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Interview with Richard Hartman [5/26/2004]

Clinton C. Brown:

Okay. Let's begin by going back briefly to your childhood and your family. Just give us kind of a thumbnail sketch, where you were born, brothers and sisters, what your father did, et cetera. And I'll try to guide you up from there.

Richard Hartman:

Well, I was born in Baltimore in 1922, down in East Baltimore. And we moved up to the Waverly area, and then finally in 1929 to Govens on Rosebank Avenue, right near the Senator Theatre.

Clinton C. Brown:

So, you've lived in Baltimore all your life?

Richard Hartman:

Lived in Baltimore all my life.

Clinton C. Brown:

Uh-huh.

Richard Hartman:

And I have one brother and one sister. And my father was with the Maryland Casualty Company.

Clinton C. Brown:

As a what, underwriter?

Richard Hartman:

He was an assistant manager in the underwriting department, yeah.

Clinton C. Brown:

Okay. Okay. What kind of ambitions did you have when you were in high school?

Richard Hartman:

In high school I hadn't the faintest idea what I wanted to do. When I graduated from Loyola High School, I went down to the Glen L. Martin Company on the third shift as a time keeper. And I became manager of the third shift, had about a hundred people working for me when I went into the Army in March of 1943.

Clinton C. Brown:

And you went in why?

Richard Hartman:

Well, I was drafted. I had tried to, tried to get in, crazily, I tried to get in the Marines. And they wouldn't take me because of my eye sight. And when I tried to get into the Army, they said I was an essential war worker. And I eventually, though, was drafted. I went to Hopkins at night taking business administration. I thought that was appropriate for my job as a time keeper.

Clinton C. Brown:

Yeah, and something you can go into after --

Richard Hartman:

Something I could go into afterward.

Clinton C. Brown:

Yeah, right. So, it wasn't out of patriotism that you enlisted; you tried but you couldn't.

Richard Hartman:

I tried but I couldn't. And when they eventually called, I went.

Clinton C. Brown:

Were people, quote, patriotic then more so than they are now?

Richard Hartman:

I thought so. I thought, you know, it was an, I'm sure the word just didn't enter my thinking at that time. But, you know, it was our war. We wanted to win it. And I don't, I didn't know anybody who deliberately stayed out.

Clinton C. Brown:

Right, right. And I remember when, in the movies they used to even show the flag before the films came on and people would stand and applaud and salute and everything.

Richard Hartman:

Yeah.

Clinton C. Brown:

And you wonder if they would do that same thing again, you know, if we had gotten to another all-out conflict.

Richard Hartman:

Well, not in the current climate. But I hope we're not tested with another war.

Clinton C. Brown:

Yes, I hope not.

Richard Hartman:

We'll find out.

Clinton C. Brown:

I hope not either. So infantry was, first of all, basic, what was that like?

Richard Hartman:

I went, I was assigned to the 106th Infantry Division, which was the last American division created in World War II. Created in March of 1943 at Fort Jackson in Columbia, outside of Columbia, South Carolina.

Clinton C. Brown:

So, you got into it shortly after it was created then?

Richard Hartman:

Yeah, yeah, in on the ground floor.

Clinton C. Brown:

I'd say so.

Richard Hartman:

Yeah, yeah, and we trained there for, I guess, a year, year and a half. Then went up to Camp Adaberry in Indiana right outside of Indianapolis. By that time I had become staff sergeant in charge of the survey section of the field, or 590 and field artillery battalion.

Clinton C. Brown:

They must have taken into consideration your pre-Army experience to assign you that?

Richard Hartman:

Well, you know, they, really they didn't. I mean, I had no experience as a surveyor. I had no, you know, engineer --

Clinton C. Brown:

Oh, that kind of -- I thought you meant paper and pencil.

Richard Hartman:

Oh, no, no, no, out in the field with a transit and aiming circle and a tape, that sort of thing. We, you know, the job of a surveyor in the field artillery is to go up and locate a target, and then tie the target into the guns which are, maybe a mile, mile and a half behind.

Clinton C. Brown:

And locate it by means of coordinates on a map or something like that?

Richard Hartman:

Yeah, you carry altitude and distance and direction back to the guns. They couldn't see the target. They're firing on the, you know, on the survey that you made.

Clinton C. Brown:

Uh-huh.

Richard Hartman:

And today I suppose they do that by satellite, computer, whatever.

Clinton C. Brown:

I believe so.

Richard Hartman:

I'm sure my job is obsolete.

Clinton C. Brown:

You can't go back to that.

Richard Hartman:

Can't go back to that.

Clinton C. Brown:

So, you were in a dry run situation there then, they didn't use live ammo or anything like that?

Richard Hartman:

Oh, yeah. Sure, they did.

Clinton C. Brown:

They did?

Richard Hartman:

Oh, yeah. They used live ammo. That's when I first, you know, sat there, heard the rustle of the shell going overhead and hoping that we'd made a good survey.

Clinton C. Brown:

And that your arrows were plus rather than minus.

Richard Hartman:

Yeah, right.

Clinton C. Brown:

Well, that was -- who were the officers then, the outfit was so new, were they experienced in other outfits?

Richard Hartman:

The colonel was a West Pointer, but most of the other officers were just, you know, civilians that were taken into the Army. They probably went OCS, of course, but there were very, very few professional soldiers in the Division. The Master Sergeant, the First Sergeant, was a career Army man. And I remember the colonel being a West Pointer, but the rest of them were, you know, just guys off the street. And it showed eventually when we got over there, I guess.

Clinton C. Brown:

Was Basic a shock to you, the kinds of people, the kinds of things that you had to learn to do and so forth?

Richard Hartman:

Well, it certainly was an eye opener. I, you know, drugs, things of that sort were totally alien to me. And I don't mean that that they were drugs in the Army at that time, but people were, there were a couple of musicians who talked about, you know, playing their gigs and smoking marijuana, which was totally foreign to me.

Clinton C. Brown:

Uh-huh.

Richard Hartman:

I guess I led a pretty sheltered life. I didn't realize it but I guess I did.

Clinton C. Brown:

Yeah, it was kind of a great melting pot where they threw everybody in together and hoped they'd swim, not sink.

Richard Hartman:

Yeah, that's exactly right.

Clinton C. Brown:

Right.

Richard Hartman:

Exactly right.

Clinton C. Brown:

But you made buddies there, I guess, huh?

Richard Hartman:

Oh, yeah. I still correspond with two or three fellas.

Clinton C. Brown:

Do you really?

Richard Hartman:

Yeah. I don't see them, I guess -- well, there is one fellow I correspond with regularly. He's up in Connecticut. And he was down here, Good Lord, now that I think about it, probably 25 years ago. It's been a long time since I've seen him. But we talk on the phone once in while. And I just got a letter from a friend in Salisbury, a former mayor down there, who had been in our outfit, a fella named Bob Powell. He just died last week.

Clinton C. Brown:

Well, you were in training, you say, at where, at Indiana?

Richard Hartman:

Camp Adaberry outside of Indianapolis. For a brief period, from about March of '44 until we went overseas. The Division went to Europe in October and November of '94.

Clinton C. Brown:

And --

Richard Hartman:

'44. '44.

Clinton C. Brown:

And that was in, that was about a year ahead of the invasion of Europe?

Richard Hartman:

Oh, no, it was the fall after the invasion --

Clinton C. Brown:

After.

Richard Hartman:

-- the invasion, it was June of '44, and we went over in the fall of '44.

Clinton C. Brown:

I see.

Richard Hartman:

But we were not in the invasion. We went to England, the only time in my life I've been on a cruise ship. We went over on the SS, the USS Manhattan, which had been a, a transatlantic steamer. Took the Olympic team over to Berlin in 1934. I've never been on a ship like that since, and I don't want to.

Clinton C. Brown:

Probably there aren't any ships like that now.

Richard Hartman:

No.

Clinton C. Brown:

Hadn't they stripped it down, though, for --

Richard Hartman:

Oh, yeah, sure. They stripped it down. There were no state rooms. A lot of hammocks being strung.

Clinton C. Brown:

Yeah.

Richard Hartman:

On the ceiling.

Clinton C. Brown:

So, when you got in England --

Richard Hartman:

We went to Liverpool and then to a camp outside of Gloucester. And we were only there for maybe two weeks, three weeks. Then we packed up and went to, went to Europe, or went to the Continent.

Clinton C. Brown:

Was that planned? Was your outfit planned as a replacement or as --

Richard Hartman:

Oh, yeah, completely as a replacement. We went, we went across the channel. It probably took about four weeks to get the whole Division over. The ship that we were on was, we went over on the LST's, and we left Plymouth, and went up to LeHavre where we would anchor and then go up the Seine to as far as Rouen and then get off there and drive into Germany. There was a terrible storm, and we lost our anchors. So they couldn't anchor outside of LeHavre. You couldn't go up the Seine during, at night because there were too many obstacles, so you could only do it in the day time. But we had to go back to England, get anchors, and then go back again. It took us eight days before, from the time we got on that ship until we finally got off in Rouen.

Clinton C. Brown:

And the water was pretty rough, I bet.

Richard Hartman:

The water was rough. But ironically, I can recall listening, this was November, I can recall listening to the Army/Navy football game which was played in Baltimore. And I think the only time in my, certainly lifetime, that I can recall that it was played in Baltimore, and there I am on the English Channel.

Clinton C. Brown:

I'll be darned.

Richard Hartman:

Yeah.

Clinton C. Brown:

So you finally got anchored and got ashore?

Richard Hartman:

We got ashore and just rolled right off of the ship and drove from there, from Rouen through France through Belgium into Germany.

Clinton C. Brown:

You still had the same position as surveyor for the --

Richard Hartman:

Yes, I was the --

Clinton C. Brown:

Right.

Richard Hartman:

-- battalion surveyor.

Clinton C. Brown:

Okay.

Richard Hartman:

Now, we, the battalion reassembled in St Vith in Belgium, and then a couple of days later had moved up to the front line to replace the Second Division, a 27-mile front roughly, the Siegfried line by that time had been captured by the Americans. And the second division was in position along the Siegfried line and back on something called the Schnee Eifel which was a ridge that runs up and down, north and south, parallel to the German/Belgium border. So, the Second Division pulled out, we moved right into the same, put the guns in the exact same position. Didn't change anything.

Clinton C. Brown:

What were the attitudes of the Frenchmen and others towards the GI's at that time?

Richard Hartman:

Oh, very friendly at that point. We didn't meet many, you understand. I think we, when we got off that ship, we ate, and I can remember a French civilian coming around with a dog asking if he could get scraps. And he ended up talking to me because I was the sergeant, I guess they kept bucking him up and, you know, I said, sure, anything left over you can have for yourself or the dog. And that was my only real contact with a French person until I went back after the war. We just drove right straight through.

Clinton C. Brown:

And they were out of sight, I suppose, at the time.

Richard Hartman:

Well, it was nighttime, too.

Clinton C. Brown:

Okay. Okay. Were the casualties of the outfit you replaced, had they been high?

Richard Hartman:

No, it had been a very quiet sector. I don't know, I don't know what the Second Division did when they first got there, but for the, they told us for a couple of months, that it was nothing. They'd lob a few shells over and the Germans would lob a few back, but there was no real activity. And we got there, I think it was the 10th of December. And on the night of the 15th, they began shelling, and on into the morning of the 16th and the bombs were going over and tremendous shelling.

Clinton C. Brown:

You say they, you mean the Germans?

Richard Hartman:

The Germans.

Clinton C. Brown:

Okay.

Richard Hartman:

It was the B-1, they called them, those bombs. And it sound like the freight train going across the sky. And if the motor died you, you know, you began looking for a place to hide. But most of them were going on back to the rear. But that's when the Battle of the Bulge started, the morning of the 16th of December. And we were on a line that was 27 miles long, if you can imagine, that's almost from here to Washington and --

Clinton C. Brown:

Good God.

Richard Hartman:

-- the Germans, there was a town by the name of Auw, A-u-w, on our left flank and Bleialf on our right flank. And we were positioned along that line but closer to Bleialf. And there was a road from Auw back to Schonberg, and from Bleialf back there, so it was a triangle. And we were on the long line. And the Germans literally went on the two roads behind us and got back to St Vith, which was in Belgium where our headquarters were, and back to Bastogne, you know, in three or four days. And we were just sitting there. First we tried to go back to St Vith, and we couldn't do that, so we got orders to go up to the Siegfried Line. And we went up there and spent a night. And then we had orders to go back and try to re-take Schonberg. And we never made it. We were completely cut off. And the Division, well, our whole battalion just, you know, surrendered all, practically all at one time. We were mired, and it was bitterly cold, and snow, and we tried to create a road down through a valley and across the stream in the middle of the night, we just got bogged down. And the next morning they began lobbing in the 88 shells, and eventually one of the officers put up a white flag.

Clinton C. Brown:

There was, had you lost contact with your headquarters back --

Richard Hartman:

Oh yeah. No, no radio contact -- we had radio contact for the first two days, and after that I think we completely lost it. Well, it was very traumatic, you know, you had, I can remember having a feeling that we had let down the whole country, you know, I mean, Good Lord, we were sent over there to fight and we weren't doing enough fighting. But they marched us, they rounded us up and marched us back to Bleialf and lined us up in the city street, at least the group that I was with, and lined us up there and searched us. And some private came along, tried to take my watch. And I yelled for a German officer, and he came, and I told him that my father had given me the watch. And he let, you know, he wouldn't let this kid take it. So, at least I had that. And the next, that night they put us out in a, in a courtyard right off the, the, this main square in Bleialf and we spent the night there. Again, it was bitterly cold. And we spent that first night just sitting in the, on the ice in this little courtyard.

Clinton C. Brown:

You didn't have your pack with you -- didn't have your pack with you?

Richard Hartman:

Oh, yeah. Yeah, I had, yeah, I had my knapsack on, I'm sure. And I, my recollection is I had an overcoat. Most of them didn't, for one reason or another, I guess they just left them in the truck or trucks when they were captured. If I can fast forward, after the war I was home, the doorbell rang, and it was a postman. And he gave me a package that was addressed to me, Staff Sergeant Richard Hartman, APO, whatever it was in Europe, that my mother had sent me in November of 1944, and of course I didn't get. And this had to be at least a year later. And there the postman is handing me this package. And when I opened it up, the wrappings in there, my mother had taken a, they lived in Newark, New Jersey at that time, had taken the, the Sunday paper and the magazine section of that Newark paper was in there as stuffing. And I opened it up, and there was a pencil sketch of this town of Bleialf showing this courtyard where I was. Now, not with any prisoners but he had been in there before this had happened, made these sketches, and a year later I get it in a parcel that was sent to me that I never got overseas.

Clinton C. Brown:

My, God.

Richard Hartman:

What a coincidence.

Clinton C. Brown:

Isn't that something?

Richard Hartman:

Yeah.

Clinton C. Brown:

How did you find the Germans treated you? How were they towards you?

Richard Hartman:

Well, everybody asks that. And through the years, whenever I, I never knew how to answer that, Clint. I could see the, if I started to answer, people's eyes soon glazed over.

Clinton C. Brown:

Try me.

Richard Hartman:

Did they mistreat us? You know, no, they didn't, we were not treated brutally as I understand that the Japanese treated their prisoners. But I've tried to capsulize, you know, what it's like to be a prisoner. And I was a prisoner from December until May when the war was over, so it took roughly 150 days, five months. You think about it, the day I was captured, the clothes I had on the day I was captured, are the clothes I had on the day I was liberated. I had those clothes on 24 hours a day for 150 days. So, no, we were not beaten, we were not mistreated. But it was a miserable experience. We were cold. We were hungry. And we were lousy. Within, you know, a matter of weeks everybody had lice, and you never got rid of them. Until the end, you know, until you finally got, we finally got back and were de-loused after we were liberated. But, you know, that was the most miserable part.

Clinton C. Brown:

Did you feel hopeless that you would never be free?

Richard Hartman:

No, we never felt hopeless. Never felt hopeless. They moved us from Bleialf, we walked, oh, probably 30 or 40 miles back into the interior of Germany, and coming towards us in hordes were, you know, these big German tiger tanks, and just, you know, thousands of troops. It was their last hurrah. And we, you know, we walked past them, they were going one way and we were going the other. We got back to town, or a city called Gerolstein, as I recall. They put us on boxcars, about 65 men to a boxcar. We all could not even sit on the floor at the same time. Some had to stand and others sat. And they moved us in this train, they stopped in a place called Limburg, we were there the 24th 25th, 26th and 27th of December, on the siding. And by that time the weather had cleared a little bit and the British Mosquito bombers were up. And the night of the 24th of December, Christmas Eve, the rail yards at Limburg were their target. And we were locked into these cars and looked, somebody said look at the flares. And the red flares were coming down, which was the, the lead bomber drops the flares and everybody else is supposed to put the bombs on the target. Somewhere, after maybe ten or fifteen minutes, somebody, never found out who, opened the doors, it must have been a German, opened the doors of the boxcars and the guys just ran out. And this friend of mine, who I still correspond with, he and I ran one way and kept running until a bomb dropped in front of us. And then we, you know, we went back another way and eventually ended up in a cave. It was a quarry outside the train station, or the train yards. We got back in this cave, and that's where all the German guards were. So, when the bombing stopped, we were politely led back to the car. They knew, they knew where safety was. Unfortunately, there were seven, so I've been told, seven people from the train were killed, and there was a POW camp very close, you could see it from where the train was, and a bomb killed 65 prisoners there. We stayed there for two or three more nights while they repaired the tracks. And then they moved us through Frankfort. And that was one of the most, oh, humiliating experiences. As we went slowly through the train station at Frankfort there were just hordes of Germans down, you know, shouting, spitting, you know, waving their fists at us. Very understandable, I mean, when, you know, our bombers had just literally destroyed their town and we were as close as they could get to the enemy, so... it gave me a terrible feeling, though, to see that. We ended up, the eventual first stop, first camp that we went to, was down between Leipzig and Dresden. And it was a British prisoner of war camp, but they took us in there. And we were there for about a week, I think. And then we were there on New Year's Eve and New Year's Day, and then we were put back on another boxcar, a train and a boxcar, and moved further east to a camp on the Oder River between Berlin and Posen, Poland. And that was, again, it was a terrible experience on the boxcar. Because when we got on there there were already machine gun bullets, holes through the, you know, the sides of the boxcar. And with a 24-hour trip, and periodically the air raid sirens would go and you just felt, man, we're gonna get strafed again, they're hitting everything that moves. Fortunately, they never did. And we got back to, we got to the destination on the Oder River, and that was an American camp where, I was a staff sergeant, and it was a camp for American non-commissioned officers. And we stayed there for just about month, I think, my recollection. And bitterly cold, never been so cold in my life. At that time the Russians made their sweep across the Polish plains, and we had to be evacuated. So we left that camp on foot, and we marched for seven days. The first day's march was for at least 24 hours. Because we left that camp about three o'clock in the afternoon, and we got to our destination, our first overnight stop was the next night about five or six o'clock. They put us in a barn. And then the next day we got out, and we walked again. And we did that for seven days. We ended up at a place near Potsdam, southeast, I guess, of Berlin. And in order to accommodate us, they put up seven 400-man tents outside of the original compound. And, of course, they had a, you know, a fence around it and barbed wire. And at each corner they had the tower with a, you know, the German soldiers with machine guns. And they marched us in there, and what they would do, and these -- each tent had a door, a flap, no windows, only the one door, and they'd march you in. And the first ones in went to the rear of the tent, and to the best of my recollection there were about eight on each side of the aisle. And they kept putting them in there until they got 400 in. And then they'd take them off to the next tent and put 400 in there. By sheer chance my buddy and I were the last two in the tent that we went into, so we were right by the door so we could get out easily. But, you know, everybody else had to climb over somebody or walk the whole length of the tent to get out. No lights. No heat. No water. No beds. Just, you know, there was straw on the floor, on the ground, and that was my home for, from then, sometime in early February, until May 6th when the war was over, the Americans came in and took us out on trucks. You know, we had nothing to read, nothing to, you know, listen to. And I stayed in the same clothes 24 hours day. And behind each tent was a, oh, maybe six feet by six feet by six feet deep, which was the latrine. And there was a, one water faucet at the far end past the last tent that had a wooden trough that was maybe two feet wide and inverted so that the water ran down that, so you'd turn on the tap and the first one in line got clean water. And this trough was probably eighty feet long, and if you wanted to wash anything, you know, if you were first in line you got clean water; if you were the 80th one down, you were washing in 80 persons' dirty water. But didn't do much washing anyway. Because, like I say, it was bitterly cold. I wanted to say about that, um, well, I've lost my train of thought now.

Clinton C. Brown:

Well, what were the rest of the prisoners like? That was a very stressful situation. Were there fights, arguments, did people psyche out, or anything like that?

Richard Hartman:

Well, it was funny, there were no fights that I can recall. The camp was pretty well run by the prisoners. The Germans would bring the food to the gate, and then the, the group who were assigned to, you know, dispense the food would take it into each tent. We got, it was a big vat of tea in the morning and a loaf of bread. And they'd tell you how many were on the loaf of bread, there would be the four, five or six, never less than four, which meant that you had to get four people to slice it up and be sure that it was evenly distributed. And at noon time they brought the vat around again, and it had soup in it. Usually rutabaga soup. And on Sunday they occasionally had pea soup, which was, oh my, that was good, because it had a piece of, it might have a piece of meat in it, and maybe a potato or two. Not in the soup but a little boiled potato. And at night it would be the tea again. And that was what we existed on. At some point one of the people who was distributing this food was charged with having stolen some of it for himself, taken some of it for himself. And the tribunal, whoever it was, it was, certainly I wasn't involved in that, we were newcomers. There were prisoners there that had been captured, you know, in Africa, so they had been prisoners four or five years. So, you know, we were newcomers. And the tribunal had this fellow make a little sign to put around his neck saying "I'm a thief", and he had to walk into each tent, walk out, and into the next tent. And when he finished his little tour through the seventh tent, they beat the living daylights out of him. And that was a lesson, you don't, you don't steal. Some time during our stay there, for some reason, I guess the Germans' idea of entertainment or something for the prisoners, they brought Max Schmeling into the camp, you know, the former heavyweight boxing champion.

Clinton C. Brown:

Yeah, yeah.

Richard Hartman:

And they didn't let him come into the compound where the tents were, but they brought him to the gate, and let the word out that Max Schmeling is out there. Well, some guys actually got up and went to see Max Schmeling. I didn't, I didn't think that I wanted to go see Max Schmeling. What do you call that entertainment group that we had in the U.S. Army? What did --

Clinton C. Brown:

USO?

Richard Hartman:

The USO, yeah, I guess it was their version of the USO.

Clinton C. Brown:

Uh-huh. Do you think that -- well, another question. How about illness, and if somebody had got ill what would happen?

Richard Hartman:

Well, they disappeared from the tent. And we've, they either got well and came back or we never saw them again. You know, I don't know what happened. You asked about, I guess, the mental --

Clinton C. Brown:

Yes.

Richard Hartman:

It was usually pretty upbeat. Somehow or other there was a -- and, of course, they had this before we newcomers got there, they had a short-wave radio. And every day somebody would come around, and they would announce that it was ping pong. Now, don't ask me how they got that, but that was the code word that there was going to be a news broadcast. And somebody would come in to the tent and tell us how the war was progressing and what was the news from home. And they were getting this off of somebody, I never, never had any idea where it was kept. So we had some kind of an update. And, of course, as the days went by the theatre was being constricted so that you began to hear the cannonades, and you could, and it was coming closer and closer and coming in. And then the, I saw my first jet airplane while I was a prisoner. It was a German jet. And thank God they apparently were very low on fuel because they only flew them occasionally. It was almost like a, you know, a training trip and they would go across the sky and that was, you know, that was it. But then the B-52's or, it couldn't have been the 52's, but the big bombers were raiding Berlin. And the, you know, we could actually, you know, hear them and they'd be flying overhead and they'd send up the fighter planes and we'd, you know we had a grandstand seat for these bombings to Berlin. And the bombers would drop tin foil to jam their radar, and for some reason I picked up a couple of strands of that and put it in my pocket and brought it home. I have it with me today.

Clinton C. Brown:

Oh, my.

Richard Hartman:

Yes. If you'd like to see it. Sometime during our stay there in these tents the Red Cross came in, and the word went around that they were distributing clean underwear. So, boy, that was, I didn't go see Max Schmeling, but I sure got in line for clean underwear, and went and hiked on up to the head of the line. The fellow said, you need underwear? And I said, I sure do. He said, drop your pants. So, I dropped my pants, and he said, you've got underwear. Next.

Clinton C. Brown:

My, gosh.

Richard Hartman:

It was for people who literally didn't have underwear. Dirty underwear didn't, that didn't strike a note with them, so...

Clinton C. Brown:

Was there a German contingent nearby, guards or whatever?

Richard Hartman:

Well, the, yeah, every day they came in and had roll call. And towards the end of the war, the German guards had gotten very old. They were not active fighting men. And many of them, I say many of them, I didn't meet that many, but a couple that I did meet had sons who had been captured by Americans and were prisoners in the United States. So, they were another reason why they didn't mistreat us. And it, they didn't have any more, I guess the German public at that time, towards the end of the war, didn't have any more than we did.

Clinton C. Brown:

And perhaps the privations were the same ones that the civilians were suffering, too.

Richard Hartman:

Yeah, sure.

Clinton C. Brown:

Because they were reaching the end of everything at the time.

Richard Hartman:

That's right, yeah.

Clinton C. Brown:

Was there any kind of barter system or a money system set up in the group?

Richard Hartman:

Yeah, we occasionally did get a Red Cross parcel, which was a box that was, oh, golly, maybe 20 inches by 20 inches and four or five inches deep. And they'd have cigarettes, a pack of cigarettes in there, a can of butter, some chocolate, sugar, you know, things like that. And there were literally people who would barter food for those cigarettes. And, you know, they're starving themselves to death, but they would rather smoke than eat.

Clinton C. Brown:

Okay. It seems like men in groups always get some kind of barter arranged, cigarettes were a pretty universal exchange.

Richard Hartman:

Yeah, yeah, so we exchanged that. And, you know, other people would walk up and down with something they didn't like asking for, you know, I've got sugar, I'll trade it for marmalade or, you know, whatever, so that was a barter system. And there were Russian prisoners in the camp who came in and cleaned out the latrines. And for cigarettes, you could get certain things from them, like salt. I remember trading for some salt, which was a, you know, it's a natural craving. And I got a little package of salt which lasted me nearly to the end of the war, and I got a spoon, a large spoon, I brought that along today, Lord knows what it was made of but it certainly held more soup than the little spoon that the Germans had issued me. Right before the war ended and the Americans actually crossed the Elbe River, and then they were told to, you know, for what political reasons, whatever, they were pulled back across and the Russians came up to the Elbe. (End of part 1, break in recording...) (Begin part 2.)

Clinton C. Brown:

(... it's about an hour drive to where I live so...

Richard Hartman:

I thought you lived down here.

Clinton C. Brown:

Near Northville, I lived --

Richard Hartman:

I'm just saying, you're always here.

Clinton C. Brown:

I know, well, see -- well, I won't get into that, but this is the best place we've found to shoot because it's our own. I mean, we have it exclusively. We go into the Mascom studio, there are kids coming in there, turning things loud, the radiators bang in the studio, so, you know, half this equipment is homemade, but at least it works, so... I'm very much interested in this, not having had the experience, being a prisoner of war, wasn't this very hard on you psychologically? You said you felt guilty at first, because you felt like you let the American citizens down.

Richard Hartman:

Well, of course. You know, a soldier only sees about, you know, what he can see from where he's standing. He has no idea what's going on. So, at the time that we surrendered we just thought, well, Good Lord, I mean, we're, you know, we're letting the country down, the Allies down, we've quit. And then eventually we found out that it wasn't just us. I mean, the Germans were so far behind us that we never would have gotten, you know, know back to the --

Clinton C. Brown:

Yeah.

Richard Hartman:

-- American hands. It, gradually you, you know, you reconcile the fact that it was, it was just something you couldn't control, that you really hadn't let anybody down.

Clinton C. Brown:

Part of the futility of war, I guess.

Richard Hartman:

Yeah, yeah. But it's a strange thing. When, let's say the pressure was on, when we were prisoners and you didn't know when the war was going to end, you somehow or other, you know, you suck it up and you live day-to-day and you, we, you know, nobody gave up hope, we were going to win that war and eventually, you know, we'd get out. But when, I think I was starting to say that the Americans came across the Elbe and then were pulled back, but some of those that went across were captured. And one day into our tent are brought three new prisoners that had been with the advanced forces that crossed the Elbe River, were captured by the Germans and brought in. And this fella by the name of Bob Powell, who lived in Salisbury, who maybe I told you before the tape started, died last week, was sitting there with me when this boy came in. And he looked at Bob and he said, my God, you're dead. You're dead. Bob said what? He says, well, I'm so and so from Salisbury, Maryland, and I have your clipping here. And he pulls out this clipping that says that Bob Powell has been reported dead, and my God, you know, what went through Bob's mind, of course, was my mother and father think I'm dead. And I'm not, I mean, he was sitting here. And that was probably the worst thing, and your state of mind is, you knew you were all right, you knew you were alive, but you worried about what your parents or your loved ones thought. And it wasn't until I got home that, and I told a cute story about my mother, after I got home I was, you know, one day I was asking her about how she found out what she knew. And she said she, and she was up in Newark at that time, she said I was out, they had a heavy snowfall, and I was out shovelling off the sidewalk while Dad was at work. And the postman came along and he gave me this telegram. And I went inside and sat down, and I opened it, and it said that -- and I've got a copy of it here -- you know, the Army wishes to inform you that your son is missing in action. Whew, I said, well, then what did you do? She said, well, I got up and went outside and finished cleaning off the sidewalk. I mean, what, that was Mother, I mean, what else are you gonna do? You know, I can't do anything about it. But she got three telegrams. That was January, as I recall, missing in action. In April, she got a telegram saying that I was a prisoner of war. And then in, I think June, maybe May, that I had been returned to Allied hands or American hands and would be home, you know, sometime soon. And then, in fact, I did get home on June 10th, I think, we got back to Boston. But when, you cope with these hardships, but as soon as it became apparent that the war was going to end and it became very apparent to us because the Russians came into the camp and all the Germans left, all the Germans guards just disappeared one day. And they, the Russians came in with their tanks and knocked down fences and, you know, on their way to Berlin. They left a force to run the camp but, you know, they basically just kept on going to Berlin. Well, at that point one of the fellows who was very near me in this tent began to -- and he had been a prisoner since North Africa, so for five years, he coped very well, all of a sudden, you know, the pressure is off and he just began a mantra of, you know, Roosevelt, Churchill, Stalin, some other little things, but then he kept repeating it. And for 24 hours that's all he, he just sat there and said Roosevelt, Stalin, Churchill, you know, the same thing over and over again. And eventually the Germans came in and took him out, and I never saw or heard from him again. I don't know what happened to him. But when the pressure is off, that's when people tend to snap if they're going to, you know. So, that, you know, the Russians were there as our liberators for, I think about two weeks, as I recall. They came in the end of April. The war wasn't over. And then the Americans came into the camp one day in early May and took out all those who were wounded, who were too sick to walk and whatever. And the next day they came back for the others, including myself who were still in better condition. The first day the Russians let them, the trucks into the camp. The second day the Russians wouldn't let the trucks in. They didn't want us to leave. And, so we formed, you know, the squad walked out in a squad column, not knowing whether we were going to be shot or not, walked out of the camp, got on the trucks, and they didn't do anything. But for what perverse reason, I don't know, they wouldn't let the trucks back in the next day.

Clinton C. Brown:

It would seem that you would be a handicap to them anyhow, or a burden rather.

Richard Hartman:

Well, I don't know what they thought they might do with us, but those who did, who were liberated by Russians and other parts of Germany took forever to get back to the United States. They were processed on back and into Russia apparently, and they took forever. But I can remember getting on that truck, now the war wasn't officially over, I think, it was -- I think we left the camp actually on May 6th, is that day the war was over? Or May 8th. Whatever, the day that the war was officially over was the day that we left. It was just a coincidence. I mean, when the trucks came out to get us, they didn't know the thing was going to be signed. But we're going along in the dark with black-out lights on, no, no head lights. And as we got to the, I guess the Elbe River to cross, there were trucks coming the other way and we were stopped and I looked out and there is the driver of this truck, a black fellow who looks up and he says the war is over, you can go home now. And I still break up when I talk about that.

Clinton C. Brown:

Wow, yeah. The relief, the release --

Richard Hartman:

I still feel it.

Clinton C. Brown:

Yeah.

Richard Hartman:

I can, you know, it's funny, I cannot say that without getting that emotion.

Clinton C. Brown:

I understand.

Richard Hartman:

You know.

Clinton C. Brown:

I understand. You know, when I look back on the number of places that your captors took you, one after another after another after another, you wonder if, why they just didn't say, hey, here is some food, get lost, you know, or something like that.

Richard Hartman:

You wonder.

Clinton C. Brown:

Because you were sure a simple burden on them.

Richard Hartman:

We sort --

Clinton C. Brown:

Of course in the German fashion they were following out orders, I suppose.

Richard Hartman:

I suppose so. But they, yeah, they certainly were regimented, disciplined people.

Clinton C. Brown:

Did anyone escape anywhere along that escape route that you went or --

Richard Hartman:

I don't know.

Clinton C. Brown:

-- captive route?

Richard Hartman:

I don't know. During the tour, two weeks that we were under the Russian control people began leaving the camp. You were sorely tempted to but, you know, again, where were you going? You know. I guess we figured we were safer right where we were.

Clinton C. Brown:

Right.

Richard Hartman:

And it turned out we were, they came and got us.

Clinton C. Brown:

The Russians were kind of an unknown factor anyhow, weren't they? You weren't quite sure where, whose side they were on or what they were going to do.

Richard Hartman:

Well, they were, they were different people. They really were different people. The first Russians I saw, those that came into the camp, I'll never forget it, astride the barrel of a cannon, an artillery piece, was a woman. They were not really in, you know, in uniform. They were all, they looked like, you know, people picked up off the farm and just dragged along as they came across the Polish plains, and on to Berlin, they were a ragamuffin group of people. But, yeah, that was the first time I saw a woman in combat.

Clinton C. Brown:

The other prisoners in the camp were mainly Americans, but they were also other nationalities, too.

Richard Hartman:

Oh, and there were Americans in the tent part of this compound, but in the compound, the main compound, yeah, they were French, they were Swedes, Norwegians.

Clinton C. Brown:

But you never got to see them?

Richard Hartman:

Oh, only through the fence, yeah, we could talk but, you know, if you've -- I didn't know any other languages. The other prisoners, some of them seem to know English. And, um... I've lost my train of thought.

Clinton C. Brown:

Okay. Did your experiences leave any permanent marks on you?

Richard Hartman:

Well, not that I know of. Not that I know of. Physically -- mentally, I don't know. Physically, I came back with a hernia, which probably would have happened sometime along in my life. But I attribute it to lifting grain, huge sacks of grain after the Russians took over. They had us doing various things, including lifting stuff that probably at that stage we shouldn't have been lifting after five months in internment. But I guess the new prisoners, you know, like myself, who were there only a short period of time were in much better shape than the people that had been there forever.

Clinton C. Brown:

Your comment that it was the Russian prisoners who came in to clean out latrines and so forth, that they were apparently looked down on by the Germans more so than the Americans.

Richard Hartman:

Well, that, too. But the Germans, the Russians did not belong to the, you know, did not recognize the Red Cross, the International Red Cross. So, any food parcels that were sent into the camp were never distributed to the Russians. Now, again, that's something that just popped into my head, I believe I'm correct, that somewhere along the line the Americans decided, again, our, our leaders, who I didn't know, decided that they were going to share the parcels with everybody in the camp, so that the Russians were shared, shared in the parcels, I guess from the American share of the parcels. Which was a nice thing to do.

Clinton C. Brown:

Yeah, it's a typically American thing to do, isn't it?

Richard Hartman:

Yeah, sure. But after the Germans left and the Russians were in there, we had, you know, everything stopped. I mean, we were, we had less food then for those two weeks then we did when the Germans were in charge. So, what we did was leave the camp, go out, and I can remember going out and going into somebody's backyard, in their rabbit hutch and grabbing a couple of rabbits and taking 'em back to camp and skinning them and cooking them up. And anything that could, for those two weeks, anything that anybody could carry, they were bringing back chairs and all kinds of junk. I don't know what they were going to do with them, but...

Clinton C. Brown:

From what you saw, was the German equipment, I'm talking about artillery, tanks, and so forth, better than American? There were rumors at home that they had better equipment and better guns.

Richard Hartman:

Well, I'm not equipped to say. I think the tanks certainly were better. They were larger and certainly had more fire power. And from all I've read, the German 88 was the best, you know, artillery piece for its size that ever existed. Today, of course, with missiles and all that kind of thing, it's totally different.

Clinton C. Brown:

Uh-huh. Did you get -- go ahead.

Richard Hartman:

I got the idea that if the war had gone on much longer, that those, or if they had had fuel to fly those jets, the war may not have ended when it did or maybe it wouldn't have ended the way it did.

Clinton C. Brown:

Or if they'd got the V-2's earlier --

Richard Hartman:

If they had gotten the V-2's earlier, yeah. Of course, I never saw the launching of a V-2, but in our march back from Bleialf into the interior of Germany, we walked by a launching site that was in the hills or in the mountains somewhere, but as we were walking by the, you know, it would light up and you could, this thing would go up in the air. They were creative people. They really, of course, all of our scientists as it turns out, our rocket scientists, were grabbed after the war.

Clinton C. Brown:

Right. From my English friends I learned that part of the damage that the V-2's did was their predictability. As you said, if you heard that putt-putt stop, you took cover.

Richard Hartman:

You took cover.

Clinton C. Brown:

And you never could tell where it was going to hit.

Richard Hartman:

Nope. You had no idea. I don't think they did either.

Clinton C. Brown:

No, well, they'd send it up on a vertical, almost vertical trajectory, so they had, they really couldn't aim it, they were shooting it pretty far, you know.

Richard Hartman:

Yeah. Well, they took us back to a camp, it seems to me it was Cologne, they took us into Cologne. We got off the... is that possible? Yeah, I guess so, they took us to Cologne, they dumped us in the main street, from my memory. And we walked down the main street and they, they deloused us right there in the middle of the main street in Cologne. You know, they had, like, blow guns and they, you know, blew this powder, I guess it was DNT -- DDT up each sleeve up and down your pant's leg. And of course eventually you got showers and they burned those clothes, I'm sure. They gave you new clothes. And we stayed in the camp near there for a short time, maybe a week. And then they put us on airplanes and flew us back to a camp near LeHavre, which was an assembly camp for prisoners who were coming in from all across Europe. And there I can remember going up to an officer, and he said, are you well enough to make the trip home? And I don't think many people turned him down. They put me on the Gideon Welles, a liberty ship, the Gideon Welles. Do you know who Gideon Welles was? He was the Secretary of the Navy under Lincoln. The only reason I know that is because I came back on that ship. But it took, I think, three weeks. And we landed in Boston. We were there just 24 hours, and then I got on the train to Fort Dix because I said my family was in Newark. And I called, well, I got to -- well, when we got to Boston we were in the auditorium, and an officer addressed us and welcomed us home and said, now, look, when you get to a phone, don't ask to speak to your mother, ask for your father because if he drops dead it won't make any difference. So I get to Fort Dix, and I get to a phone. And I called my, called my father's office in Newark. And I asked for Willard Hartman, and the fellow said Willard Hartman is no longer here. And I thought, oh, my God, he's died or something since I've been away, because I had had absolutely no contact. And I identified myself, and he says, oh, oh, my goodness, well, he's transferred back to Baltimore, you know. But I got a terrible start there. Finally I did call my mother, and the next day went home to Newark. And I was home for, well, I had leave for, like, two months. Didn't have to go back until September. And this was sometime in June. And then I got terribly sick. I was, I was actually sick before I got on that ship but I wasn't going to tell them. And then on the ship I, one day I would be able to eat, and then I wouldn't be able to eat for a couple of days. And it turned out I had Hepatitis, which was a common thing with prisoners. I went to a doctor in Newark, and he hadn't the faintest idea what was wrong with me. So then I went out to the Air Force base near Newark, walked in the door, and this doctor looked up and he says, another case of Hepatitis. He could tell, you know. I was there for maybe three weeks, and eating steak and whatever else they give you for Hepatitis.

Clinton C. Brown:

I was wondering if going back to decent food wasn't a shock to your system?

Richard Hartman:

Well, it certainly was. I can remember in the camp itself when we got our first Red Cross parcel, an awful lot of people got sick the first day just by eating too much food too suddenly. Oh, yeah, it could. And I can remember my good friend, Dick Ferguson, who I still correspond with, when we got to that first camp outside of Cologne, we went to the mess hall and he got, we just walked in and he got sick. I said, what in the heaven's name is wrong? He said, it's pea soup, I can smell the pea soup. And he literally got sick. It just took him back to the camp on a Sunday afternoon, and he didn't want to be back there. Oh, my.

Clinton C. Brown:

Did you ever get any chance to take any pictures of the camp, or did anyone?

Richard Hartman:

No. No, not that I know of, no.

Clinton C. Brown:

How did you feel about fitting back into civilian life once you got out? Was it difficult?

Richard Hartman:

Well, it wasn't because, you know, I was home for two weeks -- I mean, two months, which three weeks were spent in the hospital, and then I can remember going to Ocean City. The family was in the process of moving back to Baltimore. And then I went back to the service. I went to, down to Asheville, North Carolina, for a week or two of recreation, as they called it, and was reassigned to Ft. Bragg in North Carolina where I taught surveying in the artillery school down there. They tried very hard to keep me in the service. They wanted me to stay and teach artillery, teach surveying, but I declined their offer and got out in December of '95, and started at Loyola College as a freshman in February of '46.

Clinton C. Brown:

In surveying?

Richard Hartman:

Well, I had a -- no, I, I had a real choice to make. Finally I knew, you know, I was faced with what I'm going to do. And I didn't know whether to go to Hopkins and study engineering or to go to Loyola and major in English, because I thought I had some idea of writing, I wanted to do something in the English field. And English won out. So I went to Loyola, and I majored in English, and I, my first job when I graduated from Loyola was down at the Gunther Brewing Company in the advertising department. And I only stayed there three months when I got an offer to go to the automobile club, a former classmate of mine, a fella about a year ahead of me at Loyola, and where I had written, you know, different, on the magazine and the newspaper and stuff like that, he had gone to the automobile club and was editor of their newspaper and magazine, either member magazine. And he called me up and said he was going in the priesthood and would I like to come up and take his job at the automobile club, he would put in a good word for me, he knew that I wanted to get into something like that. So I did. I went up there, applied before they even advertised the job, got the job, and stayed there 39 years. And I actually did write, you know.

Clinton C. Brown:

Good.

Richard Hartman:

As editor of the magazine for a while until I became president.

Clinton C. Brown:

Are you going to write about your war experiences?

Richard Hartman:

I did. I did. I wrote an article back in 1946 or 7, the 106th Division had a Division Association and published a magazine. And I wrote, this article was published in that magazine back in the late 40's, while it was still fresh in my mind. And I read that over last night. And I will say it's amazing, you know, basically what I remembered was correct, but, you know, when I read that last night I could see where, you know, over the years my mind had just given it a little different twist and so on.

Clinton C. Brown:

Now, this distance looking back on your total Army experience, can you summarize what it meant to you?

Richard Hartman:

Well, I guess it made a man of me. I had never been away from home. I had, I say when I went to Glenn Martin I did become a, you know, the chief time keeper. I was able to apply myself and, you know, move up in the organization. But I never really had been on my own, if you call being in the Army on your own. You're pretty well cared for until you get out in the battle field, and then you're really on your own. Yeah, I think it widened my horizons. It certainly gave me something to shoot for. I say, I had never been exposed to surveying or engineering, and I seriously considered that as a career. But I opted for the other, and the other certainly paid off. Although I will say that I've never done anything that eventually didn't pay off. I mean, for instance, the surveying, and I began taking correspondence courses while I was, you know, in the Army, and trigonometry and geometry and so on, whatever. So I went, I majored in English and I went to the automobile club, Director of Public Relations, and I'm writing a magazine. But my next career step down there was as the manager in the various departments, including the travel department. And AAA is the largest producer of maps in the country. And the next thing I know I'm producing a new map of Baltimore, so I, you know, I was, it all tied in.

Clinton C. Brown:

All learning is good.

Richard Hartman:

Yeah, sure.

Clinton C. Brown:

Great.

Richard Hartman:

And I -- one last little thought. I didn't know this until after I went with the automobile club and I became interested in family history, and I began digging in and I found out that a relative of mine, by the name of Bolden, laid out the City of Baltimore.

Clinton C. Brown:

Oh, my.

Richard Hartman:

There is a, they were surveyors from 1790 until the early 1900's.

Clinton C. Brown:

Good heavens.

Richard Hartman:

And I, you know, you get the idea that, you know, okay, I'm at the automobile club and, or even going back, you know, I'm at Glenn Martin's and I go into the Army. And you get the idea that somebody up there is saying, hey, what's with that Hartman kid, he's in accounting, get him over to surveying, you know. And all of a sudden I'm a surveyor in the Army. And I get off course, and I go to the automobile club, and all of a sudden I'm back producing maps. It's strange.

Clinton C. Brown:

I would not laugh at that at all. Do you believe in predestination in some extent in your life?

Richard Hartman:

Well, not really, but --

Clinton C. Brown:

It seems to have been that way.

Richard Hartman:

-- you wonder. You wonder, yeah.

Clinton C. Brown:

It seems to have been that way. Carolyn?

Unidentified Speaker:

(Inaudible..)

Clinton C. Brown:

Time?

Unidentified Speaker:

(Inaudible..)

Clinton C. Brown:

Any final statements?

Richard Hartman:

It's been a pleasure.

Clinton C. Brown:

It's been a pleasure for us. Thanks very much, Dick. That was...

[End of Interview]

 
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