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Interview with Arthur A. Parr [9/16/2004]

Thomas Swope:

This is the oral history of World War II veteran Arthur A. Parr. Mr. Parr served in the U.S. Army with the 120th AAA Gun Battalion and the 35th Infantry Division, 134th Regiment, Company L. He served in the European theater, and his highest rank was private. Arthur was a prisoner of war. I'm Tom Swope, and this interview was recorded at Mr. Parr's home in Canton, Ohio, on September 16th, 2004. Arthur was 83 at the time of this recording. Where were you living in 1941?

Arthur A. Parr:

In '41, we were living in a third-floor apartment on 10th Street Northwest here in Canton.

Thomas Swope:

Were you married?

Arthur A. Parr:

Married and -- we were married in '41.

Thomas Swope:

You were married in 41. So you were working, I assume, at that point?

Arthur A. Parr:

Yes.

Thomas Swope:

Uh-huh. Where were you working?

Arthur A. Parr:

I was a machinist for -- well, in fact, I was taking my apprenticeship, finishing it, at Hercules Motors here in Canton and --

Thomas Swope:

Do you have specific memories of December 7th, 1941, the day the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor?

Arthur A. Parr:

Nothing in particular that I can -- I can remember.

Thomas Swope:

Do you remember hearing the news on the radio or --

Arthur A. Parr:

Yeah, I remember that.

Thomas Swope:

What was your reaction when you heard that we had been attacked?

Arthur A. Parr:

Well, I thought the Japanese were dirty to sneak in like that and do that.

Thomas Swope:

Uh-huh. Now, did you have -- were you further down on the draft list? You had a child, too, right, in 1941?

Arthur A. Parr:

No.

Thomas Swope:

You didn't have a child yet?

Arthur A. Parr:

No. She was born in '43.

Thomas Swope:

'43, okay. So you were -- if you were married, were you further down on the draft list?

Arthur A. Parr:

I was married November 23rd.

Thomas Swope:

Of '41?

Arthur A. Parr:

Of '41.

Thomas Swope:

Uh-huh.

Arthur A. Parr:

And that was just 15 days before Pearl Harbor day. And in the -- I guess you'd say in the -- somewhere in the -- in '42, I was drafted.

Thomas Swope:

You got your draft notice?

Arthur A. Parr:

I got my draft notice. But I got a delay, whatever they call it, until after the child was born.

Thomas Swope:

Oh, they did delay your induction until then?

Arthur A. Parr:

Yes.

Thomas Swope:

Uh-huh.

Arthur A. Parr:

She was born February 16th of '43, and in April of -- 22nd, I went into the service.

Thomas Swope:

Do you remember your first day in basic training?

Arthur A. Parr:

Well, basic training was in Camp Hahn, California. The only thing I can remember about that is it was more or less out -- close to the desert area. It wasn't right in the desert. Later we went to the desert to train.

Thomas Swope:

Was it a tough adjustment for you when you first went into the Army to be in there with guys from all over the country, different?

Arthur A. Parr:

No, I wouldn't say it was tough. Some of the noncoms were -- well, there was only two in particular that were really tough guys, I mean, made it tough for you. And it was good when you think about it, because they wanted to train you to be ready for it.

Thomas Swope:

What was some of the things that they did that were tough?

Arthur A. Parr:

Well, sometimes they'd -- on your -- I forget what they call them. It was like a training venture, anyhow.

Thomas Swope:

Like maneuvers or something?

Arthur A. Parr:

Well, you'd have to go a distance. And during that time, you'd be maybe marching just in a normal, rather fast speed. And then, all of a sudden, they'd tell you to double it, and you'd be -- especially when it was really hot, it would be rough. We weren't used to going like that.

Thomas Swope:

What was your outfit?

Arthur A. Parr:

It was 120th AAA Gun Battalion. That was the 90-millimeter antiaircraft guns. And they had machine guns that we had -- I think there was four machine gun crews, four gun crews for the 90-millimeters, and there was a -- they classified it as the range section, which I was in. You had a radar, a director, a height finder. At that time, the radar wasn't accurate enough or something, and they wanted -- the height finder was a big instrument that took two men to operate it. And it -- you had to have what they called stereoscopic vision, and I happened to be on that for a while. Actually, the radar would track a plane until it got in a certain distance, and then the radar picked -- or the height finder picked it up, and you could watch it as it was coming. And when you knew this to happen, you'd give the elevation and the azimuth and the distance on a -- you had telephone systems hooked up that went to the director to the guns. And then the gun commander would tell them when to get ready, when to cut their fuse and get ready to shoot. Because you cut your fuse according to the distance you had to shoot.

Thomas Swope:

How long did you train at Camp Hahn?

Arthur A. Parr:

Well, I was there from the last part of April till -- I forget exactly when it was. It was -- the weather wasn't cold yet when I got a -- you got a furlough, and then you'd come back -- after everybody was back, because they rotated furloughs, and you'd pack up to move out. One of the things I didn't mention was for our desert training we went from Camp Hahn up to Camp Irwin, which is up near Barstow, California. And from there, they would pull targets with planes that we'd shoot at with our gun, the big guns or the machine guns.

Thomas Swope:

Did you get any breaks during training to do anything like that, go into town?

Arthur A. Parr:

Oh, yeah. Yeah, at Camp Hahn we went into Riverside, into Colton. Some guys went to LA. I went to North Hollywood. I wasn't interested in going into LA.

Thomas Swope:

So when did you go overseas?

Arthur A. Parr:

In December of '43.

Thomas Swope:

What was that crossing like when you went overseas?

Arthur A. Parr:

Well, I was fine. We happened to be on -- on the ocean on Christmas Day, and our group was in -- on the Queen Mary, and a lot of the guys had already got seasick. Christmas Day, I went down for breakfast. And before I got to the end of the table, I was bringing my breakfast up. On the Queen Mary, you sat at big tables, long tables, and they had barrels at the end of each table, and the guys would puke in there and dump their -- what they had left of their breakfast in there.

Thomas Swope:

Did they give you a decent Christmas dinner that day or tried to?

Arthur A. Parr:

I don't really know. Because when I was seasick, I didn't go out of the -- my bunk until the next morning.

Thomas Swope:

And the Queen Mary, you crossed alone. Right? You weren't part of a convoy?

Arthur A. Parr:

No. We went across pretty fast. We landed in Greenock, Scotland, which is in the Firth of Clyde. And from there, they transported us by train to Blandford, in England. I don't know just exactly what part of England you'd call that in. It wasn't too far from Bournemouth, so I -- I'd say it was closer to the south of England.

Thomas Swope:

So what was life like in England then when you were there?

Arthur A. Parr:

Well, we were at Blandford for I don't know how long -- just how long. And during that time, we got to go into the little towns, and I remember in one of the little towns seeing a -- what they called a greengrocer, which is a vegetable place, fruits and vegetables, and it was run by a Parr, spelled the same way we did ours. So I was curious to find out where they were from originally but couldn't find anything out.

Thomas Swope:

Was your outfit set up as antiaircraft defense then?

Arthur A. Parr:

No, not --

Thomas Swope:

Training at that time?

Arthur A. Parr:

Not at Blandford, we weren't. They only kept us there not too long a time, and then they moved us over between Dover and Deal, which is the southeast part of England. In fact, it's almost on the Channel. And we set up there, and our main radar -- not ours, but the main radar we used was the British radar in Dover Castle. And we could track planes from the time they took off in Germany or in France until they got over in our range to shoot at them.

Thomas Swope:

Were you getting a lot of air raids at that point?

Arthur A. Parr:

We did a lot of shooting.

Thomas Swope:

Did you hit anything?

Arthur A. Parr:

Oh, yeah.

Thomas Swope:

You did?

Arthur A. Parr:

Yeah. In fact, if I got the outfit's history, I could show you where we got commendation after commendation for it.

Thomas Swope:

So what else can you tell me about that time in England before you went over to France?

Arthur A. Parr:

Well, we -- from there, we got to go into Deal and into Dover, and I forget the name of another little town that was over there. Because I remember going there quite often, and the -- the Salvation Army had like a canteen set up there for service people and...

Thomas Swope:

Were the British people pretty nice to the Americans?

Arthur A. Parr:

Yeah, they were very nice. We were evidently one of the first outfits to go over to the east coast like that. And yeah, they treated us very good.

Thomas Swope:

How about the British soldiers? I've heard stories that they occasionally resented the Americans, mainly for making more money?

Arthur A. Parr:

No, that never came up as far as I know.

Thomas Swope:

You didn't hear that --

Arthur A. Parr:

In fact, there was one British solder that I got acquainted with. He came over and ate with us, and then I went over and ate at his camp for -- I didn't particularly care for what I got over at his camp. I can remember you got a big potato. It was all peeled and cooked, but there wasn't any salt or pepper to put on it, and I don't remember -- you had some lamb stew. I remember that.

Thomas Swope:

So when did you cross the Channel then? Did you land in France?

Arthur A. Parr:

Yes. Yeah, we left -- we went to Omaha Beach. The majority of my outfit -- well, while we were there at -- well, we moved away from the Dover and Deal area and over towards Winchester, and there we prepared our equipment to go over across the Channel. And that meant that you'd waterproof everything, and you had to run the exhaust that you had on any equipment so that it was up out of the -- it couldn't get any water in it, anyhow. And that took us, oh, I imagine a week or two. It must have been ten days to a week, two weeks. And while we were there, another thing they did, everybody got a haircut, I mean a close one.

Thomas Swope:

So when did you land on Omaha Beach in relation to D-Day? How long after D-Day was that?

Arthur A. Parr:

It must have been about a week, maybe not quite a week.

Thomas Swope:

Was it still a mess? Was Omaha still --

Arthur A. Parr:

Oh, yeah. In fact, as we were going in, they were shooting. And we had bombers and fighter planes that were strafing and -- the Germans as we were going in.

Thomas Swope:

Uh-huh. And where did you set up in France then first?

Arthur A. Parr:

It must have been 2 or 3 miles out of Cherbourg, and we were set up there for a while. And while we were there, every now and then, some of -- these two sergeants that I mentioned that were tough on us in camp? They took patrol groups, and we went out to where we'd run into Germans. And on occasions, we captured some of them right then.

Thomas Swope:

Was he supposed to be doing that?

Arthur A. Parr:

I don't know.

Thomas Swope:

But he did it?

Arthur A. Parr:

He evidently -- they evidently had the okay of officers to do it. I don't know whether he was supposed to take prisoners, but you -- they'd go out to get the locations and things of that of the enemy so you'd know whether we could move any.

Thomas Swope:

Were you shooting at any Buzz Bombs at any point? Were you set up in a position to do that, shoot at the Buzz Bombs that were headed for England?

Arthur A. Parr:

I don't know if we ever shot at those. I know I seen them and heard them, but I don't know as we ever shot at any of them. We may have.

Thomas Swope:

Your main job was to protect against aircraft?

Arthur A. Parr:

Yeah. Yeah. When we got there, it was protecting like bridges and places where our troops would have to be going through, to keep them from being bombed out or any damage to them so that they kept them open. And when they were -- did happen to get any, the -- I guess an engineer group would come in and make temporary repairs so you could keep advancing.

Thomas Swope:

What else can you tell me about the campaign in Normandy? Did you keep moving, or were you kind of stuck in one place for a while?

Arthur A. Parr:

No. In order to tell you all the places we moved, I'd really have to get the history.

Thomas Swope:

Oh, I don't need exact places as much as any stories that you remember along the way.

Arthur A. Parr:

I remember places like Avranches, Fontainebleau, Verdun. There was so many, I can't think of all the names.

Thomas Swope:

Do you have any particularly close buddies in your outfit?

Arthur A. Parr:

Yeah. A fellow by the name of Harry Turbrock and I, every place we moved, especially when we got over into France, we'd set up and sometimes be there anyplace from a week or sometimes longer than that, so we'd build shelters. And I can remember a couple of places we built shelters, and we went around anyplace we could and find materials to build with. And one place we went, I don't remember what -- where we got the framing, but we covered it with sheet metal that we picked up someplace and made a little cabin that we could get two bunks in, and we had taken the -- I think it was about a 5-gallon oilcan and made a stove out of it. And the -- I can remember one thing during that time. My wife had canned some meat and -- in a glass jar. She packed -- packed it with popcorn and also sent popcorn that hadn't been popped on over. So we popped our own popcorn, warmed that meat up on that stove, things like that.

Thomas Swope:

Did you get a lot of mail from home?

Arthur A. Parr:

Yeah. At that time, yes. Yeah. She was writing pretty regular, and I was trying to too.

Thomas Swope:

What could you write when you wrote back home?

Arthur A. Parr:

Well, we wrote what they called V-mail. And I guess they either cut out or blacked out what they didn't want us to have in the letters to let -- give any indication about where we were or anything like that. The one thing I did get away with putting in the letter while we were in England, I mentioned about the white cliffs of Dover and didn't even mention Dover, but the white cliffs there, and her mother picked it up right away and said that's where I was.

Thomas Swope:

And that got by the sensor? You'd think they would have caught that.

Arthur A. Parr:

They caught most everything else, I think.

Thomas Swope:

So you were in France, probably, for most of the rest of 1944 then, until late in the year?

Arthur A. Parr:

Well, we kept traveling across France, moving across it. And we had got through Metz, Nancy, and I forget where it was. They finally gave us a time for R and R, so we came back to Metz for that.

Thomas Swope:

What did you do on R and R?

Arthur A. Parr:

What did you do? Sleep and eat, not a whole lot else. Well, one of the things we did do -- and I should have mentioned this in England. We played baseball over there, and I was one of the coaches. And I was coaching third base, and I was squatted down, and a line drive hit me in a vital place. They took me to the hospital that time. And I don't know how long I was there -- a day or two, I guess -- and then I came back to my outfit. Yeah, we had a lot of fun every time we got the chance.

Thomas Swope:

Well, that didn't sound like fun.

Arthur A. Parr:

Well, I mean, that wasn't, but...

Thomas Swope:

The rest of it?

Arthur A. Parr:

Yeah, we enjoyed it.

Thomas Swope:

Where were you set up in December, before the Battle of the Bulge?

Arthur A. Parr:

Well, it must have been in late October or early November, they came around and said that the infantry needed volunteers to -- for replacements, and it was going to take ten out of each battery. They'd take volunteers. And if they didn't get volunteers, then they'd have to pick. Well, I volunteered for the infantry at that point.

Thomas Swope:

Did they give you much infantry training?

Arthur A. Parr:

We were supposed to get ten days' infantry training at Metz. That's -- that's where they moved us to when that happened. And I think we got three days, and then we were assigned. They needed their replacements now, not after a while. So the first place -- I got assigned to the 35th Division, 134th Regiment, L Company. And the first place we went was down in the Saar Valley, and we relieved the 87th Division there. When we went in, I mean, they came out of there. And there wasn't too many of them came out, I noticed. And when we came out of there, out of our company, there was 16 men and three officers left.

Thomas Swope:

So what can you tell me about the opening days of the Battle of the Bulge?

Arthur A. Parr:

Well, when we came back out of the Saar Valley area, they took us on what was supposed to be R and R again, and that happened to be over Thanksgiving. So I asked for permission to go visit my -- the 120th that I came out of for that day and got permission to do it. And I caught the mail truck, and he was going to where it was. And they were at Thionville at the time, so he took me over there. I spent the day over there, had Thanksgiving dinner with them, and then came back that night. Well, that night -- it was late when I got back, because it was already dark. And we went to -- we bunked on a -- laid on the floor in our sleep -- sleeping bags. And somewhere around 2:30, 3:00 in the morning, they came around, "Get your stuff together. We're moving out." So they packed us into trucks and started driving. And I thought we'd never get there, but we finally did, but it was cold and snow galore. And when we got up into Belgium -- I didn't know where I was at the time, but it happened to be just outside of Arlon, Belgium -- the German artillery was shooting in our area, and it was landing all around us. Finally, one of the artillery shells landed right in front of us, and the -- the truck, he said to our captain, which I was sitting right behind the captain at the time, he says, "That's as far as I go, boss." He says, "I's a driver, not a fighting man." And he turned the truck around, and we had to get out and then we had to walk about 7 or 8 kilometers into Arlon. And there we spent about two days or maybe two and a half days starting to move out.

Thomas Swope:

Was that in the opening days of the Bulge then, mid-December?

Arthur A. Parr:

Exactly when, I can't tell you.

Thomas Swope:

Approximately? The Bulge was -- started December 16th. Right? Is that what they said?

Arthur A. Parr:

I don't know.

Thomas Swope:

I think that's when they said. In the middle of December is when they said the attack started. So that was probably right around that time?

Arthur A. Parr:

Yeah, or maybe a little after that --

Thomas Swope:

Is that -- [A loud noise occurred.] Sounds like a transformer or something.

Thomas Swope:

So were you -- were you set up there when you were captured? Is that where you were?

Arthur A. Parr:

We were in -- yes -- no. We had moved on, I don't know how far on -- the one place we went into right after that, we came and there was -- I guess you'd say there were houses or some kind of buildings, and we had to come with -- down and go in between two of them. And when we went into that place, going in between there, when you go to come out of there, the Germans had that place zeroed in, and the second man through got hit right there. I think it was mortar. And he happened to be one of my -- I shouldn't -- he wasn't a buddy, but he was one of the fellows I knew close from the antiaircraft outfit that I was in. And he got -- there wasn't anything to send home, I don't think. So we had to watch coming out of there. But he was the second man. I was about fourth or fifth to go through there, and we got through there all right. And as we did, we advanced on up, and this was like down in the -- more -- not a valley, but in a low spot between hills, I guess you'd call it. Maybe I would call it a valley. Anyway, we went on up and either got Germans or they cleared out of the area. And we moved on up to where the -- there was an open field, a big open field. And over the other side of that was a woods, and we could see the Germans moving around over in that woods. And as we tried to advance from there, in the house on the hill there, the Germans had a machine gun set up. And every time somebody would start to move, they'd shoot down that way. And our captain, he had been hit before in the neck. He got shrapnel one time, and I don't recall just where it was the other time, but he had been hit twice before. And as he went to move up this hill that time, he says, "I'll give the signal, and I'll lead you in." He started to go up, and the machine gun got him right through his legs. So that's when we lost him. It didn't kill him, but I mean, we got down, took him back, and got a Jeep to come over and pick him up. And they took him back to a field hospital, I guess. But we got up to the outside of this -- we got the -- the machine gun in this house. One of our -- must have been one of our mortars hit that house and blew it up. And we moved up the hill to some placements that the -- that the Germans had put in. And instead of digging a straight trench, they dug big ovals, and they had men placed all around them. Well, of course, we didn't need any behind us, so we -- it was set up that way and -- oh, one of the things I didn't tell you about. In the meantime, down in the Saar Valley, evidently the Germans had got some of our equipment. And so up there, coming down the hill, was one of our Jeeps, a German driving it and two German officers in it. A fellow by the name of John Pelatera and I stepped out when -- as he got to the time where he had to either turn left or right. And we hollered, "Halt." And he shifted gears to start -- and started going around. And about that time, John and I both opened up, and he run into a haystack, and they all three were dead. And we went over and checked them, and not only checked them, we took what -- we thought we'd have some souvenirs. Because the officers had not only P38s or Lugars, but some of them had little handguns that -- like a little automatic. The one I got was a Beretta. I got a P38 and a Beretta, and Pelatera, he got something off the other guy too. But I guess through that they got our Jeep back, though, too. It was one out of our headquarters battalion. Our headquarters company, I should say, not battalion. It still had the marks on -- you know, our Army marks on it. But we went from there and moved on. But every chance we got, we'd be shooting up that way. And so at night then, we moved on up into that woods, and we didn't find any. They must have moved out while we were up there. And we did move on further into there, and in another place we come up on, and we could tell there was people in a place there, whether they was Americans or whether they was German, we didn't know. And we only went so far, like a patrol troop would do, and then we came back to our outfit. I can't remember -- oh, one of the things that happened -- I can't recall exactly when. Fellas from the second platoon who had a green lieutenant in charge of them -- when I say "green," I mean one that's inexperienced. He had just came from the States. He had been home, and he'd only been over there less than a month. And our platoon leader, which was a -- he'd have been a staff sergeant? Yeah, staff sergeant I guess is what he would be. He was supposed to be in charge. Well, he decided that since this lieutenant was there and they wanted to group with us, that he'd let him take charge and -- it's hard to remember all the details of all this. But anyway, we stayed up there on the outskirts for a while. And while we were there, he -- this lieutenant evidently by radio got news that the Germans were coming again. END OF DISK SR02, TRACK 1. BEGIN DISK SR03, TRACK 1.

Arthur A. Parr:

And this time they were bringing tanks. And -- and anyhow, he said if they do what they usually do -- according to what somebody must have told him, because I'm sure he didn't have that much experience -- they have infantry go ahead of them or around them. And so he had us hold our position until we started to see them, and we were doing some shooting from there. And then finally, it looked like there was too many of them. He had us move back down into three of the houses that was down there, yeah. And by the way, those houses all was like -- it was like farm country. A barn was attached to the house. So they had us in the barns, moved us -- and told us to go up in the upper -- up on the floor, barn floor up above, and from those windows up there, watch for the Germans. Well, we did, and I don't know how many Germans came in, but a lot of them didn't leave. And the next day, our -- I don't recall just how that was, but the buildings we were in, eventually this officer gave -- called for artillery to start shooting at the -- and knocking down the buildings around us. And when he did, I thought he was crazy. Because when they were shooting, man, you could hear the stuff was hitting on the roof of where we were. Now, if they blow something up, you know -- and finally they -- he got them to -- and he must have gave pretty good instructions because they knocked everything down in that town -- little village but the three buildings we were in. And I thought sure it was going to get us too, but they didn't. The next day, I guess it was, after that the tanks -- the Germans' tanks started coming in, and the building that I was in was right along the road that they'd come down, so -- oh, in the meantime, during the night when I was in it, we were shooting at these Germans and all, there was somebody coming toward me, and I was just outside the barn. And when I seen him coming, I hollered at the same time I hit the -- pushed back on the -- it's not the receiver, but the part of the rifle that pushes the shell in. And he had had his hands up. I couldn't see that his hands was up, but I could -- anyhow, he was saying something in German, and I could see he was kind of walking like he was crippled or something was wrong. So I let him keep coming toward me, but I kept my rifle right on him. And when he got close enough that I could see, here he was -- he had been shot up. So I let him come on in, and I checked him over and made sure he didn't have any weapons or anything. And I took him in, and I had sent one of the guys over to the -- another building where we had a para -- not a paramedic, but an aide man to come over. And he came over and patched this German up and fixed him up. And then we gave him some K rations, some cigarettes. And from that point, I had him in the corner and kept him there all night. Anyway, he -- he slept there, and I don't know whether he hadn't had any sleep for a while or what. But anyway, during the night, the Germans came down through there. And they came into this barn, and they had little flashlights with blue lenses on them, looking for people. And they looked around, and you could hear them jabbering in German, and they left, didn't see anybody. I guess they had been in the house, and they had captured the rest of our men is what they had been -- happened, I found out later, but they went on. During that night, though, they started bringing tanks down. And when they started bringing these tanks down, I -- the only thing I had to take care of them was put a -- a bazooka. So my buddy loaded my bazooka, and he wired it. And when this tank -- I let him come past me. And after he passed me, I shot for his back end because that's the only place where we're vulnerable. And it hit that tank, made a "thud" like and dropped right there. Here that guy didn't pull the fuse on it. In the meantime, this German got the turret turning that gun around. But in the meantime, he also -- my buddy reloaded me and wired it, and he pulled the pin. The second shot I got hit the tank. And when it hit the tank, the hatch come open, and the smoke was coming out, and I seen one man get out. How many had been in it, I don't know if there was any more in there or not. There must have been at least one more, I would think. Then a little later, there was the same thing with another tank, and we got the second one too. But it had been cloudy, and you couldn't get any air support. And then finally it cleared up enough that they called for air support, and some of our fighter planes that had rockets on came in. And as I understand, there was 22 tanks came in. We got two, and the Air Force got the other 20. That's what I heard later on. But that next day, the Germans come back through the barn again, and they found -- found us, and they took the three of us guys out and marched us over to where they had the rest of the guys. And in the meantime, one of their noncoms, I guess he would be, he seen I had mittens on that had a trigger finger in it, and inside of that I had gloves. "Let's see those" or something to that effect. He wanted them. Well, I took them off, and he looked at them. And he put them on, and he kept them. And I had a pen and pencil set my Sunday school class had gave me when I left for the service, that and a watch. And I don't recall -- they wanted to take my -- I have a testament my wife had given me. I had one from the Gideons, but I didn't carry that. I carried this one my wife gave me. It had a metal plate on it that -- on the one side, and you were supposed to put that in your pocket over your chest area. And he wanted that, and but I -- I said, "No, no." And he didn't give me any argument. He let me keep it. Later on one of their officers come along, and he was checking each of us. And the first thing he said to me, "Where's your gloves?" And I said, "One of your men took them." "Who?" So I pointed him out. He called him over there and made him give me everything back he took from me. And I told him, I says, "By the way, one of your comrades," I says, "had been shot up, and I took him as prisoner. He's in the barn where you guys got me." "Where?" And I tried to tell him, and he says -- he called a couple of his men, and he said, "Go with him." And we went back to the barn and brought him. He was still sleeping when we got back there. So they woke him up and -- and took him. And he told them, evidently, that -- how we had treated him, and so -- I don't know whether that helped us or not. I hope -- hopefully it did.

Thomas Swope:

So you said you were taken to a prison camp for about a month then, stayed about a month in a POW camp?

Arthur A. Parr:

Later on, yeah. But in the meantime, they kept moving us. The first place I can remember we moved was called Prien. And they had us do a few work details there, like either cutting wood or carrying some supplies from one place to another. Excuse me. You weren't supposed to be helping their war effort at all, but they had us doing that. And then -- then they keep moving you away. Of course, our troops was getting closer. You could hear the -- you know, the gun fire and all getting closer. And so the next place they moved was called Gerolstein, and there they had -- it looked like a place where it was like a warehouse would be. It had big wooden bins in it, big enough -- in fact, they was big enough that there was -- they put three -- three men in each one of those bins to sleep. And there was one fellow that was with us, we actually carried him. He had been -- his feet had been froze so he couldn't walk at all, and we put him in one of those bins. And I don't think it was that -- the next day, but a couple days later, they called us out for work duties again. And when they did, we had taken this guy -- he was between me and another guy there, we had carried in there, stayed there. And he said -- this German was saying something in German and pointing for us to get out. And we kept trying to tell him that he had frozen feet. He couldn't walk. And whether he didn't understand or didn't want to understand, we don't know. He insisted that we -- he -- everybody get out, and we stayed because of this kid here. And finally he took his pistol out and he pointed it at us. He said, "Aus, aus." So we left. And when we were gone, we weren't gone very long, we heard a shot in the bin. Well, the next place we moved, he wasn't with us anymore. He wasn't one of the guards anymore. But one of the places they -- like I said, doing different work details. And one of the things was we were near a railroad, and our planes would come over and bomb out their railroad. Well, the next day, they had us fixing the railroad. We did that two or three days and getting bombed out every night. Anyway, then one day, we were going to be leaving there, we thought, so they got us all together and -- down there, and nobody understood what he was talking about. Finally he went down there, pulling pine branches off of an ammunition dump. It was 88 shells, and two of them in a box. He had us pick those up to carry them to a gun placement. And I picked one of them up, and I put it on my shoulder and started to carry it, and I wasn't moving very fast. All of a sudden, my feet went right out from under me. He had taken the butt of his rifle and hit me. And he was saying something in German as he did it, and I didn't understand what he was saying. But anyway, I -- this went flying in the air and coming down, and I thought that was going to be the end. But it didn't go off. So I grabbed it right away, and I more or less kind of run to get away from him. But that's what we did, we took it down to a gun placement where they had some of their guns set up. One of the things I didn't mention was before they took us to the first place that they -- they took us to a big barn and took one guy at a time in the barn, and there was a German officer that spoke English interrogating you. And he asked you what outfit you was in and what you was doing. And I said -- I told him, and I think most of us did -- name, rank, and serial number was all we gave him. I said, "That's all we're required to give you." "Then I'll tell you. Your officer was Captain Greenleaf." That's the guy that got strafed. And he said -- and he told us what company he was even in. So I don't know whether one of the other guys had spilled the beans or what. Somebody -- some way they found out. But after that, they moved us, and they -- we walked and walked, and it was already getting dark, and we were going into some little village. And we -- when we got to this village, you could see lights on in one place. And so they took us in that place, had us all sit on the floor, and we sat there a while. After a while, they come out with a great big kettle of barley soup. And boy, I was -- we were -- we hadn't eat for a while. The only thing we had ate was what we could steal. Like we'd be marching along somewhere and you'd see one of those places -- you know how especially the farmers used to do, have places they'd put stuff in the ground and close it up, like with carrots and potatoes and different -- cabbage and that kind of stuff in. Well, we found places like that every now and then, so we'd get into one of them and steal stuff out of them to eat and usually got chewed out for it. But I don't know what -- the guards we had when we was doing that was usually older men. I don't know what they called them. It was like a home guard or something like that. And they'd try and tell you in German, whatever, something about it, "You shouldn't take that stuff." Anyway, when we got to where they was giving us that barley soup -- and they give you all you wanted of it, and I had a little bit of meat in but very little.

Thomas Swope:

So when did you finally end up going to a camp after that?

Arthur A. Parr:

Well, one of the things they -- I'll get to that --

Thomas Swope:

Okay.

Arthur A. Parr:

-- sooner or later. One of the things they had us doing was pushing and pulling like a farm wagon, and it would have supplies on. And they had bread in there -- on there and -- I don't know. The guards had their packs on there. And when they'd stop and feed you, they -- what they'd give you was a slice of bread, and I think it was lard. That's what it seemed like. And so you could put it on it to eat the bread. And anyway, we'd be pushing and pulling this wagon, and when we finally got to a place -- well, you -- one of the things they did, as you'd be going along, if there was a car or some kind of a vehicle coming, a truck or whatever, they'd have you pull over to the side with this wagon and let them get by. Anyhow, we were going into Bad Ems. This is up above Koblenz. And we wasn't quite to the top of the hill when they said, "There's a truck coming." So they started to pull it over. Then they stopped. They never got it out of the way. And I was on the outside and another guy. And when we tried to get around to the back to get out of the way, that truck hit both of us. And I wound up in the hospital in that Bad Ems. And later on, I found out the truck was supposed to have dual wheels on it, and the outside didn't have the wheel on. And the hub is what hit me in the head and fractured my skull. And when I came to, I was in the hospital, and the German doctor was working on my head. I don't know how long I spent there. I must have been there close to three weeks to a month. After I was recuperating, they had me go with a -- there was an old German fellow that was -- take care of cleaning up the -- the halls and places. We'd get -- go to the laundry. Well, in fact, we'd take stuff to the laundry, like clothing and blankets, stuff like that, and also pick up clean blankets and stuff. And this old German and I would fold these blankets up, and then we'd have to take them to a place where they stored them and stack them. And that's where I learned to count in German. Because he'd have to, I guess, kind of count how many he put it in a place. And he was a nice old fellow. I worked with him quite a while. And every now and then, he'd take a break and go with me and take me to where -- a little room where he had a place to sit and snack. He had bread and some kind of jelly or marmalade or cheese. And he'd make -- I don't know whether it was supposed to be a tea or a coffee. I think he made it with like a burnt green or something. It wasn't bad, but it was -- it was wet, sufficed. But while I was there, one of the fellows -- well, I don't know how many Americans were there. There was five or six of us anyhow. And like I said, I had that testament. Every day we'd read the testament, and we'd try and sing some hymns. And one of the fellows I was with, a fellow who became a friend, was Fred Wisher. He was from Hagerstown, Maryland. And he had been in the glider troops, and he flew a glider in behind the German lines at night, evidently, and they were -- would -- were sleeping. And while they were sleeping, he got hit by some shrapnel in his foot. It took some of his toes off, and some of them just hanging. Well, some of them the Germans put back on, and some they took off. And anyway, the reason I -- one of the reasons I mentioned him was he -- oh, when we were ready to leave there -- not ready to leave. When they started to evacuate some of us, he was in the first group that they were evacuating but -- I wasn't one of them, but I carried him out like piggyback, had him put his legs around my waist and his arms over my shoulder, and I put him on a bus. And he -- he came -- got liberated evidently first, wherever they took him. And he came back to the States, and he was down here in Camp Pickett, and he wrote my wife from there and told her that I was all right the last time he seen me.

Thomas Swope:

Was that the first word that she got that you were okay?

Arthur A. Parr:

I think so, yeah.

Thomas Swope:

Because you were probably reported missing in action?

Arthur A. Parr:

Oh, yeah. I had been missing in action. But after I left there, that hospital, they put us on trains. And I remember they stopped a couple of different places and took us in, and we stayed overnight. One of the places was -- there was a lot of our Air Force people there. I can't think -- in one of those places, there was a guy by the name of Cross in the Air Force. Anyhow, he was from Canton.

Thomas Swope:

Oh, yeah?

Arthur A. Parr:

Yeah. But they -- they moved us like that by train until we got to a place called Bad Soden or Sodot, something like that. And from there, they took us by truck to the prison camp.

Thomas Swope:

And did you say, what, 30-some guys died in that camp in the month you were there?

Arthur A. Parr:

Yeah.

Thomas Swope:

Starvation, malnutrition?

Arthur A. Parr:

That, and some maybe possibly from injuries and never recovered.

Thomas Swope:

Were you in that camp then until you were liberated?

Arthur A. Parr:

Yeah.

Thomas Swope:

Who liberated you? Americans?

Arthur A. Parr:

The 77th Rangers.

Thomas Swope:

Uh-huh. Do you remember that day of liberation?

Arthur A. Parr:

Very well, yeah. When we got liberated, some of the German guards evidently had treated some of the guys that had been there longer than I had been very bad, and they were upset about it. And they borrowed guns from these Rangers and went over to the barracks, the Germans' barracks. And there was only one German -- that's the one that killed that kid that had frozen feet -- that I would have killed like that. Otherwise, I know I -- I had in my mind if he's around when I get liberated, he's a dead man. But he wasn't around, and it's a good thing he wasn't. I mean, I wouldn't want that on my conscience. That's one thing to kill in war when you're fighting, but to do things like that, I figure that's -- that's murder.

Thomas Swope:

Did you -- were you taken back to Camp Lucky Strike after that, after liberation?

Arthur A. Parr:

Yeah. Well, one of the things they did to us, the camp I was in had you all segregated according to like the British were one place, some of the Polish, the Russians. I don't know what all -- oh, it was the Serbs, and I forget what they -- what they were. Great big black guys, I mean, they were all, I mean, big black guys, all over 6-foot tall, all of them. Big and just as gentle and nice a guys you'd want to meet. And anyway, they had us all in one place. And this officer said, "Now," he said, "we're going to start moving you people out." He says, "The first group," he says, "we're going to move is the British." He says, "We're going to fly them directly home." And there was a British colonel there, and he wasn't a young man by any means, tears running down his cheeks when they said that. But, you know, of -- and I think they had been in there the longest. Because some of them had been prisoner of war from D up, in 1939, but yet they were the cleanest of any. I mean, like the big black guys, they were pretty clean, and some of the other groups were. But the Americans, it seems like we was filthy. And we were. And most of us had diarrhea and dysentery. As a matter of fact, there were several days that all I had was a blanket wrapped around me from my waist down. Yes. They took us from there then, run us through showers, and they sprayed us with stuff for delousing us because everybody was lousy. And we slept in the places where the Germans had us -- not in the camp. In the camp, you slept on whatever you had on, and it was bare floor. But in the hospital there where they had us, they had straw ticks that you slept on. And those ticks would be lousy, I mean, you put -- they give you the tick and you'd stuff it with a straw yourself. But you wouldn't any more than get it stuffed and you sleep on it one night, and it was lousy. Yeah, they gave us ticks and we stuffed them ourselves with straw, and then you'd sleep on that. One of the things they did at -- when we were in the hospital, they tried to delouse us every day. And they -- you'd change clothes every day. Because what they did, they took the clothes you had on, and they hung them in a big round thing and built a fire under it. Well, it was so that you -- they could put a fire in it. And I don't know whether they didn't get all the lice or whether the lice were in the woodwork or what, but we wound up being lousy every day anyhow. But then, like I said, there at the -- when we got -- after we were liberated, we took showers, and they deloused us and sprayed us with stuff. They gave us -- the only thing you kept was your personal effects. And you turned your clothes in, and they give you clean clothes to wear. Sometimes they fit, and sometimes they didn't. But it was something for then. And then they flew us out of there to Le Havre. And we were supposed to be in quarantine in Le Havre for something like two weeks, but I think in about ten days they started loading ships. And I came home on a Liberty Ship, the SS Richardson, was one of those little Liberty Ships. It wasn't bad. And at the -- that particular time, the sea wasn't near as rough as it was when we went across.

Thomas Swope:

So you came home from France, came back to the States?

Arthur A. Parr:

Yeah. We landed back at the -- in Newark -- New Brunswick.

Thomas Swope:

New Brunswick, okay.

Arthur A. Parr:

New Jersey. I forget the name of the camp.

Thomas Swope:

That wasn't Camp Kilmer, was it?

Arthur A. Parr:

That was it.

Thomas Swope:

Kilmer? That's the one my dad went through.

Arthur A. Parr:

And I never will forget, they fed you, and they even warned you ahead, "Now, don't eat so much that you get sick." But some of those guys stuffed themselves to where they did get sick and were puking it up. And they gave you -- well, I can remember thick-cut ham was one of the things. And guys would get bread or rolls, and they put butter on like -- it was crazy to do things like that. It's a good way to get sick.

Thomas Swope:

What was your reunion with your family like when you finally got back?

Arthur A. Parr:

I don't recall when -- I don't think my wife knew I was coming when I was coming. She knew I had been liberated, but she didn't know when I was coming. And if I recall, we got off the train down in Canton, and some couple offered me a ride. I said, "Well, maybe it would be out of your way." "Wherever it is." She was -- her parents lived out -- right out here on Hills and Dales Road. And they took me out there.

Thomas Swope:

Do you think that covers it?

Arthur A. Parr:

Yeah, with emotion.

Thomas Swope:

That's all right.

 
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  October 26, 2011
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