H Company 16th Infantry Big Red One

In Memory of Captain Anthony J Prahl and all the men who served with 
              H Company 16th Infantry, First Infantry Divison In WWII 

Ralph C. Carmichael "Hoagy"

Ralph was the very first H Company veteran I managed to track down and contact. This was just after New Years 2005. His wife had just passed away and he was down. Surprisingly, he took my interest in his wartime experiences well and we began to talk and share his experiences with me.

    Happily, now he is spending his time with his friend Helen and working at the senior Center teaching other seniors how to use computers. He is busy, so we haven’t communicated much in the last 8 months.

    I will be adding his story to this page shortly.

 

Andy Andrews

I tried contacting Andy in 2007 through his son. I managed to locate him through the Internet White Pages. Andy's son informed me that Andy had just damaged his hearing and wouldn’t be able to communicate with me over the phone. It wasn’t much later that he contacted me via a ghostwriter who was helping him with his wartime memoir. I gladly supplied them with all the research I had and have maintained communication with him ever since. I hope very much to soon be receiving a copy of his book. I will be posting his VMI Interview here along with some items of interest he sent me also some of his war time photos.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

John A. Adams 71 Center for Military History and Strategic Analysis Military Oral History Project Interview with Ernest A. Andrews by Cadet Rob Payne. October 31, 2006

©Adams Center, Virginia Military InstitutePayne ?

The following interview is being conducted for the First Division Museum at Cantigny and the John A. Adams Center, Class of ?71, for Military History and Strategic Analysis as part of the requirements for History 393?History of World War II. The interviewer is Rob Payne. The interviewee is Mr. Ernest A. Andrews. Today?s date is the 31st of October 2006.

Payne ?Mr. Andrews, would you please describe your military career, including any posting of awards that you had throughout your service in the U.S. Army?

Andrews ?

My military career consisted of being drafted June 23, 1943 when I was just out of high school in Chattanooga. I received basic training during that year and then went overseas in January 1944 and was involved in a lot of training in England. Then, when the invasion started in Normandy, I was with a group that was in what they called the third wave. I was a machine-gunner, 30 caliber water cooled, and our unit mostly walked from the Normandy beachhead to Czechoslovakia where we were at the end of the war. So my military career was a little bit less than two years.

Payne ?

Did you stay in the Army after World War II?

Andrews ?

No, I did not. I got out immediately.

Payne ?

Would you please give me some background on your life prior to military service? You said you were in high school before being drafted. What were your thoughts when the war began?

Andrews ?

I have a wonderful, Christian family of five brothers and one sister. All of us lived on Signal Mountain, Tennessee, a few miles from Chattanooga. We had a great youth in Boy Scouting and had a wonderful church and youth group experience there on Signal Mountain. In 1941 at the bombing of Pearl Harbor, we were listening to the opera music on a little radio that we had and my mother burst out crying because she realized the impact the bombing of Pearl Harbor would have. Then, of course, when the United States declared war on Japan, that was a signal to my mother that all of her boys would be going into the war and, sure enough, we did. All five of us, one after another, were drafted into the 2

military with one exception. I had one brother who was four years older than I who volunteered for the paratroopers. So that was my youth?a wonderful, wonderful pre-war experience in the woods and fishing and hunting and camping and all that kind of thing.

Payne ?

Sir, do you think those experiences helped you when you eventually got into combat in Europe?

Andrews ?

First of all, I?m a Christian, and I believe in Jesus Christ and I believe that God protected our family, our boys?our brothers?and he certainly protected me in the war, but I also know that theskills that I developed as a Boy Scout are responsible for the survival that I enjoy. I was one of the only guys in our outfit that knew how to do rope lashing?rope logs together?and we used that over our foxholes in Europe. I was one of the only ones who knew how to build a smile fire?a good fire?without creating a lot of smoke. Those kinds of skills really came in very handy, so I attribute the Boy Scout movement partially for my survival.

Payne ?

That?s incredible sir. I actually was an Eagle Scout, as well.

Andrews ?

Good for you. So you know what I?m talking about.

Payne ?

Yes sir. I had some of the best times of my life in Scouting.

Andrews ?

That?s it exactly. You learn how to deal with each other, how to trust each other, how to count on each other. The skills that we learned were incredibly effective during the war, particularly in the snowy areas of the Battle of the Bulge, etc.

Payne ?

I?m going to come back to that. You said that you were a 30 caliber gunner. Did you have any special assignments during the war?

Andrews ?

My assignment was to be a gunner most of the time in the 30 caliber machine gun squad. Whoever was carrying the tripod when the enemy was contacted, or when we were in a firefight, he became the gunner. For the most part I was carrying the tripod so I was the gunner. The other fellows carried the barrel and the water jacket and the ammunition.

Payne ?

What would you say is probably your most striking memory from the war? Was it a particular engagement or campaign or could it even be a single moment, or series of battles?

Andrews ?

That?s very, very difficult to answer because we were in combat almost constantly. I was in the 16th Infantry, H Company?heavy weapons company?of the First Infantry Division. You can 3

read all the history of that division and you will find out that the 16

th Infantry was in combat a mighty long time. Striking moments? I don?t know. That?s hard to deal with. Killing somebody at point-blank range is pretty striking and seeing your buddies killed and having their blood splattered all over you?that?s pretty striking also. There are lots and lots of striking moments. I would say one of the most vivid was on the troopship going from England to France. A lot of people, I mean, it just seemed to me like hundreds, were on this ship and down in the bottom of that ship the only thing you could hear was a splash of water here and there but everybody was quiet. There was no singing, no shouting. It was a tremendously moving thing to hear two or three guys from me repeating over and over the Lord?s Prayer. I assumed that that?s the only prayer that they knew. They were reading it from the little brown testament that all of us had. That was one of the major things that I recall

Then, when the ship stopped 12 miles from the beach and our outfit came up on the deck, we could see the smoke. We were right next to the U.S.S. Texas battleship and hearing those big guns go off was an extremely, frightening and also an assuring thing. When those guns went off, two at a time, and six or more, it was incredible. The sky was filled with fire and smoke when we climbed down the rope ladders and got in the Higgins boat, that battleship was firing right over us. All of those were the kinds of things that you don?t forget. We were told that we would be in the third wave from this big troopship and when we were just about ready to go down the ladders, we received instructions from the beach that there was so much carnage on the beach, so many dead people, so much wreckage that there was no place to land, and we were instructed to wait. We did not go in at dark or 6:00, suppertime, like we were supposed to. We waited until about 4:30 the next morning and then went down the rope ladders and into the Higgins boats. That was an incredible experience. To learn that the Higgins boats were made out of plywood didn?t help us feel any better, but we did know that the ramp was metal. That was quite an experience, going from the ships. The sea was so rough that the Higgins boats were bouncing like corks and they were coming up against the side of the troopship and when it got to the side, we would drop off the rope into the Higgins boats. One or two of the guys missed and went between the Higgins boat and the troopship and were drowned. The guys in the Higgins boat began pulling the rope ladders over into the boat so that when folks let loose of the ladder they fell into the Higgins boat. 4

Going from that troopship across that water?I don?t know how long it took. I have no idea. Maybe 45 minutes is what I?d say. That was a scary occasion, particularly when you heard explosions to your right and left and you could see fragments of Higgins boats next to you blowing up and going up in the air. They had some direct hits. Our Higgins boat got near the beach. The coxswain were instructed, when you hear the bottom of the boat hit the sand, that?s when you let the ramp down. Our coxswain heard sand and started to let the ramp down but the captain told him not to because that was probably a sand bar. The seas were so rough, they built up a few sand bars. The heavy seas would push the sand up and the Higgins boat could not get close enough to the real beach. So he ordered the coxswain to back up a little and hit it full speed, which he did, and it broke through that smaller beach obstacle and we went on up toward the beach. I would say we were 100 yards from the beach when we started wading.

Payne ?

Sir, what beach did you land at?

Andrews ?

Omaha Beach.

Payne ?

Now by then, had most of the combat engineers been able to clean up everything at the beach or was the carnage still there from earlier that morning?

Andrews ?

There was still a lot of carnage there but they had gotten rid of most of the immediate trash on the beach. Also the guys there, already on the beach, were able to overcome enemy small arms fire, the machine gun fire. That?s what was taking the most deadly toll?the German machine gunners that were in the high ground emplacements. Most of that had been cleared out when we got there and the only thing bothering us was German artillery coming over the high ground and crashing into the beach area.

Payne ?

So what you?re saying is that the beach, for the most part, had been secured with the exception of incoming German artillery?

Andrews ?

That?s correct.

Payne ?

What were your experiences post-landing?post-D-Day?before we finally achieved the breakout from Normandy?

Andrews ?

Our outfit finally got up on what we called the "high ground" and there were some German foxholes up there which we used to our advantage for several hours, until it really got daylight and then we secured our positions a little better and waited for instructions to move out. That came pretty 5

fast. We started overland toward what turned out to be the hedgerow country, which was a devastating experience also. The first two or three days there we were within a few miles of the beach, combing a forested areas and some of the woodland areas there looking for the enemy.

Payne ?

What was your experiences fighting through hedgerows? From everything I?ve read and understand, that was one of the most difficult forms of warfare.

Andrews ?

That was a tremendously difficult thing and unexpected. We would follow narrow roads. The hedgerows were built over, I guess, generation after generation of farmers plowing the land and they?d run into a boulder and throw it over on their boundary line or if they came across a large root in the ground, they would finally get it out and throw it over on the border, and those borders kept building up and shrubs and trees started growing on them and those borders showed which farm was which. The Germans had holes dug through some of those hedgerows which were eight or ten feet high. We didn?t know that but we were going across fields and then we were immediately attacked by German machine guns that were in a place we couldn?t see. Finally we started using the roadways between these hedgerows and just rooting out the Germans little by little. They killed a lot of our soldiers because of their hidden advantage.

Payne ?

What do you think was the most effective tactic or weapon that the U.S. G.I.s were able to employ against the German positions?

Andrews ?

In the hedgerows?

Payne ?

Yes sir.

Andrews ?

Well, I think probably our tanks were pretty effective. We had some tanks and some guys that were pretty ingenious attached bulldozer blades to the fronts of the tanks and rushed some of those smaller hedgerows creating avenues where the troops could run through. The most effective thing was just plain infantry going up those roads?rooting out the enemy positions where we found them.

Payne ?

What was your perception of the German soldiers you were facing?

Andrews ?

My perception of the German soldiers is that, first of all, we ran into some very young soldiers, 17 years old. But as we got into combat we discovered the German soldier was a tremendously effective fighter. He had a lot of training and we learned in our basic training that the Germans thought it would take two years to make a real killer out of a young man and in our situation?the United States?6

we had 13 weeks of training. So the comparison really did show that the German soldier was a good soldier. Not the people that they had forced into their armed services from other countries. But the Germans were good fighters.

Payne ?

Was there any particular weapon that the Germans had in their inventory that gave you guys in the infantry unit a particularly hard time?

Andrews ?

I would say that the German burp pistol was an extremely fast-firing weapon and it was a scary weapon. It was horrible to hear because there were so many bullets coming out of it that if anybody got in the way?they received several shots. They were a very fearful thing for us.

Payne ?

In the infantry, did you develop any type of weapons or anything to counter that?

Andrews ?

You mean to counter the burp pistol? No, it was just one of those things that the enemy had and as soon as the burp pistol would fire, we would know just exactly where that firing was coming from and that was one of the thing we kept trying to get after. They tried to eliminate our automatic weapons as much as we tried to eliminate theirs, because the automatic weapon was the thing they feared most. That?s the reason so many machine-gunners got killed, because as you traverse from the left to the right, while you?re over on the right or over on the left, the German soldiers out there being shot at could tell which way the firing was coming from because every fifth bullet was a tracer. They really stayed after the machine-gunners. We lost a tremendous number of machine-gunners, mostly shot right through the head.

Payne ?

That?s quite unfortunate, sir. Was there anything that you, as the main gunner, did to make sure you were in better emplacements?

Andrews ?

I think so. I think one of the things I learned?and I learned this in basic training?they kept telling us to keep low. To stay as low as you possibly can, as close to the ground. Now, that?s hard to do shooting machine guns, but there was a way that I developed to fire my machine gun at the enemy position or at the enemy moving toward us, by looking under the barrel instead of sticking my head up over the top of the barrel. I figure that was a tactic that really helped save my life.

Payne ?

Sir, when you got into Germany, what was your attitude towards German civilians as you were advancing across Germany? 7

Andrews ?

I?ve got a little different approach to that than most of my buddies had. My great-grandfather was a surgeon in the German army in World War I and I never did hate the Germans. As far as I know, I might have been fighting my own family members over there, you know?distant relatives? I just learned to love people as a young fellow. I hated the Nazi regime, the Nazi training, the Nazi teaching?their whole concept of fighting and victory?but I really had no problems with the German citizens or the German people in general.

Payne ?

Did you have much interaction with the civilians when you were proceeding through Germany?

Andrews ?

Not too much. There was a little bit here and there but mostly with the children we were trying to help. We gave most of our food to German children who were starving and didn?t have anything. We?d try to eat our rations and little kids would come right out of the woodwork, almost, with rusty cans, holding them towards us, trying to get a little food and you just can?t eat your food with children like that begging for food. So, through the children and meeting some of their parents, we did a little bit of that, but not a whole lot. Too busy fighting.

Payne ?

Did you have any interaction before the Battle of the Bulge with any of the French citizens or anybody in Belgium or Holland?

Andrews ?

Just that when we went through these small towns, they would come out with flowers and sometimes cookies and things?mostly flowers?and throw them at the soldiers. They?d walk along beside us in the towns. They were glad to see us for the most part. That was our relationship with them. Pretty fast moving.

Payne ?

How did you feel about the leadership in your unit, both non-commissioned officers and officers?

Andrews ?

I felt real good about our officers and our non-coms. There were, of course, one or two or maybe three exceptions to that, when we didn?t feel that our lieutenants had the experience they needed. But, basically, we got along fine with our non-coms and our officers and had a very good relationship with them.

Payne ?

Were there any particular non-coms or officers that stood out in your mind? 8

Andrews ?

Well, there were several of them that did stand out but I can?t remember their names. Just in the heat of battle some of the guys who were responsible for placing machine guns?putting them in the right place?they had to get up and expose themselves and that?s pretty good when a non-com gets up and runs around and yells where the guns need to be in the face of enemy fire. You had to respect those guys.

Payne ?

How did you feel about Major General Huebner?s leadership of the division during the European campaign?

Andrews ?

As far as I knew, he did a good job. But you know the generals and the privates are pretty far apart so far as being anywhere in the same area. I felt that General Huebner was a good leader as far as I could tell. The leadership that we had and the decisions that were handed down seemed to me to be pretty good.

Payne ?

And did you feel that way about the overall general leadership of the Army during the time of your service?

Andrews ?

I surely did. I felt like we had really good leadership. I do recall that, being on the deck of the troopship, right beside the USS Texas and there were three other ships together, firing. I remember saying to myself, "This is the greatest show on earth. I wouldn?t miss this for anything." I really felt that. Of course I changed my mind in about an hour, after we got on the beach, but I really did feel this was a team. You could look across the surface of the ocean and you could see boats and ships as far as you could see in either direction?left, right, behind?everything. I just felt like this is a team that has got to win. There?s no way they can fail. That was my feeling.

Payne ?

Actually, speaking of that, what was the overall attitude of you and the men in your unit during the war?as in how you were able to keep up your morale after facing some of the hardest combat of any unit in the military during World War II?

Andrews ?

Well, we just relied on each other tremendously and we relied on our leadership and we felt good about it. It was hard. The battles were so frequent and so terrible that there was not time to figure, how are we doing? How are we progressing? We just supported each other tremendously. You had to. You had to believe in the cause?that this is a war to end wars. That?s what we all thought.

Payne ?

So everyone was on board with the thought that there was no substitute but victory? 9

Andrews ?

Absolutely. Particularly when you got on the beach. You couldn?t go back. There was no place to go to. It seemed like nobody wanted to go the other way. They all just had to keep going forward. That was the truth in most of the battles. Sometimes we would stay in a position for a day, a half a day, but I do not recall but one or two retreats where we were forced to back up a few miles and then start again. We had a good relationship, one with another. Tremendous feeling that we?re going to win this thing.

Payne ?

With so many of your friends being wounded and killed in action, it must have been exceedingly hard. I know a lot of other veterans I?ve talked to have said that it was somewhat hard to befriend replacements as they came into your unit. Did you find that was a factor?

Andrews ?

I found it very much a factor. Normally there are supposed to be seven to nine people in a machine gun squad. I do not recall ever having seven or nine people in our squad more than just a couple of days, because three or four were always getting killed and you were always getting new replacements. It was almost a fact that you didn?t know your buddies that were fighting with you by their names. You began to know that but it was just incredible how many people were being killed, daily, out of your squad because these guys were really exposed much of the time.

Payne ?

One follow-up question on that. It?s coming across to me that you were one of the only survivors to make the D-Day landing and survive in the unit through the end of the war.

Andrews ?

I really don?t know about that. I am one of the few that did, I know that, but I don?t know how many.

Payne ?

As a combat veteran later on in the war, with so many replacements coming into your squad, and you being one of the surviving members, do you feel that with your experience you were able to, basically, lead the replacements and help with battlefield training essentially.

Andrews ?

I certainly do. There were many, many things that you had to teach the new recruits, just as buddies squatting by your shoulder, you talk with them about this, that and the other. How to use the grenade. Of course, that was a basic training skill. Several soldiers that we got as replacements had never thrown a grenade and didn?t know what it would do, so there were occasions to show them what it really would do. That was one of the most powerful weapons we had?a belt full of grenades. 10

Payne ?

Did you hold any command or leadership position or did you remain a private throughout the war?

Andrews ?

I remained a private first class throughout the war. Three different times my lieutenant said "You?re going to be a sergeant," and each time they told me that I was wounded and had to go back to the hospital. So when I came back, they already had a sergeant so I never did get any promotion in battle.

Payne ?

Sir, how many times were you wounded?

Andrews ?

I was really wounded three times but I received four Purple Hearts. The reason for that is I got one wound on my shoulder that really wasn?t enough to go back to the hospital, so I didn?t count that as a wound, but when I got out of the service the officers there looked at my record and they gave me a fourth Purple Heart.

Payne ?

Did you have any other combat decorations or decorations?

Andrews ?

I received a Bronze Star. I went for some ammunition through a forested area and when I turned around to go back with several belts of ammunition and several boxes, I saw a sign and realized that I had just walked through a German mine field. I retraced my steps in the snow and for that they told me I was a brave soldier and gave me a Bronze Star.

Payne ?

That?s an incredible story sir.

Andrews ?

I didn?t feel I was that brave. We just all needed ammunition.

Payne ?

What battle was that? Was it the Battle of the Bulge?

Andrews ?

That was close to the Battle of the Bulge, but it was prior to the Battle of the Bulge.

Payne ?

When else were you wounded?

Andrews ?

I was wounded about four days into the invasion. I got shot close to the mouth. A bullet scraped my left cheek, right next to my mouth. It got infected, like poison ivy, and spread all over my face and I had to be flown back to England for that.

Payne ?

How long before you rejoined your unit?

Andrews ?

It was about, I?d say, two weeks and I was brought right back to my very squad. Then, again, I was in Stolberg, Germany and got wounded and had to go back to the field hospital. I came back after a week there. Actually, my left hand froze and I had to go back and get that treated. 11

When I came back I went right directly into the front line with my former squad. I thought that was pretty incredible.

Payne ?

That is, sir. Most people did not get reassigned back to their exact same squad.

Andrews ?

I?m thankful for that because, when I went back to the original squad, there were at least three or four guys I knew and that helped a lot.

Payne ?

What would you say was probably the most difficult or challenging thing for you throughout the war?

Andrews ?

Well, I think near Stolberg there was a hill called 232 and we attacked that hill. The Germans were on top of that hill and we had to cross an open field and you could hear the rifle bullets whizzing by like a pop?a big POP. We got up on that hill and drove the Germans off without a fight, really, but they came back about 1:30 in the morning?pitch, black dark?and all of them were yelling like Indians and our machine gun squads were really, really busy. We had two on lower ground and two higher. We discovered after that battle that the German ranger unit had sneaked up behind our position and effectively eliminated two gun squads up on the higher ground. Anyway, that was one of the worst battles that I was in. I remember the Germans climbing the trees, trying to shoot down on us. We were on a bluff and you could see them in the trees so we just shot them out of the trees with our machine guns.

I discovered on this last trip that we took?12 guys?we had a wonderful tour guide who was a lieutenant colonel in the British army and his specialty was battlefield history. He was with us on this trip and we went up to hill 232 and looked around. Now, after that trip, in a horrible rainstorm and windstorm and hail, only four of us out of the eight on our trip went up there, but he told us when we got back to the van that the battle record of that particular hill was 250 Germans killed. We had about 36 Americans on that hill and as I recall, as I helped a wounded German down off that hill, there were only five Americans left and three of us were wounded. That?s what I recall about that battle.

Payne ?

That sounds like an incredibly tense battle.

Andrews ?

It was my most intensive battle and the one I remember the most because when we thought the battle was over?well, during that battle one of the guys who really became my best friend, was a rifleman and he was on my left shoulder and he said "I?m going to be sure nothing happens to you 12

Andy." That?s what he said and he lifted his head up just a little bit to look over the bluff to see if he could see the enemy and he was immediately shot right between the eyes. He fell over against me and then the next thing I heard was a very strange sound. It sounded like when you canoe along on the lake and you hit the paddle on the water. It makes a very unusual noise, and that?s what I thought I heard. I looked over and my best friend, a sergeant, was standing about four yards from me with his entire face blown off. That was pretty intense. At the end of the battle, things were beginning to slow down. Then, right in front of my gun, maybe six feet, I saw a white handkerchief come up on a little stick and this German yelled "May I surrender? Please, may I surrender?" I thought it might be a trick so, of course, I was holding my .45 pistol all this time and I held it right on him and said "Yes, you may" and he crawled over the embankment there and I could see he is the German soldier that just threw a grenade at me, that landed behind me and hit my shoulder?a fragment. So he tried to kill me and I tried to kill him but we both survived those attacks and I reached down and helped him over the end of the gun. Actually the battle was over so the two of us walked to the aid station together. He told me he was 17 years old and I was 20.

Payne ?

That?s incredible sir. Would you say that?s your hardest experience of the war?

Andrews ?

I think that was the hardest, yes. I had no idea that so many Germans were being killed. I remember my buddies, my squad?two gun squads?were all shot right between the eyes and they were all laying like cordwood on the ground there. That was a pretty hard thing.

Payne ?

I can?t even begin to imagine how incredibly hard that must have been. You mentioned earlier about keeping each other?s morale up. How did your family from home or things you heard from the States, help keep your morale up in such a protracted, constant combat?

Andrews ?

My father was a great man and he was an unbelievable letter writer. I received a letter from him just about every week in combat, but sometimes when they could not get the letters up to the front line, I would get a pack of letters with a rubber band around it with eight or nine?sometimes 10?letters from my dad. I would put them in order by the date they were written and read them when I had a little break. My dad?s letters and I?m sure that my mother?s prayers?she was a great prayer warrior, were tremendously encouraging. There were guys who never heard anything from home. Some of them didn?t even have dads that they knew. It was really tragic that they never got anything from 13

home. Every now and then I would get a package of cookies from home?big package?and we would immediately open it up and eat everything we could get our hands on, because by supper time or by the next morning you might be dead, so let?s eat it all now.

Payne ?

One question, going back to your being a veteran leader within your squad. What was one of the most difficult and challenging things that you found about being a private, but also being what I?d say was a leader through experience as the war progressed?

Andrews ?

One of the most challenging things was to get new recruits to follow. Sometimes when our sergeants would be killed, you just had to take a leadership position with the guys that didn?t know anything about combat?had never been there before. So you just had to say "Come on, let?s go over here, let?s do this, let?s do that, put the gun there." In every case, they did it. They realized that the few of us who had been in combat knew what we were talking about and they cooperated 100%. I was proud of the American guys. They wanted to get the battle done and they knew that people with some experience had to be listened to. [end of Side A] [start of Side B]

The First Infantry group didn?t really receive much time off the front line but just before the Battle of the Bulge started, we did receive orders that we were to have a three day rest and so we went back maybe eight or ten miles for that rest. You just can?t imagine how wonderful that felt, that we were not in an area where we would be shot at if we stood up. So we got back to this area and all of us got a helmet full of warm water. It was the first time we?d had really hot water that you could do what you wanted to with it. You could shave, you could wash your hair or you could take a bath, however the best you could. We were delighted to have some warm water. I recall that as we ate supper?we had our mess kits and were eating supper?an officer drove up in a jeep with a megaphone saying "The Germans have broken through. We need to go back immediately." So we packed everything up within a half hour and headed back for the front. Our job was to keep the Battle of the Bulge from spreading sideways. So we were on the side of the Battle of the Bulge in about two feet of snow and living in those holes and, again, that?s where my Boy Scout experience of lashing poles together and putting them over a foxhole in the deep snow helped?it snowed all night and was incredibly cold. That?s what I remember about the Battle of the Bulge and that?s where my left hand froze.

Payne ?

I don?t think you lost your left hand as a result of this severe frostbite?am I correct? 14

Andrews ?

I was very fortunate. A lot of guys lost fingers, toes?there were just hundreds of guys that were frozen on some part of their body. I had no problem with that. I was very fortunate.

Payne ?

Did you have any interaction with other troops in the area?in particular, British troops?or anything like that?

Andrews ?

Not that close. Sometimes we knew that the Britishers were right to our right or left and we chuckled sometimes when they had a little fire for tea at 4:00. One time we were with some Canadian soldiers and that was a lot of fun; they were fierce fighters along with us, but that was not a very long engagement. We just sort of met there on the front.

Payne ?

I know you mentioned the hill earlier and then I asked you about the Battle of the Bulge. Were there any other particular engagements that really stand out in your mind?

Andrews ?

There are several other pretty fierce engagements but I don?t recall the actual name of the places. That?s one of the things I should have done when I was fighting?was to write down the names of towns I went through. We were just a little ways from Aachen, Germany, which is the city the Germans said they?d never surrender, but it was the first city to surrender. We enjoyed looking at some of the big headquarters of the Nazi troops there. I can?t really pick out any more engagements. All of my engagements were fierce and they were steady. I just can?t believe that we were in combat that long on the front line.

Payne ?

Earlier you mentioned that you felt the German soldiers were superb?the German regulars, not the foreign conscripts. How many engagements did you fight against S.S. troops?

Andrews ?

We had one or two and those were engagements that were particularly difficult because the S.S. troopers were pretty convinced that they were the superior soldier. We would capture a few S.S. soldiers and they were very adamant against any orders from us. You had to pull out your pistol and threaten to kill them right on the spot if they didn?t do what you said. They would claim "Nein verstand" and that means "We don?t understand you." You?d pull out your pistol and they?d begin to understand pretty fast. But they were rough customers and pretty mean. We had to be rough with them.

Payne ?

Where were you when Germany surrendered and what were your feelings on learning the news? 15

Andrews ?

When Germany surrendered our unit was in Czechoslovakia and we were fighting a unit of Germans. I don?t know whether they were S.S. or not but we were thrilled to hear that the war was over, but that German unit would not believe that the war was over and so we kept fighting them?maybe three full days?and we were trying to stay down low in the ground and fight out of our foxholes. There was some pretty severe fighting after the war was over there in Czechoslovakia. I do recall that we were absolutely ecstatic at the fact that the war was over and even with these guys shooting at us, we knew that skirmish was not going to last too long.

Payne ?

Did you liberate any concentration camps?

Andrews ?

I didn?t actually liberate any. We were in the area where Dachau concentration camp was and we went into the camp to see the horrible situations there but I was not in the group of troops that actually liberated any of them.

Payne ?

What were your thoughts? Obviously, when you went in it wasn?t too long after they had just liberated the camp. Do you have any thoughts on what you saw?

Andrews ?

I just thought it was one of the most horrible experiences that I?d ever seen. I saw the whipping post?the concrete post in the ground where they pulled the prisoners over and beat them on the back. I saw the blood ditch where they shot people in the back of the neck and pushed them over and let them bleed in the ditch. We went into the gas chamber and also walked on through those huge doors into the brick ovens where people were incinerated. It was an incredibly unbelievable experience.

Payne ?

In kind of building on that, what do you think is the biggest lesson that succeeding generations can learn from your experiences, from the overall conflict in World War II and things such as the concentration camps? I was wondering what your thoughts are on that.

Andrews ?

My thoughts are that it?s incredibly important for all of us who live in a free society to learn about what happened, to learn how twisted minds can control people and get them to do things that they don?t want to do, or they do things that the general public doesn?t even know about. I just think it?s important to appreciate freedom, to learn about your government, to learn what the government is doing, to participate with other governments so that, hopefully, this doesn?t happen again. I think people who are free have a tremendous responsibility to learn how to stay free and to learn what freedom is. 16

Since my return trip with my son on the 50

th anniversary of the Normandy Invasion?that was 1994?I have given 78 talks and speeches about my war experience and in each one I try to convince the listener the importance of trying to support freedom, learning what it is and appreciating the Star Spangled Banner and the importance to keep it flying.

Payne ?

Kind of an unrelated topic from your service in World War II, but someone with such a vast combat experience, do you believe that there are any parallels for the political situation, in say, the 1930s and to the perils that we faced from Hitler and Japan?in terms of what we?re facing now, today. Can there be any lessons learned from your generation that you could pass on to ours?

Andrews ?

It?s kind of a hard question. The lessons we can learn, of course, are learning about the peoples of the world. One of the easiest ways to get along with people, or one of the most important ways to get along with people, is to learn their language. If I had it to do over again I would learn every language I could possibly learn, in the event I was faced with being with those people in any way?in trying to encourage them or work with them or understand them. It?s very important that we try to understand the peoples of the world. I think if we had a closer understanding, we would not be in the situation we?re in today.

Payne ?

One other question. After Germany?s defeat, I know a lot of units started gearing up to prepare for being moved to the Pacific and engaging the Japanese. Was your unit part of that and what were your thoughts and feelings on realizing there might be, potentially, a lot more combat in your future?

Andrews ?

We had a few weeks of occupation work after the war was over, in Germany, and then we were ordered to the coast of Southern France. We were told we might be going to the South Pacific to participate in the invasion of Japan. Of course, nobody wanted to do that. But as we boarded our ship, the atomic bomb was exploded and almost immediately the ships headed for New York. That was an amazing thing to us, that we didn?t have to get involved in another invasion. Our troopship with close to 10,000 troops on it, headed for New York and that was an experience that I?ll never forget.

Payne ?

Would you care to elaborate on that?

Andrews ?

Yes. We were on the ocean for maybe five days coming home and the captain announced on the ship that he had been informed by his forward observers looking through the field glasses that the land mass of the United States of America was in sight. Everybody yelled and howled 17

and hollered and clapped and shouted. Then it wasn?t too long until he said, "The Stature of Liberty is in sight and we will be cruising by it in just a little while." We crowded up on the deck, thousands of guys?I don?t know how many thousand were on that deck?and we were crying and shouting. Everybody was crying. These big old tough guys that had been killers were crying and thanking God for the fact that here we are in America. There?s the Statue of Liberty and as our ship got up to the pier we could see thousands of people on the shore there, waving American flags, bands were playing. It was an incredible feeling to be home. You could see New York there in the background. It was almost unexplainable, but that was a thrilling time for thousands of soldiers.

The other most thrilling thing was when we went down the gangplank to the shore there were long lines of telephone booths that the telephone company had installed and they gave all of us a free telephone call home. It?s a good thing it was free because we didn?t have any money. We lined up and maybe sometimes the line was three blocks long but we stayed in those lines and we called home and that was one of the most wonderful experiences of my life?to talk to my mom.

Payne ?

Would you say that was probably one of the most rewarding experiences that you had throughout the war?

Andrews ?

Oh yes. I think it was absolutely the most rewarding. To be standing on American soil, using an American telephone to call my mother down in Signal Mountain, Tennessee, all the way from New York. It was just unbelievable, really. I said "Mom, this is your son and I?ll be coming home before long." There wasn?t much on the other end but I could hear her crying.

Payne ?

You said that you had four other brothers?

Andrews ?

I had four other brothers, yes.

Payne ?

Did they serve in the European theater with you?

Andrews ?

Three of them were in the European theater and one was a Naval guy in the South Pacific, and we all came home safely. An incredible blessing from God.

Payne ?

It definitely was. None of your other brothers served in the First Division with you?

Andrews ?

No. They were all in different outfits. 18

Payne ?

Sir, you mentioned your feelings in regards to hearing the news that they had dropped the atomic bomb. What were your personal feelings regarding the dropping of the atomic bomb? I know in recent years there has been a lot of debate over that.

Andrews ?

Of course we didn?t know what the dropping of the atomic bomb really meant, except it was a big bomb and it did a lot of damage and it did have the possibility of bringing the Japanese to surrender. We understood that. After the impact of that explosion began to filter down to the troops, all of us?I think almost without exception?felt like it was a good idea because we were going home.

Payne ?

Thank you very much. I guess you touched on earlier the biggest lessons that succeeding generations can learn. I was wondering if you have anything else?I know you said you give a lot of talks regarding this topic. Is there anything else that you?d like to share with us regarding this experience?

Andrews ?

I think the one thing that I have discovered that is important, is I would wish that more combat soldiers would share their experiences. I know most of them don?t share it because they just simply think people are not going to believe it. It?s so horrible that people don?t believe it. But I?ve discovered that there is a real joy and real lessons in sharing combat experiences with the younger generation, because if those of us who have been through it don?t share, the other generations won?t know. So I speak to small kids from five and six years old, on up to universities and colleges and civic clubs. I feel like it?s important to relate our personal experience so that the listeners might have some ideas about how to prevent that again.

Payne ?

Sir, do you feel that, in relating those experiences, it actually helps you cope with any of the difficult memories that you might have had?

Andrews ?

That?s a very good question and the answer is, certainly it does. It helps me. I tell a lot of people, one reason that I like to talk about this is that it helps me to get over it. I?ve never had a nightmare about my war experience and I don?t expect to have, but I think about it every day and every night. It?s just a part of my life and I don?t mind sharing it. I rather enjoy sharing it, particularly with college and university students because they seem to get a better hold on it. It?s a horrible thing and it?s good to report it I think. 19

Payne ?

In the post World War II period, after you left the service, did you feel that your time that you spent in the service and your experiences in World War II, significantly impacted your life to help propel you on to success?

Andrews ?

I think it had a lot to do with the successes I may have been able to have. The G.I. Bill gave me an opportunity to go to college, which I very probably would not have had, because our family was not a wealthy family at all. We had to work real hard to get anything. I think the whole experience taught me a lot about life?above the blessings that God gives us, to give us life and freedom. The freedom to enjoy things like hot water and soap and a dry towel, a roof over our head, a place to live, and food to eat and clothing to wear. All of these things mean more to me than I ever thought they would mean. So the war did that for me. I saw thousands of people without a place to stay at night?refugees?hungry, starving. I appreciate every morsel of food I get, every piece of clothing I have, and the shelter. Shelter is a marvelous thing. The war taught me a lot of blessings about what I have and God is to be honored for giving it to me.

Payne ?

A question just came to me. You were telling me how your experiences as a Boy Scout really helped you out in combat situations in terms of the rope lashings and things like that. But also from someone who came from a more rural area and growing up in the great Depression, do you feel that your experiences going through those, coupled with being a Boy Scout?did they really help you in a combat situation?

Andrews ?

I?m not sure how to answer that but I believe that my youth with the kind of youth that I grew up with, all of these things were stable influences when I was in combat in foreign lands and dealing with foreign situations. The beauty of having a wonderful home life, a Christian home life?for me, it was a Christian home life. The beauty of having good solid foundational friends, all of us with good values of life?all those things really helped me to preserve what I called the integrity of being a good soldier and not doing things as a soldier that you ought not to be doing just because you?re in a foreign land.

Payne ?

Is there any other experiences that you might wish to convey to us?

Andrews ?

I don?t think so, Rob. It?s hard to pick up an experience and just talk about it without a question being thrown at you. I can?t recall anything that I should say at this point. 20

Payne ?

O.K. Given that, I?m going to go ahead and stop the tape and conclude the interview.

Jess E Weiss

 

I contacted Jess in 2005, but at that time he was not able to reflect upon his war experiences. He did suggest that I try to get a copy of his book “A Soldier’s Journey into Mysticism,” because he had written about his experiences in it. I found him because he was in the book “The Fighting First” by Flint Whitlock.

Years later, after reading his latest book “Warrior to Spiritual Warrior : The Soldiers Journey,” we finally became friends and we talked more deeply about his time in the Big Red One. I learned that he did serve with the 81 mm Mortars in Aachen at the time. He was wounded in combat by an enemy artillery round.

 I as a gesture of kindness I decided to attempt to build my very first website http://www.warriortospiritualwarrior.com/

I am grateful  for Jess' friendship. We spend many days chatting on Skype. I make note that even though he was serving with the 81mm Mortars of 2nd battalion he was not listed on the H Company roster.