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Interview with William C. Bryant [2/10/2005]

Joe Walter:

...2005. This is an interview for the Veteran's History Project with William C. Bryant who was born on June 22nd, 1918. The interview is being conducted at 1013 Prospect in Toledo, Ohio. Present is Mr. William Colin Bryant. And my name is Joe Walter. I'm the interviewer. Mr. Bryant is a World War II veteran discharged the rank of Staff Sergeant. Served in the United States and in the European Theater in Italy. Okay. So Mr. Bryant, can you tell me what were you doing just before -- a little bit of your family history before you got into the service?

William C. Bryant:

I had worked in several jobs, small jobs requiring no skill at all until I was drafted. And after being drafted, of course, I followed the procedure for making it effective.

Joe Walter:

Where did you grow up?

William C. Bryant:

I grew up in Vienna, Georgia, V-i-e-n-n-a, Georgia just about one fifth -- 150 miles below Atlanta?

Joe Walter:

And how many members in your family?

William C. Bryant:

There were seven in all; five children, mother and father.

Joe Walter:

So did you enlist in the Army or were you drafted?

William C. Bryant:

No. I was drafted.

Joe Walter:

Okay.

William C. Bryant:

I was drafted. I became of age, and I had two brothers who were also drafted.

Joe Walter:

When was that?

William C. Bryant:

That was around -- well, I went in the service in September of 1941.

Joe Walter:

Okay. Just before Pearl Harbor, right?

William C. Bryant:

Oh, yes. Two years I had completed my basic training.

Joe Walter:

What was your basic training like?

William C. Bryant:

0h, was fun. I mean, it was fun after getting over the scared idea of even going to the service. It was a lot of fun going through basic training. And I think our training -- I'm not sure -- I think it was for six months. I think it was six months or more than what we gave out later on in the training program that I was in.

Joe Walter:

Where was that training at?

William C. Bryant:

At was in Camp Wolters, Texas. W-o-l-t-e-r-s.

Joe Walter:

And do you remember any of your instructors?

William C. Bryant:

The only instructer was First Sergeant that I -- person that I can remember was my first sergeant, Sergeant Reynolds. He was from Texas. He was the first sergeant, and as far as I was concerned we was an ideal soldier.

Joe Walter:

Why do you say that?

William C. Bryant:

He was polite, understanding, he treated people very, very nice, and you would not think that he could be the type of person who would be on the line like this. Maybe I should have thought this of myself also. But he was a very, very nice person. Tried to be fair, but he was stern.

Joe Walter:

So after that training, basic training, at Fort Wolters, how long were you there. Do you remember?

William C. Bryant:

I can't remember exactly. It was a long -- some years ago.

Joe Walter:

After the training was over we hung around. It was about three weeks, I guess, before, I'm not sure, that Pearl Harbor was on everybodies mind. It was struck and we just knew that we had completed our training, and we were going to be on our way. But instead we hung around for a short period of time waiting for placement where we were going. And we all just knew that we were going to Pearl Harbor, and we had some mixed feelings about that. Well, we didn't. They started building up camps throughout the country, and we went on -- we were asked to go to Fort McClellan, Alabama. We were told to go to Fort McClellan, Alabama and work in this training camp. And this is what we did, guys right off the street right into the Army.

Joe Walter:

I want to show you this. This picture you have, I think this is -- is this Fort Wolters?

William C. Bryant:

This is Fort McClellan.

Joe Walter:

And this is your company?

William C. Bryant:

This is our company. And I don't know which one it was, but these were the trainees and, of course, those all on the front, practically all on the front row --officers and non-commissioned officers. You can see me up here.

Joe Walter:

Okay. And then I see the First Sergeant you were referring to. Is this the man, "Reynolds?"

William C. Bryant:

Yes, that's the person.

Joe Walter:

That would be him here?

William C. Bryant:

That's the person.

Joe Walter:

This company looks to me pretty much to be all African American Black soldiers; is that right?

William C. Bryant:

They were except, of course, you've got the officers there. Some officers there. The captain, I believe he was a battalion, I think he was battalion. I don't know. But he was from Memphis. I remember his name Clowes, C-l-o-w-e-s. I remember this one right here. He was strictly a book man. If there was any book, he knew it. He was a good, good soldier.

Joe Walter:

So the officers were all White?

William C. Bryant:

The officers then. I think we had a Black commander --

Joe Walter:

Okay.

William C. Bryant:

-- at that particular time, we had several, you know, not several but we had one or two, but we had Black officers kind of mixed in. As we went along, we gathered more, but basically when we started off it was all White.

Joe Walter:

Really?

William C. Bryant:

I mean, all White officers.

Joe Walter:

So the Army at that time when you went, it was still basically segregated, would you say?

William C. Bryant:

It was, yes, and that's the part that we didn't like too much -- that I didn't like too much. Not being all Black or all White, but anyway we had no trouble, no problem.

Joe Walter:

Okay. So then you went to Fort McClellan?

William C. Bryant:

And started a training camp.

Joe Walter:

Okay.

William C. Bryant:

And this is one of the classes.

Joe Walter:

Okay.

William C. Bryant:

I can't tell you which one.

Joe Walter:

So then how long do you remember you were in McClellan?

William C. Bryant:

A year and two or three months, I believe.

Joe Walter:

And I remember looking -- and we're going to, as part of this project, this booklet you put together called Tour of Duty, you talked about at one point in your service you wanted to volunteer for the Paratroopers?

William C. Bryant:

Oh, yes. That was my -- when we were being interviewed, after service we were asked which way did we want to go, and I told them the Paratroopers. And of course, I was given the opportunity to be examined, and I went and examined, and the doctor said I had a malfunctioning bone -- or a malformed bone in my neck, which he thought, if I jumped from an airplane, I would crack my neck -- or my neck would crack. And so it was then that I firmly said that I was prejudiced. They just didn't want me to be a Paratrooper. So it was quite a number of years after I was discharged, after the war was over, after I was discharged that I ran into another officer. I don't know where it was. He told me that I had a malformed bone in my neck, and I said to the officer, "Oh, that was it." And he said, "What did you say?" I said, "Nothing." My mind went back to what that doctor said and just said a little prayer that I hoped people could for give me for not believing him. But he was right, it wasn't a deep down prejudice idea that he had.

Joe Walter:

So you eventually were shipped overseas?

William C. Bryant:

Yes.

Joe Walter:

When did that happen? Do you remember?

William C. Bryant:

I can't remember the date but -- I can't remember the date, but it was from Hampton, Virginia.

Joe Walter:

Okay.

William C. Bryant:

We went over with one ship -- I mean, on one ship, the entire combat team. We were a combat team. We were taken out of the 92nd and we operated as a combat team, 370th Combat Team, with all of the other supporting attachments. The engineers, everybody else. It was like a regular Army. We went over on one ship, and we did not travel any convoy and it was loaded with German subs, you know that. We went over with this ship called "Mariposa." And it traveled a zigzag course all over.

Joe Walter:

Okay.

William C. Bryant:

And the reason they did that, of course, so no one could get a beam on us, and this is the way we went over. Because of this swiftness, we were over in Oran, Africa from Hampton Roads, Virginia, and of course, we were there for a little while, got assembled. Of course, we were told which way to go. Pretty soon we went into Arno River down in the southern part of Italy. And this is when we stated fire. I don't know what the date was. That was the beginning of my European service.

Joe Walter:

You told me once before when we were talking about being sent over and wanting to go overseas and mentioned something about you would only go if you were able to fight. You didn't want to be a truck driver?

William C. Bryant:

Oh, yes. I thought it was a little ironic. I was drafted into the service, and we had to volunteer to go -- when we got overseas -- I mean, before we got overseas, you had to volunteer before. This is when I found out about my neck. And I thought it was a little ironic by drafting us into the service, we're already in the service. Now they were asking us to volunteer. I couldn't see the sence in that. Anyway later on, that was after it was all over that I was -- and I didn't want to -- I really wanted to fight. I didn't want to go over there because we had heard of some of them over there, and there's nothing wrong with any of the other organization, but the service organization. I wanted to go to the service organizations. So that was it.

Joe Walter:

In your piece you put together, Tour of Duty, you talked a little bit about when you shipped over. And I think you said in the Hampton Roads, Virginia and then Mariposa, which used to be a luxury-liner, some of that experience you talked a little bit about the Red Cross workers and giving out doughnuts. Do you want to talk a little bit about that?

William C. Bryant:

Oh, yes. We were traveling on land. We traveled largely in a segregated manor on land. And on trains, we would stop at stations, and the Red Cross works would be there giving out doughnuts and coffee to all of us, and by some strange coincidence they always ran out at the ends of the Black soldiers and the White soldiers whether we were all separate or segregated on the ship -- on the train. They would give out, go back up, replenish their supplies, come back and they would run out again at the same place. And we hardly ever got anything to eat or drink.

Joe Walter:

How did that make you feel?

William C. Bryant:

I can't describe it. It's a feeling that burns you up and yet at the same time, you are fighting for the same cause the rest of them are fighting. And here we were treated like this, and not only was it just the soldiers that did it, it was the people who were doing it too. And I imagine they did it. It probably was their job, I don't know. That's what they decided to do. So that was it. I did feel too kindly towards the United States then, but that did not hinder me from doing the best I could.

Joe Walter:

So now you're in Italy. And was it Arno, you said, I think. Was it Arno? After in Italy, is that where you said you started?

William C. Bryant:

Arno. A-r-n-o.

Joe Walter:

Okay.

William C. Bryant:

Arno River. That was the southern part of Italy, and we went across there. We were fanned out to various sections over there. So we were fanned out a little bit and got up into the service in the Fifth Army -- Fifth Army -- Fifth Army territory. There was a General Mark -- Mark Clark.

Joe Walter:

Mark Clark. That's right, yeah.

William C. Bryant:

Uh-huh. Mark Clark was the person who was head of that particular area.

Joe Walter:

And you were part of the 92nd --

William C. Bryant:

92nd Division.

Joe Walter:

Division of the 370th Combat Team?

William C. Bryant:

Combat Team. That's the way we went over. 370th Combat Team, and it was after our little encounter with friendly-fire when our company was completely decimated when they fired on us, on their own troops. We were reassembled after that into a unit, which by that time we were pretty close to making the final trip -- I mean, the final attacks.

Joe Walter:

Do you want to tell me a little bit about the friendly-fire?

William C. Bryant:

Oh, yes. We were attached to -- I don't know if it was the 10th Mountain Division, which is a good division, or we were next to them, we were always usually attached to them. We had one end or a sector that we were fighting, and we moved up. And for some reason or another, we got to a little mountain. It was a little place. A little hill we would call it a mountain. And we started over the hill, and got to the top -- not to the top -- well, to the crown, I guess it is called, of the mountain, and of course, it was being swept by machine gun fire. And every now and then they'd throw in a (?eighty-eight?), you'd hear a (?eighty-eight?) They threw that one in. So we backed off, we couldn't go forward. We had our troops, light tank unit in the back of us, and they did not know -- we were quite a distance from them -- they could not tell us from the Germans, you know, that far. So they started firing point blank, not over here but point blank. Bing. Bang. You could hear those tanks rising up on their treads and then hitting the ground, coming back down after they delivered their canons. So this is where I had the encounter with the officer who advised me -- told me to go down and tell them that they were firing at our own men. And I didn't want to go and he -- we had a little argument until he said, "Sergeant Bryant, I order you to do it." And I wasn't going to do that, you know, not to do it. So I went up reluctantly, finally got up there and yelled at the lieutenant. I said, "Lieutenant -- Captain," I don't know what he was, and I yelled and told him he was firing at his own men. And he jumped up, and he was just as light as he could possibly be, and very strong, and told them to stop firing. And they did -- they did stop firing. And I found out then after I got a little closer, I found out that they were really our men. So we -- then our attention was turned to the mess that the firing had done, and this is where our men went berserk - on this hill. We couldn't go over, go forward, we were being fired at from the rear. It was kind of bad. I know we had three people: one was a Texan who was a six-footer-plus, about six and a half, big guy -- one of the sergeants from the squad, and he tried to do everything he possibly could to go over and fight and we had to hold him back and keep him from wanting to go because once we saw these men being shot up, and we finally threw him down. And then another one was doing the same thing, and we subdued him. And we had another one -- that second person, I think we took him back. The medics took him back that finally came up. And the third person was taken back also. Also, but not then. We kept him with us for two or three days, buts he was getting to be a little annoying to us because at night he was so shooken up, and mentally, that at night he would work on his foxhole, which everybody is taught to work on your foxholes. Every night you got your foxholes pretty well set up, and he was digging on it and making noise at night. You know, noise travels fast and very easy at night. And we went to the company and told them: This man is going to get us all killed. And of course, they finally moved him back. I think he over came the mental problem. And also the second. But the first one, I'm quite sure he didn't make it. I mean, he -- I think he was permanently damaged mentally.

Joe Walter:

In those days I guess they kind of referred that as being "shell shocked"?

William C. Bryant:

Yeah. He was really shell shocked.

Joe Walter:

Any other incidents you remember that stand out while you were in Italy?

William C. Bryant:

I suppose it was at the end of the war -- I mean, it meant a lot to me. I'd been over there. I was on the line for over a year -- year and a month, I think, a year and a month on the frontline. And at the end of the war, I think it was June 30th or something like that or June 6th or something when it was over. That was over in the Adriatic Sea that was our final drive and my third major area. It was then that we were being asked to give questions and they wanted to -- they were getting ready for Pearl Harbor, of course, it was still going on.

Joe Walter:

The invasion of Japan?

William C. Bryant:

I mean, Japan, yeah. So we were asked to be interviewed, we were interviewed and I had two interviews that would give me -- Battle Field Commission Lieutenant. And I'd been through all of it, I might as well if I was going to be here, until I found out that these interviews that we were having -- and I asked the question: Do we have to go there after this is over? Now remember, I'm over a year over there and been that fortunate and not killed or hurt other than I was shaken up a little by some of this stuff.

Joe Walter:

Sure.

William C. Bryant:

But I was ready to come home. I wanted to come home. I had 87 points. I had more points than I needed. And they said, "Well, you'll probably have to go over there for Occupational Troops for a while." And I wanted to go. I mean, I -- if I went, they couldn't promise me. So I dropped out of the class for Battle Field Commission, and sure enough, they use a great deal of expediency if you had the points, and we came back. In fact, it took a long time, a much longer time than it did, naturally, going over.

Joe Walter:

Did you -- I think I saw here that you had some medals. Do you want to tell me which medals you received?

William C. Bryant:

I think all are back there in the back. I can't remember them all. But I had -- I was class of three medals. That was a Bronze Star that had a star on it. One star for each -- each battle. Three major battles.

Joe Walter:

I think these are the three major battles, I think. Would you just kind of describe which ones they were?

William C. Bryant:

Let's see which ones. The Arno River, that's when we first went over. That's in the southern part of Italy. And then we went to the Apennine Valley.

Joe Walter:

Apennines. Okay.

William C. Bryant:

Apennine Valley. And then we went over on the coast and fought -- June 6th, I believe, is when it was over with. We fought in that battle, which was the last battle that we had. There were three battles that we had. Incidently, the last battle, I saw a fellow here in the city of Toledo, was a fellow over there -- what was his name -- that was honored here not so very long ago? I saw him. He was from Toledo.

Joe Walter:

Oh.

William C. Bryant:

Saw him the night our troops were going one place and his were going to another sector to fight in this major battle. Chandler. His name was Chandler.

Joe Walter:

Oh. Okay. He was a police officer.

William C. Bryant:

Yeah. I knew him. He was an officer. I saw him. He said, "Bryant," if we pass each other -- we had seen each other one other time. We were in the area but not in the same company. And says, "I wonder what they are doing in Toledo tonight." And some other chitty chat, and he went his way, naturally, and I went my way. And the next day a lot of the fellow in the platoon that we knew, and they said,"You know your friend, your friend got it. I mean, he's not with us anymore."

Joe Walter:

I think it's Jacob Chandler.

William C. Bryant:

Jake Chandler. I tried to get in touch several times with him after I came back. I knew him before I went over because we were in the same fraternity.

Joe Walter:

Okay.

William C. Bryant:

So I couldn't get him. I couldn't get an answer. And so when he was here, the last time before he was given this honor, they had a number to call on T.V. And I called the number two or three times, and I gave them my name and address. I didn't know where he was living or anything. So I just let it go at that. Twice I tried to get in touch with him. He was a nice guy. He had graduated from the University of Toledo. Jake and I, we had a lot of time, mentally, together maybe on a break or 30 minutes or something like that when we were marching, and we would talk about Toledo and things that had happened in Toledo. It was wonderful home comfort for both of us. He was a pretty nice guy.

Joe Walter:

The medals, I'm going to read these off here. It looks like the Good Conduct Medal, American Defense Service Medal, American Theater Service Medal, European slash African Service Medal, three Bronze Stars; one for each major campaign.

William C. Bryant:

Okay.

Joe Walter:

I want to just -- in a minute here, have you describe some of the pictures that were in your booklet here. But before we do that, were you married when you --

William C. Bryant:

Yes. Yes. I'm glad you asked me. That's what my pastor was talking to me the other day about it. He said, "I notice you were in the Army three months after you were married." My wife and I had been engaged, and we had been engaged for quite some time, and so before I went overseas -- she knew what the situation was -- we married. We married three days before I went overseas.

Joe Walter:

And how did you keep in touch with the homefront? I'm assuming with letters?

William C. Bryant:

Yes. I believe that booklet might have copies of what they call a V -- V-mail, one or two there that I wrote. But I think I never gave a name. I called her "Dearest" or something like that. And this is how we got in touch. And I found a few that I wrote her. Couldn't locate any that she had written me or that I had received. But anyway we did stay in touch that way.

Joe Walter:

Was the mail -- did it come regularly?

William C. Bryant:

Oh, yes. Yes. Mail, it was just like a piece of heaven when we got the mail. Some of the most dejected looking people you've ever seen in your life when they go to mail call and there is no mail. People don't realize how serious that is, or was rather, for us. I imagine the same thing holds true now. Of course, communication is better now.

Joe Walter:

Any of the soldiers you serve with get Dear John letters while you were there?

William C. Bryant:

Not that I know of, but we heard about them Dear John letters.

Joe Walter:

What about the food while you were in the Army, how would you describe that?

William C. Bryant:

Oh, it was -- it was fair, it was fairly good food. Some of it we didn't like. But I will, and I think I mentioned something about the canned foods. Well, I think they called it "sea rations." I think they called it "sea rations" then.

Joe Walter:

Okay.

William C. Bryant:

Them cans, that was pretty good stuff. Some of it was pretty good especially on the frontline. That's all you got to eat. You'd open that up, and eat it. And we had little cans of Sterno, you know. We'd heat it up, and that was it because it didn't give a flame. So we ate that food and enjoyed it. And when we got a real good meal, we almost went beside ourselves.

Joe Walter:

I want have you describe a couple of these pictures for me, if you would. Obviously, that's a picture of you.

William C. Bryant:

Yes.

Joe Walter:

Below that it's the mascot of the 92nd Division --

William C. Bryant:

It's the mascot. That was the mascot of the 92nd Division. There was another one in there, I believe, there was supposed to have been another one, which is a better picture of the bull, which is the mascot of the 92nd Division.

Joe Walter:

Now I thought I heard this described as the Buffalo Soldiers; is that what this is?

William C. Bryant:

Yeah. That's Buffalo. That's Buffalo. Uh-huh.

Joe Walter:

Okay.

William C. Bryant:

The -- I don't know where there's another picture that's missing. I looked all over this house, and I can't find it. I think in the process of showing my things that I had after -- when I started showing it had been about five years, we didn't think about this stuff. We had a copy of the 92nd Division after we got together, I guess, for some time. We participated in the reburial of the ashes of Columbus. Christopher Columbus.

Joe Walter:

Okay.

William C. Bryant:

And I had a picture of a newspaper clipping that I wanted so bad -- and I just knew I had it, and I guess, I kept it right up there -- and I found everything else for that, and if I ever find it I'm going to find some way to show it. But that was when the whole 92nd Division came back together, and we had a movement or a permanent burial of Christopher Columbus. And it was a beautiful picture as far as I was concerned, and I never could find it here. I guess showing it to people, somebody just forgot to put it back or maybe I threw it away, I don't know. But I had all of my stuff together.

Joe Walter:

You got a picture in here of the 5th Army patch, which is a patch --

William C. Bryant:

Yeah, you might find one or two. This is the rifle --

Joe Walter:

This is the Combat --

William C. Bryant:

This was the M1.

Joe Walter:

Combat Infantryman Badge.

William C. Bryant:

Yes. Combat Infantryman.

Joe Walter:

How did you earn that? How does one earn it?

William C. Bryant:

You had various classifications. I mean, you had your Marksman, that was the lowest. That mean you passed, alright, on the range. In training -- in training they go out on the -- it was a wonderful thing -- we'd go out on the field and for a whole week you've been told all about and practiced dry-runs so to speak, of shooting, learning to aim a rifle, learning to squeeze the trigger and not pull the trigger, and how to properly site a figure.

Joe Walter:

Did you ever shoot a rifle before you went into the service?

William C. Bryant:

I happen to have -- not a rifle but a shotgun.

Joe Walter:

Uh-huh.

William C. Bryant:

When I was 12 years old, I was shooting. I had a single barrel shotgun. And I used to hunt when I was 12 years old, and that wasn't a stranger to me. But after this, we would go out on the range and this was a great big ceremony. You'd go out on the range, and people are down there, 100-, I mean, 300-, 200-, 300-, 500-yard range. And of course if you were in the service you know what that's all about. We went out there and we qualified -- you had to qualify. You had to shoot 'til you qualified. Very few people could qualify. You've got to makes marksman. Anyway, I was an expert with a rifle, but the only thing I couldn't get of a marksmanship was a .45 Pistol.

Joe Walter:

A .45.

William C. Bryant:

That .45 Pistol was hard. We were -- as a non-commission officer, and we conducted these shootouts. We were so good. This fellow that I told you that went nuts, he and a couple other of us were pretty good with the rifle. We were all experts.

Joe Walter:

Is that the M1?

William C. Bryant:

The M1, with that M1. And we would call out -- we were so good, we could call our shots. And we would call our shots, if we were going to give you a bull's eye at 9 o'clock. Okay. That's what you get up there. We had a lot of fun doing that because we knew out rifle. You could take -- you'd say: well, this is a strange rifle to me. We'll give you three shots. Two shots were practice -- when you were going to go into one of these things -- two shots were practice. That was a right, a left, a up or down. You should see. We'll have the guys back -- we had telephoned back to the target area. Where I was at? That was at 5 o'clock or 6 o'clock. We were all shooting bull's eyes now. And the third shot ought to be in the middle.

Joe Walter:

In the middle.

William C. Bryant:

Right in the middle. That's the way we did it. We could do it. We could call our shots. Get the right windage on it, get the proper site and squeeze it off. If you jerk the trigger, it may go any place.

Joe Walter:

This is also referred to as the Combat Infantryman Badge.

William C. Bryant:

Yeah.

Joe Walter:

If you're in combat, you get awarded that badge for completing.

William C. Bryant:

Yeah.

Joe Walter:

Here's the --

William C. Bryant:

That's the bull there. That's the mascot of the 92nd Division. Now this is -- I had another picture. I don't know why, it got lost.

Joe Walter:

Just so --

William C. Bryant:

Have you heard of the --

Joe Walter:

This is Venice?

William C. Bryant:

This is in Venice.

Joe Walter:

The Gondola?

William C. Bryant:

That's me right there. And these were the other two. I can't remember their names. This is one of the most beautiful places that I have ever seen in my life and I wanted to show that. At 12 o'clock, at 12 o'clock, St. -- what is it? St. Mark -- or some kind of cathedral there?

Joe Walter:

Okay.

William C. Bryant:

This square. This is right on the Grand Canal, what they call the Grand Canal. At 12 o'clock you could stand there and see the great big hammer hand up there throwing back. At exactly 12 o'clock that thing would go down and birds would come down just make everything black up there with the sky black, and they would land out here. And that word(ph) didn't exactly fit what I wanted. They didn't have it, but that was it. And they would come out there and it was a beautiful site to see that.

Joe Walter:

This picture here, it says -- of course, this is a copy, so it is not in color. It says: The blue fatigues soon changed. What was that about?

William C. Bryant:

We had blue fatigues. Now they have what, olive. I'm color blind.

Joe Walter:

Olive drab.

William C. Bryant:

Olive drab. They have blue fatigues, and this person got it a little mixed up. That really is not a thing. This is our fighting uniform. This is our dress uniform. This is what we were fighting in. And what is it now? They're back to olive drab? But they were just like denim, blue denim. That's what we had then.

Joe Walter:

Okay.

William C. Bryant:

You probably saw one or two.

Joe Walter:

Okay.

William C. Bryant:

You probably saw a picture. This right here is a fellow who used to live -- he wasn't overseas, but he lived right across the street from me here in Toledo. Chandler. His name was Chandler. I don't think he was related to the one that died. His child is the one who did this book. He had a printing company. They did the book, so we had him. Herb and I were in pretty good -- when we were living on Pinewood then. So we saw each other. We were pretty good until we was in the service. I don't know what happened to him. He didn't go overseas. He's still living today.

Joe Walter:

That's Herbert Chandler?

William C. Bryant:

Yeah, Herbert Chandler, yes.

Joe Walter:

Okay.

William C. Bryant:

Uh-huh. Of course, that's me.

Joe Walter:

Another picture. This is Venice?

William C. Bryant:

This is Venice. Oh, that's a beautiful place. Oh, it's a beautiful place.

Joe Walter:

Did you ever think about going back?

William C. Bryant:

I wanted to go back, yes, I wanted. I still want to go back. I'd like to go back over there and travel. Now this is the fatigues. See that was a fatigue uniform.

Joe Walter:

Okay.

William C. Bryant:

That was supposed to be olive drab, I guess. I don't know, what it was supposed to have been.

Joe Walter:

Another picture. These are of Fort McClellan, I see here. Who's John Key Clark?

William C. Bryant:

John Key Clark is -- his wife -- I mean, He's in the Dale Funeral Home --

Joe Walter:

Okay.

William C. Bryant:

And Ms. Easely was the person -- and I think, I don't know whether she was his grandson or something, they were related. And John was another person from Toledo.

Joe Walter:

Okay.

William C. Bryant:

This wasn't necessarily overseas --

Joe Walter:

Okay. Maybe --

William C. Bryant:

But it could have been. I think it was all in training camp. This was when we had them all together. We had -- I don't know how many people were from Toledo -- and this is where we kind of got together and got chosen after our training was over.

Joe Walter:

Okay. Let's see. Next. That looks like the .50 caliber.

William C. Bryant:

.50 caliber. This thing right here. Let me see this thing.

Joe Walter:

Go ahead.

William C. Bryant:

This gun was demonstrated on 60 Minutes a few weeks ago. It's a powerful gun.

Joe Walter:

Yeah.

William C. Bryant:

A .50 caliber. Oh, it was powerful and of course this is me there. We taught this gun. We taught this to the soldiers. Everything you see in here, we taught it. I couldn't get into Artillery, and I couldn't get in. I wanted to get into the paratroopers, and I understand it was the most dangerous, but I wanted to go. I got mad at them because I couldn't, but I couldn't do anything about it. But that gun, it takes three men to carry that thing. It could penetrate metal just like that. It was a good tank.

Joe Walter:

Powerful weapon. We got here, this is Fort McClellan?

William C. Bryant:

All of these right here, this was during the time -- I can't give you the year -- but this was during the year that we were stationed at Fort McCarthy.

Joe Walter:

Okay. This is Alabama, isn't it?

William C. Bryant:

Alabama. Fort McCarthy, Alabama. Anniston. Anniston is the name of the little town.

Joe Walter:

Okay.

William C. Bryant:

We had our wives to come down when we were there. That's how my son was conceived down here. Now, of course, he was quite a bit older, a year old before I saw him.

Joe Walter:

He was born while you were --

William C. Bryant:

He was born, yes, while I was away.

Joe Walter:

While you were away?

William C. Bryant:

I didn't see him until I came home. It was over a year. He was over a year old. I had to explain that.

Joe Walter:

This picture shows a house.

William C. Bryant:

Shows the families. I mean, I don't know. I can't identify much of them. I might have been on one or two. These are the -- this picture right here, this is your barracks.

Joe Walter:

Okay.

William C. Bryant:

They had little houses.

Joe Walter:

Okay.

William C. Bryant:

This was the camp. These are the guys that were training. And we lived in these, okay.

Joe Walter:

Okay.

William C. Bryant:

Our wives would come down. This was in the city of Anniston, which is just a few miles away from our camp. They would give us passes, and we could go there to see our wives over the weekend or at night.

Joe Walter:

Okay.

William C. Bryant:

That was before the war was on.

Joe Walter:

Okay.

William C. Bryant:

And I imagine they keep it up because it was a good moral builder. This was built like part tent and part wood. And of course, they had the mess halls. You can see the mess halls there, and that was it.

Joe Walter:

I'm going to hold up for this one just for a second, and we'll continue on because these were after.

William C. Bryant:

That was after.

Joe Walter:

After you got out. Just ask you a couple questions about after the service. I think you mentioned it about, do you remember the day the war in Europe ended?

William C. Bryant:

Yes.

Joe Walter:

What were you --

William C. Bryant:

As strange as it may seem, it was very quite. I mean, compared to a great thing like this. Everyone just sat around. We're talking aloud about the plans they were going to do after this was over. And there was a certain amount of reference that we had lived through and felt at that particular time. And of course, we did a lot of writing to the loved ones at home to let them know we were okay. And with as much expediency that man can do and could do at that particular time. Those of us who had the number of points -- I forget now how many it was -- anyway, I had the number of points. And of course, I told you I was I was in the process of going to get my Battle Field Commission and bring it back, but I did not. I came on home.

Joe Walter:

Right.

William C. Bryant:

But those who had the points were extradited as quickly as possible.

Joe Walter:

And when you came back to the states, how long were you in there before you processed out of there?

William C. Bryant:

I think we went mustering out -- I forget what they call it. I believe up around New Jersey -- or I can't remember where it was. But we went through the process when we got back. It was terrible coming back compared to going.

Joe Walter:

Why was that?

William C. Bryant:

Storms.

Joe Walter:

Okay.

William C. Bryant:

Thunderstorms out there. We had one of these little old things was dippin' water out there. One of these little -- what do they call those boats that they had, the ones they were making one an hour?

Joe Walter:

The Liberty Ships?

William C. Bryant:

Liberty Ships

Joe Walter:

Yeah.

William C. Bryant:

The Liberty Ships. We went over on a luxury liner, and the only thing we were afraid of were subs. So we came back, only took us 21 days. Nine days to get over to Oran, Africa, and it took us 21 days, I think we came back to New Jersey, I think that's where we landed. And these Liberty Ships there thing was dipping water. We had to cut off the front part of the ship, and it was terrible getting back. But they did do the best to get us back as quickly as possible. These guys had been over there and they'd been fortunate to have missed out on getting shot and all mangled up.

Joe Walter:

So what did you do right after you got out of the Army?

William C. Bryant:

I guess for a while I rested and visited. And then I got a job, some little -- I sold insurance for one thing. I worked as a shipping clerk at a dress shop. I -- then I want into -- I started off working for an employment and training service, which is done by the Department of Labor and started with that and worked for quite some time, and that was when I started getting used to doing this. But before that, I couldn't get anything because I didn't have much -- couldn't find many jobs that required a rifle. I was good at that. I knew I was good at that. So I couldn't find anybody needing a rifle. So I had some skills that I couldn't use. But nevertheless I started this on the job training education program.

Joe Walter:

Did you use the GI Bill?

William C. Bryant:

I used the GI Bill, every inch of it that I could possibly use. I believe -- I knew about it. I told my wife: I'm not getting anywhere. I've got to do something. I'm going to school. And she looked at me, and I looked at her and she says, "Can I go too?" We were joined subsistence. They were paying our books. They were paying our tuition, and they were give $120 a month subsistence, and I said: Sure you could go. So both of us started school. I often say this: People think I'm crazy. I went to school full time. University of Toledo. I worked full time at the Post Office for four years -- four and a half years after I got out of the service as a clerk. And then I went to school full time. I did it all at once. I went to school full time. I was a husband and father. My son was born then. A father full time, and I went to school full time. So that was it. I did all three of them. At the same time my wife went to school. She went on through, and she got her Bachelor, and then later on after she got a job. She graduated in June. In September, she started working for the Board of Education in administration. She went on to get her Masters. I said: No, no. That's too much. That'll almost kill you. If you don't believe, it try it. I wouldn't advise anyone to do anything like that; working full time and going full time working 10 to 12 hours a day.

Joe Walter:

Did you belong to any Veteran's organizations?

William C. Bryant:

Nothing but the Veteran's Administration I think out in South Toledo or something like that but I never --

Joe Walter:

Like the American Legion or the VFW?

William C. Bryant:

No. No, I never did. I was too busy trying to go to school and get an education after I got back because I had missed four years.

Joe Walter:

Do you -- is there any of your fellow veterans that you still see or talk to anymore or reunions or anything like that that you go to.

William C. Bryant:

No, we didn't go to -- it's been so long. We have some friends, but I can't even think of any right now who were there. Many of them are gone. More are gone than those that are here.

Joe Walter:

Sure.

William C. Bryant:

We stay in touch, you know, kind of lazy like.

Joe Walter:

After you got out of school, what was your career after you finished?

William C. Bryant:

I think my first job out of school, I become the Director of the Big Brothers.

Joe Walter:

Okay.

William C. Bryant:

Of the Big Brothers. And that's when I got started in the administration because I took Business of Administration. And so I started directing Big Brothers. This was the first -- Big Brother and Catholics were separate -- we came together.

Joe Walter:

Okay.

William C. Bryant:

And I was the directer, and the other fellow who was with the Catholic was my assistant, and we worked for a number of years like that. And then of course I had several other jobs. I had one I worked for the Department of Labor, various types of information there. We had on the job training and education programs, and I had several other jobs in administration. It was strictly management -- in business management jobs that I was the head of organizations.

Joe Walter:

This is a copy of an article when you were named Big Brother's Director. Let's go back. Here are some pictures I guess we missed.

William C. Bryant:

That's my brother.

Joe Walter:

That's your brother. Okay.

William C. Bryant:

This is my brother John.

Joe Walter:

In the military uniform. And where was he?

William C. Bryant:

He was here. He went to India. He was in India. He was a First Sergeant in India. They had -- it was connected with that, but he was in the same time. I believe it's the Sullivan Act. The Sullivan Act allows only -- they don't allow the last -- a person --

Joe Walter:

Surviving son to be --

William C. Bryant:

-- to be -- there were three of us in the service. He was in India. I was in Italy and my other brother was in -- I don't have a picture of him here -- but he was in, I believe, it was Alabama.

Joe Walter:

Xavier?

William C. Bryant:

Xavier. Xavier I didn't -- he didn't ever have a picture of himself. But anyway, all three of us were in the service. He could not leave the continental United States. That was it then. I don't know about now.

Joe Walter:

The Sullivans were on ship that was killed and so the whole family was -- sons were wiped out; is that right?

William C. Bryant:

I believe that's the one.

Joe Walter:

This is after the war, right?

William C. Bryant:

This is after the war, and I became a member of this fraternity.

Joe Walter:

This picture's was taken in 1955?

William C. Bryant:

Uh-huh.

Joe Walter:

Okay. Where is it taken? It looks like in front of a church or something?

William C. Bryant:

I thing that's University of Toledo.

Joe Walter:

Okay.

William C. Bryant:

You know, the front part there. I think that's where it is.

Joe Walter:

Okay.

William C. Bryant:

I just had that. I was showing that I did have fraternal life, communications. It's a wonderful thing.

Joe Walter:

Let's see --

William C. Bryant:

With this group, I also went to -- about 156 of us went to Italy. I mean, the fraternity did. We had a commission that went to New York and then to Italy. Incidentally, there's another one. I'm busy getting a book on this. Our wives went with us. We were, I forget, about three weeks in all, in and of a convention that started in New York, went to Italy. And we took quite a number of pictures, quite a number of pictures, and I'm in the process of putting together. The good thing about it was that at that particular time around -- well, whatever year it was. I can't remember what years they were. We had a lot of African students here. In fact, one or two lived with us while they were attending University of Toledo and Bowling Green. And I just talk to one of the fellows who was in transportation in the Army in almost the same place I was over in Italy. And he was with this group. I mean, this group that was here. And so I think he has one African woman who came here and graduated from the University, and is still here. What I'm trying to do -- I asked him to get the list together. And so he just called me the other day and told me he has the list. And we can try to do something with that. I'm not sure what we're going to do with it.

Joe Walter:

Couple more pictures here. Last one. Here's one of the Leaning Tower of Pisa?

William C. Bryant:

Oh, that's a beautiful place. It doesn't lean like that anymore.

Joe Walter:

One other one. Here is a picture of the World War II memorial in Washington.

William C. Bryant:

This is in -- I must say that didn't do this one.

Joe Walter:

Okay.

William C. Bryant:

Because the woman who did this --

Joe Walter:

Put that in there for you?

William C. Bryant:

Had it and -- recently during the time we was doing. She said she was in Washington.

Joe Walter:

I was going do ask you, have you visited that memorial?

William C. Bryant:

I haven't visited, but I had -- my wife had a cousin whom we had visited over the years. After we came back from to service, we went to either Washington or New York. We've seen everything up there. Every building that you could think of except this last. I have my granddaughter who's there. They live in Washington. She and her family live in Washington. And they were asking me to come up and spend some time with them. You've got to come up and see it. I was up with all of the buildings including the last one we had.

Joe Walter:

Okay.

William C. Bryant:

The last one, the building the memorial.

Joe Walter:

Have you seen the Franklin Roosevelt Memorial, that series?

William C. Bryant:

Yes. I've been to all of those. I've got to get up there, and see them. I didn't think it was going to be this way. But I got to see that. There's a picture of it over there.

Joe Walter:

Yes. Before we finish up is there anything else that you remember that you want to talk about and put on the record here?

William C. Bryant:

I don't know what you think about it, but the Area Office on Aging received one of those, and they give me the Presidential Award. I guess that's what they call -- let's see. Do I have it over there? Would you mind getting that right there?

Joe Walter:

This?

William C. Bryant:

Right there. I think that's -- that's the one I just received.

Joe Walter:

Oh.

William C. Bryant:

I knew about it. That's the one they gave me.

Joe Walter:

Let me just read this. This is the President's Award from the 25th annual meeting from North West Area Office on Aging. It says: In recognition of distinguished veterans services and outstanding contributions to the progress and quality of life presented by the Area Office on Aging of North Western Ohio to William C Bryant. June 30, 2005. That's pretty good.

William C. Bryant:

Yeah.

Joe Walter:

Anything else about your service in the military or after that you want to --

William C. Bryant:

No. I believe that's probably it. I've probably used up all your tape by now.

Joe Walter:

I do have something that I'm going to ask you to read here for me. Maybe two things. Maybe this synopsis of this book that you've put together, and maybe this little letter that talks about your tour of duty. Would you do that for me?

William C. Bryant:

My induction into the Army of United States of America began September 12, 1941. The tour started at Camp Wolters, Texas. My two brothers, John H. and Xavier C. were eligible and registered as draftees. We were informed that the youngest of three would serve his time in the continental United States. John served a portion of this time in India as a First Sergeant. Xavier spent most of his time in Dothan, Alabama. Jacolyn Bryant Campbell, my granddaughter, urged me to complete this survey and return it to the Army Military Institute in Carlisle's Barracks in Pennsylvania. I went over one year in helping train men for war. Shortly after arriving on the front lines, I was chosen to serve as a platoon sergeant. The unit consisted of African American enlisted men, a few white and black commissioned officers. This unit was assigned to the Fifth Army and under General Mark Clark. The Army began mixing the races at this point. I participated in three other major battles. We were victims of friendly-fire, heavy artillery, shelling and a few bombs. As a result, our company was decimated from it. We were also subject to mines, machine-gun fires, and other small arms. Our unit was reunited with the 92nd division and survivors whet home to their homes in the hope that there would be peace for a long time.

Joe Walter:

I'm glad your granddaughter encouraged you to put this together.

William C. Bryant:

I am too.

Joe Walter:

And there's one before this I think. This talks about your tour of duty. Would you read this one for me too?

William C. Bryant:

My Tour of Duty: Know that I realized that this tour of duty in the Army of the United States would include a European look, seeing several sites like the Leaning of Tower of Pisa, St. Marks Square where pigeons come down everyday at the stroke of 12 noon as if by divinely guided -- by divinely guided. To see this, ride in the Gondola up and down the Grand Canal water way that flow among the ancient castles separated like our streets. Yes, before you ask, they were sitting on pillows in the water. A long look at the Rock of Gibraltar and the Leaning Tower of Pisa was fascinating to look at and walk up to the Fourth floor of the tower where they thought was safe for visitors. This structure is dangerous. It has been closed to the public since 1990. We also had the chance to get within a very close distance of the Rock of Gibraltar when going to Italy. What a pleasure to see people, places and things that we read about and will continue to be fascinating for centuries to come. My time in the service began September the 17th, 1941 and ended December the 30th, 1945. At the time of my entrance into the service, the Army had a rule to cover all draft eligible males. John H., William C., and Xavier C. Bryant are members of the same family. And the rule of the Army was that all of could be sent to a theater and a war but that the youngest could not be sent out of the continental states. John went to India. I went to Italy. Xavier went to Camp Dothan, Alabama. We hope that some of those answers will enlighten and assist those seeking means that will eliminate the killing and maiming of so very many people that seemed so meaningless and cruel. Being a part of a major war such as we have completed has thoroughly convinced me that those -- though thought might be less pertinent -- if we were to only think of maybe a good application of love before we reached the battle field, would help us know that love does not end. It just keeps going on and on. It will fit in every place mankind is courageous enough to put it. This survey cannot begin to answer questions asked. Hopefully, it will assist those who study with the ideas in mind to do things and think of those constructive projects that will make us come short of killing each other in a catastrophe, all for a world peace. William C. Bryant.

Joe Walter:

Well, thank you very much for doing this interview. Thank you very much also for your service.

William C. Bryant:

Well, thank you for the opportunity to do this. We hope that it will do some good. We hope so.

Joe Walter:

Thanks.

William C. Bryant:

Okay. [END OF AUDIO RECORDING]

 
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