Mr. Warren Jensen has sent me a copy and a tape of his memoirs.
Until I am able to get the audio loaded on the pc here is his written word.
Mr. Jensen was in the lst Gun Section of "A" Battery of the 793rd FA Bn , my father was in "B" Battery of the 793rd FA Bn which gives me reason to believe that my father's experiences were very similar to the ones that Mr. Jensen has lived through and written about. He was kind enough to mail me a copy of his memoirs and allowed me to place them on this website. I hope others will take the time to read through these and learn from one of the men that fought to make this country what it is today. E-mail - email@example.com
I am a high school teacher and guidance counselor retired from Sequoia Union School District in Redwood City. I am available , pro bono, to instructors of U.S. History classes studying WW II to discuss, in a class period of time, the life and times of living in San Francisco in the years preceding the war, after the war years on the home front, and my personal experiences as a twice wounded combat veteran fighting in Europe.
These memoirs are arranged as : Pre Pearl Harbor Life in San Francisco
These memoirs were designed to be presented to students at colleges and high schools who are studying and/or interested in some of psychological /sociological insights of the life and times of the generation that fought World War II and of the history of one combat veteran. It is written with those young audiences in mind.
October 23 Warren Jensen
My name is Warren M. Jensen. I was born in 1923 and was 18 years of age in 1941.
Life in 1941
I was born and raised in Sand Francisco and lived by Golden Gate Park right near the ocean. I was graduated from high school in June of 1941. Few went to college in those days and even fewer females. Girls who graduated went into office work or got married. We respected our parents and teachers and those in authority, and had complete faith in our governmental institutions. We were polite and trusting. Cutting classes was just not done to any extent. Sex was reserved for marriage and those few who did sleep around or who got pregnant were shunned. We married for life and the only reasons then for divorce were adultery or desertion. Gay was a positive adjective ad in the popular book, “Our Hearts Were Young and Gay”. There was no drug problem. It was a front page news story when Gene Krupa, a popular drummer with big bands, was arrested for possession of marijuana. Cocaine and heroine were around to a very minor extent.
There was no TV, no Internet, and the medical procedures and medicines available to us today were non-existent. The news was obtained mainly from newspapers and very little from radio. Not all families owned a car and a family with two cars was a rarity. We had access to an excellent Municipal railway system and dates were taken on street cars, even to Proms. Students commuted by streetcar and there were no student parking lots.
There was no HIV or hepatitis or the sexually transmitted diseases of today. Polio, a crippling disease was prevalent until Dr. Jonas Salk in the 1950’s discovered a vaccine so that we have almost entirely wiped it out now. Footnote: Our president, Franklin Roosevelt for 3 terms, was stricken with it and had lost the use of both his legs. He had special elevators installed in the White House and his yacht, the Potomac (now moored in Jack London Square in Oakland) and was supported by aides when he moved. He was always photographed sitting or standing at a podium under a gentlemen’s agreement with the press that he would never be photographed showing his disability. I only found out in 1958 that he was crippled. Do you think that such a cover-up could be done in this day of tabloid TV and paparazzi???
Most of us were scared of girls. They were, and still are, the strange, exotic creatures who were prettier, softer, and smelled nicer than the guys and caused us to have all sorts of funny feelings, including being able to make us tongue-tied! We had no clue as to what made them “tick” and time hasn’t solved that problem. Females are an enigma wrapped in a puzzle, but that’s what makes them such interesting, exciting, unfathomable, delightful creatures! They are incurable romantics and you must NEVER, EVER forget a birthday, an anniversary, a Valentines Day, or suffer the consequences. There were restrictions on dating and some girls could not date until they were 16 or older. Individual boy-girl relationships were fairly rare and “going steady” was done mostly with group activities, and more common, had girls going out with girls, guys going out with guys. Movies, ice skating, roller skating, or going to the World’s Fair on Treasure Island were popular activities. Eating out was most rare due to the cost. Schools had lots of dances and it was a popular activity, either at your own school or going to another school. In fact, there were frequent Friday after school All-Schools’ Dances where students from all the city’s high schools would attend a dance at a school on a rotating basis. These were chaperoned and outsiders were not allowed in. There were no troubles at all. So you think such an event would be successful today?
The fireman at Larkspur in Marin County used to put on dances on Saturday nights at the Rose Bowl, a romantic, open air dance floor among the redwood trees. Each high school had a banner for meeting places. With no bridges built, we traveled there by ferry boat.
Girls were expected to be “lady-like” in everything they did. With few exceptions they did not smoke and older women smoked only indoors, if at all. Girls did not drive cars. There were no Driver Ed. or Driver Training classes in the schools. Nice girls did not swear and guys did not swear in front of females. There were no swear words in the movies, and it caused a gigantic uproar in “Gone With the Wind” with Clark Gable in the late 30’s when he said, “Frankly, My Dear, I don’t give a damn”. Shorts were worn only in track and basketball games. Swim suits for guys were one-piece until the late 30’s and girls’ 2-piece bathing seats, bikinis, and thongs were unknown. Only men wore pants. Actress Katherine Hepburn, a rebel all her life, first scandalized the world when she wore slacks in person. Take notice in old films and pictures of sporting events, parades or even civil disturbances in those days- the men all wearing black coats, ties and hats.
Hats were the mark of an adult male. Guys wore cords, the dirtier the better (why?) and Levi’s were prohibited (why?) white shirt and senior sweaters or athletic Block sweaters. Shoes were ankle high Keds or loafers. No hats. Baseball caps were worn only by baseball players. Girls wore skirts and blouses and bows in their hair. Eye shadow, eyeliners, mascara were left to the theatrical people. But lipstick was worn and saddleshoes were popular.
Guys have something built into their DNA’s and we were also taught by our parents and teachers about certain things you do and don’t’ do with girls. Girls are to be protected by the men as they are the weaker sex. They are the bearers of the children that allow our species to continue. You never hit a girl, you opened doors for them, you pulled out chairs for them at tables, you didn’t swear in front of girls. Females were to be treated with respect and were to be cherished and protected.
Yes, the world we grew up in was a bit different from yours, wasn’t it? It was just a simpler time. Tom Brokaw the TV personality has written a book titled, “The Greatest Generation”, and the first part of it, particularly, gives you a superb view as to what we were. Our society was inculcated with the “DO THE RIGHT THING” ethic in business and in personal relationships. The “Golden Rule” was practiced and you never even touched anything that wasn’t yours, EXAMPLE: In our stateside barracks we lived in open bay barracks and we each had an unlocked footlocker and our clothes were just hung on poles. We had no instances of any thefts.
The Bat area pre-war had 1-1/2 million people. Now there are 7 million. There were no traffic jams, no bridges, no freeways. The bridges, built in 1939, had tolls of $.25. Now they are $2.00, going to $3.00, and the Golden Gate Bridge at $5.00. San Francisco had (politically correct terms at the time) 3,000 Colored residents and the Jap Town, Chinatown, and Italian North Beach enclaves. Upon graduation, I went to work at $75.00 a month. Gasoline was like 12 cents a gallon. The East Bay was a world away with the small villages of Danville, Walnut Creek, Concord, and Marines reached only by a 2-lane highway. We just didn’t travel over there. Sundays were family days with a lot of driving and visiting of friends and relatives. Santa Clara was covered with orchards and delightful and fragrant orchard smells permeated the air. That was our idyllic San Francisco Bay Area. I thought that all of the USofA had the same ideal climate that we had. I soon found out differently.
WORLD WAR II
Some years ago Britain’s Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, stated that “evil must be confronted whenever and wherever it raised its ugly head”. Sadly enough the world did not confront Adolf Hitler when he first began his policy of Lieberstrum, the gobbling up of the smaller countries to give his people more land and to use those peoples to work in Nazi Germany. His book, Mein Kampf (My Struggle) contained his blueprint of what he was going to do and he followed it precisely. But it was ignored. WE could have called his bluff, we could have confronted him, but both Britain and France had been bled white in WWI and thought they could appease him by giving into his demands. Nothing was done when he took over Austria. Then he was given Czechoslovakia for appeasement. Then Hitler ran over Poland and because of treaties, France and Britain had to declare war. Hitler had formed the Axis—Germany, Italy, and Japan. He took over the Scandinavian countries except for Sweden, and by-passed the so called the impregnable Maginot Line of concrete pillboxes built by France, simply by blitzkreiging through the Low Countries of Belgium and Holland. His bombers and V-1 missiles pounded Britain and only the fact that he had not planned for enough invasion craft prevented Britain from being invaded. Britain was truly on the ropes with only 26 miles of the English Channel as a moat.
We had Nazi sympathizers here and tolerated the German-American Bund an organization that emulated the Nazi party. Chas. Lindbergh, the famous aviator who had first flown the Atlantic solo, admired Nazi Germany. We had American Firsters in Congress and in the nation who did not want us involved in another of Europe’s wars and wanted us to take care of our own economy instead. Even President Roosevelt, in a campaign speech, stated that “I will never send our boys overseas.” Churchill, whose mother was American, really needed us in the war and Roosevelt was in agreement. A treaty was negotiated whereby we gave Britain 50 badly-needed, old destroyers in return for bases in Bermuda and in the Caribbean. Congress would not approve military aid to Britain but Roosevelt set up the Lend-Lease Program so Britain could supposedly purchase food and weaponry from us, basically an illegal move on his part. “I Didn’t Raise My Boy To Be A Soldier” was sung by the American First anti war pacifists.
We had broken some of the Japanese Naval secret codes and had indications for the impending attack on Pearl Harbor. There is speculation that both Roosevelt and Churchill were aware but did nothing to prevent it as they saw this as the perfect way to get the US into the war. December 7th, 1941 on a balmy Sunday morning Japanese aircraft, launched from aircraft carriers sank most of the US Pacific Fleet that was at anchor at Pearl Harbor. Fortunately, our aircraft carriers were at sea. We were stunned!!
We knew of Hawaii as an exotic place out there somewhere in the Pacific. As youngsters in my elementary school, we had a view of the Golden Gate (without the Bridge) and our teacher would have us stand and sing the haunting Hawaiian song “Aloha Oi”, as the white Lurline or Matsonia cruise ships sailed through the Golden Gate on their weekly cruise to Honolulu. Then, only the wealthy could afford cruises.
Japanese submarines eventually shelled a refinery near Santa Barbara and also sailed balloons with explosives that landed in the forests of the Pacific Northwest. So certain that the soon Japanese would actually land in Hawaii, our government printed up the paper currency with the word HAWAII, on it to prevent the enemy from using our US monies. Those would surely be collector’s items today.
We went to blackout conditions and taped up all windows to prevent from glass injuries from bombs, Auto headlights, except for a slit were blacked out. City lights make a beautiful background as they silhouette ships. The East Coast didn’t black out for a long time and lost a significant number of freighters and tankers. German submarines photographs substantiate this. Soldiers put up barbed wire on San Francisco beaches. Rumors abounded. Individuals and shops in Jap town were attacked. Smoke from burning documents came from foreign consulates.
Next came one of the most shameful events in our history, but should be viewed in the current light of the then current hysteria and fears. All foreign-born and native-born Japanese were required to report for transfer to “relocation” camps. Many had to sell their homes, businesses, and ranches at low, low prices. In this area, they were transported to the Tanforan Race Track in San Mateo and housed in the stables there before being sent to camps in desolate inland areas.
Later the Army allowed some Hawaiian lads of Japanese ancestry to form the 100th Infantry Battalion and later the 442nd Regimental Combat Team which became the most decorated unit in the Army for bravery and wounds. They had to prove their worth and loyalty to the US and they did as they fought and died in Italy and France.
The attack of December 7th overnight did away with isolationism and political differences. We came together as a nation—the Sleeping Giant had been awakened!! Gas, meat, and clothes rationing came into being. Tires could not be purchased. Some put their cars up on blocks for the duration. The speed limit was set at 35. War bonds were heavily sold and bought. Posters were everywhere warning against giving out sensitive information the enemy could use, like, “Loose Lips Sink Ships”, and “Adolf is Listening”’ Tin cans, aluminum and metal were collected in great piles, and even bacon grease was supposed to be able to be used for munitions.
Women, up to then, were expected to be married or working in offices, But with the war they came into their own doing heavy physical work such as building ships and aircraft and one group ferried war planes. There were shipyards in South San Francisco, Hunters Point in San Francisco, Sausalito, and Richmond. People came from all over the country to work at these places at very good pay. There is a monument at the Richmond Marina , the site of a shipyard, to “Rosie the Riveter”. A number of women joined the military. Those of us either too young or too old joined the Civilian Defense Corps. I trained as a firefighter. There were groups that manned the tops of buildings scanning for enemy aircraft. Each city block had an Air Raid Warden who insured that no light showed from home. As the war continued there were fewer and fewer men around and women took over their duties. Men classified 4-F as unfit for military service were scorned. Women were starved for male companionship. There was a song “ They’re either too young or too old, they’re either too gray or too grassy green, what’s good is in the Army, what’s left will never harm you”. Girls danced with each other at dances. Leg makeup was used as silk stockings were going into parachutes and such.
Most of Europe was enslaved. Germany used Poles, Russians, and French as slave laborers and looted the countries of their food and art treasures. Hitler had his Final Solution which was to terminate anyone with Jewish blood of 1/16th or more. It’s ironic that Hitler destroyed a town in Austria that had records showing that his father’s mother, a domestic, had become pregnant by her Master who was Jewish, thereby making Hitler 1/4th Jewish! Hitler killed over 6 million Jews-men, women, and children by bullet, by carbon monoxide, or by nerve gas. Some people today are saying that the Holocaust is just a fantasy and never happened. I, personally, can attest to the fact that it DID take place as we liberated the camps. He also exterminated homosexuals, mental defectives, and political prisoners.
We assumed that the US was safe from attack due to the oceans we have. Hitler had plans for intercontinental missiles and, in fact, had two aircraft built that could reach the US. I only recently learned that he also had developed, late in the war, working air to air missiles that would have wrecked havoc on our bomber formations. Also, late in the wear he had the first operations jet plane, the Messerchmidt 262. He had plane production going but, fortunately for us, he did not have enough pilots trained to fly them. His scientists were also quite advanced in developing the atomic bomb.
I was 18 and wanted to fight but my parents wouldn’t sign the papers. I could have forged their signature, but we didn’t do those kinds of things. I volunteered for the Army’s field Artillery eventually, after wearing them down, and was inducted at the Presidio of Monterey and thence to a Field Artillery Battalion at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. A furlough home consisted of sitting up in a train for 3 nights and 4 days which didn’t leave much time at home on a 14-day furlough. Our unit eventually shipped out of New York on a British-crewed former West Africa coastal steamer which was placed in the rear right hand corner of a convoy of ships. This was known as “coffin corner”, a favorite target for Kraut submarines. A ship next to us was a side paddlewheeler, if you can imagine. It was a relief to finally see the coast of Ireland and to dock at Glasgow, Scotland. We loaded onto trains for a ride to the south of England where we unloaded at Badminton, England at 2 am to put up out tents in the drizzly English weather. We had little opportunity to see the sights of England. With our much higher pay than the Brits, the girls were easy prey for the Yanks. Most of their lads were off fighting in other parts of the world. The English said that Yanks were “over paid, over fed, over sexed, and over here”. The fields and byways of England were jammed with all sorts of military equipment and it was joked that the only reason Great Britain didn’t sink into the sea was due to the barrage of balloons keeping it afloat. The Brits had been hard hit by the bombings and had evacuated the children away from London’s bombings. Everyone was short on rations and would not have been able to survive were it not for the supplies being brought in by ship by the US.
After extensive training, we embarked at Southampton on a small landing craft called and LCT-Landing Craft Tank-British crewed, for the crossing to our landing on Omaha Beach. The fighting was a short ways inland. We landed, went into position, tore off the waterproofing on all the howitzer parts, and began fire missions. Things were still precarious and a good counterattack could have thrown us back into the sea. We were hanging on by our fingernails. Ike had already prepared a message taking full blame for a failed landing. Fortunately, he did not have to use it. As we left England we were each given a message from Ike saying that we were embarking on a Great Crusade, ect.. The book he wrote was also titled that. Our cause was just, and that is a powerful motivation emotion.
In Normandy, we were up against elite Fallschirmjaeger (parachute) and SS troops.
The Wermacht were the regular soldiers, the SS were troops of Heinrich Himmler, bound to Hitler by blood oaths, wore tattooed serial numbers in their arm pits, and were fanatical, tenacious fighters. The Hitler SS Youth had fighting units and these 14, 15, and 16-year olds were also fanatical fighters. ( much like the Iraqi and Palestinian terrorists of today)
Youth, like yourselves, commonly do not have a great fear of death and do possess a feeling of immortality. You’re young and strong and vital and anything bad is going to the other guy, not you. That’s often the attitude youth have towards drugs, smoking, alcohol, reckless driving, SDT, and pregnancies. It’s a fine attitude for combat soldiers and explains why soldiers are generally in their teens and 20’s. Old geezers have learned that it CAN happen to you. And, in dangerous situations, the fear of letting down your buddies is stronger when everything tells you to run and hide. It was not unknown for troopers to shoot themselves on the legs, toes, or fingers to avoid combat and this was true even in our Civil War.
On July 25th, 1944, we broke out of the Normandy beachhead and General Patton’s 3rd Army became activated. Unfortunately, our Air Corps, by error dropped their bombs on our own troops even killing an observing U.S. General. We continued the fighting as we approached Paris. Paris was taken and they wanted a Victory Parade. We were in no condition to display ourselves so a brand new unit that had clean clothing was used. We skirted Paris and I had a chance for a few hours to go into the city where sporadic fighting was still continuing. It was there that I saw long-legged French girls with colored hair smoking leaves from the trees. They were happy to get our cigarettes. We swung towards Belgium and Holland. To this day their cities and towns celebrate their liberation days and decorate the graves of our lads who gave them that. Upon liberating a town we could se those girls, who had been girlfriends of the German troops, with their hair all cut off by their neighbors and were paraded, some with babies, thru the streets with the townspeople taking whacks at them. Male collaborators suffered more serious physical abuse.
We had no R&R-rest and recuperation time, but I got an overnight in Maastricht, Holland, at a hotel where I had one of the two hot showers I had in almost a year of combat. But after all the time outdoors I found it difficult to sleep indoors. The other shower was in an Army long trailer where groups were run thru with 30 seconds to soap and 30 seconds to rinse. The clean clothing afterwards was most welcome. We generally shaved out of our helmets as we had to keep hair off our faced on account of facial wounds. At night, we either were firing missions or on guard duty. We slept in fox holes and, in Germany, took down doors from houses to use as roofs for our fox holes and piled soil on top for protection against shrapnel. Invariably, we got orders to move out after fixing up our homes.
Unlike our troops today in Iraq, the only communication from home that we had was by letter. We had no TV, cell phones, satellite connections and transistor radios hadn’t yet been invented, nor did we have cassette tapes or video tapes of loved ones that could be played. Our so-called “V” mail was censored and photographed to a reduced size to save weight. Mail from home was eagerly looked forward to and often it came in batches as it caught up with us. Often we didn’t’ know the day of the week or where we were or what time it was. Wristwatches were too easily broken. Our howitzer section had one wristwatch only which we passed about while on guard duty. Today our troops in the Middle East, as during the Vietnam war, are serving one year or less tours of duty there before returning home. In WWII we were there for the duration plus 6 months. We had no terminal date to look forward to. Consequently, many troops did not return home for 3 or 4 years. When the hostilities ended in Germany we were simply scheduled to be in the invasion of the Japanese Islands. Despite this, morale remained high. “Dear John” letters from wives and girlfriends gave the guys some hard times.
FOOD & CLOTHING
Combat rations had been developed and consisted of C, K, and D, Rations. C’s consisted of 2 cans-one with bean or Vienna sausage or a hash substance while the other can held a small pack of cigarettes, a small package of toilet paper, some “dog biscuits”, gum, candy, and instant coffee. The “K” rations came in a waxed cardboard box that could be used to heat up the coffee in a canteen cup, and contained a small container of cheese or a meat, and cigarettes, “dog” biscuits, candy, TP, coffee. They fit in a field jacket pocket. Having cheese sometimes for all three meals was not much fun. The “D” ration was a hard, thick, solid bar, like a soap bar, of chocolate infused with lots of vitamins. One had to gnaw at it or shave off pieces to eat or to make hot chocolate. It was an emergency type of ration. Needless to say it was a big hit with the civilians living in France, Belgium, and Holland who hadn’t had chocolate for years.
The Army tried to get hot food up to us in large thermos-type containers but lukewarm or cold food was common. An effort was made at Thanksgiving and Christmas to get a turkey dinner with all the trimmings up to us and that Army tradition continues to this day. Once we captured a factory that made sugar from sugar beets. We loaded sacks of sugar onto flatbed trucks and our cooks were able to swap these for other food items, so we ate quite well for a while. In what was thought to be a patriotic gesture of the tobacco companies in giving us cigarettes in our rations and infrequently giving us cartons of smokes turned out to be a slick and most clever marketing strategy. Many of us did not smoke entering the Army but certainly learned to do so. You could get your clothes washed for a pack of smokes, for example. We’re reaping the effects today of nicotine addiction with lung cancer and emphysema.
After about 6 river crossings, we entered Germany through Holland. Whereas we were always met in France, Holland, and Belgium with wine, flowers, girls, we were met in Germany with hostility and sullen looks. Just white sheets hanging from windows as signs of surrender. A policy was instituted that fined a soldier $65.00 ( a month’s pay for privates) for even talking socially to a German. This was pretty well adhered to by the front line troops, despite being in need of feminine affection after so many months, but subsequently I have learned that the policy was pretty well ignored by the rear echelon troops. After hostilities ended, for a pack of smokes, a ration of food, or a bar of soap, you could get a desperate but willing girl.
When we captured a town we would call in the Burgermeister (mayor) and have him gather all weapons like beautiful shotguns, rifles, and knives into the town square and we’d run over them with our tank treads.
Winston Churchill termed this the larges land battle ever fought. Hitler slyly gathered together in the Ardennes Forest a massive number of troops, tanks and artillery. We had put brand new divisions into this so-called quiet sector. The intelligence reports that something was going on were ignored. On December 16th Hitler’s troops struck and overran our units taking great numbers of prisoners and driving for the port of Antwerp. They made a deep bulge in our lines. He also had a small number of English-speaking SS troopers dressed in US Army uniforms and driving US Jeeps. This caused a terrible scare to all of us out of all proportion to the size of the force.
They caused confusion by directing our troops to the wrong areas and tearing down directional signs. Our own MP’s would question us about baseball trivia to see if we were Germans or not. At one point, the SS captured a field artillery battery, lined them up in a field in Malmedy, Belgium, and machine gunned them. When news of this massacre swept through our troops, there was great anger and few SS prisoners made it back to a prison cage. I was wounded and evacuated to a hospital set up in a monastery.
During the Bulge we suffered from insufficient clothing and had little protection against the cold. Subsequently, there were many who had to be evacuated due to frostbite and frozen hands and feet despite the orders that we were to massage each others stinky feet. Reports from replacements coming from the rear, were that significant number of troops back there were seen wearing the overshoes and warmer jackets that were supposed to get up to the troops at the front. It was bitterly cold and our Air Corps were unable to drop ammunition and food to us due to the overcast and foggy weather. But, right after New Year’s Day in 1945 , the sky suddenly became crystal clear and the Air Corps was able to begin drops and to attack the Kraut tanks and artillery. We cheered them!!
We eventually reached the Elbe River and our 2nd Armored Division (Hell on Wheels) got a pontoon bridge across the river and we could have gone to Berlin which was about 40 miles away, but, for political reasons, we had to stop there at Magdeburg. For you who are interested in History, it makes interesting reading as to why Ike had to make that decision. The Germans tried to take out that bridge with everything----bombs, artillery, and even frogmen were floated down. ( that’s the first time I even had heard about such creatures. I was able to finagle a jeep ride over to the eastern side of the Elbe where the Russians were coming up and was amazed at the horse drawn artillery AND the women in the front lines. I was again slightly wounded.
The Krauts were masters of deception and camouflage. They could delay US troops by putting up signs saying ACTUNG-MINEN (danger mines). Sometimes there would really be mines laid but, at other times, for the price of a wooden sign and some paint only (no mines) they could hold up an entire column. One pitch black night we went into position and at daylight found we were in a minefield! Fortunately it was a phony sign. The Germans also pitched propaganda that a “National Redoubt” of soldiers and SS troops would be set up in the Bavarian Alps to conduct guerrilla warfare. This fake information caused Eisenhower to move troops around. It was a pure hoax.
May 8th became VE (Victory in Europe) Day and the Russians responded vigorously with celebrations of liquor, dancing, and the firing of weapons, flares, and rockets. We held no such celebration. We were physically and emotionally exhausted and also knew that we still had to go to work in the Pacific.
We moved back to the city of Giessen and were billeted in an asylum for the insane. Apparently Hitler missed these unfortunates in his extermination program. We manned checkpoints on the Autobahn. Our food rations improved and when we finished eating, German civilians waited at the end of the lone and we would scrape our leftovers into their containers. If they were chosen to work scrubbing pots they would get better food.
I had no trouble then with killing German soldiers, especially the hated SS. I know that I no doubt killed German Christians. Soldiers wore belt buckles with GOTT MITT UNS (God is With Us) on their uniforms…But this is what I live with. For the wicked SS, I have no regrets. They were sadists and thugs. Some years ago President Regan, on a trip to Germany, rightfully refused to even visit a cemetery where SS bodies were buried.
In the movie Saving Private Ryan, you saw death notification team go to the soldiers home and that is done today. But more commonly word was received if a soldier was wounded, missing in action, taken prisoner, or killed by means of a Western Union telegram simply due to the large numbers involved.
We were scheduled to sail to the Pacific out of Marseilles, France but VJ (Victory over Japan) Day on August 14th, 1945 meant that the war was truly over. Our wish was to go home as a unit. We had been together for almost 4 years. We had lived together, suffered together, slept together. There is no greater bond between men that those who have seen combat together. We were a Band of Brothers, and after 59 years, the few of us left from our gun crew still stay in touch. Many soldiers had never been but a short distance from their home before going in the Army. Some had never even worn shoes before. They were sent to all parts of our country. They were from various walks of life with various levels of education—they were salt of the earth. In all fairness, the Army had a point system to determine the order in which soldiers returned home. Points were given for length of service, time in combat, time overseas, medals won, battles one was in, whether married, or with children. They went home in the highest to lowest order. My Purple Heart and five battle stars helped. The breakup of our unit was thus quite traumatic.
I had been a howitzer gunner and a machine gunner and received my commission as an officer from the battlefield. On returning home I enrolled at the University of California at Berkeley on the GI Bill, one of the most significant investments this nation has ever made in education and in our society. We received tuition, books, and $75.00 a month, $90.00 if married and $105.00 for the first child. I married and became a Christian by Grace, and a conservative Lutheran by conviction. I earned two graduate degrees—in Business and in Counseling & Guidance and was a teacher and a Guidance Counselor at Woodside High School for 30 years. Thanks to the GI Bill.
The Honor Roll at my high school is filled with the names of my classmates who never came back. There were many young lads who never had the chance to marry or have children or, in a lot of cases never got to know the love and affection of a woman.
We had embarked on a Great Crusade in a war that was just, and liberated millions of enslaved people. A lot of good boys die to bring it about. As for my buddies and me, we’ve been living on borrowed time for 59 years. The War made men of us and shaped our generation into what it became. If you are in Europe and can visit any of our extremely well-kept military cemeteries, you can see the rows upon rows of the headstones of those “forever 19-year olds" who died for freedom. BUT FREEDOM IS NEVER FREE! Not a day has gone by in all these 59 years that I haven’t recollected buddies or events from those days.
Our American dead totaled 400,000. That is over half again the population of San Francisco’s 275,000. American wounded totaled 671,000, almost the entire population of our Contra Costa County—man, woman, child. Some of our large Naval losses were 83 destroyers and 51 submarines to cite a few.
Also killed were six million Jews, 4 million defectives, 20 million Russians, plus others making an estimate of over 50 million dead.
Suggested readings : author Stephen Ambrose is excellent with his “D-Day”, “Citizen Soldier”, “Ike’s Boys”, “Band of Brothers”, and Saving Private Ryan”, and John Eisenhower’s “Bitter Woods”, a superb story of the Battle of the Bulge, to name a few. Ask the reference librarian at your public library to point you to the WWII history section.
My generation was raised to be honest, trusting of others, and never rude. Unfortunately, we are now being targeted by con artists because we are "soft" touches. We tend not to hang up on telemarketers, we listen to phone solicitations, we’ll listen to house repair scammers who come to our front doors, and we are suckers for any and all charitable requests, be they legitimate or illegitimate.
And do ask your great-grand parents what their lives were like growing up and what they remember from the war years. They will generally not volunteer their stories figuring you would not be interested, but they DO have stories to tell. Ask them – I think you’ll be surprised and they will enjoy telling you their fascinating tales.
Neo Nazism is alive and well today in Germany and to a much smaller extent in other countries, including the US. These so-called “skinheads” mimic Nazi uniforms and salutes, worship Adolf Hitler, deny the holocaust as a Jewish invention, and, in Germany attack foreign workers. There is evidence that they are being funded by ODESSA, the SS organization that stole untold riches from Germany and arranged for SS and Nazis to escape to So. America and other countries. The torch for a Nazi 4th Reich has truly been passed on!!
Warren Jensen, August 2004 Warren and Bob at a nightclub in Oakland, CA. right after discharge. 12/45