Interview of Doug Jackson
Transcript Number 052
ZARBOCK: Good afternoon. My name is Paul Zarbock, a staff member with the University of North Carolina at Wilmington’s Randall Library. Today is the 4th of August in the year 2006. We're interviewing Mr. Doug Jackson in Wilmington, North Carolina. Good afternoon, Mr. Jackson. How are you?
JACKSON: I'm fine, thank you.
ZARBOCK: Tell me, you have written a book and it's called what?
JACKSON: It is called Timberwolf Goes to War.
ZARBOCK: By way of background, and I do encourage people to read the book, Mr. Jackson was in the Marine Corps, enlisted when he was approximately 15 and was discharged when they found out he was underage. He subsequently enlisted in the United States Army. I'm going to pick up at that point. When did you enlist or were you drafted in the Army?
JACKSON: It's kind of funny. I went to the draft board and told him that I wanted to be in the next group that was drafted from Lexington, North Carolina, because I didn't have the money to go to Fort Bragg on my own. So he said, "Okay. On the 19th of October," which was two weeks later, "you'll be drafted." So I was drafted that way. I think that I was a volunteer draftee.
ZARBOCK: What year was that?
ZARBOCK: So you didn't have enough money to get to Fort Bragg on your own?
ZARBOCK: You didn't have enough money to get to Fort Bragg? (laughs)
JACKSON: (laughs) I'd never been. That was the best way to do it.
ZARBOCK: How long was basic training in those days?
JACKSON: Our training lasted for a year and a half, not necessarily basic training, but all the training.
ZARBOCK: What were you trained as?
JACKSON: Let me put it this way. From Fort Bragg I volunteered for the paratroopers. In November of 1942 we went to Camp Toccoa, Georgia, which is right outside of Greenville, South Carolina. I was there that winter until April of the next year. We had a notice on the bulletin board of a division being activated in Oregon. I'd never been to Oregon, but I've wanted to go so I volunteered. I wound up in April of 1943 in Camp Adair, Oregon. That's where we started our basic training in the Army. But I had put in about three months or four months of training at Camp Toccoa with the paratroopers. I'd done everything but jump from an airplane.
ZARBOCK: So you took paratrooper training, but you never got your wings?
JACKSON: Everything but jumping. I didn't go, because we left. I left for two reasons. One, I was tired of Camp Toccoa, Georgia. It was nothing but red mud and water and rain. Like I say, I'd never been to Oregon. I wanted to go. I decided there had to be something wrong with a man that would jump out of a perfectly good airplane. About 200 of us volunteered for that division.
ZARBOCK: What kind of training did you get there?
JACKSON: We got a regular Army basic training. The first they did was traded in all 10 helmets and our Springfield rifles for those new M1 rifles and for the new helmet that came out then. It's not the one they wears now; it's one they wore in World War II. But then we went into everything-- firing ranges and mocking, walking, the whole thing. That was basically it as far as the training was concerned.
ZARBOCK: What year did the helmet change?
JACKSON: It was in the spring of 1943.
ZARBOCK: Now years from now people won't know what you and I are talking about that helmet. Tell me about the helmet that got traded in. What did it look like?
JACKSON: The one we've got now?
JACKSON: The one we had was the regular old World War I helmet. It was a tin helmet, just like the British wear now. It's the same thing. That's what we had. That's what I used in the Marine Corps, that same old tin helmet and the Springfield rifle. Then I went in the Army and they issued a new rifle and a new helmet that we wore in World War II and Korea and Vietnam and what have you until the later days like Desert Storm and what have you. They came out with a new helmet based on the German helmet, really, which is really a better helmet.
ZARBOCK: How was life in Oregon?
JACKSON: It was fine.
ZARBOCK: No red mud there?
ZARBOCK: No red mud?
JACKSON: No red mud, but there was a whole lot of water. It rains a whole lot out there. It does a lot of raining. It wasn't bad for me, because I'd gone through training in the Marine Corps. There was nothing in the world any different than the training the Marine Corps back in 1940. I really didn't have any problem at all, because I'd been through it all before.
ZARBOCK: When did you go overseas?
JACKSON: We went overseas in August of 1944.
ZARBOCK: And you were a private?
JACKSON: A PFC, I think.
ZARBOCK: Where did you land when you got to Europe?
JACKSON: We landed in Cherbourg, France on the 7th day of September, 1944.
ZARBOCK: Take me from there. What happened? You got off the boat.
JACKSON: We got off the boat and we went into an encampment right outside of Cherbourg a few miles. We set up camp there in a big apple orchard. That's where out battalion was. At the time, Patton, his third army, was moving so fast through France that they had to get all the trucks and they salvaged what they called a "red ball express." They got all of our division trucks and drivers and what have you. We sat there for two weeks, maybe a little bit longer while our trucks were being used to haul things for Patton. Then, when we got our trucks back, you want me to continue that?
JACKSON: We got our trucks back and we were told that we were going to be attached to the British Army. Our division had never been in combat, but what we were told is that the British needs another division to help do whatever they were doing. What they were trying to do was to get the Germans out so we could take Etwork [ph?], which was a large harbor. On the way, if something happened-- we went by train way up into Belgium. I don't know exactly where. Then we got off the train and got on trucks and we were riding down this road. All at once we saw the trucks behind us. People were jumping up and saluting. We couldn't understand what was happening. Here came that big, black horse out of us and there was Churchill sitting up there with his cigar with his hand up like that and everybody was standing up saluting him. We felt kind of good about that. There was Churchill going down the road. That afternoon there was another strange thing that happened. One of our P51's flew over and wagged those wings, showing that he was friendly and we all waved at him. He was about 500 feet up. He came back going toward our rear. Three or four minutes later we heard gunfire back there and people screaming. We looked up and here came that plane straight for our convoy. We did what anybody would do. We bailed off of those trucks and hit the woods and hit the road ditches and it went over. I have no idea how many of them were hurt, but there were a lot of men hurt when the plane went by. It was our plane. It was a P51. It was obviously flown by a German, it was obviously captured and flown by a German. That's what happened the first day that we were going.
ZARBOCK: Now what division were you in?
JACKSON: The 104th Infantry Division.
ZARBOCK: And the regiment?
JACKSON: Our regiment was the 413th Infantry Regiment.
ZARBOCK: And company?
JACKSON: I was in the 3rd battalion, Company K of the 3rd Platoon and the 3rd Squad. That was my address.
ZARBOCK: Absolutely nothing wrong with your memory, is there?
JACKSON: I don't think so. I forget a lot of things. It takes me a minute sometimes to think, but I can remember that very well.
ZARBOCK: So you're strafed by our own planes. Again, give me a date. What time of the year was this?
JACKSON: It was in October of 1944.
ZARBOCK: How was the weather? Do you remember?
JACKSON: Pretty weather.
ZARBOCK: A pretty autumn day?
JACKSON: Yes. I don't remember anything either way about it. In fact, it was warm weather. I can remember that, because we didn't have on any coats. That same day we got up to this certain place and they stopped the trucks and unloaded us and said that we'd have to walk a ways. I never did like walking too good. I thought, "Why can't we ride to wherever we're going and not get out and walk?" By that time, we heard a sound that we had heard in training, but we'd never heard it. That thing went over us and hit back behind us somewhere. That was our first artillery round that was fired at us. Then we didn't want to have anything do to with those trucks. We were happy to get off of them. After about 30 or 40 minutes walking, we came into this town and we relieved the British company of the 49th Division. That's really all I know about that. We relieved them and we moved in their positions. When we moved in their positions, their foxholes were about two feet deep. I thought to myself, "Ain't no wonder there's a lot of English soldiers gets killed. They don't even dig foxholes." We were digging our holes. We're looking to get under the ground. All at once I heard the most awful racket that I have ever heard in my life. I never heard anything like it before. We jumped up and looked. This English company had lined up on the road out there. This sucker had opened up with that bagpipe and they went down the road swinging. It scared us to death. We were scared the Germans were going to open up on us or something. Then we said, "It don't make any different what kind of racket we make, because everybody in the German army knows where we are."
ZARBOCK: How old were you then?
JACKSON: I turned 20 on the boat going overseas. I was 20 years old. I was an old man. By then, I'd already had about four years in the military altogether.
ZARBOCK: You get in this village. You dig in. The British troops leave. There you are.
JACKSON: Yes, Sir, I was glad to see them go, too. Them and that bagpipe.
ZARBOCK: Tell people, for the sake of history, where would you get fed? How would you get fed? Where would you get water? How would you get ammunition? What did you do for guard duty?
JACKSON: We had been issued our ammunition, which is a basic load of ammunition. With the M1 rifle in your belt you had four A-clips of ammunition in your belt; A-clips of ammunition. Then we had one or two bandoliers. Besides that, we had hand grenades hung all over us everywhere. The way we'd get feed, we had our company truck that would come up and feed us. Well, that first night we got fed after dark and it was a hot meal, which we liked. Then I can remember very well it was cool that night, but the moon was out and it was real bright. We were in one-man foxholes. Usually we'd dig two-men foxholes. But the British had one-man, so we were one man about 10 feet apart. I'd like to tell this. That first night I had a hole that a British soldier had cut in a hedgerow that we dug in right behind a hedgerow. He'd cut a hole in it where he could see through that hole. The hole was about a foot wide. I was sitting there looking through that hole at this big field out there in front of us. I could picture big battleships and they was going across that field. This sounds crazy, but it looked like I could see a trapeze dancers out in that field. I knew it couldn't be that. I guess it was because I was scared. All of a sudden, Lord have mercy, this hot breath hit me in the face and scared me completely to death. And then, by the time I came to my senses, my rifle was lying in that hole and I was in behind it. I realized a cow had come up and stuck her head into that hole just about a foot from my face. She was lucky, because she was on my rifle that was laying there and I couldn't shoot her. That big old cow goes, "Moooo," and it went off. There was no way that I could go to sleep anymore that night. I was scared completely to death. That was about midnight. I think I did, because later on I heard the man beside of us keep calling me, "Jackson, Jackson." He said, "How in the world can you sleep making a noise like that?" He said, "The whole German army will hear it." He was saying I snored, but I didn't know it. Of course, my son accused me of snoring, too, but I never did hear it. That was the first night.
ZARBOCK: That's a great story. That really is. Things like that happen in combat. These tiny little events that stick with you the rest of your life. You never forget anything like that.
JACKSON: I can smell that cow's breath right now in my face. I don't mind telling you I was scared.
ZARBOCK: So the next morning, are you on the march?
JACKSON: The next morning before daylight we got up and our kitchen truck had hot coffee and sandwiches. That's what we had for breakfast. We had a sandwich to eat and then we carried one with us. I can remember very well. It was a peanut butter and jelly, because I liked it. That was for our noon meal. The platoon sergeant told us that we line up on the other side of the fence when we got ready to go. We'd be in a platoon line. Of course, I'm always saying things that usually I shouldn't say anyways, but I always try to make everything funny. I asked him, I said, "Sergeant, do we climb over this hedgerow, or do we go around it?" He said, "We go around that blamed thing." We went around it. The whole company lined up with the platoon on line and we started across the field. It was about two miles to some farm buildings and something we could see. It was a big pasture. It had a lot of cows in it. I guess we'd gotten 200/300 yards out there--
ZARBOCK: You're spread out?
JACKSON: We spread out. Then we had two squads on line and then one squad was about 200 yards behind us that was coming behind us. That's two squads up and one back. That's the general way that you find so anyway, we get on about 200 yards out there when the urge struck me that I had to use the bathroom. I hollered at the platoon sergeant and told him I had to go to the bathroom. He said, "There ain't no bathroom." I did what any good soldier would do. Then I got everything straightened back up and run and got back in line where I was supposed to. We knew from training and from seeing films that generally when we would take off, or when you take off into attack, as a general rule, not always but as a general rule, you can figure when you get about halfway to the objective, that's when it's going to start hitting you, the artillery force. We were trying for prepare ourselves for it, but it didn't have a house. We got all the way to this farmhouse, which was right in our company area, and expecting anything any minute, but it just didn't happen. Then we were very happy. We felt like the Germans had left or either were standing there and ready to surrender.
ZARBOCK: This isn't making a movie; this is real life. You're walking across a field feeling naked.
JACKSON: You are.
ZARBOCK: That's right.
JACKSON: You had no cover or anything else.
ZARBOCK: But you can't turn back.
JACKSON: No, you can't. You've got to go.
ZARBOCK: By this time you're adrenaline is sky high. You got to the buildings.
JACKSON: We got to the buildings and walked around it. We saw a lot of tracks, a lot of people tracks. The boot tracks were not our kind of tracks. So we knew it was the German tracks. We saw several trucks and small, what we considered jeeps, but they had Volkswagen, something that looked like a jeep. But we hadn't seen or heard it, so it had moved out earlier, probably, right after we started. We went around the building and then continued on. It was still pasture for another few hundred yards until the woods line. We went on and we assumed, and you know what assume means, but we assumed that we were probably going to get hit going to that woods line. But we were fooled again. We got right on to the woods line, went into the woods. There were no problems. We went through it, which was probably maybe 200 or 300 yards through the woods to the other side of the woods. That's where we held up. Now, see, our company was here with the three squads and then there were other companies on our right and left. What I'm talking about is my company, because we really don't know what these other people are doing. All we can do is see them or something, but you're interested in what you're doing. When we got there it was an open field from the woods. I can remember very distinctly, it was a beet field. They had a lot of sugar beets over there. This field had the furrows, but they were running this way. They weren't straight across or straight. They were going diagonally across the field. Why, I don't know. We held up there and wondered what was going to happen. The company commander-- the platoon leader called and said, "Jackson, come up here." I went up there. A lot in our training, we had training in Eastern Oregon. Then we had training in Arizona and in California and then in Colorado. That's where our training was done. Basically in most of our training, I was the first scout in our company. You know what the first scout's job is. Basically, the first scout's job is for somebody to walk out there and let them shoot you and so it would tell the other people there's somebody out there. I didn't particularly care for that, but I asked the company commander. I said, "Sir, have you had anything against me?" He said, "No, Jackson." I said, "Well, I just wondered." He said, "Well, I want you to be the first scout because I know you'll get the job done." That was his words. I reckon that's supposed to make me feel good. But I took off across the field. My second scout was going to be about 100 yards behind me. You know how it works. Well, I had gone in probably 100 yards. The field was probably 200 to 300 yards wide. I can visualize the field right now. There was a ditch running this way on my left, maybe 20 yards. There was a ditch running across the front, which was probably 200 yards. And there was brush and whatnot rolled up along the ditch lines. As I was walking across that field, I was stepping over these rows. About every second step I'd have to step over a furrow into another row. I took a step and when I did, I felt something hot, bees by my head. I felt it. It was hot and I heard it. Anyone that's ever heard a high-powered rifle bullet go by, it makes that popping sound. They say what you hear is it's popping the sound barrier or something. I don't know. But I know that I heard the sound and I know I felt the heat and I know I hit the ground. I just fell. I figured, "Well, you missed me. That was for me the first thing that hit my mind, you missed me." I'm laying out in that field and all heck broke loose from behind us and in front of me. I could hear machine gun shooting from in front of me and also rifle. I didn't know how much rifle fire. But I could everything we had behind us going over that way. Then, are you familiar with the grenade launcher on the M1 rifle?
ZARBOCK: Yes, sir.
JACKSON: It's that old tin thing. I heard the grenade when it went off that rifle. You can hear it when it goes off. And I heard that grenade go off that rifle. And then the thing hit just about four feet from me. It hit the ground and I turned and rolled and rolled and rolled. And I rolled over about three furrows before the grenades went off. I was in that furrow. That's what saved me, because the shrapnel went up. It didn't hurt me; it just scared me that much worse. Then I realized that I couldn't stay out there. So I jumped on my hands and knees and I went to that ditch just as hard as I could. I fell in that ditch. Well, I laid in that ditch until the war was over. I was listening to it. And then when I heard talking, I stood up and started walking. I really thought they were going to shoot me when I stood up, my people. But they didn't. They realized it was me. The platoon sergeant said, "Jackson, we thought you were dead." I said, "No." I said, "You're doing everything you could to kill me, but you missed me." I asked him. I said, "Who shot that hand grenade at me?" This boy that shot it, he told me. He said, "I'm sorry. I thought I had that thing up enough to get you away from it." What he had done is he held it too high and it went too short. We got on to the ditch line and there was a machine gun with three-- the gunner and a corporal and then another German sitting there. They were all three sitting and all three of them had been tore up with a machine gun. So our machine guns got them. Then about 20 feet down the ditch from them was one rifleman. He was laying there. I figured, I said, "Your [inaudible] work." Scared me to death. That was the only rifleman there. They didn't see anyone jump up and run. It was actually a rear guard that had been joined to the left. The only reason that our people got it.
ZARBOCK: You're in France, aren't you?
ZARBOCK: You're in France? You're not in Germany.
JACKSON: No. At that time, we were in Belgium. I have books of maps that shows where in Belgium. It was near the Holland line. We were in the British army then. On our left was a Canadian division and on our right was a Polish armored division. That's what we were told. Because where we were, we never saw these people, because we were basically in the middle of our unit. This is the first day that I'm talking about. We went on to a road. It was a hard surface road. We crossed that road and headed for this woods line, which was over there. We got about 200 yards in that woods line and everything the German army had opened up on us. It was artillery, mortars, small arms, just opened up all of a sudden. They were all in that woods in front of us. Something bad happened, but it was cleared up. The first thing we did was hit the ground, naturally. Then at the time I was a BAR man. I had the BAR.
ZARBOCK: What is a BAR?
JACKSON: It's a Browning automatic rifle that has a clip-- a magazine underneath. It will fire automatic or single shot. If my recollection is right and I'm sure it is, the magazine will hold 15 rounds.
ZARBOCK: And it's heavy.
JACKSON: Yes. It's heavy. With the two bipods on the end, well I took the bipods off of mine, because they're heavy. And it was heavy enough taking all that ammo and what have you. But I took the bipods off. Anyway, we hit the ground when they opened up on us from the woods. We could tell there was a lot of 20mm coming at us. The Germans had this motorcycle tricycle that had the motorcycle with the two wheels in the back with this platform. They had this 20mm with the twin barrels sitting on the end with a man sitting back there and he was shooting his 20mm. That's bad. Them things will mess you up. All of a sudden somebody yelled "Retreat! Back up, get out." We didn't know who said it. So we jumped up. I thought to myself, I'd run about 10 feet and then I fell. I said, "If we run, they're going to get us all. Then the platoon sergeant started yelling and cussing and oh, man. "Stay where you are!" So whoever-- I have no idea. But whoever said that, we didn't go but about 10 feet. Then he hollered at me. He said, "Jackson, is that BAR working?" I said, "No, sir. But it's going to." I turned around and I opened up with my BAR. We all opened up. About 10 minutes later, here come these two tanks by us. They were British tanks. The British tanks, that Churchill tank really looks like one of the German tanks. It's a little long, low, flat thing. Those British tankers wear those little old black tam and just like the bloody Germans. It's hard to tell them apart. Anyway, they come by us and went up on that woods line and turned and run down that woods line for about 500 yards that way and then came back and made two sweeps. Then they came back by us and said, "They're all yours, Yank." So we got up and moved into the woods. There was a bunch of people killed. Two or three of those 20mm had been knocked out. They were in there. There was quite a few wounded Germans in there. Our medics took care of them. But from there we moved on probably just through another little wooded area to a field and dug in for the night near this highway. We were told it was the Audubon. That's what the Germans call the road. The automobile road is the Audubon. A railroad is an Eisenbahn and so that's what they call it. Anyway, we dug in for the night and had our sandwiches and our d-bar. And about twelve o' clock we got the word to saddle up. We were moving out.
ZARBOCK: This is midnight?
JACKSON: Yes sir, about midnight. Maybe 1:00. Right in the middle of the night. Oh, see one thing I forgot to tell you. Practically all of our training was training for night attacks, night work. It's hard to keep contact and communication and what have you at night. We'd never done anything. That was the first day and this was the first night after we'd moved out. About twelve or one o' clock, midnight. The hollered "Move on out." So we moved up onto this road, [inaudible] road. I guess there was whole battalions lined up there. All of a sudden, about two hundred millimeters they cut loose on us: boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom. Naturally, we hit the dirt. We heard some people screaming up there, too. So somebody got hurt. We laid there while they were firing over us for probably 30-40 minutes. Then the fire quit. We moved back to our same blame foxholes we were in to start with. That didn't make us all that happy, quite frankly. It felt like somebody had made a mistake or done something. But we stayed there until morning and we got up the next morning. They brought up these cans with hot coffee and sandwiches. They couldn't bring our trucks anywhere near there. They drove them up in a Jeep and we had the hot coffee and a sandwich. Then we got our daytime sandwich, our lunch. We needed that lunch. I'm trying to think what happened after that. Okay. We got straightened out and went into these woods that the fire was coming from the night before. But there was no one there. Whoever it was had gone. We moved on forward that day and we didn't hit anything else, as far as I can remember that day until that evening when we dug in again near a woods line. There was a big dirt road over here beside of us, dirt not hard surface. We dug in and probably an hour after dark the platoon sergeant called us. There was one man in our squad that was complaining about stomach pains real bad. The platoon sergeant and lieutenant come in and told four of us to take him on a-- what do you call it that you pick people up on?
ZARBOCK: A litter?
JACKSON: Litter. On a litter and carry him back. He told us, "You're going out to the dirt road and going right and go to the big barn" and there was an aid station set up there. I thought, "Go to the road and turn right." When we come, we come from that way up to here. The aid station was back there. I told the man, I said, "Look, we ain't supposed to turn right. We're supposed to turn left. Because come that way." One of them said, "Jackson, quit trying to-- ." I said, "We're going the wrong way." They didn't pay any attention, so we went on. I guess we walked 100 yards down that road into woods, when I heard Germans talking and I told them, "Shhh. Hush." Then they heard it. Well, Mr. Dillon Hall [ph?], who was the man on the litter, he leaped off that litter and down that road. He sounded like a mule going down that road, just as hard as he could run. Somebody shot a flare up in the air. We just knew that we had it. We laid there. We didn't even lift our heads until that flare had died. Then we got up and we took off down the road. We got back to the company and Mr. Hall was there. He beat us there. I told the platoon sergeant what had happened. I told him, "Now, I said before we left here that we shouldn't have turned right, because the blame Germans was that way." He said, "I distinctly remember the lieutenant telling y'all to turn left." You know what a good soldier does? He cusses under his breath. Because knew we almost got killed by some stupid remark. Being that wasn't the second day, and since we were in combat 195 days, we had 193 left. So I didn't think about that, but I think about it now. Anyway, we stayed there the night. The next morning we got up, same routine-- hot coffee and sandwiches. We got out on that road and we started down. "Jackson, take the point," he'd say. I was the first runner. [inaudible] See, it was getting good. They liked me. I hadn't gotten killed yet. We went on down the road. Our platoon was a point platoon. I was about 200 yards in front of the platoon. The other man, I don't remember very well. His name was Webster. He was about 100 yards behind me. We were going down the road. We could see a lot of tracks. We could see tracks that had been made by tanks and what have you and a lot of car tracks and a lot of footprints. We knew a lot of people had marched along that road, probably the day before. Down the road probably 200 or 300 yards, I came to a house on the left. I had them hold up and I went up to the house and listened real good. I didn't hear anything. I went up on the front porch and I didn't hear anything. I opened the door real easy and listened and I didn't hear anything. I started to throw a hand grenade down from the steps, because the cellar was right there. I started to throw a hand grenade down there, just in case. But then I heard something that sounded like a child's voice. I held up. Then I hollered and said, "I'm an American. Is anyone down there?" Somebody poked his head around the corner and looked up and then they come bolting up those stairs. There were several people down there, old and young. They were crying and carrying on. I asked and one man said he could speak a little English. He said, "The Germans left this day." He was telling me that they had left probably earlier that morning. He said, "They left this day." I said, "Okay." Well, we got that kind of settled down and then the company commander told me to move on. This village was probably-- it was a town, really. It was probably another 300 or 400 yards down the road. He told me to move on down to an intersection that we could see. He said, "But first, I'm going to have one artillery round fired, over an airburst over the town to alert them or see what the Germans are going to do to get us in there." The thing moved and you could hear shrapnel falling everywhere. Then I moved on to the intersection in this town. I acted like a soldier. I got to it and peeked around to see if I could see anything. I saw nothing, nobody nowhere. I kept looking and I finally motioned for the platoon to come on up, which it did. The company commander and his people came on up. Then somebody hollered, "We're Americans." I don't know who, but one of them. "We're Americans." A few minutes later, every door in that town flew open and people came running out. We were walking down the street. I'll bet you that there were hundreds of people. And it scared us because we knew we didn't have a chime of a chance if there were Germans in there. If there were any, we were going to take a shot the same as they would us. That scares you really. You can't shoot them, not those people. It bothers you. It's a good feeling, because they were handing us wine and handing us roses and girls was kissing us. That doesn't make you feel too bad. But you've got to get on. and doe went on through that village, our company, and went on to an apple orchard which was outside of the village. That's where we built way for the night. We dug in and we built right there. We were told that nobody was going to that town. They told us, "Don't anybody go back in that town." That night we heard them start screaming. We heard gunshots. This went on that night until the next day. Late in the afternoon of the next day we were told that two or three people could go into town to see what was going on. Well, here was three from our platoon that went down. We walked by this building that probably was a courthouse, I guess, or city whatever. There was a courtyard behind it and there were trees back there. And there were several people hanging from them trees. We were told later that one of them was the mayor and the chief of police and different people. We were also told there were a lot of people they'd run out of town. But that was their way to take care of people that had helped the Germans. They had been there for four years. It was quite a sight, really. That day we moved out of that position up to a canal. I think the name of that canal was the Erft Canal, E-R-F-T, something like that. We're in Holland now. We went in Holland probably the day before. That was the first time in Holland that we'd been hit. We dug in along that canal. The canal was probably 100 feet wide. We were told it was too deep to wade. That night the engineers came up and started laying footbridges. Well the Germans started to open up with artillery. That artillery fell around us all night the rest of the night. And several of the engineer people were killed. At daylight the next morning, we had a footbridge. They brought our sandwiches up to us. We took it, we eat one and put it in our pack. Our platoon was told to go across, so we took off and went across, expecting to be mowed down any minute out there on that little wood bridge and it flopping up and down with one rope on the sides, holding onto it. You just feel naked. But we got across it and we formed up on this hard surface road. Had blown the bridge. It was down here [inaudible]. We formed up on the road. Am I going on? Okay. We formed up on the road and our platoon and the other platoon behind us. We were in front. It was still dark. It wasn't daylight yet. But, you could see a little bit. All of a sudden, this mortar round came in and hit the middle of the road right in front. The lieutenant was on one side and I was on the other side. It hit the road right in front of us and sparks flew. Then the thing started shaking right down. We were walking on either side of the road. That thing skipped and skipped right on down, right on my F1, I was right on down the road. We didn't dare pick back up, people in back of you hollering and finally we heard it go off somewhere back there. We didn't know where it went. We were told later on it had jumped off the road and went into the field over there and went off and didn't hurt anybody. That's what we were told. We thought our lucky stars because if that thing had gone off when it hit the road coming in the direction it was, it would have wiped our platoon out. It would have hurt us bad. But we walked on down that road for quite a ways until daylight. And then we were told to get off the road on the left side of the road. Now there, the road was built up about 15 feet like that above, because it was so wet in that area. It was about a 15-foot embankment down. We were on that side. It was our company on that side and another battalion was on that side, which was the 2nd battalion. We were the 3rd battalion. We kept moving up that day. That night before dark, we started digging in along that road. We were digging in and it had gotten dark. Somebody that was down in his hole low enough to where you could see, he saw a silhouette of four or five people walking up there. He hollered "Germans." What he did, he had a machine gun. He opened up on the machine gun. And when he opened up, everybody opened up. We didn't know what we were shooting at. We didn't see nothing. We just shot. Finally, the platoon sergeant got us to stop shooting. Somebody hollered for them to come in. "Kommen Sie hier. Come into here." Then somebody hollered back, "Nicht. Nicht." And something about "Nicht schießen." That's the word to say "Don't shoot." The one man said, "Nicht schießen." Then someone else hollered, "Come in." And he said, "Nicht." Well, I was the nearest where he was. I told them, I said, "All right. I'm going to crawl out there." I crawled out to where I could see him and see them, the silhouettes. And I could see. It looked to me like three people laying there. I told him, I said, "Get up, up, up." One man stood up. I told him, "Kommen Sie hier." And he walked over to me. I got up and got my gun right in his back and said, "Let's go." We walked into where our squad was dug in. And we came then to a house there that we were using as a squad headquarters. And we had a candle burning in there. We could see him. He was a nice looking fellow. He was a corporal. He pointed under his arm. His left arm had been shot and he was hurt. He pointed under there. I looked up and he had a pistol under his arm. I took it. And that went with me for the rest of the war; that was my baby. He told us that there were five of them and that two of them were dead laying out there and two of them had run. And so we got one of the five and two of them were dead. We checked them out the next day and both of them had been shot. In fact, they had been shot several times. That machine gun had gunned them down. Well, that was a-- the next day we started moving on out down the side of that road. We could see a road over yonder a mile away or more. Now, we could see trucks going on that road. We were told that they were German trucks. But they were so far away, you couldn't really-- we didn't know what was going on. But about mid-day of that day we were sitting along our bank there eating our peanut butter and jam or either our bologna, whichever one we were lucky enough to get, and I heard a machine gun fire. It sounded like it was right on us. I listened. I could hear it. I asked them, "Do you hear machine guns?" They said, "Yes." I crawled up the bank. I wanted to look on the road and see what was up there. I could hear the machine gun fire up there. I crawled across the hard surface and looked down and there was a German machine gun squad under some trees just shooting across the field over there where the 2nd battalion was. While I was laying there looking, I saw a man going across the field with the tripods of a machine gun on his shoulder. You know how they carry them. That machine gun was shooting and I saw him when it threw them and hit. I thought to myself, "He's either shot or he just fell. I don't know which." I had my BAR. I brought my BAR. I eased that thing back and pulled the trigger and it said, "thunk." God Almighty! One of those people looked up at me. I could see them right now looking up at me up there on that road. When he did, off come with my hand grenades and I threw it. I rolled over, grabbed another hand grenade and threw it, then I went over that road and on the other side [inaudible] I ain't no hero, partner, I don't like this. I got over and I told them. I said, "There's a machine gun over there and two or three of them jumped up and went up there and then come back and says, "They won't hurt us anymore." I said, "All right." We moved on out to a crossroads. I walked on to the edge, to the corner to look around. I don't know why they liked for me to be the one up there all the time. I told them, "Let's take turns. Let someone else get shot." But when I looked around the corner and I didn't see anything, but I heard a tank. I looked behind me and I was down, I guess about 20 feet from the corner. There was a wood fence beside of me. I think it was higher, but I think it was about six feet high, maybe a little bit more. I looked and there was this tank edging around the corner and just inch by inch at a time. That man looking around that corner and had that little black tab on his face. Let me tell you, I went over that fence with one leap. I tried later and I couldn't get over it, but I did that time. I run back there I told them "tank." They said, "That's our tank." I was well, it didn't look like our tank to me and he had a little black hat on his head. But I walked back up there and it was a British tank. He was sitting there about half way around it. He looked at me and said, "Are you the Yankee that went over the wall?" I said, "Yes, I am." (laughing) Down on that other road about a mile you could see this whole German convoy going across down there. I asked them, "Ain't somebody doing something about it?" He said, "Well, yes, as much as we can." I said, "Well why don't you shoot them?" On the tank they had that 20mm gun up there, where we have 50 caliber or 30 caliber on this, this had 20mm on that. He asked me, "Would you like to shoot them?" I said, "Yes, I want to shoot." And I got up on the tank and he said, "All right. Hit the butterfly." It just has a little butterfly. The first time I shot, I shot up a building up there about 100 yards in front of me. Then he told me to raise the sight. I did and he said, "You're right on it. Let it go." I mashed that butterfly down. You could see it going, but you didn't know where it was going. He said, "You're right on them." I said, "Good." He said, "Now stop. I got to have some ammo for later on. Don't use up all my ammo." But a few minutes after that--
ZARBOCK: 4 August, 2006, Doug Jackson, tape 2. Go ahead Mr. Jackson, what happened?
JACKSON: Well, I believe when I left off there was when the English tank was with me. I'd fired at-- okay, we moved out from there. Right after the tank had done the shooting for them, we got one of the worst mortar attacks that I've ever lived under, quite frankly, it was so bad. But I think they was paying us back for shooting at the convoy up. But, I don't know. But anyway, from there, the next day we moved out and we were-- come to some little village, I want to get this in, and dug in. And the next morning the platoon sergeant comes up and said, "Jackson, you're the squad leader." And I said well, "What?" He said "Can't you hear me?" And I said "Yeah." I'm surprised because I was surprised that somebody was doing something right one time. But, I always have to say something like that. (phone rings) But anyway, I was made squad leader that day, the third squad, third platoon. And we moved on up into Holland and we were going to attack a large town in Holland but it was across a river called the Mark river. (phone rings) The Mark River was quite a big river and it was deep.
ZARBOCK: This was about November, 1944?
JACKSON: This was, yeah, probably the second or third day of November.
ZARBOCK: It's still autumn, the weather has not turned winter yet has it?
JACKSON: Well it's cold, but it's not bad.
JACKSON: That day we moved into a woods about 500 yards back from the Mark river. And the town that we were going to attack was a Holland town. And I won't even try to, call it, Stan aan het Haringvliet, something like stand guard [inaudible]. But anyway, we went into a woods and bivouacked and dug in and was under artillery fire continuously, waiting for it to get dark and we'd cross the river. Well, the English trucks come up bringing their boats. We could hear them out there. It was just a little after dark and we could hear them out there carrying the boats down to the edge of the river for us. And that's the way it was done. And a lot of those people got hurt while that was going on. But probably 11 or 12 o'clock, I have no idea what time it was, but it was two or three hours after dark, we were told to move out down to the river and get our boats. And so the way we done it generally, is one squad would get each boat. And they were built, I think, to take a squad, each one. And at that time there were nine people in my squad including myself. There's supposedly 12, but it was nine people. Well, we got our boat, we run to the river the same as everybody else is doing on both sides of us. And it was fairly dark, we could see, but we were continuously under artillery and mortar fire and also small arms, fire rifle and machine guns. And we got in the river and started trying to paddle. And we realized that there was no way that we could live on that river the way those people were shooting. So we jumped out of the boat and held on to the boat with one hand and paddled with our other hand. And I don't how many other people, I imagine that quite a few of them were doing the same thing we were, because it was just too much fire coming across there to sit up in that boat. You just couldn't do it. Well, we got across the river and got to the bank, and we were told that there was a canal beyond the river. Well, we didn't know where the canal was, but the canal was about 50 feet, a 100 feet, beyond the river. And so when we got out the river we realized that all of this fire was coming from across the canal, and so we had to go to the canal and we didn't have any boats. And so we had to wade the canal. And to me the water was almost under my arms, and so I don't know what happened to people that were shorter than me. But it was quite a thing and we were so--
ZARBOCK: Now let me interrupt. You're carrying a rifle?
JACKSON: Yes, sir.
ZARBOCK: You're wearing a helmet?
JACKSON: Yes, sir.
ZARBOCK: Have you got a field pack?
JACKSON: A light pack, yes.
ZARBOCK: And your carrying ammunition?
JACKSON: And ammunition.
ZARBOCK: What weapon are you carrying, a BAR or a M1?
JACKSON: Then, at that time, I think I still had the, I think I still had the, no I had a M1 because when I made squad leader, I had my BAR and I gave it to someone else.
ZARBOCK: But you're carrying bandoliers of M1 ammunition?
ZARBOCK: You've got clips, you've got hand grenades, you've got all this weight?
ZARBOCK: You're wearing what, a woolen uniform?
JACKSON: Well, it's a-- yes that's what it was.
ZARBOCK: And you've got boots?
ZARBOCK: And you're walking through water?
JACKSON: No at that time we're wearing leggings, a series of leggings. So we never even got boots then, you know, the brown shoes with little, yeah leggings. That's what we were wearing.
ZARBOCK: I was thinking the weight that you were carrying, then you get that all sopping wet and that's another weight that you're carrying, and you're scared and you're hungry. And it's the middle of the night and you're what, you're 21 or 20?
JACKSON: That's why you still keep going, because you're so scared you don't know what else to do quite frankly. You know, I've always said that I got scared one time. That was the first day and that lasted that whole thing. That way I didn't have to go any miles to get scared. It's better that way, see. But anyway, when we got to that canal we just jumped in and started wading and got across and there was quite a few German riflemen across the canal. And we started shooting as good as we could. And I'm positive in my mind now, that either in the river or the canal, I lost two of my men. ‘Cause I was two short when we got across the canal. And so we started out with nine and there were seven of us left. And when we got across the canal we started laying down as much fire as we could and the Germans was moving back. They would move back and shoot, move back and shoot. And we'd move up and shoot, and move up and shoot. And so it was the same old thing. The town, I guess, from where our location was, we crossed and then had to turn to go down and hit the town, and somewhere, I don't know how long it took us, it probably took us 30 minutes, with all the shooting [inaudible]. It just seemed like it was forever really, but it was breaking day and we were about a 100 yards from that town. And we knew that if we were caught out there then they were gone, we had it, and so our platoon sergeant said, "Let's go." And so we just up and took off and we crossed this, jumped this little stone wall and there were three or four Germans there and we took care of them and then hit, my squad hit one door, one house and went in there. And there was no Germans there. And so we got into the building and then we thanked God, because we was at least in the building and we was out from in front of that artillery fire. Well, that was taking that town. Now, it took us about two or three days to take this town because it was three regiments involved in that. From there until about three more days and then we reached the Maas River, and that's a big river.
ZARBOCK: How do you spell that, do you remember?
JACKSON: M-A-A-S, Maas.
JACKSON: And this big river was probably a mile wide in some places. And the last town that we took on the Maas River is where a bridge went across, and it was, we were told an hour later it was the longest bridge in the world was built at that place. And so we were really, we didn't know what we were going to do about crossing that river. But we were told then that we were going to be relieved and going down, back down to our own Army. And so they relieved us from there and sent us down to the area of Aachen, Germany. And this is Siegfried line. And we were there about a week before we went into the Siegfried line. It took us about three days to get through the Siegfried line.
ZARBOCK: Did you get any reinforcements?
ZARBOCK: Did you get any reinforcements?
JACKSON: Yes, while we were waiting that week. I think, I'm sure I got probably two men or three men. I never had 12 men actually. You just can't even think you're going to get a full 12 because you can't. But we crossed the Siegfried line and we had a pretty rough time there because, but we made it in, I think, about two days, we got through it and then there was a cross siege too.
ZARBOCK: Tell me, what is the Siegfried line?
JACKSON: The Siegfried line is a line of cement things about that high that peaked down to about four feet wide on the bottom and they go down about eight feet in the ground, the Siegfried line. And what they are is for tank traps, to keep tanks from going through them. And then behind the line is bunkers built into these hills and each little mound of dirt you see is really a bunker with machine guns and things set up in it. And, we were lucky to the extent that about half of them didn't have anybody in them, but we didn't know that. And see, we had to assume there was somebody in every one of them. But about half of them didn't have anybody in it and so we didn't have as much problem and trouble as we thought we was going to have. Because we really didn't lose all that many men going through that because, well, the Germans fought and they fought hard, but they give up quick, so from there I'm going to skip jump now up to-- okay, on the Siegfried line, it's so _____________ there. Well, in front on them is barbed wire. It's these real long things of barbed wire and you know what I'm talking about, barbed wire. And there was mines. The whole place was mines, anti-personnel mines, anti-tank mines and the whole bit. And so, according to books later on that I have read, the biggest air attack that they had in Germany was done there on the Siegfried line before our division and other divisions jumped off to cross the line. And by doing that it blew up so many of those mines and they was blowing holes that we could use to get in to move out and that's what we utilized them for. But it didn't do everything. We had to clear some of it out. And we had to bang the lower torpedoes, if you know what that is. It's pumped pipes filled with TNT that you slip under the wires and then set it off and it blows a hole in the wire and a place for you to crawl through.
ZARBOCK: But it's just a long tube filled with explosive?
JACKSON: Yeah. And it's five pieces that you screw together, just like [inaudible] and then you put TNT in the end and you put a charge in that bullet and it goes up. And it blows the, it blows the wire so you can get a place through it. But, one thing about going through the Siegfried line that I would like to say, that we were the reserve company when we started off, but not too long, later on after starting off, we had to go through a company that was almost completely decimated entirely. We went through them and took their place. And what I'm going to tell is just my squad because I don't know what other squads are doing. 'Cause you can see, you're doing good to figure what you're doing. But the way we had it, each man was numbered: number one, number two, number three and what have you. And we have these satchel charges. You know what a satchel charge is, I hope. Well, it's a bag full of TNT that what you have to do is run up to that bunker and throw it in the embrasure so it blew up, blew that bunker up. Well, the embrasure has a, is open enough for machine guns to fire out and so the Germans don't want you to come up and throw that sack of charges in there and so it's a battle of wits or something. But anyway, I, the first one that we come to I hollered number one and he grabbed a satchel charge and run forward. And he got, I guess, 20 steps before he was cut down and we knew he was out of it because you can tell by the way he falls. Number two, he jumped up, he didn't want to go and I had to holler at him twice, and I can't blame him, I wouldn't want to go either, but he jumped up and grabbed a satchel charge and he run probably run about 10 or 12 feet when he fell. And I just thought well, I don't know if anybody's going to get there or not, but I just jumped up and grabbed a satchel charge myself and run up and fell in a shell hole and then when that machine gun cut loose and then it quit, I jumped and run and I threw the satchel charge and it went right in, it didn't go in yet, but it went right up, you know, in the embrasure. And I fell back and I just thanked God they hadn't got me. But that satchel charge went off and that took care of that. And I crawled back to where the man was, the second one, to see how bad he was hurt. And I asked him how bad are you hurt? And he said "I'm not hurt, I'm just scared." And I said "Well, you know by you getting scared and not moving you almost caused me to get killed." And so as soon as we got through the Siegfried line I had him transferred to another squad because I, I didn't want him in my squad anymore because he didn't fit. And so that was just it. You can't blame a person for being scared, we were all scared. But I guess that you can blame a person for not doing what he's supposed to do and cause someone else to get killed. And that's the way we looked at it. So, we got through the Siegfried line and it was hard to knock those bunkers out. But we had to do that continuously until we got through it. And it took us about two days really, to get through them where there was no more of these pill boxes. And we moved on out from there to a woods. There was a big woods and I don't know the name of this woods but it was some forest and I can't remember, Hurtgen, Hurtgen Forest. You see that's my, I can't remember so, but it was the Hurtgen Forest that I'm told. And this forest was near a city called Stolberg. So we went into that forest and we had gotten some new replacements for the forest and we went into it and this man in the woods, nice man, it's worse in the woods than it is in the open because in the woods all you, artillery's coming in and then airbursts and hitting them trees and shrapnel's just going everywhere. And we made it through to about lunchtime that first day. And we had a new man in my squad that I had just got, just before we moved down into the woods that day. And that was Bob [inaudible]. Bob, I could tell you something about him, but at lunchtime we settled down, in that woods you can't see. In this case, it was a lot of undergrowth and we couldn't see. And there's a lot of booby-traps and you just have to be careful. You can't go busting through it. But the platoon sergeant come and said that the, that the major was unhappy that we wasn't moving fast enough. And I told the platoon sergeant to please ask the major to come up and we would, we would try to move faster. But these are operations officers, see, so you've got to be kind of careful. But anyway we got through that woods. I think it was two or three days. And we dug in on the edge of the woods. And we dug a nice foxhole. Because a foxhole is your home and you're going to live in it, and we were told we were going to stay there awhile. Well, it was snowing, it was wet.
ZARBOCK: Let me check. You are now in Germany, is that right?
JACKSON: Yes, yes, yes. We're in Germany. When we crossed the Siegfried line we were in Germany.
ZARBOCK: In Germany. And it's what time of the year? It's the end of November?
JACKSON: This is still November, somewhere about the middle or close to the last of the month.
ZARBOCK: But it's starting to get winter?
JACKSON: Yep, it's snowing, it was snowing then, it's sleeting and then it quits doing that then it starts raining. I'll tell you, when we dug our foxholes, digging in we was digging two man foxholes along this field, and I told, I took Bob, he was the new man with me, because he was a nice fellow he was 18 years old, he had just come back and I got him when we first went up, I only had him about three days and he'd just got up there. And I asked him how long he'd been in the Army and I think he told me about eight weeks, something like that. And so, we dug our foxhole and I said Bob, there's one thing we've got to have. And he said what, I said we've got to have us a door to put on top of it and then put dirt on it and to keep anybody from throwing a grenade on us and to keep shrapnel out of it. And I said, where you going to get a door, and I said, you see that house out there. And he said yeah, it was about 150 feet out there, I said we're going walk over there and we're going to get a door. He said but the German's are over there and I said I know it. And he said, well they might be at that house. I said well, we're just going to have to take it. I guess I was being a little bit fun with him as well as being serious because I wanted a dang door and he didn't want to go. But he finally went with me and we went by the last hole what went into the field. Now, there was still some snow on the ground and it was wet. And we crawled across that barefoot. Before I left the last foxhole, which was my squad's foxhole, I told him, I said we're going over there and get us a door. Does any you all want to go with us and get you a door? They said no, they thought they'd sit that one out. But I told them we'd back by after a little while. And so Bob and I went over to the house, checked it out, there was nobody there, there was no Germans there. And there was a door, a front door on that house, that was hanging on one hinge. And I tried to jerk it off and I couldn't, and I was afraid to make too much noise because 150 yards over there was the Germans. And Bob was scared, damn I couldn't move without stepping on him, but he didn't know it, I was as scared as he was. And he had a knife, I told him, I said I sure wish I had a screwdriver and he pulled this knife out of his pocket and it was one of these knives where it would screw on and I said that's what I need. And he said "Well sergeant, I would give you that knife and let you have it if you'd had let me stayed back there." And I said no, I needed you to help me. And anyway, I guess we were scared but we were having fun as well. But we got the door down and I guess we went 100 feet going back to our lines and all of a sudden a flare shot up and we hit the dirt and somebody cut loose with a machine gun. And I think it cut loose from our side first and I just thought, Oh Lord, have mercy, you know. And I didn't think they'd hurt us but you just don't never know. But that went on for several minutes, them, it was tracers flying around close to us and over our head and as you know, every round out of a machine gun belt like a fifth round of tracer so it's just a steady line of fire going across there. But finally they quit and we crawled on back up to my hole or the hole that we were going in. And I called a password and they didn't say nothing. And I hollered again. And they didn't say nothing. And so, louder than I wanted to, I can't remember the password now.
JACKSON: I said, "Saw." They didn't say nothing. I said, "Saw." They didn't say nothing. I said "Dammit, saw!" And then they say "Mill." And then they was just laughing so hard they were just having the biggest fun and so, and see, they won't give us the counter-sign and so we crawled up and I told him. I said, "Let me tell you boys something. I know you're having fun and we are too and just everything is good. But just remember one thing, I'm your squad leader and I'm going to be your squad leader out here for a long time. And if I was you, I'd be careful." And so, Lord have mercy. But anyway, we took the door and we put it on our foxhole and lived happily ever after as far as that goes. But we moved on away from there into a town called Stolberg and it was a large town and we were in either battalion reserve or ready mobile reserve, and I'm not sure which, but we were behind the lines and my squad and the platoon at the time, because we did not have a platoon sergeant, and at that time we didn't have a platoon leader. The platoon leader had been killed. And we were sitting down in this basement and I had my, I had my German machine gun that I was talking about. I still have that thing. I even got shells. We were all sitting down there cleaning our weapons just having a good, big time. And a friend of mine I was sitting beside of, he was a born harmonica player. He could play all them country songs good. And I told him, I'd clean his weapon if he'd play the harmonica and I, I was. He was sitting there playing the harmonica and tapping his foot. Well, I cleaned my weapon and instead, I pulled in the back and I cleared it and then put the magazine in. I put the magazine in and pulled it back and cleared it. Well it had 30 rounds in the magazine and I was sitting there with it down like this and that thing erupted and I think we figured out it shot 15 times before I could get finger off the trigger. And the bullets flying around in that place, the screaming and people hollering, it was just the Grace of God that I didn't kill somebody. But they grabbed me, I didn't have my undershirt on or my clothes or my boots, and they threw me out the door. And locked the door and wouldn't let me back in. And I was freezing to death. And I said then, I hollered for them to let me in and they wouldn't do it. And I was, I was just freezing, and I knew they was going to let me in, in a minute, but there was snow on the ground it was a bright night and I heard planes coming. And I looked up and three planes were going by in formation. And I thought to myself, well, I figure maybe they were bombers that were coming back. And then all of a sudden, I saw black things dropping out of it. And it just struck me then, that's paratroopers falling. And they going the wrong way. They weren't our paratroops. And so I banged on that door, I told them to open that dang door. And they opened it then but they knew that it was something. But as a result of that, we got dressed and went out in the field and we found 16 paratroopers that had dropped down. And out in that field, half of them had gone and hid in a ditch line and the other half had gone into a barn. And they all give up when they knew that we had them surrounded, they gave up.
ZARBOCK: How were they dressed?
JACKSON: But the only thing that I know in my mind that saved them, they all had the German uniform on under the American uniform. They all looked like Americans, 'cause if they'd had had just American uniforms on you know what would happen to them that second. That saved them and they realized that. Well, I'm going to fast forward for a minute now. I want to talk about something that happened on Thanksgiving Day, 1944. And that was the 23rd day of October, 1944.
JACKSON: Now, this is going to take a little while and I don't know how much time we've got, but I want, I want to try to--
ZARBOCK: Go ahead.
JACKSON: We had moved up and took a village, I don't know the name of the village, but when we dug in around this village, one of our, there was a town across the field about there which was about two miles from us which we could see part of it and part of it was in the woods but we could see it, part of it. All right, one of our companies, and I do believe it was L Company, had attacked that town the day after we had dug in there. They got about half way across that field and they got so much fire on them that they just had to dig in and then that night they pulled back. About half of them came back and about half of them were killed or wounded. Well the next morning, we were K Company, and we were told it was our turn. The name of the town was Peuschen, Peuschen, Germany. And it, it had a fairly good sized town it was on the left and then there was some wooded area, but not a real lot of wood just some wood there between it and a farmhouse and an orchard and a stone wall that was around the barnyard of the house. And that was our objective, our platoon objective. Well we got about halfway across that, we jumped off at night and it was dark, we were about halfway across that field when the fog settled in and it got so foggy that we could not see and we had to line up each man behind the other in this fog and hold on to the pack so we could follow each other. Well as we kept on moving in to our objective the fog started to lift, it lifted some, but it was still dark and we walked around the farmhouse and the barn and we could see it enough in the fog to tell what it was. And the apple orchard sat in the barnyard. And we moved around in front of this house and this barn to a big hedgerow that was across in front of it. And we put our squads, two squads, first, second squad behind the hedgerow and then the third second behind the hedgerow and the first formed a L shape on the end which took in the apple orchard. Well the Sergeant Ladner [ph?] who was the second squad leader and myself walked over to a tank that was sitting there, and we assumed it was a tank destroyer because it looked like it. It was big, low, we just didn't think. We thought it was a tank destroyer. And it was camouflaged, had branches thrown over it. And he and I settled down beside of it and lit a cigarette. Fat, dumb, and happy if you'll take this especially. And it was starting to get lighter and the fog was lifting and all of a sudden the fog had lifted to where you could see at least eight or ten feet above the ground. And all of a sudden we heard a whistle blowing. And when the whistle blew, the tank cranked up. And then when that happened, we looked, and there was a German officer standing in the road in the break in that hedgerow blowing that whistle and had a pistol in his hand. And then all heck broke loose, fire. And we realized when that tank cranked up and started moving and we saw that big black cross on that tank. And we knew it weren't no tank destroyer. And so our people were throwing hand grenades over that hedgerow and they was doing the same thing back at us so Sergeant Ladner and I headed for the barn, the barnyard as hard as we could. Now, you know, in the Audie Murphy Show, what Audie would have done, he would have jumped on that tank, pulled the hatch open and throwed a hand grenade down in there and blowed it up. Well, see he's a hero. Ladner and me weren't no heroes. We headed for the barn just as hard as we could. But also, I'll tell you something else, we couldn't have opened that hatch anyway because they latch it from the inside. And so, somebody ought to tell Hollywood about that. But anyway, we got into the barnyard and run back in and I run upstairs in this house. I wanted to get up to the second floor and I could see enough through the fog to try to see what was going on. And I saw a bunch of haystacks out in the field and as I was looking them haystacks started moving. I'll tell what, you tanks, they was tanks it was a bunch of them. I don't know how many but they started moving and then there was a tank, I saw it going around, beyond the hedgerow around, and on down and then around the edge of the hedgerow which circled by our squads around there.
ZARBOCK: Now you're talking about a German tank?
JACKSON: German tank, yes sir. Because we didn't have no tanks up there. And it went on around and then come back up and we said well, we'll sure have one when it comes back up 'cause it's going to blow a hole in that wall then it's going to come in on us. Well when I come down the stairs, upstairs there, there was a stairs that come down the basement. And so I figured, well I'm going to go down and check the basement out while I'm up here and when I stepped down the bottom of the step, I looked up and there was a German standing there with one of those Schnauzers at us. Well I had my gun and we were standing there eyeballing each other. I wanted to shoot but I knew if I did he had his up and that reflexes he'd of shot me. I don't know, you know you think crazy things when something like that happens. But all of a sudden he just dropped that thing, it was on a-- he just let it fall. And he turned and walked out the door. When he did, I jumped up behind him and in that room was about eight or nine people in there with radios on and earphones on. And I was standing there looking at them. And one of them jumped up and somebody gave him an order and he sat back down. And so I just stood there because, and then I looked at them and I did like that and they all stood up put the hand on their heads and come out. I mean about as easy, they came out.
ZARBOCK: Where was your platoon at this time?
JACKSON: What was this?
ZARBOCK: Where was your platoon leader and where was--
JACKSON: I didn't have a platoon leader or a platoon sergeant at that time. We didn't have a platoon leader and our platoon sergeant a few days before then was a recipient of a part of a hand grenade in his rear end. And we accused him of going the wrong direction. But anyway, the platoon sergeant had been hit in the hip with shrapnel from a hand grenade.
ZARBOCK: Well, who's running the platoon?
JACKSON: Well, I guess I was.
ZARBOCK: Yeah. And you're a what, a corporal?
JACKSON: No, I was a staff sergeant.
ZARBOCK: Staff sergeant.
JACKSON: Ladner was also a squad leader and he was a staff sergeant. He was the second, but he was probably platoon, I mean second squad leader. And the first, I can't remember his name. I don't, he was a squad leader, he was also a staff sergeant. And so, I assumed that I was because I took charge. Anyway, somebody had to be and I was never told that I was but I wasn't told that I won't. And I read things that said that was different but I know it wasn't because the people that wrote it weren't there. But anyway, we brought those Germans, I brought those Germans out and when they stepped out into the yard I believe the tank is really going to shoot them when they walk out the door. But they saw they had their hands on their head and they, we lined them up out in the barnyard and there were nine of them. And to my best judgment, it was ignorant, battalion headquarters it was there in that room. And we have learned later from other reading other information that that's what it was. It was battalion headquarters. We assumed that. Well during this time now, this first tank went around. It come on around the back of our barnyard and we assumed that when it got around it was going to blow a hole in that wall and come in 'cause that's what we'd have done. But it kept on going and went on around. And about that time another one was coming around and it done the very same thing. And each one of them had this eight or ten or 12 [inaudible]. And each one of them, when the tanks got up that far there weren't no more 'cause our people out there on those holes were shutting them down. And our people that was in that barnyard were shutting them down too. And so there wasn't much efforts left to go back when they went around. Everyone of them was stopped out there. We could not for the life of us figure why those tanks didn't blow the hole in that wall when they come in there. 'Cause we expected it any minute. Because we knew we would have done it. And it wouldn't have took them 15 minutes if they had done it but they kept going. Now, we were having so much artillery coming in and mortar fire coming in and one of the Germans, I guess it was the battalion commander, were ashamed because he wanted us to take him and put him under shelter. And I told him, I said, "You called the artillery in so you call it off." And we made him send that. And, oh boy, they didn't seem to happy at all, well, that's good we weren't happy either because their artillery was falling on us. Well, our radio man was hit and so was our radio. And that was early. We had no communications with anybody. Well, sometime probably near noontime, Ladner the squad leader of the second squad, and probably, I don't know who the other man was, that went with him. But they took the prisoners and their decision was, we'll take the prisoners and get them across the field to our company headquarters and by being with those prisoners, they're not going to shoot us. They're going to let us get by. They hoped that anyway. And they did. And they went with them across the field because they was right up, you know, almost in the prisoners' pockets. And they drive across the field, we can see them way on down until they were well out of sight, and their plan was to get a radio and to slip back in to us. Well they never come. And I might add, right here, that later the next day somebody found where they had been killed down a 100 or 200 yards from us. It was into the woods where they was trying to slip in and had been covered up in a real shallow hole, grave which was surprising because I've never known the Germans to shoot somebody and cover them up like that. Obviously, what they was doing was trying to hide them. And so that was it. But we had no communication at all. About midday a little later, all of a sudden, we started getting artillery from our direction. And so we knew what had happened. We knew by them seeing all those German tanks circling around down at the headquarters that they assumed that we were either dead or prisoners. And so they opened up with their mortar 05's and 1-05's. And we had artillery coming in from this side and then we had artillery coming at us from this side. And it was, I'm going to tell you, it was hectic to say the least. Well about that time, I decided to go out to my squad leader, our squad, where my sister squad was out there. And find out did they want to stay out there or did they want to come inside the stone wall. Because I didn't see where it made no difference because if they stayed there those tanks was going to run up to them and put that motor down and blow up everyone of them and sooner or later they would have done it. Because we know and so many times it had happened. The tanks would go up to a foxhole and just put the big gun down and blow them up. We didn't want that to happen. And so I run out there which 50 feet away and jumped in the hole with my assistant squad leader and his name was Red Thompson, and he and I had been in that squad since [inaudible] when it was first on us. But, I got in the hole and it was actually more than I wanted to do, and all of a sudden something said Ding! It had hit right in front of our foxhole about four feet. And half of it was sticking out of the ground and it was a 155 about that big. And so, it didn't go off when it hit and we assumed that either it's a dud or it's a delayed queue that's going to go off and man we was out of there. We was gone. And then Red called his other men to come in. And they all ran in too. And then all of them come in. And we got them all out of those holes out there and got them all inside that barnyard because at least they were behind something. And they were no safer from artillery but they were safer from them tanks. And so I'm going to fast forward again a little bit because this situation kept on until way in the afternoon. Those tanks circling us and circling us. And about, probably, in the middle of the afternoon or a little later, I heard somebody holler "Third platoon." And then we hollered back and he said, "I'm coming in." Well there was a gate back there in the back I jerked the gate and he run in. And it was a lieutenant of the fourth platoon that had been with the first and second platoons over in the village. And we heard gunfire and hollering and screaming going on over there all night. And finally then it just lightened up. And so we assumed that they'd captured them all or they'd killed them all. 'Cause you couldn't see them, we had no contact with them and this lieutenant got there and told us, he said the first and second platoon is wiped out. The ones that ain't killed has been captured. He said the tanks are going up to these holes, and these bunkers that these people, like a potato, bunkers that these people build for bomb shelters, and the men were hiding in there and they put that 88 gun in there and then they shoot and blow them up. And he said, I finally, I've been laying out there in the woods about an hour trying to get a chance to run out, and he came in with us and I was glad to see him. I told him I was glad to see him. And I told him what we had. I said, and I think I'm right, I said, "We've got three dead to my knowledge right now, and we've got seven more dead." And he said, "How's the ammo?" And I said, "We've just about run out." He said, "Well, we've just got to make every shot count." I said, "That's right, that's all." And we talked about why, why haven't they been doing anything. And the only thing we could come up with is they knew that this was a battalion headquarters and they probably didn't know that we'd got those prisoners back. And they thought they were still there. That's the only thing that we could summarize. And so as a result, they would not assault 'cause their scared that there, that they had these big officers there. Well, here come a tank and it's getting on real late. Here come a tank and I call my platoon commander and said, "Come in here." He come up there. I said, "You got any rounds?" He said, "I got one left." And I said, "Let's use it." And so a old hay rake, an old farm hay rake, everybody knows what they are, I backed it up to the wall and I said I'm going to get me that tank right there, and he said, "Sir, I'm been trying to get one all day and I ain't been able to get one." He said, "Either they won't explode or they bounce off." And so I got that bazooka laid up and I asked him, I said, look you want to shoot? And he said, "No you shoot." I said, "I didn't want to take your job." He said, "No, you shoot." And so, you know how you do it, you set and then clutch it over your head when it's ready. Now that tank, it was 30 feet, 40 feet, I'm guessing but I think I'm correct, it come by and as it got by me far enough, 'cause I knew they couldn't see me, I fired and I fired where the turret just went down into the body. And I'd always been told that's where to shoot if you're going to shoot, you know blow the turret up. That plane rocket went out of there and hit tank and it was driven up in the air. And it made a clanging noise. The clank stopped and I said, "Boy, run. Run, run, run." And we got under. And we run in, really where most of us went, in the barnyard was the stalls where the animals was kept, and we run in there and laid down. Figured that would be some help but really it would not have been any help. I've got to break for a minute. Okay, we assumed that that tank was coming in on us but it didn't. But it bored a hole in that wall that you could have drove a Volkswagen through. And then it turned and went on. All we could do was thank the Good Lord. Because we had no idea why it didn't move in on us and take us. It didn't even have to move in on us. All it would have had to done was to wait out there with the big ole 88 and just blasted us away. But it didn't do it and the only reason we could even come to any thought was what I just said. That they assumed that their officers and all were still in there. But a little while later it turned twilight and then dark. The tanks right before dark moved out and started across the field. Two or three of us were upstairs in that house and we tried to herd them along as much as we could. And someone was hollering at them, "We won that one. You're the one running." You know stuff like that. But anyway we were happy that I guess we didn't feel like crying, we probably did. But we didn't know what to expect because anyone that was in Germany and fighting those Germans, they know if you ever take an objective from them, there's a counterattack. That was it. I think it was in the book that they had to do it. And we expected one. But they never come and we were sitting there waiting for the counterattack, they never come. Sometime after dark, I have no idea when, but it was sometime after midnight, 'cause we had been sitting there waiting, and waiting, and waiting. I guess were waiting for them to slip in all of a sudden. But that was really something that was seldom done, fighting at night. And that was our specialty quite frankly. Then we heard somebody hollering, "K company! K company!" And the lieutenant from the first and fourth platoon come in, and I cannot remember his name, but I can see him, he answered and this man hollered that he was captain. Somebody, it sound like Allen or something from A-company, that was the first battalion.
ZARBOCK: Were there any American tanks around?
JACKSON: No. Okay, let me tell you what happened in the day. And I'm sorry I missed that. In the middle of the day they tried to send American tanks up to help us, and there were five up them out in the field where they knocked everyone of them out, 'cause one shot from one of those 88's hit an American tank and blowed it. That was it. Didn't take but one shot. And there was five of them sitting out in that field burning. And we could see some of our men jumping out and running and some of them didn't. So that's what happened to our-- and we couldn't get any help. There weren't no way to get any help because the tanks that come to us are either bogged down or blowed or crippled. So that was it. As I said about midnight, this captain from the A-company came in, he came in closure where we were. He said, "What in the world has happened?" He said, "You can't walk out there without stepping on a dead gentleman." And we told him, gave him a brief, rundown on what happened. And we told him as far as we knew the two platoons in the village had been knocked out. He said, "Our people has been over there and they only found just a few people and some wounded.
ZARBOCK: Where was the American artillery?
JACKSON: The American artillery was blasting us 'cause they thought we'd been captured or killed. But it wasn't just us, it was also in the fields. That's why I said, we were under both artilleries, coming from both ways.
ZARBOCK: When did this stop? When did the American artillery stop?
JACKSON: After the men took the German prisoners back. Then they told them what was going on, and that's what it was. Probably a short time after the middle of the day. Because the American artillery fell for just an hour or more. And we just had as many people hurt by our own artillery. But it couldn't be helped, and we realized that. That went up when the other company come up and relieved us. I think 19 of us walked out of there, and we carried our wounded, but we left our dead out there. I think it was 7 was dead.
ZARBOCK: You said 19 walked out. How many walked in?
JACKSON: We had 30 that walked in from our platoon. There was 30 from our platoon that walked in. The others was either killed or wounded. And so we went back, about midnight we got back to company area. And when we got there somebody hollered, "Happy Thanksgiving! We left food for you." That was the first time I even thought about it being Thanksgiving. It hadn't entered my mind, I haven't heard anybody say anything about it. We couldn't, some of them might have been able to eat, I couldn't. And the lieutenant, the officers over there would ration off whiskey once a month. And he went and broke out two bottles and brought it to us. We all took several big drinks then went and found me a place to fall out and I fell out and went to sleep.
ZARBOCK: Happy Thanksgiving.
ZARBOCK: Tape number three, Mr. Douglas Jackson. This is the 4th of August, 2006.
JACKSON: After Thanksgiving Day, we pulled back to our regular company camp, [inaudible] and we got replacements out to replace the people that had been killed and wounded. And then leaving there-- we were there about two weeks-- and then we left there, moving out again riding tanks. And I remember riding through this road by this barn and farmhouse where we had stayed all day. It had looked quite different when we went back through it then. But anyway, about midday, we were going through a big field and the generals decided to lay a little bit of artillery on us, a big blast of double-tank artillery, and naturally we left them tanks. Well, when we jumped off the tanks, the tanks turned around and went the other way. (laughs) We blamed them then. But you know, after realizing the circumstances, we know they had to do that. But anyway, we moved again to attack the town and I do believe the name of the town was Inden, which the Germans did not want to let go, and it was an awful fight. It was everything. But once we did get into town, there is house to house. And I remember after we'd taken the first row of houses when we went into town, and that night, probably right after dark, and then the next day, members of our company, and I'm talking about our company a lot because our company had that block. And they were trying to get people across the street. They wanted to try to go across the street they were knocking 'em out. And finally, because my turn, when I say my turn I mean my squad. And I told the lieutenant that I was gonna play at this a little bit different than they had been doing, because they'd been sending one man across at a time and they're knocking them out. One man at a time. And so I suggested to him that my whole squad go across in a wad, and that's what we did. I think I had six or seven men, maybe eight men, I'm not quite sure. And that time we just got close together, everybody went across that street yelling like wild Indians, jumped over the steps into the house because we knew the steps would be booby trapped. And so we hit that door together and the door just went down, and we all went down on the floor. Well, when we did there was three Germans in that room and they turned around and fired at us. But all of them fired over our heads. Well we were laying on the floor and we fired back. And we didn't fire over their heads and so. The one thing that happened then that really bothered me ever since, while we were laying on the floor, German Panzerfaust which is a, really it's a tank grenade, like our bazooka. It come down through either the door or one of the windows and exploded on the wall behind us. And I thought to myself, "Why are we, and the German Panzerfaust firing behind across the street?" And so, I never figured that one out. And-- because somebody fired that thing from our side of the street and what I do believed happened, that somebody had picked it up and they were trying to be helpful, and they fired into our house and we were laying down on the floor. Now if that thing had exploded it would have took care of all of us. That would have been it. Well at this same time we immediately got up after we took care of those three Germans and we spread out over the house and in the basement to search it to see if there was any more Germans in the house. Well I walked into a little back room that had a sewing machine and I could see that it was the lady of the house's sewing room. It had had one window in the back and I walked to the window and looked, and when I did I could see a German standing across the lawn on the ground in front of the barn that was in the backyard. And one German standing in the door upstairs in that barn, and they were looking at us. Well, the one standing on the ground threw a hand grenade, and the hand grenade had come through the window, hit the floor, rolled right at my feet. And I'll never forget it, it was a blue concussion-type hand grenade, and it rolled at my feet. If it had exploded then, it would have messed me up. But, in about a minute or a minute and a half when it didn't explode, then I exploded out the door and hollering grenade, so I warned other people that grenades was being thrown into the house. But, I found my assistant squad leader, his name was Red Thompson, and I told Red, I said, "There's a hand grenade laying in that room, so don't let anybody go in because I don't know if it's going to go off or not." Well, that was number two, because the Panzerfaust that didn't go off was number one. And I started thinking about two weeks before when that 155 fell by us and didn't go off, and so I got to thinking that something, on down the road, somewhere's gonna happen. But anyway, we went out of that house with the intentions of getting through the wall and trying to get to where these Germans were in the barn and out there. And so I had a very bright idea. I took our bazooka and told the bazooka man that I was gonna fire and knock a hole through that wall and then we were gonna go through the wall. Well, I was standing about 20 feet from the wall with that bazooka, and that bazooka round hit the wall and exploded. It didn't hurt the wall, but it knocked all of us flat from the concussion of that thing going off on the wall and I figured well, that didn't work. And so, one man held his hand and I jumped in that and on top of the wall, and by then all of the rest of 'em was following me, and we got out. The Germans that we had seen back there behind the house were gone, but here's what we did find. Lined up and by the street, where they would be lined up against the road, the houses, which would be very easily to where the planes couldn't see them, was tanks. And I have no idea how many tanks there was, but there was a lot of tanks. I would say there was 100 or more, maybe 200, it was-- and my thoughts and my opinion later thinking about it is it had to have been a regiment, and that was their tanks there. And that's, in my opinion, is why they fought so hard to try to keep that place. Because they didn't want to lose those tanks. And in later years, finding out about this particular town, which was Inden, we had learned that Inden was one of the places that was near the Roar River, and they just did not want to turn this place over, but we got it. And after doing that and taking the town, we moved on to the Roar River which it took us three or four more days to get to the Roar River. We took several more towns on the way, but I just can't remember the names of 'em. And when we got to the river, my squad, which at that time I had eight men including myself, we were given our area that we had to defend. And I had 200 yards of riverfront and eight people. And I asked the platoon sergeant how was I supposed to defend 200 yards of riverfront with eight people. He says, "I don't know how you're gonna do it Jackson, but do it.", and I said "Okay." Well, I got a real good bright idea. The road that run parallel with the river was about 100 yards, and it was rowed up with bushes, trees, briars, and anything you can think of between the road and the river. And so we gathered up every hand grenade that we could find, every flare that we could find, and we booby trapped that area to where a bird could not have walked through it without setting off something. And then we felt like if anybody'd come through that area, that he was gonna notify us. And then where we set up housekeeping was across the road in a big building that had been an inn. It was about three stories, big place, pretty place. But we went down into the basement and was gonna set up housekeeping down there. Then we dug foxholes along the edge of the road so if something did happen we could run out and get into our foxholes. But let me again mention the fact that it was snow on the ground, it was wet, it was cold, and we felt like that we were better off in that house than out there in them foxholes. Particular, when there are 200 yards to defend, then we bet we could do a better job in there in one room out the window than we could outside. Well, there was dams up that Roar River that our people was trying to get to keep the Germans from blowing those damns because if they blew the dams, it was gonna flood everything down river, which it did. They blew the dams and our basement filled up with water. And so we had to move upstairs to the first floor. Well setting up housekeeping there, we got a .50 caliber and sandbagged it at the one end of this inn, which would have been the entrance, living room, or whatever it was in this inn. And there was a bay window, and we're setting the .50 and sandbagged the .50 caliber machine gun out there in that window. And then we lived in the back part of the house which had one of these old Franklin-type coal burning stoves in it so we could have some warmth. Well, we had one man on that .50 caliber all the time. He was the man standing guard. And the rest of us would be back in the back and if this man on guard heard or saw anything, he would tell the rest of us. One night, we'd been there for several days, and one night I got a telephone call from the platoon leader, and the colonel told me I had a phone call. And one of the men come in to relieve me on the .50 caliber while I went and answered the telephone. And I had hardly got on the telephone when I heard a loud boom concussion from inside that living room, and without even thinking I knew what it was. And so we run in there and that tank round had come through the window, blew the .50 caliber into smithereens, killed a man, blew him apart, and we found a cigarette laying on the floor that was still burning. So we knew beyond any reasonable doubt that he had done one thing that we always told everybody to never smoke a cigarette in that room because they could see it. See, there was a German tank sitting across that road and we knew it. We knew where he was. And we knew that he knew where we was. But as long as we didn't show anything, we felt that we were reasonably safe. And when he lit that cigarette, that's when that tank round come through that window. Needless to say, that really upset me and I'm sure it did everybody else. It upsets you to lose one of your men to begin with, and then it upsets you to know that it was caused by something stupid being done. And you being military yourself, you know how easily it was for somebody to do things like that, regardless how much it was preached into 'em not to do it. It didn't make any difference. Anyway, a short time later-- but one thing that we had to do while we were there in that wooded area between the road and the river was a gazebo that at one time had to have been a pretty garden and all that there. And every morning we had to run down and check that gazebo to see if somebody else had moved in. And so every morning I would get one or two or three men to go with me and we'd go down and check that gazebo. Well, one morning, and we always do the same thing, and this is bad. Don't ever start getting a pattern where they could know what your pattern is. But this particular morning there was snow on the ground, maybe a foot deep, pretty day. And I jumped off the front porch into the yard as I always did to run across the road, and when I did this, whatever you'd call it, went by me had the awfulest screaming sound that you've ever heard, and if you've ever heard a tank round go by you about a foot above your head, I'm telling you it can make a sound. And the people back on the porch swore that I dropped so fast that my helmet was still up in the air, all I knew was that there was something above. But, he missed me and so I figured that was a little miss. I kinda got my nerve back together and everything, and then we went down and checked the gazebo. But either that day or the following day we done the same thing, went down to check out the gazebo. And when we did, we saw some people in this big warehouse, it was a machine factory of some sort, that beside the road that had never had anybody there since we'd moved in there and we'd check it out every morning too. Well this particular morning, we saw somebody in and we figured that we'd had Germans moved in there so we opened fire on them. Well, I had my German machine pistol and I opened fire with it. And when I did they just really opened fire on me because they thought that it was German fire. And finally somebody started yelling, "Cease fire." I don't know who it was. It could possibly have been me, I don't know, because we assumed by hearing somebody talking that we were shooting at Americans. And so we finally got it through and I hollered and asked them I said, "What in the heck are you people shooting at us for?" And they said, "You're Germans", and we said, "We ain't Germans, we're Americans." And we finally got that cleared up and we realized that the Eighth Division had moved inside of us during the night and we didn't know about it. They were gonna tell us the next, this morning. But they hadn't got around to telling us this morning. And so we had that, and thank God nobody was hurt on our side. And as far as we know they weren't hurt on their side. But, about a few days later we were moved from our location down the river, from the 200 yards that we had been covering, we moved down the river and then we got another 200 yards down there to cover. And there was a house there, there was not in anywhere near condition that ours was in and we didn't like it at all. We didn't like it. But we found that obviously the Eighth Division had moved down and had taken the area that we'd had. And I told the company commander that took that area in I said, "Don't you let any of your men go through that." I had to tell him, I said, "Don't let any of them walk through that," I said, "because if you do it's booby trapped." He said, "Well can you all…" I said, "I wouldn't even try to go in there and take 'em down because there's no way you can take 'em down." I said the only thing to do is lay artillery in there and blow 'em up. Anyway, the house that we moved into, which was down the river, 300-400 yards from where we were formerly living, it had an old house, didn't have any door and what not, didn't have any trees between us and the river. It wasn't about 50 feet from the house to the river. It wasn't a good location at all. But anyway, we moved into that old shack and I went upstairs into the attic, and I broke my way into the attic, and when the roof slided down and it had wooden shingles on it, I knocked me a shingle or two off and I was sitting in the attic up there on the crossbeams and I could see across the road. And I knew by being there that I had the background where they couldn't see me. I knew they couldn't see me. And I saw this big bush, bushy object sitting over there. And about the second day that I was up there looking, I saw two men walk to that bunch of bushes, and two men got out of them bushes, and they shook hands and you can imagine all the carrying on. And then they separated and two got back in. And I said, "Ah ha." You just told me you got a tank sitting there. Well, I called for some artillery. I wanted to shake 'em up a little bit. And maybe we'd be lucky enough for one round to hit that tank. See, back then we played for keeps. But anyway, I called for artillery. They said I couldn't get any artillery but their cannon company, their regiment cannon company, they had this little ol' cannon, and I don't know what in the world they had it for. But anyway it was a 105, you know what the level of cannons were. And I had them to fire one round to find out. The round hit in the backyard between the house and the road, and I told 'em, I said they were just about 400 yards short, raise it about 400 yards. Okay, they fired another round and it hit in the front yard, and I told them then, I said "Just don't fire anymore, just cease fire. Don't shoot anymore because you're gonna kill somebody." And another round come in anyway and it hit in the backyard, and I really, I told them on the phone, I said, "Don't fire anymore." And I used some words that I prefer not to use in here at this time. I tried to get it across to them that I did not want 'em to shoot anymore because they're gonna kill some blame body. Well, about that time Odell Smith that had been in the company with us from when we started out in [inaudible] Oregon, and besides that he's my buddy. We were friends, we were buddies. He had a few bad habits. Odell would go to town and get drunk and borrow a car, he always did. He'd pulled a little time in prison, it was for borrowing cars. But I think the way that the state done it, or the government would allow prisoners to voluntarily go to the Army. And they'd let 'em out to go to the Army. I think Odell was one of them, because when he'd get drunk he would talk about things like that. But anyway, he was a platoon guide. And you know what the platoon guide's job is. He come running down there and asked me what in the heck was going on. And I told him, and I showed him on my map. And he said, "Well, you're right." I said, "I know I'm right. But I kept-- this cannon company obviously don't know how to read a map. There's something wrong because they're trying to blow us up, and I don't want 'em to shoot no more." And he said, "Just stand there, I'm going back up and I'm gonna take care of it." And he jumped out, and I told him, I said, "Odell I don't know whether I want you to jump out there or not because those people back there is dangerous." He jumped out the front door to go back to company headquarters, and when he jumped out the front door I heard another round hit in the front yard, and I knew without even looking what had happened. Had one piece of shrapnel about big as your fist that hit him right in the chest and killed him instantly. Well, I'm gonna be frank with you, I lost it. I just completely lost it, because after telling those people so many times, "Please don't shoot no more, you're gonna hurt somebody." And so I just grabbed my rifle. And I believe at that time I had lost my other one and wound up with a M1. I don't really know how or why, but I did, I had an M1. And I headed for company headquarters. And on the way the platoon leader, lieutenant, and the platoon sergeant met me. They wanted to know what was wrong. I said, "I'm going up there and talking with the people from that cannon." Well, they was kind of disturbed, so they took my rifle. They carried me to company headquarters, and carried me into a back room like an orderly used to sleep in and they wouldn't let me go out. I reckon they were afraid that I was gonna do some damage back there, and I probably would of if I'd gone back there. And I'm glad I didn't because I know what they'd a done, they'd a hung me. And so-- but it'd been almost worth it to take care of them people. But, that was a bad thing that happened and forever I remember, I couldn't help but remember it. But they kept me back at company headquarters for about two days. They wouldn't even let me go back to my squad. But I finally calmed down. I got my rifle. I asked the company commander, and I said, "Sir, why did they fire again after I had begged them not to shoot anymore?" And he said the major told them to fire because he wanted to get that tank. Well, see there's really a story behind that. But anyway, that's what happened then. Well that was in December or early January. And on the 23rd of February is when we crossed the Roar River.
ZARBOCK: This is 1945?
JACKSON: 1945, yes. The 23rd of February is when we crossed and we were making a night attack, 'cause about anything we did, any attacks was done at night, because our division was known as a night attack division. We had trained for that. And that night about midnight the river was down an embankment probably 15 or 20 or 30 feet high from the river up. And there's about a 100 yards of ground between the embankment and the river. And about midnight is when we all moved down to this area right below the embankment. And the engineers had brought the boats in and had them lined up on the river front. And the only thing we were doing was waiting to get the word to grab our boats and go across. Well at precisely one o'clock, I believe and I remember that it wasn't twelve because, so it was precisely one o'clock. I have never in my life, ever heard or seen such a show. They had brought everything in this world imaginable up there and had it lined up on that hill, tanks and aircraft lights and machine guns, rockets. And those rockets, if you remember, when they would go off they make this awful sound that would scare you to death if it was close to you just when it was fired. But anyway, right on that dock there was search lights. See we didn't know any of this was gonna happen, we had no idea. And all of that thing happened at one time and those search lights come on. Half of them was pointed up in the air reflecting against the clouds and it had everything bright just like light as day down there. And then part of the lights was directed across the river which blinded the people over there. And when we got the word to move we moved and hid our boats and then artillery started firing on us. Artillery had been firing on us while we were there but artillery started firing on us because they saw that we were moving as we headed up the river. And so they laid the artillery on us and I can remember as far as I know we had no small arms fire. So either all of our artillery concentration had got them or they'd run, one or the other. But when we did get across the river we found so many of the machine gun nests and all of this and they were laying there where the artillery had knocked them out. Well we jumped in our boats and we had squad boats. My squad boat, I was sitting in the front of the boat and we had paddles in the boat and so each man would grab a paddle and start paddling. Well the river was about 100 yards wide. I would say about 100 yards wide. And in the river was these big clumps of brushes that was growing up, about half way across the river a round hit right in front of the boat. When I come to I was out of the boat in the water and I assumed that it had blown the boat up is the only thing I could think about. And I was in the water and I grabbed hold of one of these brushes or bushes that was growing up out of the river and I hung on to it. And our people in our boats had kept going across and there was continuously boats going across that river. And you could see them from the lights coming out of the aircraft. And every boat that went by I'd holler at them hoping one of them would pick me up and nobody was paying no attention to me, they were paying attention to themselves. But after a reasonable length of time, I don't know how, one--
ZARBOCK: Excuse me. Tell me the name of the river again?
ZARBOCK: What was the name of the river?
JACKSON: Roar. The Roar River, R-O-A-R River. Now the way they pronounced it was R-U-R. And it's confusing in a way because there was a Rur River over there but this was not. This was the Roar River that had all those dams on it. But anyway a boat finally did go right beside of me and I reached over and grabbed it and they didn't have no choice they had to pull me in it. So we got over to the bank and my people was gone. But I knew where we was supposed to go. And it was some open field there and our objective was a big warehouse only in about 150 yards up through that field because we had been very upset and uptight to realize that we had to go up there in that open field and everybody else had houses or something. But anyway, I knew that my company, my platoon was up that so I took off up that and I didn't have any rifle, I didn't have anything because I lost everything because I took my pack off and my helmet see because I had nothing. I was glad that I just had me left. But I found the warehouse and I went around and found the first man I saw on the side of the warehouse was the lieutenant. And I walked up and hit him on the shoulder. And I said, "Lieutenant, where's the rest of them?" And he looked around and saw me and he turned as white as a sheet. He said, "I thought you were dead." And I said, "No you missed me again." I remember telling him that. But anyway we got all of our platoon into this old warehouse and it was loaded with bales of rags. I'll always remember that. It was rags and I thought what in the world are they gonna do with all these rags. But it was piles of them in there. Some of them were in bales like bales of cotton or something and some of them were just loose. And so we all got in there and was hunkering down in those bales of rags and it felt real good. And I was beside the lieutenant. And all at once I saw a big hole in the wall over there, a big hole that looked, it looked fairly big, maybe six or eight feet wide. And I saw people running by that hole and I asked the lieutenant, I said, "Lieutenant do we have any men out there?" And he said, "No." He said, "Anybody outside is our enemy, Friend." I said, "Well, look." And we saw them running by. So I took my gun, I said, "I'm gone get the next one that goes by." And when they did I shot and he fell. And then another went by and I shot and he fell. And this, five or six of them run by and I'd shoot and they'd fall. And somebody up there hollered quit shooting stupid. That's us you're shooting at. And I realized that a shell hole had blown a hole and it come through the ceiling and had knocked a hole in the ceiling. And then the moonlight coming through that hole in the ceiling was showing this light on the wall. It looked like a hole in the wall over there. And we thought it was a hole in the wall and I kept shooting. After one fellow finally hollered and said quit shooting stupid, you shooting at us. That's us you're shooting, that's the moon you're shooting at. And so I figured well I done it again. But anyway I just wanted to add that the next morning we had to move out to start taking our objectives which was in our area it was warehouses of all different kinds. Because it was-- and the name of this little place where we were was in the outskirts of Dörna and the name of it was Berksloff [ph?] I remember that very well. Well that morning one of our companies in one of our battalions one of their objectives was a big hospital that was an insane asylum for women. And they moved in on that, took all the guards as prisoners and put all the guards in the P.O.W. and opened up the doors and let all the women out. Well let me explain that just a little bit. All of the women in there some of them was old some of them was young some of them was completely nutty and some of them as far as I was concerned was fine. They looked as rational as we did. Maybe just a lot more so. But all of them come flying out of that building they all had on white clothes. And it reminded me of these chicken houses with all these white chickens and they come flying out of the door. But the whole surrounding area was full of women in white clothes. Well needless to say all of the soldiers got them one or two and so. But I mean I don't want that to sound more than it really was. Some of them would get them. And what our company did, we got four or five of those ladies out there and they said they were political prisoners. There wasn't anything wrong with them. And they let them work in our kitchen so we wouldn't have to have KP's working in the kitchen. And then we felt like that was a very good idea. But anyway, that went on for about two days and then the regiment commander come by and they sort a wanted to know what-- see the ones we had we put them in regular army clothes so you couldn't tell the difference. And I guess some of the other one's done the same thing. But there was a lot of people running around out there in white clothes. And the regiment commander was wanting to know what was happening and they told him and he really hit the ceiling. He told people they couldn't take them people, how they were women and so. Everybody had to release their women back to whatever they had done with them. And that was basically what happened when we crossed the Roar River and took Dorna.
ZARBOCK: Wait a minute, the tank right on the wall?
JACKSON: Oh yeah. More on that, that I forgot that I'd like to bring up. In that hospital, one of the men and I went into the hospital. I wanted to check it out to see if anybody was in there and see if there was any Germans left in there because there was three stories high. We walked in and it was a wide corridor. It was probably 12 feet wide that went all the way through the hospital. And then it was rooms on either sides that was same way on each floor. But we were on the bottom floor and we were walking along checking the rooms on either side and all of the sudden one of these banshees that I had heard that morning had come right flat down between us down that hallway and burst open on the wall back there. And I've always believed since then wasn't for a long time after I got out of the army, right when I was going to sleep, in between awake and being asleep, this awful sound would go by me and I would jump and hit my wife. And she told me that she was black and blue sometimes 'cause when I was flailing. But that was something that happened for quite a few years. But finally wore off and didn't happen anymore. But anyway, after we left Dorna, we-- excuse me, I have to look at my cards and see exactly where I was. But then we started moving out, so from Dorna to Cologne was our next march objective. And Cologne, as anybody knows, was a large city, a very large city. And as we got near Cologne there was a lot of small towns all around. Well, we thought Inden was bad but there was nothing beside that build up that the Germans had around Cologne because they did not intend for the Americans to take Cologne. That was their intentions. But as well all know our intentions was to take it. And so they had their aircraft guns, their .20 millimeters, two and four round up and they used all of this as direct fire on us. And we lost a lot of men there. Because you couldn't move without them shooting at us even with a-- and they even laid a .90 millimeter and the .88 millimeter and direct aircraft goes down on direct fire. And so it was awful. It was very bad. And we were working in conjunction with the 3rd Armored Division. And they had a lot of tanks knocked out also. It was very hard getting into Cologne but we finally managed to get into the first houses on the edge of Cologne. And the way that we were taking it-- excuse me while I check my cards here, I don't want to get ahead of myself. One thing that I'd like to bring up, somewhere between Newark and getting up to Cologne, I remember one time that I got a replacement for my squad. And what I generally would do when I got a replacement to my squad, I'd take him with me. And when we would dig in and dig in a fox hole, I'd let him-- I'd keep him with me. Because I found out that back in the States when they got them, they did not give them much training. One man I asked him had he had any training with hand grenades, he said yes he had thrown one. Well, that's training, I guess. But those people back there believed on the job training and that's what we had to do when we got them. But this particular fellow and I don't know his name, he was just a young boy. He looked like he ought to be in high school. And I took him with me that night and we dug out our fox hole. And I asked him if he wanted the first couple of hours to lay down and try to sleep and he said, "No you go ahead because I can't sleep anyway." Well, I laid down and started to doze off and he'd poke me, "Sergeant, sergeant." And this happened several times and I finally thought to myself, "I know a way to cure this boy." And so I got a hand grenade out and I explained it to him and I showed him how to hold it and to hold the lever down so it wouldn't come off and then I pulled the pin. I said, "Now if you turn that lever loose that hand grenade's going to, in six minutes or four to six minutes it's going to explode.
ZARBOCK: Seconds? Four to six seconds.
JACKSON: Seconds, excuse me, seconds. And he was shaking so bad, but I said, "Now, you understand that you can't drop it. 'Cause if you go to sleep you're going to drop it." I said, "If you hear a noise out there and you think something's out there you throw this hand grenade." And he said, "Okay." Well I don't know, I went to sleep. And I don't know how long it was later, it was almost all night and he finally punched me and he said, "Sergeant, sergeant." And I raised up, "Yeah?". He said, "I'm so sleepy, I don't know what to do." And I gave him the pin and I told him, "Now if you have to put this pin back in." He said, "Sergeant, I dropped the pin." And I said, "How long?" and he said, "Well it's been an hour or so. And I couldn't find it." And I thought to myself "My God almighty, this man's been standing here with this hand grenade that didn't have a pin and he's shaking so bad." And I just knew the good Lord had looked after. But I took the hand grenade holding that lever down so it wouldn't come up and I held onto it because I figured that was the thing to do. Threw it because that was the only thing to do 'cause I couldn't find the pin. But I threw it. But I'll never forget that because he told me then, he said, "I didn't sleep one minute." He said, "I got so sleepy that my eyes would try to go." And I said, "Well, why didn't you wake me up?" He said, "I was scared too." And so that was one of my replacements that we got. Well when we got into Cologne, we were doing a lot of house to house and that's what it was. Cologne was a big city that had had a lot of this two or three story and they all run together, a whole block and all the houses would be together. They would be at a-- and what we learned to do very quickly was never to go outside. But we would bust holes through the walls from one house to another in the basement. And then we'd go up and search that house. Well one thing we found the first day up on about the third floor of a house being someone else walked in that room and there was a man and a woman laying in bed. And we thought, you know, these people have to be crazy or something. But the man could speak English and he told me or told us that he was an officer, a German officer. And that they were laying there and that she was his wife. I don't know if she was or not. She probably was. But he said that they were waiting for Americans to come and capture them. I said, "Well, you've got your wish friend." And he said, "I got tired of fighting. I didn't want to get killed." And we said, "Okay, that's a good idea." But we took him prisoner and I don't know what happened to his wife. I just don't know where she went. You know the government people always come following us up and they would take care of stuff like that and I can't remember the exact name for them. But they-- anyway, about-- we were in Cologne for two weeks. It took us two weeks to take it. And during these two weeks we had taken this row of houses. And we were in the basement, and when I say we I am really talking about my squad. Because each squad was working together and usually each squad would have a house that they would take care of. But we went into a-- we dashed across the street and went into the basement of this other row of houses and we were down in the basement and we heard somebody talking and realized it wasn't the kind of talk they done in Baxter, North Carolina. And so we checked out and in the street behind that row of houses was a German company. I assumed they were a company. It looked like it was about that size. All of their chow line was set up there, just so pretty, and they were going through the chow line and then laughing and then talking. And I thought to myself, you know, how stupid can these people get? But obviously they thought we was across the other street back over in the other buildings and they didn't know we were there. And so, we interrupted their chow. 'Cause when they looked up and saw there was a bunch of ugly soldiers with beards all over their face and guns on them. I didn't even see one of them attempt to pick up a gun. But I think they was all really happy to be captured. Although the officers, there was three officers, and they were really disappointed. They were mad that they had been captured. And we told them, we said "Well the war's over for ya." And we searched them and got the guns. They all had their P38's or their-- I can't really remember the main name of the pistols that they had.
ZARBOCK: Probably a Lugar.
JACKSON: Lugar, yeah, Lugar. 'Cause that was the two main pistols that they had, the Lugar and the P38. Well, see mine was a P38 that I'd been carrying for several months already. But we captured them and felt right good about it. And like I say in two weeks we had cleaned the town out and we had-- one thing I'd like to mention, the first place that we had the house that we set up in with my squad was this real nice house. It wasn't in this area of places. It was a separate house. And it was a big, pretty house. And there was an old lady there still living there. Grey haired and I mean she was a nice old lady. Just as nice as she could be and she treated us just like it she was an American lady, you know, and treating American soldiers. And she asked us in and we went in and we told her that we were going to have to use her house to live in and she said, "Well, do you mind if I live in the basement?" And we said, "No, you can live in the basement. That would be fine." And she would cook for us. They had a stove there and of course they didn't have electricity but she would cook things for us. And, I guess she cooked it on a coal stove. But she was as nice as she could be and we gave her food because they didn't have very much of it. But she told us one day or asked us would we please go with her down in the basement and dig up her silverware. And I thought to myself "Lady you don't know what you're talking about." Because, and she said, "I would never have let German soldiers know where my silverware was 'cause they would have stolen every piece of it." Well once she said that, I knew we couldn't take none of it 'cause she was too trusting. And so we went down with her in the cellar and in the room, one room back there was a dirt floor and we dug it up. And she had silverware. She had forks, spoons, all everything and it was beautiful stuff. And-- [audio ends abruptly]
ZARBOCK: Doug Jackson, tape four.
JACKSON: Okay, after taking Cologne, we had-- the first time since we had been in combat, we were told that we would be regimental reserves. And so they loaded us all up on trucks and carried us back about 15 miles from Cologne. And one little old village that we'd gone through earlier, and had such a time, and then we went back to it and found a bunch of civilians in there. And I don't where they were when we went through fighting. But anyway, we moved our company under this company street, or into a street, and that street was belonging into our company. And we took a house for our squad and upstairs was a bed, a room with one big feather bed, and I took that. I told them, I said, "This is my room. This is my bed. And you all can have whatever you want, but this is mine." And we got us a hot bath that night, had us a hot meal. And I finally got up there and got in that bed and stripped down to my skivvies and I was laying there and it felt so good, so good. And I knew I was going to get a full night's sleep. I just got to sleep when somebody started banging on the door, and you can imagine what I asked them, why they were banging on my door. And they said, "We got to move. We got to move." And I said, "What do you mean we got to move? We just got there." He said they found a bridge over the river, we got to go. And that was the Rémarde bridge that they'd found. So we got all up good, and got our stuff ready, and that morning we moved out the convoy. And we didn't go back to Cologne, we back to Fuller up the river towards Rémarde. And they had built, I think they call them Bailey Bridges, where we can run our tanks and trucks and things over. And we crossed on that bailey bridge. Well, I don't know why I was riding in the Jeep with the company Commander, but I was. And there was a Lieutenant in the back seat and I was in the backseat. And one of the men later said, "Jackson, why were you in the company Commander's Jeep?" And I said, "Well, I don't know other than he wanted some advice." (laughs) And so I let it go-- I let it go at that. I think that was about as good answer as I could give. But anyway, when we crossed the Rhine River-- it's kind of funny to think about it, on the west side it was hilly but there was no mountains, not right in that area. But across on the east side it went right up into the mountains. I mean, some big mountains too, nothing like the Rocky Mountains, but some real big mountains. And we started fighting on those mountains, and we had quite a time. And we come to a-- the next city we come to was named Halle, H-A-L-L-E. But right before getting to Halle we also hit a river, and I really can't remember the name of that river, it seemed to me like it was Erfurt or something like that. But we had to cross it in boats, but it wasn't really a bad situation. I don't remember having a lot of auxiliary fire when we were crossing that river. But we moved into Halle and it took us two or three days to take the city, it was a fairly big city. And one thing I remember about Halle is it had streetcars. But these electric streetcars with this electric line up above it where it was running, and to my knowledge I didn't even see any streetcars in Cologne that I know of. But that was the first streetcars that I'd seen. And in two days they had them working, I mean they were really doing it. Well, a buddy of mine made a little reconnaissance just to see what we could find, nosy. And we found this big warehouse and we went in it and, low and behold, there was a winery. But it was those big wine barrels that was laying on them sides and they were about 20 feet high, they were so big. And there was this line of these things, and they had smaller barrels too. And we tasted that stuff and it was wine, it was pure wine. And so we headed back to the company and had the cook, the mess sergeant, to loan us his truck and all the five-gallon water cans he had. And we went back with that truck and them five gallon water cans, and two or three volunteers, and we filled every one of them water cans with wine. And we had about 100 water cans, maybe more than that, every one we could find. And we loaded all those water cans on the truck and sent them out. And then my buddy and I, we said, "Well, we're going to go back and see what else we can find out there." And on the way back, we were walking, we found someone had been real nice and left almost a brand new Mercedes sitting there by the house, and it was not damaged, it was in good shape. I said, "Well, I'm going to see if it'll run." Because we needed it, you know, for the war effort. And we got in it and cranked that thing up and would run. So we got in that car and we went back to the warehouse and we got us some more wine. Well, the chow truck that we had borrowed in the first place come back. We didn't know they were coming back for more, but they come back. They get another load and my buddy went with the chow truck, they loaded it up with wine and went back and I took my Mercedes. Well, needless to say, I had been tasting that wine to where I was in pretty good shape. And on the way back it was drizzling rain and I roomed that thing up, it run so good, it felt so good. I didn't know how to drive, but I'd done a pretty good job. I come to a T intersection and I thought to myself-- I was running so fast there weren't any way to do anything. I slammed on the brakes is what I did, started skidding and down over the other road where the T intersection was it was about 15, 20 feet down to where the houses were lined up. The Mercedes went over that bank and landed right on the front porch of a house, well, on its four wheels. Well, that porch had these wooden, upright wooden, chairs sitting on it. The car landed right on one of those wooden chairs and one of those side pieces on that chair come right up through the floorboard of that car. And that piece was right side of them and I said, "Lord, that thing might've messed me up." Well, I had three or four water cans of wine in the back of the Mercedes and I got out and I was standing there looking at it, I said, "Well, I can't do nothing about it". And I started to walk away and I looked back and this lady had come to the door and opened the door, and was looking, looking at a car sitting on the front porch and then looking at that crazy American going up the hill. I looked back at her and waved at her and then went on up and got on the road and started walking. So that's the story about Halle. Now, after we left Halle there's really was not a whole lot of fighting anymore.
ZARBOCK: What month is this now?
JACKSON: This, probably, now is in April, in the latter part of April.
ZARBOCK: April 1945.
JACKSON: Yes. It was in the latter part. And Germans were surrendering wholesale, I mean, whole battalions of Germans were surrendering. And you could drive by a whole battalion of Germans lined up side of the road with all their equipment and everything, just lined up because the whole battalion was surrendering. They wanted to surrender to the Americans before the Russians got them. And that's what they were doing. Well, we moved into this little town and set up that night. And my buddy and I, and now I've got my another little buddy and he's from Louisiana. He can't hardly speak English, he was a Frenchman, he was a Cajun. And he said they didn't even speak English at school, they spoke French and he couldn't hardly speak English. And he was, man, he was as mean as a rattlesnake. But he was a good boy, he was a good man to have with you. But this old man, we were walking around, it was always kind of [inaudible] to see what we could find. And this old man come up to us and told us that were some Germans in the woods on the hill that wanted to surrender. And so we said, "Okay, show them to us." You know, we went up there and he called out and a German stood up from a foxhole. And he told them that we were Americans and that we had come to talk to him. And he come down and he told us that he could speak some English, but very little. But he talked to the old man and the old man told us that his platoon wanted to surrender. And I asked him how many men he had and he said it was 29. And then he spoke up and they all stood up, we hadn't even seen them, and that place was full of foxholes and all those people stood up. And we told them to come on down and they all gathered up their equipment, guns and everything else, and come on down. And, needless to say, I was a little bit nervous because I didn't really know what those people were liable to do. But they said they wanted to surrender but they was afraid that they'd be shot. I sent my buddy back to the-- where we were living to get a Jeep and hopefully get somebody up there to help us. But nobody really wasn't paying any attention to him, but he got the Jeep and the Jeep driver did come back up. And we had the Germans load all their equipment, their seal helmets, their weapons and all of the ammo and everything like that, into the back of that Jeep. And then we lined them up behind the Jeep and the old man and I was in front of them and then we had to-- the one Lieutenant that was the platoon leader, he was in front of his men and he was counting cadence for them sometimes in German, eins, zwei, vier, fuenf and this kind of stuff. But, anyway, it's about a mile into town where we were living and I felt really good about this thing because, you know, I felt like we'd really done something, really accomplished something. And we stopped in front of the company CP and the executive officer come out said--
ZARBOCK: I'm sorry, when you said company CP, again, a few years from now people won't know what a CP is. Tell me what a CP is.
JACKSON: Company headquarters, that is a company headquarters. And we saw that was a house that the company had its headquarters in. And so the executive officer was a Lieutenant, he was second in command of the company. And he come out and wanted to know what I'd done, and I said, "Well, we've captured these prisoners." And he said, "Well, what you bringing them back here for?" And I said, "Well, I thought this was the place to bring them." He said, "But we don't want them. Carry them to the battalion." So he just turned around and walked off and I gave him a smart salute to his back, you know, and said, "Yes sir," as he was walking off. And then we turned and we went on down about four or five blocks to battalion headquarters and one of the battalion commander and the men in battalion saw, oh boy, they come out and wanted to know what had happened and I told them. And they told us what a good job we had done that they would take care of it then. And I just thought to myself, you know, this was quite a difference in reception that I got from the-- from my company headquarters. But they said that they would take care of them and what have you, and so we were happy about that. And we, my partner and I, went on back, got in the Jeep and went on back to company headquarters. But that took care of the little stay there. And we were there probably a week or something of that sort and then we moved out again. And we moved up, and there was really no fighting going on now, and about the only thing we were doing was making patrols, or was patrolling out looking for Germans that either wanted to fight or wanted to give up, whichever. We was hoping they wanted to give up, which some did. But somewhere right in that area, it wasn't at the Elbe River but it was near the Elbe River and some of our people met the Russians. And so from that time the war was over. And so that took care of it. And it took several days to kind of get everything straightened out and then we moved into a little town. And we were there a week and then they come to us and told us we had to move and we said, "Well, why?" And they said, "Because the Russians are moving in, they said we were in their territory." I said, "Well, to heck with them." They said, "Yeah, that's what they said too." But we had to move and let the Russians come in. Well, I'd like to add, when we moved in that town it was full of civilians, none of them had left. And we were met really well, open arms, by all of them, they was happy to see us. They acted like they were any way because they knew that they'd probably get a hot meal anyway if nothing else. Well, we had no problems with them. But then before we got out of earshot, ear hearing, what we could hear, moving out on the trucks we heard gunshots and people screaming in that town. And so we could only imagine what was going on when those Russians moved into that town. That was generally what happened, anyway, when the Russians moved in. Well, we moved to another town and then this town was setup to where part of us had roadblocks where the Russians and the Americans met on that road that was the line. And our job was either to work there, we had this arm across the road, you know, all of them had that. You'd raise the arm to let people go by or put it down. And for about two weeks, see, they was on one side and we was on one side of the line they were on the other one, they were right there, they couldn't speak to us, they couldn't speak English. But one thing that was nice about it and we had hoped that it would last for quite awhile. They saw us with toothpaste and they didn't know what it was. Because you could at them and tell them they'd never seen a toothbrush, because all of them's teeth was yellow and broken out and slant eyed. And all of them was either Siberians or Mongolians or something, there was no white, normal Russians there that we saw. We found out that these tubes of toothpaste that would cost us 10 cents, when they brought down the stuff from wherever we got them from, you know, when we'd get our truck. Cigarettes and toothpaste and stuff, it would cost us 10 cents. Well, we had occupation francs, is what they'd call it. And everybody was like us, the Germans, I mean like us, the British, the French, the Russians, all of them got occupation francs. But the numbers on them told the difference, whether it was American or what. And so, we would sell these 10-cent tubes of toothpaste to the Russians for $200. And they thought they was getting a good thing because they'd eat it, they didn't know they was supposed to-- And then we'd explain to them, you know, about the toothbrush and we'd sell them a toothbrush for $100 or $2, however much money they had, they'd take it out and we'd take it. And so we had a good thing going there. We felt like if we could stay there long enough we'd break them, we'd bust them, they'd have no money. One night, I wasn't on duty that night, but one night the Russians just all of the sudden just lined up and marched away. And they went down the road about two miles and set them up a roadblock and that was it, there was no more communications between us and the Russians. And so I've always said that that's when the Cold War started, right there. But the other part of our people, their job was at a railroad depot. You can't imagine the amount of people coming through there, hundreds and thousands of people that had been uprooted from their homes in all of those eastern countries. There was slave labor in Germany and people probably don't know it, but there were millions of people in Germany that done all of the work and it was slave laborers. And they'd work them until they died because they didn't feed them much. And while we were coming through taking some of these towns, and we find this huts that the slave laborers had to live in. And it was just awful, it was no more than a pigpen. And that's the way the way the people lived. But these trains would come through one after the other, and our job was to get the people off, and we had kitchens setup, several kitchens setup. And our job was to get them off the trains and de-lice them. We had these de-licing things, our boys loved it because all these women, and in particular pretty girls, they would shoot all this DDT up their dresses, down their dresses, and they were having a hilarious time, it tickled them to death. But the Russian trains would not stop, and on the Russian trains, I can always remember, they all had red wheels this cowcatcher that's on the front of a train, they was all red. And every car had this big red flag flying on it. And there would be people hanging on top of the cars, hanging out of windows, every place of where someone could hold on they would come. And they had Russians that they were taking them back. And-- because they thousands and thousands of Russians that they were bringing there for slave labor. But the one thing that the Russian trains would not stop, and so they told us not to try and stop them, let them go. And that suited us fine, we didn't want them stopped anyway. And, because even then-- see so many times we had been asked by Germans that we would capture, if they could join the American Army and then all of us would fight the Russians. And that was the one thing that they wanted to do. And we would tell them we didn't know but it sounded like a pretty good idea to us. It didn't turn out but it should have. If it had turned out that way the world would have been a different place right now, that's just my opinion. But anyway one day, low and behold, they told us we were moving out. And they got us all in trucks and we moved down to the English Channel, and it took us two days to get there. And they had situated on the English Channel was camps that were debarkation camps, where they were moving people, the Americans out. And the one we went to was named Camp Lucky Strike, and the one up the Channel from us a ways was Camp Camel, and I don't know what the other ones were. But anyway, they had at our camp, they had the biggest bunch of German prisoners imaginable, there was thousands of them in there. And it was all over-- barbwire fence was around them. And they were in their own companies and what have you, and their own officers and noncoms was treating them. They had their own kitchens set up in there, they probably got them from the Americans, but they had set their own kitchens up. And they'd done everything for themselves. The main thing was they were prisoners and they couldn't get away. But we were there for about two weeks, and then we shipped out on a, I believe that we went across, probably a LSC is what it looked like. But they-- we went across South Hampton, England and they carried us up the hill from the port to an old English army camp, it was named Tamworth, that was Camp Tamworth. There was a little town close to it named Tamworth and we were there for two weeks. Now, the outstanding thing about that place, three days during that two weeks, we had these people in civilian clothes come in and make us give a complete breakdown on everything we had and lay it out. A showdown inspection is what they used to call it, everything. And we found out that they was custom agents. Well, one of them found my P38 and took it and I didn't like that, I didn't like it a bit. And so I had words with him, and finally he was telling me about his, you know, he could take me and put me in jail and blah, blah, blah. And I called him a rather bad name, an SOB and it made him mad and he was going to bring charges against me. And he turned to the Lieutenant and said something and the Lieutenant said, "You were bringing charges against all of us because we all think you're SOB's." And so that took care of that. While we were there, like I said, for about two weeks and then they said we were moving out, shipping out for home. And we got on trucks and it's hills, and you go down these hills going down to the port of South Hampton. And we saw the biggest, whitest ship that we had ever seen in our life docked down there. And when we got there they told us that's what we were going home on and it was the Queen Elizabeth. And it took us two days to load everybody on that thing. And one thing I always remember coming across on the little old ship called the Lejeune that it had been captured in North Africa, when they went in there it was a French boat. We went across on it in a big convoy, and the second night we started hearing them big booms, an underwater like that on that ship it just really sounded, you could hear it. And we was told that it was death charges going off. And the next morning we'd see way over on the convoy, we'd see the smoke were a ship had been, been hit and it was smoking or burning. And one day here come this little destroyer, see the ships was lined up in a convoy in rows and they were about 500 feet apart in rows. And here come this destroyer [inaudible] whistling and it coming all between them boats. And the first thing we do we said we got us a dog-gone submarine down there somewhere, because that thing was running. And then, finally, it got lined up between some other ships and they started dropping death bombs, so obviously they found a submarine down there somewhere. But we were all uptight because we knew at any time they could blow our ship up, and we hoped it wouldn't. But we found out later that they did hit some of them. And the ones they were after was a ship with men on them and supplies and that's what they wanted. But we pulled into New York and we were met by every imaginable kind of boat that could float. And as we was going in the Hudson River and moving into New York, and I remember when we went by the Statue of Liberty, you know, I gave it a smart salute because when I left I didn't have any idea that I would come back by and look at it. And from there we went to Camp Fort Bragg and I was discharged and that was it.
ZARBOCK: When you went overseas you were at company strength, right?
JACKSON: I was at what?
ZARBOCK: You were at company strength when you went overseas?
JACKSON: A company what?
JACKSON: Oh yeah, yeah, yeah.
ZARBOCK: Okay, how many men were in the company?
JACKSON: Well, each company has about 250 people.
ZARBOCK: When you came back how many of them were alive?
JACKSON: Well, what we understand, and everything that I can understand from reading and what have you, in that company that left [inaudible] and that went overseas, there was 12 people remaining in that company, 12 people. Now, the ones that was-- had either been killed, wounded, or been transferred out for some reason. There was two of those 12 that had never been injured, and that was me and the man that was my assistant squad leader, when I was a squad leader and his name was Red Thompson, and he was from Alabama. And so, I never got a chance to get a Purple Heart.
ZARBOCK: What decorations did you get?
JACKSON: Well, I got three Bronze Stars and then we had three Battle Stars, and that was it.
ZARBOCK: What did you learn from all of that?
JACKSON: Well, I'll be frank with you, I learned a lot because when I left home I was a 15 year-old-boy from a farm and I'd never been over 20 miles away. I didn't-- I knew there was something else out there somewhere and I learned a lot. I learned a lot because, all told, I had about five years of military and I think I learned a lot. I don't know if I applied what I learned a lot, but I learned a lot.
ZARBOCK: You and I talked off camera, and one of the things I said was when I was in combat, you never had enough sleep. Your conversation told time after time of being up most of the night and most of the day, and you just go on and on and on and on. Do you remember that?
JACKSON: Oh, I certainly do remember that.
ZARBOCK: How did you manage to put one foot down in front of the other?
JACKSON: I don't have any idea how I managed it. I don't have any idea how we managed to live in the conditions that we lived, particularly in the wintertime. In a foxhole with water in the bottom and snow in it and being wet all the time and being cold all the time, I don't know how we managed it but we did. I thought about that many times, I have no idea how we managed.
ZARBOCK: Did you ever see a chaplain in the service?
JACKSON: Did I ever see a what?
JACKSON: Oh yes, I saw quite a few of them. I never went to one as an individual or anything, but we had church services many times.
ZARBOCK: But did the chaplain get up into the front line?
JACKSON: Oh yes, yes, lots of times. In fact, one time, talking about getting up in the front lines, our division commander was General Allen [ph?], and he was about 5 foot 6, I guess. He was shorter than the majority of people, and I'll always remember that, but he was up in the front lines. He would get in fights over people at night and they didn't even know who they were talking to. They didn't know they were talking to a General. That never happened to me, personally. But I know of it happening, I've been told about it. And he would come right on over with the men. It's like Buddy, my son, and I talked about that he was one of Patton's people, and he really acted a lot like Patton. And by-- see we got a lot of unit commendations from different people, like from the Canadian army, the British army, while we were with them. And our unit got commendations from them for our way of divisions, actions. As we said earlier we were having 95 percent casualties and that was kind of like bloods and guts, you know, old Patton, to hell with it go down there and get it. And we had a lot of casualties by doing that, but one thing that as history shows that 104th Division never lost a foot of ground and were never captured, never, never pulled back, never retreated. I don't know if this is good or bad, but that's the way it was.
ZARBOCK: My last question, now that you're your age and can look back on your life. Do wars ever cure anything?
JACKSON: No sir. I think we can look back and what good has a war done? World War II-- World War I was the world war to end all wars. What happened 25 years later? World War II. What happened five years later? Korea. What happened 10 years later?
JACKSON: Vietnam. And then what happened again in 1991? What they called Desert Storm. What's happening now? So-- and I'm going to say this, what good is what is being done over there now? What good is it doing us? It's not doing us any good. And so I'm going to leave it at that because I'm not a politician.
ZARBOCK: Sir, thank you for your time. It's been a privilege.
JACKSON: Yes sir, I've really enjoyed it.