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Interview with Guy M. Stephens [2/4/2002]

Larry Ordner:

This interview was made with Guy M. Stephens, born October 11, 1925, resides at 5477 Yankeetown Road, Boonville, Indiana, 47601. Mr. Stephens served in the Army, the 106th Infantry Division, as a Private, from 1943 to 1945, and enlisted at age 18; served in Europe, specifically France, Belgium, Luxembourg, and Germany. This recording was made on February 4, 2002, at the office in Evansville, at Senator Richard Lugar, by Larry Ordner, regional director.

Larry Ordner:

All right. Mr. Stephens, how did you happen to enlist in the military?

Guy M. Stephens:

I was we lived out in the country near (Degonia) And my mother didn't instruct me to school until I was seven. I had some ear problems; they used to break open and run when I was a little child, and so she kept me out until I was 7. So that made me about a year older than my classmates as I went to school. And when I was a senior in Boonville High School in 1943, I became 18 in October. So then shortly after, I got a draft notice from the Government for me to report. And so they was getting all of the 18 year olds when they became 18, they would send you a draft notice [inaudible]. And so I went and

Larry Ordner:

So this was in December 1943

Guy M. Stephens:

And I was a senior. And it was in the fall, and I was a senior at Boonville High School.

Larry Ordner:

Do you recall where you immediately reported for perhaps the physical?

Guy M. Stephens:

Yes, I went to Evansville. I came into Evansville.

Larry Ordner:

Do you recall where you actually went to, where in Evansville?

Guy M. Stephens:

Oh, I'm not sure now. I was at the I think the coliseum. There was a bunch of us brought in the bus, and then they sent us back home. And so I got my draft notice, I mean to report, but anyway, the high school gave me an option. I went in and they said I had 30 credits it took 32 then to graduate and they said they'd go ahead and give me 32, and my mother could get my diploma. And so I was drafted. I left December the 10th in 1943. I reported to Indianapolis. The bus, the Greyhound bus picked us up and took us to Indianapolis to Fort Benjamin Harrison. And that's where we were indoctrinated and cut our hair off. I always had kind of longer hair, and lopped it all off and gave us our Army fatigues and some

Larry Ordner:

Now really, at that time, being so young, that was really your first time

Guy M. Stephens:

That was my first time away from home.

Larry Ordner:

What was that like for you?

Guy M. Stephens:

Oh, it was scary. And you was with other 18 year old boys, too, and that was a lot of their first times away. So you all kind of get together, as people will congregate, and that made it easier. And you would compare notes and what you did at home, and always talk about mom and dad a lot, and your sisters and brothers. Anyways, from there they gave us some tests and whatnot. And they I was they sent me to Camp Croft, South Carolina, and that's where I put in my 12 weeks of basic. And after that, I waited pretty good on my

Larry Ordner:

What was your boot camp experience like?

Guy M. Stephens:

Boot camp, it was pretty good. I was just a big old kind of a country boy, and strong. It was pretty good. I felt it took fairly well. We griped a lot, which they say that's standard for being in the service. If you don't gripe, you're not a good soldier. From there, they sent me they sent the rest of them to join other divisions and for being prepared to go overseas. But they sent me to Camp Shelby, Mississippi, for some advanced training. I trained to be a lead scout for an infantry unit, a squad, a platoon. That's I learned to recognize the different insignias on German uniforms, because we were already slated to go to Germany, I suppose. I didn't know at the time, but they showed us different pictures of planes and slides, and how to recognize German planes from ours, and this type of thing. But from there, then, they

Larry Ordner:

Can I ask you how did that subject matter enter? Was that just something you were assigned, or did you have on an option to maybe

Guy M. Stephens:

Well, they gave us all a battery of tests, your intelligence quotient, or I.

Larry Ordner:

test, and your aptitude test. And even though I don't show it a lot of times, I do have a reasonably high intelligence. I mean, not high high, but, you know, better than the average, higher than the average. So I think they separated us that way. One reason they sent me there was because I had the past training, and from there they shipped me out to Camp Atterbury in (Hairpreem) Indiana, by Edinburgh, and that's where the 106th Infantry Division was being taught. And so they assigned me to the 423rd Infantry Battalion, Company M, I believe Second Platoon. And so we trained some more there. We got to know each other. And a lead scout, the purpose of that is in a combat situation when you're getting ready to cross on an opening or go into strange territory, the rest of the group stays back and you creep on forward and get over there and sort of scout and see what's going on, and then you wave your buddies on. Otherwise, you just all go walking across on an open field and you might all get destroyed. And one good thing about that, I found out a lead scout normally didn't get shot first because they would let them come over and wait for the main group to come in. They knew that much, they knew this was a scout. But it was interesting, and the responsibility kind of gave me but it was scary. Anytime you're on someone else's territory and you're away from home in a strange country, everything is scary. Anybody that says they aren't scared are terrified; they're different than I am, most of them.

Larry Ordner:

How soon after [inaudible] did you see action?

Guy M. Stephens:

Well, we first when we landed we went across on the Queen Elizabeth. We went across yes, without any escort. There's a (?dirge bull?) or balloon followed us out for about a day or two, and then we were on our own. And even though the Germans had all those subs and everything like that, we went unescorted. And there was 18,000 of us on that ship. Man, we were some of us slept on the deck and some had staterooms and whatnot. But the ship would run a zigzag course if they'd pick up indications that there was a sub lurking somewhere ahead. They would run a zigzag course to keep from getting a broadside. We got across I forget now. What, five or six days or something like that. We landed at Liverpool, and they moved us up into England and we lived in [inaudible] for about a month. We stayed there and did more training.

Larry Ordner:

Now, what exactly what going on in England at that time?

Guy M. Stephens:

Oh, there was still buzz bombs coming in. Because I was at a theater once, and all of a sudden the sirens would go off, and they ran everybody and myself down into a bunker I mean into basement like underneath. And man, you could hear those things going off. It wasn't bombing, it was those darn buzz bombs. They came up with that buzz bomb. It was a thing that they designed over there. And that fellow that came over here, that [inaudible], he's the one who developed that. It was actually a jet type of rocket. It would cross the channel, and you could hear it, because even when I was in France and whatnot, we'd hear them go over. You could actually see them at nighttime. You could see the flames.

Larry Ordner:

These were launched, not dropped?

Guy M. Stephens:

That's right. They were launched from back in Germany or back in France, or where the Germans crossed the channel. And they would go over there and they would stop, when that motor would stop, that's the time to get scared, because that's when they'd start coming down with a big warhead in the nose of it. That was called a V2 (ph), I believe, V2 rocket. But that was a scary thing. But those English people, they're tough people, and it seemed like they lived with it. They had to. I tell people how blessed we are we were -- until the 11th of September; all this devastation took place on someone else's soil. You know, cities were destroyed and people's livestock were slaughtered and this type of thing. The women might have been abused, and the whole bit. We'd been spared that, thank God.

Larry Ordner:

You've written here, Mr. Stephens, that you were captured on December 19, 1944, in the Battle of Bulge. Can you relate some of that story, what that battle was like?

Guy M. Stephens:

Yeah. That was chaotic. That's the worst nightmare you can visualize. We were in Belgium, bivouacked with families in a little town there in Belgium; I can't even think of what the name was, I think Charmbourg (ph), Schonberg. We lived with a family called Mardamly (ph). He had just a regular old farmhouse; there was cows that slipped into the room on one side and had his little wood shop where he worked [inaudible], the women protecting big loaves of pumpernickel. And we didn't get any of that stuff. Every once in a while they would give us a piece if we wanted, but we ate in the kitchen down the street, the regular Army kitchen. Anyway, we got our orders to move up into the Ardennes forest. It was really two forests down there, the Ardennes. And we moved up there one evening and got there it took us quite a bit to get there but they put us up there. We relieved the 44th, I believe, the 44th Infantry Division, they were up in the woods in that forest. And it was kind of a quiet sector, Larry. It was not much going on. The Germans was over here, and the Siegfried Line with all the (?tool boxes?) were over here, and the forest was here {indicating}. It's a big evergreen forest. And it was so cold. It was in the early, middle part of December. Snow was on the ground. I forget what the temperature but the people said it was one of the coldest winters there and it was hard to dig foxholes and this type of thing. But we were there probably about the 14th. And on the 16th of December, we were up in the woods in our foxholes just doing our thing. And about daybreak, here came the artillery; that was a new sound for us up there. It come whistling through the trees and bursting. The Germans were sending artillery.

Larry Ordner:

Was that the first time you really experienced [inaudible].

Guy M. Stephens:

Yes. It is. It is. Our outfit was just kind of a hole in the outfit otherwise. We moved up after the cities were destroyed. We just sort of moved up. That's the first time we got put into combat. That went on for

Larry Ordner:

So you could hear that off in the distance?

Guy M. Stephens:

Oh, and close by. And close by, too.

Larry Ordner:

What were your thoughts?

Guy M. Stephens:

Oh, man, it was just like a dream. This can't be real, really, because all of a sudden, it's here. You train for all this stuff, but all of a sudden there it is. And here I am, an old country boy, surrounded by other country boys. And we got our leaders, we had our lieutenant switched behind me, our platoon lieutenant, and we had a sergeant, this type of thing. But the only thing he could do was just hunker down and try to keep from but unbeknownst to any of us at that time, the [inaudible] had come out and the Germans had planned this for weeks and weeks and months. They were amassing a huge attack force right behind the Siegfried Line there. They had their panzer divisions. Their main plan was they knew that they had lost the war by that time, almost, and their point was they was wanting to try to drive all the way back, almost all the way back to the channel. And then they could deal with us or what do you call it? When they surrendered, they could make a better surrender if they had already pushed us back some. But anyway, they had us outnumbered by about ten to one, it came out. They had the tanks, they were seasoned veterans, a lot of them and they also had our equipment. In previous battles they had captured some of our men and took their uniforms and took our jeeps and different things like that. And so the English speaking German soldiers, they had her dressed up like GI's, and you couldn't tell, really, who was a friend or a comrade or who was an enemy. And it was chaotic. You probably read this true: they changed the signs. If you've ever seen the show "The Battle of the Bulge," where it says Malmedy and St. Vith and all that, they took it and turned it around and sent the Americans in the wrong directions. And that was also the same battle they took this one group off our group in another battalion, another regiment, captured them at a bridge; thirty something of them. That's where they packed that truck up, had these guys all huddled up in the field and they machine gunned them and killed them. That was called the Malmedy Massacre. The Malmedy Massacre. The German soldiers had their machine guns on the back of these trucks, two trucks. They packed them up, and these guys thought they were going to truck us, take us away to a PW camp. And when they flipped open the tarpaulin with the machines guns, pop pop pop pop pop pop pop pop. And they destroyed them. But anyway, that was on the 16th of December I started, and it was chaotic. I mean, the Germans had enough, and they surrounded us; that's how come they called it "the bulge." They pushed through, but they always sent some of their forces around us, and they were in front and back. Because we got the order to retreat after we found out we was up against unbeatable odds, or unthinkable odds, and we tried to go backwards. And they were back there shooting and bombing I mean, shooting and had their tanks. We tried to go this direction quite a ways and run into opposition, and they just kept tightening us down, killing and capturing. And I stayed out of it for four days; some of them they got on the 16th captured, some the 17th and 18th. But the 19th, about in the afternoon, they had us down a valley, about fifteen of us. And I wasn't even with my own outfit then. We'd been chopped up so much, you just got together with whoever you came in contact with, you just joined up with them or somebody would join up with you. And we just was down and we were down in a valley, and they had their tanks way back up here on the ridge, some tanks. And every time they'd see two or three or four of us in a little group, they would send one of these [inaudible] artilleries off that tank. They could shoot that thing like a rifle. I mean, if you talk to people from World War II, there was 88 Germans off those panzer tanks, they could shoot them like a rifle. They were very accurate. You could hear them coming through the trees, shwew shwew shwew shwew, like that. And them things would go off and a tree burst, or sometimes worse, when a shell would hit in the top of the tree, it was shot and then there was all that shrapnel down like that. Otherwise it would hit the ground {popping noise} and it would shoot up like that. So that one time it hit right behind me and got one of my buddies, just this piece of shrapnel got him right across the back of the neck. But I fell forward, and think God I didn't have my helmet strapped. I still had it under my chin; I just had it braced up around here on top of my helmet wire. The concussion of that thing, {thumping noise}, and it came up my back and blew my helmet up a ridge quite a distance, and so I scrambled and got it. And my buddy's laying there floundering, and some of my other friends and I tried to do what we could for him, but I never did find out if he died or not. You know, we had to leave him right at that spot after we pulled up from the assault and [inaudible]. But anyway, that was on the 19th, I believe, but it was just (done). Man, we were out of shells. We only had about three clips of shells to start with -- that's eight rounds to a clip -- and then we had a couple of grenades, and we had our bayonets. We had fixed our bayonets because we had that order; fix your bayonets, this is it. But there's a lieutenant from some other outfit, he was in our little group of fifteen. I don't know who he was, but he tied a white piece of cloth on one of those bayonets, and he went waving up to the woods towards them tanks and where the people was, Germans up here. And the firing stopped then, and he got up there and he came back in less than a half an hour. He told us to throw down our weapons; anything we got on us that might have come off of some German, some kind of souvenir, get rid of that, and put your hands on top of your hand and follow him. He said "I just got through surrendering us," which was a mixed feeling, Larry. You're a bit of a young fighter, you know? You hate to lose. I mean, you hate to say, "I give up and I surrender." But it was a real relief, because you think, well, I'm still alive, you know? I'm still alive and at least I've got a chance at it. So you go up there, and all of a sudden you get to see your enemy right there, just like you and I are looking at each other. Some of them was my age and some were older and looked bitter and

Larry Ordner:

I'll bet you can still see some of those men.

Guy M. Stephens:

Yeah, I can. I can. Some people had a nice watch on or some of our guys or rings, sometimes they would take that. People are people, whether you're Americans or Germans or Japs or what. You've got some vicious ones and you've got some still nice guys, you know? I mean, still humane type people. And some of them would let you go and not take your billfolds or things like that. But that was it. After we gave up, they tried to put us in some kind of order and started marching us off and getting us out of there. Man, that was something. When you're marching out of there, you'd see the devastation. You'd see all of our jeeps and stuff banged up, see dead bodies, German men. And it was so cold. They'd be stiff and blue, you know? They just almost looked like wax dummies laying there in the snow. And some jeeps kind of hanging over, about like you'd see in a movie, you know?

Larry Ordner:

You really saw the actual horror.

Guy M. Stephens:

It was. And it is hard. It's hard. And it's something you can't ever you're mind is just like a video, or camcorder, I guess. You put it in there. You get busy and get married. And you get home, and you get an education, and get a job, and raise your family, and everything like that. And you can kind of gloss it over, or try to push it back, but its always there, you know? If you wake up at night and thank God for all your different blessings, it comes back, you know, because a lot of us have been blessed. A lot of them didn't get to come back and be fathers and teachers and husbands.

Larry Ordner:

So you were, in essence, captured. What happened to you then?

Guy M. Stephens:

Okay. That was on the 19th. And I got wounded, too. I mean, there's a piece of that shrapnel up through my pant leg. I don't know if it was that one blast behind me or one of the other ones. I didn't even notice at the time, being so numb and scared, that it ripped me through there. It was a flesh wound. But then they marched us. We slept that first night in someone's barnyard. They just put us inside of a barn yard, it had kind of a wooden fence around it. And we slept there on the ground, slept, or just kind of all huddled up together, bunched close together. And then the next day they got us up, and we didn't have anything to eat. We went and marched again. About the 21st they got us to a railroad yard or the 22nd of December, and put us on a box car, put about 70 of us to a boxcar. They were narrow boxcars, about from here to the wall, and they put 70 of us in it. And there wasn't room for everybody to sit down. We all stood up, just kind of bunched up. But we drew a line after a while. Some of us, we had to sit down, get off our feet. About half of us, a half a door back, you couldn't see out; no windows; and the door was locked shut. You could just see through the cracks on the outside, you could look through the boards. But we'd squeeze back and let that half sit down maybe for a half an hour, then they'd stand up and they'd push up against the wall on their end and give us a chance to spread out and sit down. So we did that. And on the 24th, Christmas Eve, we was in a place I think I found out later it was Koblenz, Germany, I believe. That's K o b l e n z, Koblenz. It was about dusk, and we heard, oh, bells ringing outside and different things. I even heard kids kind of laughing and whatnot. And all of a sudden, we heard the sirens going off. And we were all excited, the Germans out there talking, the guards and all, and kids were running and screaming like, and everything got real quiet. Then we heard planes coming over. It was the British, the British bombers, they always bombed in the evenings. They came over and we heard the bombs coming down. Here we were parked in this railroad yard, and they were coming over to bomb the railroad yard. Our forces the United States, the Allies and England, all of them they were just tearing up all of the German's rail yards to keep them trapped, to keep down their mobility. And so, boy, you talk about that's probably the scaredest that I ever was. You're in there locked up in a boxcar and hearing those big 500 pounders coming out of the sky {whistling sound} like that, {rur rur rur rur] and it would hit right out in the yard, and we was in the yard. And it hit either a car up the line -- and I never did find out because there's no [inaudible] because they'd let us out one morning after the attack, the next morning. You could see those big craters and railroad rails just kind of wound up in places, just a lot of craters out in the yard. But that was on Christmas Eve '44. So every Christmas Eve I remember that, definitely.

Larry Ordner:

And in any way did you all find a way to observe Christmas together?

Guy M. Stephens:

I think maybe on Christmas day we did sing. I think we did. We did a lot of praying that night when the bombing was coming down. When we were being bombed we were doing a lot of praying, but its not hitting our people. As soon as the raid was over, some of the old, hardened people would start cursing them {unintelligible...imitating cursing} {laughter}. Stuff like that. The prayers worked, and now just let out a little anger, I guess. But I think we did. I think we sang "Jingle Bells" and "Silent Night" and something like that, but that escapes me. I don't really know. I don't really have much of a recollection.

Larry Ordner:

Do you remember did you have anything to eat during that time?

Guy M. Stephens:

One time they came and gave us some kind of cheese and a few loaves of bread that we could tear off hunks and share, and this was it. That was it. I don't know what we did for water. I think maybe we did get they let us outside one time, about once a day to relieve yourselves along the side of box car. But then they got the tracks fixed up enough to get us out of there. About three or four days later, they got us to a place called Badord, Germany, B a d o r d. It was a picturesque little village. And we had to walk about four or five kilometers up a hill into another forest, like in through the forest, and they had an old camp up there, a big stone building, that was Stalong(ph) 9B, Badord, Germany. And we lived [inaudible]. I'm getting ready to write a letter I've never written a letter to the editor yet but about the people crying about the way those Taliban or Al Qaeda over in Guantanamo Bay are being treated. My God. Just give me five minutes to tell you about our treatment in the prison camp. When we got to the prison camp, you talk about bare necessities; we didn't have anything to eat out of. We had to use our helmets and our helmet liners to eat out of as bowls. We didn't have anything; no bowls, no spoons or nothing. And the clothes we were captured in on December 16th we had them on every since about December the 10th... is what we got liberated in on April the 2nd. We got liberated on Easter Sunday in '45, April the 2nd. I remember that day.

Larry Ordner:

It must have been a very special significance.

Guy M. Stephens:

It was. We were all just skeletons, too. I went from 178 to 128. When we finally got out of there after it was liberated, they flew us back to Camp Lucky Strike. They have their hospital named after cigarettes.

Larry Ordner:

Did you really doubt that you would get out of there alive?

Guy M. Stephens:

Not towards the last because and I was young. I was one of the healthier ones. I was one of the young ones. But some of the older ones that were smokers and you could still get cigarettes in there. There were some people in there who could speak German, some of our people could, and if you had a nice watch or something, and smoker, or whatever, you said, you know, I can trade this with a German guard for two packs of their cigarettes. So go on and get the cigarettes. I mean, if you didn't smoke, which I didn't, if you could get your hands on cigarettes, you could walk through the barracks and you could barter that cigarette or just a half a cigarette. "What would you give me for a half a cigarette?" "I'll give you my soup ration and half my bread ration." And there were guys would do it. I don't think I ever lowered myself to do that, to take it from some guy, but they would smoke them down to where it fell behind, and those people died. Because they were so cold, we didn't have any heat in there; they had just one big old fireplace right in the middle.

Larry Ordner:

What were the temperatures like? Do you have any idea?

Guy M. Stephens:

It had to be in the teens. Yeah, it had to be in the teens. I don't think it really got above freezing any time I was out.

Larry Ordner:

[Inaudible].

Guy M. Stephens:

You just had one little stone place that we could put on a few sticks of wood through the day. They wouldn't let you burn any flame at night time at all, because they thought the smoke or the flames coming out of the chimney, the planes coming over could see it. We could hear our bombers go day and night. We could hear them go over our camp. We'd think down there and looking up and think, by God, they are free. They might not make it back home, but if they do, they're going to have a good meal, they're going to have a good place to sleep, a shower maybe. We didn't have a bath or nothing. We didn't have anything. Like I said, we had one little thin blanket, one little [inaudible] mattress on the floor. And we lived that way, I swear to God we did. I might even have varnished it up a little bit and making it better than what it was. We lived like animals. Ticks, I mean, fleas, bed bugs, head lice, we were infested. We set out that was a big thing and even on a sunny day like today, it would be cold. We'd go outside and get away from the wind up next to the building and just open up the flaps on our wool uniforms, and you'd see them rolls of white eggs. You'd spend your night trying to get sleep, just digging and scratching. And we were a mess, we were just a mess. Like I said, eat out of our helmets. And that grease! You'd take you helmet and go once a day and get your soup ration. You'd walk by this kitchen down here {indicating} and they had guys in there with great big ladles, and a lot of grass and some (barley) sometimes. And once in a while a piece of meat would be in there, a bone if one of their horses would die. I know that's what it was. They put the bones of them, great big old bones. Sometimes they would take that big old ladle and put up in there, and that bone might get down in your helmet and you'd think, "Boy oh boy!" But it was made to be top heavy and fall out and that made you mad, because anybody who got a bone, that was a bonus. I've seen them pass them around for days, sucking on them, trying to get that marrow out of them. You want meat so bad. We had these Army leather belts; I chewed on my belt, on the ends of it, just to try and get a little flavor. And all we talked about we didn't talk about sex, nothing, never. It was always about food: Mom's cooking, or light bread rolls, or dressing and herb pies. In fact, I've got a little book. I made a little diary there in the forest of recipes. We'd just sit there in a group, and we'd just share recipes. And we'd make up our own recipes: when I get home, I'm going to get a big old Milky Way; I'm going to split it open; I'm going to put a hot dog in the middle of it, and I'm going to melt it a little bit, just stuff like that. Peanut butter, that was something like we was obsessed with; peanut butter. It was something. Like I said, I'd like to write a letter, just a real small one but I don't want to get any notoriety I just want to say that you bleeding hearts that are talking about these detainees over here, I said let me tell you what happened. And the Red Cross, where was they? And we were supposed to get a Red Cross parcel once a month, and you could live almost off of that. We got one in the four months I was there. We got one and we had to divide it among seventeen. Seventeen of us had to sit there in the group; and the little boxes of raisins, a raisin for you, raisin, raisin, raisin, another raisin, raisin, until the raisins were gone. And the cubed sugar, the same way. You put them around, and a little marmalade -- and that was a treat. When that was all over, I think I slept pretty good that night. I got that sugar in me.

Larry Ordner:

Did you feel that you may not get out of there?

Guy M. Stephens:

Yeah, I really did. Like I said, the ones that smoked and traded their bread rations and the soup rations and once a day we got a loaf of German black bread that was about that big {indicating} and it had I got the recipe at home, because it was actually in the book that the Government put out, it was in that German black bread. It was 40 percent saw dust, sugar, or saw dust. It's made out of saw dust. Of course, it burns. Because one time, some of us well, we tried, I think, to put it in the fire to get it toasted like, and that thing was burned about like a marshmallow, and that bread had enough wood in it. But we got one loaf to six of us. And we had a little piece of wood, about like that {indicating} it was exactly one sixth of that loaf. And so help me, someone else asked me where we got the knife, but each squad, we shared knives with the other squads. If you take a loaf of bread and put that stick down and cut that slice off and you get the heel of the day, you'd get that second piece. And the third piece was thick; it was real hot in the middle, no heat would leave it. And so you was really careful about that. Tomorrow you better get the piece next in. If they try today give you the heel again, no, no, I had the heel yesterday. You'd get this piece then. So the third day then, you'd get that nice middle piece; same width, but more bread because it was taller. But that was important. That was important. And to this day, I clean my plate out. My wife still gets on me. She says, "Will you stop beating that plate to death?" Because if a little bit of juice ran off, I know -- so help me, I will clean my plate out that it looked like it's been washed.

Larry Ordner:

Did you have any sense of time in there?

Guy M. Stephens:

I don't this so. I don't think we could tell what day Sunday was or anything like that. I don't think so. One day... here's another experience, too. It happened in there, beside being bombed in the railroad yard. I found out there was another guy from Indiana about three buildings down. If you can find someone from your home state again, there was someone from Indiana down there in about that third building. You go down there, "Anyone from Indiana?" He said, "I am." Boy, it was just like hearing somebody from your neighborhood.

Larry Ordner:

Do you remember him?

Guy M. Stephens:

Yes, I was down there that day.

Larry Ordner:

What do you remember about him?

Guy M. Stephens:

I don't know. I didn't get to spend a whole lot of time with him. They had bunks down there; they had about two or three tiers of bunks.

Larry Ordner:

Do you remember where he was from?

Guy M. Stephens:

I think Hobart, maybe, up in that way. Long ways away from Boonville, but

Larry Ordner:

Still Indiana.

Guy M. Stephens:

Still Indiana, that's right. He's a hometown boy. But anyway, I was up there talking with him, and all of a sudden, we heard this pop pop pop pop pop rrr rrrr rrrr, and there was a dog fight going on outside. There was a lot of our P47s (ph) that was on the butt end of a German fighter plane, and the German was getting shot at, he was losing. And he came down in over our PW camp, which wasn't marked -- it wasn't a marked POW camp. He came right in out of the roof tops, and this 47 was right up like this {indicating} and he was had his 50 caliber machine gun, pop pop pop pop pop-pop-pop. And it killed three or four people in another building, because the shells came right down through the roof in these old buildings. And we ran outside to see what the hell, because they'd rrrrrrrrrrrrr, and we got out in time to see that German plane, the black smoke streaming as it just went over the tree tops. But those 50 caliber slugs, right through that snow, you could see where they had hit down in front of the building. It was steaming, you know? I guess tracers and whatnot. I can still remember that steam coming up. And the German Commandant got on the he got correspondence with Geneva, Switzerland, and "Tell the Red Cross, by God. Be sure this camp is on the [inaudible]!" He was going to be annihilated, too, maybe, but "Be sure that [inaudible]. Our camp here is a prisoner of war camp for the Americans." They had Russians there, too, in another compound, and they also had the British; they kept us separate, though. Americans are here, British here, and Russians there {indicating}. But anyway, that was a good experience.

Larry Ordner:

What was liberation like? Did you have any inkling when it happened?

Guy M. Stephens:

Yeah. Yeah, because we could here them fighting down in the... we could hear all the shooting and stuff getting closer for the last two or three days. It was moving this way, and we was down in the valley, and we could actually see some action down there. And our German guards left us the day before. Our German guards -- all of them, the Commandant and everybody -- they left and went back towards Berlin. And that left us without anybody; that left us with no guards. We just had the run of the place, but most of us were weak and we wanted to stay put because the fighting was going on outside and it was getting closer. And so on April the 2nd, that morning it was just like in the movies there, too, of course, the gates were locked you know, this tank, a lot of our tanks came up and actually pushed the gates open and broke the chains. And people went running towards them, these prisoners did. But I didn't, I hung back. But they made a mistake but I know they won the hill, because everybody is like hungry dogs they threw out some of the C rations and K rations and stuff. They were just throwing them out to the prisoners. And some wanted to get one, be just like a herd of dogs. They'd fight over it, and one guy would get that can and run off around the building the best he could run, get out the [inaudible] then they'd throw more stuff out grrrr grrrr grrrr arrrr-arrr-arrrr and somebody would get it and run off; just starving to death. And that was just but I never took part in that, now, thank God; stayed out of that. But then they came in and gave us a bunch of that food and I tell you

Larry Ordner:

What were the emotions like?

Guy M. Stephens:

Oh, it was great. I mean, it was we were getting to go home. Get to go home. So they sent us a bunch of that rich food. And my gosh, everybody got so sick that night. They got diarrhea, vomiting. I can still see it in our old building on the stone floor. I bet you stuff was that deep {indicating} on the floor from everybody, because you take several hundred people all having problems they said our stomachs had really shrunk and [inaudible]. Because that big old balloon, it goes down in strength [inaudible]. It gets down small. So that's why they put us in the hospital. But after that, we stayed there a couple days with the provisions. They trucked us out of town to a place that had some tents set up. Take all of our clothes off for the first time; take them off, throw them out here, you walked into here {indicating}, and there would be louses. They sprayed us under our arms, our whole body, our hair. They sprayed you all with this strong disinfectant stuff that would kill these bugs and lice and everything. Then we got a good hot shower. They had a portable shower set up

Larry Ordner:

[Inaudible].

Guy M. Stephens:

Oh my God. They even gave us I don't think we got razors; we didn't take that much time to shave. But we were a ragged looking bunch. Anyway, they gave us new clothes and that felt good. And they put us on trucks and took us to an airfield and put us on C 47's and that's my first airplane ride, too. They flew us to Camp Lucky Strike, that's the hospital, and I stayed there a month. We were captured we were liberated April 2nd, '45, and we got on the ship to come on home in the first part of May. Because we had been out on the ocean over two or three days and news came over the radio that the ship's radio, that Germany had surrendered. So Germany had surrendered. And we got back to the states

Larry Ordner:

What was the reaction?

Guy M. Stephens:

Oh my gosh, that was great. That was something. And getting to go home. Germany had quit fighting, so none of your buddies are over there, and other people didn't have to be destroyed anymore or go through that. And they gave us a 90 day furlough. I got three months at home in Boonville. The local hero come back.

Larry Ordner:

Tell me what was it like when you [inaudible].

Guy M. Stephens:

That was something. That was something.

Larry Ordner:

Were your parents there? Did your mom and dad [inaudible].

Guy M. Stephens:

Yeah. Yeah. They lived in Boonville then. They moved in to the country they got their first place we always lived out in the country, big old farmhouses. But during the war, dad bought a place for $1,800 for a nice little house on the edge of Boonville, and that's where I returned to. But it was nice. And like I said, they had two theaters in Boonville, and I'd go to the show and maybe take my girlfriend or something, and they wouldn't let me pay. And any place I'd go into, a restaurant, and try to pay for my hamburger or whatnot, "Oh, no. This is on us." Then I got to go to Florida for two weeks for R&R, down in Miami, right there on the beach. I got to swim in a pool and also in the ocean. And I was in a little place, Charlie's Tavern, or Charlie's Bar. They had little sticks you beat on the table and that was the entertainment; instead of clapping, you'd beat the sticks on there {rapping knuckles on table} like that. And I was there when the news came over that Japan had surrendered. So I got to be on the ship coming home when Germany gave up, and then I was in Florida living it up. And then from there I went to Belvedere, Camp Belvedere Fort Belvedere, [inaudible]. And that's where the Italian prisoners were being held. And I was up there, supposed to be one of the guards, and they was just shifting us around. Then they sent me to Staten Island for a little while, and from there I got discharged. So I was in two years. Saw a lot, experienced a lot. It made my life grow.

Larry Ordner:

Tell me about it. What has the impact [inaudible].

Guy M. Stephens:

It's made me enjoy the things so much that so many of us take for granted, like a good bed to sleep in; a hot shower you can stay in as long as you want to; our good food; the freedom to come and go as you want to; if you want to go here you can; you don't have to be confined in a barbed wire fence with guards around. And you almost really appreciate the freedom you've taken out of it. And I feel for any prisoners. I even feel sorry for the violent offenders who are in prison. That's a helpless, hopeless feeling when you're incarcerated; your freedom's took off. You can't do anything. You can't visit your parents or your kinfolks or whatever. I don't know, it's just and like I said, I was a poor boy with a high school education. And the GI Bill put me through college and I became a teacher, and then I was a principal for thirty years all at one school; spent 34 years in [inaudible] Indiana. It was an elementary and junior high for the first half of it, and then the junior high consolidated and went to Boonville and (?Castle Junior High?). Some of them that lived in that part of Anderson Township went to Castle, right down by the new dam. And then the rest of them lived over towards east of Yankeetown, and they went to Boonville. So that's almost like a semi retirement, that junior high land. That's kind of an awkward years for kid;, that's when there's a few more problems than there are K through 6th. But it's good. Life's been good, and God's blessed me. And I'm a god fearing man, and I thank Him, not just in the morning and the evening, but 24 hours a day.

Larry Ordner:

Just for the record, mention the awards you received.

Guy M. Stephens:

Yeah. I'd been wounded, and also several of us had frozen feet. Our feet were frozen in there since we got water in our boots, and trying to hide out and running from the Germans while we had been encircled, and even in prison camp and all. But my Purple Heart was from my leg wound. And I got the Purple Heart, and then the combat everybody in the infantry gets an Infantry Badge; that's for marksmanship and shooting a rifle and whatnot. But once you are in combat and you had the Infantry Badge, they gave you the Combat Infantry Badge; it's got the ribbon around, a gold wreath around the ribbon. It's an attractive it's called a CIB, Combat Infantryman's Badge. And then I got the ex POW. They came out with a ribbon for anybody that was a prisoner of war. They gave us a ribbon, and then anybody that had the Purple Heart and the Combat Infantryman's Badge, they also awarded us the Bronze Star, and not too many years passed. So they sent me a Bronze Star, which I'm proud of. They are pretty medals and whatnot.

Larry Ordner:

Do you have any final thoughts?

Guy M. Stephens:

Not really, except oh, servicemen. There's a special bond between them. Between prisoners of war there's a special bond between us, and we talk. We talk like you and I are now, when we go to meetings and things. But like I said, I never sit down and discuss this type of stuff with my family, my kids and my wife. I never have and probably never will. And I talk to my friends and they haven't' either. But it’s good to put some of this down. But it's like I said, we've all got guilt; ends up coming back. Seems like that's one thing every serviceman that's been there feels guilty that you made it back when some guys that you trained with, other 18 and 19 year old boys, they got killed. And some of them didn't get killed, they got maimed for life, either lost their legs or became severely injured that they can't live a normal life. But we've all got that kind of guilty feeling, "Why me, Lord?" I don't have anything else, really, to say.

[END OF INTERVIEW]

 
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  October 26, 2011
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