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Interview with Edward Wallace Hopkins [Undated]

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

My name's Edward Hopkins. I was born on a farm in a farmhouse between Brewster and Carmel in Putnam County, upstate New York. I --

Martha E. Hopkins:

When?

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

May 24th, 1916. I was working on.

Martha E. Hopkins:

Tell them what unit.

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

Hum?

Martha E. Hopkins:

What unit were you in?

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

I was in the -- in combat in the 411th gun battalion, triple A in Patton's Third Army. I -- when the war broke out or Pearl Harbor came on, I was working at Pratt and Whitney, and when my first draft notice came, I was -- took it to my boss to make sure he knew that I was being called up, and he said well, we'll get you a deferment, because we made aircraft engines, and I was in the parts department, storage, where we kept the parts for the engines until they were needed on the assembly floor. So I accepted the first deferment, and about six months later, I got another draft notice, and I took that in to him to tell him that I was going to have to leave, and he offered another deferment, and I said no because when I went home, I felt peculiar walking up and down the streets and being around where my friends used to be, and I was about the only able-bodied person in civilian clothes. So I told him not to do it, so he didn't. And I was called up in February of 1943. And when we went to New York City to the induction center, I was put in charge of the group because I had had former military experience in the Reserves. But I was not in the Reserves when war broke out. I finished my enlistment and had not reenlisted. So I was the group commander of the group that was being inducted at Grand Central terminal in the office building at Grand Central terminal is where the induction center was. And we went through that, and we were all shipped over to Fort Dix in New Jersey, which was the center for actually being sworn in and receiving our Army clothes and they took all our civilian clothes and packed them up and sent them home for us. From then on, we wore only Army clothes. And then from there, we were dispersed to different camps, and my group was sent to Camp Croft, South Carolina, Spartanburg, which is in the northwest part of South Carolina. And it was a pretty nice camp, although we didn't think so at the time for basic training. We were in those nice, big double barracks, upstairs and downstairs barracks, and it was a really nice laid out camp, and we were told that the people, the cadre, who had been a different camp, that this was a country club of the Army. It's kind of hard to believe when you're going through the -- through the basic training, which is nine weeks of basic training. And they really work you hard. But I didn't have too bad a time because of my previous experience, and after the first three weeks, they made me squad leader, which helped some because then I didn't have to do as many -- I didn't have to do as much KP, and I didn't have to do guard duty. But they didn't give me the stripes, which I was really entitled to a corporal's stripes, but they said it was not an official Noncom place. It was just temporary during basic training. At the end of our basic training, I was held over for OCS, officer's training school, in Fort Benning, Florida -- Fort Benning, Georgia, excuse me. And so I was held over and held over, and finally, Captain Hazard of the company I was in, I was in the Company B, which was a communications company, and we had -- we took code work and operation of the key, code key, and receiving code and also radiocommunications. We used trucks that had radio, big radios in them for communication in the field, we practiced doing that and maneuvers, and we also had field generators, which one person would work and you would sit on a little seat and turn it like this as though it was a grindstone, and that would produce enough electricity to run the radio. And then we also had the walkie-talkie radio. So my spec -- spec was as a communications private. Well, after we finished our basic training, we -- I was held over that day and just kind of hung around the barracks for a while, and finally Captain Adder called me, and he said Private Hopkins, we just can't have soldiers just lolling around not doing anything. He said I'm going to have to work you into something while you're waiting, and I said that's fine with me. I don't -- I didn't really want to just not do anything anyway. So he put me in the supply room helping the supply sergeant during the summer. And my orders just never came in to go to Fort Benning, and I just stayed around working in the supply --

Martha E. Hopkins:

Why did your orders not come in? Do you know?

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

We never found out.

Martha E. Hopkins:

Was it no --

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

We don't know.

Martha E. Hopkins:

Was it there was no --

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

Every week or so, I'd go up to the captain, and I'd say Captain Hazard, have you heard anything yet, and he said no. He said I'm sorry, we have not heard a thing. I said well, should I be assigned to something for real? He said well, my hands are tied, I can't do anything until I get orders from Headquarters.

Martha E. Hopkins:

The orders never came?

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

They never came.

Martha E. Hopkins:

You never were able to find out, huh? There were no --

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

We never -- we never did find out what happened.

Martha E. Hopkins:

There was no chain of anything that you could do?

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

No. So about September, he said I'm going to -- I'm going to send you to Noncom school. He said we have a good one here at Camp Croft, and he said I'm going to send you to that and have you assigned permanently until something comes through. I said that's fine, be glad to do it. So I went to Noncom school, and when I came out of that, they made me a corporal and part of the training cadre in the company. I actually trained another troop in communications. And I did that until about January of '44, and then the orders came through to transfer me to Camp Blanding, Florida, and I said well -- when the captain called me in and told me that they were going to transfer me to Florida, I said well, what about this OCS business? Will they lose track of me completely if I'm down there? And he said well, I'm sorry, I can't tell you anything other than that, that your orders have come through to be transferred as training cadre to Camp Blanding, Florida, which is about forty miles southwest of Jacksonville. So -- I forgot to say that I had my car with me by that time. When I got assigned to Camp Croft as a permanent cadre, I wrote my dad and said well, I'm here, I might as well have the use of my car. And he said well, we'll bring it down to you. I said well, you're not going to be able to get enough gas. Well, he said, I'll find a way. So he and my mother came down and brought the car down to Camp Croft for me.

Martha E. Hopkins:

Do you know how he got the gas?

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

He didn't -- he didn't want to say. He said well, I've got some friends who gave me some extra coupons. And he -- he got it down to Camp Croft for me.

Martha E. Hopkins:

Were you able to get any --

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

And by that time, I had some friends in town, and -- and they kind of helped me through ration things. Apparently, ration -- some ration things were not as hard to find or get -- come -- come by as some people would let you believe.

Martha E. Hopkins:

Did you -- did you ever have trouble getting gas for your car for local use?

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

No. I didn't -- well, I didn't use that much. I only went into town once or twice a week and -- now, where were we?

Martha E. Hopkins:

You were -- you were going to Camp Blanding?

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

Going to Camp Blanding.

Martha E. Hopkins:

Did you drive down there?

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

Well, don't get too far ahead of me. I told Captain Hazard, I said well, I've got my car here, should I drive it to Camp Blanding? He said sure. He said we can arrange for that. He said the only thing is you can't go by yourself, you've got to have another person go with you. Well, by that time I'd made friends with some of the other cadres, and Corporal Dale, who was from Boone, North Carolina, was a pretty good friend of mine, and I asked him if he could ride with me, and he said sure, he'd -- he'd be glad to do that. So I told the captain yes, I have a passenger who's also being transferred, and he knew Corporal Dale, too. He said that will be fine. He said we won't have any trouble getting you the gas coupons and giving you the money that you'll need to drive down there. He said you'll have to spend the night probably one night down somewhere. So that's what we did. We drove down to Savannah, Georgia, and stayed at the Ponce de Leon hotel. And the army footed the bill for that and the transportation, and we arrived at Camp Blanding the next afternoon and reported in. And we were assigned to Company D, 224th battalion as training cadre, and this was in January of '44.

Martha E. Hopkins:

So how long were you there in all?

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

So we were there, training cadre, from January until October of '44. Well, by that time, D-Day had taken place, of course, in June.

Martha E. Hopkins:

Uh-huh.

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

And I can remember the captain, Captain Herschberger, the name was.

Martha E. Hopkins:

Excuse me just one minute. So what you were doing, you were training people to send them over to be ready for D-Day?

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

We were training trainees.

Martha E. Hopkins:

___.

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

Every night we'd get in a new batch of trainees.

Martha E. Hopkins:

For basic training?

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

For basic training and communications training.

Martha E. Hopkins:

Now, were you a sergeant by then?

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

Yes. I made sergeant in either the end of February or the beginning of March '44. Captain made four of us sergeants. Corporal Dale was one of them. He also made sergeant. And, well, that's what we did in -- in Camp Blanding -- yeah, Camp Blanding, we trained new recruits to go into combat. I was really a, what you call nowadays a DI, a drill instructor.

Martha E. Hopkins:

Uh-huh.

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

And we really -- we really trained them down there. And that was a hot place. Now, we did not have the double barracks down there. We just had the single story barracks.

Martha E. Hopkins:

Was it not as nice a camp as --

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

It was not as nice a camp as Camp -- Camp Croft, no, although it was built around a real nice lake and a real nice place to swim, and our -- our company was only about two hundred yards from the beach on that lake. And then having a car, I could get into Jacksonville once in a while and also go over to St. Augustine on Sundays and sometimes even Saturdays and Sundays, which was real nice. That was a nice beach and interesting place, too.

Martha E. Hopkins:

Uh-huh.

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

Well, about -- of course, we'd already had D-Day, and we figured it wasn't going to be long before they were going to start breaking up from the camps and using the personnel, and sure enough, along about October, they -- we got orders to get -- be prepared to be shipped out to various places. And I was sent to Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri. Well, you want to know about your mother?

Martha E. Hopkins:

No, no.

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

How she came into this?

Martha E. Hopkins:

No. I want to know more about your combat and your experience. I mean, you can say -- you can say something about it if you want to.

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

Well, I met your mother, my wife, at Camp Croft, and I did -- was able to get a couple of three day passes to go up to see her.

Martha E. Hopkins:

Uh-huh.

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

Went by train, of course, from Jacksonville to Spartanburg. There was a train that ran right on up through there on the -- part of the Southern railroad and part of the Atlantic coastline.

Martha E. Hopkins:

Uh-huh.

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

And then when I got my orders to go to Fort Leonard Wood, they also gave me a two-week furlough, and I went home to Carmel. By the way, I had already sold my car. As soon as I got the orders, I put my car up for sale on -- on the bulletin board, and it got snapped up within two or three days, right away. A dentist that -- that I had -- that had treated my teeth bought the car. So I went home for furlough, and I was going to go to Fort Leonard Wood with a fellow that I had met in his car, and so I came back -- and we were going to leave from Asheville, North Carolina.

Martha E. Hopkins:

Well, why did you sell the car right away when you weren't going over right away?

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

Well, they said this was -- this was the way you started going overseas. I knew I was going overseas.

Martha E. Hopkins:

Uh-huh.

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

They pretty much told me that.

Martha E. Hopkins:

Uh-huh.

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

Said we don't know for sure where you're going to go, but you are going to go to camps that ship overseas.

Martha E. Hopkins:

Uh-huh. So you were shipped --

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

And one of them is Fort Leonard Wood.

Martha E. Hopkins:

So you were shipped over from Fort Leonard Wood to Europe? I mean, how did you --

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

Well, no, you're getting ahead of my story.

Martha E. Hopkins:

All right. Okay. Well, all right. Now, what -- how did -- what happened?

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

I went to -- I came back down and spent a few days in Spartanburg to see my girlfriend. By then, we were engaged. That's right. We were engaged by then. So she drove me up to Asheville to meet this other person who was going to drive, and we -- we drove -- said our goodbyes and started driving, and we spent the night in St. Louis, Missouri, and then the next day drove down to Fort Leonard Wood. Well, I was at Fort Leonard Wood for a couple of weeks and didn't -- didn't do much of anything, and then I got my orders -- I thought well, Fort Leonard Wood, I was headed toward the Pacific.

Martha E. Hopkins:

Uh-huh.

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

And I thought oh, my goodness, I'm going to the Pacific.

Martha E. Hopkins:

That was scarier than going to Europe?

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

Well, yes, in a way it -- yes, it was. And most of us -- most of us felt that way, that we would rather go to Europe if we had to go.

Martha E. Hopkins:

Why was that? Because the Europeans were more on your value system than the Japanese or --

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

Well, probably that was in the back of our mind a little bit.

Martha E. Hopkins:

The weather --

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

The weather, we just --

Martha E. Hopkins:

Tropical as opposed to --

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

It didn't appeal to most of us.

Martha E. Hopkins:

Yeah.

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

And you're right, we -- we felt that the Japanese were more uncivilized, I guess.

Martha E. Hopkins:

Uh-huh.

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

And but anyway, when I got to Fort Leonard Wood and spent the two weeks there and nothing happened, then all of a sudden we got my orders to go to Fort Meade, Maryland.

Martha E. Hopkins:

Uh-huh.

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

Between Washington and Baltimore.

Martha E. Hopkins:

Uh-huh, uh-huh.

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

Then we thought well, we're going the other way.

Martha E. Hopkins:

Uh-huh.

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

And sure enough, when we got to Fort Meade, Maryland, they started outfitting us with ODs, the --

Martha E. Hopkins:

What's that?

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

The wool uniforms, the heavy wool winter uniforms.

Martha E. Hopkins:

Uh-huh.

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

And up to then, during the summertime, we had always had the suntans, we called them suntans, the light colored cotton uniforms.

Martha E. Hopkins:

Right.

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

At Fort Meade, I spent about two weeks there, and then they put us on the train, and we went on up north and wound up at Fort Mile Standish or Camp Mile Standish. I believe it was Camp Mile Standish outside of Taunton, Massachusetts.

Martha E. Hopkins:

Uh-huh.

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

And we spent probably about a week there. And then they put us on a train down -- and took us into Boston to a place called Commonwealth Pier, got us off the train and lined us up there on the pier, and there beside the pier was this great, big ship. It was the United States -- the old United States America, which was the largest ship that the United States had in its group of ships. It was a regular oceanliner, but not as big as the Queen Mary or any of those, but it was big. They claim there was about twenty-five thousand of us on that ship. And we started out at Boston Harbor by ourselves, no convoy, no warships around us or anything. And the crew said well, this ship can outrun anything that -- that they can put up there. The only way they could catch us was to be lucky enough to meet us out there somewhere and see us. But we had to follow a zigzag course. We changed course every so many miles so that it would be hard for a German ship to track us. And we went all the way across alone, and we landed in Liverpool in the morning and got off that ship. They loaded us up --

Martha E. Hopkins:

Tell -- tell me about the crossing. What was the crossing like? Was it -- was it rough?

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

Well, the crossing was a little rough for two or three days.

Martha E. Hopkins:

Were you -- were you seasick?

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

I didn't get seasick right away, but then so many of the other guys got sick in the -- in the places where we ate -- we ate standing up at metal tables, and you went through the chow line and -- with the trays and got your food like in a cafeteria, and you ate standing up, and of course, some of the guys that got sick upchucked, and it was hard to keep the dining room clean and the stairways clean. Gangways I guess they call them on ships. And so after a day of that and the ship began to start smelling, that odor is enough to make you sick even if the ship wasn't rolling. So yes, I got -- I got pretty seasick there for a day or two.

Martha E. Hopkins:

This was in November that you were going, wasn't it ___?

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

Yes. November was more of a stormy type of thing, too.

Martha E. Hopkins:

What kind of places to sleep did you have on the ship?

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

We had these big, metal frames with sort of springs in them, flat springs, and a mattress about so thick on it, and then our blankets. We had, of course, carried our own blankets, and that was it. And they were -- they were stacked in the old -- the bottom part of the ship, they were stacked six to eight high. And when you got in, you had to grab ahold of the bunk ahead of you and swing yourself in because there was only about that much space. And if there was a heavy guy above you and he sagged down, you didn't have much space between you and him -- and he -- him. It was close quarters. It was very close quarters. And, of course, they had latrines fixed up on each deck where you shaved and did your things you had to do. But it was close quarters, and there were a lot of irritated incidents among the fellows from time to time. I didn't get into any of those, but some people got into some real tassels.

Martha E. Hopkins:

And how did you spend your time on the ship?

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

Well, watching the ocean in the daytime, sitting downstairs around your bunk and talking to different fellows, some of them played cards, or you read. That was about it. Wasn't much entertainment, no Broadway shows.

Martha E. Hopkins:

Yeah.

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

No orchestras, dance orchestras or anything. There were women on the ship. They were WACs and -- and nurses.

Martha E. Hopkins:

Uh-huh.

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

In some parts of the ship. There was no -- no intermingling.

Martha E. Hopkins:

Yeah.

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

Well, we landed in Liverpool, and ___+ they take off the ship, and they put us on British trains, and we were on that train for three days. We had no idea where we were going, or it looked like we were headed south, and we finally got to Southampton.

Martha E. Hopkins:

Now, why were you on a train for three days and you left -- it's not that far.

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

Well, they just kind of -- I know.

Martha E. Hopkins:

Did they -- they keep stopping the train to let other trains run?

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

Kept stopping, put us in our side tracks and things. Those trains weren't -- weren't bad. We had beds in them. They were stacked up a couple of layers, but -- but they were very comfortable. They had nice places to go to the john, and they fed us pretty good, pretty well. They were -- they were real nice, smooth running trains, but as I say, we got pretty tired of being on them and stopping and going. And I suppose they were --

Martha E. Hopkins:

Uh-huh. You never got off? They never -- you never -- they never stopped long enough for you to get off and walk around?

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

Yes, you could get off and walk up and down the tracks a little bit, but you couldn't get very far from the train because you never knew when it was going to say all aboard, we're leaving.

Martha E. Hopkins:

Yeah.

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

We got to Southampton and unloaded there from the train and walked out on this dock, and they put my group on this British ship. Back then we called it the limey ship. I don't know whether that's very complimentary or not. And we had hammocks. I don't know if -- if you've never slept in a hammock, they're pretty comfortable, and they worked great on a ship because when the ship rolled, the hammock rolls with it.

Martha E. Hopkins:

Uh-huh.

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

They do very well on a ship. They're very comfortable. Of course, we ate British food on that. And they didn't have any fresh water on it for bathing. We had to bathe in salt water. They did have fresh water for drinking. And we land -- went across the channel, landed at LaHavre -- I'm sorry. We -- we anchored off of LaHavre, and we went down the rope -- they weren't ladders. Some people think you went down a rope ladder, but they were a big rope, they stretched all across -- all the way almost the length of the ship, and they were just woven mats, and you just climbed down those onto the landing craft. And after a landing craft would get about thirty or thirty-five fellows in it and their gear, they would take off and go to the beach and let the front flap down, and you just walked off.

Martha E. Hopkins:

By then, I guess the Germans were inland, and so it wasn't --

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

Yeah.

Martha E. Hopkins:

-- dangerous getting out on the beach?

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

They were up around Paris by then, the -- the front lines were up around Paris. This was in, let's see, the end of November.

Martha E. Hopkins:

'44? End of November '44?

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

'44, yeah. And we knew that we were going to be replacements for different units. We were not going as a unit, but we were going to be -- replaced personnel in the various units that were already in action. Of course, we didn't know which one.

Martha E. Hopkins:

How did you find that out?

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

I didn't find it out until I -- until I got assigned.

Martha E. Hopkins:

Well, when did you get assigned?

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

Well, it was probably about two weeks after they landed.

Martha E. Hopkins:

So what did you do for those two weeks?

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

Because -- well, we went up -- we marched up this steep road to a plateau on top of the beach, and we went into a camp named after one of the cigarette companies, cigarettes. I can't remember whether it was Lucky Strike or Chesterfield or -- or which one it was. There were several camps up on top of this cliff named for cigarettes. They were -- cigarettes were not as despised as they seem to be now.

Martha E. Hopkins:

Uh-huh.

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

And we stayed there just a couple of days, and they put us on a rickety, old train, the old boxcars, the -- those four-wheeled boxcars called forty and eight where they had forty men or eight horses in them.

Martha E. Hopkins:

Uh-huh.

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

They didn't transfer many horses anymore, mostly hauled men because they didn't use horses much. And we went to a place called Compiegne -- Battery A of the 411th gun battalion triple A in my combat service. Now, the guns we had were 90-millimeter cannon. That was our main armament, which we used to shoot down planes primarily, although it could be used for an added tank gun, too. And then our secondary armament were the 50-caliber machine gun quads. There were four machine guns mounted on electrically operated turret, and the operator sat inside this turret to operate the gun and also operate the turret. It could swivel 350 degrees. It could also elevate and lower the -- the aiming device. And we used that against airplanes, and it could also be used against ground troops. Oh, you had to be very careful on your -- your field of fire because if you swung around too quickly -- remember, there were four machine guns and four guns. Now, the guns were grouped in the center around the radar and the arming devices, and the machine guns were out on the perimeter of our position. And if you weren't careful, you could cut down your own troops very quickly with that if you swung around and aimed in the wrong direction.

Martha E. Hopkins:

How many people operated each gun?

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

Each -- each large gun?

Martha E. Hopkins:

Uh-huh.

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

I really don't know. I didn't really know how many were on each gun. I presume there must have been seven or eight.

Martha E. Hopkins:

How many were on yours?

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

There were four on each one of our machine gun, and we were on duty two hours on and six hours off. But we were on duty actually 24 hours because we stayed right at the position.

Martha E. Hopkins:

How did -- where did you ___+?

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

But one person was on the -- the earphone. Every position was linked to the central command post by wires and the earphone so that we knew -- everybody knew what all of us were doing and we got our orders from the captain over the central command.

Martha E. Hopkins:

That's in radio or was that through wire?

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

No, it was wire communication. The central command had a radio. But each position only had wire communication. They had to lay the wires and --

Martha E. Hopkins:

Now, what was the -- the scariest incident that happened to you in ___.

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

Well, I guess the scariest one was the position where we were guarding the temporary airport outside of Luxembourg. It was Patton's, General Patton's primary airport, and also, it was an emergency airport for the Air Force. And we had these planes coming in that were all shot up, and sometimes there would even be airmen hanging out of the turrets and out of the windows and things.

Martha E. Hopkins:

Injured and dead?

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

Injured or dead. And the worst incident was this B-17 came in right over our position where my machine gun was, and we thought it was going to crash, but it did make it over the little slight rise and onto the airfield, and it sounded like it sat down all right, so we thought it was okay. And then there's this tremendous explosion, and we couldn't see the exact plane because it was over -- over the rise from our view, but you could see the results of the explosion, things flying every which way up in the air. And if that thing had hit us, it would have really wiped us out. There were other planes coming in, and that -- and then we did have some action there, too. Some of the German planes trying to get us out of there or blow up that field so it couldn't be used. So we did have some action there. And then the next one -- the first one really was in Metz where I joined the outfit. That's where I became their replacement. And I was really put in the communications section first, but they already had a communications sergeant, and that was my spec number. Spec number in the Army is a number assigned to each type of occupation, and that was my spec number was a communications sergeant, so I knew I probably wasn't going to stay in that communications section very long. I didn't know that they had a -- any other vacancies. But the first or second night in Metz, I was in the -- I was on duty in the communications room, and I could hear over the earphones that they were preparing the guns, big guns for action, and sure enough, they started firing, and they said something about firing at certain planes, they called off the planes, and I couldn't remember what they said, but something about different planes. And then one of the fellows on the radar said and he's dropping windows. Well, what do they mean dropping the windows? Why would they drop the windows of the plane? And I found out the next day that windows meant -- the British called it chaff, and it's aluminum strips, three or four feet long, and they wiggle, they come down through the air and they wiggle, and they send all kinds of reflections off and they're supposed to distort the radar so that you can't fire at them. Well, the fellow said it didn't bother them. They -- they knew where the plane was. They could tell which blippers was the plane. And they shot down a couple German planes then. The machine guns did not go into action that time. At night -- of course, you did have tracer bullets. Every fifth bullet was a tracer, but we couldn't reach them as high as they were, not with machine guns.

Martha E. Hopkins:

What was your most dangerous situation you were in? That one at the airfield?

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

I suppose the one at the airfield was really the most dangerous.

Martha E. Hopkins:

Did the Germans fire at you all the time? Were you under fire?

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

I believe we were, yeah. And then, too, at night in that position, you could look off to the northeast and the whole sky was lit up, and it was just one boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, one right after the other, just the artillery on the front lines was just firing steadily all night long, they just fired steadily. And but every day, that seemed to get a little bit further away and a little less light at night so that the front lines were moving on towards the Germans, into Germany.

Martha E. Hopkins:

So were you usually behind the front lines?

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

Yeah, when I was with them, yes. Now, when they were down in France and when they first landed, they -- they were in the action right there. Somehow I missed the -- I did miss the most action that the battalion was in, I have to admit that. But at Metz, we were on the southern edge of the Ardennes, which is called the Battle of the Bulge, and we did move up, as I say, into Lexington -- to Luxembourg as the Battle of the Bulge quieted down and got over with.

Martha E. Hopkins:

What do you remember about the Battle of the Bulge?

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

Well, just that, moving up toward Luxembourg. And somewhere in there is where I was taken out of the communications room and was assigned to machine gun sergeant, head of the machine gun section.

Martha E. Hopkins:

Did you have any training in that?

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

Not much. In basic training, we had -- we had some training on the 50-caliber machine gun, but it was only one gun, and it was mounted on a turret on a truck. And if -- you were in kind of a -- a saddle that went around your back from the machine gun, and you kind of leaned back against that saddle or hook and fired the machine gun from that position. It was mounted, as I say, on this ring. It could be swivelled around some. But that was on a -- a large six-by-six truck. But really, I had -- the fellows that were already on the machine gun had to train me. The only thing I had going for me was I had the rank, and they had to use me somewhere, and that's where they used me.

Martha E. Hopkins:

Uh-huh.

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

But the machine gun fellows are all pretty good guys. And I was bunked with three other fellows. One was a Maine/Canadian mixture. He could speak French, and he was really a good, good gunner. He knew that gun. He knew how to take it apart and keep it clean and oiled, and he did that a lot. He was always working on those guns. And the other was a mountaineer from West Virginia called Brooks. He was kind of a comedian, a funny guy. And then there was Walt Goodman who was from the Tennessee mountains, and when he was inducted -- I guess this was kind of funny. I don't know it's the funniest thing. But he said when he was inducted, they asked him what he did for a living. He said I'm a bootlegger. And the induction people said well, we can't put that down on your induction sheet -- paper. And they said can't you give us something else? He said well, no, you asked me what I did, and I said well, bootlegger, and that's what I did. I used to sell moonshine, whiskey. He said I'm being honest with you. That's what I did. So they made him a machine gunner.

Martha E. Hopkins:

Yeah. Yeah. And when you say you bunked with people, what did you -- what was -- what did that mean? What was your bunk?

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

We did have those collapsible canvas bunks because we were mechanized, our outfit, we had trucks and things, and we could carry more stuff around. So I guess we lived a little bit better than -- than some guys. But at about -- well, the machine gun replacement came first. You always dug in your machine gun first and backed the trailer down into that. And then back about five or six feet, you dug a placement for yourself, for your place.

Martha E. Hopkins:

Was it ___+?

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

About three feet down into the ground. And then we had a frame, a wood frame that would fold up that we made -- I didn't, the guys that were there before me made, and they could stretch that over their stove, and we could line up four bunks and then have a space by the foot of the bunk where we had a little stove and a little table. And that was about it.

Martha E. Hopkins:

What, did you stretch something, a tent over the frame?

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

We stretched this big canvas tarp over the frame so that -- and we were down in the ground about, as I say, about three feet.

Martha E. Hopkins:

So how did you -- did you have to dig those?

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

So we had -- we had some cover.

Martha E. Hopkins:

Uh-huh. Did you dig those with shovels?

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

Yeah, we dug them with shovels, sure. Yeah. And they say it's nice to have three stripes, but I'll tell you, when you're in combat, you better help the guy do it, too. A stripe don't mean anything about getting out of work. You better join in with the work if you're going to have your guys with you.

Martha E. Hopkins:

Uh-huh. Uh-huh.

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

And so it was cold. It was very cold, but of course, we had that little tiny stove about so big and --

Martha E. Hopkins:

What did it --

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

And that was one thing you could do. You had to have the earphones on when you were on duty for your two hours on six hours off, and they would play music. The AFN, American Forces Network had a radio station set up. And the other armies think that the Americans are spoiled, and I guess they are because they brought everything with them. And like -- like a radio. And they played '40s and -- '30s and '40s music over the radio when they weren't using it for business.

Martha E. Hopkins:

Uh-huh.

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

And another thing that kind of kept you company was feeding little sticks of wood into that little pot stove to keep the whole place warm.

Martha E. Hopkins:

Uh-huh.

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

And it -- we did have some privation, of course, especially when I -- before I got really assigned, those couple of weeks that I spent kind of travelling around northeastern -- northwestern France, and they didn't know whether -- apparently didn't know what they were going to do with us. Boy, we were in some real cold situations there and eating cold food. But once you got set up with your permanent assignment, we -- we started having hot meals. They would set up the kitchen right away and cook hot meals for us.

Martha E. Hopkins:

Uh-huh.

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

We did -- we did pretty well once we got settled into the 411th. But when you're travelling around, you don't know when you're going to eat, when you're not, where you're going to put your sleeping bag down for the night. About one week there we slept in an old cow barn. It smelled. Whoo, it smelled. But we did have hay to put our -- our sleeping bags on.

Martha E. Hopkins:

Now, why -- why were you shuffling around like that? Why didn't --

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

Apparently, they didn't know what to do with us, it felt like. It felt like well, they don't really know where they want us. So it really was a relief to get assigned to a permanent company.

Martha E. Hopkins:

Right, yeah. Now, tell me what places, what battles your company was in besides the Bulge.

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

{Cough.} Excuse me. Well, they were in --

Martha E. Hopkins:

No, where you were.

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

Where I was. Well, Battle of the Bulge, the Rhineland, crossing the Rhine. We went across on a pontoon boat -- pontoon bridges.

Martha E. Hopkins:

Where? Where did you cross?

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

Somewhere around Mainz, and from Mainz we went up into -- across the river into the heights above Frankfurt, and we were in a position there. And we were subject to artillery fire there. I remember some shells coming into our position and around our position. But we were using the old German positions there, and they were pretty well dug in. They had a concrete place for you to stay and a concrete place to put our machine gun already set up, and we just used those, which was not a very smart idea because the Germans knew the coordinates of those positions.

Martha E. Hopkins:

Knew where you were, yeah.

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

And I thought afterward -- I didn't think about it at the time, but I thought after that was a pretty dumb thing to do, but that's where we were told to be, so.

Martha E. Hopkins:

Well, by that time, were the Germans, you said ___ so it probably didn't matter?

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

I think that they felt like the Germans probably couldn't do much to us anyway, but -- but it only takes one shell.

Martha E. Hopkins:

That's right.

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

It hits the right position. (BREAK IN VIDEO.)

Martha E. Hopkins:

-- very many Germans during all this time?

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

Oh, saw a lot of them marching to the -- our rear.

Martha E. Hopkins:

Were people taken as prisoners?

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

There were prisoners, yeah.

Martha E. Hopkins:

Uh-huh.

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

I really never got very close to the front lines to really identify a German and get him in my sight, so I don't know whether -- whether we ever killed any Germans or not.

Martha E. Hopkins:

Uh-huh.

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

We didn't have to fire an awful lot after we got -- got across the river.

Martha E. Hopkins:

Did you shoot down any planes?

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

I don't -- not -- not then. We did later, but from there, we -- we got on -- when we were ordered to move out of Frankfurt, we got on the autobohn and started -- we were really headed for Berlin, and suddenly, we stopped somewhere around a town called Erfurt -- Erfurt.

Martha E. Hopkins:

Uh-huh.

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

Which later was just over the border in East Germany when they started dividing the thing. And we stopped on the autobohn and just -- just stayed there for a couple days. And one of the officers said the old man is mad as hell.

Martha E. Hopkins:

He means Patton?

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

Meaning Patton. And we said well, why, Lieutenant, what's he mad about? He said he wants to go to Berlin and the big wheels aren't going to let him, and he is just fit to be tied. He is mad, mad, mad. And sure enough, the next day we -- we made a right turn, got off on some side roads, and headed down towards the Danube river and went through Regensburg and some of those towns through there -- down through there. And we were outside of Passau, which is on the Austrian border when the war ended.

Martha E. Hopkins:

Uh-huh. And tell me what you remember about when it ended.

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

Well, I remember that we had the radio on, and Truman was giving his speech about the war being over and everything, and suddenly, these German planes came over, four or five of them, and we shot one of them down. And one of them landed in a field right close to my position, so we went over to capture him, and this German colonel stepped out of the plane and a couple of other officers and the pilot and had their hands raised, and the colonel had a -- had one of those German pistols.

Martha E. Hopkins:

Luther, luger?

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

No, not a luger, a P-38.

Martha E. Hopkins:

Uh-huh.

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

And my brother Dick was in the Navy had asked me if I ever ran across one, he'd like to have one, so I took it away from the German colonel, confiscated it. I guess I was supposed to turn it in. Will I get arrested for telling this?

Martha E. Hopkins:

No, I don't think so.

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

So I -- somehow I managed to wrap it up good and mailed it to my folks back home, and it got there. And later after the war I got home and everything, I turned it over to my brother.

Martha E. Hopkins:

Uh-huh.

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

We made prisoners of those and sent them on to the headquarters, and that was about the last action -- well, that was the last action we had.

Martha E. Hopkins:

Now, when were you at Dachau? Was that before that?

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

No. We stayed at Passau for about a week or two and then started turning in our equipment. And then -- then we got orders to go to Munich. We did not turn in any of our trucks and our Jeeps and things, only our guns, our big guns and our machine guns, and I guess they turned in the radar. I suppose they did. And we didn't know where we were going, and we wound up in Dachau concentration camp, which is a couple of kilometers outside of Munich, and we stayed in the SS barracks, which were very nice, and we were in charge of the German prisoners who were cleaning up the camp. And as a sergeant, why, I was assigned to one group of them, and that was the -- probably the thing I remember the most is those bodies and things that they had to help clean up and dispose of. And they -- every now and then, there would be a group of German civilians come through and American Army officers, make sure that they saw what the -- the results of what had been done there. And I saw a lot of -- there was one barracks that was -- must have been devoted to a laboratory, and along the walls it had all these great, big glass bottles full of all kinds of human parts preserved in formaldehyde or -- or whatever they preserved them in, and they must have done experiments in that room. And also, there was a warehouse there with a lot of German clothing, insignia, and that's where I got some souvenirs of the German insignia and also a battle jacket and one of their overseas type hats.

Martha E. Hopkins:

Did you not have experience where some of the German prisoners wouldn't cooperate and you had to ___+?

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

Yeah, I was -- some of the fellows, the German soldiers did not want to cooperate, and so I -- I told the sergeant that was their German sergeant that was in charge of them that I wasn't going to put up with it and that I was going to have to do something drastic to get them to cooperate. And I had on my Masonic ring, and somehow or other, he caught sight of that Masonic ring, so he said Sergeant, you won't have any trouble out of these people anymore. He said I'll see to that. And I found out that he had been a German Mason. He was not a Nazi. He was a member of the Wehrmacht, which was their regular army, and a lot of the regular army people were not rabid, Nazi.

Martha E. Hopkins:

Did they speak English or did you speak German?

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

He could speak -- he spoke English well enough to communicate, yeah. And that's where the -- where we ended the war. An interesting thing was that I had seen a notice on the bulletin board about Third Army headquarters wanting to know about anybody that could ride a horse back, and I had done some horseback riding before the war. And but I didn't volunteer because in the Army, you don't volunteer. And I later found out that they wanted these people to go and help rescue the Lipizzaner stallions which Hitler had threatened to kill. He threatened to kill all of these horses. And Patton was a horse lover. He was in the cavalry in his earlier days. And he wanted people that could go and ride those horses back to headquarters for him, which he did. He -- he did rescue the Lipizzaner horses. Then we --

Martha E. Hopkins:

Did you ever -- did you ever see him?

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

I saw Patton briefly at -- at that airport several times. He would get out -- out of his staff car and go over to a plane and take off, and sometimes he would land and then ride out in a staff car. I would say I saw him two or three times at a distance.

Martha E. Hopkins:

But you sound like everybody was pretty attached to him and like him?

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

Not -- not really. I can't say that we had much affection for the guy, but we had a lot of respect for him, a lot of respect for him. The Third Army captured the most German prisoners and the Third Army had the least casualties percentage-wise of any of the armies over there. So he -- he knew pretty well what he was doing. We -- we had a lot of respect for him, his military knowledge. But he was pretty rough to serve under.

Martha E. Hopkins:

Yeah.

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

Anyway, it -- it was probably a good thing because he was the way he was. The Germans respected him. They didn't really like to be up against him, which is a good sign I would say.

Martha E. Hopkins:

Uh-huh.

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

Then I, as the outfit broke up, it broke up so -- down to so much, the other Noncoms having so much points to go home or go back to the States because we didn't know whether we were going to go to the States or go to Japan. Japan, the war in Japan was not over. And we went to a town outside of Munich about five kilometers called Furst En Feldbruch, and that's where the outfit finally broke up. And I got down to --

Martha E. Hopkins:

And were you in charge of that ___+?

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

Yeah. We were down so far that I was the ranking Noncom, and I was the first sergeant of the -- of the group that was left, so I was really in charge as a Noncom of the town and the -- and the place.

Martha E. Hopkins:

What was that like?

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

That was okay. I didn't have any problems.

Martha E. Hopkins:

How did the German civilians react in having you around?

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

No problem. They did whatever we told them to do.

Martha E. Hopkins:

Was that when you were living in somebody's house?

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

I was living -- I had a house and I had the master bedroom and private bath and found out that he had been an SS officer, colonel rank or something like that. It was -- it was a very nice house. And then I got transferred to Augsburg, Germany because I didn't have as many points as the other fellows, and I was assigned there because I could type. I was a clerk, typist, but I didn't have much to do. And I noticed on a bulletin board there was a notice that you could go to a university that was being set up in Biarritz, which is down in southwest France. So I asked the first sergeant about it, and he says well, it's -- it is -- it's going to be a regular university, and it's already in operation, and they're looking for another section, a new -- new group of soldiers to come in, are you interested? And I said yeah, it sounds good. He said yeah, it's a good deal. I've talked to some of the fellows that have been there, and they -- they say it's a really nice place. So I said sign me up. So a few days later, my orders came through -- (BREAK IN VIDEO.)

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

Tape number three.

Martha E. Hopkins:

Okay. You were talking about your experiences at Biarritz.

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

Yes. It took us about two days and two nights to get from Augsburg to Biarritz, which is south of a town called Bayonne in France. It's a resort area that the royalty of Europe used to spend their vacation time in these great, big hotels, luxury hotels in Biarritz. And we were put up in these hotels, or you could also elect to stay with a French family, which I did. I stayed with a French family in Biarritz. But we had to take our meals at the hotel. And the hotel dining rooms had French chefs, and they would take our GI food and do some pretty nice things with it. They're really very inventive. So we had -- we ate very well there. Now, this was set up as the -- they called it the American university in Biarritz, and it was made up of professors from the various colleges in the States and in England some of whom had been officers or were officers and they wore their uniforms, and they taught various classes at the collegiate level. So I was able to get three -- three credits for the three classes that I took, and later, when I got back to the States and put in on the GI bill to go to college, I went to Colgate University, and I already had three credits of university standing because some of the professors at Colgate had been at Biarritz. And it was an accredited school. So I already had three credits on my record when I entered Colgate. They -- they honored the credits. That was a big help. But it was really nice because you could learn a little French, you could brush up on your French if you already knew some. They had arts classes. They put on plays, and one of the plays they put on was Shakespeare's Richard the Third, and the fellow that played Richard the Third's name was William Windham, and some of you may remember him as being on TV. He was in a number of episodes of Murder She Wrote as the kindly old doctor in Cabot's Cove, and he did a beautiful job in playing Richard the Third, and I wrote home that I predicted he'd probably would do pretty well if he went into acting, which he later did.

Martha E. Hopkins:

Now, was he a soldier at the time, as well?

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

He was a -- he was a soldier.

Martha E. Hopkins:

He was not an actor, then he was one of your fellow soldiers?

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

He was one of our fellow soldiers.

Martha E. Hopkins:

Did you know him at all?

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

No. No, I didn't know him then. I have met him since.

Martha E. Hopkins:

And did you tell him about this ___?

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

Yeah.

Martha E. Hopkins:

What did he say?

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

Well, when he first met me, he knew about it because he had been at James Madison College, and Nancy had met him --

Martha E. Hopkins:

Uh-huh.

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

-- up there, and she told him that I knew or knew -- knew about him.

Martha E. Hopkins:

Uh-huh.

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

So later when he came down to Radford to put on the play that has the rabbit in it, the imaginary --

Martha E. Hopkins:

Harvey? Harvey?

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

Put on Harvey, yeah. They put on Harvey down there, and Lois and I went down to see it, and the day before, he was on radio here in Roanoke, and they were asking people to call in, and I called in and talked to him.

Martha E. Hopkins:

Uh-huh.

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

And so when I -- after the play was over in Radford, we went backstage to meet him, and as soon as I told him my name, he threw his arms around me and hugged me and said it was good to meet an old comrade back then that remembered the Biarritz days.

Martha E. Hopkins:

So he was a student there, too?

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

He did what?

Martha E. Hopkins:

He was a student there, too, in Biarretz?

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

Yes, he must have been.

Martha E. Hopkins:

___+?

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

Evidently, the players -- the actors were all made up of students. They had a symphony orchestra there with musicians, student musicians. They put on several concerts, and it was really a nice three months.

Martha E. Hopkins:

Uh-huh.

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

And it filled in the time because what would you have done waiting to go home?

Martha E. Hopkins:

Uh-huh.

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

Otherwise, and the Army didn't have that many jobs for you because they were disbanding, and it was -- it was a great idea. I don't know who thought it up, but they -- whoever they were, they were really thinking.

Martha E. Hopkins:

Uh-huh. Now, what?

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

It was a smart move.

Martha E. Hopkins:

Tell me about coming home. What -- how did you get home?

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

Okay.

Martha E. Hopkins:

And what was that like?

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

I had to go back -- after I left Biarritz, I went back to Augsburg and reported to, I believe it was the 71st Division I was attached to then and awaiting orders to come home. And finally, around the first of February of '45, my orders came through, and they put -- put us on the train, and we wound up outside of LaHavre at one of those cigarette camps.

Martha E. Hopkins:

Uh-huh.

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

Cigarette camp sounds bad nowadays.

Martha E. Hopkins:

Uh-huh, uh-huh, uh-huh.

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

But what they were, they were -- they were named after various cigarettes.

Martha E. Hopkins:

Uh-huh.

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

Cigarettes didn't have a bad name back then.

Martha E. Hopkins:

Uh-huh.

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

And we stayed there a week or so processing getting ready to get on the boat. And I came back on -- on an old army transport called the General Taylor, and I thought that thing was going to fall to pieces before we ever got across. It rattled and shook and groaned. It made all kinds of racket, noises.

Martha E. Hopkins:

Were you seasick coming back?

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

No. We went into a storm, but I wasn't seasick coming back.

Martha E. Hopkins:

You landed in New York?

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

Landed in New York, went past the old Statue of Liberty, landed at a pier on the west side of Manhattan, had our coffee and doughnuts for the Red Cross, and then they lined us up and puts on ferries and took us across the Hudson river to Camp Mile Standish -- no, not Mile Standish. Camp Kilmer. What's the matter with me? Camp Kilmer. And that's where we had our steak dinners and our welcome home dinner. Stayed there a couple, maybe three -- three days, I guess, and then they shipped us to Fort Dix, and that's where we were processed and mustered out of the Army, and I went from there back home to Carmel.

Martha E. Hopkins:

Did you get on a train to go home?

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

Yes, yeah. We went to -- went to New York City by train and then up the Harlem division to Brewster.

Martha E. Hopkins:

And how did you feel about getting home?

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

Well, pretty good. Pretty good. I felt like I'd had quite an experience, and I guess the best thing was feeling well, I got home safe and no problems.

Martha E. Hopkins:

You were never wounded ___+.

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

I was never wounded, no.

Martha E. Hopkins:

Now, tell me about -- one of the questions I've been asking people is how did the war change your life and how -- how did you become different because of your experiences?

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

Well, I probably would not have gone to college, I guess, because I felt like I'm -- I would have probably been beyond the age where you would even think about going to college. But since they offered it, I decided it would be a good thing to do, and my fiancee agreed. She thought I ought to have a college education. She already had hers, and so that's what we decided to do. I applied at Cornell and Colgate and also at Presbyterian College in Clinton, South Carolina. And I was accepted at Clinton at -- at Presbyterian College, and then I was accepted at Colgate, and I never did get any response from Cornell. So we decided probably an education from Colgate would, hate to say it against any college, but would be a little more important than a degree from Presbyterian College, so that's where I decided to go.

Martha E. Hopkins:

Now, anything else? Any other ___ important ones or any other ways you think that being in the war changed you?

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

I guess it made me a little more assertive and able to talk -- talk up.

Martha E. Hopkins:

Did you have training in that in the Army?

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

Well, in the Army, especially if you're a DI, you better be able to talk up and handle people.

Martha E. Hopkins:

Uh-huh.

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

Yeah, I would say so. I hadn't had much experience handling people before that. I didn't have anybody under me at Pratt and Whitney. Before that, I had worked at a local hardware store in Carmel and then on some jobs with the highway department, none of which required me to -- to direct people.

Martha E. Hopkins:

Uh-huh. Did you find it hard to direct the people when you first got the job as a drill instructor?

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

No, not really because I had plenty of experience at camp doing that and -- no. I kind of fell right into it.

Martha E. Hopkins:

So how was it in the war? I mean, I've seen your unit at the reunion. It seemed like the people who were in the Army, it was one of those experiences where it took all kinds of people from different parts of the country, different backgrounds --

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

Yeah.

Martha E. Hopkins:

-- different educational levels. I mean, how -- how was it to be suddenly thrown into that kind of situation?

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

I guess -- I guess you'd say that that helped me a lot, being able to get along with a lot of different kinds of people. And you're right, they were very diverse. They were very diverse people.

Martha E. Hopkins:

Well, was it hard for all of you to get along given that?

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

Well, we all had a common purpose. I guess that pulled us together a lot, more than it would have in any other circumstances. You're dependent on everybody else because you never know when the -- when that guy is going to do something to help you get by and save your life maybe or -- we were all dependent on each other to -- to help each other.

Martha E. Hopkins:

Uh-huh.

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

Cooperation, I guess, was much better and we all learned to do that because we knew we had to. We had to depend on each other.

Martha E. Hopkins:

Well, it sounds like you had quite a mixture there in your bunch. You said you had a bootlegger and you had --

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

Yeah.

Martha E. Hopkins:

___+?

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

I don't know what Brooks did. I don't know. And I don't know what Dewey -- Dewey Goslin did. I -- I don't know. He -- he was from Maine.

Martha E. Hopkins:

Yeah.

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

And I've never -- never heard hide nor hair of him since. We used to send -- I'm a correspondent now for the outfit, the Battery A outfit, and we used to send the newsletter that we put out four or five times a year to Walter Goodwin down in Tennessee and Brooks over in West Virginia, but we never had any address or anything for Dewey Goslin, so we never could send him one. And I -- I don't know whatever happened to him.

Martha E. Hopkins:

Back to bootlegging.

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

Back to bootlegging?

Martha E. Hopkins:

Maybe he went back to moonshining.

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

No, he wasn't the one.

Martha E. Hopkins:

Oh, he wasn't the one?

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

He was in Maine.

Martha E. Hopkins:

Oh, the one in Maine? The one in Maine?

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

That was Walter Goodwin down in Tennessee. He's dead now. We do have -- we were notified that he's dead -- dead. But the last letter a couple years ago, the letter came back from Brooks with no forwarding address, and we don't know any address to send him one, so we quit sending him one. We never heard from him.

Martha E. Hopkins:

Well, tell me about -- I mean, one of the things I think you didn't -- ___+ that you didn't cover on the -- about the war, didn't you get some leave to go to Paris, and what was that like?

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

Yeah. While we were at Dachau, I applied for leave to go to Paris and see if I could find my brother Reed's cemetery plot. He was buried in a military cemetery northeast -- north -- northwest of Paris.

Martha E. Hopkins:

Well, maybe you want to tell about that ___+ what --

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

So I got a week's leave to go down to Paris and see if I could find that.

Martha E. Hopkins:

Well, why don't -- why don't you tell -- because people who see this tape won't know the background. Tell about that, how you found out that your brother had been killed.

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

Well, in January while we were in Luxembourg --

Martha E. Hopkins:

Of 1945?

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

Of 1945, while we were in Luxembourg, I was at our -- our position, our machine gun position, and a messenger came over from headquarters, from battery headquarters saying I was wanted and to report there immediately. So I went to -- immediately went over to command post, and they said the chaplain was here and wanted to talk to me. So I went in where the chaplain was and --

Martha E. Hopkins:

Did that scare you when the chaplain ___+?

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

Yes, yes it did. I couldn't imagine what in the world he wanted. I went in, he put his arm around me and said I've got some bad news, Sergeant. And I said -- immediately, I thought my mother and father, one of them, something has happened. And he said do you have a brother named Reed, and I said yes, and he said well, I'm awfully sorry to have to tell you this, but he's been killed. And I, oh, my goodness. Well, that just about tore me up. He was my baby brother, and I knew that my parents would just be heartbroken over it. And they did. I found out later that they -- my mother had a terrible time. She just took it awfully hard. And my father did, too. He -- he kind of petted Reed up when he was little, naturally, he was the littlest one. I wouldn't say he was his favorite, but he did kind of pet him up some. And I knew it was awfully hard on them, and of course, it was hard on me. And then my other brother was in the Navy on sea duty, and he has never said much about it except kind of he had a couple hard days there on duty. He was in convoy duty around the north of Norway and -- and Sweden into Russia. But that -- that was a very difficult time. But I knew we had to carry on. There was nothing they could do.

Martha E. Hopkins:

But you ___ -- you couldn't go to any funeral or anything like that, I guess?

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

No, no. I had found out that that -- the name of the cemetery where he was buried, and I thought, well, it might help, be some comfort to my folks if I went down and actually saw it, so I did. I got down there, and went to the Red Cross headquarters, explained my mission and how -- how was I going to get out there, and they said well, we run some trucks out that way every now and then, you can get a ride with them. So I didn't even think about getting back. I said sure, I'll go. So they said well, if you want to wait around a while, we've got a truck going out that way in about an hour, so I did, and I rode out there with them. And the cemetery supervisor was very nice. He had records and went in his office, and he looked up the record of where Reed was, explained exactly how to get out to it, so I walked down the road that crosses to the spot and there -- there it was, Reed Hopkins, on the cross.

Martha E. Hopkins:

How did you -- how did you feel then? Did you cry?

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

Well, I guess I broke down a little, yeah, kneeled down and tried to pray a little there. Then I went back, and there was a -- an Air Force field about a hundred yards on beyond the cemetery, and I thought well, maybe I can catch a truck there that might be going back to Paris. And so I went over there and talked to the people there, and they said no, they didn't have any trucks going, but they had a plane leaving in a few minutes. And they said you're welcome to ride the plane if you want to. So that's what I did.

Martha E. Hopkins:

Where did the plane land?

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

Well, somewhere outside of -- just outside of Paris.

Martha E. Hopkins:

How did you get back into town?

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

By truck into town.

Martha E. Hopkins:

I mean, Paris, where did you -- where did you all stay at there?

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

Stayed at the ?Georgia Fitz? Hotel.

Martha E. Hopkins:

Oh, is that one of the big, fancy ones?

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

One of the big, fancy hotels.

Martha E. Hopkins:

Did you have to pay for that or did the Army --

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

Huh-uh, no.

Martha E. Hopkins:

-- pay for it?

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

Yes. Didn't have to pay for anything. They had meals and everything, yeah. So that's -- I had some more time. It didn't take me as long to do my main job I thought, so I had a couple more days on the leave, so I thought well, I might as well see the sights. So I used the -- by then, they had the subway system back in.

Martha E. Hopkins:

The war had ended by this time?

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

Oh, sure. This was in July. End of June, first of July. So I went to the Louvre, saw the sight there, went to Les -- Les Invalides where Napoleon's tomb is.

Martha E. Hopkins:

Uh-huh.

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

The Arc de Triomphe, Notre Dame.

Martha E. Hopkins:

Paris was pretty well undamaged by the war?

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

Yeah, they -- they didn't damage Paris at all. You couldn't really tell that they'd even been through a war. No, it was a very good city. Then I went back to my unit.

Martha E. Hopkins:

Back to Dachau?

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

Yeah, back to Dachau, and by then, they had moved to Furst En Feldbruch. There wasn't anybody -- none of my outfit was in Dachau. And they didn't -- you know, it looks like they would have known when I got off the train at Munich. I went on out there by truck and went on out to Furst En Feldbruch, and there wasn't a soul around -- I mean, Dachau, and there wasn't a soul around, and somebody there said what outfit did you say you were in? I said Battery B -- Battery A, the 411th. He said oh, yeah, they moved out a couple days ago. I said did they leave a forwarding address? And they said, well, let me see, see if -- see if I can find out where they went. And he says oh, yeah, they're at Furst En Feldbruch.

Martha E. Hopkins:

So how did you get there?

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

That's, he says, is about five kilometers from here. And I said well, I need to get out there and report back. I said I've been on leave to Paris. He said, oh, we can get you there, we can get you there. He said we'll find a supply truck that's going that way. So a few -- about an hour, about an hour later, a fellow came in to where I was waiting and said is there a Sergeant Hopkins around here anywhere? And I said yes, here I am. He said I've got to make a run over past Furst En Feldbruch, and somebody said you wanted a ride. I said that's right. He said come on, hop in. That's how I got back to the outfit.

Martha E. Hopkins:

That's weird that they would move and not tell you where they were.

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

Yeah.

Martha E. Hopkins:

Now, what was it like in Germany when you -- everything was pretty well destroyed?

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

Everywhere. There were a lot of -- well, Munich, downtown Munich was pretty well blown up and Augsburg. I can remember that you had to walk everywhere. There were trolleys sitting around, but they were all shot up and damaged, and in Munich, the trolley system was not up and running very much. There were a few lines running but not -- not ones that did you much good. And the only transportation was U.S. Army because we occupied all of Southern Germany.

Martha E. Hopkins:

Uh-huh.

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

Patton was in charge of Bavaria.

Martha E. Hopkins:

And what were the -- what were the -- your relationships with the -- I mean, the Germans, were the Germans friendly or --

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

Well, I didn't have much to do with them. They -- they warned us not to have very much to do with them, so I didn't. Some of the guys fraternized a little bit with some of the German women, but I was engaged, and -- and I wasn't interested in anything like that.

Martha E. Hopkins:

But I mean, were there any -- you didn't experience any hostility from the civilians or anything like that?

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

They were pretty docile. They didn't mess with us. Well, they kowtowed to us kind of. All you had to do was just say something, and they would jump.

Martha E. Hopkins:

Yeah. I guess they were pretty traumatized after all that?

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

I imagine so.

Martha E. Hopkins:

Yeah.

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

Yeah. Well, they thought we had the power, which we did.

Martha E. Hopkins:

Uh-huh.

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

We didn't have to take much from them. Well, we didn't have to take anything from them.

Martha E. Hopkins:

Uh-huh.

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

And after what I'd seen in Dachau, I wasn't about to take anything from any of them. I didn't care much for them at that time.

Martha E. Hopkins:

Well, do you think -- when you said that they were bringing groups of civilians through to show them what had happened, do you think that they -- that they knew or were they -- were they -- or were they -- how did they react? Did you see how any of them reacted when they saw the horror?

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

Well, I would say most of them seemed to be pretty well horror struck by it all. Some of them seemed like they -- it was hard for them to believe it, I guess.

Martha E. Hopkins:

Was it as big a shock to them as it had been to you?

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

I didn't talk to any of them, so I really didn't get any firsthand thing, but from what I could see, most of them were pretty well horrified from it.

Martha E. Hopkins:

Who were they?

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

Didn't want to be ___.

Martha E. Hopkins:

Were they like local dignitaries that were brought in or just --

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

Some of them.

Martha E. Hopkins:

Or just --

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

Some of them were just plain people --

Martha E. Hopkins:

Just plain people?

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

-- I presume.

Martha E. Hopkins:

I mean, were they forced to come through by anybody?

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

Oh, yes. Oh, yes, they were forced to come through. They kind of shuffled along, and some of them didn't try -- they tried not to look at it, some of them. Oh, yes. They -- I don't think they did it from their own free will. They didn't have much choice.

Martha E. Hopkins:

That was an American policy to make them come in and see what -- what it was like?

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

Yeah. Yeah. Eisenhower -- I understood that Eisenhower said I want every German civilian you can round up to see this. Not only Dachau, but any of the other camps that Americans had anything to do with. I don't know what the Russians did or the British. I expect the British probably did the same thing. I don't know about the Russians, I couldn't speak.

Martha E. Hopkins:

Did you ever have any experiences with any of the their army, the --

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

No.

Martha E. Hopkins:

Any of the allied army, the Germans or the British?

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

Well, I saw some of the Canadians and the British in Paris when I was there. They were very friendly, but Russians, no, I've never had any dealings with any Russians that I can remember.

Martha E. Hopkins:

But you didn't -- you weren't doing any cooperative maneuvers with any of them --

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

Not where I was.

Martha E. Hopkins:

-- or anything like that? They were all under their -- their own commanders and their --

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

Yeah. I do remember the hundreds of thousands of displaced persons, they called them DPs, shuffling around, and they were -- but there was a big group of Americans and British that were connected with trying to get them relocated and send them back where they were supposed to be, where they came from.

Martha E. Hopkins:

Uh-huh.

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

Our biggest problem with them was trying to delouse them, and we had to run them -- or I say we, I'm saying that my -- the Americans had to run them through these delousing units ___+ almost disinfecting them.

Martha E. Hopkins:

Uh-huh.

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

But they were a pretty -- pretty forlorn looking group. They, of course, they had no idea what's going to happen to them. They were just what they were called, displaced persons, and you had to try and find out where they were supposed to be or where they were from. And I'm sure that was a big job for some group, but we were not involved with it. I saw it, but I was not involved.

Martha E. Hopkins:

Where did you see it?

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

In Munich, in Augsburg, and in various small towns that we passed through.

Martha E. Hopkins:

Well, Dachau, going back to Dachau, I mean, that was -- would you say that was --

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

There were some of them there, yes, there were some of them there.

Martha E. Hopkins:

Some of them were over there. Were there some of the -- did you see any of the -- the prisoners that were -- did you see any of the inmates of the concentration camp, or were they -- had they all been let --

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

Not live ones. I never saw any live ones.

Martha E. Hopkins:

They had all been let go by the time you -- you got there?

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

Yeah. They were just dead bodies when we took over.

Martha E. Hopkins:

That must have been -- was that really the worst thing of the whole war?

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

That was -- I would say that was probably one of the worst sights I saw. I do remember when we went through Trier ___+ in the Moselle valley, which is the first town after you hit Germany from Luxembourg, it looked to me like that town had been flattened. It looked like one brick on top of another. And then later in 1982 when we were over there and we were, Lois and I were travelling around trying to retrace some of the places I'd been, we stopped in Trier, and all of these buildings were -- looked great, and I said these have all been reconstructed during the -- after the war? And they said no, no, now, that one -- that Roman temple is now an ___ church.

Martha E. Hopkins:

___?

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

They said -- yeah, they said that was not damaged. I can't believe it. I just -- and the cathedral, the Catholic cathedral there, they said only a small portion of that was damaged. Well, I -- it didn't look that way to me when we passed through there. It just looked like that whole town had been flattened.

Martha E. Hopkins:

How did you -- how did you react to seeing stuff like that? I mean, was it hard?

Edward Wallace Hopkins:

It was almost hard to take it in. You -- well, of course, we were part of the -- the thing, and we understood why we had to do it because the Germans and the enemy would use anything for cover. They would hide in buildings and things, and you just never knew when you came around the corner what was going to happen next. So you almost had to flatten everything to keep them from having cover. (END OF VIDEO)

 
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  October 26, 2011
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