that with us, and the B-bag we packed in some places clothes we wouldn't need right away. I thought I was lucky I got to stay away from that front line, you know, where I thought all the fighting was. The front line is the crowdedest place in the war. The hottest place was right there on the beach where I was. I seen more (?) in about three days that's on the beach there, then I did for a long time. But the first actual combat I seen, uh, were, were artillery. Um, Gerber was uh, he would go in and lure the German planes out 'cause, again, he could have hooked back and turn his nose to the Germans and everything, and they wouldn't fire at him 'cause they knew they would get artillery in them. And uh, they'd finally send a (?) after him, well that's the first, that was the first combat I seen. He had pontoons on his uh, navy and he would draw them in there, and they...of course the navy would shoot them down. And uh, they one time finally got to him, and they took like uh, machine gun bullets was coming out that pontoon instead of going into it, you know. They...he was in the water for about three minutes. They fished him up and he was back to his old job the next day. And, what else? Well, from when we got into combat, the, like I said old Patton told us, what we was gonna, how rough it was gonna be. And he had, he had thought we was pretty sharp anyway. And uh, so we landed in Sicily and cut the island in two. And when Patton supposedly come in right in to...to Palermo, taking Palermo, that was, going into Sicily. Well, uh he came with them pearl handle forty-fives and the boys had been in Palermo for about a week before he come in and took the town. Course, it was uh, mean town, you know. Uh, they'd been in there for about a week looking for girlfriends. And from Sicily, we went to Salerno. The Germans was waiting on feet for Salerno. Uh, they knowed where we was going to lan... land. Well, we was back-up for the thirty-sixth. And they...Germans really mauled the thirty-six. And when we got in, there wasn't any front line for a while. The only thing was holding the line was the artillery. Them Germans always complained about that, them automatic hundred and fifty-five copter, that was a hundred pound shells, see. Regulated them d...they could keep two in the air where you could see 'em, you know, where you could see them until they'd break over. And uh, they could keep two of 'em, two of 'em inside all the time.
ab: What was the name of your division that you were in?
th: I was in the Forty-Fifth. That's thunderbird division. That uh, our uh, division emblem was a swastika before the war, and then when we got in war with Germany, why they changed it to a thunderbird. Which is...thunderbird is supposed to be the god of war. And uh, we, we had a lot of amphibious training. Oh something I forgot about on, on uh, in Sicily, when we landed in Sicily, after we'd been there a couple days, the orders came down that there was going to be parachuter, paratrooper attack, but we thought they were going to be Germans, you know, when they dropped paratroopers in on us. And uh, we just, we shot the heck out of them. Some of them poor boys was dropped forty miles out to sea. That was someone's neglect because that, you know, they didn't learn their job very well, you know the guy that, what do you call him? The guy that pinpoints where you're at and where you're supposed to be. Well anyway...
ab: The navigator.
th: After, after Sicily, first, first air raid I was in was Sicily. First time Germans dropped a bomb. I could see them bombs coming down, and I jumped in a foxhole, and I was just sure they was gonna go right back in the middle of my back. They was, they hit two mile down the road. Uh, (?) you know. When, when we was going over, that was something else I, I liked to tell about, is uh, I kept hearing, sounded like the sides of the boat, sounded like it was hitting big fish, that's what I thought was happenin, of course ignorance is bliss as I said, because that was submarine attack. There were twenty- two submarine attacks on (?). We zigzagged, took us about seven days to get over there to Sicily. In the first place we landed, in North Africa first, but then we went on to Sicily, our first combat. I, oh, don't know, after we hit on Salarmo, uh, I got a presidential, we got a presidential citation. I was knock down with concussion about four times and when the Germans were across the river with their tank, and they were bore sitting us and we was running up and down the trench there, and they'd get it over and short and over and short. We finally got march orders and had to pull back so we could fire on them. They was too close for us to, you know, that artillery had to arch and come back down. Anyway, after, (pause) when we pulled back, uh, one of our lieutenants, uh ammunition lieutenants, he got his heart blowed out. That was the only causality we had then. But, uh, well another guy got a scratch side of his eye. He got a purple heart for that just where a piece of flack grazed him and after after Salarmo we went on up to (mount casino?) and our our battalion commander said that we would have to bypass that. You know we couldn't take it direct and then someone said "No you're going to take it head on," course the high command, you know, they got in charge. Then, uh, we pulled off from that (?). We was pulled off, uh, and sent back and trained to make another amphibious landing. We up and landed at Anzio, and everybody was scared to death of Anzio. Them poor colored boys that were driving the truck they, uh, they was scared to death on account of they'd heard so much about Anzio. They couldn't get off, they'd drive a full load on and drive an empty truck back on and, boy they couldn't do that fast enough. I remember one time on Anzio we was sitting on a bridge and looked, looked down the road and just far as you could see, and trucks were lined up coming into town(?), uh, and my buddy said "I wonder why they're firing that that that uh Anzio Annie" we called it, it was a 790 pound shell. I said it probably fell found following this bridge, and about that time all those trucks disappeared and in about three minuets time you couldn't see a truck anyplace. They had all puled off into the woods and everyplace else, yea. But on Anzio we went, that's when, uh, the Forty-Fifth got a pretty good name on there. We had a lot of Indians in the 185th infantry, that was part of the Forty-Fifth, along with the 80th and the 79th, and they was, uh, the Germans when they, thought that they first landed on Anzio there wasn't nothing. They could have went right on up into the Brener Pass, you know. Germans didn't have anything there at all, but, uh, after, I don't know, several days, uh, the Germans sent six divisions in against, you know, spearheading them against one place, and the Indian boys were up there mowing them down, and they sent word up there asking "is there anything we can get for you boys?" said "Yea bring, send us some more Germans,". They weren't Germans they were Balkan countries, and the SS was in back of them doping them up and sending them in like World War One tactics. Huh, lets rest for a minute.
ab: All right.
th: Oh yea, they sent word up there what anything you guys, yea they said send us some more Indians. That's where we was wasn't it? Said send us some more Germans, but they wasn't Germans. Actually was people they constripted or whatever you call it and their own men, and they would dope them up, and, uh, send them in, wave after wave, and when the, when the count was all said and done, the Forty-Fifth had pushed them back a mile, and, uh, let's see from after Anzio when we pushed off at Anzio the only casualty I had seen on Anzio was, uh, the Third division. Third and Forty-Fifth division was kind of partners from there on in the war, and, uh, the Third division had pushed ahead and got some high ground and they made them back it, back off, but, uh, I seen some guy in the cemetery, you know, he had been laying this way when he died, and, of course, he got stiff and that kind of got to me. You know, when, when they turned him over he looked like he was holding the sun out of his eyes. But, uh, that was one thing that got to me in the war and another thing that got to me was, uh, some new outfit came in, a replacement for somebody, and German plane came over after dark, at night, and he opened up on the German plane with a 50 caliber. Well the German was looking for someplace to dump his bombs so he dumped them right there, and that guys guts strewn all around the fence, and I was kicking around in the dust there, and about that much of the guy's big toe was there. And that kind of made me sick. And, uh, another time, we was moving pretty fast when this happened, I mean making fifty mile leaps, and, uh, (?) said the Seers put a bazooka shell into a tank. They was repairing their track and this guy that he was, it was hopeless, he wasn't going to get anything out anyhow. They, his buddies, ran that guy down, and they didn't kill him outright, they beat him to death. Oh, he, there wasn't an inch on his body that wasn't black or blue, and that kind of got under your skin too. That smell, when they, when they fired into a tank, of course all that ammunition stuff burnt. Smell you never forget, if you've ever smelt burning flesh. AHD, let's see, well, anyway, after, after Anzio, we went to St. Maxine, France. We went up the old Napoleon Highway to (epinole?), and from (Epinole?) we went on into, into the Sare area and Alcase-Lorraine and, uh, in Alcaisse-Lorraine, we did a lot of deer hunting. There was the seven of us that, we was all sharp shooters or better, and we'd get enough rabbits or deer to feed 84 men. And, uh, we got to bringing that stuff back to the for the cook to louse up. (?) as we called it. Then we kind of wised up a bit. We'd take them to the civilian population and they'd fix a big meal, and we'd, they'd furnish the the other stuff. We'd furnish the deer or, in fact, one time, we ran into nine wild hogs and, uh, we was all sharp shooters or better, we had double clips in our carbines, and we probably killed every hog there. But they all got away, all but one, and that was some of the sweetest meat I ever ate. You could take a bite of that pork and it would just melt in your mouth. But, uh, I that's something I'd never want to, go wild boar hunting by myself, unless I could get up in a tree and shoot 'em. We, we, they're wicked. Uh, well, after Alcaisse-Lorraine, let me see Alcaisse-Lorraine, we went up the old Napoleon Highway to Alcaisse-Lorraine and, uh, first landed in southern france, uh, there was a convoy of Germans that the air, air force had caught 'em in the road, and just as far as your eye could see there was trucks burning up, all along the way. You know the air force caught them and blew them away. Uh, when, when we landed on Salarmo, I remember seeing the boats just as far as the eye could see, and them big boats coming in there. Italy had surrendered an, uh, but the Germans hadn't. Anyway, after Alscasse-Lorraine we went on into, well, we, at one time, we was closer to Berlin. The, the Indian boys vowed to do a war dance in Berlin, course politics took over then. The Russians got to go in and take Berlin, but at one time we was closer than any other outfit, in, in force. We was always on the (?) front line, was whenever an American plane would come over, we would look up and see the German ack-ack. You know, the black smoke from it. We would be sticking out on the point. We'd punch a hole and keep on moving. Then the other divisions would move in behind us and keep the Germans from doing any advancing or cutting us off. We had about every kind of training there was here in the States.
th: Hit her again. Oh is it on?
ab: It's on.
th: Uh, well, after, when we was that close to Berlin, turned around took Munich and Munberguh, when I went through (?). There was twenty-two box cars full of, uh, Jews that had been beat to death and starved to death. You could look at them bodies and you couldn't even think of being human beings. Big pot belly, you know, and nothing but loose skin around the bones. But, when our Indian boys seen that, uh, they went berserk and went to killing civilians and everybody they met on the street. That's when we got pulled off, out of the war and we were stationed in Munich, uh, Strasmussin, I think they called it, suburb of Munich, not Munich, (pause) hum, yea I'm mixed up now. E nd of the Audobon anyhow, wherever that, what was that. I never could remember the names of them towns over there. They're awful hard to remember, but anyway that's where the war ended for me. Then we took the displaced people back to Yugoslavia, and, uh, we come back to get another load and they had beat us back. Well it's kind of dumb, but that's about all I got for you. That enough?
ab: That's okay. Wha, what did you do for fun before the war and what was your social life like?
th: Oh boy, before the war well, right before, right before, I, I had a Hudson Straight Eight Sports Convertible. With a, I ran around with a barber from west Marion and, uh, we'd put a thousand miles a week on that and never get out of Grant county. So, so you can figure out from that about what we were doing.
ab: Did you do, did you do much fun stuff like that after the war or...
th: No, no. After the war, I come back and went back to work at the shoe factory, and I worked at the shoe factory, well I had thirteen years seniority at the shoe factory, and, uh, I went up to La Porte and tried to, they tried to start an athletic shoe, tried to start a place up there. Guy had a million dollars. (Cough) I'm about done. Had a million bucks and he was goin invest in that and he tried to take people off the street and make shoe workers out of them, and you just can't do that. It takes a couple of years to learn some of them jobs.
th: But, uh, then I came back here and went to work at the Anaconda and I worked there for thirty years. Operated about every machine that was in the Anaconda.
th: See that was the that was the car I had after I got back. Here's another, got back, look at them leggings, all them.
th: I never did drop on a foot march lot of people.
ab: Did you did you take many marches.
th: Yea, every day, twenty-five mile. That was most of our training foot marches. And the best, best part of the training was when we took about a six hundred pound log and got six men on either side of it, and we did calisthenics with it. Course you had to do it by the numbers, see, and everybody had to do their part or you couldn't get it done. That was to teach you cordinat... Here's a picture of me over in Italy. Here's a picture of Olive at the up in the mountains at, uh, Fort Sills, when she come up and seen me. That's the Mammoth Cave. A lot of these are just family pictures. I took a picture of an air raid when we was in, on, uh, Anzio, and the photographer, when I brought it back to the States, the photographer said there wasn't nothing on them but spots. Them 50 caliber had a tracer every fourth one, there was a tracer, and them spots he seen was, was artillery shells goin' off. But, uh, that's Olive's Aunt Florence. She lost a boy in that war. This is Olive and me. Does that look like Olive?
ab: Did you have much family that was in the war?
th: No, just my, my uncle, was in World War One, and my Step-Dad, this is my Step-Dad, he was Spanish-American. This is Hope Liton, Stan Evans, and me, of course. There's a circus in town. Well, I think that's about all the war pictures. I was a sharp- shooter. I did a lot of practice practicing when I was about twelve or thirteen years old. I shot my initials in the, with a bb gun. a pump gun. you know. shot my initials in the back of the garage when we lived on Boots Street. We used to practice shooting, we used to put a bean down close as from here to that chair, see, and the idea wasn't to hit the bean, it was to hit between the bean and the ground. It takes a little skill to do that, believe me. Can't hit side of a barn now.
ab: Huh. So that's what, that's what they trained you in was sharp shooting there?
ab: So that's what they trained you in was sharp shooting there? In the war they trained you as a sharp shooter?
th: Yea, uh, but, no, no. Uh, had to, uh, some of the training I had, one was dist, dismantling land mines. They'd booby trap them land mines, so they, they'd have you to take one out course it wasn't. They had (cough) stick of dinamite in there. If you made a mistake why that dinamite went off, of course it would blow straight up. Didn't hurt you but you got dirt throwed all over you. Oh, we had a lot of good training. We'd crawl under barb wire with them firing 50 calibers, 30, 30 calibers machine gun over the top. That taught you to keep your rear end down.
ab: Did anybody ever get hit doing that?
th: I don't think so. This is my first car when I came back. I had two cars when I left, Chrysler, '38 Chrysler, and a '36 Plymouth.
ab: How old were you, were you when you went into the war?
th: Uh-huh. Just, just a kid. That's my father-in-law. Well, uh. Picture of Olive on that pony. (?) that was Olive's, (pause) nephew or. Little bit of snow there. Uh, here's a picture of me. I think that was in Paris, but I'm not sure. This, this is me when I worked at the shoe factory.
ab: Where's the shoe factory located at?
th: You know where Folkies Tavern is?
th: You know that empty lot off, between it and the river?
th: That's where it was.
ab: Oh, that's where it was at.
th: Yea, it was a three or four story building .
ab: What was the name of it?
th: Well, it was Daly Brothers Shoe and then it, uh, then Godwins bought it. No, I think they bought it for a, it, you, real estate investment. They talked the empl, the Daly Brothers sold anybody out. They spent about twenty-thousand dollars on the elevator and the employees owned the building. They had stock in it, and you could get your money through the credit union, for the stock you had, you could borrow money against it. It was a good deal, but, uh, Godwins made you believe that it was going to cost you some money. You could hav, you could have rented it for a year, for, for storage space for a year, and got more than the eight-thousand dollars that they gave the employees for it. well, they, they was wanting to make a real estate deal, actually.
ab: So did you enjoy working there?
th: Yea, I a, I liked working at the shoe factory, I didn't like the supervision, it a...
ab: Was lacking?
ab: Was Lacking?
th: Yea, it a, no glory to be had. I remember when I first came back, they had a roll about that big around they used to, uh,... (end of tape)