Local Grandfather Looks Back At WWII With Young Writer
Beacon Kids Page
Stricker: Could you tell me about the war?
Hank: Danny World War II was the last big war this country ever had. At that time Hitler had taken over most of Europe and he had to be stopped. So we invaded France; I went into France D-Day plus five. That means D-Day was one and I went in five days later. I was in the field artillery and I was there nine months. All the way from the beaches of Normandy, thatís where we went in, to the Elbe River, where it ended. Now it has been figured out that those of us who served in WWII are dying off at the rate of a thousand a day.
Stricker: How old were you then?
Hank: When I went into the service I was probably 20 years old and 24 or 25 when I came out. One thing is I had a lot of training before I went to Europe, probably 3-4 years training, teaching me how to take care of myself so I donít get killed. Toward the end of the war they were not giving the young soldiers much training and that made more of them get killed.
Stricker: How did you get that dagger?
Hank: Actually I have several of them. Most of the time I think I took them off of German soldiers. But sometimes when we were invading Germany we took over German houses and if there was anything we wanted or needed, especially war materials, we were permitted to take. That would be cameras, clocks or watches, or guns or knives.
Stricker: Where did you get all the nazi stuff?
Hank: Same place. If I saw a soldier had them I would take them. When I lived in German houses if I saw anything like that I would just take it.
Stricker: Did you hesitate to take stuff off dead men?
Hank:No, if I saw a dead German soldier and there was a piece of equipment that I wanted, I would take it. I saw other guys who, if they saw a soldier with a ring on they would take an instrument and cut that finger off. I never did that, no. All I ever took off a German soldier was equipment that could be used during war; a knife or a gun or insignias, I might have taken insignias.
Stricker: Did anyone you knew die?
Hank: Yes, several people in my outfit died. When I say my outfit I mean within 150 people, how many died? Letís say less than ten people, which is a pretty good record right there. But letís remember this: I was field artillery which is big guns from seven to fifteen miles behind front lines. The front line is infantry soldiers so I was not in danger as much as a lot of other soldiers.
Stricker: Have you been back to Germany since?
Hank: Yes I have been back and its an interesting thing, Danny that American people are perhaps more like Germans than any other country over there. But yes I have been back to Germany and I like German people.