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Interview with Doane Hage [July 18th, 2002]

Larry Ordner:

This tape is made July 18th, 2002. Doane Hage, Jr. I'm going to spell the name. The first name is spelled D-O-A-N-E, last name is spelled H-A-G-E. His date of birth is 9 June 1921. Mr. Hage resides at 716 South Runnymede in Evansville, Indiana. That is also P.O. Box 5723. And the Zip code of 47716 of Evansville. He is a native of Petersburg, Virginia, served in the United States Army Air Corps in the 8th Air Force, the 306th Bomber Group, 423rd Squadron. His highest rank attained was that of staff sergeant from 1942 to 1945. He enlisted at age 20. His special service awards include the P.O.W. citation. This tape is made with Larry Ordner, Regional Director for Senator Lugar. Mr. Hage, thanks for agreeing to meet with us today. I appreciate your doing this interview. So you were 20 years old and where were you living at that time, sir?

Doane Hage:

I lived in Mineola, Long Island, New York City. And having witnessed on the radio the attack on Pearl Harbor, I realized it wouldn't be long when I would have to go into the service, and not wanting to be a Navy man or have to go on the ground, I realized I had better volunteer.

Larry Ordner:

Well, tell me, what was the mood like in your town there at that time. My, gosh, when Pearl Harbor hit, what was the mood like?

Doane Hage:

I think everybody felt very much like I did. I know my family all did, and all the people I knew were pretty much up in arms about it. They thought it was a terrible thing to happen. Of course, I might add something, being a young man at the time, I did not know where Pearl Harbor was. I soon learned about it, but I didn't know at the time. But I thought it was terrible. Also, the things that were going on in Europe, we were aware of the ships being sunk and our help to the British and so forth and so on. America was, I would say, very patriotic at that time.

Larry Ordner:

And I know there was a lot of speculation prior to that, will the U.S. go to war, will it not go to war and I guess after that there was absolutely no doubt?

Doane Hage:

That's true. I think that the more casualties were reported, more planes lost, ships lost, et cetera, that it wasn't too long before America was at war.

Larry Ordner:

Well, tell me, where did you go for induction?

Doane Hage:

Well, I went down to New York City. The first thing, I talked this over with my parents because I was young and so forth.

Larry Ordner:

And what was their reaction?

Doane Hage:

Oh, they didn't object at all. In fact, they said, well, that's good, we hate to see you go, we don't know what's going to happen to you. They were a little bit concerned. And I didn't know either, but I knew that if I didn't volunteer, I'd be drafted and I knew I didn't want to end up on the ground where they were dropping bombs on me. So I wanted to fly. I've loved flying since I was a child, a little child. I made lots and lots of model airplanes, and even had gasoline powered airplanes. So I went to downtown New York City and volunteered down there and then they sent me to I think it was in New Jersey, I forget the actual base name.

Larry Ordner:

Is this where you had a physical?

Doane Hage:

Yes, and then they approved me in short order, and then sometime in February I was put on a train and went over to New Jersey and that was the base where I actually went in.

Larry Ordner:

So that was for basic training.

Doane Hage:

Well, from there I was shipped to Texas and I went through training in Texas.

Larry Ordner:

When you got on that train for Texas, did you have any idea where you were going, do you recall?

Doane Hage:

No, I don't think so. It was in Texas but that's about all that I recall. And I'd never been to Texas and when I got there I was surprised, you could see from horizon to horizon, whereas in New York City you can't see one block to another because of the high buildings. But you would get up in the morning and there would be ice on the ponds and you'd have to go out and do calisthenics. And my training was there. I also learned to be an aircraft armorer. I went to armament school.

Larry Ordner:

How physically rigorous was the training?

Doane Hage:

Well, my physical training was, I don't know, we learned how to use a gun, a rifle, and how to take it apart and clean it. We had to climb fences and this type of thing. We had to run, get in the mud, go under barbed wire. It was kind of like an infantry type of training. And you had to walk miles in double time, and doing this, that and the other thing. And so it was, I would say, very much like infantry training. It wasn't until I got to Lowrie Field in Denver, Colorado that I got to study in my aircraft armament. Basic training was in Texas.

Larry Ordner:

Were you given any discretion at all to decide maybe what you wanted to do or was everything pretty much assigned?

Doane Hage:

I would say everything was pretty much assigned. I don't recall having an opportunity to go to one school or another. I might have but I don't recall that. But I do know I loved airplanes and flying, so by being in the Air Corps, obviously they were training everybody to support the Air Corps.

Larry Ordner:

So you probably -- I would think you probably felt pretty good about being in the Air Corps?

Doane Hage:

Oh, I was elated. In the first place, I wanted so much to fly. In fact, after my basic training and then I took my technical training as an armorer. And when I was finally assigned to an Air Corps, I had wanted to go to a fighter group. I had wanted to be a fighter pilot. I wanted to fly. It was just in my blood. Anyway, they sent me to a bomber group in Utah, and the first day or two after I was there I went to the C.O. and asked him if I could apply for fighter pilot training. And I don't recall where that was, it might have been in Texas or North Carolina or Georgia, I don't remember. But he said, oh, no way, we're going overseas. You're grounded. You can't fly. And here I was with a bomber group, not being able to fly. In fact, I did -- What I did, I ended up because I had a little art talent, one of the lieutenants saw me drawing pictures of airplanes one day and he handed me a brush and I had to paint German airplanes in silhouette on 40-foot-long gun targets that these planes would tow, and our aircraft gunners would shoot at these. So here that's the closest I was coming to flying on the hot desert sand out there in Utah. I'm painting with a brush in the bright hot sun these German airplanes so the crews of the B-17's could all shoot at them.

Larry Ordner:

So let me talk about your art interest now. Was that just something that was always a casual interest of yours, had you had any specialized training or was this some kind of a hobby?

Doane Hage:

Mostly it was a hobby for me. It wasn't until after the war that I had any training in it. And even that was somewhat limited. However, I will say this. That as a result, part of me as a result of being a P.O.W., the good Lord blessed me, and I developed a talent that later supported my livelihood for the rest of my life. Because I've been a product designer, a furniture designer, a city planner, a house designer. I'd designed buildings and operations for the U.S. government both here and abroad. I spent several years on Okinawa after the war and I used my talent for drawing and designing, and I'm retired from the government employment and I have a pension from that. So that survived beyond the war. And I liked it and I kept pushing myself so I could do better and better.

Larry Ordner:

From the time that you were in training in this bomb group, what did your training consist of for you?

Doane Hage:

Well, my training, because I was a ground crew man in armament, was the study of various guns and bombs and various and sundry munitions and effective use. But when I got in to the bomb group itself, I was supporting those who were flying because I was a ground crew man. And I loaded bombs and took care of the gun sights and took care of the guns and made everything to see that it was all in good shape. And that was my job really. Strictly an armament man on the ground. And I enjoyed what I was doing, but I'd see these planes go up and, oh, boy, I wanted to go with them. I wanted to fly, too. But when I got overseas, the opportunity came.

Larry Ordner:

How did you get word that you were going to go overseas, do you recall?

Doane Hage:

Well, like I said, I asked the C.O. if I could transfer and become a pilot. And he said, no, you're grounded. He said, we're going overseas in a short time. So I didn't know that. But I knew it would be inevitable. But it was only a couple of months or so and then we were shipped down to Virginia for a few days, just a very short time. I went by train. And of course the flying crews all went someplace else with their airplanes and they flew overseas to their base. I went with the ground crew and we went to New York and got on the Queen Mary.

Larry Ordner:

So you actually went home to depart, didn't you, in a way?

Doane Hage:

Well, I didn't get to see the family. I didn't have leave at that time. I went right from Virginia to the ship and on the ship and oversees.

Larry Ordner:

And what ship did you go on?

Doane Hage:

The Queen Mary.

Larry Ordner:

The Queen Mary.

Doane Hage:

Normally they had about 3,000 people on the Queen Mary at best, and we had close to 10,000 on there. The line to the two or three latrines they had on the deck where I was assigned never stopped. It was quite an interesting world. I was on the fourth or fifth deck below the main deck and you could hear the water go by the rivets on the ship. There were five of us in a room, crowded little room. And the ship was attacked by a submarine. We didn't see it but we heard later that the submarine and the ship had exchanged gunfire. We could hear this. And we also, to avoid any more attacks, the Queen Mary was a powerful ship and it zigzagged and did what it could to avoid it and then because of that we couldn't go into the London area. We had to go all the way to Glasgow, Scotland.

Larry Ordner:

Was the Queen Mary escorted at that time? Were you part of a convoy?

Doane Hage:

No, there was no convoy. Oh, I believe they had one until you get a couple of miles out of port or something like that, but there was no -- because the Queen Mary was quite fast.

Larry Ordner:

Yeah, I always heard that it could outrun anything.

Doane Hage:

And they felt secure in the fact that they could outmaneuver or outrun. Had there been more than one, I don't know what they would have done. But anyway, it was an interesting trip.

Larry Ordner:

So you landed where again?

Doane Hage:

Glasgow. Well, we landed on the coast and then took trucks or whatever to Glasgow, got on a train there and then went south to our base. Of course, I'd never been to England before. I had no idea where we were going. It was totally strange to me. And we got on the train -- even the trains, the whistles and everything were totally different. We got to this base, and it was kind of pretty. It was nice. It was little.

Larry Ordner:

Is this where you met up with the rest of the crew?

Doane Hage:

Well, yes, it was sometime after we did get -- They were there before we were and the runways had not been totally completed yet and that upset the Americans a little bit. And, of course, not to be critical, but the British would stop anything to have a cup of tea, and the Americans weren't quite used to taking these breaks. They just worked for 24 hours. Anyway, it was a nice experience and I enjoyed my stay. It was a little bit outside the city of Bedford which is 60 miles north of London. And it was interesting. I went to town one night and a British truck came by full of British soldiers and I put my hand up like I wanted to bum a ride, and I said how far is it to town. And the British soldier said, well, Yank, it's about eight miles. Eight British miles which are longer than American miles. So they didn't have room for us. There were two or three others with me, and so we decided to walk, not realizing that eight miles was a bit of a walk, and especially eight British miles. We walked to town.

Larry Ordner:

At that time the war was still raging in England at that time. Wasn't London and most of England under blackout conditions?

Doane Hage:

Yes, it was very much so. In fact, you walked down a street there and you wouldn't see any lights of any kind. I know in America they hadn't taken that quite seriously yet, some of the blackouts. They'd open doors and let light out. But in Britain, they were still under attack. In fact, they were beginning some of the very bad attacks from the German bombers. V-1's I guess. And when they talk about blackouts, you don't like light a cigarette. Everything is dark, just completely dark. You can walk by a building and it's totally dark and your friend would say, oh, come on in here, they're having a party. You'd go in through a dark area first and then close everything dark and then go inside and, my word, the place is jumping for joy. You would never know it. You wouldn't hear anything outside, you wouldn't see any lights. You thought the building was empty. And they observed that seriously. And I'm glad they did. They knew better because they suffered some terrible attacks there, I tell you. I didn't personally see these, but we were nearby so we could hear some of them and sometimes be told about the results, and it was very bad.

Larry Ordner:

Did you feel like at your base there that you were subject to attack?

Doane Hage:

Not really. We were told and occasionally the Krauts would play stories about Axis Sally, you know, before we would get ready to take off on one of our missions one day. Axis Sally. I understand you Americans are coming over here, well, you're wasting your time or something. You don't need to do that, we got more fighter pilots. We weren't so much afraid of attacks as we were of the fact that they knew what we were doing. That seemed kind of unusual.

Larry Ordner:

Well, tell me, how long were you there before your first mission?

Doane Hage:

Well, I went over on the 5th of September, 5th or 7th, they gave me a few days here. And it should have taken three or four days and it took six days, something like that. Anyway, I was not on flight crew when I got there, but the first mission they had, we lost one plane, as I recall. Another one came, crashed in when it landed. And two of the men on the plane I was ultimately assigned to, for some reason or other, I don't know, were AWOL or I don't want to demean their reputations but they were not available for some reason or another. And so the pilot announced to the commandant there were two vacancies open for gunners on the plane. And of course I didn't know that. I was not in flight status then. I was still an armament man and I had to get up early and make sure the different planes were loaded and of course this was very understandable in that the British planes were very high off the ground and the fuel trucks could actually run underneath them and fuel up, and they had pneumatic lifts to lift bombs up and so it was easy. Whereas, Americans, we had to run them by hand, you lift a 2,000 pound bomb by cranking it up by hand, and boy, you've worked hard. You get eight or ten planes to do that with and you're pretty well beat. I was doing that when these two vacancies occurred, and I volunteered, and they gave me an eye test and everybody knew me already, and so they said, all right, you're accepted. So I suddenly -- Oh, by the way, I was a P.F.C. when I went overseas. I was promoted to corporal when I got over there. It was an automatic thing. And of course being on flight status, I was immediately promoted to sergeant because if you were not a sergeant, you couldn't be on flight status. So that meant a promotion to me in pay. I was more happy just to go fly. I didn't care about the pay so much. That made me feel great.

Larry Ordner:

Had you flown before?

Doane Hage:

Oh, I had flown before, yes. Not -- I had flown on a mission in California when I was out there for some purpose. A plane left Salt Lake City to go to California on some kind of a mission. And I was merely baggage. Literally I laid in the back of the airplane and slept most of the trip. They just wanted members of the crew on there like they would be, even though I wasn't on the crew then. I had flown to California and back but didn't do anything. I was just baggage. So now in England they had their first mission. But for me the next four missions were all that I had. Actually, when we got shot down, it was the fifth mission for the squadron but only four for me because I was not on that very first mission. And the next mission, oh, man, I didn't realize how cold it got up there. With an oxygen mask and the windows wide open and the worst position is the only place outside of the top radio operator's position that lets the cold air come right in. The windows were wide open.

Larry Ordner:

Did you feel prepared? Did you feel adequately trained?

Doane Hage:

Oh, yes. I felt very prepared. I had all the armament. In fact, I felt more prepared than I felt some of the others were. I had all this armament school training, you see. And I knew about guns and I knew bombs and the various and sundry munitions and things of that nature. What I didn't know about was the heavy equipment that I had to wear, electro-heated suits and parachuting. I'd never done any parachuting. So those things, you know, wearing the parachute. You get all dolled up and all this stuff and then you're supposed to fire this gun and you feel cumbersome. But to me it was interesting to fly and be that close. At times one wing would lock in between the wing of the other plane and the horizontal tail. It would be that close. Say, maybe five feet from your plane's side to the tip of the other wing. We didn't do that very often. But they did a lot of practice flying and so forth. And I just loved it. I couldn't wait to get off the ground. However, the first three missions were not good for me. Number one, the oxygen mask froze up, the condensation when you're breathing in the mask and down to the bottom in a frozen solid piece of ice and you're supposed to squeeze it and let that out, but it didn't melt, and you couldn't squeeze it. It didn't melt, it just stuck there. And if you take your hand out of your glove and put it on your gun, it would freeze right to the gun. It would pull the skin right off your fingers, it's that cold. And nobody really liked the cold. Other than that, no problems, except we met a lot of flack. We met a lot enemy planes. At one point I actually tracked an enemy plane behind one of our planes, next to it, and I'm pointing and tracking this plane as it is approaching on the other side of this plane. And the crew in the other plane next to us kept looking at me, they thought I was going to shoot at them. But I was tracking it so that I could shoot ahead and then the bullets would go in. And I got it, hit the plane and it did a back flip over and went down. Smoke came out. I called up the pilot and said, you want to confirm. He kind of chewed me out, he said we're in radio silence. When you're in enemy territory you don't do those things. So I learned. But it was enjoyable.

Larry Ordner:

Let me ask you this. When you first shot that plane, what were your thoughts? That had to be an enormous decision, was it not, for you?

Doane Hage:

Oh, no. Oh, no. I was hoping that I'd shoot him down, to tell you the truth. I was very belligerent over what had happened in the war, and Hitler and all of the rest of it. I didn't like any of them. I was hoping I could do my part. I wanted to shoot them down. If it didn't work that way, I wouldn't worry about it. But I was glad to. I was patriotic, let's put it that way.

Larry Ordner:

So I'm going to let you kind of guide me from here. So you had those initial missions. Roughly how long was this? Was this just kind of your normal day-to-day routine or was there any routine for you during this time?

Doane Hage:

Well, strange as it may seem for Americans who are not familiar with Great Britain -- this is not a criticism, it's just a fact -- it rains a lot there, and we were looking to fight a war and not worry about weather. But, boy, you'd get up ready to get the planes out and go on a mission and the mission would be scrubbed because of the weather. And the weather got not so cold. It was a little cold sometimes, but we didn't have snow or anything like that when I was there. All we had was rain.

Larry Ordner:

And you had a lot of poor visibility, too, didn't you, probably?

Doane Hage:

Yes, that was the reason the missions got canceled, and then they'd go from some other base or something like that. But, I mean, the war didn't stop. It's just we didn't go. And I might add that because of this it was a very disappointing thing sometimes. You'd be prepared and be notified that tomorrow you're going to go on a mission and you'll have a briefing at such and such time and then it would be canceled. Every time it was canceled, we used to have a saying, we're going up to the Wash. The Wash was a big enclosed part of the ocean, the sea, and it's named the Wash as I recall, Northern England, and they go up there and drop bombs into the Wash. They would make believe that was a target. It was a training exercise, so instead of going on a real mission, you're going on a training mission. Well, there were no enemy fighters to shoot at, so you just went along for the ride. And we practiced on the mission where I was shot down up in the Wash area, and the practice, we didn't realize it when we were practicing, they hadn't announced the mission yet, but during that time we were flying at tree top level to the ground. Can you imagine a heavy bomber going along at tree top level? You'd have to raise up to get over some trees and go down the other. Oh, what excitement. I mean, you were ten, 15 feet off the ground. I'm telling you, it's really exciting. The plane next to us, one of the pilots was known for his dangerous flying sometimes and chances he took, he actually hit one of the trees. It didn't down the plane. It didn't damage it all that much. But I think he got a reprimand from the C.O. when he got back. And after all, you get eight to ten planes flying all that low, it's hard to avoid every tree. And later they announced that the mission we were going to fly on, this last mission -- Most of the early missions were about two, three, four hours, oh, not more than four hours except maybe when we went to Brest and Lorient. The first mission was Lille, then Brest and Lorient. They went four or five hours. We didn't have any fighter escorts because the fighters couldn't go that far. We'd only have the fighter escorts until about the middle of the channel and then you're on your own. But when they announced this flight, to Saint Lazare, they said you're going to be flying without oxygen. Oh, everybody thought that was great. It's going to be warm. We won't have to worry about freezing up, and guns freezing up because when they get cold instead of going br-br-br-brm, they go boop-boop-boop. So everybody was tickled to death. But it was an eight-hour round-trip flight. Four hours in, four hours out. We had to land at a base in the southernmost area of England because the planes couldn't go that far. We had no air refueling at that time. We had no fighter escort at that time. So we left England and kept down to almost wave height. As low as was convenient. The men even got out of the turrets. It was down that low. They didn't want anything to happen. Also there was another reason. Enemy fighters would not be able to shoot you from underneath, which was the most vulnerable part of the airplane. The only planes that could shoot down was the turret, ball turret. Everybody else needed to shoot at an angle but you couldn't shoot directly down. So that was the most vulnerable. So we flew on the mission going down at wave top height, and it was long. We were given sandwiches to take on the way so that we wouldn't get too hungry. And as we passed Belle Ile, a large island off the coast of Saint Lazare, there was a lot of gunfire from the island, and some of us responded, although most of us were saving our ammunition for the target. So we knew that once they were firing at us from down there, this was machine gun fire, we knew that they'd telephone or had some telegraph to tell them at Saint Lazare another group was coming. And B-24's went in first and they dropped their bombs and we counted all the planes as they came out. We didn't lose a one. Eighteen of us going in because we didn't go with them because the B-24's were so much faster than we were, we couldn't keep up with them. So we knew they had made a successful raid and there were no losses. As we approached the coast, I was quite surprised to see how tan and brown France was, where England is jolly green all over. Everything is so green over there, and France was just brown. And I was quite anxious surveying the skies as we started to climb from wave top. Obviously we were over land now, we had to get up to our altitude, about 7,000 feet. And it seemed so peaceful but it was very -- not too pretty green. And as we turned to approach our targets, word came out that we were on our last approach and the crewman next to me tapped me on the shoulder and pointed out the window, and I looked out his window which was closer to the direction of the sub base and so forth, and I could see anti-aircraft flashers like little flashes of sparks way down on the ground and I didn't think anything of it and about two or three seconds later kaboom, kaboom, kaboom bursting up where we were. Well, quicker than I could say it, the sky began to get filled with them. The next thing I knew the whole plane shook and I looked out my window and the left wing was bobbing up and down like this and smoke and little pieces burning something were floating through the inside of the airplane. And I didn't hear anything that would say we were hit or anything. I only found out later. We actually got hit three times. The first hit blew the plexiglass nose off. That left the bombardier and the navigator in there to the onrushing air and exposed and they had no guns to support themselves with because that were in the nose. The next hit, anti-aircraft, hit below the instrument panel and blew the entire what's left of the nose off and killed the pilot, blew the leg off the copilot, and killed the top turret gunner. And it set the plane on fire and of course at that point there was no control over the plane, it just erratically went towards the ground. And I was forced -- I fell down. I couldn't stand up with all this action. I fell on my face to the ground. Not having any oxygen mask, I wasn't connected in any way so I could just let go of the gun railing and fall. And I guessed in a very short time, very few minutes, I had to climb by climbing up a ladder putting my feet in the open holes in either side of the walkway inside the aircraft. I climbed up to the exit hatch which the other gunner had already opened, but when he opened it he fell on the airplane and collapsed, and I thought he had gotten shot. So I climbed up there, and I couldn't get him out, I couldn't get his rip cord to pull his parachute. I couldn't do anything without falling back down myself because we were at such a steep angle going down, and so all I could do was holler, "get out, get out," and I don't know whether he heard me or not because there was not much aircraft noise anymore. The engines were gone. But there was still flack noise. And so I opened -- I got to the door of the hatch and I pulled my rip cord and nothing happened. So I pushed myself out to where I was down at my waste and I'm hanging out, and I pull the rip cord again and it yanked me out of the plane. As it did, it yanked my feet right out of my shoes, one of my boots. And as I went by the horizontal stabilizer, I hit the back of it with my hand and then the chute just wobbled back and forth and I recall having to reach up to pull it to correct yourself, but I didn't realize how quickly you could collapse your chute if you did that. And I did that and I fell faster than I would have ordinarily. Before I knew it I was on the ground. Do we have some more time to do any more?

Larry Ordner:

Sure. We've got plenty of time.

Doane Hage:

Well, once I got on the ground, I realized I was bleeding from the chin, but it was not a wound, it was more of a cut that I must have scraped something. And I saw a Frenchman coming, a man, I didn't know who it was, coming toward me, and I quickly got my parachute off, my harness off and unbuckled and everything, and I started to run away. And he hollered and he hollered, and I got the impression that he was being friendly, so I went back cautiously and the two of us rolled my parachute up and put it in some bushes and hid it. And then he pointed to a way for me to go. And the plane had crashed within two or 300 feet of where I had come down, and I could see the fire of the plane had burned, I could see the fire over the tops of trees, and I wanted to go over there and see if anybody had survived and he kept insisting, "go away." So I ran away and eventually hid, and some German soldiers came and surrounded where I was hidden, and I put mud all over my face and everything and I laid very quietly. And there were three or four of them. One came down to the opening where I had crawled in these bushes and he looked in and moved his gun and he had a submachine gun and I thought, boy, I hope he doesn't open fire. I was about ready to say, "Kamerad." And they all went away. And they never did find me. Our raid was at 2:00 in the afternoon. And I stayed there and I didn't move until it was almost dark. A little bird came down within about six inches of my head and lighted on a little twig of a branch and sharpened his beak on there and went tweet, tweet. And I thought, boy, how lucky. Then when I moved, it was like breaking every bone, I was so stiff. And I had to relieve myself, which I did. And I carefully struck a little match and read the directions on my escape pack. And I took some pills to stay awake and I put some pills in a little patch to purify water. And then I started to leave. My hope was to go to the south but the little compass that I had was so small that if it wasn't absolutely level and if you didn't have some light, you couldn't tell where you were anyway. I stumbled into some water and I realized that I was in a marsh. And after walking, oh, an hour or so I guess, after dark this is, I came across a house and eventually I stayed at this house, and the people allowed me to stay there with them. However, I hid in the attic under a pile of straw and I never spoke. Never at any time was I allowed to be out when anyone, French or otherwise, ever came near the house. I was not to be seen by anybody. And I stayed there from 9th of November when I was shot down until about the 23rd of November, and I spent Thanksgiving Day on the Spanish border. These people had arranged for me to get on a train with the father and the daughter and we went down to the town of Hendaye.

Larry Ordner:

Tell me some things about the family. Do you remember the names?

Doane Hage:

Well, the family were great. The family, they were Spanish refugees. They had lived in Western France near the German border, and as the war had progressed into France itself, they retreated toward Saint Lazair. And the name was Angulo, A-N-G-U-L-O, and the father's name, he was called mostly Papa. I can't think of his name. Frantz (phonetic), I guess. I don't know. Anyway, Carmen was the mother, his wife, an older lady, I'd say in the neighborhood of 50. And I guess he was in that bracket. They had an older daughter Maria who was in her thirties. And then they had a middle daughter Carmen who was, I don't know for sure, maybe 28. And then another daughter who was maybe 22, Isabel. And a very young girl, Jeanette, a daughter, who was 14. And there was Marc Clemente (phonetic) and Jose Peugeot (phonetic), two younger men who were Spanish refugees who were living with them. And they were, oh, 30 to 40.

Larry Ordner:

How did you communicate with them?

Doane Hage:

Well, the problem with communication was solved by Jeanette, the youngest daughter, who was going to school. The other girls were all out of school. Maria was an epileptic, and she had a seizure while I was there, which was traumatic. And the older daughter had been married to a Frenchman who was killed in Africa. And Carmen had not married anyone. This was Maria. She was the one who was epileptic. Jeanette -- Isabel was friendly with the Germans. She'd take home cleaning. She even got me a uniform one time. I had a chance to put on an German uniform and actually pose as a German. But I didn't do it. I didn't want to do that. I didn't think that was a good thing to do. Anyway, Jeanette, the youngest girl, the 14-year-old, spoke fairly good English. She was studying in school. And she brought me a French dictionary, and so she would interpret for me to the family and the family to me. And they had a radio, and they used to listen to the radio, and the newspaper. They got that everyday. Strange, this is a very strange thing but it's true. The father was an electrician when they lived in Eastern France, and so he had no job when they moved to Saint Lazare. And he voluntarily got a job working with the German submarine base, would you believe, as an electrician and he got inside the base as an electrician. Where the two other men, Jose and Marc worked, I don't know. But the three of them would all go off on the truck that would commute them to work and they returned late in the day about dark time. And the women would stay at home and I'd stay home. And I would help cut wood and do any chores that I could. And they had a little girl there, I remember her particularly because the large toe and the next toe were webbed, and her name was Eliane Normand, N-O-R-M-A-N-D. She was the child of a German soldier and a French girl, whether she was an orphan, I don't know. But she would come every now and then. And I would play with her and make drawings, and I made a little marionette for her and did little things for her to make her happy. She liked that. Of course, I didn't see her that often. She'd only come a few days every now and then, so I'd have time to make these things and then she'd appear. But like I said, as time went by, we saw raids on Saint Lazare there and we heard on the radio and with the TV -- no TV -- the radio and the newspapers what was happening. They were shooting people who -- They found a German soldier who had been killed and so they lined up 25 French young men and shot them in the street because nobody would admit to doing it. Things like this got people very upset, and I never got out of the house for a long, long time. Finally they had arranged for me to get on a train and I went with Isabel, the third oldest girl, and the father, and the three of us got on a train and we went from Saint Lazare to Hendaye on the border of Spain and attempting to cross into Spain. Briefly, it was a nighttime situation and I could see across this bridge with the railroad tracks, single track railroad bridge, that there was a guard shack on the other side of the bridge and this crossed the river there into Spain. And my object was to get across the river, across the bridge. What happened then, I have no idea. But anyway, I made some noise and the guard who was supposed to be guarding the bridge, I don't know where he was, wasn't there, but he heard the sound of my foot scraping on the roadbed, he came running, and we fortunately were able to avoid being arrested at that point. We returned to Saint Lazare, and that was the Thanksgiving Day when I was on the border. About the 20th of February, as I recall, somewhere around there, I was allowed to make another trip, exactly the same way, only this time I got on the train by myself. All I had was a ticket. I had no ID, nothing. My G.I. pants had been dyed black, I had a French beret, and I had shoes and I could put two or three fingers behind my heel I remember they were so loose, and I couldn't -- I had no food, no money, no identity, nothing. And so I made the trip all the way down through Bordeaux and through the southern part where you go towards Hendaye and I didn't realize it, and I don't know why, but we didn't seem to have passed that point the last time we had gone. Or if we did, I didn't know it. But this was a point where the Germans examined everyone coming from the southern part of France to the other part of France. It was between Occupied and Free France, that's what it was. And so the train was evacuated, and everyone had to go up to the ticket counter and explain who you were, where you were going, and show them your tickets and all kinds of stuff. I hung back because I didn't know what to do. I couldn't cross the tracks.

Doane Hage:

So having left Bordeaux and gone south toward Hendaye hoping to get to Spain, the train stopped at the borderline between France and Free France, Occupied and Free France and I was forced to go to the ticket counter, and I got up close to a large family thinking that maybe the Germans would think I was a part of that family. So they all went up there, kids and mother and father. They finally got to me, and strangely enough it had snowed the night before and it was so cold in that station, the Germans were hollering at one another and the guards were cussing at one another because they didn't get the fires going and everybody was cold. We were cold, too. So they said, hurry up, hurry up. Get through. Next, come on, go on. So they asked me where, where's your papers. And I shrugged. And they said, oh, another one. Hey Joe, another one with no papers. Get Tom over here. So the guard comes over and he says go with this man across to the station and go back to Bordeaux and get your papers straight. And so the guard escorted me across the tracks into the waiting room on the other side of the station. As we went in the waiting room, he quickly ducked into the men's room and I quickly ducked outside. And I walked down to the end of the block trying to get away and there was no place to hide on the street where the houses were, and across the street was a minefield, so I couldn't dare go in there. I couldn't turn around and go back. I was afraid the guard in the rest room would come after me. So fortunately, I made it past a single guard post and I was about a third of the way up the hill and there were no rocks, no shrubs, nothing, just a bare hill. And two girls came running down and the guard remembered he hadn't asked for my ID. So he cranked up his rifle, pointed at me and hollered, "halt, kommen Sie," so I slowed my pace, and turned around and looked at him. And eventually I realized I had to go down, I couldn't outrun his bullets, and the hill was too long and too high. So I turned around and slowly walked down, looking for a rock or something I could use to hit him with or something because I had no way to defend myself. Well, I got down and he wouldn't let me get more than about 15 feet to him, so there was no way I could lunge at him or anything. He put his rifle down, pulled out a pistol, got on the telephone and called somebody, and in no time at all a Jeep came with an officer and two enlisted men. They handcuffed me and took me to prison. Well, they stripped me, searched me, asked me questions in all kinds of languages and so forth and I kept insisting I was an American. So they loaded me back in the Jeep and they took me to Bordeaux, and I was put in a prison in Bordeaux. They disrobed me and took away my shoelaces. My shoes were already two big. They took away the tie that tied my shirt together, anything I might have to hurt myself or whatever. And they put me there, and I was there for about six days. And most of the prison, from what I could hear -- I never did see anybody, but from what I could hear, it seemed like a prison full of German soldiers who were there for some misdeed of some kind. Anyway, every day they would pull me out and take me to another cell somewhere where I was interviewed and told that unless I told them what I had been doing, as a saboteur they were going to shoot me. And they blamed me for blowing up things in Bordeaux and one thing and another. Well, I looked out the cell window one day and sure enough there were guards out there executing two men, and I could see the blood spurt when they fired the guns. And I knew they were serious, but I couldn't tell them. What was I going to tell them? I kept insisting I was an American. So anyway, they finally -- after about eight days, they loaded me in a car, Gestapo men came and they took me to an interrogation office where they interrogated me for a while. Loaded me into another car and took me to a train. Got on a train and we went to Paris and when I got to Paris -- Correction. This is another time. We didn't take a train to Paris. We drove all the way. And they came to this huge building, oh, a block long. It was a monumental thing, three or four stories high. It was one of the largest prisons in Europe or in France anyway called La Fresnes. And they dumped me in there and I spent from middle of February to the first of May in that prison in solitary. And from there they took me out to the interrogation every now and then. Not as quickly or as often as in Bordeaux, but they'd take me to another cell where there was a kind looking German officer who spoke pretty good English who would interrogate me. Wanted me to look at a book and show me which was my base and crew and everything. And being afraid I might give away things, I was very careful to go slowly on each page. Even though I didn't know anything on many of the pages, I spent a time looking at them so that he wouldn't get the idea that when I came to one if I did find something, I could look at it a long time without him being aware that I was doing that. And I found out they knew pretty much about everything about our base. The commandant, the squadron location, planes, et cetera, and I just kept going. I said, "no, not in there." Well, after about two or three weeks, they took me out one day and put me in a van and they took me to Paris. The main city. I don't know what part of Paris this was in, this prison. And they took me into Gestapo headquarters and they accused me of sabotage and said unless I admitted to it, they were going to shoot me. And so I thought to myself, well, I don't know, those people that helped me, they either were professionals or they were patriotic amateurs. And in either case they certainly must have protected themselves by now, it's been almost two months. I said, I can't tell on them. I'll just let it go. So I made up a tale and I told the Germans that I had been dropped off and bailed out of a plane and I was supposed to go to Spain and I was walking on the way down and I got down as far as Bordeaux, and eat at night, steal food. It was a bunch of lies and they bought it, so they said. And then they loaded me back in the van and took me back to Fresnes. Well, life in Fresnes was not too pleasant. It was a solitary cell and bugs got into me and I had sores up and down my body. And my legs would break open and bleed and get into my underwear and then coagulate and then in the morning when I'd get up and stand up, the underwear would pull these scabs loose and they'd bleed all over again. Without a bath the underwear was green and I was not in too good health. Anyway, at some point in time after that, two or three weeks later or so, they realized I guess I had lied to them because they had investigated or whatever. Anyway, I was called back out and went the same trip back to the Gestapo again. Now they were madder then all get out, and they were sure going to kill me, I had lied. So they went through the same process as they did the first time. Only this time they took all my clothes and they stuck me in a closet with water up over my ankles and I couldn't sit down or even get dry and there was no lights, it was totally a metal closet. How long I was there, maybe an hour. I don't know. Anyway, they came and got me up and said, look, you're going to tell us or you've had it, the war for you is over. So I told them, regretfully. And I told them the truth. And I tell you how regretful that is to me because this is the first time I've ever admitted to anybody outside of my own family that I had done such a thing. And as a result, I presume, I don't know whether they found them because of my telling them or if they found them for some other reason. But as a result, shortly after that they arrested Papa Angulo and put him in prison in Nantes for most of the month and they executed him because he was belligerent.

Larry Ordner:

How did you hear that?

Doane Hage:

Oh, after the war I heard it. I didn't hear any of this until after the war. In fact, a whole year after I was out of the service and home after the war, I didn't know what had happened to them. Then I heard from somebody who knew them, who wrote a letter and said that this had happened. Our government sent them some $8,000. Of course money doesn't -- But let's put it this way, the government tried to help them for what they did for me. They sent them $8,000. And the father was executed. The mother suffered greatly. She was kind of a heavy woman and not so young. And she suffered greatly in her legs for whatever. I don't know what happened to her. I'm inclined to think they might have said she died shortly after her release. But they went to concentration camps, and they were at several camps, and had to walk halfway across Germany many times. And do the walking. Ultimately they were liberated by American or British troops and sent back to Saint Lazare. The youngest daughter was given I think six months. Everyone else had two years, more or less. And the two Spanish men I have no idea what happened to them. I think they were given a year each. The rest were all given two years. Like I say, the mother suffered, she may have died. The eldest daughter Maria I think survived it all. Carmen which is the next oldest survived it all. And Isabel, now I understand that Isabel who is the middle youngest has married and Carmen has married. Now whether Maria has died I do not know. But they both had children. And one of them married one of the two Spanish men who were living there. So where they are, what they do, I don't know. But I was taken from -- They had been through La Fresnes, too, incidentally. I didn't know that until after the war. But I was taken from La Fresnes by train to Dulag Luft at Frankfurt which is an air force interrogation center or screening center. I was five or six days at Dulag Luft where they then screen you and then assign you to a prison camp. I was given new clothing and sent to Moosburg which is outside of Munich at Stalag VII-

Doane Hage:

And there were only 85 prisoners, Americans, at the camp when I got there. And I was there, I don't know, maybe three weeks, I can't remember the total length of time. And a lot of things went on there. We used to get up and watch the Russians go to work when we were forced to go to work and make shoes for the Germans. It wasn't a very pleasant thing and not very easy to escape. A couple of men did escape and were captured and brought back. From there I was taken to Stalag XVII-B which was in Krems, Austria, about 25 miles to Vienna, and you could see smoke from the city of Vienna on a clear day sometimes. And I spent the rest of my time, about two years, in Stalag XVII-B where I think there were 4,200 Americans. I think that might have grown to as much as 7,000 in the two years time I was there. I don't recall the exact number. But there were other nationalities in the camp, but we couldn't get into that part of the camp. I assisted in digging tunnels to help people get away. I never got away myself. The tunnel I helped was discovered and people didn't get out of that tunnel. But I think they had something like seven tunnels the whole time I was there and some people did get away. Some were ultimately caught and brought back. I attempted to help in any way that I could feeling real guilty for what I had said about this family. And I learned to draw. I drew a lot of things while I was there. I made maps for people who were escaping, I forged passes and various and sundry things that people asked me to help to do. And the Red Cross sent in blank page books for use as a diary or anything you wanted to use. And I started drawing and I drew airplanes and I'd get so many service men, P.O.W's. who would come and say draw me the way I was shot down. I drew a picture. And it got to where I had ten books lined up over my bed at one time that wanted to be drawn pictures in. So I was drawing a lot. I did a lot of drawings. Thank God I got the opportunity to do the drawings. Life was not overly pleasant there. I won't go into it. Too long a story. But ultimately the Russians were advancing and we could see, they were taking over Vienna and they were coming toward the camp and we actually could see the Russian airplanes. So the Germans decided to evacuate the camp. And everybody was going to walk toward the Americans. West. So we walked on a forced march for 18 days and practically no food, the whole days' march and they gave you a little tin can full of soup. They just killed a cow and they didn't cook it or anything. And if you got any meat in it, it would be about that much of it. The rest of it was just warm something or other. That was a very bad experience. 18 days. And they turned us loose into a forest. And we stayed there until we heard the Americans coming, and pretty soon a Jeep came into camp with a captain and an N.C.O. driver and he stood up and said, "I want to see the commandant, this camp is now under control of allies." And the commandant was a colonel, he came out and turned over his gun and got in the jeep and they drove away. Well, I had a very unusual experience. Me and three other men, one had a rifle, one had a bayonet, one had a pistol. One gave me a rifle with two rounds in it and I found two rounds someplace else from some Italian gun or something that didn't even fit. So we went on up the hill. The words were that there were Germans changing into civilian clothes up the hill and we were going to go. Well, the German guards were told, if you so much as fire a shot, we're going to come back and wipe you out. This is now under allied control. So we could go anywhere we want, they wouldn't say a word. We went up the hill and sure enough, there was a German half in civilian clothes. We pushed the door in, pointed a gun at him, put your hands on your head. And I got -- We got two or maybe three Germans who were trying to get away. And one was a young man and I had my gun on him -- and mind you now, only two shells that would fire. The others weren't any good. I told him put his hands on his head and I marched him down the hill. He tripped and fell down. When he fell down his side bag or whatever fell on the ground and opened up and there were pictures of his parents and his kids and he just laid there and cried, and I looked at him and I said, boy, you know, I can't blame him for what they all did to me. He didn't do it. He's just like I am. He had no part in it. I mean, why should I want to have him shot? I wanted to throw the gun away. I wanted to say, beam me up, Scotty. I want to get out of here. I'd had enough of the war. Forget this. And I walked down the hill and left him. And then the following day or so trucks came in, loaded us up on the trucks that took us to an airfield. I spent the night under a German airplane at the airfield that couldn't fly because there was no fuel. I cut the swastika out of the tail and I put it in my baggage, I wanted to bring it home. We were loaded on an airplane and I was shipped to Le Havre and I spent two or three days in Le Havre. Five or 6,000 tents with guys waiting for a boat to get home on. And we got tired of waiting and three other guys and myself, I was just going along, I had no money. They got a car somehow or another. And we drove to Paris. I spent 11 days in Paris having a ball. Stupid. But anyway, when I came back -- I got partial payment in Paris. I went to a place where they paid. And when I came back all those tents were gone. The only place left was the stone building where the Americans were headquartered in. So I went in. I had no papers and all this stuff. And they thought since that I was so late and everybody else was gone, they thought I was a German trying to get back to the States. Well, a lot of things went on and eventually they agreed that I was an American and I got on a Liberty ship to come home.

Larry Ordner:

How did they determine your identity?

Doane Hage:

Well, I think I had one of my dog tags yet. And I might have had my P.O.W. tag. Anyway, I got on a Liberty ship coming home. And it was so rough, and everybody was sick downstairs they were throwing up, and I was getting sick from the smell. I climbed up and went on the deck. Over the hatch about as high as this table was canvas and all kinds of ropes, and I tied myself to the hatch, and that ship would go down and the waves would come over the front and come up like that and all the water would run right by me. Well, eventually we got home. We were supposed to go to Boston, but because of some bad weather, we ended up in New York, which was happy for me because that's where I wanted to go. So I got out and was shipped to the place where I entered the service and they had special orders for me. I wanted to go home. They were going to ship me to Washington, so I had to go to Washington. I didn't go anywhere but Washington. They put me on a train. And I went to Washington. Military intelligence people wanted to talk to me. And they were thankful for the information I had sent them which I felt good about, not realizing that the people that had helped me -- I didn't know this at that time. I didn't know what had happened to them at that time. It wasn't until after that that I got discharged 17th of September, went to Atlantic City, was discharged. And I got married and I went on a honeymoon and I was in Quebec, Canada when I heard about the atomic bomb being dropped on Hiroshima, and we came back home. And a year after I was married I got a letter from some French woman who knew the Angulo family or knew what happened, and that's how I knew what had happened. Up until that time, I never knew that they had suffered. And so all I'm saying is I'm not very proud and I feel very bad and sad for what they had gone through. Some day I hope maybe they can read the truth of this whole story and realize that they were so good and I did appreciate it. I don't think, had I known they'd have gone right out and found them, that I would have told. But how do I know? Glad to be back and this is the first time I've mentioned this entire story to anybody but my family.

Larry Ordner:

That's a very important story.

Doane Hage:

Well, I don't know.

Larry Ordner:

It is.

Doane Hage:

I feel it has to be told because not everybody's a hero, not everybody has wounds that are visible. Very often many of the wounds are not visible. And I still feel that God has forgiven me. I just can't forgive myself. And I hope and pray that those people have a better life. That's it.

Larry Ordner:

I appreciate you doing this.

Doane Hage:

Okay. Thank you. (END) * * *

 
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  October 26, 2011
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