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Interview with Joseph M. Halicek [3/25/2003]

Andrew L. Fisher:

It's March 25th, 2003. This is an interview for the Veterans History Project. I'm talking to Mr. Joseph M. Halicek of 5330 Orchard Place, Northwood, Ohio 43619, telephone [number deleted]. Mr. Halicek was in the U.S. Army in World War II in the European Theater. Mr. Halicek, before we get started with your wartime experiences, let's start with where you were born, went to school, et cetera.

Joseph M. Halicek:

I was born in 1925. My parents came from the Czech Republic, and I was born in Genoa, Ohio. And I went to school the first six grades, I went to school in Genoa, and the last six grades I went to high school in Elmore, Ohio, because we moved and we bought the farm, so that was the other districts. And so I left for the military from Elmore, Ohio. From Elmore, my parents drove me to Fort Clinton, Ohio, and there we reported on a train to Toledo. And then we got on another train and we went to Columbus, Ohio, Fort Hayes, Columbus, Ohio, and there they put us in the different barracks, and then they shipped us out in two days to Camp Walrus, Texas. And I remained there for three months for my basic infantry training.

And it was a nice camp. I loved the camp. I loved the officers, but they had us -- they were good people, they was honest, and they had good training. And most of the people in my platoon graduated, and they went to the paratroopers because World War II was coming and they tried to get everybody in the paratroopers. A few of us went, a few hundred of us graduated there, and we went to Camp (Gregory), Kentucky, with ranger school. Then we trained there for three weeks, and World War II broke out. We went in invasion forces into France. That was on June the 6th, and that day we took off, we got on a train, and we went to Camp McKeen, Mississippi, where the 94th Infantry Division was preparing to ship out. We joined the division there, and we had a little training there, and the next thing we knew, we had a -- were on a train and headed to Camp Shanks, New York. From there, on a Sunday morning, we loaded on a train and then we went right up to the Queen Elizabeth, the biggest ship afloat at the time. And there was 16,000, 16,000 troops on there, on the Elizabeth. And so we -- our lieutenant met us and he said, We are double loaded. And, well, we didn't know what "double loaded" was. What is doubled loaded, one night you sleep in the quarter, the hallway or on the steps, and the next night you sleep in a state room.

So 20 guys slept in a state room and the other 20 guys slept out in the -- wherever you wanted to sleep. What a beautiful arrangement that was. It was guns -- weapons were everywhere, and your duffle bag was everywhere, and you tried to take a shower. Don't ever take a shower in salt water. So then, finally, we arrived in the Firth of Clyde. That was in Scotland.

Arriving there, there was a lot of submarines there, British submarines. And as we landed there in Scotland, a British band was playing, playing for us, Hold the Tiger, Hold the Tiger. And then there was a few fellows playing them damn bag pipes. So right from the ship, they loaded us on trains, and they shipped us -- from there, they shipped us due south, and we went to the beautiful Scotland. Just beautiful country. And then we went to England around Bristol and Bath, south of London, approximately 30 miles south of London.

It was nighttime, and we moved in these barracks, and it was damp in there, and everybody was getting scratched. We had bed bugs. We had bed bugs, and we couldn't put no lights on, so we just was hitting them all night. And the next day, we got some bed bug powder and we put it all over. So we remained in England approximately a few weeks. And across the street, the paratroopers came back from their D-Day jump, and they informed us, Don't go to France. It's real bad over there. Do something yourself, but don't go to France. So we kept night training and listening to automatic, ___(semi)-automatic weapons at night and in the day time, and we could identify them whether it was field artillery or burp guns or MG 42's. That was their good machine guns, heavy machine guns. They really spit out a lot of bullets.

So then after training there, we -- they said possibly this weekend, some of yous can go to London. And then he said cancel everything. Nobody goin' to London. We're going to -- we're going to Southampton. Southampton wasn't very far, and Southampton had an awful lot of (?barrage balloons?) flying there. So we get to Southampton, get off the train, and then they load us on a small -- a small English boat, I think probably 300 people on there. It was very hot in the hold. We was sleeping in the hold. And so we came up in Utah Beach, to Utah Beach, and the British Marines, they lowered us into boats from each side of the ship, and we're in the channel, English Channel, and it's very rocky. But they didn't have no -- nothing built out where you could step on, on the dry -- dry ground.

So we got to -- on a small landing craft. We still got our feet wet. And then we got our unit put together, and then they started marching about 20 miles, and was put in a bibwack area. It just started to rain. Nice rain. And we had to put the pup tents up, and it was raining real nice by then. And they said the chow will be here, don't worry, you got your (?K-ter?) rations. So we slept there that night, and the next day we got on trucks and they took us to Lorient and Saint-Nazaire where the submarine pens were, and we surrounded the submarine pens.

Andrew L. Fisher:

Let's go back to Utah Beach for just a minute.

Joseph M. Halicek:

Yeah.

Andrew L. Fisher:

You arrived there after the landing. How long after the landing?

Joseph M. Halicek:

Exactly 90 days. It's in our boats.

Andrew L. Fisher:

And did you see any of the residue of the landing?

Joseph M. Halicek:

Yes. The thing that I noticed myself, first, was the mines. The Germans had mines along the sides of the road. It said "Achtung minen," and everybody said, Don't step off the road. And I also -- and another thing that caught me was the British gliders that was all busted up. I thought, three months before, all of them was dead. It was really, for me to see -- see -- and a tank column was going by us towards the front. It was a lot of activity on the beach. And I'm glad that we went to a little, like a recreation spot in the woods, so we got to lay down and sleep. But there was an awful lot of activity, with fighter planes, et cetera. But they was going over.

Andrew L. Fisher:

Now, did you see the Mulberry harbors there?

Joseph M. Halicek:

Later on, yeah. They had them, but not -- not -- maybe they had the Mulberry harbor at Omaha or one of the British, but they didn't have it at ours.

Andrew L. Fisher:

I see.

Joseph M. Halicek:

We went in with the British Marines, and they lowered us down in them boats, and then we went in that way. Like an invasion, but nobody was there. I was happy there was nobody there. But them Mulberries were starting to go, but not in our place, for some reason.

Andrew L. Fisher:

I see.

Joseph M. Halicek:

I don't know why. Wasn't ready, yet, I take it.

Andrew L. Fisher:

And so you went from Utah to St. Lorient, you said?

Joseph M. Halicek:

Yeah. Lorient and Saint-Nazaire.

Andrew L. Fisher:

Oh, Saint-Nazaire.

Joseph M. Halicek:

That was two big submarine pens that the Germans had. They had some submarine pens on the North -- on the North Sea, and these were on the west side of France, and it was a -- they had 30,000 troops in there to guard against our attack. But we was holding them in there so the supplies wouldn't come in. We didn't want supplies to come in there by rail or by boat or by -- they had a river going there from the town. Main town there was Nantes, N-A-N-T-E-S. That's where our headquarters was.

Andrew L. Fisher:

Now, did you see action there?

Joseph M. Halicek:

Oh, yes, yeah.

Andrew L. Fisher:

So the Germans were still there?

Joseph M. Halicek:

They were still there.

Andrew L. Fisher:

And they were attempting to guard the submarine pens?

Joseph M. Halicek:

They were guarding the submarine pens. They were guarding the submarine pens. And these two submarine pens, Lorient and Saint-Nazaire, was really built strong with a lot of cement, a lot of concrete. And our job was to go out in patrols at night. We'd go out in patrols. And one night, this would happen. We had in front of us maybe 30, 20 yards, we had flares on strings. If you tripped that, whoosh, lights would go on.

So there was five of us going on a patrol, and our sergeant tripped it. Then you gotta stand still. Gotta stand still. He tripped it. Oh, boy. We was trying to push, push the Germans in, into the pens. So they decided, our colonel decided, we're going to go up there and take a heavy patrol, 40 men, and we're going to find out what is in that first little town. Well, we found out. We had tanked in the morning, approximately at 8 a.m., we took off, our platoon.

Our platoon, it consisted of the commanding officer, was a first lieutenant from Georgia, a highly brilliant man. The other officers called him "Reb" because he was from the south. And our company commander, Captain Flynn from New York City. What a great man. He had no business going up there with us. And the point guy going up was Candillerio (ph), a guy from Denver, Colorado. He was a Mexican American. He was our lead scout.

Him and Martin, a guy by the name of Martin from Tennessee, they were our lead scouts. You put them out there, they get killed first; well, too bad ___[+], you see. Well, anyway, Martin, he tripped a flare, too, but this French town, they had a canal there, and we was walking along the canal, and then an awful lot of fire started. MG 42's and burp guns starts.

Everybody started to shoot. I couldn't see. I was about half way back. And they was doing a lot of firing. So we got into town, into the town, and our radio wasn't working, our 300 radio. We wanted some artillery in there, or some kind of weapon, artillery. They shoot over us, but they didn't. Our radio wasn't working, and the company commander, he went up to see what the holdup was, and both him and Candillerio got killed instantly. Candillerio was hit in the head, and we drug him into a building, and Captain Flynn got hit in his heart. He died instantly.

Andrew L. Fisher:

Can you tell us how you felt being in combat for the first time?

Joseph M. Halicek:

The first time, I was like puzzled, or I didn't think it would be that terrible, but it's -- when you hear the machine guns firing at you and your people are firing, then you kind of -- you kind of wonder how's come you're there. But then Dulski from Canton, Ohio -- a German threw a potato masher at us.

Andrew L. Fisher:

What is a potato masher?

Joseph M. Halicek:

That is a German -- a potato masher is a hand grenade. And the Germans had a lot of hand grenades, potato mashers. They could fling it real good. They threw a potato masher at us. And it was along kind of a -- there was like a hill, a small hill there. We was behind the hill. And it was -- and Dulski from Canton, Ohio, said, well, that ___[+] SOB, and he pulled out a grenade and he threw it over there. And I said, Attaboy, Dulski. And then they started shooting the machine guns, and them old leaves was falling down on us, and I said, Oh, my God, how did I ever get here? And then later, Dulski, a few months later, Jimmie Dulski from Akron, Ohio, an excellent soldier, excellent man, he was taking back a few prisoners, and he stepped on a land mine and blew his foot off. But he survived it. He just died two years ago from complications of his -- he wasn't thinking right. What is that? Alzheimer's. And, also, our lieutenant colonel in the same area, he was coming up to see how we were doing in that woods, Camp Holts (ph) woods, south of Orleans. Some of them small towns around there were Bourges. But there was no big towns. Bourges was a bad town, and so was Sens. Lot of fighting there. Our lieutenant colonel, Colonel Norman, he's a big, tall guy, young guy, he's going up to check on us, like 4:30, just before it got dark, and he stepped on a land mine. And he had so much pain, he bit his finger off.

Andrew L. Fisher:

This is still in Saint-Nazaire?

Joseph M. Halicek:

No. This is when we moved up. Excuse me.

Andrew L. Fisher:

Oh, okay. Tell us how you moved up then to Saint-Nazaire.

Joseph M. Halicek:

Okay. So, after that patrol, after that patrol, we pulled back, and G Company, G Company came up because we was surrounded, our sister company -- E, F, G, H. They came up and they made it kind of -- they set machine guns up, so we got out. Name of the company commander at the time, that was Captain Kelly. He got killed shortly after that.

Andrew L. Fisher:

So you moved then up to --

Joseph M. Halicek:

We moved from there, we moved -- after our duty, we got relieved by the 66th Division. We got relieved by them. They put us in a big staging area around Chateaubriant.

Andrew L. Fisher:

Right.

Joseph M. Halicek:

And there they loaded us on trains, and then they shipped us towards the front, towards the big front. And we was in reserve. We was in reserve when the Ardennes (?du Beau?) started. We was in reserve. We also was in reserve at the time for the 28th Division because they was in Huertgen Forest. But that was rather close there.

Andrew L. Fisher:

Did you go to the Huertgen Forest?

Joseph M. Halicek:

No, no. We was in -- our whole regimen was in Reserve Forest. We were ready to go to the Huertgen Forest. We never went to --

Andrew L. Fisher:

You were fortunate.

Joseph M. Halicek:

That was bad, bad. Everybody coming out of there was bad. They said, Don't go up there. Shoot your --

Andrew L. Fisher:

Historians are now saying that never should have taken place.

Joseph M. Halicek:

Yeah.

Andrew L. Fisher:

So you moved up then from reserve position?

Joseph M. Halicek:

Yes. We moved up to a town by the name of Helstrof (ph), I remember that. H-A-L -- Helstrof. And they had a Catholic church on the hill. It was all blown to heck. And we said, if we're living tomorrow, we're gonna go up there and pray. So Helstrof. So we're there and we're waiting there in Helstrof, and who was going to move. And there was a few guys outside of -- we're sleeping in the basement, and damp in there. And then they said, Hey, hey, what the hell is that? Let's go out there and look. And it was two Messerchmitts coming in there real low, two of them. And boy, they come in real fast. And they start, brrrrrr, everything was -- and they killed this artillery man. He was in a Jeep going from one artillery unit to another, and he -- hit his back and killed him. And then -- so a couple of our guys picked him up and put him on another Jeep. But it was a bad situation. And all night long we heard is -- one five five long ___(towns) about a mile behind, woooom.

Andrew L. Fisher:

That's American.

Joseph M. Halicek:

American, shooting into the Germans.

Andrew L. Fisher:

Now, did you encounter much in the way of the German Air Force?

Joseph M. Halicek:

That was the only time we encountered it. Except one time, a P47 -- yeah, it was a 47, it wasn't a 51 -- crash landed by -- close to us. And he spun around, and he hit a tree, and he was bleeding. A couple of our guys went over there and drug him out and put him in a Jeep. A young pilot.

Andrew L. Fisher:

So America already had air superiority?

Joseph M. Halicek:

They had it.

Andrew L. Fisher:

Yeah.

Joseph M. Halicek:

I'm glad they had it. That's the only time I got straight. The only time we got straight. Man, they come in there fast. They hang around maybe a couple miles up there, and all of a sudden they shoot in.

Andrew L. Fisher:

Yeah.

Joseph M. Halicek:

But we're shooting at them with rifles, and there's an ack-ack unit near there. That's in Helstrof, and they knocked one of them down.

Andrew L. Fisher:

Ack-ack meaning anti-aircraft?

Joseph M. Halicek:

Anti-aircraft. Yeah, they was ack-acks. They was popping away pretty good. So -- and at night, nighttime in that village, Helstrof -- the Battle of the Bulge is going on, see -- we was in that village of Helstrof, and they said, every two hours, you change. You stop every vehicle. Okay. Every vehicle that comes by there, that low blue lights you can see, and you have to stop every one. And you ask them the password. Now, one -- you stop the first vehicle and the second vehicle your buddy stops, because he has a Browning automatic and the safety is off, and if they kill you, you got to kill all them guys in the Jeep. So that was really -- you sweating.

Andrew L. Fisher:

Now, this was in the winter time?

Joseph M. Halicek:

Winter, winter.

Andrew L. Fisher:

Did you have winter clothes at that time?

Joseph M. Halicek:

We had fairly -- yeah, you could get long johns and all that. We had fairly -- shoe pads we had. Prior to that, we had a lot of problems with -- prior to that we had a lot of problems with froze feet. I don't know -- sometimes them froze feet, I couldn't understand it. I was in that foxhole too all night, but mine didn't freeze. I was jumping around.

Andrew L. Fisher:

I understand you had to change your socks every day?

Joseph M. Halicek:

You had to. And you had to have your shoes off at night.

Andrew L. Fisher:

You did?

Joseph M. Halicek:

You can't go into the foxhole with your shoes on and it's getting zero because your feet is going to freeze. You have to take your shoes off.

Andrew L. Fisher:

Did you see combat again in the Ardennes?

Joseph M. Halicek:

Oh, yeah. We saw combat there, and we had to make connecting patrols to the tanks. They were about a half mile away from us. There was three American tanks there, and every other hour, there would be four guys, sometimes five, would go and check and see if they're all right; and you'd take this path in the woods and the first guy to the tanks would be the last guy coming back to the village. And I was the first guy going to the tanks, and, man, you sweating. It's night. You got your weapon ready because we had to make contact with them. They wouldn't make contact with us.

Andrew L. Fisher:

Now, did you see those German Tigers or Panthers?

Joseph M. Halicek:

Yeah. We had -- the big ones, yes. In this town of Sens, S-I-N-Z, it was a bad, bad town, real bad. We attacked out of the woods, and our G Company, our sister company, attacked to our right, and they ran across a mine field and had to pull back. So we attacked with the 10th Armor Division. Their tanks went up the road and they got knocked out. Sufficient tanks knocked out. I thought there was at least five tanks, maybe six of our tanks knocked out. But we had to get in that town, at no cost, we had to get in that town, Sens. We got into the first house. It was just on the outskirts. There was three houses. We got in the first house, and the first thing I see is a German soldier was wounded real bad, and he asked me for some wasser. And one of the guys said we have to keep moving to the next house. Wasser, wasser, he was crying. I wanted to help him. I couldn't help him. He was a young soldier. He was shot pretty bad. And so we went to the next house, and they said, You can't stay here. You gotta go to the third house. We went to the third house. You know how the block houses are in Europe, cement. And right adjacent to the house was a knocked out Tiger, and he was burning. We went in the house, and all night long it was, chhh, the bullets were going off. So lieutenant walks in there, in the room, and he said to me, Joe, he said, Halicek, you look out this door, and take the automatic with you. If you see any movement, shoot, no matter what. And a couple guys -- they had a kind of loft, and a couple guys went up there, and them Germans shot a -- a rocket in there. A small rocket. What'd they call them?

Andrew L. Fisher:

Panzer pellets.

Joseph M. Halicek:

Yeah, Panzer pellets, right. They shot them Panzer pellets in there, and that slate roof went brrrr, all over, and the three guys is up there came down, and, boy, they came down fast. They said, Gee, we gotta get out of here. So we went in the basement. They had a basement. They had a cellar. Went in the basement. There was nothing but wounded guys down there, nice and ____[+] gonna get us home. So the lieutenant was talking to our new colonel. He said, Sir, we're evacuating this position immediately. I remember, I was right by him. And the colonel said, No, you can't evacuate. You have to stay there. Well, he said, I'm going and my men are going with me. So we went outside, and they said the first man across the road, you gotta hit the other side. So I was the first guy, luckily. And they said be about three yards to five yards apart in case the machine gun starts popping. Well, I'm running across, and the guy caught up to me. I said, You're not supposed to be here. We jumped in that ditch and we went down the ditch back in the woods, where we was, oh, about three days.

Andrew L. Fisher:

How long were you in combat there?

Joseph M. Halicek:

Since Sens was in combat, I'd say approximately from about ten a.m. to six p.m., and then it got dark, and we were downstairs with those guys who were wounded.

Andrew L. Fisher:

I understand that for most of that particular battle, you didn't get any air support because of the weather.

Joseph M. Halicek:

The weather.

Andrew L. Fisher:

Were you there then when the weather cleared off and the --

Joseph M. Halicek:

See, we was just south. That was, mainly, when the weather cleared off, that was around the Bulge in Bastogne, St. Vith. We were south of there.

Andrew L. Fisher:

Yeah.

Joseph M. Halicek:

And we was making attacks on the villages because the Germans were pretty strong. So we made attacks on, oh, let's say, pill boxes. There's some pill boxes. Three pill boxes. And they said we're going to get up at four a.m. Oh, boy, I couldn't sleep all night. Four a.m. was up. And then everybody's got a job. You got a bazooka or something. Well, I had the wire clippers. I had to clip the communication wire. The three pill boxes were there. I had to clip the communication wire. But when the machine gun started firing, I dropped them, and it was night, and I couldn't find them. So we took the pill box, the first one. And them people were the home guards, the older gentlemen and young kids. They gave up right away.

So we moved to the second pill box, and lieutenant says, You go down there with Sergeant Lords. And Sergeant Lords from Indiana, he got the shakes. He got into a pill box and he wouldn't come out. Into the bunker, or pill box, call them either. He got in a pill box, and it was about noon, and lieutenant comes down, and he crawls down, and he says, he says, Where's Sergeant Lords? I said, He's scared to come out, sir. He's scared to come out of the bunker. He said, You're in charge here. I said, Lieutenant, I don't want to be in charge. He said, You're in charge. Yes, sir, yes, sir. Thank you.

And then I was in charge. So I said, Bring us a heavy machine gun or a light machine gun, either one, and them tank destroyers that's down there by that woods, have them come up here and support us. He said they're not moving. They don't have the orders. I said, Well, we can't hold this position. And about midnight, the artillery started. The worst artillery I ever heard. Both sides was popping the artillery on us, around us. So the tanks came up and captured 13 guys to my right. The third pill box, the platoon sergeant was there.

They captured 13 guys, and that tank was coming down to get us. And I said evacuate back to the first pill box. Went back to the first pill box, and I laid my (gun) in with the artillery. It was Lisick (ph), you know, one of our units. I said, Hey, hey, you all right? He was dead. The artillery killed him. So then after them tanks, we threw a heavy artillery barrage on them. I think we knocked them out. It was only about four tanks of attack that night. The Germans were getting low on benzene and they were getting low on power, low on manpower. So they kind of stopped.

And then a guy was hit in both legs. I don't know if he was hit in both legs with a machine gun. So I took the dead guy's M1 and I took my M1 and I took this injured guy's M1, and I told him, Get on my back, you know. And he got on my back, and I carried him through the woods, and he's screaming all the time. He couldn't help it, because every time -- the guy was screaming. So we go into this village and we just laid down in any house. Everything was in disarray, disarray. And the next day, when I got up, lieutenant says, Write all your men's names down that you took care of. And I had to write one guy down, disappeared. My God, he disappeared.

Andrew L. Fisher:

Can we get back to the fellow that went into the bunker and was afraid to come out?

Joseph M. Halicek:

Yeah.

Andrew L. Fisher:

Was there a lot of that? Did you see much of that?

Joseph M. Halicek:

Very little. I saw very little of that. I had one other (case) when we was in this town, getting ready to attack. They said one fellow shot himself in the foot, self inflicted, and he was put in prison. But that is the only one. But everybody was scared. Everybody was scared. But this -- they shipped him out then. They shipped him out. And sergeant -- real good man out of New York State. He's a small guy. Sergeant -- he went with us in there, and, boy, he was firing his weapon, and he kind of took care of us, but then he disappeared. He got wounded and went back to H station. We never found out what happened to him. But three years ago, I get a phone call from Illinois, one of my friends. He asked me about him, what happened to him. I said, boy, he was with us in Sens, but then he disappeared. I don't know where he went. His daughters in New York wanted to know how -- what he did in the war. He never told them. He never told them. But he was with me. He shot a soldier right in front of me. Young guy, but the guy had a weapon.

Andrew L. Fisher:

Well, you finally broke the German advance?

Joseph M. Halicek:

Yes.

Andrew L. Fisher:

And then you moved out, you kept going, you went then, you went to the Rhine?

Joseph M. Halicek:

We went to the Rhine River, correct. We went to the Rhine. And then at the Rhine, we stopped, and then the other units were across the Rhine already. The tank units. They were across the Rhine already. We weren't nowhere near first to arrive. Dusseldorf was taken by some other unit, and the British helped it, and then we came in and occupied it. That was an excellent thing. There was no more fighting going on.

Andrew L. Fisher:

So you didn't see action then at the Rhine?

Joseph M. Halicek:

No, no. At the Rhine, I didn't see no action, whatsoever.

Andrew L. Fisher:

And where did you cross, do you remember?

Joseph M. Halicek:

We crossed the Rhine at Dusseldorf. They had a bridge there, fixed up there.

Andrew L. Fisher:

That is very large city.

Joseph M. Halicek:

It is.

Andrew L. Fisher:

Large cosmopolitan area.

Joseph M. Halicek:

Very large.

Andrew L. Fisher:

Did they surrender that whole area?

Joseph M. Halicek:

You see, the people were kind of -- the people were all subdued. They was all scared.

Andrew L. Fisher:

I see.

Joseph M. Halicek:

I remember --

Andrew L. Fisher:

But did the German army pull out of there?

Joseph M. Halicek:

Well, you see, they had to pull back. They were surrounded. We captured some. Not us unit. But they had to pull back, and so when we went in there, we occupied the town. As so as we occupied the town, I know our lieutenant -- that was our lieutenant -- was our captain, and we got another gentleman as the lieutenant. He comes up to the door and he had a piece of paper such as you got here, written in German, Please evacuate this house immediately. It was in German and English. We are American troops. We're going to stay here.

Andrew L. Fisher:

So you were billeted in --

Joseph M. Halicek:

Well, we go up there, and them (grandmas) was starting to cry, and we said, No, no, we are not going to hurt you. No, no. That's the worse thing when they are crying. They thought we were going to kill them. So we occupied them houses for six weeks, but every night we had to go on a parole. Somebody had to go on a patrol because we were still scared there might be some SS troops around.

Andrew L. Fisher:

Oh, yeah.

Joseph M. Halicek:

So actually what we took care of was 5,000 Italian prisoners.

Andrew L. Fisher:

Oh.

Joseph M. Halicek:

That was there working in the German factories. ____[+] duties.

Andrew L. Fisher:

It was a big industrial area there.

Joseph M. Halicek:

Big industrial area. Big. They had a lot of Frenchmen there, a lot of Polish. We just happened to get them 5,000 Italian guys.

Andrew L. Fisher:

Where did you go then from Dusseldorf?

Joseph M. Halicek:

We stayed there six weeks, and then they said that British are coming in. And they came in with them hobnailed shoes, and I remember their coming in there, and marching real good. And they had a dog with them. So they had the dog with them, and they said, How you doing, laddie? And I said, I don't know, man. And so we get on a train there and we go all the way across from northwest Germany to southeast Germany, and then we go in the Czech Republic, by Ceske Budejovice. Our whole division was in that area.

Andrew L. Fisher:

Now, did you see action in the Czech Republic, in Czechoslovakia?

Joseph M. Halicek:

No. No. Czechoslovakia, it was all done. Everything was done.

Andrew L. Fisher:

So you were there occupying?

Joseph M. Halicek:

We occupied the Czech Republic.

Andrew L. Fisher:

Then you had to pull out because there was the agreement with the Russians that they would have Czechoslovakia, right?

Joseph M. Halicek:

No. We had south of Plzen, and around Ceske Budejovice, west of it. We had a small corner in the southwest side. The U.S. Army.

Andrew L. Fisher:

Uh-huh.

Joseph M. Halicek:

But in November the 1st of 1945, the Russians were supposed to pull out first of the Czechoslovakia, and November the 3rd, the U.S. military was supposed to evacuate.

Andrew L. Fisher:

Uh-huh.

Joseph M. Halicek:

Them, too. So on November the 1st, I took our lieutenant and myself and another sergeant, we went in to Ceske Budejovice to see if the Russians pulled out. I had two CIC agents at that time. They came up and they said, You have to go in there and tell us how many Russians you see, or are they occupying it. And they said, You have to report to our headquarters immediately after you get back. So we went up there and we went into town, you know. It's -- well, Russians occupied. And we went into town, and I seen five or six T34s, the Russian tanks. They were there in a town square of Ceske Budejovice, and in front of them they had a guard, a Ruskie guard. He had automatics. So we got out of there fast. And then we went back to Netrebice (ph), that 13, 14 kilometers, or whatever it was, and then we reported to the two captains that was intelligence officers. Jewish guys, I could tell, you know, and they were captains, they had pistols, was talking to me. And so I said, Yeah, we'll go. You had to go. So as I said, the Russians didn't leave. They got still troops. And I assumed that other units were sent out, too.

Andrew L. Fisher:

Uh-huh.

Joseph M. Halicek:

To see if the Russians had left.

Andrew L. Fisher:

So, eventually, though, you left?

Joseph M. Halicek:

We left November the 3rd of '45.

Andrew L. Fisher:

Uh-huh. Uh-huh. And the Russians stayed?

Joseph M. Halicek:

The Russians stayed.

Andrew L. Fisher:

Yes. And they stayed for another 45 years.

Joseph M. Halicek:

Well, a lot of years. Those Communism --

Andrew L. Fisher:

Yes.

Joseph M. Halicek:

But you know what about those Russians troops? I'm glad we had them.

Andrew L. Fisher:

Uh-huh.

Joseph M. Halicek:

Because the Germans would have busted us bad, because they had a lot of divisions against the Russians and Germans. I think they had a hundred and some against them, and they only had 60 against the U.S. But the Russians defeated them in that cold -- especially in Stalingrad. They lost the whole German 6th Army.

Andrew L. Fisher:

Uh-huh.

Joseph M. Halicek:

But I know we was saying, boy, we got the Russians on the other side. They better help us more. But then we had a lot of trouble on the border with them Russians on our -- we had that gate, and -- no, we had it written in American, Russian and Czech. You can't go into our village, the shop. Well, they're going in there anyway. They have weapons. What are you going to do? They went in there. Here comes about 22 horses, them little horses, Cossacks. And I don't know nothing much about horses, but them horses, I told people, had lice on them. But guys said, oh, horses don't get no lice. And them soldiers, them Russian soldiers, were dressed in them tunics and a button was buttoned, and they had winter uniforms on in July. July. And I says -- and them guys had lice all over them. Thick. And everybody said no, the horses don't have lice, but I saw it myself, because I went down there with our CO, he was a major at the time, and he said we -- these Russians can't go through here. I said, Well, tell them they can't. But they went into the town of Vodnany to buy some stuff for their horses. They wanted to buy oats for the horses, the little horses. But the Russian officer, he was on a nice big, black horse. He was about 20 yards from me.

Andrew L. Fisher:

So the politics had already started to play a part?

Joseph M. Halicek:

At that time.

Andrew L. Fisher:

Yes. Right after -- the war is not over.

Joseph M. Halicek:

No.

Andrew L. Fisher:

So where were you when VE Day came?

Joseph M. Halicek:

Victory in Europe. I was along the Rhine River. I can't say where. When President Roosevelt died, we already crossed the Rhine River. But I was in that area. I know we had -- our lieutenant came out and made us stand at attention.

Andrew L. Fisher:

Oh, yeah.

Joseph M. Halicek:

That was in April. And then right after that, the war ended, see.

Andrew L. Fisher:

What did you do then when the war ended?

Joseph M. Halicek:

We occupied the city and we had our -- our unit was watching them Italians, so they won't break out. Other units were watching the French. Them guys all wanted to get our weapons and go out and kill some Germans. And we said no, we can't give you the weapons. They said, Give us the weapon and we go shoot them Germans.

Andrew L. Fisher:

Were you on occupation duty very long?

Joseph M. Halicek:

No, no. Occupation duty started in May of '45, and we left there in June of '45, and we went to the Czech Republic to confront the Russians.

Andrew L. Fisher:

And then when you left there, you went back to the coast?

Joseph M. Halicek:

No. We went to the central part of Germany, because a lot of -- that was in December of 1945. We went to the central part of Germany because an awful lot of people were loading on ships going home. So we stayed in the central part for about three, three to four weeks, I don't remember. But they told us, you can't go into town, you can't cause trouble, and pretty quick we're on SS Andrew for USAAF. That was a small liberty ship from LeHavre. It took us, I think, 17 or 19 days to get to New York City.

Andrew L. Fisher:

It wasn't like the QE1?

Joseph M. Halicek:

No, no. It was a little shoemaker.

Andrew L. Fisher:

Right, right. So then you shipped back to the states?

Joseph M. Halicek:

Yes. We came back through -- it's either Camp Kilmer, Jersey, or Fort Dix, New Jersey, and we had to stay there maybe a few days, and then they shipped us to Fort Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. I can't --

Andrew L. Fisher:

Indiantown Gap.

Joseph M. Halicek:

Indiantown Gap, Pennsylvania, and there they gave us a few speeches, and they said, Well, you will be on your way home within three days. And by George, we came into the Pennsylvania station in Toledo, that was across from Riverside Hospital. And it was really a beat-up station after going through Cincinnati station, and then this was like a shoemaker. But we came home, they say.

Andrew L. Fisher:

So then you were home?

Joseph M. Halicek:

Discharged.

Andrew L. Fisher:

But you stayed in until January 22nd, '46?

Joseph M. Halicek:

Yeah. Right.

Andrew L. Fisher:

Uh-huh.

Joseph M. Halicek:

That was my discharge date, yeah.

Andrew L. Fisher:

I see. Now, did you have to -- did you have any stateside duty when you got home?

Joseph M. Halicek:

No, no. I had combat duty, overseas duty, and two purple hearts, and we had four clusters on our ribbons, so they discharged us as soon as possible.

Andrew L. Fisher:

So you got points?

Joseph M. Halicek:

I got a lot of points.

Andrew L. Fisher:

Yes.

Joseph M. Halicek:

I had an awful lot of points, 64 points. And when we was in the Czech Republic, town of Netrebice, and we got notice that they dropped the atomic bomb. That was in August of 1945, and everybody was moving it up, in August of 1945.

Andrew L. Fisher:

So that was VJ day, right after.

Joseph M. Halicek:

Actually, anybody that was 20 and under was getting prepared to go to Italy, to ship down --

Andrew L. Fisher:

Oh, to go through the Suez Canal?

Joseph M. Halicek:

To Japan.

Andrew L. Fisher:

I see.

Joseph M. Halicek:

Twenty and under, we had to go. We was ready. I know a friend of mine was already in southern France. We was going to ship -- they had us ready to go, but then they threw that bomb on them, and they shipped us to Germany. And the first thing I saw was in a chow line, and I saw nuns, three nuns picking through the garbage to feed the poor. ___[+] I didn't like any of this, just flung it away __[+], you see. They was picking through that garbage.

Andrew L. Fisher:

That is when the Americans then instituted the martial plan?

Joseph M. Halicek:

Yeah. That's right. They instituted it, and they was building up all of Europe.

Andrew L. Fisher:

To save Europe from starvation?

Joseph M. Halicek:

Right. Oh, yeah.

Andrew L. Fisher:

And from Communism.

Joseph M. Halicek:

And from Communism. I remember we was traveling from Czech Republic, and after so many hours, they had stations where you stopped, and German POW's was handing out food, and they were real happy because they could eat food and could get cigarettes. So they was real happy. The war was over, and it couldn't have been better for them.

Andrew L. Fisher:

You are of Czech descent?

Joseph M. Halicek:

Yes.

Andrew L. Fisher:

Right. And I notice you speak the names of those Czech towns very well.

Joseph M. Halicek:

Oh , yes.

Andrew L. Fisher:

Did they use your language skills --

Joseph M. Halicek:

Oh, absolutely.

Andrew L. Fisher:

-- in Czechoslovakia?

Joseph M. Halicek:

Oh, yeah, absolutely. Oh, yeah. I was called down by battalions a number of times. One time, two young soldiers went to a door and they wanted some wine, and the man didn't have any, and they beat him up, bad. So they put them in prison. They marched out in front of the whole company, and they put the boys in prison, which that is where they should have put. But then one young girl, a soldier tore her blouse off, and then the police came down there, the Czech police, and then they got the MPs, and it was kind of -- and they had me interpret. Stuff like that. Then they found some bullets there and they wondered who shot them bullets. It wasn't ours. But one guy was trying to kill a soldier because he was visiting his girlfriend. They had things like that, which wasn't bad.

Andrew L. Fisher:

Now, when you came home then, you then returned to --

Joseph M. Halicek:

I came home in 1946, in January, in a blizzard. Boy, I was -- I came by train into Cleveland, and then I walked, and I got a little ride and I kept walking. I remember walking down Woodville Road, is all together different then. I said I can walk this little way. And then about a mile from the house, a dog started barking at me. And then mom came running out. She knew. She could see me through the window. And then my brothers came out. And that was it. And I couldn't stand sitting in the house much longer, so I went right to work at a glass factory. It was in January of '46. Right away to work. And, of course, everybody wanted a car then. You couldn't get one, but all the young guys wanted a car. But I went to work, pretty good. It was pretty good.

Andrew L. Fisher:

Now, have you, since the war, have you maintained contact --

Joseph M. Halicek:

Oh, yes.

Andrew L. Fisher:

-- with your old --

Joseph M. Halicek:

Unit.

Andrew L. Fisher:

-- unit, comrades?

Joseph M. Halicek:

Oh, yes. We do that once a year. It's a 52nd year, 53rd year of reunions. It's getting sad, sad now, because the comrades are all limping, or they can't see, and/or they can't hear.

Andrew L. Fisher:

Now, what group is this?

Joseph M. Halicek:

94th Infantry Division, and that is our group. And all other groups have their units. They all go to their -- we go to this unit, it's really -- really cut down in recent years. We had a lot of deaths, and a lot of people can't travel. This past year was in -- this past year, it was in Knoxville -- not -- Nashville, Tennessee. Next year, supposedly we'll be in New Orleans. The last one I attended was in Boston, two years ago. And I attended one 20 years ago in Boston, and it was a lot of people, a lot of happiness, and they stayed up late, and it was happy hour in everybody's room. And this past one, 20 some years later, about 22 years later, it was -- you had dinner, and they all went to their rooms. They really had changed.

Andrew L. Fisher:

Do you make -- do you still have local contact?

Joseph M. Halicek:

Yes.

Andrew L. Fisher:

You belong to some of the service organizations?

Joseph M. Halicek:

I belong to Federal American Legion, and I belong to the Federal VFW, and I belong to the Disabled American Veterans. I belong to all the veterans organizations. And I have one gentleman living here about eight miles from me. He was our medic. He didn't train with us, but he trained with a medical unit, and they put him in with us. Earl Sholty. He received the Silver Star.

Andrew L. Fisher:

Oh, I know Sholty. I talked to Sholty.

Joseph M. Halicek:

Okay. Recently?

Andrew L. Fisher:

Yes. In the last month.

Joseph M. Halicek:

Okay. Yeah. Earl, he was --

Andrew L. Fisher:

He lives on a farm.

Joseph M. Halicek:

Yeah, on Bradner Road. But the way I met him was he -- we was in this big forest in France. We got to pull back. You pulled back, take baths, and whatever. You can rest up. So I was walking towards either -- ___ our outboard was at ___ [+] and I see this guy, and he says hi, and I said hi. And he hauled tomatoes, oh, about 1941. That was a pick-up station for H.J. Heintz in Fremont, and I went over there with my brothers once in a while. And I said, yeah, I saw you someplace. Well, he said, I'm a medic in the second platoon. I was in the first platoon, but same company. Same company.

Andrew L. Fisher:

Speaking of -- pardon me.

Joseph M. Halicek:

Yeah, go ahead.

Andrew L. Fisher:

Something we missed here is that you received a purple heart.

Joseph M. Halicek:

Yes.

Andrew L. Fisher:

Let's talk about how you got that purple heart.

Joseph M. Halicek:

Okay.

Andrew L. Fisher:

How you got wounded.

Joseph M. Halicek:

Well, you see, that day, they put some artillery in on us, you wouldn't believe at that place.

Andrew L. Fisher:

Where was this?

Joseph M. Halicek:

Between Bourge and Sens, in the woods.

Andrew L. Fisher:

Oh, you're back in the Ardennes?

Joseph M. Halicek:

Just outside the Ardennes. It was in a big, big woods. We're in there, and must have been in that woods about five to seven days. Well, and both sides are popping, and the trees burst all the time. I said, oh, I hope one of those big things kill me and I'm done. I can't take much more of it. So there, artillery hit so close to me, it -- I couldn't hear. I said, What the heck happened? It broke both my eardrums, see. So I stayed there, but the next day, the same thing kept up. I couldn't get out of the foxhole. My legs were hurt. So finally I got out of the foxhole, went back in. I think the muscles and all that were just destroyed. So I went to the hospital in Bar-le-Duc, France, south of Paris. Suburb. Everybody's going to Paris, but they say, no, in a week you're going back to front. Oh, happy days are here.

Andrew L. Fisher:

(Laughing.)

Joseph M. Halicek:

So at midnight, they call out the names. They called out my name. Get on a 6-by-6, you are going back to front.

Andrew L. Fisher:

That's a truck.

Joseph M. Halicek:

Truck.

Andrew L. Fisher:

Two and a half ton.

Joseph M. Halicek:

Two and a half ton truck. So I went back there. And then the next time, I had blood all over here.

Andrew L. Fisher:

Now, you had more than one purple heart?

Joseph M. Halicek:

Yeah.

Andrew L. Fisher:

How many?

Joseph M. Halicek:

Two.

Andrew L. Fisher:

Two. I see.

Joseph M. Halicek:

I had blood over here, real bad. And these loose teeth.

Andrew L. Fisher:

In your mouth.

Joseph M. Halicek:

Yeah. And boy, blood is coming out, and the lieutenant says -- he's the captain, and he said, You're going back, go to the Italian station. I said, No, we only got 17 guys left here. I can't go. Actually, I was scared out of my mind. I'd rather stay there.

Andrew L. Fisher:

Yes.

Joseph M. Halicek:

I'd rather stay there. So I stayed there. Went back there in a couple of days after the artillery stopped, like during the day, and they took just -- put a little bit on it and said you'll be okay. Got back, see. But in that woods, I want to tell you one thing that happened. The first sergeant was right by us, and he said anybody gets out the foxhole tonight will get shot. You got to stay in the foxhole. So that is where you go to the bathroom. You got to stay in the foxhole. That's all there was to it. And I was with Irish, guy from New York City. Good guy. Irish, he passed away already. Typical Irish, he was drunk a lot. But anyway, he liked to drink. But good man. Good man. So he helped me in that foxhole. He says, Don't get out because we're going to die here anyway. And he killed that guy. He was screaming right by us. Oh, God, it was terrible. But we made it out of there. We made it to the next town. And the unit was just getting built up by new people. Replacements coming from all different camps. But I was lucky. I only got them small, small wounds, very lucky. But when I went to the aid station, the guys are laying on the cots was all dead there. They bring them in there on Jeeps, you know. That was terrible to see that.

Andrew L. Fisher:

Now, have you any injuries yet?

Joseph M. Halicek:

Yeah. My --

Andrew L. Fisher:

You have some service-related injuries?

Joseph M. Halicek:

Yes. My legs are -- my legs are real bad.

Andrew L. Fisher:

And does the Army or the --

Joseph M. Halicek:

The veterans takes care of me at 30 percent, 300 dollars a month.

Andrew L. Fisher:

Uh-huh.

Joseph M. Halicek:

When I first got out, I had a ten percent. That was like 12 dollars or something. And then, about 1953, or when the Korean War started, too many guys were getting injured there, and they was cutting back. Veterans was cutting back, cutting back. And they sent me a note, I can go for tests in Cleveland, or else they're going to take my ten percent away. And they took the ten percent away. And then I applied for more, and they gave me 30 percent, 30 percent. And then last week, at the post, at the Disabled American Veterans post out there on (Fort) Highway, this one gentleman by me had 70 percent. He was hit in Europe bad. Boy, he was in bad shape, that poor guy. He was real bad. He was getting 70 percent. And I just happened to talk to another guy, and he was getting 40 percent, and he was hit in the arm and disabled. But that guy that was getting 70 percent, oh, you wouldn't want that. He couldn't see, couldn't hear.

Andrew L. Fisher:

So you still maintained contact?

Joseph M. Halicek:

Oh, definitely.

Andrew L. Fisher:

You're still keeping alive the memories --

Joseph M. Halicek:

Oh, yes.

Andrew L. Fisher:

-- of the war. I think that's an important service.

Joseph M. Halicek:

Oh, that's important. Well, you see, I'll get a call. [END OF SIDE 1] I got a call from Milwaukee, from a gentleman in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and he was in our unit, and I got to be good friends with him because his wife was of Czech descent. When we went to the army reunions, so I got -- and his wife died suddenly. And he called me, and he said, well, he understood I was on a 1974 trip with a 94th Infantry Division to Europe. And I said, By all means, go. By all means, go on it because you're going to go to the cemeteries and you're going to see where most of our people are buried in Luxembourg, and that is where General George Patton is buried, in Luxembourg.

Andrew L. Fisher:

In Ham.

Joseph M. Halicek:

In Ham. And you're really going to enjoy that. And then he hesitated, and a year later he died suddenly. Good man, good man. He's a tough guy. A real tough guy for a young guy. Why, he wasn't afraid of nothing. He was a good man.

Andrew L. Fisher:

Before we close, do you have any thoughts about war, or about the time you spent in war, and any comments you wish to make?

Joseph M. Halicek:

I consider myself very lucky because in the time there, the invasion was, and we came in three months after, and we was put on to guard the submarine bases, and the Germans, the U-boat bases. So we didn't have too many casualties there. We had some people captured there, and we had some deaths there, and some fire fights. But it wasn't as much as the main front. That is one good memory I have.

And the better memory I had, when we entered Germany, and I was so happy that they capitulated, and I seen thousands and thousands of prisoners, German prisoners riding on trucks. And they stuffed them on those trucks upright and they shoved them in there on the 6-by-6s, them two and a halfs, and I thought that was kind of inhumane. But war is inhumane.

And then they had a lot of -- many German prisoners around Dusseldorf in an open field. And during the night, it would get cold. And I thought, Why they got them guys there? And there was some -- quite a few people wrote about it, but nothing was done. Some of them people died in there. They couldn't help it. And I met one man, a German soldier. He was a corporal, and he was in charge of an ack-ack unit 88 millimeter anti-aircraft, and he was working in the hospital when I was in Bar-le-Duc, and he said, Can you -- can I understand Czech? And I said, Oh, absolutely.

And his name was Karl, and his mother was a Czech and his father was German, and he had to go into the German army. He had to go. He had no choice. He made corporal, and he was in the ack-acks, and he said the worse thing in the ack-acks is when those jabbos come in, P-51. They called them jabbos. He said it's the worse thing when they come in there. So -- he said you wouldn't believe. You would have died. It's terrible. Because when they swooped in there and they had them 50 calibers shooting. I never kept contact with him. I sure would like to keep contact with that man, but it's --

Then I met another man from Poland. He was working there, and he was a nice man, and you get to talk to the guys, and the guys are ___ [+] got any cigarettes? Here, here's a___ [+] But there's no fraternization with the Germans. When we entered there, no fraternization, you can't talk to the Germans. But every night, an old man would come by, Have a cigarette? Yeah, whatever. Take it, take it, take it. And we would be eating our dinner, their supper, whatever, and they would always say "guten appetit," good appetite.

And, oh, then they said they miss ___ [+]. Now, Owens, now he's a good friend of mine. He's a sergeant, but he should be a devil. He took that cigarette and he threw it down and spun ___ [+]. This gentleman can't help it. He's 75, 80 years old at the time, and he can't help that he was born there. If you are born there, you have to fight.

Now, about this war here. I'm kind of mixed up with this war with Iraq. I don't know if that -- if he helped attack the twin towers in New York. I can't answer that. I hope he didn't. But he had 12 years to use them weapons on us, but he never used them. So now you got to think a little bit. Are we doing the right thing? Talk to -- everybody has an opinion. You talk to one person, oh, no, you can't do it that way. But I hate to see them children crying and their mothers dying. It's children and women.

And another thing, I don't care what freedom or society, a lady from U.S, if she has a baby and she leaves the baby at home and goes to the front, she ought to have her butt kicked because maternal, you should take care of your children. Am I right? And in Colorado now, at the Air Force, all the girls had their door unlocked so them guys was just going in and out all night. But the government says, oh, they ain't going to do that. Come on, cut it out, will you. Too much freedom in society.

Andrew L. Fisher:

Well, we're going to close now.

Joseph M. Halicek:

Read that a little bit. Then you can close.

Andrew L. Fisher:

Before we close, I'm looking at a book that says "To Rita," and one of the chapters in the book is a talk with Joe Halicek. And it seems like you were one of the contributors to this book. Who wrote the book?

Joseph M. Halicek:

A gentleman by the name of Shackleford.

Andrew L. Fisher:

I see. Frank Shackleford --

Joseph M. Halicek:

Yes.

Andrew L. Fisher:

-- put this book together --

Joseph M. Halicek:

Yes.

Andrew L. Fisher:

-- and he called upon you to contribute?

Joseph M. Halicek:

To stop by his house, a beautiful home in North Carolina, and they put us up for the night, and we ate there. I think I overate some pork, but we overate. Anyway, we went through, oh, we went through a lot. He came to our unit in February of '45. So he wasn't -- but he wanted to know what the rest of us did prior to that.

Andrew L. Fisher:

I see.

Joseph M. Halicek:

And I did bring something home here. I got --

Andrew L. Fisher:

And here is another souvenir, a fork with an eagle and a swastika on it. You have a lot of --

Joseph M. Halicek:

Little stuff.

Andrew L. Fisher:

-- memorabilia for your children, do you?

Joseph M. Halicek:

Oh, yes. I'll bring just a little bit in, if you can shut that off.

Andrew L. Fisher:

Mr. Halicek, I want to thank you very much for the interview. It was very interesting.

Joseph M. Halicek:

Thank you.

Andrew L. Fisher:

I think you should know that from here, this interview now is going to go to Washington.

Joseph M. Halicek:

Fine.

Andrew L. Fisher:

To the archives at the Library of Congress.

Joseph M. Halicek:

Oh, good.

Andrew L. Fisher:

And in the future, historians or students or maybe your family can access this file, this tape, from the archives at the Veterans History Project.

Joseph M. Halicek:

Okay. Wonderful.

Andrew L. Fisher:

And this is being done all over the nation. And so we're doing our part here in northwest Ohio, and I appreciate your contributing to the archives from northwest Ohio.

Joseph M. Halicek:

I appreciate helping you.

Andrew L. Fisher:

Thank you, very much.

 
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