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Interview with William V. Loncaric [Undated]

William S. Switzer:

This is William Switzer, visiting with my Uncle Bill at his house in New Port Richey. I came down to discuss World War II and his history in the Second World War and his field artillery battalion. Uncle Bill, could you please tell me your full name and your rank when you finished?

William V. Loncaric:

My name is William V. Loncaric. And I retired as a major and I draw retirement pay. I retired from the U.S. Army in 1981.

William S. Switzer:

Can you tell me when you were born?

William V. Loncaric:

I was born in 1921, which makes me 80 years of age at this point in time.

William S. Switzer:

Now, before -- when the -- before the war with the United States started and Germany took over Poland and France, where were you and what were you doing then?

William V. Loncaric:

Well, I was at Missouri University, and I decided to take up ROTC. So I spent two years in the ROTC program. At that time we had a selection of truck-drawn or horse-drawn artillery. I decided to take horse-drawn artillery in place of truck-drawn artillery, because it seemed to be more interesting, plus I had an opportunity to ride horses over the weekend.

William S. Switzer:

And then I guess Pearl Harbor came, is that --

William V. Loncaric:

Yes. Pearl Harbor came. We were at lunch at the dormitory, and as we came up the stairs to go to our rooms, suddenly there were announcements that this is Pearl Harbor. We were attacked at Pearl Harbor. Well, all of a sudden, all of us in ROTC start parading around the dormitory. We had a lot of fun that day. But it was -- we recognized the importance of ROTC and what it meant to the nation.

William S. Switzer:

And after Pearl Harbor, did you decide to leave then, or stay?

William V. Loncaric:

Well, I finished two years of ROTC. I was admitted to Senior ROTC for the third year of university program. And I even joined the Scabbard & Blade military fraternity, was initiated, what-have-you, when a couple sergeants came up from Fort Sill and said, "Hey, Buddy, you know, if you would decide to go down to Fort Sill now, you could be a lieutenant before these fellows finish their third year of school." And I took their advice.

William S. Switzer:

So then you went down to Fort Sill?

William V. Loncaric:

No, I went to Jefferson Barracks, which was the induction center, and as you know, you have to take a series of AGF tests and all that kind of stuff, AGC tests. So I took those tests. And an attorney from Omaha, Nebraska, was the only guy that ranked me that week in the induction center. So they accepted me for officer training, and I was sent to Fort Sill, Oklahoma, by myself. They felt I could manage to handle that part of my training.

William S. Switzer:

What kind of training did you get at Fort Sill?

William V. Loncaric:

Well, as a private, my basic training was with the 105 Howitzers. Enjoyed that. Reached the rank of corporal, working on the guns. And I got to be a gunner. I passed the gunner's test, and only three of us in the regiment were able to do that. And then what I did, I decided possibly I want to push for my OCS program. But to no avail, because they only took about four or five fellows from Fort Sill, as opposed to -- they were actually drawing people from many areas. So they put me with the 18th Field Artillery Regiment, a school troop, where I had to actually learn the various duties of instrumentation, and then, in turn, I was an instructor. So I reached the rank of a tech sergeant and -- during my training period before I went to OCS.

William S. Switzer:

What was OCS like?

William V. Loncaric:

OCS was pretty regimented. I mean you had to be on the ball. It was during the wintertime. And we had to -- we had a little potbelly stove in the center of the six-man hut. And we -- that thing had to be spotless when we left every morning. We had to have a fire to keep us warm, but in the morning it had to be cleaned spotless. Everything in the room had to be spotless. At the end of our training period at OCS there were three of us that remained in the hut and the rest of the fellows -- and we had some huts with -- My friend, Bump, down the road, he was the only man left in the hut after the other fellows were -- dropped out. And I got my commission in April, 43, from OCS.

William S. Switzer:

What came after OCS --

William V. Loncaric:

Well, after OCS, at the end of OCS, the last few days, they took us to an open field and they had stations and you had an opportunity to select what unit you'd like to go to. Well, we found a unit, the 250th Artillery, Separate Battalion, at Camp Maxey, Texas, near Paris, Texas. And we thought this would be real great. So my friends, Longwell, Bump, and I decided to join the unit. So we took our 10-day en route leave and then we ended up reporting to 250th Artillery Battalion.

William S. Switzer:

That battalion was not assigned to any division or army, was it?

William V. Loncaric:

No. We were a separate battalion. But there were four battalions, separate battalions, at Camp Maxey, attached to a group headquarters. And we were to augment regular divisions, and so this sounded real great, and I was happy that it evolved this way. And, but really what they were doing, they brought seven and eight officers in an artillery battery and really, the requirement TO was for only four officers. So they -- you had to compete for those four positions. And after our advanced training and what-have-you, and passed the AGF tests and that, we were alerted for overseas duty. So I was one of the other -- and three other fellows selected in Battery B to go overseas.

William S. Switzer:

What was it like coming from college classes and then all of a sudden overseeing men?

William V. Loncaric:

Well, the problem was this. That, you know, I came up as a private, working the latrine and doing various -- and I became a PFC, a corporal, and what-have-you. And then when I reached the officer rank, this was important for me. And I realized the significance of commanding troops. And in OCS and the other functions I had, I had to drill and walk men from one point to another. So when I came to Battery B, Bravo Battery, it really wasn't a tough job at all. I took it right in stride. It so happened that the senior NCO's at Battery B were also at the 18th Field Artillery Regiment along with me. So we all knew each other. I was an officer. They were still enlisted men.

William S. Switzer:

And then it was off to England?

William V. Loncaric:

Yes. When we -- we passed our AGF tests -- that's the Army Ground Force tests -- we got a good rating, good stand. As a junior officer in the unit, they kept sending me off to schools, and I went to Officer Survey School, and a few other -- recon school, and what-have-you. So but since I was the youngest and nonmarried lieutenant, the battalion commander assigned me as an air observer for the battalion. And this is how I -- the position I held when I went overseas.

William S. Switzer:

What was -- tell me about the trip from -- where did you leave from, New York?

William V. Loncaric:

We left from -- we left from New York, Camp Shanks, on a British ship that used to cruise the Mediterranean, the HMS Herkimer. And we had civilian -- British civilians on the upper deck, and that was strictly off limits. But the interesting part was the food they served us. The first -- as we passed the Statute of Liberty, it was sleeting, cold, just a miserable night. Then the following morning -- and then when we got out into the rough sea a little bit, in the dorm -- All the lieutenants were in a dormitory, and the ship kept swaying side to side, and all of our equipment would slide from one side of the ship to the other side of the ship. And then the following morning when we lined up for chow, believe it or not, we were served fried fish. And we -- with a stomach never experiencing the sea, I found myself eating fish for breakfast. So we were told, "Consume as much bread as you possibly can."

William S. Switzer:

And you arrived in England?

William V. Loncaric:

We arrived in Liverpool, England, and very uneventful. As we went across the ocean, we -- this was one of the top convoys of the war. Now, there was a British aircraft carrier that was right adjacent to us, traveling across. And there were a couple other British ships around the same vicinity. And we got to England, we landed at Liverpool. And the most amazing thing after we left the ship, got on a train, and as we were traveling across the bridge, we could look down and see men working on the railroad tracks with black vests and Derby hats. This was amazing that a man would wear a Derby hat and vest, working on railroad ties on a railroad. And we continued on to Atherstone, England.

William S. Switzer:

So you had your camp near Atherstone?

William V. Loncaric:

Atherstone was a city about 20 kilometers from Coventry. And Coventry was bombed virtually every night. And after we got in our quarters and got everything set up, we were informed that at sundown the Germans would be over, bombing. So we went out and we had to dig slit trenches and we sat at the end of the slit trenches and watched the Germans' bombers come over, and the British fire and send their searchlights up, and it was quite an interesting thing. Like watching a movie at night, but, of course, this was realistic. And we were told that occasionally some of these bombers would -- their bombs would be hung up and they would go out and make a bigger sweep and drop their bombs wherever they could be released. That possibly it could hit us in Atherstone.

William S. Switzer:

How did your men take seeing bombing of a city, knowing that they were now actually going to war?

William V. Loncaric:

Well, watching Coventry being bombed, it brought to light that there was no discrimination as to children or men, women, old people, retirees, nothing. They just came over a city and just indiscriminately bombed. And they weren't targeting anything whatsoever. They were just trying to destroy the British Empire.

William S. Switzer:

What were some of your other activities while you were in England?

William V. Loncaric:

Well, in England I found that a lot of the fellows in my outfit were pretty conservative-type fellows. But I loved to go -- I went to various historic sites. And I even went, by myself, I went to Liverpool, England, to see the sights. Enjoyed that. Met a number of fellows that were being inducted into the Air Force. They were Flying Sargents, they were Flying Mustangs, and they were being transferred into the officer ranks. They all received first lieutenant commissions. And two of these gentlemen ended up in our battalion as lieutenants, flying little L-4s, which was a big step down from a Mustang.

William S. Switzer:

When did you start finding out what your destination was, and how did you prepare for that?

William V. Loncaric:

Well, we felt that -- of course, we all knew we were going to attack, we were going to invade France. So I was still a part of the air section and I started drawing flight pay and I was taught how to land and take the L-4 off. And we flew all over England. And it was quite interesting. We used to get up in the air and play games with the Spitfires that would fly around us. And they'd wave at us and we'd wave at them and they'd chase us and put on stunts. But England was very interesting and I loved it, particularly their first and second class cabins they had on their trains. And then in Atherstone we had pubs where people that were officers, high-ranking officers were allowed to go into certain pubs; enlisted men were not allowed to go into those pubs. And I never realized what social status meant. And it was just -- it just blew my mind to know that, because you were a coal miner, you couldn't attend certain pubs, you couldn't attend certain eating places. I just couldn't understand that.

William S. Switzer:

What kind of preparations toward the very end before you invaded France --

William V. Loncaric:

Well, what happened, while I was in this 250th, I had had an opportunity to get pretty well acquainted with my battery commander, Battery B, Bravo Battery, back in the States. And Chester Phillips became a major, moved up to Corps Headquarters, and at Corps Headquarters they needed 20 percent overstrength. And he says, "Well, I got a -- I know a lieutenant down in the 250th who has experience. He's been in the Officer Gunnery Corps. Been in the Officer Survey Corps. He's been in all these various -- had all these opportunities, and I think he'd benefit us at Corps Headquarters in setting up Corps Forward. So I said -- he came down to battalion and I got a temporary leave of absence from my unit to work with him. This was a temporary status. So I enjoyed that. And this was all being set up for D-Day.

William S. Switzer:

Can you tell us about your part in the invasion of France?

William V. Loncaric:

Yes. My biggest function in D-Day, we were to land at Omaha Beach in the afternoon on D-Day, because Corps Headquarters would become operational D + 1. So we wanted to be all set up for D + 1. But they wouldn't let us land, because there was too much junk and traffic and too many objects in our way on D-Day and they knew we weren't going to be operational until D + 1. So they said, "At this present moment we need infantry." So they kept shoving infantry in there, manpower and riflemen, as many as they can. So we sat back in the ship, and it wasn't until the next day before sundown we got off the ship, went into our designated position to set up and be able so that our Brigadier General, who was in charge of our section, we could then command the troops on the beach. So Corps had Omaha Beach and Utah Beach to command. And we had to coordinate the infantry and the artillery and the Air Force and what-have-you. So my biggest moment -- I was the man that carried the maps, and my instructions were, "Get to the designated point without getting lost or getting shot." And, fortunately, I made it.

William S. Switzer:

And then can you tell me after D-Day and you set up your camp and let the generals plan, what was combat like in Normandy?

William V. Loncaric:

Well, the first night we were there it was -- we thought we'd get killed by our own anti-aircraft artillery, because at night -- the Germans were afraid to get their airplanes out during the daylight hours, but they came out at night. And we fired at the Germans, and you had to seek cover, keep your helmet on, get in your slit tents and just snug up to your buddy, because all that metal kept coming down from up above. And this continued on until about 3:00 in the morning, and then we all decided to get one or two hours of sleep. But it wasn't too tough. It was just -- we just didn't think we'd make it.

William S. Switzer:

And did your field artillery battalion start setting up and fighting in Normandy, or did you move on toward Paris?

William V. Loncaric:

No, I was involved with the -- for 30 days I was involved with Corps Forward. Now, in the military, in the army, you -- when you move along chasing the enemy, you move a forward -- you set up a forward position and your main body moves up behind it. So Corps Forward was operational on D-Day. And when, if you look at the statistics on D-Day and the weeks following, Cherbourg fell a month after D-Day. Cherbourg, you could walk from Normandy to Cherbourg. So we only traveled -- we only were inland about 12 miles. So when my artillery battalion came in, they came and supported the 79th, they went up to Cherbourg. Well, I knew they were coming, because I was a Corps and I knew what units were coming in, so I was released to go back to my battalion. So I worked with my battalion through supporting the 79th Infantry Division into Cherbourg, took Cherbourg. We dropped back. We had the whole Brest Peninsula to work with, and Cotentin and the whole peninsula, and then we ended up in St. Lo, which was actually a turning point for that whole operation.

William S. Switzer:

Did you move on to Paris then?

William V. Loncaric:

No. St. Lo fell after eight days of infantry battles. It took eight days to defeat them. And there were, like, four fellows, senior officers also, that received Medals of Honor. There was a Major Tom Howie who commanded a third battalion of this division, and his company -- one of his companies were reduced to 23 men. St. Lo was a very, very tough situation. But after eight days we finally took St. Lo. Now, St. Lo was set up as a jumping point for General Patton. Now, Patton moved in to the peninsula and became Commanding General of the Third Army. The Third Army -- the First Army moved off a little bit toward the north, and Patton was going to work the central part of the nation. Now, we had the British at Caen who were doing nothing. They couldn't move out of there. And we had General Patton and the Second French Armored Division. We were attached to the Second French Armored Division. They took off like a big bird after -- the biggest armada, bigger than the invasion of aircraft, came in and bombed beyond St. Lo. In fact, some of the shells fell short, and this is where Four-Star General McNair was killed, of shells that hit short. We moved on and continued on to Argenton. And then the Polish division, which was associated with the British, broke through Caen infantry division and came south from Caen. At this point this area was now designated as the Argenton-Falaise Gap. This was where the American and British forces entrapped the 12th Army, German army group. We're talking about several hundred thousand troops that were entrapped. Now, initially, they actually closed the gap, but when you have that many men, you can break through any line that anybody creates. So we had thousands of men that were casualties. In fact, right near us, near our battalion where they broke through, we lost so many infantrymen that the -- they stacked them up as cordwood. They were eight foot high and about 20 feet in length, men laying one on top the other, to be picked up and transported to the distribution point. And this was -- this proved to be a very educational point for me. But some of the Germans that were captured couldn't understand our artillery. They said, "What do you have, automatic artillery?" We just had so much artillery firing at these troops, and we were told, "Just fire. Just fire in that goose egg. You're going to hit somebody." We killed thousands of horses. Thousands of Germans were killed in that area. But there were many thousands that escaped, because we let them escape. You couldn't stop them. And I have never experienced this in combat, in that we had a no-fire line. In other words, we couldn't fire too far out. We had 10,000 meters from our gun positions, we couldn't fire beyond that because a Polish infantry division coming south was there and they were stopped and stationed there. And this was quite an experience. Two men in my section procured a couple of horses, German horses, that were strays, and they rode them for a while and then finally had to give them up because we moved too fast.

William S. Switzer:

Where do we move on to next?

William V. Loncaric:

We moved on to Paris. We had some nice experiences moving on to France. And when we got to France, we had a number of incidences going there. We got -- we ended up about 25, 30 miles south of Paris and bivouacked there. And they set up a program, because we were associated with the Second French, they allowed the staff officers of my battalion -- and I was Assistant S-2 at the time -- to go to Paris. We didn't march but we were there. And the Second French Armored Division, Fourth US Infantry Division, a cavalry group, US Cavalry group, and a contingent of British troops, as a gesture, were allowed to march down the Champs-Elysees through the Arche of Triomphe. And fortunately for everyone, a German general commanding the forces around Paris decided that he would not burn Paris, as ordered by Hitler.

William S. Switzer:

What came after Paris?

William V. Loncaric:

Well, after Paris we had a lot of fun. We traveled about 80 miles to a high ground near Dompierre. This is where the forces coming from southern France and our units coming across the country actually met. And French Armored Division and the 45th US Infantry Division caught a German panzer division unloading tanks from flat cars. And we ended up on a hillside. There was a real traffic jam at that point because they were running tanks over the hill and down the slope to assist in the battle. And this was at dusk. We were ordered because, we were a truck-drawn outfit, to set back on a reverse side of the slope so we could fire. And while we were designated this position, when we started moving into it, we ran into a German headquarters unit. And we had a real firefight. I had recon -- I had an armored Jeep with a 50-caliber on my Jeep, and I had -- in my section I had a half-track, and the 50 was on my Jeep, and then we had a 50 and a 30 on a half-track, and we just about tore up their major trailer, which was their headquarters. And we dropped about 10 or 12 Germans. And the others got away from us. And in that trailer we absconded about $55,000 of French money which the battalion commander decided to hang onto. We would not report it. For future use for the battalion. And that night all through the night we fired violently. All the batteries were firing continuously, and when Germans were firing at our tanks, there were armor-piercing shells, these things would make -- the rotating bands would make tremendous noises as they went past us overhead. And it was quite a real deal. Plus the fact that a German female sergeant surrendered to us and I was stuck with her for two days, you know, chauffeuring her around, till we found an American unit we could turn her over. Because the colonel working with the General Jacque LeClaire of the Second French, and I spoke to him, he says, "Don't turn them over to our men, because -- don't let her go. They will put her in a tank and they will keep her." So we, from Dompierre, why, we went on to Strasbourg.

William S. Switzer:

What action happened around the area of Strasbourg?

William V. Loncaric:

Well, at the Stars and Stripes there was someone wrote an article about firing over the Rhine River. And that irritated me. So I wrote a note to the Stars and Stripes and provided them with the information that we had traversed the Vosges Mountains with the Second French in one day, and I gave them the time that we entered Strasbourg. We were the first American unit to go into Strasbourg. But, of course, the French -- we were with the French. And we fired across the Rhine River to adjust and support some of our fires. But just like our Corps Commander said, "Boy, if we get over there, try to be the first one to fire over the Rhine River." And we didn't have to hit anything, because we were firing at a road intersection right just short of a railroad station. And we fired from -- I went up in a church, Catholic Church, up into the steeple, and realized that we had good observation from there. So we made these fires from the steeple. And this is actually the most dangerous place to fire, because every tanker in a German and American were told, "When you go into a town, the first thing you do is shoot the steeple off the church." But we went ahead and shot from there.

William S. Switzer:

So while you have a drink of water, after your steeple incident, what came after that?

William V. Loncaric:

Well, after Strasbourg we went north and we were attached to the Seventh Army. And we were to get into a position that we're going to have to set up a line, a definite line to defend our position, because we're not going to spend much time attacking Germany in the wintertime. And then this thing happened at the Battle of the Bulge. And then we had to spread ourselves out pretty thin, the support. My unit was assigned to support the couple of division artilleries in the area and while some other units were sent out with Patton, north, to relieve the fellows at the Battle of the Bulge in Bastogne. So after, in March, the Seventh Army Commander General set up an operation called Undertone, and which was to attack north into Germany and on to Rhine River. Well, we were situated right in front of Vichy, France. And we were assigned to the Third Infantry, to do the assault in the Sigfried Line. And what we did, we had to blot out all of our unit designation, because this is all a secret unit -- setup. We didn't want the Germ -- because the populace, now that we were in Germany, the population would commute with the Germans and tell them what units were there and what divisions and what-have-you. So we began to attack Vichy. There were three divisions attacking Vichy, France. Well, all of our Piper Cubs were nonoperational, so I was asked by the battalion commander, I was asked to volunteer. So I went to the air section and a fellow that was -- he had never flown in combat before, in the 100th Infantry Division, and I was asked to go with him. And we went up into the front line. We fought at 3,000 feet. We flew back and forth. Now, in the artillery, many times you'll have a situation where you're looking down at the enemy and you're saying, I am shooting -- it's like shooting ducks in a rain barrel. I saw everything that the Germans were doing. Primer cord. Demolished trees to set up road blocks. I watched the artillery trying to fire, and I fired at the artillery. Finally, in communicating with the colonel at the division headquarters, he says, "Give me the coordinates. I'll fire for effect on every one. We won't adjust. Because there's too much out there." And then all of a sudden I found myself in this Cub with this guy, we were firing the entire Corps, the whole 15th Corps artillery. I was firing eight-inch Howitzers, 155 guns, and all I would do is just designate coordinates and they would fire. And I have told this story many times and people look at me with tongue in cheek. But believe me, when -- it was quite an experience. And all of a sudden I -- I knocked out two German 88 batteries. They fired at me and I saw their muzzle bursts. Although they had muzzle bursts, I could see the flash. And I knocked two batteries out, but there was one off on the left and he kept firing at us. And he tore our plane apart. And our plane began to burn, so we decided we better go down and try to land. We didn't make it. We hit the -- we ended up in the trees, just by the airport, we ended up in there, and we both got hurt. At this point we were told we were going to -- After Vichy, we went through the Sigfried Line, we suddenly we saw -- we began to realize -- we are sitting eating lunch, eating supper, whatever it happened to be, and we heard a strange sound, a plane. You know, now we know they're jets, but at that time we didn't know. We said the Germans are throwing everything at us, now here comes the bathtub. It had a real strange sound. And these were Messerschmidts, 262's, their first jets. And these things could only fly for about 30 minutes and they had to go back to the airport and land. And we had to contend with these, well, even while we tried to cross the Rhine River.

William S. Switzer:

And then that was before you crossed the Rhine River, and then you crossed the Rhine River?

William V. Loncaric:

Yeah, we crossed the Rhine River at Wurms. And the American Legion book, they got a hardback book, and in the latter part of the book -- I forget what page it is -- but my section is in there. I had crossed the river already, and my other sergeants and men were crossing the river when they took this picture in the Rhine crossing. And then we had other people who took the trucks. We had one driver so that we wouldn't have too much of a load. The driver drove over a pontoon bridge and brought our other vehicles over. Then when we got on the other side of the river, why, we went on to Bamberg. Not much activity there until we got to Munich. And then we ran into the SS barracks and had a real nice firefight there.

William S. Switzer:

After Munich, did you move on toward Salsburg?

William V. Loncaric:

Well, at Munich we were in a suburb of Munich, there's a small town called Feud(ph). And this is the location of Dachau prison camp. And the 45th Infantry took this camp. And I have never seen anything like this in my life. There were boxcars after boxcars of people that were just skin and bone, that were dead, and we had people laying in certain areas in their bunks, and they were deceased. But we must have had about 2,000 people who were ambulatory, and they came up and they were -- I got to Dachau, I would say, 30 minutes after the infantry took it. And at Dachau these fellows were so happy and we were so hurt at what happened to these people that all the fellows there, even the infantry, we all carried spare clothing, we took our spare clothing and gave it to these guys, which we shouldn't have because they, what they started telling us, we got to delouse these people before we can give them clothing. But then we went down the road and some of the infantry fellows -- there was a cheese factory down there. They found cheese. They found meat and food in some of these places. They found a bakery, and they told the guy to bake some bread, start baking bread as fast as they can, or we'll blow your bakery up. And started bringing the food up to these people. But, of course, you couldn't give them too much food at one time. It was just an unbelievable situation. I have never been back there, but some day I am going to go back to Dachau, and I don't know if I can keep from crying. Because we witnessed the assistant commander in Dachau, these workers, these prisoners were executing him. They were beating him to death, and all the American troopers just stood around and watched. They wouldn't do anything. There were a couple of Catholic priests in town tried to stop them, but the American soldiers grabbed the priests and says, "Leave them go. Let them do it. Look what they did to these people." And at that time when I came in there, quite a few of these people -- you talk about Jewish people -- a lot of these people were Polish; they weren't Jews; they were Polish that were mustered up because they were undesirables, they were being killed.

William S. Switzer:

So after you liberated Dachau?

William V. Loncaric:

Then we went down the autobahn from Munich to Salsburg, which is a real paradise. We met -- and I got to check my notes here. We met the 15th Corps Artillery Commander Brigadier General Ott, and he said that at 241 hours on the morning of May 7th General Yodel agreed to two premises, that they were going to have a definite meeting and are definitely going to surrender. There is no problem. Then in Berlin, Marshall Wilhelm Keitel, who was then now the, you might say, the Supreme Commander of the German Army, signed a formal surrender at 2345 hours the night of May 8th, 1945. So a lot of people like to celebrate VE day the ninth, but they are like -- 2345 hours was actually on the eighth when it was officially signed. And --

William S. Switzer:

How did you and your men take that?

William V. Loncaric:

We enjoyed it, but we were immediately alerted that many of the Germans had retreated up into the Alps Mountains. Now, Salsburg sits right at the foot of the Alps Mountains. And they said a lot of them retreated up the Alps Mountains, so at night they may come down, and they're fanatics. If there are any SS there, they're going to do this until they're killed. We never experienced this. But then after my staff -- the battalion staff stayed in the Baron castle and the rest of the men, we were supposed to stay in some of these other outbuildings and what-have-you. And because I am of Slavic origin, I was given Camp Porsche, which was a -- 3300 Russian people who had migrated from Russia before September 1st, 1939, they were entitled to stay in Austria or Germany. Anyone who came after that date, which was the beginning of World War II, we were supposed to send them back to Russia. And there we had a lot of intrigue with the Russian spies coming in. We had a female come walking in the building one day and she wanted to get housing. I had already been tipped off two days earlier from OSS, which is now CIA, that she was coming and she's a -- she was formerly a fighter pilot and she's coming in as a peasant Russian, she'll have papers that she's migrated to a town in Germany, and all that stuff, but she's a Russian spy. And I says, "What should I -- what should I -- what should I not say to her when she comes in?" He says, "She'll know as much as you know." He says, "That's their position. They're there to know what's in the environment." So I -- this was, to me, a real experience. And then after I was relieved, they, the people gave me letters thanking me. And they have a theater there. We, the people that worked, were fed 2200 calories of food. Those that did not work received 1800 calories. We had an American captain, female captain nurse that monitored all this at the camp. And we thoroughly enjoyed this. And from there I moved on to Bettendorf (sic), Austria. This is where Silent Night, Holy Night was written, and I spent a month there and was there on Christmas Eve. We went to church in this church. It was quite an experience. So all the Catholic fellows in the unit went to church that night. And then we went and had dinner and drinks and what-have-you after that.

William S. Switzer:

When did you get to go back to the States?

William V. Loncaric:

Well, I came back in the States in February of 1945. And they moved me into an 84th Infantry Division, and I had a company of infantry that I brought back to St. Louis.

William S. Switzer:

When did you get to see your mom and your sister again?

William V. Loncaric:

It wasn't until February of 1946 that I saw my sister and mother. So it was a nice experience. And I decided I would continue my military, because I enjoyed the military.

William S. Switzer:

And how did the war have an effect on your life afterwards, your work, and your choices that you made?

William V. Loncaric:

Well, one thing, what military taught me was discipline and honor. And you -- never afraid of a situation. You know, you just face up, any situation you had, you face it straight ahead. And nothing bothered me. And my philosophy is whatever happens, happens for the best. And I just -- everything, to me, is great. I am just real grateful that I am living today and hope I live tomorrow. Because when I was in Normandy, the first few days of Normandy, I didn't think I'd ever make it. And now I'm happy that every day -- and now I am 80 years of age, and I can't believe that I am still alive after experiencing --

William S. Switzer:

Well, Uncle Bill, I want to thank you for taking this time to sit down with me and discuss this. Thank you very much.

William V. Loncaric:

Thank you very much.

[END OF INTERVIEW]

 
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  October 26, 2011
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