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Interview with Arch Joseph Lewis, Jr. [Undated]

Patricia H. McClain:

This morning I am interviewing Dr. Arch Lewis, 8672 South State Road 135, Pekin, Indiana, date of birth March the 16th, 1920. My name is Pat McClain, and I am on the staff of U.S. Senator Richard Lugar. With me is Richard Stevenson, who is the Washington County coordinator for Senator Lugar's Veterans History Project. Dr. Lewis, were you drafted or did you enlist into the service?

Arch Joseph Lewis, Jr.:

I was drafted. I was working for the L&N Railroad at the time, and they advised two or three of us to hold off and they were getting together a Railroad Battalion, and we said all right. And I got drafted almost immediately, and I was inducted. I went to Fort Benjamin Harrison, and it's about two miles from Louisville. They -- we bussed in there, and nothing to it. We got our uniforms and signed up and all this and that. And then we took off for Camp Claiborne, Louisiana, by rail. We called it the hell hole of the South. It had a lot of swampy area back in there; and when we took our hikes -- well, the final -- the final hike that we took to finish basic training was a 25-mile hike. You take one step forward and slip back a half a -- half a step, and it's hot. You know, we are talking about -- we are in the late April, May -- we were in June now in '42, and the -- we got to Caster Farms, as I recall, that was about halfway, and set up bivouac. About the time we got comfortable, they said, "Well, pack up. We're going back." And that's 20 -- that's a 25-mile hike. Now, we did stop every once in a while and smoke them if you got them, and by the time we got to the camp, they had a band playing for us. If that band hadn't been there, I doubt if we could have walked through the gate, but we all did. Some -- I think a few dropped out before we went through the gate though, but it was -- it was a tough basic. And by the way, I failed to mention that this was Fort Benjamin Harrison, and that's where we finished our basic, and then we shipped out to -- no, that was Camp Claiborne. Pardon me very much. That was Camp Claiborne, Louisiana, and then we shipped out to Fort Benjamin Harris -- or Fort Benning, Georgia, the reason being -- the reason being that there were a couple of paratroopers that came back after basic training and asked for volunteers. They were sharp-looking fellows. They had -- is that door closed? They were sharp-looking fellows, had Class A uniforms, wings, shiny boots, their pants tucked in their boots, and they asked for volunteers, and some of us volunteered. I thought I could do that. Those boys stood there and looked proud and liked what they were doing, and they convinced me, and I volunteered. So then we moved on to Fort Benning, Georgia, the home of the parachute school, and the first thing I know is they told us you don't walk, you run everywhere. You run to the movie theater, you run to the PX, and you run back. We always ran. And that kind of got you ready, you know, and they -- we learned how to rig parachutes there, learned judo. We roped -- climbed rope, and that was tough, and they made you improve each day, each week to build up your body -- your upper body strength. We -- they had -- the worst thing they had there, the most difficult thing was the jump towers, and these towers were 250 to 300 feet high. They had a cable running from the top down to within, say, 10 or 12 feet -- 10 or 12 feet of ground, and on the end of the cable they had a bungee cord. First time I ever come across that.

Patricia H. McClain:

Uh-huh.

Arch Joseph Lewis, Jr.:

That was a bungee cord. And then they had a harness on the end of the bungee cord, so they -- this was a real test for paratroopers. It taught you to think as you descended out of the airplane. And you went over to the harness, and you went face down to the ground. You put yourself in that harness, and they hooked you into the harness. You were hooked in here, up in your arms and in your legs, so that when they raised you off the ground you were straight, you were parallel to the ground. And also on the -- they had a little pack in front and a rip cord, a little panel here --

Patricia H. McClain:

Uh-huh.

Arch Joseph Lewis, Jr.:

-- so that when you -- they raised you all the way up to the top of that jump tower, and there was a sergeant standing down at the bottom, and the higher you went, the smaller he got, and I recall it looked like a small squirrel or something down on the ground. And you're still parallel to the ground and looking down. When you get to the top, he yelled, "Lewis, are you ready?" And I responded, "Yes, sir." Now, all the time I'm thinking I have to do one thing when I fall. When I pull this cord, it releases me from the harness -- I mean from -- the harness from the thing, and I drop, I drop or 12 feet from that bungee cord. Now, while I'm dropping -- and you hope it stops. While I'm dropping and I -- after I pull the cord, I have to change hands; and when I finish up, I am in a position like this, my arms out, outstretched, and this cord that I pulled in the right hand winds up in my left hand, and then they bring you down. If that's the way you are, you pass. Otherwise they take you right back up. One story was a boy by the name of deWeet -- deWeese (ph). They put him in a harness. And they took you up there by platoon, and the rest of us would be sitting around or maybe working on some other things, and we -- you could watch, when we had time, to see what was going on. And they put deWeese (ph) all the way up, and the sergeant said, "deWeese (ph), are you ready?" There was no response. He repeated that: "Are you ready?" There was still no response. The third time, no response. So they brought deWeese (ph) down, and he was as rigid as this table {knock on table} just sitting here talking to you. They took him out of his harness, put him in an ambulance. They had an ambulance over in the field, and I don't ever know what happened to him. I never found out. That was one incident. Another incident -- why they did this, I'll tell you why. In the jump we made in Fort Bragg, there was a Lieutenant Tolan, who -- he had -- absolutely had to pass this test of this ______ on this jump tower, and we made a jump. And usually when you made a jump you always looked up and looked around, make sure all your buddies were okay. Well, here is a few -- this Roman candle -- or streamer, they called it, and you kept looking, say, "Pull your -- pull your emergency. Do something." And, well, we ran over, and he couldn't -- whoever it was, we ran over, didn't know, and he -- he was left-handed, and he clawed through the canvas, and that isn't easy. He was trying to pull the rip cord over here on the right side. So that's why they made you think when you were falling.

Patricia H. McClain:

I see.

Arch Joseph Lewis, Jr.:

And he lost his life. Now, let's see. All right. Now, we are going now into -- we are going to start making five qualifying jumps. The -- this is another terrifying, horrifying thing to go through. First of all, you have to learn how to rig parachutes, and that's pack it --

Patricia H. McClain:

Uh-huh.

Arch Joseph Lewis, Jr.:

-- another term for packing. They call people -- soldiers who pack chutes were riggers. And so the thing is you had to pack your own chute, so you had to get it right. And the first night that we went into the -- this big gymnasium, the first night that we packed our chute, I remember it was three or four hours before we left and went back to the barracks and hit the sack because we were getting up the next morning to make the first jump. So you took each riser, little card in the parachute that holds the parachute -- and I don't know how many risers there are, maybe 100, 80 or 100, and you take them and you fold them out straight and make sure they are straight so that they don't get tangled up. And that's why we took three or four hours to pack the first chute. Then you take it out and you jump it the next day. Each -- each day it got shorter time to pack that chute. That's how we got more competence in the chutes. In the last days I recall in 30 minutes or so we were out, went to the PX, you know, whatever. And then we got our fifth jump. We qualified and had a nice formation. The commandants gave us a nice speech, and off we went to Fort Bragg. At Fort Bragg, that was the home of -- well, the 82nd Division, the one that I took my basic training in, when we went to Fort Bragg I was still in the 82nd. When we went to Fort Bragg, they divided the 82nd Division up into two divisions, two airborne divisions, 82nd Airborne and 101st Airborne. Now, originally the 82nd was just a line outfit. Sergeant York's old outfit, if you remember. And now the Infantry Division, Land Division, is a larger division than the Airborne Division. The airborne is smaller, a small mobile. And so I was transferred from the 82nd into the 101st when we -- when we reached Fort Bragg, and it -- we took jump master training. I was in the 377th Parachute Field Artillery Battalion. Now, this is an experimental outfit. They had never -- they had never at that time taken a 75-millimeter howitzer and broken it up into six components, made six bundles and daisy-chained it under a C47. And then, when we got the training to be able to do this and we got the green light, that means we went out to the plane and jumped at the same time these 82nd -- 85-millimeter -- 85-millimeter howitzers were dropped the same time we were, and it was -- it was a total failure because, as I will explain later, we were so scattered. One -- one 75-millimeter howitzer was put into activity that the rest of them were not. We were so scattered. I want to go back too, tell you about the trio of fellows. My -- I am in the trio. There was a Sprouse, Manny Gomez and myself. We took basic training together. We three volun -- we didn't know each other that well. We knew -- we saw each other in basic training, didn't really get to meet each other. We volunteered, all three of us, to the parachute school, went through parachute school. We wound up at Fort Bragg together, and we all three went into the 377th and wound up in battery C, the same battery. I often wondered how that could happen, but there must be some people up there planning that saw us together and said, "Let's keep these three guys together, you know, maybe work out better." That's the only thing I can think of, because all the way through -- but it didn't happen that way at the end, and I'm going to tell you right now that Manny Gomez and Oliver Sprouse went all the way through Normandy, Holland, Bastogne. They wound up in Eagle's Nest, Hitler's Eagle's Nest up in the mountains. I was the only one that failed. I was taken prisoner, but I was the one that was dropped 10 or 12 miles from my drop zone. Those guys hit their -- hit pretty close to their drop zone. And by the way, Gertrude Stevenson called me Saturday, and I got in my mind I wanted to call Sprouse, Oliver Sprouse. I couldn't call Manny because he passed away a couple of years ago, and guess how? They gave him a flu shot, and he had a reaction to the flu shot, after going through all that.

Patricia H. McClain:

Oh.

Arch Joseph Lewis, Jr.:

But I did call Sprouse. Excuse me. I did call Oliver Sprouse. He is still in the same house in West Virginia that he was born in, lived in and still -- and married and is still in the same house. I knew his wife was in a nursing home, and I asked him how she was. And he said, "Well --" and he is 92 years old. He says, "Well, Lewis, she is doing all right. I go over every day and help feed her, and she's doing okay." And I said, "Tell her I said hello." "I will do that, Lewis." That's the way he talks.

Patricia H. McClain:

Uh-huh.

Arch Joseph Lewis, Jr.:

Wonderful person, and he is the kind of guy that sat on his back porch as a kid and shot one deer for food, and they wouldn't shoot another deer until that food was gone. And he shot it in the -- in the proper time, deer season. And I asked him, said, "Did you get your deer this year?" "No, Lewis. I still have a little meat from the last year I caught -- I shot." So that's -- when they made -- when they made Sprouse, they threw the model away, the mold, you know.

Patricia H. McClain:

Uh-huh.

Arch Joseph Lewis, Jr.:

So anyway, I just had to get that in. So where are we? We are here at -- well, we are about ready, I think, to leave Fort Bragg. Well, we had Tennessee maneuvers. That's right. I forgot about that. And we went to Tennessee for maneuvers. I got some real good duty there. Frank McKenzie and I got the security for the rear echelon, which means you just sit back and take it easy while they are on maneuvers. So that was wonderful. And so when we came back from maneuvers, we were pretty well set up. But I do want to mention another friend of mine, Mickey Bolek (ph). He -- he was a latecomer in 377, maybe a couple months after we started with our training. And three or four of us were leaving the barracks one Saturday night to go out, and Mickey -- we didn't know him then. He said, "Hey, you guys going to town?" "Yeah." "Do you mind if I join you?" "No. Come on." So he came along. We hit it off real -- real well, Mickey and I did. We'd -- on a pass we'd go into town, Fayetteville, little -- little restaurant we liked, and we'd get the same meal every time, got away from that GI food, and we liked the lamb chops and mashed potatoes and tomato gravy and peas, I think that's what it was -- or green beans, pardon me. And we would sit there and talk about families, family life or how our families are doing, what we are going to do when we get out and so forth. That was Mickey Bolek (ph). He became a very, very close friend, he and I, and I will tell you a little bit about him later. So like I say, we are just about ready now to go overseas. We moved out to Camp Shanks, New York, at the -- what do they call it -- embarkment, embarkment place, where you get on a ship to go overseas, in other words. And we got on the SS Strathnaver. Took us 43 days to get over the Atlantic, cross the Atlantic, and the reason being the Strathnaver -- I never got the full story of this. One story was they had found saltwater in the drinking water. Now, when you took a shower on board ship, you took -- took showers in saltwater. But then I heard too it was the engine. I thought -- I think it was engine failure because -- I'm not sure, but that is the stories we heard. Now, they -- the engine, whatever it was, trouble was fixed, and we took off. St. John's, Newfoundland, is a beautiful place. It was an oval harbor and hills all around, and there were houses built around there. And there were a couple of girls used to like to come out when we were docked there at the harbor, liked to come out on the porch and dance, and all the soldiers would go over and watch, and the ship would lift, and it was funny in a way. So anyway, we finally got ready to leave, and going out -- it's a small, narrow isthmus there at St. John's, and the ship actually scraped against the bottom. We had to put back in there. We had to wait for one of the ships that originally left with the original convoy, St. John Ericson was the name of it, and they came in and picked us up and took -- and I think we joined another convoy going over to Europe. And we finally got -- reached Liverpool in 43 days, and we were taken by rail to Newbury, Berkshire, England. It is a beautiful, beautiful setting. I will never forget it. We had some good memories. We used to -- couple times we got a chance to get passes to the motor pool and get these little motorbikes and drive around the countryside and see these statues and the English people. They were wonderful people. Over there things -- we really got serious over there because we could see what the English people went through. We got to London, saw the devastation there. We saw every night -- practically every night the Germans came over, air raids and always a blackout, so we knew that the time was coming for combat. Our enemy's right across that narrow -- narrow channel, just waiting for us, so we got real serious. And we did get a break in the billeting. We -- battery C -- it was lucky there. We billeted in a large barn, horse barn in fact, and there were two long sections running parallel. At the end there was another section came across, so we had three sides, big barns. And there were 90 of us in battery C, and we had a cook and kitchen. We got along very well. Now, most of those places were in neison -- neison, neison, however you want to pronounce it -- metal -- metal structures.

Patricia H. McClain:

Okay.

Arch Joseph Lewis, Jr.:

So we did very well there. The -- oh, and there was a courtyard, brick courtyard. We would fall out there and so forth, and we started train -- we started training real, real seriously. Made several night jumps. I think I told you the one was about two weeks before Normandy, and it was dark, clouded, no moon, 10 to 15 -- I think it was 10 miles, gusting up to 15 at times. And as I said before, if you can't see something to get orient -- oriented about the space -- you're always oscillating, but in the dark you don't realize that because you feel like you are coming straight down; you can't orient yourself. And we -- a lot of boys were casualties in this jump because of the wind. And what happened to me, I was -- I was oscillating on the chute, and I hit it with my right -- hit the ground with my right side and broke my clavicle. And a lot of boys broke their legs -- not a lot but a few of them, legs and arms, and some of them did not get to go. I got to go. Then we were getting ready for combat, so what we do is move to martialing areas. We had good food. We were there about -- I'm just guessing here. I'd say 10 days to couple weeks maybe. We had good food, movies, sand tables to gather around and start talking about where we were going to land, what to do. We cleaned our weapons, sharpened our knives and talked about where and when and finally started collecting ammunition, grenades and rations. Well, we knew what was coming. And they finally moved us into the martialing area at night, and the planes are sitting there, and we -- at that point in time all we were doing is just waiting for the go -- go signal to get on -- get on board. And we would check each other's equipment. Sometimes you wondered where you going to put this. I will put my grenade in this pocket and so forth, and we made sure it was comfortable. And after we got all the stuff that we considered combat equipment, full field pack on the ground and waited for the go. It was getting very close, and in fact, we already -- I already told you we put our full field equipment on. And Mickey Bolek (ph), my buddy, came walking, and he was in a plane -- one plane separated, our plane. He was in the plane ahead of us, and I saw him come walking. He said he was going out, and we shook hands. He said, "Good luck, Lewis." I said, "Good luck, Mick." And he walked away, and he never saw daylight. He never saw daylight. He went with the group that -- Major Courtney Neilson made a tree landing, never got down to the ground. He was killed before he hit the ground, and he was right with him. And -- but there were some dead Germans around. I remember that. People told us. I didn't see it. But anyway, getting back to what we were doing, we got into our planes, and we crossed the channel. As soon as we hit the coast of France, all hell broke loose. Our plane veered to the right, which meant that we were heading for Paris. We should have gone straight ahead. The pilot didn't do what he was supposed to. And I knew then that we were going to miss our drop zone; and the longer the time, the farther we were going to be to the drop zone. And it was 10 to 12 miles, so I don't know how many seconds it was. We finally got a green light. It seemed like forever. John Bose (ph) was number one man. I was number two. The door wasn't -- and I thought to myself -- I couldn't talk. Nobody could hear me because of the noise. I thought to myself we could walk down this -- I can just -- what's going on down there? Small arms fire. It looked like it was coming right in the door.

Patricia H. McClain:

Right.

Arch Joseph Lewis, Jr.:

But we -- that's why -- that's why the pilot veered, to get out of there. And so we did get the green light, and out we went. I made a tree landing like Major Courtney Neilson, although I went through -- when you do that, you put your hands over your face to protect your face, and with your smallest equipment you had on you, you -- you thought you would get all the way down to the ground, which I did but he didn't. He was in a larger tree, I imagine. And I hit the ground very -- very gently. It was one of the nicest jumps I ever made as far as hitting the ground. I just froze and listened. I had to listen because I didn't hear a thing. I finally pulled my chute out of the tree. I disengaged the harness, and I tucked it under the hedgerow, and from then and there it was hell. We were in hedgerow country, which is a big advantage for the defense, the Germans. They knew there -- they knew what was there and how to get out of it and how to get in it. They had machine gun nests. They had tank emplacements. And so I had to be very careful. First thing I did is got my clicker. They gave us a little clicker. You've seen them. You press it, and it clicks --

Patricia H. McClain:

Uh-huh.

Arch Joseph Lewis, Jr.:

-- you let go and it clicks, click, click. I did that once. Sound like everybody within 10 miles could hear it. So it was so dark, so lonely, so quiet, and I actually did it again. I didn't want to, but I had to. I wanted to find some -- one of my buddies because they had the clickers, they would answer me. I did it again. Nothing happened. So I threw it away. I said, "This thing will get me killed," and I threw it away and very cautiously started to move around. Have you ever seen in the paper these things that -- hedgerows or bushes and you try to find your way out of them?

Patricia H. McClain:

Like a maze?

Arch Joseph Lewis, Jr.:

This is what the hedgerow country was, and I just -- I just cannot possibly tell you what every move I made. All I can tell you is that eventually I found a -- I would -- I would -- sometimes I'd move around in the dark and got scared because I might run right into a machine gun nest. I didn't like to do that. I like to find a place pretty secure, if I could, but still a little daylight. And I did this one thing. I might have waited a little too long for that. I went into a hedgerow and got back in the corner, and I thought this would be a good place, and I sat down, put my rifle across my lap and leaned into the hedgerow. Eventually you lie down after you get more comfortable, and the least little sound I would have awakened, believe me, in a second, but I slept pretty well that night, as I recall. I woke up, and there was a gun emplace -- I mean a tank emplacement I found that -- it was all smoothed out, and all the tank had to do was -- he could have come right in there. So I got the hell out of there in a hurry and kept moving in and out, here and there. And finally another incident happened like that. I was sleeping, and I woke up the next morning, starting to get light, and I happened to see a house in this field farther down, about -- it wasn't too far, about 75 yards, maybe 100 but I doubt it. And smoke was coming out of the chimney, so I thought, well, now, here I got a chance here to get some information. Maybe somebody can tell me where I am and how to get to where I want to be. And so I waited and waited and waited. Finally here comes two German soldiers out. They had their mess kits and eating breakfast, and there was a big drum sitting there with a fire -- a little flame under it, and they were washing their mess kits out. I thought I got to get out of here. This is a German headquarters. And as I waited -- I couldn't move yet. I wanted to be sure I could move without them seeing me, and I noticed it getting lighter. I noticed there were foxholes. They dig theirs a little differently than ours. Ours are parallel to the ground. We don't dig as deep as they do. They dig a round one pretty deep so they can get in there and crouch. So I left there in a hurry, and by this time it must be about four days and four nights, and I'm getting hungry. I'm running out of rations. I'm scared. I haven't seen a friendly face. I knew -- I knew that we must have missed the drop zone. In fact, I found out our plane was -- there was one more plane that was farther away from the drop zone than ours. And so I started moving around, and it wasn't too long, I think, after that, after I saw that -- those Germans, that I picked out a spot on a hill -- oh, I got out of that hedgerow country. Now, this means I am anywhere from -- I think the hedgerow country was eight miles in some places from the channel, some places a little bit deeper than that, maybe 10 miles, but I knew that I was away from the channel. I figured -- I figured I was probably going away from the channel because later on all the German movement was going to my right, and I was kind of coming this way. So I got up on the hill, in a little wooded area, and I could see straight ahead down the hill. I could -- I could see to the left. I could see to the right. I couldn't see in the back unless I walked back a piece, and it still was kind of -- because of the hedgerows. So here -- here is the situation. I am up on this hill. I go down the hill 40, 50 yards. There is a road running from my left to my right. I cross the road, and there is a fence. In that -- the other side of the fence is a cow. Keep walking across the field. There is another fence. You have to have fences around to keep the cow in. There is another fence and another road on the other side of that fence, and on the other side of that road is a house. Now, remember, down the hill, a road, a fence, a cow, another road with a gate, another road and a house. Now, right by that gate is a little small building. So here I am sitting up on this hill, and every now and then I'd see a German car go by, only one. I don't remember seeing any more than one. So I waited and I waited. Finally, an elderly woman comes out and goes through the gate and starts milking her cow. I thought, gee, this is it, this has to be it. I watched and waited, watched and waited. She finally finished and went on up, back up to the house. That was morning. I think I'm right there. That was in the morning. And so I thought surely you had to milk a cow twice, I thought, so surely she will do it again this afternoon, this evening, and sure enough, she did. Thank God. And I thought this is it; I got to make a move here. And so I put my gear on and went down the hill, across that road, over that fence and walked towards her. As soon as I got over the fence, thank God there was some trees along the fence line. Here comes the convoy of Germans from my left rear. Remember I am going down, they are coming this way. I immediately thought of my profile. I took my helmet off and put it on my stomach and held it with my left hand. They are coming this way now, and I took my rifle and put it in my right hand next to my right side. I'm still walking. I'm not running. I kept telling myself don't run, walk. I'm walking towards a woman, and she looks up. She sees me, and she looks and sees the German convoy behind me and a little startled look on her face. And I keep walking, and I get to her. About the time I reach her, the last truck of the convoy was gone down the road, so I walked up to her. She can't speak English. I can't speak French. I said, "Me American," made a motion I'm coming down out of the sky, "Hungry, essen." I knew a little German. I had taken some German in high school. I said, "Essen, eat," mother tongue, "hungry, me American." I repeated. She says, "Oh, oh," and she says, "Come, come." And she put me in that little shed by the gate, and the gate creaked. She needed some WD-40. The gate creaked, and that little door on the -- everything creaked. But she went on up to the house, and I waited. And it wasn't too long she came back, and she had -- she poured some milk in my canteen cup and gave me a slice of bread, black bread, about two or three slices of our slices and the best meal I have ever had. And she made a motion to -- you know, with her hands to stay put. We were told not to trust any French people, but at this point in time I had to do something, and I did. I had to trust her. So this was -- the night was coming on, so she went on up, and I -- I kind of took it easy that night. I felt a little safer than I had been, and -- but I kept thinking, you know, is she on my side? I said surely she is. She gave me some milk and bread. But about the middle of the night here comes a -- on this other road now, not the -- not the road that the convoy was on, this is a -- not as good a road as the first one, if you follow me. The one near her house was more a dirt road.

Patricia H. McClain:

Uh-huh.

Arch Joseph Lewis, Jr.:

And here they come. Although you could hear their boots, the little hop, they make a lot of noise, and you could hear -- tell it was a pretty big contingent of them. Now, I thought, oh, my God. Don't tell me she got in trouble -- in touch with the underground. And, you know what, they stopped right outside, and I didn't know -- well, I had my carbine, Polish stock carbine on my left. I put it in a fighting position because the door is right there in front of me, and I thought, well, if they come in, I'll just fire, rapid fire, and then I had a grenade ready, and I could throw the grenade over, and there was a bunch of them. And then I know the -- I said I know the terrain. I can run up and go over that fence and get up where I was up in the woods. And so the gate creaked, and here they come, and I felt like they could hear my heartbeat. I put my hand over my heart. It was beating so hard. And so they stopped and had to take a leak, and I thought, oh, my God, and then the gate creaked again. They went out and then they marched on off eventually. The next day -- I don't remember now if the old lady came in that morning and gave me some milk. Yes, she did, yes, she did. She came in and give me some milk, and she had a real fine expression on her face, you know, smiling, and she kept telling me -- you know, and she gave me some bread, and I drank the milk and ate the bread, and I was sitting there and wondering what she was talking about, and I kept speaking through the crack. You could see through that -- she had put it through the crack. And finally I saw this young lady coming, and she came in, and she said, "Can I come in?" I said, "Come on, sure." And she said she could speak perfect English, and she said, "I can take you to your friends." I said -- I still wasn't sure. I said, "How do you know?" And she says, "Well," then she pulled out a little notebook, and she showed it to me. And I said, "Is he there, Kenneth Ashland?" She said, "Yes." I said, "Let's go." So we went, and there were two men with her. I hadn't seen them yet. There was one on the right flank, one on the left, and they told her -- you know, we could -- hand signals, they knew this country. They -- this is where they lived. They knew all about this tree, this and that deal. And we ran, and I guess -- I'm just guessing. I don't know. I would think it was three or four miles. I could -- I don't think it would be too much -- too much wrong. And she stopped, and she says, "They are across that field in that woods." I said, "Well, thank you so much." I meant to ask her her name. I was so excited I forgot to. But she was gone. They were gone in a hurry. And I jogged across that field. I said -- I forget. I think I said something like "Me a GI" or "GI, hey, is anybody -- any GIs over there?" or something like that. And out of the blue some guy says, "Lew, where the hell have you been?" I will never forget it. What a voice, where the hell have I been. So I joined them. Now, they were in trouble. They had just had a fire fight. I hadn't even heard that. It must have been -- couldn't understand. They said they were bearing their machine gun to take off, taking off. So I got to thinking, gee, I think I will go back to my old shed. But we took off, and -- and what happened then I can't tell you exactly one move after the other, but what I do remember now is we got into -- well, first of all, we travel at night by the help of -- with the help of the French underground. One person would take us from point A to point B; and he would meet another Frenchman, he would take us from point B to point C. So we were getting up there close to our -- where we needed to be, should have been. We had a fire fight, took five German prisoners, and we are up in this wooded -- I can't tell you which -- how many days either. I lost track there. We lost -- we got five prisoners, and we're up in this wooded area, and one of our buddies went down to the little creek down there. He wanted to get some water in his canteen. We had these chlorine -- chlorine pills you'd put in there. It's a wonder we didn't die. But he went down to get some water, and there were a couple of Germans coming from the other way, and they both saw each other about the same time, and all hell broke loose. They started firing. There were almost 50 of us there. There were only 20 when I -- only 20 when John Wells said, "Hey, Lew, where the hell have you been?" There were only about 20 there. Well, on the way we picked up enough. There were 50 now. We were getting close to where we should be. You could hear a lot of firing going on, and so here we get into trouble right there. And it happened so quickly that some of them ran out -- they were -- they were surrounded on two sides, and they hit us with machine guns. They hit us with rapid-fire rifle. They hit us with mortar, tree birch, hit the trees and come down. Some of the guys ran out one side. Some of us hit the -- hit the dirt like we should, like -- well, I shouldn't say that, like some of us thought we should. Then we weren't dug in. We were lying on the ground, and the -- they were just raking fires and -- all across. And here there was a little mound about two feet high that some of the Germans were hiding behind and shooting over that mound. Well, I pulled a grenade out, and I figured I can -- I can throw this grenade and get over that mound, but in doing so I am going to expose myself to these guys over here who were peppering us. And I was about ready to pull that pin, and here I saw somebody with a white handkerchief or flag. I found out it was Dick Soliday (ph) later, and I thought, oh, my God. I heard somebody say, "Hande hoch." German, you know, hande hoch, that means hands up. And I said I'm not standing up because I figured they would kill us. And so I saw a guy come up, stand up, another guy, so I just let my grenade down. And after I saw two or three of them, I got up too. They took us prisoner. I don't know. It must have been eight or 10 of us, and they lined us up out in the field, and they disarmed us, took our helmets, took everything we should -- need, you know. And this one little German took my knife out of my boot that I got from my -- just like this. And just about that time -- just about that time here comes a staff car, German staff car, and this officer gets out. He is a colonel, and he gives orders to -- he gives orders to move out.

Unidentified Speaker:

Oh, there you are.

[INTERVIEW INTERRUPTED; TAPE RECORDER STOPPED]

Arch Joseph Lewis, Jr.:

Where was I? Oh, I was just marching off, yeah, okay. So they marched us off, and we were prisoners of war. We weren't registered prisoners of war yet. Down the road a piece, I don't remember if it was that day or the next day, we were strafed by our -- our own planes, our own P51s, but that's okay. They had orders to shoot at anything that moved behind the lines, and that's what they were doing, and they thought we were Germans. We didn't have our helmets and so forth. And they made one run, one pass, and those .50 calibers hitting all over and expect anytime one to hit you and blow your head off. Then they made another pass. Now, on the first pass we had an old officer, German officer who I'm sure was in the First World War, Austrian, and he had a big Z down the right check --

Patricia H. McClain:

Oh.

Arch Joseph Lewis, Jr.:

-- like he had been in a sword fight years ago.

Patricia H. McClain:

Uh-huh.

Arch Joseph Lewis, Jr.:

And he sat -- he stood on that -- sat on that horse right in the middle of the road as they strafed us because he knew that they were strafing us in the ditches. They weren't hitting the road. They were trying to get us in the ditch. But when he saw them peel around for the second one, he jogged that horse behind a building. He was smart. Anyway, we got the -- after the second strafing they gave us orders to, you know, move on, and I got a look back, and Pinkosky, a buddy of mine, he was in our battery C, he was -- I guess his head was between my feet. That's how close we were. He didn't move. I said, "Come on, Pinky. Let's go." I looked back, and he was lying in a pool of blood. He had been hit between the knee and the hip and bled to death and didn't make a sound. We buried him up on a hillside. We didn't have his rifle and his bayonet. We didn't have his helmet to put on there. All we had was we put a couple of sticks together with a shoe -- shoelace --

Patricia H. McClain:

Uh-huh.

Arch Joseph Lewis, Jr.:

-- and tied them together and put his dog tags on that. They never found him. I found out later on they never found his body. We pressed on, and I went through 12A, 12B and 3C, three prisoner of war camps, and we stayed in 3C. I was up there in the Polish -- near the Polish border, and they had one of the coldest winters in about half a century, as I remember, and it was cold. We were -- we had -- had one small blanket, and we slept practically on the floor, gray sack with a little straw in it, but you could -- it wasn't much. We were always cold. We were always worrying about what happened to our buddies and our families at home. It was miserable, absolutely miserable. We were finally overrun by the Russians in January, I think it was, of '45, and we -- first thing we did was go up to the -- they had a big warehouse there, and, you know, they gave us one -- one Red Cross parcel the whole time, and that was around Christmastime, and we went to that warehouse, and it was loaded with Red Cross parcels. So we got -- we got as much as we could. They had overcoats that they could have given us, you know, GI overcoats.

Patricia H. McClain:

Uh-huh, uh-huh.

Arch Joseph Lewis, Jr.:

So we got all that. We fed -- gorged on the food and got some clothing and stuck stuff in our pockets and took off -- that we could barter with -- and we probably stopped in a farmhouse not too far from the prisoner of war camp, as I recall, and we -- what we decided -- we could go either way. We could go towards Stettin or you could straight -- go -- you could follow the Russian supply line. We thought that would be a good way to do it, follow the Russian supply line, and which we did. There were four of us, two 101st and two 82nd boys. And we stopped in this farmhouse, must have been the next day because we were hungry, and we looked around and found some potatoes, and we made some mashed potatoes. You never saw such a bowl of mashed potatoes in your life, and the four of us sat around there eating that. And have you ever seen these young kids with their bellies -- when their belly's full, hungry?

Patricia H. McClain:

Uh-huh, uh-huh.

Arch Joseph Lewis, Jr.:

That's what we did, and we laughed and ate those mashed potatoes. I will never forget that. About that time, when we finished, two Russian officers came in. Now, Freddy Page (ph), he was a -- he could speak a little Polish. He could understand some of what they said. He'd tell us, "Hey, do you know what they are telling us?" I said, "What's that?" "They tell us don't open anything. They said most of these places are booby-trapped." And we had been opening all these doors. You know, we've been taught better than that, but thank God we were lucky again. And so we took off, and you know what? We found a horse and wagon back in the barn, and Ephram, guy from 82nd, he was from West Virginia, an old farm boy, and he hooked that horse up and away we went. We took off -- I don't remember how many days. Oh, one thing that happened, everybody was going down this little side road, Russians and everybody, and we found a -- Freddy -- Freddy found it -- it's is a -- it's a vintage -- vintage -- not wine -- champagne, a load of it, just the whole place was full. Everybody is going in there and taking vintage champagne and taking off. So we did. We got a few bottles with their wagon. It wasn't long after that that -- remember I told you that we were following the Russian supply line, and they kept going by in our two-and-a-half-ton trucks on lend lease. Remember that? Never paid us for it. So this truck sideswiped us, and off we went into the ditch. It disengaged the -- unhitched the horse from the wagon, and it knocked me out a little bit. About the time I shook it off, I looked up and Ephram was running down the road trying to catch the horse, but he never made it. The horse just took away, so here we are again on foot. And we -- let me think now. We finally wound up in Lodz, Poland. What a terrible ordeal we ran into there. There was a Jewish -- what do you call it where they burned those Germans [sic] and all that stuff?

Patricia H. McClain:

Concentration camp?

Arch Joseph Lewis, Jr.:

Yeah, yeah, exactly. And they didn't do that to these people. They -- they -- they had some in a place like a cellar, only it was just a -- with doors, metal doors. They put them in there. It was like a bed with metal doors over it, and they'd keep you, and they died. Like I say, did that months ago. There was a three-story building. They set it on fire. They said one man got out. He jumped off of the third roof and cleared -- I don't know how he did it. He ran and cleared that big wall they had around there, and that was a story we heard. And then they had a machine gun -- these are Germans now -- machine gun set up in each corner. See, the Russians were coming, and they -- they just got rid of these guys, I guess, and they set a machine gun in each corner and set the building on fire. So the ones -- you had a choice, either burn up or come out and get killed with a shotgun or machine gun. We left there -- no, no. We stayed there a couple days, and they -- we had -- we found out there was enough of us -- enough of us that they got a train, a freight train, and we -- you know, a freight train and go to Odessa, Russia, on the Black Sea, so that's what we did. And we still had some bartering stuff, you know, that we carried with us, and you won't believe every time that freight train stopped in these little villages in Russia they would meet the train, and we would sell them the things we had for zloties, I think it was, or rubles. I'm not sure. But whatever it was, by the time we got to Odessa we had a small fortune, and they -- Odessa was blacked out, but it was a nice town. They had an opera house and a lovely restaurant, and we wound up in this restaurant. They had an orchestra, string orchestra, and Freddy Page (ph) got a -- had a couple of drinks. He went up to him and says, "Orchetonia" and he paid him some money. They played it all night for him while we sat there and ate. And we went to the opera house, saw some opera. Then I don't remember how many days we were there. Couldn't have been too long. And the British ship, one of the first British ships to get through, came back and picked us up, but let me tell you a story. The sergeant -- there was a sergeant in charge of us. I forget his name, but he's the one who called us and made a list of it, make sure to keep us together and so forth. Real nice guy, and never saw him again. You know, I was a dentist. So help me, he was a patient of mine for years, and right before I retired he -- we got to talking. His family, real nice family, for years they had been patients. He was at Fort Knox, and we got to talking, and we found out that we were in the same place in Odessa, Russia, together years ago.

Patricia H. McClain:

Oh, my --

Arch Joseph Lewis, Jr.:

Isn't that something?

Patricia H. McClain:

-- Lord.

Arch Joseph Lewis, Jr.:

And we couldn't believe it, and -- but anyway, getting back to the ship, we got on the ship, and the ship took us to Naples, Italy. We were back in U.S. command there for the first time in months, almost a year, and we were given shots and new clothing and this and that, and we had a choice. We could go back to our -- oh, no, we didn't have a choice. I wanted to go back to the outfit because they were in Austria. The war was just about over then, as I recall, and they were in Austria, but they wouldn't let us go because once you are a POW you cannot go back into the same theater for some reason, I think because you have been back there and they -- you know too much, I guess. But they wouldn't let us, so we got the next ship home. And that's it, come home, and my parents -- I have some pictures here of that too.

Patricia H. McClain:

Okay. And I -- you said that after you got home you came back to Louisville and used the GI bill, is that correct, for --

Arch Joseph Lewis, Jr.:

Yes.

Patricia H. McClain:

Okay. Do you want to explain how you then got to Fort Knox?

Arch Joseph Lewis, Jr.:

Well, my GI bill ran out, and, oh, yeah, we -- we -- they gave us a chart or a card to where you want to be sent. You know, we are dentists now, and they -- I had to stay in at least another year to help pay back for the year they paid for my college education, one year. And so my wife and I talked about it, and I said, "Well, we would like to go to Fort Knox," says yeah, we both would. So I said, "Well, let's put in for a place in California." She says, "Why?" I said, "Well, because we have a better chance to get to Fort Knox than we would if we put Fort Knox." And sure enough, we put Camp Pendleton, I think, and we wound up at Fort Knox. So -- and we liked it there, and it was pretty close. And Al Edwards was -- he was a supervisor at the gold vault, and we were in the same building as Al. And one day he says, "Arch, would you like to go over and visit the gold vault?" And I says, "Oh, doggone," I said, "Al, I would love to, but I am playing a golf game today," and I never got to see it that day. You know what, I could have gone to the gold vault and seen it, yeah, and he was supervisor, superintendent and all that stuff. So that's something I missed out on. We were at Fort Knox a couple of years, and then we came on back to Louisville. And a Dr. Seifert (ph) out in Beechmont found out that I was at Fort Knox about ready to come home, and he -- he called me, and Al and I had been traveling around all of the states, trying to find a place to set up a practice, and he talked me into coming in with him out there in the Beechmont area in Louisville, and so we did, and it worked out very well. That wasn't -- that was about a couple miles from where I was born, Third and Southern Parkway, and so eventually I think I was with him a couple of years, and I bought a little place over on Woodlawn and opened up my own practice, and I did very well. I stayed there for about 30 years.

Patricia H. McClain:

Do you still stay in contact with other -- I know you mentioned Mr. Sprouse but --

Arch Joseph Lewis, Jr.:

Yes.

Patricia H. McClain:

-- did you stay in contact with any other people?

Arch Joseph Lewis, Jr.:

Yes. I called Krinsky (ph) the same evening that I called Sprouse, and he's the Jew -- I'm glad you mentioned this. He was the only Jew that -- only Jew that was in our outfit, and we dearly loved him. He was a wonderful person. He -- by the way, he told me that -- he told me about Sprouse. He said, "Hey, he saved me. He saved my life." I said, "What are you -- you never told me this." "He did." He said, "I'm getting the run here. They are firing at us, and there are over -- there are more of them than us, and I'm getting ready -- and he slapped me down, says, 'Stay right here.' He said, 'They will run right past.' It was dark, nighttime." He said, "They ran right past, Arch. He was right." And so there you are. When they made Sprouse, they just threw the mold away, but --

Patricia H. McClain:

Uh-huh.

Arch Joseph Lewis, Jr.:

-- a fellow by the name of Hoots (ph), Barry Hoots (ph) in our outfit, I think the first day after we hit Normandy he blew both of his hands off in a grenade accident. I don't know how that happened. I never got the full story of that. I've got a picture of him here. He is still living in Oklahoma, and he has a little farm out there. He has a -- has -- I have a picture of him on his horse, and you can see his hand. They have a little artificial hand, you know.

Patricia H. McClain:

Right.

Arch Joseph Lewis, Jr.:

He has learned to live with that all these years. McKenzie, the guy that we had rear echelon security with down in maneuvers there, that was good duty. He is still living. I keep in touch with him. Stajkowski, there is a guy I forgot to mention, Sergeant Stajkowski. When they hid us in that area where, you know, all chaos broke out and some of them went this way, some that way, and we were dividing up into two groups, two or three groups, Zeke was there. We called him Zeke. I says, "Zeke, I will go with you" because he was -- he was a leader. That guy was a leader. Two days later Zeke was standing at a crossroads not too far from where we were then and a 16-inch from a battleship at the channel hit right on him. He was gone.

Patricia H. McClain:

Do you belong to any military service organizations now?

Arch Joseph Lewis, Jr.:

I belong to all of them, but I am not active. I just -- I just don't -- I just don't participate anymore.

Patricia H. McClain:

Did you keep a diary when you were in the service at all?

Arch Joseph Lewis, Jr.:

No, I didn't. I had some -- I have some signatures here. And getting back to Pinkosky, I think I kind of skipped over that because when I came home -- I didn't know about this guy. We thought that he had been buried back here in this country, re-interred back here.

Patricia H. McClain:

Uh-huh.

Arch Joseph Lewis, Jr.:

And Al and I, my wife and I, went back to Normandy on the 50th anniversary. Now, I had heard that Pinkosky was still missing; but when I saw his name on the wall of missing, it really hit me. It really hit me. And I felt so guilty because I had never called his parents when I came back, only because we only assumed that he had been re-interred. So when I came back I tried in vain for a while to -- to find the family.

Patricia H. McClain:

I don't know how that happened, but it's still running, yeah.

Arch Joseph Lewis, Jr.:

I tried in vain to get in touch with the family. Somehow -- I don't remember how I ever got in contact with this Joy Levy. She is a producer for 20/20. And if ever you want to find a person in the world, call Joy Levy. They can do it. Anyway, she got in touch with the Pinkosky family in Pennsylvania. The parents were deceased. They had five boys, and one, two -- three of them are still living. And I called, and I got in touch, and I got Albert and George. I got them to come visit me at the farm. We sat around the kitchen table, had a beer, and I told them, you know, what happened to Pinky, and they were the most understanding, wonderful people I have ever met. And we got them to come to two of our reunions, and they were very active with the group, and everybody loved them. They love us. And I felt much better after that, but I went through -- there is a lot of records here. I went through H-E-double L trying to find Senator Lugar -- Senator Lugar -- no, Coats, yeah, he had -- Lugar and Coats, I think it was.

Patricia H. McClain:

Uh-huh.

Arch Joseph Lewis, Jr.:

And they have records, I'm sure, and -- but I finally got through and found them, and that made me feel better somewhat.

Patricia H. McClain:

Uh-huh. Now, when you went back for the 50th anniversary at Normandy, what happened there?

Arch Joseph Lewis, Jr.:

Well, it was good and bad. Some of the boys, I talked to them later, that were -- they were advised by the VA not to go back, and I can understand that, but I don't -- I don't regret it, although it -- I went through hell after I found out all that, but it was worth it. People were wonderful over there, and I think they appreciate what we did for them. And I -- Gomez, Sprouse, Lewis, Hoots (ph), Stajkowski, Tolan, Pinkosky, they are all gone but Sprouse and Lewis and Hoots (ph). I think Hoots (ph) is still living. But it was a wonderful experience I had with the 377th. They are a wonderful outfit. I read the book Band of Brothers, and I think we are a smaller band of brothers. There were only 90 of us; there was 250 of them, I think, but we were a smaller band of brothers, just as tough and just as loving and a wonderful group of guys. I can't say anything better about them.

Patricia H. McClain:

Thank you for talking to me today.

Arch Joseph Lewis, Jr.:

I want to thank you. I want to thank you all for inviting me, and I do hope that that gets on the internet soon, that I can offload it. I'm disappointed that we didn't have visual for some reason. I would have had my jeans on, been more comfortable, you know, but anyway, I enjoyed it.

Patricia H. McClain:

Oh, thank you so much for taking the time to do this for us.

Arch Joseph Lewis, Jr.:

Okay.

[END OF FILE TWO, DISK ONE]

 
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