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Interview with Jay S. Adams [July 5, 2001]

Tom Swope:

This is the oral history of World War II veteran Jay S. Adams, United States Army, 37th Engineer's Battalion. Mr. Adams was a bulldozer driver and he landed on Omaha Beach on D-Day. His highest rank was PFC. I'm Tom Swope, and we recorded this at Mr. Adams's home in Painesville, Ohio, on July 5, 2001. Jay's age at the time was 79.

Tom Swope:

So where did you... Where'd you train?

Jay S. Adams:

I trained—I went Willoughby(ph) Induction Center and then we were shipped to Camp Perry. From there we were shipped to Fort Len Wood, Missouri, and took our training there, and we took about 13 weeks of basic training, and then I went to heavy equipment school for about six weeks and was ready to ship out, and I got sick before we 00:15:31 shipped out and got tonsillitis, and I was in the hospital, and my outfit, the original outfit, I heard them was in the hospital, and they went to Seattle, Washington, over to the Pacific. And last I heard from them, I got a postcard from Washington and then I was held back in Fort Leonard Wood and finally shipped to Camp Beall(ph). They were just starting the 37th Engineers up there, and so I got into the 37th Engineers, and we trained there. I had all my training so I came home on a furlough. All the way from California back here. Then I went back to California and we weren't there very long before we packed up everything and we shipped to Florida. It took us about 11 days by train, and all our 1 equipment and everything, and went to Fort Pierce, Florida for amphibious training and we trained there. We got in there about June. I think. Last of May, or first part of June, of '43. Wow, was it hot there. And then we got that training in and then we went on up to Virginia, outside of Norfolk, and we took some more training. We went out on a ship for a week or so, and then came back and went up to Camp Pickett. Then from Camp Pickett, we took some different type training there, and I got a three day pass and made it home and back there, and then when we got back, we were shipped to Camp Miles Standish in Massachusetts and we went to Boston, and sailed out of Boston, and we met other ships going across. Came from all ports and you could look to the right of you or to the left of you, in front, behind, and that's all you saw was ships. And if we went across the ocean every so often we had to zig zag for a course, and that took us, I believe, 11 days and 11 nights to go across the ocean on those ships. They weren't the best in the world, and as we got over towards England, the ships dispersed and they went to different ports. We went to Swansea, Wales and took some training there, and then we took a—we got on an LST and went around England, and came up on a beach that was practicing for the invasion. Right now I can't remember the name of it. I'd have to look it up in a book, but I saw Eisenhower there on the beach there. I was carrying a case of dynamite over my shoulder. I didn't have to worry about saluting him, at that time.

Tom Swope:

You didn't talk to him at all, though. Did you?

Jay S. Adams:

No, he was riding in a staff car and—while we was there making invasion, one of the ships came around there and it was sunk, and there was about 300 soldiers killed, and I never knew it until a few years ago. They kept it so still. They didn't want anybody to know about it. That the Germans, that they done that. And then we had that training like—we went back to Swansea for a short period of time and then we went to the staging area in England. Laymouth(ph) and Fort Balloth(ph). It's a little inlet-like and—they had so many ships loaded up to make the invasion you could practically walk from one ship to another to cross that bay, and at night a German plane came in and shook the land there, and an order come down. No cigarettes. No lights. No nothing. All they had to do was see one light and he would have had a lot of us there because the ships were so close together and, certainly, before we loaded up on the ships there, we was in a house that we had there, all probably maybe three or four days, and we could hear our planes going over to bomb Germany, and as they went over, a German plane came in under them and he was dropping bombs. He dropped 18 bombs in a row, and one was near a hospital, and blowed all the windows out, and if he had one more bomb, he would have got us and I had to laugh. All the guys, they run outside and they jumped into ditches and everything, and didn't have clothes on or nothing. It looked so comical I got to laughing and then I could hear the bullets flying around there and I said, "This ain't no place for me." Back in I went. And so, then as we got loaded up, we took off the fifth and was out in there, and then it got so rough they called us back. We came back for invasion, and back into the harbor. Then the order came the sixth for us, or shortly that night to go across the channel, and the channel, I went across on an LCT, with my crane and my dozer on there. I was a dozer operator. And a jeep and a few other things. I couldn't get too many things on. And our outfits were split up because, like they found out when they invaded Africa and those places, if they had all engineers on one boat and it got hit, or all infantry men, or signal corps men, they lost X amount of men that was trained for that job, so there's only two on this boat that I went across on. A Lieutenant and myself, and when we got out in the channel it got pretty rough, and I had to chain my dozer down because it was sliding down the deck. I was afraid it'd punch a hole in the side and we'd sink before we got there, and so many of the men on the boats were sick. Were seasick because that channel was very rough. It was a storm, really, when we was going over, and as we approached the coastline in the morning, Navy was shelling the coast, and it was just like a fog on the coast so much, and if we come in on the left, our Rangers are trying to get up the cliff there with pillboxes to step on the cliff, and we was coming right into the pillboxes, and we was supposed to have been on the second wave, and I don't know what time we got in there and dropped the ramp, and the jeep that came off, the guy got wounded, and then the fire was so heavy that the ship's Captain backed us off and we went back out into the channel, and the jeep Captain, or the guy driving the jeep, they sent him back to the States, and he had a sister that lived in Ashtabula. He wrote his sister and told his sister about me, and she got a hold of my parents and told them where I was at. They hadn't heard from me for so long and they didn't know that—then they knew that I was in the invasion in the French coast.

Tom Swope:

What was your hometown during the war?

Jay S. Adams:

Pardon?

Tom Swope:

What was your hometown then?

Jay S. Adams:

Right here. Ashtabula. That's where his sister lived in Ashtabula, and then she called my folks on the telephone and told them that.

Tom Swope:

The Paynesville area?

Jay S. Adams:

Yeah. I've lived here all my life. 79 years here in Concorde(ph).

Tom Swope:

What beach are we talking about?

Jay S. Adams:

Omaha.

Tom Swope:

Omaha. That's what I thought.

Jay S. Adams:

Bloody Omaha.

Tom Swope:

Right.

Jay S. Adams:

And we backed off, and then we started in again, and we got stuck on a sand bar and was kind of like that, and an 88 come in under and explode it, and they pushed our boat aside just like that, and just as done that, three 88 shells come right in where we was at and that pushed us back out, and then we tried to get in again, and the Captain of the ship, he dropped a ramp and I looked down there, and there was a .50 caliber sticking out of the water from a half track, and I told my officer, "We can't get the dozer in until ground it out." So he said, "I'll take care of it." So he went up to see the Captain and he says, "You gotta get him in there." To this day, I'm convinced that he pulled a gun on that ship's Captain to get him in there because what they were doing, a lot of Navy guys were dropping them off in the water, and some of the quick movers going down and drowning out, and the men were drowning out. Getting drowned with the heavy packs on because it was too far out and some of the operators had flak vests on. I had a flak vest on, and I told the officer I'd take that off right here and I'd swim ashore with—we'll lose our equipment. He said, "We'll get her in." And so, when we finally did get in there and—kind of gruesome to see all the dead soldiers laying on that beach. You had to zig zag around like this to keep from running over them. One of my other buddies, that drove a dozer, he came in. I guess he got in a little ahead of me, and he heard a shell coming in, and they jumped off, and the shell came underneath his dozer and blowed the bottom out, and he was—had a trailer behind him with TNT in there. The only thing was left was a short piece of the tongue left. Dove(ph), Lynton(ph) Dove, had another dozer in our Company C, and he made a pass up through there. Some way or another he got through the mine field, and filled in an antitank(ph) dish, and got up over the hill so that the traffic could get going, and he received a DSC for that. And then—

Tom Swope:

Was that your job with the bulldozer?

Jay S. Adams:

Yeah.

Tom Swope:

You had to clear a path?

Jay S. Adams:

Yeah, um-hum. And then we kind of, took us a few days to try to get organized again and get back together, and then our job was working on the beach for quite a while. We made roads in that area, and we built loading docks for the ducks that come in, and on one side of the dock, and the trucks would be on the other side, and somewhere men from Company C, truck drivers, well they'd be driving that Red Ball highway over there and where as we was down on the beach. And while we was down there, I helped clean the mine field with my dozer, and one day as I was walking down there, to get on my dozer, something grabbed—just seemed like somebody grabbed me by the shoulder and stopped me. And when I stopped and I moved my foot aside, there's a mine about an inch and a half from being stepped on, and now God was watching over us. I tell you, it's—you can't imagine it until you have something like that happen. It's a—just like somebody reached up, and took a hold of you, and made you stop. Just like I'm looking out at that tree, not thinking nothing about it. Walking through there, you know. Just that quick I stopped. You know, it was, and for many ?Instances?, like just a few seconds that I shifted gears or something, and a sniper shot at me one time, and I shifted a little quicker one time and a bullet went behind me, and lot of different ?Instances? Went on like that. Just, moving just a little bit one way or another. A lot of our—we lost I forget how many men, but quite a few of us got through it. It's a wonder any of us made it. Within a 24 hour period there was around 5,000 men killed right there on the beach, and that's not counting the wounded. I don't know how many wounded. To this day there's probably a lot of them in the hospitals that have never come out from there, and before we went over, in England, we went through a rigid test, like a psychiatry test and stuff. To see what the breaking point was for you, and then they held some of our men back. I wasn't smart enough. I could have --

Jay S. Adams:

Then they shipped them over a couple weeks later. Then we—after we got done there, after they got the port open, then we moved on up in, well we went up into, all the way through France, and up into Belgium, and up into Holland, and when we pulled up into Holland—when we was going up into Belgium, it was getting colder weather and ________ + ________, and everybody sleeping in the pup tents and everything, and there's a guy came from this village. He said, "I'd like a couple guys to come and sleep in my house where it's warm tonight." So my closest buddy, Scotty West, we went down there, and we went up like in a loft up in like, it would be like an attic over here. And they had a feather bed. I tell you it was about—______ +______. Boy we sunk down in that, and while we was there, they washed all our clothes and cleaned them up and had 'em laying out on a chair the next morning. They were still thankful that they'd been liberated and they was free, 'cause I don't know exactly how many years they were under German dom—you know, under their control, and they couldn't do enough for the GI's going through there, and that happened through all of the towns that we went through. People would come out, and wave at you, and bring out the wine and stuff. Let's see.

Tom Swope:

Backtracking a second to D-Day, how did you clear a mine field with the bulldozer?

Jay S. Adams:

I dropped my blade. They were—like this mine field was like antipersonnel mines, the foot mines, and the bouncing Betsy's. The bouncing Betsy, you step on it, and then it comes up about waste high, and explodes, and it has pieces of all kinds of metals in there, and it just scatters just like that. Well, my dozer weighed 17 tons so that wasn't hurting it too much, and the teller mines, they were about this big round, and they kind of shaped up, and they had a cap like that, and they were for vehicles, and tanks, and heavy equipment.

Tom Swope:

So you just plowed right through 'em with a bulldozer?

Jay S. Adams:

Yeah. We'd pile them up down on the end. A lot of them would go off underneath and you wouldn't even hardly hear 'em. We watched. When we did make the invasion, them pillboxes was so thick. The concrete was about 13 feet thick in those pillboxes, and they'd build into a bank and them shells would hit 'em, and it just take a little chip of concrete out of 'em. You more or less had to go in there and throw something in. And they just had a little place where the gun's sticking out, and all the guns on the beaches, they had cross fire like at the 88's is back further, and the whole beach was covered. And then, like you had the mortar shells, and they was the same way, and machine guns, and then the rifle men all along, and they had trenches and stuff in behind there, the pillboxes, and they was well dug in. They said it was, be impossible for any human to get across that beach. And before we got into the beach, I can't think of the name of what they were, but they're steel things like that, and they had mines on top of them, just below the water level, so when the boats came in like that, they'd hit it and blow the bottom out, and the Ranger's job was to do that. To get rid of them, but they didn't have time to clear all the mines there, and all of this one company of Rangers, so I heard. I can't verify it, but there's only about two men left out of 100. That was a very dangerous job. And then off to the side, like we went in and it'd be on our left side, was a kind of a big cliff, and they went up over that cliff, the Rangers, to get rid of the pillboxes and the machine gun left up there. And while we was coming in, I looked up and you could see a church steeple, back inland, and that was an observation tower for the Germans using that to direct the fire on the beach, and then Navy guns there, they took a shot at it, and first shot, it looked about a foot off, probably more than that. Next shot, quite a bit more, and the third shot, that was it. There was no more church steeple up there. They wiped it out, and that helped us because they couldn't direct the fire on the beach quite so easy coordinated. And I'm glad the Navy's were a good shot because they were shooting over top of our heads at all that. And you had no place to go. The Germans are shooting at you, the Navy's shooting over top of you, so you had to keep going ahead. And we got up. We was caught in the bridge, up there on a—I think it's on, yeah, I think it's in Belgium yet. I'd have to look on my map. I still have a map that, if I wasn't driving my dozer, I was driving a message center when we was up in Germany, and I used to drive 400 miles a day. Go to different headquarters and back. I used to drive nights, and the only thing to worry about nights, the Germans had a tendency to put a cable across the road. Stretch it across. Windshield high or a little bit low, and take your neck off if you hit it. Fortunately I didn't run into any, and lots of times at night you'd see buzz bombs going over. You could see the exhaust from 'em, and I'd stop my jeep and I'd watch that. See which way it's going, because sometimes it turned around and come back, you know, and then when the engine quits, look out. She's coming straight down. And the first one I heard when we pulled up there was in, pulled in this house, and stopped there, and we heard that noise, you know. Didn't think nothing of it, and then all at once it quit, you know. Then the big explosion. I think I jumped about three feet off the ______ bag I was sitting on. And we went to go outside to see what was going on. Here comes another one, so back in we went.

Tom Swope:

And that was in Belgium? You're talking about this. Was this in Belgium?

Jay S. Adams:

Yeah.

Tom Swope:

'Cause I heard Belgium really got --

Jay S. Adams:

Yeah.

Tom Swope:

—a rain of buzz bombs.

Jay S. Adams:

Yeah. There was—where we was at at the time, there was a bridge we were trying to guard, and there was after that bridge, I think, but there was like a cliff down below, and they was overshooting it. That cliff was just enough, you know that banked there, they overshot it, and it was landing behind the bridge, and that's where we were hiding, behind there. There for a while, there used to be one every three minutes there. That's a little hard on the nerves.

Tom Swope:

Yeah.

Jay S. Adams:

And then, then we got up towards the Battle of the Bulge. Well, we was on the outskirts of it right there, up into Holland, and then after we got the, pushed back, we went through Oppen. And, I went through most all the big towns up there and then I start driving 'cause we wasn't using the dozer too much right then, and then we got up further up into Germany, on the autobahn. They had lot of bridges blowed off, and so our company was putting a what you call a Bailey Bridge across there, and you'd make a few spans, and then I would run the dozer, and I'd shove 'em out over this span. Then you get so far out, and then you put some more for counterweights on the back, and then we'd slide a few more up, and we made it across there. We never dumped one down in there.

Tom Swope:

Now what were you pushing across then?

Jay S. Adams:

The bridge.

Tom Swope:

A steel thing?

Jay S. Adams:

Yeah, um-hum.

Tom Swope:

Yeah.

Jay S. Adams:

Yeah, I had my dozer which weighed 17 tons, and I'd go up on the road, and I'd slide it out so far.

Tom Swope:

Building it as you go.

Jay S. Adams:

Yeah, and then get out so far them spans would be out there in open space, you know. And then we would put some more on there and we'd be weighed back, you know, because you had to have enough weight on the back to keep it from tipping, and we'd get across, and then we'd tear these others back here, and then we would start on the other lane over there, making that. We'd done that on quite a few of them. And then, it was up by Rhine River, which some of the other engineers corps had the bridges to cross the Rhine there. Pontoon bridges, and we went across on them, on up into Germany, and we travelled. We done quite a few things in Germany. I've seen quite a bit of Germany, driving message center there. And one of the towns that impressed me was Heidelberg. That was very well intact. I got a picture of it here, going across an old bridge there. I don't know how old that bridge was. It looks like it's pretty old, and we cleaned airfields while we was up in Germany, and got to see planes that were damaged, and pushed them off in a pile in late(ph) roads. We done anything that had to be done, and then if the war was over—a lot of us guys, we had high points so they said, "Well, you stay here and we'll ship the ones that didn't have high points to get ready and go to Japan." Unfortunately, we got stuck over there, and when they got over there, the war was over in Japan, and they got discharged, and here we was three or four months still over there in Germany, and finally, we got a chance, and then we went back through Luxembourg, and over into France, and to Marseilles, and we see a lot of Marseilles and came back to Staten Island, and went across by Statue of Liberty, and went across the New Jersey side into Camp Kilroy(ph). That was a surprise. I got in there and here's all German prisoners in there serving everybody. I looked like I couldn't believe it. They had it made, the ones that got captured. I guess some of the boats brought 'em back, and then we went from there to Indian Town Gap and got our discharge, and I got home November 11 of 1945. That was the day.

Tom Swope:

Do you remember that homecoming when you got home?

Jay S. Adams:

Yeah. Yeah. I came into Cleveland, on the train, and I took a taxi over to my brother's place. He lived up there, and he brought me down to—my folks had a farm right here next door. It's gone now. And he brought me down there that day.

Tom Swope:

Backtracking a bit, do you remember? Where were you on VE Day?

Jay S. Adams:

We was in Germany. We was in Germany some place. I don't remember the town we was at, but I remember it. And I remember hearing about—it was hard to believe the rumors and all they tell about the atomic bomb. And that's the first we heard, you know. They dropped it and show how much it done, and it was hard to visualize, you know, seeing all these other bombs that we had and —I watched a bomb sink low over there, and wave after wave of planes come over there, and then they'd make a circle back and go to England and load up again, and the only thing that was left in that town was just part of a church. Just completely wiped it out.

Tom Swope:

Were the guys pretty happy when they heard about the atomic bomb, though?

Jay S. Adams:

Oh yeah. Yeah. We was pretty happy.

Tom Swope:

You talked a little bit about buddies. Do you remember experiences with buddies over there?

Jay S. Adams:

Oh yeah. I—when I came across, my buddy and I was real close. He was from Wyoming and we would always pal around together, and we went on pass together, town together. We worked together. Well we even bunked in the same tent pretty much, so. And he was on a different boat when we made the invasion, and he was on up the hill when I come up on my dozer and he jumped up on my dozer there, throwed his arms around me, and the tears just run right out of his eyes. He's so happy to see that I made it.

Tom Swope:

So what kind of things—you said you went on passes together. What kinds of things did you do for entertainment?

Jay S. Adams:

Oh well, we—one time he came home with me here, and then we went back to camp together and he was already coming to my house. I never got a chance to go to his 'cause we never was that close, you know. And we'd go to picture shows and different stuff and—

Tom Swope:

Where's he from?

Jay S. Adams:

Wyoming.

Tom Swope:

Did you have any—this would probably be after the fighting, USO shows. Anything like that overseas?

Jay S. Adams:

Like what?

Tom Swope:

USO shows. Entertainment in the camps.

Jay S. Adams:

Yeah. On the bases here, we had the movie theatres and stuff that you could go to. PX's, and then they had the service club that you'd go and like, lots of time, instead of eating the Army chow, I'd go over there and eat. You know, when we was training, and then the Red Cross would come in and then they, there was another outfit that come in there. And while we was over there, I got to see Bob Hope. He came and put on a show for us boys. I really admired him. Coming right up there. It wasn't too far from the front lines and everything. I think all the GI's thought the world of him.

Tom Swope:

Do you remember anything specific about—

Tom Swope:

Well I couldn't tell you. Sounds right.

Jay S. Adams:

Seems like you had on the boxers, and I can't think of the woman now.

Tom Swope:

It wasn't Frances Langford then. Was it?

Jay S. Adams:

No. They always called her loud mouth.

Tom Swope:

Oh, Martha Raye. Martha Raye, the big mouth.

Jay S. Adams:

I'm not exactly sure.

Jay S. Adams:

I know it was one of them. I can't think of right offhand. It could've been.

Tom Swope:

She was on the show too?

Jay S. Adams:

Yeah.

Tom Swope:

Do you remember anything about getting letters from home, packages, that sort of thing?

Jay S. Adams:

Yeah, my folks are very good. My mother is very good in writing the letters. I get 'em pretty often and then they'd—now and then they'd be a hold up when we was moving certain times we wouldn't get mail. Like when we went over to France. We didn't get mail for a while, and of course, we didn't get a chance to write out for a while. Like I said earlier, they knew where I was at through a friend of mine that wrote a letter to his sister there. That way, and you know. My brothers wrote to me. Some of my girlfriends wrote to me, so we was well supplied with letters. I got a whole book of letters that I wrote to my mother and my wife, at that time, she copied them all down and typewritten them, so I have in there, a few pictures and stuff. Everybody seemed to look for mail call. They really enjoyed that mail call. That seemed to cheer 'em up.

Tom Swope:

Were you married at the time?

Jay S. Adams:

No.

Tom Swope:

You had a girlfriend, though?

Jay S. Adams:

Well, not where you would say serious. The funny part of it is, before I went in service, I was going with this one girl. She lived across the street from me, and then I came home, and I married somebody else. She married somebody else, and her husband died, and my wife died, and we've been going places together. We got back together. We'd go to church together. Go out and eat. We've been together for about nine years now.

Tom Swope:

Great.

Jay S. Adams:

We more or less grew up as kids together. She wrote to me and I wrote to her.

Tom Swope:

Does anything come to mind as your most vivid memory of that experience overseas?

Jay S. Adams:

Well, once in London, the first time I ever saw a German plane there, was in—I was supposed to meet my buddy down the road from me, and we had connections to where we was gonna meet in London. I got there a day ahead of him, and that night, I was in the London Park there walking around and heard the air raid sirens go off. So being a GI, curious, you know. Looking around, up in the sky, you know, and pretty soon, light that they had in London picked up this plane up there and you could see it. And it shone pretty good. It was really high, and pretty soon that plane got out of them lights and dropped a bomb, you know. Well, in between times, everybody run and got on the ground, and in London, you know. And of course, I wasn't smart enough for that. I had to see what was going on. I could hear that bomb coming down, you know. Getting louder, and louder, and louder, and I got next to a building as far as I could, and then we heard the explosion. Somebody else there too. Some civilian. I don't know who at the time. They was against the building too. I think we both scared, and after the explosion you stepped out, and you could feel the ashes hit your face. So it was pretty close to us.

Tom Swope:

So getting back to when you were occupying Germany, what were the German people like to the Americans?

Jay S. Adams:

Well, a lot of them used to speak German to me, you know, and I could speak enough German that I'd understand ________ or something like that. I think we _______ understand or something. And then they'd talk English to me. And they'd say, "We thought you might be German descent because you're blond hair, and blue eyes." And then they would talk to me and they would tell me different stories about, nobody knows about, but they said, "There's a lot of American soldiers that we killed, and they're out there in the woods." They buried them out there. Especially the fliers. When the plane got knocked down. They were very angry, being bombed, and if a flier or anything came down, well the civilians would actually, would kill him. Stone him to death. Beat him to death. And the German soldiers would have to be there and stop that. And they told us about some of that, and when I was on the beach there, this guy was in the States, and then he went back to Germany, and they _____ + _____ and put him in Army. I guess he was German or something. And he asked me. He says, "Did we bomb New York City?" And I said, "No. How come you ask that?" He said, "Well they told us that our planes have been going over there and bombing New York City." That was a propaganda that they was feeding their soldiers. And while we was on the beach there, on my dozer, we had what you call a swamper would ride with you, and he'd get off the dozer and go hook up the different things we was pulling in, and we had prisoners doing that for us. And I had a young one there, about 18 I think, and boy he worked like anything for me, and he showed me a scar across his stomach. He flew a plane for Germany. He said, "I got two of your planes before they got me," he said, "but when I landed on the airfield, you guys were there waiting for me and got me." So he was a prisoner of war, and the First Sergeant in the German army, that, well we had him in a concentration camp, he said, "All these guys always fighting. They all want to work with you." I had lot of guys that work with me and I never had any problems with them. They always worked good.

Tom Swope:

They were glad to be alive, even if they were prisoners.

Jay S. Adams:

Yeah. They were glad that they didn't have to go through anymore of that.

Tom Swope:

Probably glad they weren't captured by the Russians.

Jay S. Adams:

Yeah. When the war was over, we was up there, probably 90 to 100 miles back from Berlin, somewhere in that vicinity, and all the Germans coming back, boy. Anything they'd get a hold of. If they had a plane, they'd come and land it on the autobahn. Was given up to us, by the thousands, because they didn't want the Russians to capture them. They was getting away from the Russians and giving up to us. You could hardly move there some of the time, it was so thick.

Tom Swope:

Anything else come to mind?

Jay S. Adams:

Probably a lot of things will come to mind after --

Tom Swope:

Well then you call me and we'll sit down

Jay S. Adams:

Sometimes it's hard to remember all that stuff.

Tom Swope:

Well sure, and always you end up jumping around. I know that's true.

Jay S. Adams:

Yeah.

Tom Swope:

That's okay.

Jay S. Adams:

It's kind of hard to keep everything in sequence.

Tom Swope:

Yeah, 'cause one thing reminds you of something else and so, you go back and forth.

Jay S. Adams:

Yeah, that's true. I know in the wintertime up there, when the Germans would put the mines out, the teller mines and everything. They'd put 'em down in the snow, and after that snow melted, you would see 'em laying all over the ground.

Tom Swope:

Just walk around them.

Jay S. Adams:

Well, they was easier to pick up then. But when you worked in the mine field, we had linemen sometimes. They'd work in there and they'd—the mine detector detect them and then they'd dig around there, but before you pull that line up, you wanna get down underneath there because sometimes they had another one hooked to it. I mean, these, you pull them close enough, that activated the one underneath it, so it was touchy business. Our Company Commander sometimes, he walked through the mine field there. He was going to show some of the other guys how to pick up the mines. He lasted about five seconds. He stepped on one, and so then we got another Company Commander. I had an excellent Company Commander. Liverpool officer. I couldn't do no wrong for them guys. And some of the comical things, we had one officer that he wasn't too bright. He came out of—he's a Lithuanian or something. He came out of there, just before the war broke out a little while. Came over here and he went to OCS. He couldn't speak too good of English, you know. One time when we was up into Germany, and I was training him, and my Company Commander, and somebody else, and somewhere or another we didn't find the right road or something. We laid the map out there on the hood, you know, and this officer, in just the way he talked, he looked at it and says, "Oh, the road. She run off in the map."

Jay S. Adams:

Oh I thought that Company Commander—he was always after me. He never really got along too good with the GI's. We didn't see eye to eye. He's always going to court marshall everyday on the spot, and one time we was working in the dump, and our feet were all wet. It had been raining and we hadn't had dry feet for a long time, or socks. And I found this pair of boots there, and so I put them on, and he caught me when I came in camp. He nailed me. He said, "You sit down and you take off them boots. I court marshall you on the spot." Well that was a little too much for me. I said, "Oh no. I'm gonna keep my feet dry." So he went to the Company Commander, and the next day the Company Commander issued an order for everybody to get boots. So every time you squeal on me, the Company Commander always stick up for me. He'd look over at me and wink at me. Yet, he'd never say a word to me.

Tom Swope:

I don't think we got the full name of your units that you were with.

Jay S. Adams:

The 37th Engineers Combat Battalion. I was with Company C. We were always proud of that company for doing the most. Ha ha. We always worked together, and this reunion I went to, there was two Sergeants there that I worked with. One I helped put the Bailey Bridge across, and the other Sergeant was a close buddy of mine, and I worked with him on my dozer. Any time certain guys needed work, why I'd be there with the dozer and work with them.

Tom Swope:

And what was your rank?

Jay S. Adams:

Well, I never made nothing more than PFC, and how I got that was Congress passed a law that anybody that made the invasion, they should be a PFC. So that's how I got that. And the next day after I got it, one of the officers wanted to break me, and he went in to Company Commander and the Company Commander said, "Well if we break Adams, he'll be a civilian and what are we gonna do with a civilian over here?" So he left me alone.

Tom Swope:

Why did he wanna break ya?

Jay S. Adams:

Well I don't know, because I never would do exactly like he wanted. I run the equipment and he didn't know anything about the equipment. I told him, "Keep out of my way and let me do my job." And one stupid thing he pulled, kind of comical, this guy that got the DFC. He was working the dozer on the beach and I was working mine, and this semi got stuck down there, flatbed. And so he told the other guy, "Hey," he says, "you pusha the truck from the front." That's the way he talked, and then he told me, "You pusha the truck from the back." So we winked at each other, you know. So we started like this. "No, no, no, no, no. No pusha the truck, pulla the truck."

Jay S. Adams:

That's the kind of—he was always the one that was giving me the static all the time.

Tom Swope:

Do you remember other moments like that of humor over there?

Jay S. Adams:

Well there probably was some. Yeah. One time we was up in, I think Maastricht, Holland there, and I hopped on—one of my buddies was going to town some place and I hopped on the back of the jeep and went with him, you know. Of course I was great for going out without getting a pass. Ha. Some way or another we got in town, and I went one way and he went another, and he got in trouble, and I didn't, you know. But somebody knew that I was with him, you know, and so got called into the office there, and my Lieutenant and First Sergeant, they heard about it. I had to go in front of the Company Commander, so they go along with me, you know, and we got in there, and the Company Commander asked me if I had a pass, you know. And before I had a chance to say anything, my First Sergeant, "Oh yeah. He had a pass." "Company Commander," I says, "no, sir. I didn't have a pass." He said, "What do you want? You want a court marshall or company punishment?" I says, "Give me company punishment." "Well," he says, "I'll give you five nights cleaning kitchen stoves after duty hour." So, okay. For the first night I cleaned stoves. Next night, my Motor Officer come in. Says, "I gotta have you drive for me tonight." So I only pulled one night of cleaning kitchen stoves. The rest of the time I was driving for, or doing something, so he got me out of that mess. And then on the autobahn, my jeep was the fastest one that they had in the battalion. The speedometer would go clear to 60, and then there was a space, oh, probably a couple inches before you get back up to zero again. Well I could put that needle clear round up to five again on it on the autobahn, and I was always getting tickets on the autobahn for speeding. And finally, I had to quit driving on the autobahn and take the secondary roads. But the only ones who really could catch me were the MP's on the motorcycles. The ordinary jeeps couldn't catch me, and I used to like to make bets with the guys who was riding with me on the autobahn that, I'd let somebody pass me on purpose. I said, "Two miles down the road I'll pass you." You can't do it. Two miles down the road I was past him.

Tom Swope:

So they actually gave tickets, huh?

Jay S. Adams:

Yeah.

Tom Swope:

They didn't want you wrecking government material.

Jay S. Adams:

I think the speed limit was 45 or something, and I was doing 60 or better. Well, I was driving 400 miles a day, so I had to make time, you know. And one time the Motor Officer was with me, and I was pulling a trailer then. I had a trailer behind. Got stopped for speeding and MP asked me, "How fast you going?" "Oh 45." He looked over at the Motor Officer. "How fast was he going?" "Oh, about 55, 60." And I looked at him. I said, "Doggonit. You would have to say that." He says, "Don't worry about it. I'll take care of your ticket when you get in." I never had nothing happen to me for tickets. I had a stack of them like that. They used to always throw 'em aside.

Tom Swope:

But did they really expect that you would pay those tickets out of your Army pay?

Jay S. Adams:

Well, you got company punishment, or something like that, or different things, or whatever the Company Commander, whatever they wanna do to you. But they never bothered me too much. One time we was up, yeah, I think it was around Maastricht, Holland there, and this new officer just came over from the state side, you know, and I think it was a little bit warmer then, and I had my helmet laying on the seat and a jeep coming by, and he told the MP, "Give him a ticket. He's out of uniform." I says, "Ah." And so this MP comes over, and he says, kind of whispers to me so the officer couldn't hear him. He said, "When he goes away, I'll tear up this ticket." He says, "Put your helmet on while you're here." So I put that on. Funny part of it is I used to drive nights lots of times, and I'd go through these towns, and I could pick out different stuff at night, you know. How to get through the town, where I was going. Come daytime I had to go through the town and I couldn't get through there. I got lost.

Jay S. Adams:

And then I got attached to headquarters for a while. Driving out of headquarters at night, and the officer day would tell me, "We're going to check A Company tomorrow morning, just to see if they stand reveille." And then he'd tell me, well, next day maybe it would be C Company or B Company, so that night I had to go to their headquarters there, the different companies, you know, and I'd tip 'em off. I says, "Hey," I says, "we're coming around to check and see if you guys stand reveille in the morning." And I used to tell 'em every time, you know. The officer wasn't smart enough and he kept telling me all the time where we were going, you know, and I'd tip 'em off, and nobody got caught not standing reveille, so everybody's standing reveille in the morning. That's a little more of the humor stuff on the side of it.

Tom Swope:

Do you remember the day F.D.R died?

Jay S. Adams:

When what?

Tom Swope:

The day F.D.R died. Roosevelt.

Jay S. Adams:

Yeah. Yeah the—

Tom Swope:

Remember any reaction to that?

Jay S. Adams:

Oh I think all the GI's felt pretty sad about that. You know, they was just wondering how things was gonna turn out or what—we was hoping that he would live long enough to see the end of the war and everything. It was right, just within a few days.

Tom Swope:

A week or so probably.

Jay S. Adams:

Just about a week or so before the war was over there. And then, of course we'd like to see that, you know, when the Japanese war was over with too. All the guys, they felt kind of bad about that. And you know, we would really hoped that he would have lived long enough to see the end of it, and then we was wondering about who was gonna take over and how things were gonna be, but it turned out pretty good, and I give Truman an awful lot of credit for dropping the atomic bomb. I feel that he saved an awful lot of lives by doing that. By making an invasion, both sides are gonna lose a lot of men. I mean, it's, inevitable. You can't help it. The bomb saved a lot of American boys' lives.

Tom Swope:

Anything else? Does that cover it?

Jay S. Adams:

Yeah. When we was in Swansea, Wales there—another time I never bothered to get passes very often. We had a trench around the area there and the guys that would cut the water there, the big tree there, and then we hooked that water back up, you know, and we'd unhook the water and shoot through the fence, you know. And then it would be dark when we get back in from town, you know, and there was a big tree right there, and the moonlight lots of times shone on that and it kind of come right up that path and we'd follow that black strip down over where that tree was, and get behind the tree and wait 'til the guard went by, and then we'd sneak through the fence, hook it up, and go in our tents.

Jay S. Adams:

Oh, I wasn't the only one that done that. There was others too.

Tom Swope:

Now you knew you were gonna be part of the D-Day invasion at that point. Right? When you were over there?

Jay S. Adams:

Well, not really. We didn't know. We was preparing for a landing, but we didn't know when it was gonna be. Actually, we didn't know when it was gonna be 'til we got on that boat. They kept—they was very good at keeping things quiet, and my wife that I married, second wife that I married, she was in the, I think around Norfolk some place, on the switchboard, and she knew about the different stuff, and they posted a guard with her all the time and kept track of her. You know, a week or so before, because she knew the dates and everything, and they didn't want any information getting out.

Tom Swope:

So there was no particular tension among the guys that they didn't really know?

Jay S. Adams:

No. We knew we was preparing for a landing. We didn't know where, or the exact date, or anything until we was getting ready to load up, you know. I don't know even whether our officers knew exactly everything, but we was preparing for it, but we didn't know exactly when. Every GI that was there, you could be side by side and he could tell a different story.

Tom Swope:

That's exactly right.

Jay S. Adams:

And I'd like to say this. That it took all branches of service to help win this war. Not any branch by itself could do it alone, and also the people back home. The civilians back home, they worked together and made the supplies for us. Without them working in the factories and stuff, we couldn't have won that war without the supplies. They kept the supplies coming good to us, and it was everybody working together back in those days. I was just one little spoke in the wheel. Tried to do my best I could for our country.

Tom Swope:

And you did good.

Jay S. Adams:

The real heroes are the ones that gave up their lives and the ones still laying in the hospitals. They're the real heroes. We were the fortunate and lucky ones that come back. If you hadn't seen it, it's hard for anybody to believe it in trying to explain it to 'em, just exactly how it was. And some of the French people were sympathizers with the Germans too. And at night they'd be snipers up there in the tree, and they'd watch where you'd bend down, and the planes would come over, and they'd be _____ under cover of that noise they'd be shooting at you, and then you'd be ducking, and you wouldn't dare poke your head up, you know, to see where the flash of the gun was. I know my first night there, I took the sandbags off my dozer and I put around. I made my own little place where I could get in there, and I could hear the bullets hitting in front of it different times at night there. I think I was stiffer than a board. We had a guy in service, and his family lived in Germany, and he wanted to go see his folks there, and so they sent, I don't know, an officer with him, but while he went to see his family, his brother came in from the German Army. He was released. Something. Got back towards the end of the war, so those two brothers met from two different armies there. So different incidents like that. But basically the German people are. I don't know. They're just like we are. Actually, most of the GI's would say they got along better with the German people than they did with the English people, and I happen to be English descent too.

Tom Swope:

So if they were not a member of the party, they were just normal people.

Jay S. Adams:

Normal people, and I got acquainted with one German soldier who was up in, not too far from Frankfurt in some small town, and he was released from the Army, and we stayed in a house, in a schoolhouse there, and he used to come down every night and sit on the steps, and we'd sit there and talk about different things. He'd tell me about their Army and everything, and he said they wanted him to go into the SS troopers and he said, "No." He wouldn't go in there. He was in the regular German Army and he said, "Well we had no choice. We didn't want this war anymore than you guys did." And you know. He was the same age I was and we got along pretty good there. I wish I'd got his address so I could have wrote to him later on.

Tom Swope:

Yeah.

 
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  October 26, 2011
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