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Interview with James R. Clark [Undated]

Patricia H. McClain:

Today we are interviewing James Ray Clark, 111 Ball Court, Salem, Indiana. Date of birth, May the 2nd, 1926. My name is Pat McClain and I'm on the staff of United States Senator Richard Lugar. With me is Richard Stevenson, the Washington County coordinator for the Veterans History Project. And Mr. Clark, were you drafted or did you enlist into the service?

James R. Clark:

I tried to enlist a number of times but I was finally drafted after the number of attempts to enlist.

Patricia H. McClain:

And where -- where was the first -- where did you have your boot camp or your training?

James R. Clark:

Camp Blanding, Florida, combat infantry training in Camp Blanding, Florida. It was a 13-week infantry training. (Indiscernible). I trained with a .30 caliber heavy machine gun and with an 81 mm mortar, which was a heavy weapons company. And also trained with an M1 rifle with .45 caliber pistol, bazooka, and other small arms.

Patricia H. McClain:

And from there where did you go?

James R. Clark:

I was lucky because right at the end of my training the Bulge broke loose and a number of troops were taken straight overseas, but they had all of their ships loaded before they got to us and we got a ten-day leave at home. And then went to Camp Shanks, New York, and were assembled there, then, to Fort Dix, New Jersey, and loaded on the U.S. -- the queen's ship, the Pasteur under British flag, and it was the seventh largest ship at that time in the world.

Patricia H. McClain:

Oh.

James R. Clark:

And we took eight days to get across the ocean without an escort, without running into any submarines and we landed at Liverpool, England, and then we were on the (indiscernible) train across England, they didn't let us open the -- the shades or doors, either one. And we went across England down to Southampton and then loaded onto a what they called a British castle ship. These little ships were excursion ships during -- before the war, but during the war they were expendable. And they were rusty and smelly and all this and we spent about four days on the ship before we went across the Channel. We went across the Channel and landed at La Havre, where La Havre used to be, it was just a pile of rubble. La Havre was hit very hard and we didn't even go into the rubble. They had a tent city outside the rubble and we were assembled there. And then we moved from there at night to the line in Luxembourg, to the replacement depot in Luxembourg, and we had to go through Paris, but I didn't see it because we had been on that castle ship about six days and we were all worn out. We were given weapons and ammunitions at La Havre and we got to the front line and we were moving up to be integrated into the troops, into the front-line troops, and we were in a truck and the truck got lost. And -- so finally he -- the driver came back and he was from (indiscernible) driver, and he said, "Anybody know where we're at?" And we says, "No." And he was a sergeant and we were privates. And somebody said, "Sergeant, do you think we ought to load our guns?" He said, "Here I am up here in the middle of the German Army and you don't have your guns loaded?" We said, "No, nobody told us to." We were the green troops. So, he was as mad at us as he was at the Germans. And so we loaded the guns and then we assembled in a -- a depot, and then moved to the front line and moved up to the front line during the night. And Colonel James Hayes met 32 of us from the unit that were assigned to the 80th Division Infantry. And Colonel Hayes was very -- I thought he was a sergeant when we got up there, but sergeants and colonels on the front line are interchangeable. I found that out real suddenly. And he said, "Just look at the man next to you, in 10 days from now he won't be here, and 30 days from now you won't be here, so you've got to be careful. Everything in front of you is memory." And that was my code from then on. But the colonel was very -- a very fine colonel. I still correspond with him and talk to him on the phone. And when he read my book, he said -- he called me and he said, "Well, you didn't tell it all." I said, "Colonel, nobody would believe it all." He and I were in a number of different places that were kind of tight spots. But I joined the 80th Division Infantry and they were -- the Bulge just had -- it was the last of the Bulge, and we were in Diekirch, Luxembourg, which was one of the points that was taken during the Bulge, and assembling -- the replacements come in, the division will only stay online so forth -- so long and then they'll lose so many people, that'll have to re- -- refit with ammunition and replacements. And out of the 32 men that joined the unit that night, at the end of the war there were two of us left that hadn't been killed, wounded, or captured. We were one of the point divisions for General Patton and going to the Siegfried Line, the -- the tank traps and such as that. And we broke the Siegfried Line three times, we went across at Echternach, from Diekirch down to Echternach and then across into Germany into the line. And went above Trier and above Bitburg, we were two miles from Bitburg when we were in lay breaking the line, breaking the Siegfried Line. And then we moved up to the Pruem River and then pulled back. Our job was to go through the line and break a hole big enough for the tanks to come through. We would move up and start a fight behind their lines, go through their lines and (indiscernible) apart behind their lines and then they would be involved with us and our combat engineers would come up with blow -- with explosives and blow up the tank traps, I think called -- so-called dragon's teeth and pill boxes, and then we'd pull -- when the tanks would go through that section of the line, we would pull back and go to another section of the line. And we broke that line three times. The last time was at Saarburg. We pulled back the teeth in (indiscernible), France, and came back in and you pull back to a place once that you were placed would go back in and we went in at Saarburg, which is just south of the Luxembourg border and the German border, French border, roughly where the three come together. And we went down through Saarhoelzbach and St. Wendel and at Tholey, a little town between -- halfway between the German border and Kaiserslautern we ran into our first -- our first concentration camp -- so-called concentration camp. This was a slave labor camp where the Germans had confiscated labor from different countries in Europe and sent them to work in their factories. These people were not maltreated. They were fed enough to let them work 12, 14 hours a day. But they still had on the same clothes they had for six, seven years. And we liberated a fairly large slave labor camp at Tholey. Also in the Saar Basin, once we broke the line through, we got into the German rear echelon, actually, and the 347 fighter planes were right up overhead and we'd run into a resistance while they'd be there and the Germans had a lot of supply depots down in this area because they were supplying the whole Western Front with it. And from Tholey into Kaiserslautern, which was about 30 miles, the Germans used a lot of horses to -- to handle their ammunition and supplies and these 347s would come over and kill the horses and stop the -- the supply trains and the first one or two you see, why, you're -- you're a little bit sickly with it, and then after two or three days you can sit on there and eat your C-rations. It's not that bad. But, we went into Kaiserslautern -- actually, we didn't capture Kaiserslautern. We captured -- Kaiserslautern was captured by -- I can't think of his name right now, but he was a big sergeant from northern Indiana and he was with the information -- the -- the recognizant platoon and the recognizant platoon got somehow through the lines and they got too deep with machine guns on them and they drove into little Kaiserslautern and they got down to the town square and that's -- received some sniper fire. So they opened up with their .50 caliber machine guns and white flags came out and they were right in front of the mayor's residence and he came out and said, "Well, we don't want our town tore up. We don't want our town tore up." And he said, "Well, okay. Surrender." And they surrendered to him. And he's sitting there with about 3,000 German soldiers and he's got five men. He -- we got there about four hours later and then everything was fine. But he got in there and stirred it up before they got a chance to do anything.

Patricia H. McClain:

Yeah.

James R. Clark:

So from Kaiserslautern we went to a little town called Birkheim. And that wouldn't be very important, but the town was a champagne warehouse storage place. And a lot of the guys tapped the champagne there at Birkheim. They were pulling out champagne that would be 35, 40 dollars a bottle. I didn't drink it at -- I still won't, never did. But it was interesting to see these people go into this champagne. And from there the Rhine River was just about 30 miles in front of us, but the Seventh Army was moving up, so we got on trucks and went up to Mainz, Germany, which is just about 30 miles north of there, and we crossed the main -- the Rhine River at Mainz in assault boats and we crossed at about 6 o'clock in the morning and I didn't -- in combat training we crawled under machine gun fire and through the -- under the barbed wire and they fired the machine guns over our backs and they blew up the little -- blew up here, there, but -- we thought that was terrible at the time. We went across the Rhine River and they had these big Atak guns. The -- the Germans didn't have very many airplanes at that time. This was in March of -- late February or March of '45. And General Brad (ph) had pulled up all his big Atak guns. They took all the -- they -- they fired one round -- for -- one fires one barrel, one fires another one, but quad -- quad gun. There's four guns on a barrel and they'll fire one and then the other, and the other. Some of them are 40 mms, some of them are 20 meter (sic). And they were firing these right over our back as we went across the Rhine River. And we landed at the other side of the Rhine and we were distinctly -- we started down the Rhine to get in these boats, they hold about 14 men and one Jeep. They're little LCDPs. And we're loaded down with -- I had a bazooka and a 38-pound radio on my back and was getting ready to go down a -- 290 rounds of ammunition. You're -- you're at about 80 pounds when you're going across, and they were standing at the edge of the river doling out mortar shells, 81 mm mortar shells. And they hand you one in each hand, and said, "Now, when you get to the other side of the river lay these down so the mortars will have something when they get over there." And one boy said, "I can't swim." Somebody else said, "You're going down like a rock anyway (indiscernible). Across the (indiscernible)." We hit the other side of the Rhine and there was a levy, and our boat went up and that boat just had landed in front of us and there was a wave that -- that hit at the top of the levy, he was sliding back down the levy, and I caught him and rolled him back on top of the levy so that the medics would pick him up when they got -- when they got there. And then we went over -- across the street there, my squad went across the street and I was laying underneath a curb, which was about 3 or 4 inches high.

Patricia H. McClain:

Okay.

James R. Clark:

And shells all over the place and firing at everything and all of a sudden, the colonel said, "Let's go into Wiesbaden." So we had to get up and go and we went into Wiesbaden. Actually, going into Wiesbaden we didn't have very much of -- we didn't have any firefight whatever. But we got about, oh, maybe a mile from Wiesbaden and there was a big hospital there and the people were out watching us come in and one of the boys had a bazooka, which is a rocket, oh, probably a three-inch rocket and it fits together like a -- a vacuum cleaner hose fits together.

Patricia H. McClain:

Oh, okay.

James R. Clark:

And they put it together and then you hold it on your shoulder and fire it as a shoulder weapon. And we weren't meeting any resistance so he swung it up over his shoulder and the shell fell out and killed about 12 of them. And that -- this was at a block of me and the nurses came out from the hospital and -- and tended the wounded.

Patricia H. McClain:

Oh, yeah.

James R. Clark:

But, I was with the executive officer and what had happened, just about a block back and the captain was just behind us and he said, "Oh, somebody stepped on a mine." And we turned to him and said, "He wouldn't know a mine if he saw one. Says the guy just dropped a bazooka shell." So it sounds like (indiscernible) that.

Patricia H. McClain:

Um-hmm.

James R. Clark:

We went into Wiesbaden, a town of probably, oh, 800,000; a little bit over a million and we were the first troops in. And a lot of Germans surrendered. They -- we were across the Rhine. So Germans that were smart enough surrendered and we had a number of them there. But our troops coming into Wiesbaden, the armored units were coming above us and below us and out from us. And we were in there and the Sixth Armored coming from one direction and the 10th Armored coming from another, they started firing on each other and they didn't know until they got close enough to tell that it was our own troops. But we came out of Wiesbaden and then went north to Kassel, Germany. And Kassel was the most destroyed city that I saw in Germany. And it was worse than La Havre. It was just about 90 percent destroyed. But in Kassel they'd had a tank factory and the Germans had run low on gas and oil, and they just pulled the tanks out there and used them as pill boxes and we had a tough time getting into Kassel. We lost a number of people in Kassel. But we went ahead and captured Kassel and got to the other side of it, and we were called a point division. Some divisions were occupation divisions, some divisions rear echelons divisions, but Patton had four or five point divisions, and once we had captured a city, where they brought in a green -- green division into the city and pulled us back down and sent us toward Gotha, Germany. And two weeks later, Life magazine came out and showed the 69th Division capturing -- they got kicked out of -- of Kassel and had to go back in and take it again and the reporters were there on hand, but we -- we got credit for taking it the first time, so that was it.

Patricia H. McClain:

Okay. That's good.

James R. Clark:

We came down to Gotha and there was a number of different German prison camps. We liberated some prisoner-of-war camps there, we liberated more -- almost every big factory had a big slave labor camp there. And we had an unfortunate experience. We went toward Erfurt, Germany. And that's straight across Germany. If you look at a map, Kassel comes down to the south and then over towards Erfurt, and Erfurt is near the center of -- of west of Germany. And we got to Erfurt and we had -- we were so fast from the Rhine River that we had to reorganize our line and refit the line and we sit there for about two or three days at Erfurt. Now, in those two things, that means that the Germans have time to reorganize their line too, but the rear echelon -- and I'll go tell this because this is history -- the rear echelon had moved up behind us as we moved along and at Gotha there was a large slave labor camp -- women's camp there. And the -- they were protected by probably eight or 10 military police and the rear echelon moved up there and they -- they just -- there was one group, a quartermaster troop that went in there and just ravaged the camp. So they pulled our company back to protect these women at this slave labor camp and we did protect them. The next night, they came in -- they had -- they had really beaten the Marines -- the MPs the night before, but they came back to do the same thing the following night and we killed 19 of them. And they put us back up online and said, "You don't shoot at American troops." We said, "You told us to protect those women." So -- so we -- we were back online again, but we did stop the -- the pillaging of that camp. We moved from Erfurt -- I guess Erfurt was -- I was in a fun building there Erfurt and (indiscernible) back to (indiscernible) and I was up on the second floor and a shell hit the room that I was in -- the building next door just knocked it down, so I went down in a -- in a (indiscernible), but then when we moved out, we had to move out across open ground on to a railroad crossing. The railroad track came straight through there and we had quite a time moving from -- into the next town. But the interesting thing about that, Joyce Durham (ph) here in town asked me to look up her father's record because she was only three years old when her father was killed. And she wanted to know where he was killed, and so forth and what he did before, so I made up a resume for her and showed her, why he was in the 71st Division and they were on our left. I didn't know it at the time, but when I run the resume for her, he was killed crossing that railroad track just about -- a little over two miles from where I was at the same day.

Patricia H. McClain:

Um.

James R. Clark:

And it makes the hair stand up on the back of your neck when you know that somebody right there has been -- that you -- you're almost acquainted with. He's a boy from Washington County. And we moved out of Erfurt and started in to the city of Weimar. The old German Republic was headquartered at Weimar, the old Weimar Republic. And it was a old, famous town and we started in -- we were pulled back and our 319th Regiment went into Weimar and we went north of Weimar. The 319th -- Colonel Costello was in charge of the 319, and he didn't want to tear up Weimar because it was a historic city, Goethe and Schiller and all of them there in -- in Weimar. So he sent word in to the Buergermeister and said, "We don't want to tear up your town. We can tear up your town in 15 minutes, we don't want to do it." So he negotiated the surrender of Weimar and about three or four years ago Weimar honored the 80th Division for negotiating and -- and kept -- saving the city. But anyway, we moved north, the 317th -- there's three regiments in a division. About, oh, 6,000 men in a regiment, so -- in round number -- we moved north of Weimar. And we saw the (indiscernible) of another camp, it looked just like another slave labor camp to us. And we moved toward it and it had the towers on the outside, it had the dogs and everything, but we didn't get any resistance. So we got there and went into the camp and found out it was not a slave labor camp, it was a extermination camp. And arrived one is just like a boxer in a ring. You don't stop when you go into something. You go up -- you got to protect yourself so we went all the way through the camp. Went on the other side, set up machine gun (indiscernible) and rifle pits. And came back into the camp to see what we could do to help these people. And there was 8,000 dead and 20,000 dying when we got there. The bodies -- the arms were no bigger round than an inch, inch and a half, you could see every bone in their body and most of them had been stripped to get ready to put in the ovens. They wanted to kill as many as possible -- burn as many as possible before we got there and a lot of them were just totally nude, walking around. And you'd walk -- the ones that we walked past going in, when you come back, if there was seven standing there, there'd only be five or three. They just died that quick. Anyway, there was a 14-year-old boy when we went in there. In 1983 he signed me a scroll that I was one of the liberators. And a very nice person. That's one of my prized possessions is my sheepskin scroll that the Jews gave me with (indiscernible) signing it. But the first thing we saw was the walking dead. People just walking around that were -- it looked like an explosion or an earthquake in a cemetery, that's just about what it did -- what the bodies walking around. As we progressed into the camp, we tried to feed the people and they couldn't even eat cheese and crackers. They -- it's too strong for them. So we got orders not to feed them. We'd give them blankets and things like that. But we -- we were there with them. And then the next thing we saw were the pits. They had a pit as wide as this room and about, oh, three times as long that had bodies just stacked -- stacked -- a layer of bodies, a layer of lime; a layer of bodies, a layer of lime. And I showed that picture to a class one time, a high school class, and one girl said, "That looks like a lot of dead people." And I said, "No, honey, they weren't all dead." There was a lot of them moving around in there. They just hit them in the head and throw them in the pit. They were so close to dead it didn't make any difference for the German. They'd even -- when we got there, about two hours after the Germans left, there were still a lot of bodies in the pits. And then we saw the stacks of bodies that were stacked up next to the ovens and the ovens had bodies in them and pieces of bodies. One of them had a -- you could tell it was a woman in the oven, but -- there was eight ovens at -- at Buchenwald. And then piles of ashes. And we stayed there from about 10 o'clock in the morning to about 4 o'clock the following day. We had to maintain the camp until the military med -- medics got up there and then just after we left, Eisenhower and Patton got there. We were told leave everything as it is. In Elsa Koch's office -- she was the commandant at Buchenwald, her husband was commandant until Hitler's -- attempt on Hitler's life. And he knew about it but he didn't do anything about it so Hitler had him killed. And then he appointed -- or Elsa Koch ended up as the commandant. She had a title and I'll put the title in here. She was the Bitch of Buchenwald. She would have the bodies inspected as the troops -- as the inmates came into the camp in trucks and cars and if one had a tattoo, she would have them killed by injection of chloroform into the heart. That's the quickest and easiest way and most preservative way of killing a body. And I didn't know that until I saw their records. But they would use chloroform in the heart and kill the body and then they would strip the body of the skin and she would have the skin dried and then placed on -- the big pieces of skin were enplaqued, like the clock up there on the wall, and the largest one I saw was about like this, it was a man's chest. And it had a big -- I handled it and tone of the color of this tabletop, sort of a brown, and it feels like parchment. And then the smaller pieces of skin were sewn together and they were on round, wire racks that looked like lampshades. But they were not lampshades. But they were just mementos to different Nazis and she would send those to Nazis. There were so many artifacts I can't describe. Those sound horrible. But if you want -- a good friend of mine just sent me a letter the other day and I had to censure his letter before I could show it to anybody because he talked about the artifacts we saw. And the -- he buried the artifacts that -- after he was the -- on the staff of the investigators. He was an army investigator who investigated the war crimes trials and it was his job in the --advocate general's -- or the Judge Advocate General's office to maintain the -- the things at his office that were taken there. But General McBride had ordered us not to touch anything, to leave it like it was, so it was just left exactly like it was. Earl Wilson, the congressman from this district was in -- there were seven congressmen in London at the time and Earl was one of them and he was flown over there with these congressmen to see this -- the -- about three day after we left. And I have pictures that -- were 13 days after we left, but there was still bodies stacked -- they still -- they still hadn't -- General Patton was a different officer than most officers. In the British and Russian zones and some of the American zones when they came up on a pile of bodies, like Buchenwald was, they would just take a bulldozer and cover them over and put up a cross. General Patton said these were individuals, they were people, they'd be buried like people. He had the German citizens come in and take them out of the pits and take them out of the camp there and he had services in Jewish and Orthodox, Muslim, and Christian services for all of them and made the Germans bury them in coffins. And there -- they had -- some of them had tattoos, some of them that were still -- the skin was still there. So he could identify them and they were identified. And he -- he took as much effort on the -- on wounded and -- and killed-in-action soldiers as he did on the soldiers that were still on the front. Patton's soldiers always wore dry socks. They didn't always fit, but they were there. Patton's soldiers always had something to eat, and you -- his philosophy was you came over here to die -- let's die on top of a hill. And that was what we went too, but -- I met Patton a number of times and was under fire with him -- sniper fire with him a time or two. My job in the service, rifleman -- rifle man, but you have to carry a -- a lot of times a hand radio that contacts the other squads in your company. But also one man or two men in the company will have a back radio that weighs about 42 pounds -- 38 to 42 pounds and it will contact the -- the units behind you. So occasionally I'd have to carry the radio and I was carrying the radio one time while he was there and had to handle a -- a lot of times they're calling artillery and things like that, but he was up -- he had brought a tank up that had rockets on top of it and he wanted to see what it would do to a town and put it on top of the hill and then we observed it as -- as the rockets went off down in the valley. He and General Walker and General McBride were all three there. But they didn't pay attention to me, and I didn't pay attention to them. They were just other soldiers is all they are on the front lines. General McBride was on the line constantly, Colonel Hayes was on the line constantly and you're usually in a group from anywhere from 8 to 32 people anyways, so -- I've been in a group of two with Colonel Hayes time and time --

Patricia H. McClain:

Wow.

James R. Clark:

Yeah. They -- we went from Wiesbaden over from Weimar, the Buchenwald concentration camp, then over to the border of -- of Germany. We moved straight across Germany and were 8 miles outside the city of Chemnitz when the line was called halted. And we were preparing to go into Chemnitz, which is just about 20 miles from Dresden, about 30 miles from Leipzig, depending on the route. But we had moved all of our (indiscernible) and we were told to stop there. And by the force of numbers the units coming across Germany, we were forced out of line. Too many divisions on the line. So they pulled us back to Nuremberg, Germany, and this was in April -- late April and said, "You're going to be the -- the occupation troops for the city of Nuremberg." And that's great, we're in town but we're getting (indiscernible) at it, it was only taken the day before.

Patricia H. McClain:

Oh, my.

James R. Clark:

But we were there and we stayed there two days and then a green division south of us hit SS troops down south of Regensburg. They were going toward Austria and this -- there's a mountain area down there and they hit a new division from the state, just hit in there and so they called on us to go down and break the line at Dingolfing, Germany. And we went from Dingolfing after we broke the line, we went into Germany and across the -- the Danube, across the Enz, we crossed the Enz River -- I think it's the Enz River -- at Braunauer, Austria, at Sembach, Germany; Braunauer, Austria. And later on I found out that was Hitler's birthplace. It didn't make too much difference at the time, one Nazi is the same as another. But we did liberate Braunauer, Austria. Austria was not damaged near as much as Germany and the Austrian people were actually -- they were under the German rule. When -- Hitler went into Germ -- Austria in 1938, he incarcerated 70,000 Austrians the first day, he set up Mauthausen concentration camp. So Austria was not -- was not for Hitler. Some of the people were, but not all of them. And we ended up the war -- we took another concentration camp -- another slave or another extermination camp at Ebensee, which is right near Bad Ischl, where the old -- Franz Joseph used to have his castle. And it was a smaller camp than Buchenwald, but just as bad. And we -- we got credit for taking that, but we didn't, the 13th Arm -- 13th Cavalry group -- I read a book awhile back and it was written by one of the inmates at Ebensee and he said, "This little tank came in with a small gun on the front of it, three men on top it and opened the gates. It passed me about two minutes before it went into the gate," that was the 13th -- the 13th group -- cavalry group -- 3rd Cavalry. And so we got credit for taking Ebensee, but we didn't do it, the 13th Cavalry did. We did get in to clean it up. But it was the same as the other camp. And then we went south of there and finished the war at Liezen, Germany -- Liezen, Austria. We were there about, oh, four days and we met a Russian patrol and then two more days General Malinovski and his staff came in. And the first thing they did, General McBride came up and met with him. And the Germ -- the Russians sent a great big cough sack over to General McBride and a white jacket to be his orderly, that was a courtesy call. So I -- I booked into an orderly room just about the time that this happened and the sergeant on the desk said, "Somebody called from battalion, they need a man for detail. Clark, you go." And I thought it was because I was nice, and, you know, and so forth, it's just I happened to be the man -- he didn't know what they wanted. So they wanted somebody to go over and be the orderly to General Malinovski. And he ranked even with Patton and I got to burnish his coat for three days and polish his shoes and watch over him and he was a Russian field marshal and he had -- their metals are -- are sealed or they're stapled on, riveted on.

Patricia H. McClain:

Oh.

James R. Clark:

And the Russians don't eat, they drink. We had a big banquet for them and the table was all set and the chairs were all there. They don't sit down and they don't eat and General McBride didn't drink.

Patricia H. McClain:

Oh.

James R. Clark:

So a couple of his colonels would drink with him, but the general wouldn't drink. And at this party -- they had a party for the Russians and they had their entertainers and we had our entertainers and the interesting thing was there were colonels peeping in the windows and I'm inside. They wanted to see it. But we stayed down there about two more weeks and the general spoke and he had an interpreter and the Germans had a large storage supply of tanks and things like that, down the repair shops and everything else and there must've been hundreds of them in the field. And we didn't even put any guards on them. And one of the first things this Russian field marshal wanted to know, "Why don't you have guards around those German tanks?" And McBride said, "Well, the war is over, we don't have to worry about those German tanks." And he said, "Well, do you mind if I put guards around them?" And McBride, said, "I don't care what you do with them." And so he put guards around them and this conversation goes on and he said, "Well, how long -- how soon are you going to leave?" Asked McBride this. And McBride said, "As soon as you're ready to take over, we're ready to leave." And Malinovski said, "Well, what about all those tanks down there, aren't you going to take those with you?" McBride said, "We don't want that junk." About five years later we met that in Korea.

Patricia H. McClain:

Oh, dear.

James R. Clark:

We met those tanks in Korea. So we should've been more -- but we were -- we were friends at that time and we just gave them the tanks and armored vehicles and things like that.

Patricia H. McClain:

We have a bad habit of doing that, though, don't we?

James R. Clark:

Hmm?

Patricia H. McClain:

If we leave things behind like that wherever we're fighting.

James R. Clark:

Oh, yes. You can tell how -- where -- where an army has been by how much his junk is left. But my most interesting part of my service was after the war. We didn't -- the -- during the war, the combat soldier was all of it. Give the combat soldier everything. But at the end of the war, the government, the first thing they saw was all these older men that had children at home and they were going to have to pay for them, so they let them out first, even though they'd been in the rear echelon. And the 18-, 19-year-old soldier was low on point. So they kept us another year. And moved back to Fuessen, Germany, which is about two miles from the storybook castle, Neuschwanstein, and also Hohenschwangau is there and I could see it, walked past it constantly, but I didn't -- never did go up to it, or -- it just wasn't there. I had lunch in the mayor's castle down in Fuessen a number of times. I was assigned to the Information and Education Unit and I was in charge of the information and education of the school for the army there in Fuessen. And that simply means all I had to do was make sure the gal cleaned it at night and had it all ready for the troops to come in the next morning.

Patricia H. McClain:

Oh.

James R. Clark:

I was charged the quarters at the hotel and had a room at the hotel for about three months. And then we moved to Garmisch-Partenkirchen and we were supposed to guard German prisoners there, but the 14th Armored were still there and we stayed there about a month. And then the 80th Division was broken up and we were sent out to different units then. And I went to the 508th Motor Police Battalion in -- in Munich, Germany, and served as a city policeman. And we had -- we were the only police in town. The German Army and the German police force were integrated so they abolished the German police force and -- sergeant -- I call -- I can't think of his name right now. De Camp -- Sergeant de Camp, Rosemary de Camp's brother was my first sergeant at -- at Munich. And they had -- they were refitting and resetting and a lot of them had went home and had come back. And then by December -- this was September -- and by December they had trained MPs from this country and over there and so I was transferred to a military distribution training center. That's an army prison.

Patricia H. McClain:

Hmm.

James R. Clark:

At the end of the war, France wanted to get rid of the army prison that was at Marseilles and we had incarcerated prisoners there from the army, so we had to build a prison at Wuerzburg. And I was given 17 officers who had been court marshaled and I was first sergeant there and I was given 17 officers who had been court marshaled and they were waiting their court marshal to be approved and I had to take charge of them and they, in turn, were in charge of different sections in building the military training -- sorry -- the military prison there. And now this is for a 19-year-old boy. But the -- the interesting thing about that is, you -- you have so many jobs that you have to do, and it's just like the colonel and the sergeant being interchangeable. I carried papers at Wuerzburg that said "I will assume responsibility for anything Sergeant Clark (indiscernible)," and it was signed by a full colonel. But you take on a lot of responsibilities. And when the (indiscernible) barracks were just up to par where they could complete them, we set up the first military housing for the officers' wives to come over there, military community.

Patricia H. McClain:

Um-hmm.

James R. Clark:

And Lieutenant Hughes (ph) and myself were the first persons down there and we acquired 54 houses in Wuerzburg. Now, this was a year after the war -- almost a year after the war and how we did it was we surrounded the house at night, about 3 o'clock in the morning, with infantry troops and then we had motor policeman with us and we went in and confiscated the houses. Took all the -- the furniture, everything, put the people out. And this was the -- then we set them up for the officers' wives to come over. Colonel Holmestead's (ph) wife was the first gal that came over to a military community and I was with the colonel waiting for her to come in, and he says, "Clark, I don't even have a set of dishes." He would have been -- he would have been a general in another month. He was Eisenhower's finance officer.

Patricia H. McClain:

Oh.

James R. Clark:

And when the war ended they pulled us a grade (indiscernible) for an old soldier. But I remember distinctly going into Wuerzburg and I was a sergeant and I walked into Colonel -- to Major Flynn's (ph) office, an army major, and all he had was green troops from this -- from the States and these detained officers that had already messed up and I walked in to him and saluted him and I said, "Sergeant Clark reporting, sir." He said, "Sit down, Clark. I got troubles." So I -- I had to help him. But, we got our prisoners and we got the camp set up and then we set up the military community and then I took a tour of Switzerland after I got there and I was quartered with a -- but it was an interesting experience. I lost an awful lot of good friends. I got -- I lost really close friends, really close to me. One of my sergeants was hit through the shoulder across the back and then across the face and it took both eyes. And I had to crawl up and put the patches over his eyes and drag him back out of the fire hole under fire. And he got A Distinguished Service Cross, which is the second highest, I got one of my Bronze Stars there and then I got another one someplace else. But I had people killed as close to me as from me to you. I got up from one place and had a tank tread within 10 feet of my head. I just laid on the ground and let the tank go on through, and seven of our men jumped up and surrendered. Because they should have, there was 200 German troops, about three tanks, and I just lay spread-eagle on the ground with about three other guys and they went past us and then came back past us. So I spent the night in a hog lot laying flat in that mud. The German -- we were behind the German lines and they were all around us looking for us. They knew we were somewhere up there. And they didn't think anybody would lay down in a hog lot, but the (indiscernible) in that hog lot. So it -- it was not all peaches and cream.

Patricia H. McClain:

Oh, no. It doesn't sound like it had much peaches and cream in it.

James R. Clark:

My wife has written her experiences at home and a lot of high schools are using it --

Patricia H. McClain:

Um-hmm.

James R. Clark:

-- as to what the -- what the home front was like. My book went worldwide and I found out yesterday that it's being taught in two different universities.

Patricia H. McClain:

Oh, good.

James R. Clark:

It's required reading at Franklin and it's required reading at Lake Forest.

Patricia H. McClain:

Good.

James R. Clark:

And they have it at Vanderbilt and a number of other places. My teacher's guide is at most Indiana high schools and quite use to them on the Holocaust. The book that they have to teach the Holocaust is 1500 pages of 8-point type. And all it essentially says is Hitler kills 6 million Jews. My book -- my teacher's guide is 130 pages and 30 pages of that is photographs, delineated photographs telling what they are. A teacher can take that home tonight and teach it tomorrow and -- Actually, Sherry Tucker (ph), Dan Quayle's sister-in-law is responsible for it, because when my health became bad -- before that the teachers would take my notes, voluminous notes, on the Holocaust and anytime I'd speak at schools, they'd take them and copy them. And one of the last schools I spoke at was Sherry's school and she's the administrator over at Orange County and she provoked me into getting that together. And I took my notes and sent them to Indianapolis to my daughter who does that kind of work, she does desktop publishing for a -- for a large accounting firm. And she put it together and it's -- it has executive summaries in it, and everything in it that was -- that would -- a busy person would -- would do.

Patricia H. McClain:

Um-hmm.

James R. Clark:

And it's been well-received. Sue Ellen Read recommended to any schools.

Patricia H. McClain:

Oh, that's great.

James R. Clark:

She recommended it to all the schools in Indiana, so that helps it. But it sells for 40 dollars and I make a little money off of it, but the -- the other book, "Journey to Hell," it -- it went good. It -- it surprised me. It went worldwide and it still does. There's not a bad word in either one of them. The -- you can read any word in there from the pulpit. Now, the book is a hardback book. The pictures in it are sanitized. But the pictures in the other one are graphic. Now, they're not as graphic as some pictures I have, but they are -- they are graphic enough.

Patricia H. McClain:

Well, when you got out of the service, what did you do?

James R. Clark:

I could have gone back to my job. I was with Colgate in Jeffersonville and I could have gone back there and I did, but they talk about the Vietnam vet being a wreck, the World War II soldier was more of a -- a wreck than any soldier we've had. We were -- I don't know what I can say about it, but anyway, we were not -- I carried a .38 pistol for three years after I came back, fully loaded, and kept it under my bed at night. I still have halocations (ph) and nightmares, especially when I go to schools and talk, and I will tonight because I was talking today, and tomorrow. It will take me about a week to get over it. But I do it because the story needs to be told. So I took three weeks from the 5220 and I'm not a loafing type so I went to work down here at Smith's Cabinet Factory on the dock pushing lumber from one place to another. We didn't have mechanical equipment at that time. You put a jack under one end of the skid and had wheels on the other end and one man got in front and two men got behind and pushed it. So I worked on the dock at Smith down here for 28 dollars a week, five and a half days. I could have stayed home and got 20. And I was paying a 5 dollar ride bill anyways, so actually I was losing money by working, but I gained experience there that I used later on in my career. Again, I was disabled, 30 percent service connected, wartime veteran. And I took the public law 16 training of a disabled veteran and I took two years of merchandise management at Louis Stores in New Albany.

Patricia H. McClain:

Um-hmm.

James R. Clark:

And that -- that -- the government paid a part of my salary and the store paid part of the salary, so I learned merchandising from receiving, shipping, selling, floor merchandising, display, things like that and left that at two years and then went into sales for another year and then I went into management. And I was a supervisor at the Quartermaster Depot, warehouse supervisor for a number of -- well, about two years until they closed it and then went to the arsenal as a yard master at the Indiana arsenal for a while until they closed it. And went to Reynolds Metals in Louisville and worked on the floor until found another job and I was superintendent -- night superintendent at Kroger in Louisville for about five and a half years. I had 260 people and 49 drivers and did that. I wasn't getting too far along in anything so I went to Indianapolis and went back into management up there and from 1961 to 1981 I managed (indiscernible) plants and handled traffic and transportation. And for a number of years I was the safety director of the VA Hospital in Indianapolis. And that was the greatest accomplishment of my career was the VA Hospital in Indianapolis. I would -- I was able there to work with the medical and administrative staff and pretty well on my own and during my tenure there they came up from Florida three of the doctors that had (indiscernible) Gatorade and also developed kidney transplants. And I was having coffee with one of the doctors that was one of the doctors from Florida, Dr. Dana Shires, and they were showing other doctors how to do the transplant. But I talked to Dana and he -- I asked him how many they were doing, he said they weren't doing very good because they were limited in the number of donors they could get because they were restricted in Indianapolis. They didn't have any way to get donors otherwise from that. So Ed Whitcomb was governor at the time and Ed's a good friend of mine. I went down and talked to Ed and what I wanted was the five counties surrounding Indianapolis, I wanted the state police to go out and pick up kidneys for me. And I explained the situation to him and he said, "Ray, why don't you take the five states?" So he gave me Michigan, Illinois, Kentucky and Ohio and Indiana and I could call on the state police helicopter at any night -- any time of the day or night if they got a -- The computer was in Bethesda, Maryland, that matched the kidney transplants and they would send them the patient's statistics and Cleveland, Ohio, served us with most of the kidneys and we could go out and I'd call us the -- city police would go pick up the doctor and the state police would come in with the helicopter and landed at Cool Springs Road Hospital and the doctor would meet it there with a (indiscernible) unit and they would go to Cleveland or Ball State (ph) or Erie or some place like that and he would take out the kidney and then bring it back in the (indiscernible) unit, that (indiscernible) unit runs oxygen and blood through it. And while he's gone, they prepare the patient and bring him to the operating room and then the doctors would transplant the patient. And we did 18 in 18 months. And we got some good national publicity for VA on it because Phil Bremen was a local reporter at that time and I had his girlfriend's telephone number, so anytime I'd get a kidney I'd call him and he'd come out and shoot -- shoot the film on it. And he won a couple of national awards on his film shooting.

Patricia H. McClain:

Oh, that's good.

James R. Clark:

And the -- the doctors were very well pleased with what they're able to do. And at VA, also, I was able to set up the first enforced handicapped parking in the state of Indiana, so I had pretty well a run (indiscernible) but -- government jobs are not for a person that really wants to work. I'm not slamming government employees, but you're flustered in what you'd like to do sometimes and I had been in management a number of years and I went back into management from -- from VA, the same company I was with before I left -- before I went to VA. And there are two types of companies in -- in the world. Inland Container is one, and then all the rest of them are something else. At Inland Container, in your job, if you want to do something different, there's somebody you have to call. At Inland, if I wanted to knock out that wall over there, I'd call the maintenance man and tell him I want to knock out that wall and that's all there is to it. You don't have to write paperwork -- you're charged with the responsibility that you have and --

Patricia H. McClain:

Allowed to do it.

James R. Clark:

-- you can -- you can do it. And it's not -- you're not limited in funds because it's a big company and they were -- they were a great company to work for. And then in 1981 I had a serious operation and that's called a subclavian steel. Actually -- actually they took out the artery from the heart to the left side and put in a plastic pipe. And prior to doing it on me, they'd done it on dogs. The -- the loss rate was 1 out of 35 on the loss and you have to be almost a perfect candidate and I was disabled for -- totally disabled for six years, the first two years I couldn't even talk, and came back to -- got back to Washington County and lived like a king. I -- I've had some health problems since, but no stress, no (indiscernible). Like Inland Container, Washington County is one of a million. You -- we don't have the -- the problems here you have anywhere else. I have -- there's 24,000 people in Washington County and I could say I got 23,000 friends. And almost all of us do. It's a friendly -- a 70 -- no, 80-some-odd percent of the Washington County people were -- are native -- Indiana native, Washington County. We have one of the finest museums in the country and we don't get federal or state funds for it. We don't need them.

Patricia H. McClain:

Um-hmm.

James R. Clark:

So it's just a great place to live and a great place to be. I don't think I would have lived very long any other place, but I have a fixed jet (ph) service connected to this building. I have problems. But I'm not -- And the Veterans Administration is a great thing. We have now -- it's better now than it has -- has ever been. We have a clinic in New Albany, that the people there are caring, sweet, friendly, and they treat the veteran as though he was paying a million dollars for his care. Connie Smalley (ph) down there is the administrator and (indiscernible) provided this is a nurse practitioner, Susan Skinner -- or Stiller -- and I -- I've seen them operate under stress -- and not with me but with other veterans -- and they're beautiful. But the Veterans Administration is a -- the country is in good shape. Anything else?

Patricia H. McClain:

Is there anything -- no, I haven't (indiscernible). Do you stay in contact with a lot people with whom you served? Do you stay in close contact with a lot of people with whom you served?

James R. Clark:

No. No, I don't know anybody that I served with other than the colonel.

Patricia H. McClain:

Okay.

James R. Clark:

I do a lot of veterans work for different veterans. It's sort of a comradeship of veterans: Vietnam veterans, Korean veterans.

Patricia H. McClain:

Do you belong to the American Legion or any of those here?

James R. Clark:

No. I was a VFW commander service officer in Chaplain for a number of years, but I do not appreciate or approve of bars and gambling and such as that, and I -- I'm a member of the Disabled American Veterans.

Patricia H. McClain:

Um-hmm.

James R. Clark:

But that's in name only because they don't have anything -- anything like that.

Patricia H. McClain:

Um-hmm.

James R. Clark:

And -- but -- I don't -- the -- some of the veterans organizations are too corrupt and that's -- I just don't -- I don't put my name attached to them.

Patricia H. McClain:

Um-hmm.

James R. Clark:

But I do help veterans of all sorts. I have a drawer at home full of thank you cards.

Patricia H. McClain:

Well, that's good. Is there anything that you haven't shared with us that you would like to have on this tape?

James R. Clark:

Not that I can think of. I've -- I've rambled on. I --

Patricia H. McClain:

No. It was very interesting. But thank you very much.

James R. Clark:

Thank you.

 
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  October 26, 2011
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