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Interview with John Philip Manger By Douglas MacLean Manger, Son February 22, 2002 Resident Bay Home, "Sea Isle" Sub-Division West End of Galveston Island Galveston, Texas

Douglas Manger:

Dad, what branch of the service were you in?

John Manger:

Corps of Engineers.

Douglas Manger:

That was U.S. Army?

John Manger:

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Yes.

Douglas Manger:

What war did you serve in?

John Manger:

Second World War.

Douglas Manger:

What was your rank?

John Manger:

Started out as a 1st lieutenant...[corrected himselfl...2nd lieutenant, and ended up as a captain.

Douglas Manger:

Dad, did you enlist in the Army, or were you drafted? What was the situation? I know you ended up at Ft. Logan, Colorado, at one point. Can you tell us about that?

John Manger:

Well, in high school and in college I was always enrolled in the ROTC program, which was Reserve Officers Training, and when I graduated from college I was still attached to the Reserve Officers Training through the government and so I was given a commission as a 2nd lieutenant in the Army, and I was...I and one of my good friends...both of us selected by the college and by the Army Corps to serve a one year's time as field officers in the U.S. Army.

Douglas Manger:

And just to put a place to this, you were at Michigan Tech?

John Manger:

I was there. I graduated from Michigan Tech in 19...1944, was it? 1934?

Was it '34?

I'm not sure. I can't remember that. [We laugh.]

Douglas Manger:

Now you graduated as a chemical engineer?

John Manger:

As a chemical engineer. And I was selected for one year's training in the U.S. Army as a result of my record in college.

Douglas Manger:

So, you went out to Ft. Logan, Colorado and spent that time out there.

John Manger:

I was sent to...that's right...to Denver, Colorado where the...a branch of the Army...that was Ft. Logan and it was occupied by that time by a ba...not a battalion...but it was a, a portion of a battalion. The Army was using that as a training site for both enlisted and officers. It was all regular Army. From the colonel on down were all officers in the...Regular Army.

Douglas Manger:

Regular Army.

John Manger:

That's right.

Douglas Manger:

Now you spent...you were supposed to spend about a year there, but actually you spent about 10 months.

John Manger:

About 11 months, because a ...

Douglas Manger:

They detected a heart murmur, is that right?

John Manger:

...they detected a heart murmur and a...I was not allowed, because of that, I didn't meet their, their requirements...what's the word I want...

Douglas Manger:

That's good enough.

John Manger:

...of the medical corps and so I was not allowed to take final exams during the...'cause all, all, all during that time at Ft. Logan we were...we took courses part of the time every week and so that we had a pretty good education of the Army and requirements and all that bit.

Douglas Manger:

When you say courses, what was the focus on? What was the concentration on?

John Manger:

You know I can't remember that, but there was a lot of that...that couldn't be...well...

Douglas Manger:

What were there, leadership skills? A lot of leadership skills?

John Manger:

A lot of leadership skills and a lot of review of the capabilities of the Army and of the Corps of Engineers and our particular unit. How does a unit like that survive.

So at that time they were already focusing.. .

Douglas Manger:

the focus was on...?

John Manger:

...being prepared for war.

Douglas Manger:

Right. But it was a Corps of Engineers focus?

John Manger:

Oh, definitely.

Douglas Manger:

So these were all engineering people?

John Manger:

...all engineering people. Yeah.

Douglas Manger:

So it must have been.. .some of the training must have been in bridge building...

John Manger:

Oh, definitely. Yeah.

Road construction...Road construction, mine laying, anything within the scope of that particular unit. We were a...we were thoroughly drilled in things like that. And we had maneuvers in the mountains with other...you know...from around the country. For about two weeks, I think, we, we bivouacked up in the mountains in Colora...or no...in Wyoming, we were up in Wyoming.

Douglas Manger:

An aspect of this that I found interesting, was that, weren't you assigned a horse at this time? Were officers assigned horses?

John Manger:

No, they were available to officers. We had a stable out there operated by the Army and...ah...oh, I don't remember how many horses there were, but we would go in four or five groups and ride in the surrounding territory and in the mountains.

Douglas Manger:

Now just to put a date on this, I'm just referring to your.. .the, the beautiful record you kept here. And the date on this was July, 1938 through May, 1939. You were a platoon leader, 2nd lieutenant, and you were assigned at the time to the 2nd Engineers at Ft. Logan, Colorado.

John Manger:

That's exactly right.

Douglas Manger:

OK. So let's...after that.. .after they decided you had a heart murmur, then you had to go back home?

John Manger:

I was officially retired from the, from the service, but put on the reserved list. I was not released from the, from the possibility of being recalled. So, in the interim, I was looking for a job because war had already started with Japan [this was not the case] and so I found employment with Infilco Degremont...no...Infilco Incorporated in Chicago as an engineer, with them.

Douglas Manger:

Well, let's make a correction here. War actually hadn't started. It would start with the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941. December 7th of'41.

John Manger:

Yeah, that's right.

Douglas Manger:

So you...you were looking for a job in the early '40s, 1940 and early '41.

John Manger:

Yeah, that's right. But the, ah...well, when was...when did...you know we, we, we furnished the Allies with ...

Douglas Manger:

Oh, I beg your pardon. I see what you mean; the war in Europe had started. Yes, of course. I'm sorry, I misunderstood you. Of course, the United States was providing support and military support for the Europeans. We were very definitely involved...

John Manger:

Yes, that's right. We kept our Allies alive because we were able to furnish them what they needed to maintain a war.

Douglas Manger:

Well, I want to keep our focus on the war years so I'm going to move rather quickly here. But, my understanding is you were employed, when you went back east after you were released from Colorado...

John Manger:

I found a job...applied for a job at Infilco...International Filter Company is what it was called, in Chicago. And I worked for them at various jobs around the country...until I was ordered or received a notice from the Army that I was to report for active duty. And that was...ah...

Douglas Manger:

That was in July of 1942.

John Manger:

OK.

July of 1942.

Douglas Manger:

But let's just step back just a minute because in December of 1941 the Japanese invaded Pearl Harbor. And you were...at the time.. .you were working for Infilco. You were in the Los Angeles area.

John Manger:

That's right.

Douglas Manger:

And tell us about, how you heard about the invasion. Where you were.. at...

John Manger:

Well, I had taken the train. I started out from Chicago and I had to...I had to stop in New Mexico to check some equipment there. And then I caught another train from there and went to, to Los Angeles and I checked into the hotel there. The next morning I walked down the stairs, steps from one of the rooms...from my room at the a...the hotel...and I noticed that there were a group of people sit...watching the...a...

Douglas Manger:

Listening to the radio.

...

John Manger:

listening to the radio, yeah...listening to a radio, there...a very famous, Kaltenborn.

Douglas Manger:

very famous, what?

John Manger:

Kaltenborn, I think that was his name. He was a...a...

Radio announcer?...radio announcer and he was describing how the Japanese had attacked Pearl Harbor, and they were still under attack.

Douglas Manger:

Oh, my.

John Manger:

It happened during, during the night. So this was early morning over there. And, I knew then, that I would eventually be called back, reported for active duty.

Douglas Manger:

So that was in December of 1941.

John Manger:

Yeah.

Douglas Manger:

You would eventually be called back in the summer of 1942.

John Manger:

That's right.

Douglas Manger:

So, I know that your boss back in Chicago was... But you eventually made your way up into Wash...to Astoria, Washington...

John Manger:

That's right.

...or is it Astoria, Oregon.

Douglas Manger:

Oregon.

John Manger:

Astoria, Oregon, yeah.

Douglas Manger:

...and that your boss was feeding you information about the possibility of you being called back.

John Manger:

That's right.

Douglas Manger:

...and that eventually happened.

John Manger:

Yeah, it was Ollie Disell. Just a fantastic person [becomes very emotional]. Was our vice-president of sales. But he...he was a, a World War I...he was an officer during World War I, overseas...and...so he understood my position. But he said a...[lost in tears]...you can come back, anytime. [In tears...] No matter how long it takes, you come back. And ...anyway...

Douglas Manger:

So what he was saying, you had a job...

John Manger:

I had a job...anytime I came back. Yes, that's guaranteed. Because you see he was a World War I veteran, and, if I lived through World War II, I would have a job. So, so I checked out the company and then went home and received my orders there ...gone back to Laurium, Michigan...and received a letter from the War Department ordering me, ordering me to report for duty at Ft. Logan, in Colorado.

Douglas Manger:

Well, not really. You were asked to report to Ft. Leonard Wood in Missouri. Right?

John Manger:

No, this was...no...oh, wait a minute, I beg your pardon...yes...yeah, yeah, that's right.

Douglas Manger:

You were...in, in July of 1942 you became a platoon leader.

John Manger:

I was assigned to a platoon in, at Ft. Leonard Wood. Ft. Leonard Wood, Missouri.

Douglas Manger:

It was a training regiment. [conflicting voice over]

John Manger:

Yeah, it was a training regiment. Yeah...Yeah.

Douglas Manger:

OK. Do remember much about that.. .those days.. .the training sessions?

John Manger:

Well, ah. Yes...I, ah...I had been corresponding with ah, with ah, Margaret... after...when I went back East, and ah...so when I was fairly well settled in the...at Ft. Wood...Leonard Wood...why, I called her and asked her to marry me. And that, that's why she came east and we were married there [lapses into tears].

Douglas Manger:

Now you...

John Manger:

Then I was there...aahh...

Douglas Manger:

Now you were there about four months?

John Manger:

Something like that.

Douglas Manger:

pretty long time...

John Manger:

Yeah...

Douglas Manger:

Because eventually you would go...were transferred to this... ...Camp Howze, was it? Whatever it was.

John Manger:

Yes...Camp Howze... Camp Howze, in ah...

...

Douglas Manger:

Gainsville, Texas.

John Manger:

Gainsville, Texas. Right.

Douglas Manger:

And there...ahhh... And that was training...

...training facility, as well.

John Manger:

Yeah.

Douglas Manger:

Now you were there from November of 1942 to April of 1943.

John Manger:

That's pretty good, yeah.

Douglas Manger:

And you were a P and T officer. Or...is it PDT or PNT? PNT? Something to do with training.

That's fine.

Anyway...

But by then you were a 1 t lieutenant.

John Manger:

I was a 1st lieutenant. I got my...my, ah...yeah...because I was a 2nd lieutenant when I, arrived there...and ah...was, ah, given my, ah, 2nd lieutenant, or, 1st lieutenant, in Camp Howze.

Douglas Manger:

At Camp Howze you were with the 31 1th Engineers, 86th Division?

John Manger:

Right.

Douglas Manger:

And then after that you went to Mississippi...to Camp Van Dorn, Mississippi.

John Manger:

Right.

Douglas Manger:

And again...

...for final training.

...final training and you were there, not very long. You were there in May of 1943 from the It of May to the 30th of May.

John Manger:

Oh, hel...we must have been there longer than that.

Douglas Manger:

Well, this is what it says on your record, but perhaps you were. By then you were assigned to the 164th Engineers...Battalion.

John Manger:

Combat Battalion. Yeah.

Douglas Manger:

So you were preparing to go overseas?

John Manger:

Right.

Douglas Manger:

And do you have any recollections of those days.. .those.. .that training period? Or has that...has that pretty much faded into time?

John Manger:

(Laughs) Well, yeah...ahh...we lived in a...the battalion was right on the edge of this little town where we were [Centreville, Mississippi]. Does it name...a name for it?

I don't have a name for this town. I know it was in western Mississippi over by the border, but I don't have a name... Yeah. OK. Anyway, during that time we worked hard and played hard, but Margaret and I went to...your mother and I...went to, to New Orleans. First time I had been there and she had been there, too. So we had a very quick...a...what's the word I want? Very quick...

...

Douglas Manger:

holiday.

...

John Manger:

holiday. And we knew that at any time our orders would be coming in for...to move the whole battalion.

Douglas Manger:

And, you were in charge.. .you were sort of being groomed to be in charge of quite a number of men. Right?

John Manger:

Well, ah, yeah.

Douglas Manger:

So when, when we say.. .well, I mean.. .were you in charge of a platoon, or... I mean, how, how would you characterize...

John Manger:

Well, I can't remember really. I was assigned to a...I never had, had a company...I was always staff.

Douglas Manger:

Oh, you were a staff officer.

John Manger:

A staff officer, all the time, see.

Douglas Manger:

OK.

John Manger:

But because we had a...our assignments were...we had a bunch of 1St lieutenants...(corrects himself)...2nd lieutenants and 1st lieutenants and a captain or two but a...so I never did...I was never assigned duty with the...ahh...well, I was always working out of the staff...a staff officer.

Douglas Manger:

Why do you think that was?

John Manger:

Because of my education.

Douglas Manger:

OK. So you had a pretty, pretty...

John Manger:

I had a good record and a good a...a good education.

Douglas Manger:

But the fact that you went to Michigan Tech--a good engineering school--and the fact that you were trained for a very special program out at Ft. Collins, so you.. .they were sort of grooming you for staff work.

John Manger:

That's right. Yeah.

Douglas Manger:

That's interesting. Well, finally the call came and you.. .and you were...you left.. .well, I am reading from your combat history notes here. The battalion was activated in May of 1943 at Camp Van Dorn, Mississippi and embarked at Camp Shanks, New York on the 26th of February, 1944 in route to England.

John Manger:

Yes, we filled out...we had a lot of...lot of changes in the battalion. A lot of the officers...several of the officers...didn't go with us. We had new ones and so on and so on. But that was the time of, of finally reorganizing...not reorganizing, that isn't the word...equip, fully equip the battalion for actual duty under combat conditions.

Douglas Manger:

Now speaking of equipment, what were you allowed to take and how did you package it in terms of your own.. .well, in the Navy we would call it our duffel bag [in truth, its called a "sea bag"], but in the Army you used a chest. Right? A wooden chest?

John Manger:

Normally the officers were...yes, for the officers. The enlisted men had just a canvass...

Douglas Manger:

Duffel bag...

John Manger:

Duffel bag, yeah.

Douglas Manger:

But you had wooden chests?

John Manger:

We had...which stayed in the States and then were shipped over later on. I didn't get...I, I worked out of a duffel bag...or lived out of a duffel bag, for about a year before I got the chest, and that was a surprise that they shipped them in, but they had to wait 'til the battalion was stabilized in a certain...in a certain position. The Army did a fantastic job. Just the logistics of all that.

Douglas Manger:

Oh, yeah.

John Manger:

... Thousands upon thousands.

Douglas Manger:

But you had that wooden chest in the garage?

John Manger:

That's it. Filled up, my...(trails off)...

Douglas Manger:

It has your name on it, Capt. J. P. Manger...

John Manger:

That's right, yeah.

Douglas Manger:

...your serial number on it.

John Manger:

Right. And, ah, that got that chest to, to, to Europe and back.

Douglas Manger:

Well, you disembarked from New York and then landed on the 10th of March, 1944, you landed at Greenoch, Scotland.

John Manger:

Greenoch, Scotland, right.

Douglas Manger:

And do you remember anything about the passage going over? Do you remember the ship and the conditions?

John Manger:

[Shipped out on the troop transport, S.S. Bienville.] We had, ah...we had, ah...it was stormy--quite stormy--and a lot of people were sick. I was fortunate though, I could remember some of my friends--officers--were always heaving up in the...in the, ah...in the john. I've forgotten what it's...

Douglas Manger:

On a ship it's called a "head." The term on a ship, the bathroom is called a head.

John Manger:

Oh, yeah. That's right, yeah. In the head, yeah. And I've forgotten, it was a...the ship that was on our port bow...(corrects himself)...starboard bow...was a...had just been rebuilt after being hit by a submarine. So, they told us that when we...when we found out who we...who we were (swallows the words) guarding it(?). It was a big trans...big convoy, and you didn't see a lot of it, because the weather was bad. But a...we...the whole battalion was in one ship.

Douglas Manger:

Wow. How many men do you think? Just.. .just off the cuff, how many men do you think there were?

John Manger:

About...ahh...7...800. And then we were in the stern. We had......a..a black outfit in the bow. And they kept us apart.

Douglas Manger:

Oh, you're kidding. OK, I understand. So the African-Americans were kept separately......

John Manger:

oh, yes...

Douglas Manger:

... forward.

John Manger:

Very much so.

Douglas Manger:

So, the 164th Engineering Combat Battalion was segregated? It was all white.

John Manger:

It was all white. Yeah.

There were no blacks.

Douglas Manger:

So the blacks were with another...

John Manger:

The blacks had their own units.

Douglas Manger:

I see.

John Manger:

Ahh...when they got to...when they got to ca, ca...to France...ah...they built the roads, they drove trucks...truck drivers. Did a fantastic job. They were all blacks. Half of them killed themselves in driving, you know, in the narrow roads and so on. There were ...you should...there were more over, overturned trucks full of supplies and so on. But they did a fantastic job. And, ah, they didn't like the whites...(laughs) anymore...we were supposed to dislike the blacks. I liked them.

Douglas Manger:

. On the ship going over did you... did they eat separately, as well?

John Manger:

Everything was separate.

So you really didn't...

They couldn't...ahh...we couldn't...well, we could go forward on the deck...the officers could, but...ahh...the ahhh...everybody was completely segre...segregated.

Douglas Manger:

When you landed in Eng...in Scotland, do have any memories of that landing and what it was like, and what it looked like?

John Manger:

Well, we landed, late at night, and I can't remember what it was. Probably because of submarine alerts and so on. Yeah. But I do remember that the [begins to break down in tears] there was a Scots...a Scotch, ah ...ahhh...

Douglas Manger:

Piper Band? ...

John Manger:

Piper Band. And I ended up...and I can remember the, the...I don't remember what they call him...

Douglas Manger:

...the drum major.

John Manger:

...drum major. Great big fat, Scotch...[in tears]...

Douglas Manger:

That was really touching. So they were there to receive you?

John Manger:

Yep.

Douglas Manger:

That's great.

John Manger:

And then we boar...boarded a train sometime during the night. And we (muddled in tears) had to get as much of that done 'cause, at that time, the, ah, Germans were bombing Great Britain, too.

Douglas Manger:

And did you...as an officer, did you handle your own gear? ...the duffel bag and all that.

John Manger:

Yes.

Douglas Manger:

That was your responsibility?

John Manger:

That was our responsibility, except for the chap...or, the colonel. He had an orderly, and, so he carried (words swallowed)... The rest of us carried our own duffel bags.

Douglas Manger:

Now did you travel, as a staff officer, did you travel with the top echelon? I mean, were you always around the colonel?

John Manger:

Most of the time, yes, because we...since we were on staff...we, ah...we, ah...were not segregated, per se, but the officers were separate from a... the staff officers were separate...they had there own...(swallows word)...on the train.

Douglas Manger:

Now was this...when you said the lieutenant, is that Lieutenant Colonel Cameron? Was that...

John Manger:

No.

...that was somebody before. Yea, and this is what I can't remember. The, ah...I remember...does it mention in, in this...ah...?

[Pause tape]

Douglas Manger:

We were talking about the colonel who came over with you.

John Manger:

Yeah. He, he was commanding officer. And for the life of me I can't remember his name, but ah...he was a strange sort of a person...very jittery...and ah, he got sick almost from the time that we embarked, to the time we landed, so I was assigned the job of running the battalion, during that time, since I was operations officer. And, he wouldn't come out. I'd report to him at the...in his stateroom...and he was, ah...

...

Douglas Manger:

so this was on the ship then?

John Manger:

...on the ship..."jackass"...yeah. And, later on in England he was...he was... removed.

Douglas Manger:

It sounded like he had a bad case of nerves?

John Manger:

Yeah. Well, he was a...he was strange. The one we had...we, we had a, ah...an academy graduate...

...West Point.

Douglas Manger:

West Pointer...

John Manger:

yeah...as our commanding officer during...during the training days. But, ah, he was relieved and he was a good man so they wanted to keep him over there. But, ah, so he was relieved and replaced by this colonel...lieutenant colonel...and for the life of me I can't remember him, because during that time they were shif...shifting battalions and companies and everything else back and forth.

Douglas Manger:

Well, let's get back to England, now. You.. .you've landed in Scotland...

John Manger:

...landed in Scotland...

Douglas Manger:

...on the 10th of March, 1944 and then you made your way down to Payneswick, England and you arrived there on the 11th of March, 1944. That was just a day trip down there. Do you remember, did you go by train? Is that...well...is that your recollection?

John Manger:

They must have, but I'm not sure. Ah...there was a railroad station within twenty miles of us, and ah...but I, we must have received our...our a...a lot of our transportation...our trucks and so on, but, ah, that's, that's where my mind goes blank...how we got there.

Douglas Manger:

Well, it's interesting, because I looked on the map and tried to find Painswick and it's... it's gone. [Gloucestershire, England]

John Manger:

...Painswick-on-Stroud, was the full...

Douglas Manger:

Oh, OK.

...

John Manger:

Painswick-on-Stroud. But ahh...the biggest town, was about ten-fifteen miles away, I guess it was.

Douglas Manger:

And what was the base like there? What was the...do have any remembrances of...?

John Manger:

And this was open pasture. We were bivouacked on the estate...a huge estate...and the...the mayorhoff, and so on, was on the hill above of us and we were on the side of a ...(begins to swallow words)...partially hill...but the whole battalion was...was bivouacked there.

Douglas Manger:

Now when you say battalion, once again, refresh my memory, how many folk... how many guys in a battalion?

John Manger:

About 700...roughly...yeah. So we were bivouacked in open pasture.

Douglas Manger:

So you had to put up tents?

John Manger:

...put up tents...we had a...we had "jerry" cans...not jerry cans...but a, for sanitary purposes, very carefully watched. And, and all that was held by the battalion, plus a...

Douglas Manger:

Now what is a "jerry" can?

John Manger:

Jerry can is actually a, like a, ah, gasoline can. You know...it's flat sided...it's hard to describe, it's...

Douglas Manger:

. ...but what is it's function?

John Manger:

Gasoline. We call those...you've seen those?

Douglas Manger:

You mean for fuel?

John Manger:

Yeah.

Douglas Manger:

And they were called "jerry"...are you saying jerry...

John Manger:

They were called jerry cans.

Jury?

J e r r y...jerry cans.

Douglas Manger:

And they were cans of gasoline?

John Manger:

They were cans of gasoline, that's right. Now those...those kept us supplied with fuel and so on.

Douglas Manger:

Very important.

John Manger:

Yes, but, ah...the...I can't remember what the British...if it wasn't...well, I can't remember how we handled the battalion waste, but it was all...all worked out by the time we got there.

Douglas Manger:

Now, did you interact with British officers?

John Manger:

No. No. Only...only they would entertain the staff. There was a British...I don't know whether it was an airdrome, or,...what they called an airdrome...but, ah, we had...we had lunch several occasions with the British staff.

Douglas Manger:

So they were close at hand?

John Manger:

They were close at hand, yeah.

Douglas Manger:

And, did you go into town and drink with these fellows, or...?

John Manger:

No, we didn't. Didn't associate with them except a...for (garbled)... A courtesy thing...

A courtesy thing was accepted...expected by both sides, see. And I'm sure we entertained them, too. But, ah, they had the facilities... much better facilities because they were in permanent quarters.

Douglas Manger:

Do you remember any of these encounters with these officers, British officers?

John Manger:

Just ah...very...I can only remember once that we had a...a lunch there. Maybe we had a dinner; no, I don't think so. But we...we, ah, met there (sic.) staff and, ah...I can't remember all the...I have may have...may have been the colonel and I and his aid de camp, who was a good friend of mine. He was a...(trails off).

Douglas Manger:

Well, by this time you had made captain, according to your notes, here, that you were a captain by this time. And that you were, once again, associated with the 164th Engineering Combat Battalion. Do you remember when you made the captaincy, where you were?

John Manger:

I must have picked that up in the States. Do I mention that?

Douglas Manger:

Well, perhaps you were made captain just prior to leaving the states.

John Manger:

Ah, it very well could be.

Douglas Manger:

Because a.. .well that's interesting. I didn't know that you were a staff officer. That's very interesting because certainly in my experience in the Navy, for example, staff officers are kind of the elite and they're treated with much respect and difference by ...

John Manger:

Well, we are too...we were too, yeah. You had to...you had to maintain a ...a...a...what's the word I want...well, anyway...yes, we were...we had similar...our personnel, or our officer staffs were not as rigid as, the Navy was very strict, but we couldn't, ah...we couldn't associate with staff...except our own personal staff...folks who were with me down there...(garbled)...that we were all part of a, a company.

Douglas Manger:

Well, so, you were preparing to go across the English Channel and do you remember what these preparations were like?

John Manger:

Well. A. ...ah...very little of that I can, I can remember, but we, we had to do training in, in all the things that we were supposed to be proficient in. We couldn't, we couldn't train in bridge building and or anything like that, but, ah, we did a...weapons...weapons...I'm pretty sure we...well, but...I can't remember.

Douglas Manger:

Now is a combat battalion--engineering combat battalion--do they, are they armed, or is it strictly a construction battalion?

John Manger:

No, you were armed. You were expected to fight if necessary, in fact we were...we were...several, several of our troops later on were sent into the lines.

Douglas Manger:

OK. Now what kind of arms did you, did you maintain? I mean rifles, and the like?

John Manger:

I'm not sure of all that. We had machine guns, I know that, and every man was equipped with a, a, ah, rifle. And officers had side arms.

Douglas Manger:

I noticed there are pictures of you with a holster. You must have carried a holster.

John Manger:

Yeah, that's right. And...ah...ah, we all carried knifes, too. We were told...each m...each man had a...had a knife, also, in a scabbard...in a scabbard, yeah.

Douglas Manger:

I remember your knife.

John Manger:

Yeah.

Douglas Manger:

You had it for many years.

John Manger:

Yeah.

Douglas Manger:

Well, on June the 30th, 1944 you crossed the English Channel and landed at Utah Beach. Did you remember that beach landing at all? Do you have any memories of that? [Note: 58 years ago.]

John Manger:

Just riding...riding a...coming ashore in a landing craft. You know they take 30 or 40 or 50 people at a time and run it up on the beach. Which is the way everything was done, in those days. That's about all I can remember. And it was done at night, I know that.

Douglas Manger:

What was your job specifically once you hit the beach? What was... what was your role in all this?

John Manger:

Well, I was responsible for...to the battalion commander...to get things organized, best I could. I don't remember any of that, at all. [pause] I know we were...we landed at night...I couldn't...we got...we got separated, somehow. See, it was raining and I climbed into one of the trucks with a...ammu...how we got there, I don't know...we probably had a guide...that the Army had sent...or the area commander had sent down to guide us to our...they had camp grounds...facilities there. Now how that was handled I don't know, but we had to...we erected tents and so on.

Douglas Manger:

OK. And your...your primary mission as you started working your way from France into Belgium and then into Engl...into Germany...was to build bridges and to maintain roads.

John Manger:

Right.

Douglas Manger:

And here on... on this copy here, it says, you built what they term pile-bent bridges... pilebent bridges.

John Manger:

Pile-bent...wooden bridges. Pilings, pilings, see.

Douglas Manger:

Well, this is.. .I mean, that requires a lot of.. now you had to cut trees?

John Manger:

In some cases we had...had they...yeah...

Douglas Manger:

...not to bring everything from England, in terms of supplies?

W

John Manger:

Well, yes, there were...prefabricated bridge sections, and so on...and those were a...heavy pon...

Douglas Manger:

Pontoons?

John Manger:

Pontoon.

But, some are like this? [example shown]

Douglas Manger:

No, here...no...yes...infantry carried those. Those are little...you know...that, that was...that was a...what do you call it?

So that wasn't a pontoon bridge?

John Manger:

This was a pontoon...see these were all pontoons here...pontoons here. A bridge company would, would bring those up. Bridge company would come up...the infantry had...I can't remember what they were, but just one man at a time [garbled]...some of the infantry equipment.

Douglas Manger:

Well, these pontoons were brought up on flatbed trucks and then off-loaded... is that how they were...with cranes? Is that how they put them in place?

John Manger:

Ah, pontoons, yeah. They were...no, they didn't have cranes...they were brought in by trucks. And, ah...

Douglas Manger:

How did they get the pontoons off the trucks?

John Manger:

Slide them off. Slide them off, yeah.

Douglas Manger:

So they weren't real heavy?

John Manger:

Well, they were pretty heavy, but, we had some pretty big trucks bringing them in. But, ah...these, these, ah, pontoons...(garbled)...the semi-permanent...they were semi-permanent until a permanent bridge could be built.

Douglas Manger:

Now you...as you worked your way...you were sort of.. in general terms, how far behind the front were you? Were you in proximity to the front line combat areas or were you well back?

John Manger:

Well, I can't remember. You can always hear the...hear them...sometimes we, we could have been...

[Side A on tape expires.]

Douglas Manger:

Well, again, we were talking about your proximity to the front lines and you were ...you were mentioning...

John Manger:

Yeah, we were never bombed or strafed...except...oh yeah, we were at the Remagen Bridge. Yes.

Douglas Manger:

Well, what about...I'm just reading these notes here...that you worked your way into (pause). Dad, you made your way from France...just to paraphrase this again.. .you landed on the 30th of June, 1944, and you landed at Utah Beach and began operations in France. You began...the battalion began construction at Beuzeville, La Bastille, France, the first pile-bent bridge to be built on French soil by Allied forces since D-Day.

John Manger:

Yeah.

Douglas Manger:

And then you started making your way. And you made your way through Belgium and you ended up building...one of the highlights was the construction of a pile-bent bridge 270' long... [phone rings, tape paused].. .You made your way into Belgium and one of the...one of the most interesting projects you had was in Dinant, Belgium and you built a bridge in about 7 days time. Do you have any remembrances of that?

John Manger:

Yeah. I remember doing a recon in the surrounding area to a...to locate material...we sent troops out...we took over existing lumber mills and saw mills, and so on and so.

Douglas Manger:

Well, you said you took them over, you just sent...

John Manger:

Just moved in on them. Yeah. And we, we had given free, free rein. The canals...this was a...not canal...the river there...there were a number of barges--family owned barges--the family's home that they were...commercial barges. And I remember going aboard one and they just pleaded with me, "Don't take our home. You can't take our home." And I said, "We...don't worry, we won't touch it." So, we respected their wishes because we were in Belgium in...in, ah, friendly territory. But, ah...we, ah...we got help from some of the other battalions [garbled] so that indicates that we had a...we had a warehouse, we had survey crews, we had...we had some heavy equipment people...well, a lot of them had to haul out all the timber...timber that had to be cut...so [garbled] on the bridge and so that was our...

Douglas Manger:

Well, the pile-bridge was a permanent bridge, then?

John Manger:

Yeah.

Douglas Manger:

So, you would put down a pontoon bridge first?

John Manger:

No, we put a...we drove piles.

Douglas Manger:

But, why would you...I mean, if you...if the pontoon bridge could be done faster, why wouldn't you just lay a pontoon bridge first and then...then go back later on and build a pile [bent] bridge?

John Manger:

Well, they wanted something that would hold up for awhile. That whole pile [bent] bridge was washed away with one storm, see. All the piling was...we...we used pile drivers...I've forgotten how we made them...but, it was...well, you see the picture of it.

Douglas Manger:

Well, pile driver, was it a steam-powered pile driver or do you remember?

John Manger:

We probably...was a......or diesel operated, probably?

Well, it wasn't diesel operated. It was mechanically operated, but I can't remember. We had...you pull a...a weight up a...yeah...and we could do that with...with a...trucks. I've forgotten how we did it, but we did it.

Douglas Manger:

I understand what you're saying and a weight would drive the piling down into the ground.

John Manger:

But, you only had a...we thought that they would...the piling would be driven permanently, but talking to the...the Belgium's later on, when we went back there, they said well there...it was washed away because the...the river was so strenuous...so swift.

So it didn't hold?

Didn't hold. But it held long enough for them to rep...get another bridge built, see. Repair this...to repair this one, probably.

Douglas Manger:

Were you surprised at the level of devastation as you worked your way across? I mean, what, what did surprise you, or, was it pretty much as you thought it would be?

John Manger:

Ah, it was what I expected. Some of the towns...both in Belgium and in a...Germany were hardly touched. But other towns...it all depends how long the...it took the...us to knock the Germans out, or, they knocked us out, see. So there was an awful lot of damage.

Douglas Manger:

Now, just getting down to the nitty-gritty of feeding yourself, and, how was the chow? How was the food? What did you eat?

John Manger:

Well...

Douglas Manger:

Army food, or was it...

John Manger:

Rations provided by the Army. All those rations had to be a...a...came in from...from Europe...[corrects himself]...or, from the States. Yeah. And, ah, they were packaged...and, as I remember it, a...not all of the time...we did in some cases, we, we each had our kitchens...kitchens...and, each company...[garbled]...I've forgotten there...but anyway, we had cooks and so on and everybody got in the chow line every morning and every noon...or not noon, we could be out in the field...that evening...so the food was...was good. The Army did a fantastic job.

Douglas Manger:

Do you remember specifically what you ate...or...probably too long ago?

John Manger:

Yeah.

Douglas Manger:

I am just wondering if you had much meat?

John Manger:

I'm sure we did because if we were...there were cows in the vicinity they were slaughtered. And, ah...

Douglas Manger:

Did the enlisted men eat the same thing as the officers?

John Manger:

Yes, sir.

Douglas Manger:

There was no distinction?

John Manger:

No distinction. No. And later on when we were in wine country...we had wine...they, the enlisted men, would beat us to it.

Douglas Manger:

So you were taking what you needed along the route?

John Manger:

Ah, yeah.

Douglas Manger:

Confiscating...

John Manger:

Confiscating, yeah.

Douglas Manger:

Do you ever...do you remember...you mentioned this incident aboard one of these barges. But do you ever remem...did you have much contact with civilians or even the resistance people in these countries? Do you remember having...

John Manger:

We were not supposed to...to have much contact with the...with the people. But you couldn't help. They were very, very friendly. They wanted to see the...the Germans kicked out, see. But, ah, and in some cases we billeted in their homes during the winter time. I forgot about that. We billeted in homes in the winter time in a good many cases, but as we got closer to the front...closer to the...to the Rein (sic.)...wherever possible we, we billeted in the existing homes that are down there, buildings, let's say.

Douglas Manger:

Do you remember some of those situations, particularly in Belgium, for example? Do you.. .do you remember any of those surroundings? There's a picture, for example, of a mural, very elaborate mural on a wall in this collection, picture collection here.

John Manger:

Oh, that was a...in Belgium at a castle that we took over for battalion headquarters. That's where that came from. But in the meantime all the troops around us were ...were protected...they were in housing, too...take over the whole thing.

Douglas Manger:

Now did you sleep on cots or on.. .on the floor? How did that work? Did you.. .I know you had a bedroll.

John Manger:

We had...slept on the ground.

Douglas Manger:

Just slept on the ground most of the time?

John Manger:

Yeah.

...

Douglas Manger:

or on the floor?

John Manger:

Yeah. And, see there were two men to a puk, puk...pick-up tent.

Douglas Manger:

Pup tent.

John Manger:

Yeah. And every man had his bedroll and...(garbled)...tent, and so on.

Douglas Manger:

But when you took over someone's home then you would sleep in someone's bed, obviously.

John Manger:

Sometimes, yeah. It all depends, yeah.

Douglas Manger:

But what would become of them. They would just have to leave and go elsewhere?

John Manger:

They...they...they'd have to...a lot of them left of their own accord because they were afraid. But, ah, in some cases, ah, the....rent...owners stayed with them. It all depends on the situation and each situation was different.

Douglas Manger:

As you made your way across Belgium, just in general what were your feelings about...I mean, did you...how did you feel? Were you stressed out a lot, or, were you worried about your men and the situation. I mean, what was your general demeanor day-today...as you remember it?

John Manger:

Well, it was...if you...if you were continuously moving, it was...it was stressed. But ah, in some cases we'd...we'd have to stop for three or four days, a week, sometimes two weeks, to get things done...and give you time to a...to a...recover from some of the stressful things. But, ah...for instance in...in the...I don't remember what...how long were in the...a...some of those places where we were...were putting a pile-bent...pile-bent bridges...

Well, for example, this place, here, in Dinant... ...that's Dinant.

Douglas Manger:

You must have been there awhile.

John Manger:

Yeah, yeah, we were there...I'm sure we were quartered all through there. Sometimes, ah...ah...the, ah...the battalion would have to be split up because there weren't enough...for instance, here, was it Dinant, or was it...at, ah...we'd leave a platoon, or, ah...well, I can't remember. Anyway, we would utilize whatever was available, especially in the winter time, for the troops...and ah...so, we...we may have had our ...at Dinant, we may have had our...command post...right at the site, but a...the other...other personnel that were not used for bridge construction would be assigned to rebuilding roads...or building small bridges, in the area. We were always...always utilized.

Douglas Manger:

In terms of your day-to-day regimen, did you work set hours, or, because you were in a combat situation, did you just work all the time? How did that work? Did you...in other words, did you have crews working shift work 24 hours per day?

John Manger:

In some cases, yes, we did that, but ah, you couldn't a...ah...that was a little dangerous for...for the troops...because the...the Germans were flying, ah...all the time...firing...they had a lot...very heavy guns, too.

Douglas Manger:

So you were being fired upon in some cases?

John Manger:

In some cases, yeah. Not always, but if you were close enough to the ac...to the front, why you could catch a shell, occasionally.

Douglas Manger:

When was the first time you saw a German fighter plane? Was that in Germany or in Belgium? Do you recall?

John Manger:

I'm sure it was in Belgium, or it could be in France, too, because, ah... Oh, yes.

Yeah. But, ah, the first time we were really...ah...came into contact with the...the Germans...they were flying...I did know at one time...but they...they were fighters... [garbled]...when they...they were...

Douglas Manger:

Was this in...at Remagen (Germany)?

John Manger:

At Remagen. Yeah.

Douglas Manger:

Before we touch base on that, I want to focus in on that, because that was definitely the high point.. .would you say the high point of your experience?

John Manger:

Right.

Douglas Manger:

So what happened is.. .I'm.. .I'm reading this from this copy, here. On December 22, 1944 the battalion was billeted at Brand, Germany when it was ordered to support the 7th Corps when the German army broke through the Ardennes. In other words, the Battle of the Bulge was beginning, so you had to hop to in a hurry.

John Manger:

Yeah.

Douglas Manger:

And do you remember anything about that? You...you were ordered to start construction of a floating baby bridge at Ardennes...excuse me...Andenne, Belgium. Maybe this was it, here.

No, that was another one.

...Ardennes, Belgium, across the Muse River (sic.). It says this bridge was vital for the flow of supplies to the front line troops.

John Manger:

Yeah, that's why we...we were pulled back. Our battalion was...was pulled back to work on some of those...because everything had been...all the bridges had been bombed or knocked out by the Germans, and a...

Douglas Manger:

Did this come as a great surprise to everybody that the Germans lashed out like...at this?

John Manger:

No, they expected it. You expected it. Don't take anything for granted.

Douglas Manger:

Well, they came on with a vengeance, didn't they?

John Manger:

Oh, boy, did they ever.

Douglas Manger:

This was their last-ditch effort.

John Manger:

And, they...they had...I've forgotten how many divisions and many corps...they had several corps...with very heavily armed...equipment...and they pushed us back...well, we didn't...we were pulled back when the bulge was getting a little close and then we were sent into Belgium...further into Belgium...to build those other bridges. But, ah, I can remember watching these...some of these poor guys walking down the line...front lines in a...in a snowstorm, single file, nothing but a pack and a rifle... [in tears]...

Terrible.

They knew they'd be dead in a...just a matter of a day...you know...or some...but ah, our sister battalion was overrun...they pulled out...but, too late and so they were overrun. And, when the...the front was...was pushed back a little bit, they went back to their old camp site and one of the officers-a friend of mine-found his...his wife's picture... [in tears].

So sad.

Anyway, ah...

Douglas Manger:

So then you... you managed to collect yourselves and you pushed into Germany?

John Manger:

Yeah, that's right. Yeah, that's right.

Douglas Manger:

And you ended up...

John Manger:

That, that little situation there on the...on the...I remember that...we...we built a...a...a...a bridge across the Muse (sic.)...repaired a bridge across the Muse, and then, we, ah...it was snowing all this time and the front was...had been...had been...the front had been pushed back...into, ah...Belgium. And, ah...what were the...the Germans...they never did get...what was the...the town? We...we never got there, but, ah... What in the hell was it?

Douglas Manger:

Want to stop and look at the map? [Pause]

So, in the Battle of the Bulge, you were...

John Manger:

We were pushed back and we built a...built a bridge...across the...in a snowstorm...across one of the br...one of the streams...must have been around the 80's [?][garbled], but anyway...they wanted to bring the...some British troops down, and, so, we built a bridge during...overnight...in a snow storm, and, ah, they were...those Scotch...[garbled] ...mounted...mounted mobile artillery. And, ah, they took off and they were headed toward this other big place...town...where...where the highway ended up, and got into a fire fight, we found out later, and lost about half their people. The Germans were expecting them. And, ah, but ah...they kept going...and ah...didn't get any closer. I saw one German tank that was in a ditch when I was on a reconn later on, but ah...then...that...the Army had cleared things, pushed the...the, ah...Germans back across...across the Rhine.

Douglas Manger:

Now, I want to focus on a couple of things. During your, this movement, were you getting any mail from the States?

John Manger:

Ahhhh...no.

Douglas Manger:

No contact at that point.

John Manger:

Well, we didn't have time and they...

Douglas Manger:

Moving too quickly...

John Manger:

Moving too quickly and, ah, yeah.

Douglas Manger:

OK. And you eventually found your way into Germany and were ordered to...to Remagen. And this was a big...This was a...Big deal... Big deal...

You...and that bridge...can you tell us about that experience? What that was like?

John Manger:

Well ah, we, ah, we got the, ah...the battalion commandeer and I drive all night in a snow storm from where we'd been up in Belgium, somewhere, and, ah, with his driver, and ah, to...to, ah, get to Remagen just as fast as we could because we'd been ordered to...to move our people up there.

Douglas Manger:

Now this is the 7th of March, 1945.

John Manger:

Was that it?

Yeah.

OK. Well, it was a...we, ah, found headquarters...and, ah...the next morning and then I walked down to the bridge while we were getting set up. And, ah...it was...ah...I don't think I crossed the bridge that day, but, ah, the next day I did, did a reconn. I sent our reconn people ahead and they crossed the bridge. We were getting troops across. There were a lot of...dead bodies on the...on the bridge, and...ours...mostly. And, ah, but, ah, we were getting troops through to the other side so they could set up a...a, ah...

Douglas Manger:

Kind like a staging area...

John Manger:

Staging area on the other side, see.

Douglas Manger:

Now did you repair the bridge or were you just trying to secure the bridge to make sure it didn't go down?

John Manger:

We were trying...well, we were trying to do both, but we didn't have a...ah...didn't have the necessary e...e...equipment to repair the bridge. Ah, we, ah, we were working on, ah...that had...that, had to be brought in. But, ah...there was enough repairs made, temporarily-I can't remember how we did it-but, ah, to get some of the heavy equipment...not the heavy equipment...but, ah, the trucks and so on, across.

Douglas Manger:

Now just to place this in context, Remagen is south of Bonn on the...on the Rhine River.

John Manger:

...on the Rhine River.

Douglas Manger:

And the Germans were adamant that...that, you weren't going to secure this, so you were under fire? Were the Germans strafing you at this time?

John Manger:

Ah, the, ah, second or third day...we were in, we were strafed, ah, by, ah...two...two, ah...ah...groups of, fighters...will, they were, yeah, one of them were fighters [garbled]...yeah...but by that time we had...had, ah...brought up some, ah, mobile equipment and so we were able to put those on...on the, ah...the...the banks. [I believe the reference here is to anti-aircraft guns which were brought in] And so when, the, the fighters came in, they went...ah, we were able to...to form a...a shield--sort of speak-in, in the sky, so they had, the fighters had to fly through this, and, ah...the first time they tried, all, all were shot down. I think there were four two times; there were eight fighters in, in two...two, ah...what's the word I want?

Douglas Manger:

Sweeps.

John Manger:

Sweeps, yeah. And, ah, they were all shot down, except one German pilot got out of his plane and, and jumped in a [paralchut. But then, every gun in the...was pointed at him, so he didn't make it. Ah, the next time we were down, I was on the other side of the bridge making a reconn for where we could put our...our, ah...foot, footings for, ah, a floating bridge, and we came under fire again. And, ah, the ah, they, they were all shot down, again. The third time-about a week later, I guess it was--I can remember, we were, I was back on the other shore, but, ah, and the, we shot them down again except one fighter came over and he banked, right over my head, ah, and I could...I could read his fa...face, at the time, ah, but, ah, that was the last time they, they made it. I can't remember all the details, you know, but, ah, I can remember lying flat on my ground...or ground...[garbled]. A good friend of mine was, was right in the ditch behind me, and, ah, I looked for him and the machine guns were hitting him right over his head...just a line of, of bullets.

Douglas Manger:

Did he make it through?

John Manger:

He made it through. I said, "Come over here and lie flat." And he did, and, so we didn't lose anybody. But we almost did. If had stood up, he had been shot, cut to pieces. But, ah, ah, from there on, we only, we had no problem. The front had been moved back, because the Germans had a, had pulled back quite far. They knew they were losing it, and they, they lost...all their fighters, and heavier equipment that they used, were all, gone.

Douglas Manger:

Dad, you lost a jeep driver during the war. Where did that happen?

John Manger:

It happened, ah...

Douglas Manger:

Was that in Germany or in Belgium?

John Manger:

It was in Belgium.

Douglas Manger:

And what happened?

John Manger:

I'm trying to remember [long pause].

Douglas Manger:

Well, that's alright.

John Manger:

We'll, we'll just... No, ah. Ah, we were still...troops were still coming across. Ah, I was a [garbled] had our se...see...[struggling]...I...I can't remember, where...

Douglas Manger:

That's alright, Dad.

John Manger:

But ah, well, that was one of the awful things [that?] happened. Ah...

Douglas Manger:

Did you send him on an errand, or...?

John Manger:

I sent him on...it was, my jeep driver...and I sent my, one of my good friends who was, ah, on my staff. I said you take my jeep, and, ah, go down to the river and find out what's going on. We, we had to be, at, at...on the river. Ah, and, ah, 'cause this colonel, Carl Rehann [?], said, "Find out in a hurry what happened. Our line is broken." So I, I...

Douglas Manger:

A phone line?

John Manger:

Yeah, we had some phone lines, laid down there. And, I did, send him, him down there, and, ah...about an hour later, got a call from the, from down there, beach somewhere, and they said that, ah...ah...your people are killed...have been killed. Ah, ah, first one, the officer. They got him to an aids station, but he died, there. He had been laying on the...on the...on the...on the area, there. And, ah, the next day I walked down the river with some more GI's and I saw my jeep and he was sitting there [begins to cry] ...he was still sitting in my jeep...bent over[?].

Douglas Manger:

So he got hit by, ah, just random fire?

John Manger:

He was dead. He had been killed while...while he was in the jeep.

Douglas Manger:

Was it a land mine, Dad, or...?

John Manger:

No, it was a...well, I...it could have been a, ah...a fighter, German fighter, spraying the area. No, it wasn't a land mine, I don't believe. But a... I'm sorry.

But that, that was a...from then on, ah, we had to, we moved out a little further and put up ah, ah, ah, ah, nets across the Rhine to stop any further, ah, penetration by the German swimmers, and so on, and we caught one swimmer that they brought into my CP, and, ah...

Douglas Manger:

Now what is a CP?

John Manger:

Command Post.

Douglas Manger:

OK.

John Manger:

I had...that was a...back at the... This was back in Remagen, again.

Back at Remagen, again. But ah, I couldn't, my German wasn't good, so I just sent him back to the headquarters. But ah, everything doesn't, doesn't...doesn't seem to mesh, but it, it meshed, alright.

Douglas Manger:

But so, in terms of supplies for the units, you were well supplied? I mean, that wasn't a frustration. You did have the materials you needed to get the job done?

John Manger:

Yeah, because we could, there were some other heavy bridge companies, units, so on, but, ah, unfortunately...I, ah...ah...a heavy...I can't...

Douglas Manger:

Heavy equipment?

John Manger:

Heavy equipment company had come in too, with, ah...ah...and they were, we were, they were repairing the bridge. Ah, they had all the necessary equipment to repair the, the thing. And...all of a sudden...

The bridge went.

The bridge fell down. It was so weak, you know. And somebody had cut the wrong thing, or, or, one of the members had, had just, ah, given wa...out.

Douglas Manger:

So the bridge you spent all the time, ah, reinforcing and securing came down.

John Manger:

Yeah, that's right, with, with about twenty of their people on it. So they lost twenty or twenty-sev- five people, who had dealt with the bridge.

Douglas Manger:

Well, they just went down river. Were they recovered, do you think, or...?

John Manger:

They were, died. They died there.

Douglas Manger:

Oh, did they.

John Manger:

Yeah, yeah.

Douglas Manger:

So you scrambled immediately to reconstruct the bridge, or did you just leave it at that point?

John Manger:

No, we, ah, we, ah...we stayed there for awhile--I can't remember how long. But by that time there was another bridge, a floating bridge put in, and, ah...and they were protecting the ... Well, and I had a talk to the captain who was in charge of the thing and, and, ah, he was standing on the bank. But, ah...they were on the, on the other side of the bridge from us, and, ah, they were putting out their, ah, pontoon bridges, bridge, ah, as fast as they could, but they, every, everytime they got so far, the Germans would knock them out.

Douglas Manger:

Talk about dangerous duty.

John Manger:

Yeah.

Douglas Manger:

Oh, my.

John Manger:

And finally, ah, there was a, ah, a, a bunch, were a bunch of Germans on the banks somewhere who had a...were able to spot those people and knock'm out with a long distance, fire, you know. And finally when they got that...that, ah...ah...

Bridge in place.

Bridge. They didn't worry about the...intact...the bridge anymore, for time being. It was...

Douglas Manger:

Was the old man, the colonel, really upset that this bridge went down? Did you get in trouble?

John Manger:

No, no, no, nobody could be blamed. No, they had a, a number of people working on it. But the, the, the G.I's, the infantry got there people across, enough to...with their heavy equipment to [garbled] so they pushed the front back. But the Germans still tried to knock us out. But in the meantime the, there was a bridge, ah, upstream about a half a mile from us, and, ah...ah...they blew their bridge up, with another German contingent......a..all killed. Bodies were coming down, and we found out later that the, ah, the commanding people were shot by the Germans on the spot. They just pulled their officers out and killed them for letting something like that happen. Well, hell, it wasn't their fault. They were doing th...their job. But it was a crazy war. There was an awful lot of people killed, didn't have to be killed, but...

Douglas Manger:

Let me stop this [the audio tape] just for a second... So after you crossed the Rhine, then, you continued to push on into...

John Manger:

We pushed on, and then, then we were...ah, we got as far as we could and the Ger...the, meantime, the Russians had come down...and so we, we were, ah....in a very beautifully...area...of a...of a...Germany. But, ah, the Russians told us, "You stop, we're, we're coming."

Douglas Manger:

So you actually saw or enga...met with some Russians?

John Manger:

Ah, just from a distance. But ah, ah, we were...one thing, one thing I want to...that always stuck in my mind. We went to church, that Sunday, another officer and I, and there were two German officers in full uniform sitting behind us.

Douglas Manger:

Oh, for heavens sake.

John Manger:

[Laughsl And they, they were much safer...to be captured than let the, the Russians get them, see. And so, I remember in the church there, my dad had told me where we wer...wer...were going and said if you ever there, ah, I can tell you where, ah...ah...Hermann...not Hermann...they said...

[Garbled]...your great...I mean your grandfather. My grandfather.

Douglas Manger:

Where he was raised?

John Manger:

No he...yeah, where his mother was. His mother...ah, ah, lived. But he said, ah, there's a church there, that, ah... Oh, I know what it was. He said there was a church there that, ah...it's too much, I can't remember.

Douglas Manger:

But did you hap...did you hap, end up going to that church?

John Manger:

Yeah, I went to the church and I said, ah...I said I was looking for...supposedly the Devil...and, ah...ah...marked the church for something-or-other. But, ah, I, I told my Dad later their were no signs there. The church was perfectly...perfectly fine.

Douglas Manger:

So your dad thought that the...the Devil had put a spell on the church, maybe?

John Manger:

Yeah. It was...yeah.

Douglas Manger:

So that was sort of a folktale handed down through the family?

John Manger:

Yeah. That's where, ah...the Devil was playing hell with that whole...the Germans were very suspicious, you know.

Douglas Manger:

Well, ah, hmmm. We'll have to try to find out where that was and we can do that looking at the family [albums?].

John Manger:

Yeah.

Douglas Manger:

But you en...actually ended up in that church?

John Manger:

Yeah.

Douglas Manger:

So, at the end of the war you made your way... You have some pictures of the Eagle's Nest? So you must have taken some time to, to do some traveling?

John Manger:

We did. When I was, ah, tranferred to Group, and, ah, we...

Douglas Manger:

That's the 100.. .that's the 1110th Engineering Group. 1110th Engineering Group.

John Manger:

That's right. And, ah, so we were...I was, ah, ordered there, but there was nothing for me to do. They were sitting in the field waiting for the war to end and, ah, so I met, ah, another lieutenant colonel...or no, he was a major, I was a captain. But he and I decided well, hell, let's, let's, ah, take a, ah, a tour of the area. So we barrowed a, and the driver, and barrowed from the motor pool, and took off.

Douglas Manger:

So you barrowed a car?

John Manger:

Yeah. Barrowed a car. And, and, ah, there are pictures of it in, in there. And, ah, so we, we...we wanted to see, ah ...where Hitler...Hitler's headquarters were on the Rhine. And, ah, so we went down there and saw that and then headed back.

Douglas Manger:

Now you have some pictures of the Eagle's Nest.

John Manger:

Yeah.

Douglas Manger:

And, it's remarkable that you were able to go up there. It's pretty bombed out...

John Manger:

Well, strangely enough, ah, they didn't, they did a lot of damage to it-lot of shattered glass and so on, but, the buildings were, in, in tact. Yeah. They had the huge window, you know, that was long gone. But the place had been cleaned out, pretty well. The 103rd Infantry took, took the place, as I remember it. So it was, this was just a, while we were there, it was just, a place where...Germans...the troops...to, ah...

Douglas Manger:

Just to visit.

John Manger:

To visit, yeah.

Douglas Manger:

Ah...so, at that point, you were phasing down and then...do, do you remember where you where in Germany when, in the main.. .when you were with the.. .I'm sorry, when you were with the 1110th Engineering Group, where was that in Germany? Do you have a recollection of where you were? You don't?

John Manger:

No.

Douglas Manger:

But at some point, obviously, you, you were ordered home.

John Manger:

Yeah. And they broke us up again, and, ah, some of us, some of them hadn't been in Europe very long were assigned to, to other troops who were going to stay for awhile. But, ah, this friend of mine and I, were, ah, were, ah...shipped out...with people that were, were leaving for the coast. And so we, ah, were ordered to, to, ah, ah, join a group of troops that were in a big en...encampment in the French coast.

Douglas Manger:

Now you, you went there by truck or by train? Or how did you...

John Manger:

I can't remember. It could have been either one. Pro, prob, probably truck.

Douglas Manger:

You, at that point, had spent 1 year, 7 months, and 8 days in combat in Europe.

John Manger:

Yeah.

Douglas Manger:

Pretty remarkable. Prior to that, you had, in preparation for that, you had spent 1 year, 10 months, and 2 days training for the European campaign.

John Manger:

Right.

Douglas Manger:

So that was really interesting. And then you went home, on a troop ship, I assume. Went home on a troop ship.

I don't know much about that. From France?

John Manger:

Yeah, from France. Yeah. No, I was a, ah...ah...ah...a senior officer, again.

Douglas Manger:

On the ship?

John Manger:

On the ship.

Douglas Manger:

As a captain?

John Manger:

As a captain, see.

Douglas Manger:

Wow.

John Manger:

And so, ah, a lot of these guys had been, you know, in combat for a long time, just as I had. So, we shipped out, and I remember there, it was a smaller ship. But, ah, one of the big, ah, troop ships...whatever...actually, one of them was a, one of the early Queen Mary ships...they passed us in the mid, mid-Atlantic as if we were standing still. Can remember that, see. But ah, nothing happened there, except this one, ah, private, ah, asked me to, ah, to, ah, have, watch his money while, while we were on, at sea. I said I can't do that, but you give it to the purser, or somebody there, and, ah, they'll take care of it for you. 'Cause he had, oh, something like a thousand dollars from, he'd saved in combat. And, I ran into him, ah, just as we were going into the harbor. And, I said, you better get your money. He said, "I can't, I got into a poker game last night and lost, lost everything [laughs]. He was dead broke.

Douglas Manger:

Please note, my father shared this brief story after the tape recording session had ended:

From the East Coast my father caught a train to Chicago, Illinois. As the train slowed to enter Chicago G.I.'s began jumping from the passenger cars. Some threw their duffel bags out first, while others simply jumped with only the uniform on their backs.

 
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  October 26, 2011
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