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Interview with Werner Krenzer [5/31/2003]

Marilyn Sue Scanlin:

Today is Saturday, May 31, 2003. And this is the start of an interview with Werner Krenzer at his home at 1723 Coventry Road, Surfside Beach, South Carolina. My name is Marilyn Scanlin, and I will be the interviewer. I am a member of the National Society, Daughters of American Revolution, Chevy Chase chapter. This interview is done in connection with a Veterans History Project of the Library of Congress. Werner, would you please start by telling us a little bit about where you were born and your family?

Werner Krenzer:

Thank you very much, Marilyn. I was born September the 1st, 1926 in Germany in the city of Aschaffenburg, at the Main River, about sixty kilometers from Frankfurt on Main. I was born at home, upstairs. My dad had a little tavern, or what we called in German a weinshaus. At that time, of course, midwife would come to the home and deliver the baby unless there was complications. And I was a healthy little fella. I was the third son born to Elizabeth and Gregor Krenzer. I was about little over a year old when Dad got a letter from his uncle in Detroit, Michigan. And he said that for many people come to the United States that are being sponsored by relatives, they would have a different way of life. And Dad talked to my mother, explaining that this tavern business was not the ideal way of living. He had been in World War I. He was a wounded veteran. And having been wounded, he had to change his whole occupation because he was a butcher by trade. We came to America, probably the spring or summer of 1927. And of course, I was a little baby. We settled on the east side of Detroit. My dad worked for Timkin Axle. And in those years, just prior to the big crash of the stock market in 1929, everything was full production. And Dad learned the machinist trade. He worked a little more than 40 hours. In fact, sometimes he said he worked six or seven days. Because immigrants that had come to America, they came, rolled up their sleeves, saved as much money as they could to become independent to buy their own home. But as things went, my mother got homesick. So, in 1931, after having lived in Detroit, Michigan -- and I have very few recollection, of course, because my age -- we went back to Germany because my wife -- I am sorry, my mother was one of thirteen. And being homesick, to be back to her surroundings that she grew up with on the farm, convinced my dad that this was the way to do it. Having worked very fruitfully in Detroit, he saved his money, and we returned to Germany. And with the rate of exchange at that time, it was almost four marks to one America dollar. During 1931. Dad bought a business, built a house, and had friends from Frankfurt come up and install an indoor bathroom. American design. Where the rest of the neighbors in around the little farming community had nothing but outhouses. My wife was very happy. Sorry, my mother. I am thinking of my wife. That will come later. My mother was extremely happy to be back in her own familiar surroundings. Having her friends, her cousins, and the church, which was in the center of the little town called Exbach. Very close to Aschaffenburg where I was born. Some of the big memories I have of my arrival back in Exbach was I had to sleep one day with Grandpa, Dad's father. He was a beer brewery master and had a beautiful big moustache. Whenever he hugged me, he tickled me. And one day, I had the pleasure of having to sleep with Grandfather. I was just a little over four years old, and he pressed me against the wall, and I had a bloody nose. Boy, that was the last time I was going to sleep with Grandpa. As the years went by, I had recollections of enjoying the food, which of course all ethnic people do. And I loved the pure white lard on my black bread. It was very delicious, plus the pure milk that we got from the local farm. And my brothers were five and seven years older than I, taught me all the little things about life around the community which we lived. The winter time, go sleigh riding. We had a big hill right behind our house. In the spring time, we'd go down to the brook and try to catch minnows. In the summertime, the little brook we damned up a little bit so we could really go wading, but the folks down in the village, they had the ducks. They were deprived of some of that water. And when they found out that we were damming that little creek up outside of the village, they were a little upset with my dad. And so, my dad told them, he says he will make sure that we would not dam up the little creek so that they would get enough water. Because you come down to the center of the town of Exbach or the Village of Exbach, which at that time had about 1500 occupants. The church was in the center, and the roadway, which was cobblestone as it passed the church, the little creek flowed right over the roadway. And that was 1931, '32. When Hitler came into power, my dad did not like the politics, at all. He felt that this was something that goes against his grain. First from a religious point of view, because in '32, '33, they wanted my two older brothers to join the Hitler movement. On weekends. Instead of going to church, they would go out into the field and play soldier, build trenches and bunkers in preparation of what is to come. With Dad's friends that he had in Frankfurt, and having been a trained butcher by trade, he always liked to slaughter his own pigs. And so, two or three times a year, Dad in his business had a little station wagon which was the only vehicle in the village, actually. He would go to another village and make an arrangement with the farmer to raise a pig for him. And at that time, all the livestock, pigs, chickens, they had to be registered. But somehow or other, he was able to make arrangements with some of the farmers that were willing to raise pigs on the side for a little extra cash. And so, when the pig was ready to be slaughtered, Dad would drive down to Frankfurt. And so, we were able to bring that home, put it down in the basement and put some ice on it for a few days. Then, when the pig came, the three of us boys would ride with Dad to a nearby village, pick up the pig, and we would stroke it, keep it quiet as we came right back through the village just about at dusk. That was important, because in the small village there, the ladies, they would lean out the window and gossip. They knew about everything that was going on. Not only with their neighbors, but anything happening. And of course, every time they saw Dad's little pickup truck, they said "Oh, here comes that American who came back to live in his hometown with his wife and family". So, at times of course, we weren't thought too highly because they began to realize that Daddy was not for the party. He spoke against it. And his friends kept warning him, said "Gregor, you cannot do this. Either you are going to be with the party or you are going to be against." Well, getting back, taking that pig through the village, we kept it quiet so the people wouldn't know what we were having as the cargo in that pickup truck. Mother had already washed kettle, boiling with hot water. And Dad immediately washed off the pig and killed it, let the blood to use for blood bologna. And he put the pig down into the basement where he parted it, and they made kettle soup, which is very delicious, the head and the snout and the feet. And of course, the hams, which are smoked. And then, for the next probably five to a week, he would make all types of sausage. And he had the little smoke house where he would smoke all those things. The nearest neighbors were approximately I would say four to five thousand feet from us. They knew exactly two or three times a year when this activity was going on. The slaughtering and this butchering and making sausages, or cold cuts which you might refer to it here in America. But he kept them from saying anything down at the house or the city hall because he would always give them something. Dad was very generous. That was one thing about Dad. He was always very generous to the neighbors, and they never but never would turn him in. But what I enjoyed most, of course, was some of the delicious, as I mentioned earlier, pure white pork lard. And my mother had a big stone crock in the basement that would contain maybe fifteen to twenty gallons, if it were all liquid. And she had a wooden top that she covered. And the basement, of course, was cold, temperature probably in the upper forties, low fifties. Because in one side we had all of the things that Dad had smoked and he butchered, the pigs, the hams, and anything that we would have for the winter. There was special barrels for carrots that were put in sand. There was special bins in the dark with potatoes. And because we had a beautiful orchard, the apples were laid on straw on little benches or little racks, wooden racks in the dark. And this -- I always remember Mother going down and checking to make sure that any of the apples started to decay, she would immediately take them up and make applesauce, or we eat the apples. And that way, we have quite a bit of things in the winter time. Having been on the farm, my mother had also some wonderful remedies. If we had colds, she would -- the beginning, I hated it, but she would boil several onions. Add the onion juice with some sugar, and that was our cough medicine. She went one step further. She went ahead and also had a drink of the juice. Talk about those youngsters that had cod liver oil. Their mothers would feed them whatever they needed a tonic. But the irony of it, of course, was when you see these things happening, you reflect upon it. But as I grew older and gained certain wisdom, one of the beautiful things that we always had back then was, we were as I said outside the village. When the farmers harvested their potatoes, we would go into the fields, and we'd dig up some of the pay potatoes that they had left behind. And then we had a potato roast. Take the dry vegetation from the potato plant and we'd roast potatoes. Also, fruit is very plentiful. Especially at the time when there was apples, that we could also pick from the tree, as long as -- the local farmers would say "take one and eat it". And that was it. Those are the days of childhood, that we can remember those wonderful things. But things were so different because not only we respected our elders, we curtsied, shook hands with them, said to them guten tag or God bless you in German. So that the people had a different way of life. Even though with the horizon darkening with nazism spreading the land. Dad at one time really saved me a great deal of concern when I was a real naughty boy. I was about six years old then. I was going to kindergarten, just to the first grade, when my older brothers were in the back yard. They were chopping some kindling wood. Remember, back in those days we had coal furnace in the basement, and sometimes we needed some kindling wood to heat the little pebbles where my mother would wash once a week. And that needed some kindling wood. But my oldest brother, he was chopping this kindling wood on the block. And for no apparent reason, I reached out on the block just as the hatchet came down, and off came my first joint of my right finger. And part of the index finger in my right hand. Of course, I screamed because I could see this blood shooting up. And Dad immediately was close by, applied pressure, took me in his pickup down to the country doctor. Because the first link was only hanging by a thread. At that time, they could not rejoin that finger. So, to this day, I have the first joint missing from my middle finger, my right hand. But I wanted to get that block of wood, and my brother didn't want me to have it. And I gave that finger as a result of my belligerence or my stubbornness. Call it what you may. But you know, in our youth, of course, many things happened. Well, anyway, as time went on, the local authority were more and more with my father because they kept telling him, "you had better not talk against the new regime because if you do, you would be sent to Dachau". Dachau was a political prison at that time near Munich. And so, anyone that was not for them would be against them, could very easily be sent up there, regardless of the family situation. Dad then convinced my mother, he said "we have to rent this home, we can't sell it, and we have to leave, go back to America. There was just no choice. Dad then converted some of his day marks into United States currency. And I remember the journey from Exbach near Aschaffenburg to harbor by train. We had just the luggage that we could physically take with us, a suitcase and a few other little items for a member of the family. Mother, Dad, and the three of us boys. We came to Hamburg, and there we saw this big, big, big ocean liner. And for a boy going on eight, in the spring of 1934, this was really a new experience. So, the first thing I wanted to do when we got aboard ship, I wanted to imitate the walk of a sailor. Because eight year olds are very impressionable. They do funny things. And of course, the crew aboard ship, they took a liking to all of us young ones, and they would give us some extra goodies. I remember that only too well. Of course, they fed us real good. The three meals were very hearty. And if I remember correctly, that was the first time I was on the big ocean. And every time I was on a ship, I would get seasick, as well. But then we came to New York. What a sight. Statute of Liberty. Mommy, Daddy, they cried. And I said to them "Why?" They said "This is really freedom. Your dad almost went to prison because of his political affiliations. He did not want to join the nazi party. He left behind our home, and here we have to start all over." But Dad, having been to Detroit earlier, had no fears. We settled in America and what we as children were told was the land of milk and honey. First, we rented an apartment in the Bronx. I remember 149th Street and St. Mary's Park. And we went to the Immaculate Conception Church and school, the three of us boys. And one of the first songs I remember in 1934 was "Every Time It Rains, It Rains Pennies from Heaven". And you talk about being gullible. When it rained the first time, to my recollection, and I saw no pennies coming from Heaven, I ran to my dad, and I says "Dad, where are those pennies?" He says "It is only a song". Only a song. The pennies, you can save them. Dad started the contracting business, training. He lived in the Bronx for six months. He bought a brand new Ford. At that time, about $540. Paid cash for it. And he would take us on up to the Hudson River, I remember, Pittsburgh. In the summertime. And there, we would bathe in the Hudson River. Other times, he would take us to the zoo, the Bronx Zoo, which is wonderful, to children especially at that time. Or if we were extra good, he would take us down to Coney Island. That was quite a place. But we wouldn't go by car. We went by underground. I think they called it the I.R.T. or the B.M.T. Only worth five cents, a nickel. The nickel was king. A nickel to ride the subway from way up in the Bronx, all the way down through Manhatten, out to Brooklyn, to Coney Island and the boardwalk and salt taffy and the ocean. What memories. What wonderful memories. The hamburgers, they were only five cents apiece. And were they good. You got a hot dog, you got more sauerkraut on your hot dog bun than you had hot dog, and with mustard and catsup. That was a meal in itself. But those early days in mid thirties, that's some wonderful memories. In '35, Dad bought a summer home. And listen to this. This was completely furnished, and he bought that for $2,300, cash. Dad was a businessman. And I guess he negotiated pretty well. But we would spend our summers in lake swimming, boating. And I remember in 1939, there was a parachute jumper. He would jump on Sundays during the summer between the Fourth of July and Labor Day. Place was jammed because people would come out from the city. Lake Oncoma was approximately fifty some odd miles east of Jamaica, and there would be a long, long trail that you could take or a toll road for one dollar. Took you right from Jamaica to Lake Oncoma. Changing booth where people could change clothes. After the summer, the place was quiet. Dad was so generous, our relatives would spend the weekends at our summer home, because we had three bedrooms, a front porch and a rear porch, and a beautiful, beautiful apple tree. And Dad would say, "come out, spend the weekend". Would usually get a half -- I would be running into village, or my brother, to buy more cold cuts, and would have maybe ten, fifteen people staying overnight. They slept all over. On the floor. Before you know it, the summer was over. We hardly saw them. Oh, maybe on holidays or special occasions. But what I remember best was the fishing was great. After all the people left, after Labor Day, you still had some weekends that we would be out at the summer place before it was winter, and was the fishing great. Oh, I remember the bass and the plugs that we used. Oh, old beaten pieces from a broom stick, and put a few hooks on there. And they weren't store bought. They were made. And boy, they were good. Down where the creek flowed into it, Lake Oncoma, were the best catfish. And we'd catch them with little dough balls. You didn't want to clean them. Dad cleaned them for me. One of the things about these memories was then, as I grew up, 1944, I turned 18. My life changed. This is the time in life, a young man is 18, becomes very patriotic. By the law of the land, this land is made for us. This land of milk and honey. Both of my brothers were already in the service. Ronald, my oldest, was seven years older, was in the Seabees, a navy man. Helmut, my other brother, was also in the army. And I was drafted in 1944. I was 18, full of adventure. Not realizing what you are really getting into. You do the things on a day to day basis. Now, as you look back in memory, you say to yourself, this was a great adventure because you took things in stride along with all the others from all walks of life. My first exposure to military life was our trip over to Camp Kilmer, New Jersey, where we were processed, given of course our clothes, our shoes, and learned a little bit how to march, how to fall out for reveille. How to take a shower with other naked men, which was really a shock in the beginning because, at home, we had our privacy. But things were changing. After a few days at Kilmer, we were boarding a troop train and headed down south to a place called Anniston, Alabama, Fort McClellan. The biggest occasion, of course, was our first meal. And we sat down after filling our trays in the chow line. Some of our people there were from the south. Mixed in with us in this big mess hall, they were part of a -- that were going to teach us the ropes. And they said "You yankees don't know what's good unless you eat some of this tobacco sauce and eat some of this good grits. And my golly, is that corn bread good." And I looked at that. And a couple of days later, I said "Do I have to do all these things that these southerners do?" And after a while, we integrated of course. They had okry, things we never heard of back up north or that my mother had cooked, the good German fare that we had, our cuisine that's hearty, delicious. Only thing I missed, of course, from mother was my pure pork lard and black bread up there in New York. Well, anyway, we took our basic training, about six weeks school as a soldier. We drilled the sanitation, marksmanship, a couple of big hikes. Then we learned how to throw a live grenade. But the most harrowing experience was when we dug a foxhole. And there was a tank running right over us. The earth shook. I thought for sure, don't look up, but we still got some dirt down our collar. But there was maybe a good foot, foot and a half between us and the track of the tank. But it sure scared the heck out of us. But that was realistic training. After six weeks at Fort McClellan, the company I was with, we were mostly born either in Germany or in Italy. They all became citizens. A judge from Anniston, Alabama came out. We all raised our hand, took the oath of allegiance. "You are all American citizens now, and your citizen certificate will be placed in the back of your service record. And upon completion of honorable service, you will be given your naturalization paper." Which was a joy. We were now pure Americans. We went up by convoy through Camp Sibert in Gadsden, Alabama, which was a chemical warfare center at that time. And there, we trained with, with HH, white white phosphorus. We also trained with -- for the decontamination of ourselves and the water, all equipment. They gave us a healthy look as to what gas could be like. But this was preventive. And thank God, as I look when I got to the Phillipines, the Japanese never used gas. That was back in World War I, as far as so much tragic, World War I Veterans. After my basic vet training, we took the troop train across the United States, to Fort Ord, California. And I remember how generous the USO people would be, some of the big train stations. It took at least a week if not longer because trains took priority over troop trains, so it seemed. And of course, we had a chow train that fed us our three meals. But whenever we went into a big station, the USO people were so generous. They would come up with coffee and doughnuts. And some cases, if they found out there was someone that had a birthday, they were even sing Happy Birthday and give that individual or individuals who had a birthday, that's how homey it was. And it really was a memory that I always remember. Now, these ladies and men who dedicated theirselves to the USO work at this train station, one in particular was always memorable in my mind, was Omaha, Nebraska. Those people must have worked twenty-four hours a day in different shifts, brewing who knows how many gallons of coffee, baking dozens and dozens of doughnuts, other things, making sandwiches, giving us fruit to augment our military chow that was on the train. We got out to Fort Ord, California. And there, we learned a little bit what's going to happen when we board ships on the way to the south Pacific. We climbed those nets. They were approximately about 45 to 50 feet in length. And one of the other trainings was that, one time, we went to this big swimming pool with clothes on, had to jump in at one end and swim to the other. They wanted to make sure that you could swim away from a sinking ship. Some fellas had never been in the water, didn't know how, so they had to actually fish them out with hooks. And they went back and taught them how to really breaststroke so that should they have to abandon ship, at least they would get close enough to a life raft or a wreckage so that they wouldn't drown because they couldn't swim. So, they were given that training and I thought that was unique. I was swimming. You learned how to swim like fish. Anyway, after a few weeks of training there, we headed back on up from Fort Ord, which is down in Monterrey, beautiful place, Salinas, California, and up to Fort Ord. From Fort Ord, up to there, we took the ship out to Hawaii. And they would convoy. I got to Luzon and Manila about July of '45. I was a replacement on my way to the 24th Infantry Division, in Leyte in August of '45. And then Mindanao on the 24th. Having been settled and the war still going on, we were in a replacement situation. One day, they announced the A bomb had exploded in Hiroshima. At the moment, we were overjoyed to think now the war would end. But we were also frightened that with the clouds from this atomic bomb from drift all the way down to the Philipines. That was in our imagination. Would we be affected? Would we be harmed by this? Few days later, the second H bomb dropped on Nagasaki, and the Japanese, of course, surrendered. We all cried. We danced with joy. We were really all out to realize that the terror that we were to face wasn't going to happen. That soon we would be going home. But instead of going home, we were sent up with the invasion forces into Japan. And the 24th Infantry Division I was a part of landed in a place called Matsuyama, Shikoku. From there, we went to Sanuki where they had a beautiful castle, and then down to Sasebo. From there, I returned to the United States in '46. I have become a sergeant by that time. I had gone to clerk typist school during my time in Japan. I kind of liked the army way of life. And so, I reenlisted and started my military career. As time went on, I had a succession of assignments, and New York for Sandy Hook, Fort Hancock. And then, during the program from the Korean war I was assigned as an army escort guide for the Korean war dead, and escorted the war dead from Brooklyn army terminal to the place of internment, either a private cemetery or a national cemetery. I was on my last mission, which we called it at that time, wired back to the attachment that I was available for the next mission, because we would always be on the go. Drop off our records from the internment, pick up another remains and head out to a new location. So, I traveled to different parts of the United States in the months that I was in army escort for the war dead. I was in Bixby, Arizona on my last mission when Western Union wired, said "Sergeant Krenzer, you have been labeled to go to Korea". I returned to the detachment, took me two and a half days to get back by way of Chicago. And for some unknown reason, they were in a hurry with my M.O.S., which is an administrative specialist. They flew me out from New York on Northwestern -- that was a double decker. I remember that only too well -- to Fort Lewis, Washington. At Fort Lewis, Washington, we boarded a ship for Yokohama, Camp Drake. We were assembled, and those that had served in Korea had a choice to either remain in Japan or return to Korea. This was now in June of '52. We boarded a ship again in Yokohama for Pusan. We arrived in Pusan harbor. And instead of going in to dock, the PA system, they started announcing that the following officers and enlisted men, get your gear and go to the starboard side of the ship. And for the next half hour, forty-five minutes, they went through a roster and told us the names of the individuals that they wanted us to disembark. About halfway through the enlisted roster, my name was called. And I went down that long ladder that, my duffle bag, and worried that I wouldn't be top heavy. And go into the harbor. And down into the launch. That was the longest ladder with that duffle bag on your shoulder. And I was really scared. I think most of us were because they were never on one of those shipside ladders, for ever and ever, sixty or seventy feet, and the launch was rocking. Anyway, we got settled in. We went into Pusan, off loaded, and two and a half ton truck took us to the repo depo. That means a replacement depot. There, we checked in and went to look at the bulletin board in the morning after breakfast, in the afternoon after lunch. Well, after two days looking at the bulletin board, I finally saw my name up there. You are assigned to UNCACK. I said that sounds very strange. I could figure out UN, but what does CACK mean? Maybe K means Korea, but CAC, that really baffled me. So, I went in and long sleeve -- long sleeve is a nickname for our first sergeant -- he said "No, Sergeant Krenzer, really don't know what to tell you, but tomorrow at 0800 hundred, someone is coming from the fishery college to pick you up". What? Fishery college? What am I doing with a fishery college? He said "Well, that's where you are assigned to." Well, as it turned out, next morning here comes the Korean driver. And he comes up here, and he said "Are you Sergeant Krenzer?" Said "yes". Said "Don't say another word. What is UNCACK? It is right on the front of your Jeep number." He said "Oh, you mean no one told you?" I said "what?" "Yeah, we are civilian. It is United Nations Civil Systems Command Korea." I says "Boy, that sounds somethings. Civil Assistance Command? What do they need an administrative specialist there? What are all these civilians doing? Said "We got plenty. We got civilians from all the countries, United Nations." Well, as it turned out, as we left the depot and headed out towards the fishery college on the east side, maybe about sixty, eighty miles east of Pusan, we passed the American grave registration where some of the people that I had escorted had been interned before they were shipped to the United States for final Internment. I said to myself why? Somehow I bypassed this assignment and got this civilian assignment. I arrived there, and the civilian said to me "Where have you been?" I said "Over at the repo depo". He says "I see, according to your records, you have been cleared for secret. We need a classified Korea." So, the next morning, I go out to the airfield, DC 6. I go into operation. And I jump from a plane, parachute? Said no. Says "Well, here is a parachute to put on. Here is a -- here is your life raft. What you have to do is, in case we have to ditch when we are over water, push the door out, jump and count a thousand one, two, three, and pull. If nothing happens the chute that's on your back, pull the one on the front. Happy landing." God bless, I never had to use it. Well, I was on this assignment for several weeks, and my end would always be Seoul City Command up at K 14. There was the military colonel in charge of the civilians. He liked the way I did things, apparently. I was very punctual, very courteous. Not only my military, but my overall manner. Because whenever I was there to stay overnight where they had the billets, and I would talk to the people. And after a few weeks, he said "I have been up there about five, six times". He said "You know, Sergeant Krenzer, I'd like you to come up here and join our team." I said to the colonel, I says "Sir, you really can use me?" He says "I have got two civilians in the Welfare Section from India and Mr. Nielsen from Denmark. They can use a military man like yourself. You have this rapport and you have this nice manner. You speak softly. And you are the type that I am looking for for this type of job." I said "Okay, Colonel. If you feel that I can do that". He says "I will check with Pusan. We will get you off this security classified Korea assignment, and you will come up here." Sure enough, he was true to his word. I was assigned to the Seoul City welfare section. Then, much to my orientation, I said to myself I am a soldier. Now I got a -- I have to. That was quite a change for a military man. Like all things, a job had to be done. And I did it to the best of my ability. One of the things that was happening, I was going to marry this girl, Elizabeth. She ent -- when I was in army escort, that I -- for the war dead I escorted, she decided to become a convent. Somehow or other, I must have mentioned it to someone. And when I mentioned it to someone, that someone was probably a war correspondent. I don't know his name. I know it wasn't the Voice of American or -- wrote about me in True Confession and Reader's Digest. But anyway, the article appeared in the New York Times, front page. Boy, what can happen next? Next thing I know, I get a letter from the Reader's Digest, telling me that I had a future article in May, '53 Reader's Digest, The Sergeant Didn't Go Home. From then on, all I was doing was picking up these war orphans from the street, and bringing them to our orphanage. And of course, I had a little fella by the name of Kim Ho was my interpreter, bless his heart. He told them that here is a sergeant that not only speaks softly, does not carry a big stick. And wrote, take care of you by bringing you to an orphanage where you will have food, shelter and a place to sleep. Slept on little mats, of course. But like everything else, the thing that happened was that, when I came home, then those 13 months, I sent letters back, and from Reader's Digest, care packages started coming. I started receiving mail from all over the world. Packages from the United States, Canada, Europe, people who wanted to help. And this really snowballed to the point that after my 13 weeks, I extended four weeks -- no, four months, excuse me, before I came back to the United States. But the program was one of the most challenging and perhaps the most heartwarming experience, because I look back, back in the Philipines during the war, the closing end of the war. We were forbidden to give any of the children who were begging for some of our scraps when you went through the chow line. I always remembered those hungry little eyes that looked at us as we put it back in the trash can. In Korea, I was able to really help the children. Which really made me feel that I was really doing something in this program. We worked not only with feeding stations and hospitals, but by the time I left, we had over thirty-four orphanages. And I came back to the United States, I was assigned to the U.S. Reserve school in New York City which was for reserve officers. I was advised administrative records, promotions, et cetera. In November of '55, the Armstrong Central Theatre had a show on television live that John Cameron Swazey introduced, and they portrayed my life with the work I did with one of the street merchants, who -- very memorable presentation. And Richard Kiley played me, because I was not a professional actor. And it was timely, as the words were spoken at that time. And Betsy Palmer was the French nurse. Talk about entertainment! But here was an old military man on TV. And of course, I never let it go to my head because I was that professional. Next thing I know, I was given a special assignment to my first military assistance advisement group under the military aid program in Taiwan, Taipei, which is part of the southeast Asia Treaty Organization. There, I was able to take my list of hundreds of donors who had sent packages, care packages and other packages of sweets, clothes, toys, to the children in Seoul, to the children in Taiwan in the various orphanages that I worked with. After my assignment there, I returned to the United States to the Armor court in Kentucky. And after just a few weeks, I was given my second assignment under this military aid program to Pakistan in Karachi, which was the Central Treaty Organization. Now, Pakistan was a destiny place. A gift from heaven. The angels were with me. I came halfway around the world. And from a part of Germany, a wonderful missionary nurse named Irene Liska came into my life. There was another German by the name of Werner Fox, who introduced me to Irene, so that I could translate her German RN license into an American RN license, English license. But my German was limited as far as my education, but I found a dependant who was from Germany, and she was nice enough to translate. But anyway, I met Irene. And the second time I met her, I fell in love with her. But I said to myself, could this be possible? Here is a Methodist missionary nurse, and here is a staunch Catholic. Could we ever get together? But somehow or other, the good Lord up there directs everything in life. We don't fully understand. But after six months and two days, she accepted my proposal. She became a Catholic. She said "I have to learn the Catholic faith in order to raise our children". And we were married once at the German embassy because she was still a German citizen. And we were married at the American embassy because worked at the American embassy. And the third marriage certificate which we have is the St. Patrick's Cathedral in Karachi, Pakistan. We had no one from either side, either from her side up in Germany, and my parents were in the United States. So that the theory of meeting two Germans, one as she called me am army, even though I was in civilian clothes, but the Germans would call the American Soldiers army just like they called the British Tommies. Because she wrote to her parents up there that she met a German army, who was born in Germany. I guess that gave me an in, because when we went up on our honeymoon for thirty days on my R and R after we were married in September of '58, they all accepted me because I immediately spoke German to them. But the idea, I speak a different dialect from where I come from in Bavaria. But Irene and her folks, they all speak hoke Dutch, high German. But anyway, after our honeymoon, we had gone to Tripoli, over to Paris, to Hamburg, back down under a medical flight to Athens. From Athens, into Cairo, Egypt. And back into Karachi, Pakistan. We returned to the United States in the early sixties. I was assigned to post headquarters, Fort Knox, Kentucky. And after a very short period of time, I was given my third military assistance advisory assignment in, of all places, all roads lead to Rome, Italy. Roma. Mota. Mota bena. Unbelievable. Can you imagine? Here is this, this sergeant, who had gone full circle, married three times, was assigned to three schools, and was assigned to three nice assignments. Talk about a military experience. I don't think I would ever repeat it if I started all over again, but if you are at the right place at the right time, the right grade, the right MOS, the right attitude, the people take notice. And when they take notice, things move. I know that from experience. I had the pleasure of serving with three star generals, of meeting some of the top people that came through on VIP tours. These are experiences that will always be a deep memory. When I returned from Rome, Italy, I was assigned to the school where I took instructor training. I retired from the military after twenty-two years of service October 31, 1965. And so, my military career, the adventure that started in '44 became a life experience beyond my wildest dreams. Never did I realize that I would meet so many wonderful people who instilled in me not only what it is to be a soldier, but to travel in lands that I would never see in my life nor would I ever be able to afford in my own humble existence. But life can treat you in such wonderful ways and beyond all expectations. And I never let any of this go to my head. Especially all the publicity, television, and all the people, the wonderful people that I have met and worked with and shared. Without those people that were there to support me, to guide me, to tutor me, I would never forget. God bless each and every one of those. And all the service people that I have ever met who may remember me. The old smiling sergeant, as they used to call me in Seoul, Korea. I am just a What a big change it really is. And various other medals that I have to look at. Good conduct, Korean service medals. And the highest award was my bronze star for my work with the orphans in Seoul, Korea. Commendation ribbon from my work with orphans in Pakistan. Upon my retirement, the commendation medal for my work at the AG school. It was with an oak leaf cluster. With a packet that we are sending with this information, there are several pictures that I would like to explain. Number one is a picture of Col. Mansfield, my commanding officer, and UNCACK team, handing out some of the relief activities on a map of Seoul, as I, Werner Krenzer, and my boss, welfare officer, look on. Picture number two is a part of the end users study, that we would pass out to the civilian population. Here, I sit on the stoop of a local, Yung Dong Nim, elderly gentleman was very distinguished Korean beard. And to the right we have our sociologist, who is my translator, checking in at this Dong office for his eligibility to receive relief goods. Number three, here is Werner Krenzer with Col. Mansfield, turning over the numerous orders that we had received from care packages purchased by people throughout the various sections of the United States to pass on to the various orphanages, hospitals, stations, and other refugee activities that we had there in Seoul. And the fourth picture, I am again working with an interpreter at the city hall, social affairs section, a Mr. Li Song, who is the chief of Seoul City, social affairs section. We are discussing the movement of refugee children out to other areas of habitat. Accompanying this packet will be the various articles about the life of this sergeant, who has done so many things in his life. But nothing to behold the publicity. And I was fortunate, I didn't let it go to my head. The girl I was going to marry when I went off to Korea decided to become a nun, so she joined a convent. And somehow or other, after I talked to some correspondent in Seoul, bleeding out my heart and my wounds about what was happening, much to my surprise on January the 14, 1953, front page, New York times, "GI With a Smile Restores Faith of Korea's War Orphans". In May of 1953, an article appeared in True Confession entitled "The Children Who Cried All Day". In May of 1953, an article in Reader's Digest, "The Sergeant Didn't Go Home". Translated in other languages, that people from overseas would send it to me. In July of 1953, Collier's magazine, "Korea's Children, The Old in Heart". The article from the magazine was about the street life of Kae Won, an orphan, who is the subject of the TV show on NBC, "The Strange War of Sergeant Krenzer", the Armstrong Circle Theatre, September the 27, 1955. September the 24, 1955, the Army Times wrote an article, "Sergeant and His Double". The picture is his double. The actor Richard Kiley played the role of Krenzer. And actress Betsy Palmer the part of a French nurse. Now, we shift to life in civilian life. It is a big change. A change that one does not expect. And therefore, having talked to my wife, we decided in all the years that I was in the military, I was never stationed in Germany. So, we decided that after I retired at Fort Ben Harrison that we would go to Germany and see if we could stay there, and I would work there. We had relatives in the little town of Exbach, where my mother was born, who were second or third cousins, that were only too happy to accommodate us were we to come over. That was Irene, myself, and our two boys. The oldest, John, at that time was going on three. John was born in Rome, Italy. And we adopted John because he was born out of wedlock. Our own son was born thirteen months to the day, so God blessed us by adopting John, and giving us our own Paul. Well, I took care of the boys after we settled in a rented apartment where cousins from different parts of the village gave us all the furniture that we needed because we had brought only our personal clothes. I took care of the boys, and Irene went to work in a German hospital. She was a registered nurse. And in Germany, once you become a registered nurse, your license is good for life. Same thing with a driver's license, unless taken from you for some infraction, malpractice, or fraud. I think it is a good system. We stayed in Germany for approximately ten months. I had tried to get employment when we arrived, but unfortunately, there was the Compensation Act of 1965 which prevented any active duty personnel from accepting a civilian job with the U.S. Government and any of the branches for employment until six months after retiring from the military. When we had about five months in Germany, and I thought maybe our six months may bring us some luck, I found out that I could get a job with the Air Force with the provision that it was Continental Wage Board, one year contract, renewable for five years. We decided maybe that's too big of a risk. We had stored our household goods in Indianapolis when I retired, because we had one full year from the date of retirement to settle on our permanent residence, wherever it may be, and they would ship our household goods there. Had we taken that risk, all of our household goods would have gone to Germany. If we had decided. And if my contract was not renewed after a year, we really would have been stuck. So, we decided to return to the good old U.S.A. by ship. We had about two months to go within that time frame of one year. We went up to Bremer Harbor, boarded a German ship, and we had our car with us that came across the Atlantic. After ten days, we arrived. Again, we saw the beautiful lady, the Statute of Liberty. And when we docked at the Hudson River, within hours of our embarking, our car came up, and we loaded our baggage and headed off to Michigan where we had planned to live temporarily with Irene's sister Erica, and then decide what our future would bring. Within a very short time after we arrived there, Irene applied for her Michigan license, was accepted with all her German qualifications because she was not only an RN, but she was a lab technician. She was also a midwife. And having had the experience in the mission, the people at the nursing office in Lansing decided that she would be a good candidate to be an American nurse. And so, she was given an American nursing license. She went to work for Ford at the Rouge plant as an industrial nurse. I went to work first at Redford High School in 1966 to 1967. Irene worked the afternoon shift. After a year as an ROTC instructor at Redford High School, I decided that it is best that I would go to college. So, I entered the computer school in the mornings while Irene again worked at Ford until the evening. And I took care of the children while she was away, so we worked out. Determination is the big thing in life. In 1968, we moved to our new home in Sterling Heights. I joined Massey Ferguson as a midnight computer operator. By days, I went to college. It took me nine years because I went part-time to get my associates degree in data processing. When I got my degree, I was promoted to a parts planner in Massey Ferguson with a computer application with the Amdahl computer up in Toronto, using a deckoliter to update all of the material that was needed in our production of tractors from parts, from all over Massey Ferguson's overseas operation in England and France and Germany and the orient. In 1968, there was a reunion in Germany of my class of 1926. So, we decided to go over, and we took our children with us. And it was an unusual experience because the men that were in my original 1926 class were very few in number because many of them had lost there lives during World War II, which was a very sad experience because there was some widow ladies. But they honored Irene because we were the ones that came the furthest from the reunion, even though she was not a member of our class of 1926. So, for three days, we danced, we drank, and we enjoyed our reunion tremendously. The only shortcoming was my wife Irene was born in the east part of Germany, and I was born, of course, in Aschaffenburg. Irene, when she grew up, her father was a Methodist minister, and they moved from town to town. And I told them to speak only hoke Dutch, high German. My German was not hoke Dutch. It was a colloquial expression. And quite often, at the reunion, she would lean over to me and say "Honey, what are they saying?" This is german, but colloquialism can be a very strange sound, even for a person who speaks the language. And even when we went, as a good example, to Munich, Germany for the Olympics in 1972, again we brought our boys with us to show them Germany, Switzerland, and other parts of Europe. The visit was to my Capuchin monk uncle who, of course, would speak with me in my dialect or hoke German so that Irene could understand, but the Munich dialect or Munster dialect is so difficult to understand. So, we had some real unusual experiences trying to figure out what our German compatriots are actually talking about. When we returned, we decided we are going to make a change and head south. We had looked in Hawaii. We had looked in Washington, D.C. area. We looked in Texas for our place in the sun. Our two sons were just finishing up college, and they were getting a place of their own, but we decided we would leave them the house, and we headed south. And when we came to Myrtle Beach, we fell in love. Not only with the beach, the former air force base. And we settled in Sterling Village, a condo. There, I became a project manager, was on the board, was a treasurer. First, I worked front desk at a local motel. For side activities, we started a kazoo band for about seven years. And most of the people, of course, have since passed on because our age group was in the sixties, seventies and eighties. In fact, just twelve days ago on May the 30, Frances Kean, who was our key pianist, turned, God bless her, ninety-six years of age. We had performed at the various malls. We had performed for Diane Stokes on the television Christmas shows. We performed various times in nursing homes. Then, I also was a volunteer base driver at the air force base. And one of the most unique things that we are running into that I want to explain was that one time we took a trip to North Carolina, and there was a lady that sat next to me in the front seat. She was a spitting image of the actress who played Bloody Mary in "South Pacific". Her husband never came on any of the trips. She enjoyed herself, but wherever we stopped, she had to eat and drink. What an appetite Bloody Mary had. We went to -- I have to laugh, because when we stopped at the mall to get something to eat, we were going to a play down at Cape Fear River in Wilmington. And so, she said to me, "You know, there is a Singer sewing machine place across the way. Could you take me over there? I need a part for my Singer sewing machine." I said "Of course". So, we got in the van. I drove over. She purchased her item, came back. We got back in the van. And the moment I turned the ignition, it went rrrrrr, dead battery. So, I said "Please stay here". I ran back over to the mall. And as it happened, we had another station wagon that came with us. And I ferried three times the people that were waiting to go to the play down at Cape Fear River. When I came back to pick up Bloody Mary, she had disappeared. I went into the store, and I said "What happened to this wonderful lady that was waiting for me in the van?" She says "A bus came, and she took off". I says "What?" Anyway, I went back over, got my wife and the other driver. We went to Sears, and we got a good battery, installed a new battery, and drove down to the theatre. And we got there a little after the middle intermission. Who was there to greet me? Bloody Mary. She says "What did you do? Why did you abandon me?" I said "How did you get here?" "Well, the bus driver was nice enough to deviate from his route to drop me off because, I told him, they abandoned me there in the mall." Well, anyway, I thanked her because it was a good example because had I not taken her over to the Singer sewing machine store, and would have driven the van down to the theatre, about 11:30 in the evening when I tried it a second time, and we would have had a dead battery, we all would have been stuck overnight some seventy-five miles from Myrtle Beach air force base. One of the joys. One of the joys. In the village after being a project manager, a voluntary driver for the base, active in the kazoo band, I also sang in community chorus, Ocean View Baptist Church. We decided that we want to go back into a house because we missed the garden. In a condo setting, the general area cannot be touched by owners. They are taken care of by a groundskeeper. And you can't plant anything. You can't grow anything. So, we decided we want to go back into a house. See, we were fortunate enough to sell our home in Michigan, which we had left for the boys. And with the ready cash, we also sold our condominium, and we bought a place here in Southwood. Southwood at that time in the beginning was nothing but an open field. There were so many, many, many pine trees. And it was right next to a highway, 544, was -- at that time was a two lane. We decided that this was an ideal place because they had a bridge that came over. On the left side was a lake from Deerfield, another community. On the right hand side was a canal which took all the runoff from the area that was to become Southwood. We bought a lot just before Hurricane Hugo had struck here, of course, on the 21 of September, 1989. And they had just cleared the lot before they started building, before Hurricane Hugo struck. In as much as we were still living in the Village, Sterling Village, Myrtle Beach, we were able to come down here almost daily to see the progress of construction. We were fortunate enough that everything was completed, and we were able to move into our new home, and we are the 12th house in this new subdivision, Phase One, on the 16th of January, the year 1990. In the beginning, there was just a very few number of people. Dale Johnson was one of the real estate agents who lived right at the end of the cul-de-sac in one of the houses. We got to know the people as they started moving in, in the early part of '90. And we were somewhat a close knit group. And then, the years to follow, there were ten phases to complete the full villa of 424 some odd units in Southwood. I became active. I was on the board. I also served as chairperson of the architectural control committee. But the biggest joy was always our garden. Our little garden in the front started off with a little patch, I would say three by five, grew five by ten, grew eight by twenty, grew twenty by I would say roughly forty. And in that which takes in just about the whole front, there are perennials. And as I looks out at this moment while I am speaking, we have Easter lillies. These Easter lillies are blooming now late, because each Easter, I would get the bloomed out Easter lillies at church, after Easter, bring them home, take the flowers off, plant them in this front perennial garden. And over the years, we have about six, eight clusters of these beautiful, beautiful Easter lillies. And today, of course, they bring great joy amongst the roses, amongst the other plants that are there that come up every year. We cut them down to the ground in the fall, cover them with pine straw to protect them from the little frost that we do get here in December and January. And when spring comes, the activity begins as these plants emerge through the pine straw which we remove, and we enjoy the new view of seeing the beauty of nature come alive. I am also a gardener. I love the joy of planting vegetables, to have your own zucchini, peppers, tomatoes, string beans, cucumbers, and the harvest is plentiful that I can give to others. But the greatest joy is a fig tree. In the beginning, I had two fig trees. One got so big, it was about twenty feet high, about forty feet in length, and it got so big that when the figs were ripe, the nets that I had bought could no longer cover them, because I have two fig trees. So, I had to get rid of it because the birds, the mockingbirds, the crows, the bluejays, sparrows, they all had a tremendous feast from the rich harvest of the sweet smelling ripe figs. So now, this past year, I cut that down and resodded that area. Now, I just have one little fig tree that is about eight feet high, and maybe about ten feet wide. And that is enough to handle when they ripen. A beautiful story about fig trees is that there is no flower to show that this is a fruit tree. When the new shoots come out, wherever there is a fig leaf, right at that joint from that twig, there is a little button that becomes the fig. And that little button grows to the size of a thumbnail. And when it is ripe, usually in July, August, as this twig grows, the distance of anywhere from a foot to eighteen inches, there is a succession of little figs that grow another eight or ten figs on that new stem. Overnight, that green fig that is the size of a thumbnail opens up to the size of a golf ball. That's how elastic that skin is. And then, you better harvest them because they are delicious. And we so enjoy these fresh figs. I hope Nabisco with their Fig Newtons, dry as they are, do get some good ripe figs when they put them in their Fig Newtons. But we first came to love figs when we lived in Rome, Italy, and I was assigned to NATO at the American embassy on the military aid program. The farmers would bring them down outside of Rome, and fresh figs and all the fresh vegetables at the piazza was a thing to behold.

Marilyn Sue Scanlin:

Werner, thank you so much for sharing all of these wonderful, wonderful experiences you have had. And I remember when we were talking earlier, you happened to mention one of the little orphaned children that -- the story is -- pretty much was based on that appeared on Armstrong Theatre. Could you tell me just a little bit about him and how he may have affected your life?

Werner Krenzer:

Well, Tay Won was one of many. But he was special. Perhaps he was a little leery of my intention, but after talking to him on several occasions, he was sort of a gang leader. I says "Tay Won, you know that I am a GI". He says "GI's are good and GI's are bad. Are you good GI?" I said "I think so". He says "All right, then you are number one". I said "What about if I were a bad GI?" And he put his thumbs down, and he says I would say "You are number ten". So, we got to be good friends. And I said "Tay Won, you know what I do. I go to the different places, the Seoul railroad station and other places where children who are orphans are trying to beg from the GI's, and they have no place to go. And even in the winter time, they are in little shanties or wherever they could find a place to lay down for the night. I round these children up and take them to orphanages that I work for, take care of. So you have a place for food, for shelter, and you would be happy. I would like you to go to one of those orphanages." After several conversations over a period of a few days, he said "Okay, Sarge Number One, I will go". And so, I took him to the orphanage. And I wanted to show him because he was so ragged. His clothes were filthy, and he had a coat of dirt on him from head to toe, I couldn't imagine. So, I took him to the restroom and scrubbed him down. He says "Why do you do this?" And I says "You may not know this, but Jesus washed the feet of his disciples". He says "Washed the feet?" I says "This is what I wanted to show you, that I really care for you". He says "I think you are number one". I settled him in the orphanage. And unfortunately, I made the big mistake of not going back as frequently as I should have. So, one day, he ran away. He wasn't too happy with life in the orphanage. And finally, I found him again. I says "Tay Won, why did you run away?" "Oh, at the orphanage, I couldn't get chewing gum or chocolate bars, like you always brought me and gave me. And the other kids on the street, they could always get things from the GI's." I says "Tay Won, if I promise, as long as I am here in Seoul, that I will come to see you, would you go back to the orphanage or to another orphanage?" He says "Let me think about it". In the meantime, a few days went by, and one of his gang members came to me and said "Sarge, Tay Won hurt bad". I says "Tay Won hurt? How come?" "Had big fight." So, I went, and I took him to the hospital. They took care of him at the hospital. And after a few days, they released him. And Tay Won then says "Sarge, you are number one. You really care for me." I said "Okay. Please, this time, stay in this orphanage." He says "I will try. But you promise that while you are here, that you will come and visit?" I says "yes, I will promise". You see, there is a love relation that can develop even for a bachelor with a little war orphan like Tay Won. He had feelings. And course, it takes life experience to fully understand this. Anyway, as it turned out, as long as I was there, Tay Won and some of his gang members did stay in the orphanage. And that made me very happy to know that I had finally reached Tay Won. And I wish him, wherever he might be this day as an adult, all the happiness and all the memories that we had shared together. I am grateful to have served my country. I have seen so many things, so many strange places, so many different sounds. Smells were not always pleasant. Sometimes they really came to show you the realities of life. I have lived in so many different countries, Philipines, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Pakistan, Rome. The cultures are so different from land to land, but people are people. If you deal with people and do what is expected of you, both in the official capacity and in the social capacity, learn to speak a little bit of their language, they will always reciprocate in a wonderful way with their smiles and their thank yous, and their bows. Their cultures are different, but they are really a treasure that we can learn from because people have challenges in life, especially in the underdeveloped or emergent countries, to set a standard of living for their loved ones. People that have these challenges are everywhere. We see them all over, even here in the good old U.S.A. I would like to thank each and every one that has ever supported me in my military career, here in the golden years of my life, the memories I treasure. I received the support, the courage, the enlightenment in many people. I was fortunate to meet ambassadors, to serve with two three-star generals, to serve with some very wonderful people, some we have even recently visited after fifty years of lost contact with a member of the service that I served with back in the late forties. These are the happy memories that we have. Plus, when I think back, that it took a part of a lifetime before I met my beloved, both in Germany, both had to be in Pakistan, Irene a missionary nurse. She needed her German RN license translated. And through Werner Sax, who worked Ford Siemens, came to the American embassy, sought me out and said "Could you help translate?" And I was able, through a friend who was also a German dependant there, was able to translate her German RN license in an American, an English license. And so, I met Irene. And after a courtship of six months and two days, we were married three times. But the most comical part was, we were married at the German embassy, at the American embassy, and at church. That was hilarious, because Father Mollistine in St. Patricks Cathedral, still would have the bands of marriage. And when he announced that Mr. Werner Krenzer and Spinster Irene Riska, I think my hearing came to a stop when he announced that from the pulpit. Afterwards, I went back, I spoke to Father Mollistine. I said "Please, can't you just call her Miss Irene?" He says "No, this is the culture". And with that, I would say thank you, one and all. And especially, my great thanks to Marilyn who was my big interviewer, my big inspirer, my mentor in this beautiful, beautiful experience that we can always treasure. Thank you.

Marilyn Sue Scanlin:

Werner, I'd like to thank you very much, to, for taking the time to share all these beautiful memories with us. And this is the end of the May 31, 2003 interview with Werner Krenzer. The interviewer was Marilyn Scanlin.

 
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