The Library of Congress Veterans History Project Home 
Experiencing War: Stories from the Veterans History Project
Home » Text Transcript

Interview with William Jennings Arnett [Undated]

Elizabeth Johnson:

This is the beginning of an interview with William Jennings Arnett at his home at 1312 Maplewood Drive, Bridgeport, West Virginia. William Jennings is 84 years old, having been born July 19th, 1917. My name is Elizabeth Johnson, and I'll be the interviewer. William Jennings is my uncle. He is my father's brother.

Elizabeth Johnson:

Uncle Bill, could you state for the recording what war and branch of service you served in?

William Jennings Arnett:

It was World War II. I was in the Tank Destroyer Unit, I guess you could call it an Armored Unit, and we were attached to the Fifth Infantry Division, and later on to the 26th Infantry Division.

Elizabeth Johnson:

What was your rank?

William Jennings Arnett:

I was discharged as a Private First Class. I had other ranks during my several years of service, but that is the way I was discharged.

Elizabeth Johnson:

And where did you serve?

William Jennings Arnett:

Well, of course, most of the training was in the United States, and then we went to Ireland, from Ireland to England, and from England to France. I was in Normandy, northern France, The Bulge, and to Germany, and then on to Czechoslovakia, where we were when the war ended.

Elizabeth Johnson:

Uncle Bill, were you drafted or did you enlist?

William Jennings Arnett:

When I went into the Army it was a draft for one year, and I enlisted to get my one year over with, and I got it over in five years.

Elizabeth Johnson:

Where were you living at the time, and why did you join?

William Jennings Arnett:

I was in Clarksburg, West Virginia at the time, and I wanted to get that year out of the way so it wouldn't be hanging over my head that I had to leave my job.

Elizabeth Johnson:

Why did you pick the Army?

William Jennings Arnett:

Well, no particular reason. I just did. I had nothing against the Navy or Marine Corps, but the Army is just where I went.

Elizabeth Johnson:

And do you recall your first days in service? Your first haircut?

William Jennings Arnett:

Yes. My first three days we were sent to -- we ended up going to Fort DA Russell, Texas. It is roughly in the El Paso area. And the first haircut, the barber laid a comb, thin comb flat on your head, and then cut everything that was sticking up.

Elizabeth Johnson:

Did you know anybody else that was going there at the same time?

William Jennings Arnett:

I knew some, but they never ended up in the same company I was in, and we were soon separated.

Elizabeth Johnson:

How did they make the choices of who went where?

William Jennings Arnett:

That was a question I never was able to figure out. Usually later on they kept moving the ones that they didn't, for some reason they didn't like, for whatever reason they would usually go out to when they were transfers. That was the officer's choice.

Elizabeth Johnson:

Can you give a little description of boot camp?

William Jennings Arnett:

At where we were it was hot, even in January it was hot, and it was desert country. And it was on, the building, barracks were all built of adobe, and they were very cool that way. And the parade ground where all the recruit work was being done was hot and sandy and dusty.

Elizabeth Johnson:

Did you get any KP duty while you were at boot camp, and why?

William Jennings Arnett:

Well, it was illegal, but they did use KP as a punishment duty. But usually if you messed up some way or the other, you did get it, and I had my fair share of the mess ups.

Elizabeth Johnson:

After boot camp, what other special training did you receive?

William Jennings Arnett:

Well, it wasn't -- well, the only thing I guess I really learned was to load a mobile gun at the orders of the tank commander. That's what they put on my recommendations to take to civilian life, anyway, of what I learned. But I learned generally everything, take all the rifles and machine guns and everything, take them clear apart and put them together again, time and time again.

Elizabeth Johnson:

Do you remember any of your instructors?

William Jennings Arnett:

Well, yeah. The instructors were, some were very good. I had one sergeant at our group, he would -- he was a bit of a chow hound himself. And when we were on parade and it came time for the noon meal, he would march us down to on the field and then leave us at detention, and he would walk over to the door of the mess hall. And he would holler over to us, "fall out." That left him first in line.

Elizabeth Johnson:

After boot camp where did you go?

William Jennings Arnett:

We were, went to a -- we were trained in 155 millimeter Howitzers, and we went with them to fire at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. And they had an anti-tank battery, they had a 37 millimeter cannon, and I think they could have handed a handful of rocks would have done more. But then when we came back, they decided to take all the anti-tank companies around and make them into a tank destroyer unit, at which time we were issued half tracks with 75 millimeter guns on them, which we learned to use.

Elizabeth Johnson:

And then what? Where did you go from there?

William Jennings Arnett:

We went to Camp Bowie (ph), Texas, in Brownwood, a town of about 5,000, and 15,000 soldiers there, so you figure out how much fun the town was. And we went from there to Camp Picket, Virginia, where we were trained to, landing to -- we were going to go to Africa. For some reason or other they called us back and we weren't sent. I never did understand what went on there. And from Picket we went to New York later on, and Fort Dixon, Camp Shanks. And we left there from the Brooklyn Navy Yard, and from there we went tO Ireland and on other, like I said, to England and France and so on.

Elizabeth Johnson:

How did you get across the ocean? What kind of boat was it, or ship?

William Jennings Arnett:

The ship wasn't -- it was an enormous convoy that we were on. There were small aircraft carriers, real small ones, but they were loaded with airplanes all over the deck so they couldn't fly off them. There was a battle ship with them, and I think two cruisers, or there was a bunch of, several destroyers. One destroyer or two was cut on the way over by a cruiser, and then all the other ships were oilers, freights, and troop ships. Our ship had about 25,000 soldiers on it and, unfortunately, the motor went out, and, of course, the convoy went on. They can't wait for you. And then we were there overnight worried about -- we were in the submarine area. And the next morning they got -- overnight they got the motor fixed and we caught up with the convoy, and the motors broke down again and we had another night of the same thing. Began to think then maybe this wasn't all fun. I could see torpedoes coming through the side of that ship all night long.

Elizabeth Johnson:

Before you left the United States, were you able to spend any time with your family, or did they ship you right out?

William Jennings Arnett:

No, I was in the state for about two years, so I had two or three furloughs. After I was on maneuvers in Louisiana for, I think, three months. Anyhow, then we went to maneuvers in North Carolina, and from North Carolina I got my first furlough after a year in the Army and I came home. And it was while I was on furlough that Pearl Harbor came on, and I had one or two later on other furloughs after I got back home, maybe about three times.

Elizabeth Johnson:

When Pearl Harbor happened, did you realize that you weren't going to get out of the Army in a year?

William Jennings Arnett:

Well, I really found out earlier, because in the summer of '41, Congress had passed or changed that law about being in for a year to the weight of the emergency, which then told me I was going to be in there for a long time.

Elizabeth Johnson:

How long were you in Ireland and where did you land in Ireland? Weren't they a neutral country?

William Jennings Arnett:

Northern Ireland was under the control of the British. And they -- we landed at Belfast. And we were in Ireland, we got there in October, and after a real rough North Atlantic crossing. North Atlantic in the fall of the year is not the best place to be. And from there we were there to, along about April, and from April of '44 we went to England, and we were in England until we went to France for June.

Elizabeth Johnson:

Did you land D-Day in France, or where did you land in France?

William Jennings Arnett:

We landed at Utah Beach, but it was after the -- they were inland all -- I'd say maybe ten miles. But it was from the time we got there, it was about a month before they were able to break out of the bridge heads, and that was when the Normandy campaign ended, after the breakout.

Elizabeth Johnson:

Uncle Bill, before we go to France, I want to ask you about the emblem for the tank destroyers. Tell me a little bit about the tank destroyers.

William Jennings Arnett:

The tank destroyers were created largely as a defense element against German tanks, but they ended up being exactly what General Patton said, "The only way to fight a tank is with a tank." And we ended up with a regular tank with a 90-millimeter gun on it, which is an excellent tank, and much better than the regular tanks that the armored were using. Oh, and the symbol for them is a tiger or something, panther biting a -- eating a tank up. It was a mock go, seek, strike and destroy.

Elizabeth Johnson:

When you get down inside a tank destroyer, what do you see around you?

William Jennings Arnett:

Lots of very flammable lines of oil and gasoline. Lots of ammunition that's ready to blow up, both inflammable and armor piercing. It is not a very comfortable place to be. Very warm. It is not very cold in the winter.

Elizabeth Johnson:

Was your biggest fear somebody opening up the hatch and dropping in something?

William Jennings Arnett:

The turret was open. And sometimes I caused a little trouble, because when we crossed the Rhine River we were out in the middle of the river on one of those pontoon bridges, which was just wide enough for the tracks on your tank, and a German 262 jet bomber come and tried to bomb the bridge out. And I thought, this is a nice place to be in the middle of the Rhine River. But, fortunately, they didn't get us.

Elizabeth Johnson:

Now we are back to landing in France. Can you remember anybody else that was with you, and did you go through the water or did you land by tank?

William Jennings Arnett:

We came in pretty close, because there wasn't any fighting right on the beach then, it was inland about, oh, maybe five or six miles. And when we got there, we stayed where we first got off, and we could see there the night like heat lightning, but what it was, was the artillery. And it was continuous, and all night long it was, didn't worry me any because I knew I would never get hurt. And then the next day we moved up and moved into a field, and one of those Normandy fields, and there were some cows there. And the neighbor, the man who owned the farm, he came in and got his two cows out. And I said we are not going to steal his milk or anything, leave them alone. He knew what he was doing. I didn't know why he was moving them. I found out a little while later when they started showing us.

Elizabeth Johnson:

This is a reality factor; right? Isn't this where you were first wounded?

William Jennings Arnett:

Yes. It was a nice, warm, sunny day. It was fairly quiet in our area, and I was sitting under a tree, didn't have any duty right then. And I heard this shell coming in. And I knew, although I had never heard one before, I knew what it was. And I rolled over on my side and it exploded, and I jumped up to run for a fox hole. And I didn't know that Germans shot more than one shell at a time, and there was another one right behind it that was covered up from the sound of the first one going off. And when that one exploded, it jarred me real, real bad, and I was completely numb all over. I could not feel anything. And I jumped into the fox hole and I looked down, and the back of my hand was all covered with blood. And I couldn't -- since I couldn't feel anything, I had to feel my hand to see where I had been hit, but I couldn't feel any place where it was torn or anything. And I tried to realize that maybe I brushed my hand against my leg, and I felt that leg and I was all right. And then I saw that the blood was running off my nose, then that really scared me because I didn't know how much of my face was gone. But I got out of it pretty good. Very, very lucky.

Elizabeth Johnson:

That's the result of your Purple Heart; right?

William Jennings Arnett:

Right.

Elizabeth Johnson:

So now you are going through the hedge rows, and what is your job assignment, then? Where are the foot soldiers and where are the tanks?

William Jennings Arnett:

We were usually the infantry wherever we were assigned to, at this time not at the very front, but we were real close to them, and they -- at night there is a tank corps, not corps, tank battalion, as well as a tank destroyer that was assigned to each regimen. The tanks would pull out and go back maybe about three or four miles of a night, but whenever they would start their motor up, they would start shelling us, but we had to stay there all night. I thought maybe I would have to get in a tank corps to get out of this stuff.

Elizabeth Johnson:

Were there many casualties in your unit?

William Jennings Arnett:

There were several. I can't tell you how many. There at first we had, I think the first soldier killed in our outfit was killed by a guy that was on sentry duty, and he was trying to relieve them, and mistakenly, everybody was scared to death, and they don't know what they are doing. And if you are moving around at night, it is very, very dangerous, that can happen, and almost happened to me later on. But we go to line up to get our meals, and we had our, because we were pinned in there close, we had our kitchen trucks with us. And we got all in a line to get our mess, our mess kits filled, and the shells started coming in. And everybody, of course, that was the end of the meal. And the next day we did it again and the same thing happened again. So then we decided we would fool the Germans, we wouldn't eat at 12:00 o'clock, we would eat at 11:00. But we got in line and the shells came in again. But we didn't realize it, but they were watching us, they could see it. When we got a bunch of guys together, that made the shelling worthwhile, they would let us have it.

Elizabeth Johnson:

You mean they didn't smell that real good food? What did you have to eat?

William Jennings Arnett:

Well, I don't remember too much, but that was one of the few warm meals. That is much better than K rations or C rations. The only thing I remember now about the cooking, the only time, we weren't around the kitchen trucks very often, but when they, time we went one day, later on went down to the truck to eat, and the cooks and the mess sergeant had found a small keg of calvadoes (ph) and when we went down, it looked like they had all been shot, they were all down in the back of the truck. And like the Stars and Stripes said, the calvadoes is what they kicked in alcohol to give it a kick. I mean, it was dangerous.

Elizabeth Johnson:

Can you give us a memorable, fun experience? Did you ever get R and R in France?

William Jennings Arnett:

No. We had late in the spring of '45 they -- wait a minute, it was in '44, or anyhow. In the Fifth Division, of the 15,000 officers and men, there was about a dozen that would be allowed a week's furlough in Paris, and anybody would give his right arm for it. And my platoon lieutenant got one of them, but he found out later on that day that we were going on attack the next morning, and he wouldn't go because he stayed with us. I admired the man ever since.

Elizabeth Johnson:

Did that lieutenant survive?

William Jennings Arnett:

He survived the war. He did have a little nervous spell there once. He would have the habit of if we were going into, especially a small town or something, and he could get on a hill and look it over, see what it was before we got in it, into the town, he would. And he was out looking at one of these towns one time, and somebody tapped him on the shoulder, and it was a German, and he handed him his rifle and surrendered to him. Well, he took his gun and went back and gave him, put a call in for the MP's to come and get him. And he got to thinking that, what if that guy hadn't wanted to surrender? And he got kind of nervous. The lieutenant was a man named Muggy, a young Iowa boy from German parentage. Talked a lot meaner than he was. He was real nice.

Elizabeth Johnson:

Did you meet any French civilians when you were going through France?

William Jennings Arnett:

Very seldom. There weren't -- if they could, they were gone. And one time we did see, oh, a few times we did. But the only time I was in real contact with any of them was a man had escaped from a prisoner of war camp, and he had gotten home, it was in Reams, France, and he had gotten back to his home that day, and they were having a big party and giving, he and his friend and his wife, and then there were three soldiers. And we were sitting there and they were giving us wine and everything, and we were having a ball. And we would offer him a cigarette, and they are very valuable. He wouldn't take it. But, boy, his wife, she wasn't drinking that much, he would take it. And we went to leave, and another two guys that were with me got behind me, and I looked at this guy, and I said, boy, you kiss me on the mouth and you are on the floor. Of course, he touched cheeks, it was all right. But the two guys behind me, they wanted to see what happened to me before they tried it. And one time I saw a group, the only time I saw a group of Frenchmen drinking that had too much to drink. They had one of these wheelbarrows with a long wooden box on it, and giving me the sign of drawing their hand across their throat, "Le boche, le boche." They were going out to bury him.

Elizabeth Johnson:

How did you spend time with your family?

William Jennings Arnett:

The only family I had was a sister that I kept in touch with, was a sister and a mother. Fortunately, I wasn't married at that time. And the, I think they call it female (sp), where they take a letter and you had a form, and they pressed it down to just maybe about a 4 by 4, maybe even smaller than that, and they would send thousands of them that way. But the mail did not get back regularly. My mother would get a letter from me, and then they would get one, the next one would be one that I had written before the first one, or she might go two or three weeks and get none at all, and I wrote her every week, but then she might get three or four of them at one time. It was not -- very worried about it.

Elizabeth Johnson:

This question here says: Did you feel pressure or stress? I can't imagine that you couldn't, but tell me about it.

William Jennings Arnett:

You did feel stress. Not all the time. An example of why you did, after a while you realized that your chances were getting dimmer all the time for the simple reason, as Bill Mauldin wrote, drew and wrote in his cartoons of Willy and Joe, that Willy was saying that he felt like a fugitive from the law of averages, because you do know that you can only be missed so many times.

Elizabeth Johnson:

Were you able, did you get to see any press or newspapers or anything like that?

William Jennings Arnett:

I didn't see newspaper people ever. But I did, we would get a, occasionally at Stars and Stripes, who had three-day old news, because they figured after three days you could publish it because the Germans would have known anything by then.

Elizabeth Johnson:

Tell me more.

William Jennings Arnett:

We were going through Luxembourg, and a boy from Tennessee, people standing along the edge, we saw that sign on the window that says, B-I-E-R, so we knew we were pretty close. And he asked, he said, "Parlez vous Frances?" And the guy said, "Oui. Have you got any cognac?"

Elizabeth Johnson:

So we are on our way to Belgium, and can you describe what led up to the Battle of the Bulge and what it was like?

William Jennings Arnett:

We were at Sanalater (ph), Germany, and attached to the Fifth Infantry Division, and got, through the Stars and Stripes paper, I found out that soldiers up north of us were really getting pounded. That's when I first realized that The Bulge was a serious attack. I was feeling sorry for them. And the next day we were attached to the 26th Division and headed for the same place there in Luxembourg, through Luxembourg. And that's, by the time we got up there is when all that snow started. We were part of the 26th and the Fourth Armored Division were the two divisions that broke through the Bastone (sp).

Elizabeth Johnson:

Was there anything special that you did for good luck, especially under those conditions?

William Jennings Arnett:

Well, not Especially for good luck. But we did have to sleep in the snow, because we usually like to sleep inside the tank. But when steel gets real cold, it is colder on the outside, and it is warmer laying in snow that it was inside that tank, but we slept under the tanks in the snow.

Elizabeth Johnson:

Did you have plenty of supplies?

William Jennings Arnett:

Yes. We even had, they sent turkey up even on Christmas. And we were staying inside a house inside Luxembourg at the time, and the lady there cooked, we got turkey from the kitchen, and they were glad to get rid of it so they didn't have to cook it. And there were three of us staying in that house. They had invited us to sleep in there on their floor because it was so cold outside, and we sure appreciated it. But then after that the lady cooked the turkey inside of the stone-type ovens where you fill them up with wood and feed them that way. And we really had a good Christmas dinner in the middle of a real bad situation. It was very unusual.

Elizabeth Johnson:

How did you learn or how did you know that the battle was going your way again?

William Jennings Arnett:

Well, we kept going forward and, well, you really don't know how it is going, what is going on around you. You just know what little area you are in. You don't know whether you are winning or losing. I guess if you are going backwards you are losing. But that is only a little part of it, anyhow, and you really can't tell whether you are winning or losing, but you keep doing what you have to do.

Elizabeth Johnson:

Uncle Bill, what did you people do for some entertainment?

William Jennings Arnett:

Well, at one point, this was in Sanalater, Germany, too, somebody found a deck of cards. We got, there were three other guys that could play bridge. We were in the basement. There wasn't a whole house in the whole town that was all in one piece. We were down in the basement. And we had, the ventilation was very good with lots of light, and we were playing bridge when a shell hit on just south of us, and then about a half a minute later a shell hit just north of us. It made the observers got the artillery, the target right on, and you are bracketed by the shelling. And we kept on playing because there was just no place to go. And I don't think anybody knew what their cards were, but, fortunately, we didn't get anymore shells. We were real lucky. About 100 yards back, why --

Elizabeth Johnson:

After the Battle of the Bulge, did you have a leave, and what do you do when you have a leave in the middle of the war?

William Jennings Arnett:

There was no leave. And The Bulge, it was just, just a matter of going back and attacking in a different place. We kept going. We were into heavier, into Germany from then on. It was mostly a matter -- but there was never a leave.

Elizabeth Johnson:

What were the casualties in the Battle of the Bulge; do you know? Your unit?

William Jennings Arnett:

No, I don't. It is not something you counted anyhow. You counted your friends that were left.

Elizabeth Johnson:

Do you recall any particular humorous or unusual events?

William Jennings Arnett:

Well, some things I get, you could -- they were funny in a way. We had a -- we were bombed when we were in the old fortifications at Verdun. And when the airplanes started dropping bombs, one guy jumped into a ditch that had been used by the Germans for sanitary purposes. And, of course, we always kidded him after that that they did it and sent their airplanes to make him jump into it. You can't get under a Jeep.

Elizabeth Johnson:

Did you ever see any of the major generals?

William Jennings Arnett:

Yeah, we came across, one time in France, we came across Patton. We were walking, we had been after ammunition and we were going back. There was about five of us in a couple of trucks. He came along, I was walking with kind of my head down, and I started to look up and I saw three stars. At that time he was still a three-star general, and I knew who it had to be. And I had heard all of these things about him, how he had raised cane with guys that were in actual combat, that if they didn't have their helmet on and have their rifle or anything. We didn't have them, we had left them in the truck. We were going after a beer. And he hauled over, he got, fortunately, he got after the sergeant more than me. And we thought we was going to get really bad news when we got back to our outfit. But the next day the orders came down about everybody would be in uniform at all times and all like that, but it was signed by the division commander, which means that Patton, that was the guy he was after, the division commander.

Elizabeth Johnson:

Can you think of a prank that you and some of your friends pulled when you were marching on?

William Jennings Arnett:

Well, not exactly. It wasn't definitely on purpose. But when we were being bombed at Verdun, there was kitchen trucks were with us at that time. We were on the move. And the kitchen crew came back and started to get back under their truck to sleep, and they noticed there was a hole in the ground, and they started wondering what that was. And the truck driver, one of these guys that knows everything said that he remembered driving over that when he came, parked, when we left, got there with the truck. So the next morning when they went to get in the truck, there had been a 250 pound bomb go through the roof opening where the machine gun was mounded through the seat and on down to the ground, and the other guys had been sleeping on top of that bomb all night long. It was a dud, fortunately. And there was one truck driver that was severely chastised after that. And it had gone through, tore the seat up and everything, and they didn't know it. Slept right on top of it.

Elizabeth Johnson:

Did you keep a personal diary?

William Jennings Arnett:

No, nothing that way. We weren't allowed, really weren't supposed to have, do that, in case they would get it off of your body or something like that, or we weren't supposed to have a camera of any kind, although some way or the other we found a German camera and we did get a few pictures. Very few.

Elizabeth Johnson:

Do you remember where you were when the war ended?

William Jennings Arnett:

We were set to attack Pilsom (ph), Czechoslovakia, and they called the attack off. And that was when we realized something big was coming up when they did that. And the next day they announced it was May the 8th, 1945, the end of the European war.

Elizabeth Johnson:

And how did everybody react? What happened?

William Jennings Arnett:

There wasn't any of the usual celebration you see in the city at all. It was just kind of a sigh of relief more than anything else, and unbelief, too, that the war was actually over. About the only reaction I had is when we went into the house before we were -- they, somebody said, well, we don't have to keep the curtains drawn now for a blackout, and he opened them up. And I couldn't stand for that, people outside being able to see in. Still, that had been two years since I had ever seen outside lights. Murphy was the most decorated man. He slept with a .45 under his pillow until he got killed. It gets to you. Just about to get to me.

Elizabeth Johnson:

Do you recall the day when your service ended? Where were you?

William Jennings Arnett:

I, we were at the fort outside of Baltimore, at Mead, George Mead, Fort George Mead. I was discharged from there. They had sent me home on a furlough, and I was home for about a month before I was discharged, because they couldn't discharge everybody at the same time. And they would call you back and say the numbers were too great. They would call you back when they could handle you.

Elizabeth Johnson:

How did you get back to the United States? And did you ever see my father when you were in the war?

William Jennings Arnett:

No, I never saw anybody in the, during combat, anybody that I knew from anywhere. And we came back on a ship that held -- made to handle, I think, 4,500, and they were putting 6,500 on them. And the ones that were, had to sleep on the deck didn't have any of the duties to clean up around on the ship. And I did, I was really lucky. I was on the top, because we left Marseille and went to Norfolk, so we were in warm, and it was a beautiful fall weather.

Elizabeth Johnson:

What did you do when you were outside? Did you go to work or did you go to school with the GI bill?

William Jennings Arnett:

I went to work. I was thinking very seriously about using the GI bill to go to college, but I think romance got in the way.

Elizabeth Johnson:

Do you still keep in touch with your friends in the service and do you go to reunions?

William Jennings Arnett:

We have a reunion about every year scattered anywhere in the United States, where somebody will do the work to hold the reunion, because there is a lot of work involved in that. This was an annual affair after it got started. It didn't get started until about ten or 15 years after the war, but it has been a yearly affair since.

Elizabeth Johnson:

Did your military experience help you in any way after the war? Did it give you any experience in your job?

William Jennings Arnett:

No, it didn't help me in any job. Of course, it changes you. Anybody that is in the combat zone is completely changed.

Elizabeth Johnson:

Could you describe that a little bit more?

William Jennings Arnett:

Well, I would say after about a week in combat you are old. I don't care if you are 19 years old or what, but you are an old person. You realize that they, like people know that you could get drunk and drive, well, you could have a bad wreck. But nobody thinks it can happen to them. But when you are in combat, you know that you could be killed or hurt. No doubt about it.

Elizabeth Johnson:

What was your solution against homesickness and the general weariness of lack of sleep?

William Jennings Arnett:

Well, there is not anything you can do. Actually, you could go several, a good many hours without sleep, but you don't have time on your hands or anything. And finally you will just fall asleep after you get so tired. There are cases of people or soldiers falling asleep standing up. Guards come in with the troops help keep, maybe the officers -- because they are all friends, and you don't want to be friends with your officers. They didn't want to be impartial. As Martin was. He wasn't, he was very partial.

Elizabeth Johnson:

Uncle Bill, how did the war affect you after you got home? Did you have recurring fears of bombs going off over your head, or what happened?

William Jennings Arnett:

Yes, it affected me. I had gone to work, and I was working outside the factory where I worked. And there was a noise that sounded very much like a shell coming in. And although the war had been over for about nine or ten months, why, I still hit the dirt. Just an automatic thing. And you have recurring, I had recurring bad dreams where you, your wife kicks you to wake you up because you are moaning and groaning and everything. And that went on very heavy for about, oh, 15, 20 years. And even maybe once a year I will have one of those dreams.

Elizabeth Johnson:

Is the dream always the same, or is it a different dream?

William Jennings Arnett:

No, it is nothing, no specific dream. But those things that you don't want to dwell on, anyhow. But they do reoccur. And anybody that is in combat long enough will crack up, no doubt about it.

Elizabeth Johnson:

When you have your reunion, do you guys talk about those things or --

William Jennings Arnett:

No. We usually talk about the funny things, what we did on a furlough when we were in the states and all that kind of stuff. And it is funny how you can be attached to somebody after --

 
Home » Text Transcript
  The Library of Congress  >> American Folklife Center
  October 26, 2011
  Legal | External Link Disclaimer Need Help?   
Contact Us