Title: Interview with Jim Koltz
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00072031/00001
 Material Information
Title: Interview with Jim Koltz
Physical Description: Book
Language: English
Publication Date: No date
Subject: Second World War, 1939-1945
World War II, 1939-1945
Temporal Coverage: World War II ( 1939 - 1945 )
Funding: This text has been transcribed from an audio or video oral history. Digitization was funded by a gift from Caleb J. and Michele B. Grimes.
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00072031
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: Samuel Proctor Oral History Program, Department of History, University of Florida
Holding Location: This interview is part of the 'World War II' collection of interviews held by the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program of the Department of History at the University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: WWII 25

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Full Text


This Oral History is copyrighted by the Interviewee
and the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program on
behalf of the Board of Trustees of the University of

Copyright, 2005, University of Florida.
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T: When and where were you born?

K: I was born in Nuremberg, Germany September 21, 1927.

T: Tell me a little bit about Germany and your childhood? What was that

K: The only thing I can tell you up till I was about 11 years old, I was in a
German youth bund [Hitler Youth] for one year. And in 1939, we left
Germany to come to the United States. And the reason for that was,
when Hitler was in power I already was with my mother, my father, my
brother George, and my sister Olga. Back then at the time when Hitler
was taking over, he wanted to have the super, super men. So they took
all the young girls and everything like that and used them to make babies
and they didn't have a man, a good strong German men, and most of the
women got killed and that's what happened to my sister Olga. And in
1939, when Hitler was going in to invade Poland, we got out of there and
came to the United States.

T: Where did your mother and father bring you to in the United States?

K: When we first came in, we already had people here. My father had a
brother. I think we went into Toledo, Ohio. I think that's where we went
first because I had an Uncle Charley there and I think my father's
stepmother was there. So I think it was Toledo, Ohio. I went to a Catholic
School while I was there. I remember that much, but I think that was the
first place we went to. Then we moved, I think it was West Virginia, a little
town in Follansbee.

T: Being from Germany, how did you fit in in the United States? What were
your thoughts about the United States when you were young?

K: It didn't bother me you, know what I mean. I just came in and to me I just
felt like I belonged here. I wasn't into the Nazi stuff nor was my mother or
father, or anybody [else] like that. It was just the idea that we wanted to
get out of there [Nazi Germany]. Just like coming into New York, that's
where we had to come into like an immigrant [Ellis Island]. And the only
way we got in was by having my Uncle Joe, who was my father's brother,
and my Uncle Charley was there already and his dad and they just met us
there and we got in. But other than that we just wanted to get the hell out
there, that was it. Because of everything that was going on with the Nazis,
I mean we weren't Nazis or anything like that, that was it. Nazis were
totally different from the German people. I guess when you are ruled by
somebody you know--hell, Hitler wasn't even a damn German. He was an

T: Where did you finish growing up in the United States before you entered
the military?

VWVII-25: Jim Koltz, Page -2-

K: In Follansbee, West Virginia. I quit school more or less. I belonged to a
little gang back there when I was a kid. It was a glass house gang. There
was an old glass factory where we lived in Follansbee. And it was just a
bunch of us kids, we would just shoot out little lights with a pea shooter,
have a little thing, put a pea in it and shoot it out. One day I got caught
and the guy grabbed me. The guy at the IGA [Independent Grocers
Alliance] store and he said you're going to Pruny Town, which is like
going to a juvenile detention center. And I said, "Oh God, I, don't want to
do that." So I broke loose and I went up and hid up in the field for three
days with the cops and everybody [else] looking for us. But we never did
anything wrong. It was just that we belonged to a little glass house factory
because it wasn't working anymore. We would go in there and tear the
damn thing down and take the lead and the steel and sell it just to have a
little bit of candy money. So after we did that, why things came up and of
course I was 17, that's when I went into the service I quit school. In fact, I
quit school in the eleventh grade and I can remember when the war broke
out in 1941. I was sitting on the steps in that little town. I was a paperboy
too at one time and the guy came down there and he said, "Extra, extra,
read all about it! Japs bomb Pearl Harbor." I never forgot that. I'm
seventy-eight years old, just about and I never forgot that. And that still
lives in my mind because I see it right now, and that's where I was.

T: Is that the reason that you enlisted?

K: Yeah, most generally that, and like I say, why go to Pruny Town for some
little old thing like a little juvenile [delinquencies], but we didn't do that
much damage or bad things. We always played ball, and hell, we'd play in
the streets or whatever and some guys would hit the ball over in their yard
and those Italians, we had nothing but Italians and Germans in there, and
they would cut the ball in half and send it back out and we would tear their
fence down or something. But those were the good old days that you can
remember. Hell, [when] I lived in that little town they had twenty-seven
beer joints in four blocks. We had nothing but steel mills and coal mines--
that's it.

T: What did you have to do and where did you have to go to enlist?

K: I started up in Parkersburg, West Virginia. My brother George was
already in the Army. And he came by and took me to Parkersburg, West
Virginia, and from there I was sent to Fort Hays, Columbus, Ohio. Then I
was sent over to Camp Atterbury, Indiana. And I'm only 17 years old now
and I'm guarding German prisoners of war at Camp Atterbury, Indiana.
Then after that we were shipped out. I think we were there maybe three
months or something like that.

T: How did you get away with joining [the Army] under 18?

VWVII-25: Jim Koltz, Page -3-

K: Lied.

T: You lied and they just believed you?

K: Yeah, well, I was a little bit bigger than I am now you know.

T: What was your rank/company/platoon when you first enlisted?

K: I was a private when I went in the Army. When I went in for my real
training I was sent to Camp Crowder, Missouri. I never will forget that and
I was just a kid then, I was still a private. The first day we got a pass and
they gave me a hat that was too big for my head and I was in the infantry
and I will never forget that because I went to a little place they call Joplin,
Missouri, because Joplin, Neosho, and Independence, Missouri, was all
three there and that's where Harry Truman was born, in Independence
Missouri. And you wouldn't believe this but back in 1941 in Joplin,
Missouri ,they still had horses where you could take a horse and tie him to
one of those little -whatever you call them [hitching posts]. I couldn't
believe it. But anyhow I walked into this here bar after I got this here braid
put on, an infantry braid put on the hat and a little one. I had to go buy
one down there at that place in Joplin to fit my head. And I walked into
that damn beer joint and you wouldn't believe it, somebody was in a fight
and as soon as I opened the door here came a beer. Bam! [It] caught me
right in the head. I never forgot that. That was pretty cool. I was with a
couple other guys, and hell, they just let us drink for nothing the rest of the
day. But we were only 17 [but] that didn't make any difference [because]
you were in uniform then. They tried to tell you that even though you were
under age, they had a 3.2 [percent alcohol] beer, and a 7 percent [alcohol]
for 21 year olds Monday through Saturday, but on Sunday you could only
drink 3.2 beer.

T: Why did most of the guys around you enlist?

K: I guess that's sort of hard to say because I think a lot of them [were] like
farm boys from out of Morgantown, West Virginia, which was a hundred
and some miles away from where I was. There was nothing going on.
Like I said, they were getting tired of the coal mines, the farms, and the
steel mills, and the glass factories. That's about all we had, a paper mill. I
think some of the guys I was with were just like that; they just wanted to
get out. And some of them were drafted. That was it. They were a little bit
older [draftees] but some of us were only 17.

T: So you didn't have any other plans at 17 but to join up after that day
[Pearl Harbor]?

K: Yeah, that's exactly what I did. I just told my mother, in fact, I think my
mother got a telegram at the time--and this was like the invasion of

VWVII-25: Jim Koltz, Page -4-

Normandy [June 6, 1944]--that my brother was in Normandy and he had
been wounded on August the 6th. I never will forget that. I was home at
the time and this guy was coming in the yard. I said, "Mom, there is
somebody here." He was dressed in brown. I said, "Oh my God." I could
see the envelope. I said, "Something happened to George." And I opened
up the thing and she slapped the hell out of me when I told her he's either
dead or wounded. And I read the thing [which said] "I regret to inform you
that your son George S. Koltz has been seriously wounded in action." I
never forgot that.

T: What was the hardest thing for you to leave?

K: Nothing really was too hard because it was just that there was nothing
there [in West Virginia]. What could you do when you were just a kid or a
paperboy, or working at these places, and hell, every place you worked
didn't pay anything. And gas was like five cents a gallon and you couldn't
live off of that.

T: You made the statement earlier, you went for your real training. What did
you mean by that?

K: In Ohio, we went over there where they start issuing uniforms and get your
shots and all that. We were in there probably three days or so then we
were sent to Camp Atterbury [Indiana]--that's where we were starting to
get some training. Our job was just to be there to guard German prisoners
at the time. We didn't have a problem with the Germans; they were
cooks, bakers, and all that kind of stuff. And they treated them real well. I
laugh at it today whenever I think about it when we would go into chow. If
there was something they liked, they would just give you a little bit, but if it
was something they didn't like, man, they would just plow that thing on the
plate for you. That was a story right there. But we never had the first
problem with any German prisoner. I can't remember any one of them
getting out of line. They were real easy to get along with because I think
they enjoyed where they were.

T: Talk about the training you received before you went to war.

K: That was at Camp Crowder, Missouri. When we were down there, we
were strictly infantry and we went under live fire and everything else. We
were going through obstacle courses, we were taking ranger training.
Back then they had Darby's Rangers. I wasn't a ranger. We were
assigned to what they called the 8th Army. The 8th Army was infantry. We
were supposed to get sixteen weeks of basic training; we ended up with
six weeks. The reason for that is the war started to go bad. I mean we
had Guadalcanal, Saipan, the Germans going in before the Japs going
into it and the war was going bad and manpower was getting short I
guess. They shut the sixteen weeks down to about six weeks. What we

VWVII-25: Jim Koltz, Page -5-

had to do in sixteen weeks we did in six [weeks]. I mean that was rifle
training and everything. They just had to cram it into you, but that's where
we were.

T: Being your training was so short, talk about some of the inadequacies?
Was there anything that you didn't learn that when you got over there you
thought damn, I should have gotten this in my training.

K: Oh no, man, I mean they gave us gas [training], they gave us everything.
They took us through the buildings there. We had to put the gas masks on
and take them off, and I mean by God, you stayed there. If you ran out
before your time was up, they had these canisters laying in the center of
the floor and all at once they just closed the doors and windows and they
would tell you to take your gas mask off and that's it boys. You stayed
there till they told you to get out. When they opened the door, that's when
you got out, but if you ran out before that, your ass was in trouble. Other
than that, we really got the training of the best they could do. I can
remember it because I enjoyed it all even when I got sick. I got sick there
one time and missed out on one week because I got throat trouble real
bad, and I really had to go to the hospital. The only thing I hated about that
damn thing is I had to go from my building and carry my bunk bed about
nine blocks down the road--sick as I was--to go to the damn hospital. You
had to do everything on your own. We had some hard core guys in there,
and they might have been old World War I guys that was in there since
1935 or something like that--real old guys that knew what they were doing.

T: When did you leave to go overseas?

K: Oh God, that was in 1944. In fact, when we left Camp Crowder, I came
home. I was supposed to get seven days home leave from Camp
Crowder, Missouri. Somehow I got delayed out of everybody else--this is
the God's truth--and I was sent to a train station. A train had not left out of
there in five years. I sit in this building waiting and there was an old coal
stove. You know the old coal stoves with old hound dogs lying there, and
these old guys chewing tobacco [makes spitting noise]. And I'm just sitting
there waiting. Pretty soon, one of the old guys says, "Son, you're in the
Army, aren't you?" I said, "Yeah." He said, "Where [are you] going?" I
says, "I'm supposed to be going home and they brought me over here."
This was at the time when I was sick and I came out of the hospital there.
That's when they were shipping us out. [One of the old guys] said, "Son,
there ain't been a train out of here in twenty years." And honest to God,
my right hand to God, these old people, old farmers--I never even knew
them--pitched in. They even got a taxicab that took me into Kansas City,
and I got where I was supposed [to]. When I got home that day, my
mother was happy to see me. She never went to a movie; she said, "Son,
let's go to a movie." We were sitting in a movie house the next day and
damn if the chief of police didn't come in there and tap me on the shoulder

VWVII-25: Jim Koltz, Page -6-

and said, "Jim, we got a phone call your unit is shipping out? I said, "My
God, I'm supposed to be home for seven days." He said, "I'm sorry, we've
got to take you to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and you're going out." And
there was a damn troop train up there waiting on us, and we went all the
way from there to California. We ended up at a secret air base. I can
never think of it till today I was thinking about it. Hamilton Beach, I
remember the Hamilton Beach things you mix potatoes in. That's how I
remembered it was Hamilton Field, California. It was a secret base and
nobody knew that we got hung up in a train station for two days. And all at
once here come a whole mess of MPs [military police] in there, and man,
they were beating some of us on the damn heads for being AWOL [away
without leave]. And the guy in the train station said, "Hell, these guys
have been here for two days, they don't know where the hell they are
supposed to go. They got orders that they are supposed to be at some
secret air base." Nobody knew where it was and that's where we had to
go. And finally, we didn't have no real sergeant. It was just a bunch of
dummies, that's all we were. And they finally came in and they found out
that that's where we were and they got in touch with the Hamilton Field
and put us on damn buses and drove us over there. We only stayed there
two days. One of the days we were all drinking, and I started to go in
there and try to learn how to play the piano and I only learned
"Chopsticks." [Then] someone said, "Well, you are shipping out." And
that's when we shipped out--but I can't remember what day it was.

T: What kind of boat were you on?

K: We weren't on a boat, we flew. It was from California 6,895 miles in forty-
two hours. We went on the old C-47s. The only thing we were given
when we were on that plane was a "Mae West" [an inflatable, vest-like life
jacket]. A "Mae West" was something if you was going to hit the water--
and we did have one of the props go out--they were going to ditch and all
we had to do was jump in the water and push the cord while we was doing
it and it would make it an inflatable thing [life preserver]. You know, where
we could drift in the water and I never will forget that. That was really
another story in itself, but we happened to make it [across the Pacific]. I
don't know how many planes there was we might have had, maybe five or
six planes.

T: Is that the first time you had ever been on an airplane?

K: That was the first time in my life. That was a long ride, man, 6,895 miles.

T: That was pretty exciting for you--your first time on an airplane.

K: Yeah.

VWVII-25: Jim Koltz, Page -7-

T: Did you know or were you aware of what you were getting into? Did you
know what was going on?

K: I didn't really know that we were combat-ready. I knew that we had our
full pack and everything like that and our M-1s. Back then, we carried the
M-1s. That's what we carried, mostly all of us.

T: What was your job? Explain your duties.

K: I was just an infantryman, that's all. In fact, I was a BAR man. Which was
a Browning Automatic Rifleman. And you had another man or two with
you and one carried the ammo and the other one held the belt. A BAR, if
you got one of them babies, you could stand on a hill and you could take
care of them [enemy]. You could just knock the hell out of them. That was
your job and they were scared to death of the BAR men. They were the
first ones they [Japanese] wanted to try to knock out.

T: Where did your plane land?

K: We landed on Guam the first time. We hit Guam, and then from Guam we
went to Iwo [Jima], we went to Kwajalein Island. From Kwajalein Island
we went to Johnson Island, and from Johnson Island we went to Okinawa.

T: What were your impressions of the land when you first got over there,
when you first landed in Guam?

K: They had already been fighting there and it was cleared. That was
Harmon Field Guam, that was where we landed and they already had that
[field] secured--the same way with Iwo Jima. They had little clean duties.
We couldn't make the flight all the way at one time you know. We had to
do hops and they had to gas up and that's the reason we hit those islands.
Then that was a stepping-stone. Once we hit Okinawa [battle was April
through June 1945] and went into battle. Okinawa was a stepping-stone
into Tokyo.

T: So you saw your first combat in Okinawa?

K: Okinawa.

T: Tell me about your feelings about seeing the enemy for the first time.

K: Well, I just don't like to use the words anymore, as old as I am, to call
them Ja's and Nips. But there was a lot of hatred because of what
happened and the way they treated our boys. Because we knew what
happened on [places] like Guadalcanal and some of the [other] islands.
Even after they [Japanese] shot them, they bayoneted them--and how
they captured them and tortured them. We were told just not to give up.

VWVII-25: Jim Koltz, Page -8-

By God, kill everyone you can kill, a slant eye is a slant eye and that's it.
So when you see the guy next to you and you've been with him right
through the start and he gets a bullet in the head, it tears you up, man.
You start crying and you get so damn mad you don't care. I don't give a
damn if one is in front of you, if you've got a machine gun--an old grease
gun Brrrrrrrt [makes machine gun sound], you just rip 'em off and cut them
right in half. It made no difference. Once you start coming back to your
senses, it changes a little. And you become more friendly a little with guys
you don't want to be, because if you really start to like them too much and
something happens, you go back to the same old thing. You start crying,
you get sick, and you vomit, and it's just disgusting because they're like
me. They are me and we cared for each other and that was it. We had a
buddy system and we tried to keep a buddy system going.

T: So would you say that your strongest emotions in combat were probably

K: Yeah. At the time because of what happened at Pearl Harbor and on the
other islands. Of course, I'm talking about the South Pacific. And my
brother was over in Europe and I know what was going on over in Europe
all the time. My brother took a bullet through the head and he had a plate
put in his head. I didn't know that until I got home; in fact, I didn't know
that until some years ago. My sister told me. I knew he was wounded but
I never knew that he had a plate in his head. I went home for my seventy-
sixth birthday and my sister was telling me about my brother George, but
he died when he was sixty-six years old--but not from the wounds. I've
got some good friends and they are not around anymore, but you think
about them now and then. Especially if you watch the History Channel. I
like it because it takes me back. I remember things and the islands I was
on, and sometimes you see friends and it's a little sickening to my
stomach. But other than shooting them, it wasn't too bad. Hell, we would
bayonet them and I'm going to tell you something else. I didn't give a
damn. Once I shot one [and then] I smashed him right in the face with an
M-1, and I took the gold out of his mouth and I carried it in a little old
"giddy" bag. I guess they call them dope bags now. Jesus Christ, if we
were going to get captured, the first thing we would do was take it and
throw it away. If they saw them Jap teeth in there, we were in serious

T: In all the chaos of combat, what reason did you have to keep fighting? To
keep charging, to keep going?

K: Number one, to stay alive, that was the main thing, and to defeat the
enemy. For everyone we killed we saved five Americans you might say,
that's how we felt. It was the idea to get rid of them. Get them out of
here. Get them off the island. That's all there was to it. We didn't have
no pity for them, I mean, what they did to us and a lot of people [who]

VWVII-25: Jim Koltz, Page -9-

never came home to talk about it. In fact, this is the first time I have talked
about this shit happening. It's just that a lot of times you don't even want
to talk about it and you don't even want to think about it. You got these
here boys maybe who went over there and they would stay around and
they would leave others. And all they were doing was mop up duty. Hell,
they are all dead. And once in a while you would find one of them come
out of a hole and they would go home and tell a big war story.

T: Not many men get to combat so people don't understand what it's like.
Can you give me some kind of idea about the chaos? Is it controlled or is
it just chaos and everybody is just going crazy.

K: Generally, if you have got a good commander and you've got good troops,
you are pretty well situated. But there are times when the enemy breaks
through. We've got men sitting out in the front and we've got tons of wire
with little tin cans. If they come, you can hear the noise. You never know
when you've got your guards, your outside perimeter, they would get killed
and the gooks [Japanese], man, they could sneak up on you, by God. You
would never even know it and they would kill you. Some of them could
speak pretty good English, a little bit of broken English you know. But you
would always holler out, "Hey, Joe, you okay?" He would then say, "Me
okay, Joe." Right then we knew something was wrong. Once they come
through that line, they're not coming one at a time. They would take their
damn bodies and throw them over that concertina wire [type of razor wire]
and they would just crawl right over it. Boy, I mean they would come in
there and all hell breaks out. It's hard for them to take over because you
got your machine gunners, you got your BAR men, we had grease guns,
we had the oldest guns you could ever think of. We had the M-ls and we
had the air-cooled, water-cooled .30 caliber machine guns. The grease
guns that the tanker used, anybody or anything they could use like that,
even carbines. The carbines mostly came out in Korea but the
Springfields [rifles] that we had, boy, I'll tell you that once you hit one of
those son of a bitches with an M-1, he was down and he didn't get back

T: In the chaos of combat, was it hard to understand the orders of your
commander? Was it easy to follow your commander's orders?

K: Yeah, for the simple reason when they would come down, most generally
they would always be called in. Our outfit would be called in and they
would say this is what's going to happen, this is our order, just do the best
you can. [The commander] says, "Whatever you can do, kill as many as
you can. Don't let them get in the compound. That's all there is to it."
When you are on an island like Okinawa, it was hard for me, it was just
spread out. I can't remember how long the island is anymore or how big
[463 square miles], but it was just the idea, goddamn, they were in holes,
they were in tunnels, they were in trees, strapped up in trees. I mean, hell,

VWVII-25: Jim Koltz, Page -10-

you didn't know where the hell the fire was coming from. They had
snipers all over the place. And then they had these suicides come in, but
we always knew what was going on because we had a good commander.
That man knew what the hell he was doing. In fact, he was Captain
Smith. He was a good ole boy and he knew what he was doing. He
carried it down to the lieutenants and they came in, and we had some of
the lieutenants get killed. They were right there in the middle of it. They
didn't care and they were there and they took care of whatever the
situation was. We were always well informed. Like you say, you never
know how many the enemy [might be], they might tell you, my God, we
don't know how many are out there yet. There could be 35,000 maybe on
the damn island and there were only 2,000 of us. That's big odds.

T: What was the terrain like? What was the land like?

K: Sort of just low, with little hills. This is where they were dug in with their
tunnels. This is where they set up their artillery or even their mortars.
They had these mortars and they would strap them to their knee just like a
two-man deal and you could pop mortar shells at somebody. And
goddamn. One of our guys [thought] he [could kill] one of them but it
[mortar] just broke his leg right in half. But the terrain it was hilly. There
were a lot of trees. It was real dense. We didn't have an open field where
we could go across all the time. We had a hell of a time trying to find

T: What about the climate.

K: It was muggy, sweaty, dirty, rainy, wet, and you could smell the stench
from the dead bodies. And in the night we always tried to pick up ours
and bury them, and we gave the Japs a chance to go and get theirs. But
the weather was never really the greatest to fight in, but we had what we
had to have. We had ponchos. They made sure we had ammo.

T: Was there anything that you enjoyed about your duties in combat? Was
there anything you liked about it?

K: I don't really know how to put that. I just knew I had to fight--that's all
there was--fight to stay alive. It didn't make any difference whether it was
hand-to-hand or whether every time you saw one--just shoot him. I didn't
give a damn if he surrendered or not [and] if he carried a [white] flag.
Bullshit. When they [showed] a damn white flag, they had two guys like
this here (hand demonstration). The guy with the white flag would fall
down and he would have the machine guns strapped to him and the other
son of a bitch would hold the belt and brrrrrrrrt (machine gun noise) just
burp you off. We didn't care. It didn't make any difference. You just shot
them. It didn't make no difference.

VWVII-25: Jim Koltz, Page -11-

T: Were you ever captured?

K: Yeah.

T: Tell me about that. How did you get captured?

K: Well, I was wounded and I was trying to get off and I thought they was
going to end up shooting me, but they just took me. I was in there [POW
camp] for about two months or so then I got out.

T: You were in a POW camp?

K: Yeah, sort of like. It was a place where they kept us in a damn old hut and
they kept us guarded. They wouldn't treat us right and they would beat the
hell out of us every day. They would interrogate us. Some of the guys
[Japanese] took pieces of [[bamboo] sticks, like a matchstick or
something, and would burn their [GIs] fingers. They would cut your damn
toes off, tongue, and beat the hell out of you, and sometimes they would
take their [POWs] heads off. It depended on the situation. We were just
lucky that we got out. Some of them snuck out and got out. If they
weren't captured, they were lucky--but everybody else had to suffer. They
would take [some POW out] and shot him.

T: What were some of the conditions of the hut that they kept you captive in?
What was that like? Did they feed you?

K: Oh God, all we got was rice and piss. That was it. We always called it
"piss and puke." It was nothing but rice, got a little bit of water--it was
mostly urine water. They didn't feed you; they didn't care. All it was is
every day there was a beating or doing something to you to try to get
something out of you. I would just tell them, hell, I'm seventeen years old,
I just got here; I don't know anything. That's all I would tell them. I'd give
them my name, rank, and serial number. That's all I could do.

T: Your experience in captivity, did that force you to learn some of the
language to get better things.

K: Yeah, well not to get better things but you just learned words like
[Japanese words for hello, hit hurts, hurry up, good evening, good buy,
good morning, eat, kiss my ass]. They would talk to you in Japanese and
sometimes you couldn't understand them and I would talk to them in
Diego, they would say you talk English. It didn't make any difference to

T: How many languages can you speak?

VWVII-25: Jim Koltz, Page -12-

K: I speak about four. I had Japanese, and I could speak Italian, and I could
speak a little bit of German. In fact, I was even going to go to Russian
language school, and I got called back to go back in. And I didn't get to do
that one. I can't remember the other one now. I just tried to pick them up
because I felt if you know any kind of language, you're better off anyhow.
In fact, when we went into service, they gave us a Japanese handbook.
The handbook was to help us if we were captured. Or if we got away or
we didn't know where we were at and we seen people we could say
something to them in Japanese [rambled off several different words in
Japanese]. The language was sort of easy.

T: Was there a time besides when you were wounded that you thought you
were not going to make it, that you thought you were going to die?

K: Oh yeah, God yeah. That's when I had twenty-six pieces of shrapnel [in
me]. It was in the back and through the arms, and I just thought, man,
lying there, hell, I got blown up about as high as that ceiling. And I came
down and I was like, Jesus, broke my back and that's when they
[Japanese] got me. But they just drug you and they would slap you and
they didn't give a shit, and they would hit you on the head with a rifle butt.
They hit you in the back cause they knew your back was hurt. They did
not care about giving you medicine. Our troops, boy, we always had a
medic there. When you called for a medic, it didn't make any difference--
he was there.

T: What kept you alive?

K: Just wanted to go home. That's right, go home to your mama and daddy.

T: How did you get free from the POW camp?

K: Broke loose.

T: You escaped?

K: Yeah, we had a chance one time to go and we go, and then after we
happened to hit Allied lines, they asked us where we was from. Christ,
they could see. I weighed, I think it was 99 pounds. And I was over 100
and something when I went in. I was 99 pounds after I got out of the
camp. So they took about thirty, or forty pounds off of me real quick.

T: After you got back with the Allies, got back where you knew you were
safe, what happed to you then?

K: We didn't get to go home. It didn't make any difference if you were
wounded or not unless you were wounded so bad you went home. It was
just about then when the war was ending [August 1945], we were going

VWVII-25: Jim Koltz, Page -13-

into Tokyo. After that ended, when we took over Okinawa, then we went
to Insugi in Tokyo, Japan. We captured the Japs' Zero [fighter planes]
base then. That's where I went after that.

T: How long after that were you able to go back home?

K: That was in July in 1946. We had to stay in Tokyo. We were on points.
We had a point system. You got so many points for this, so many points
for that. I forget how many points you had to have, but if you wanted to
stay you could stay. It all depends on how you felt. The guys left on
points. If you didn't have enough points, you had to stay. I stayed
because I had nothing to go home to. There was no jobs or nothing.
Maybe I could make it long enough--I could make a career out of it. I
stayed in Japan. After we captured Insugi air base, I was still with the 8th
Army. Then I was sent to a place they called Sabula Station. That's
where I was for my next duty. That was right out of Tokyo. We were with
[General Douglas] MacArthur all the time. When we got down there into
Tokyo, the American embassy was probably a mile, mile and a half down
the road. That's where MacArthur's headquarters was. If you looked at
the embassy and then went down about a half-mile or so you hit the Diet
Chi building right there in the heart of Tokyo on Ginza Street. Off to the
left on the other side of the street was the emperor's palace where
Hirohito was. The building next to that was where we called the GHQ.
We called them the "geisha house queers." It was Americans, but they
were general headquarters, they were like the Mps. We felt like they got
the gravy jobs. On the other side of the street was the provost's marshal's
office. They were hell on all of us--it didn't make any difference whether
you were a combat veteran or not. No fraternization with the enemy.
Across the street from that was Hebium Park which they named Doolittle
Field after because Jimmy Doolittle came over and bombed Tokyo [April
1942]. Next to that was the RKO building where Tokyo Rose used to
broadcast. They would say all you American boys, your loved ones are at
home sleeping with others, they are doing this, they are doing that.
Nobody loves you. They don't. You give up? This war is not for you. The
Japanese are so strong they are killing you by the hundreds and all this
kind of bullshit. Then straight across the street they had a theater, which
they named after Ernie Pyle [U.S. war correspondent in Europe and
Pacific Theaters, killed on April 18, 1945]. He was killed I think on Saipan
[actually an island near Okinawa]. He was a new photographer [one of
the war's most famous war correspondents], he was one of the greatest,
Ernie Pyle.

T: How did you feel about the bombs that were dropped on Hiroshima on
August 6, 1945 and Nagasaki on August 9, 1945?

K: Didn't bother me a bit because I'll tell you what, I've still got pictures. The
only bad thing about it was I think in Nagasaki, if I'm not mistaken, we had

VWVII-25: Jim Koltz, Page -14-

a bunch of American prisoners down there. Nobody ever knew that shit
and they went over there and dropped the bomb on Hiroshima and
Nagasaki. Also while I was in Tokyo, I seen some people and I was in all
the bombed-out area and except for right in the heart of Tokyo I say some
Japs that were buried there. Oh God, you wouldn't believe it--the pictures
are horrible. You don't see anything; maybe you'll see a chimney
standing--that's about it. I've got those pictures today. But it didn't bother
me because that was the turning point of the war and they had to do it. If
they didn't do it, it would have lasted forever. There was over 50 or
100,000 killed on both sides. I don't know how many was killed in World
War II.

T: So you believed the Japanese would have fought to the last man?

K: Yes, I do. Yes, they did, that was their orders to fight to the last man and
they would have done it too because they didn't surrender. Even when
you went into the caves, by God, they went in there with the damn
flamethrowers and everything to get them out and blow them out. They
would not surrender. In fact, I can't remember what island it was but there
was an island where they jumped off the damn cliff and committed suicide
[cliffs on north side of Saipan during battle from July 15 to July 8, 1944].

T: Did you experience any PTSD [Post Traumatic Stress Disorder] from
battle after the war?

K: No. When I came home all I wanted to do was just be there. In fact, when
I came home, I went back to high school. I wanted to finish my school.
There again I had a little problem. There was a girl that was in school and
I just liked her and I said, "Hey, I would like to get into your pants" just like
that, and, goddamn, if somebody didn't grab be from behind the neck and
it was the damn teacher that I had was the coach. He grabbed me behind
the neck and said, "You don't talk like that." I said, "You don't grab me like
that!" I hauled [him] off and knocked the shit out of him. I hit him and it
was my fault so he told me to go to Mr. Hood's office. I told him what I did
and I said I was wrong. I said, "When I left here I was seventeen years
old. I'm nineteen now." And then I said, "It was just something different for
me, and I feel bad about it." He said he didn't want me to quit school
because of it. And I said, "Well, I'm drinking a lot." At lunchtime I would go
across the street and drink beer.

T: How do you think your life would have been had you not joined the army
and gone to war?

K: I don't think I would have amounted to a damn thing, to be honest with
you. Because there was nothing where I lived. Back in those days, if
somebody gave you a 2-cent raise, you went because there was no

VWVII-25: Jim Koltz, Page -15-

T: Do you have any regrets?

K: No.

T: What was your proudest moment?

K: I don't really know. I guess when it ended and we won. I have to say one
thing and be very honest. When we fought the Japs, they were totally
different because they were just like us. It was kill or be killed. They
hated us. But if you ever spent any time like I did in Tokyo for a year, you
never seen a nicer bunch of people than you ever saw in your life. To me
they were. They bow their head, they got off the street. The only ones
that treated them bad were the damn Russians that they had over there.
They even treated us bad. We hated the Russians; they carried machine
guns. We didn't even carry weapons when we were in Tokyo.

T: I'm sure that you heard about the Japanese people that were
incarcerated in the United States in California?

K: "Americaneses" they called them.

T: How did you feel about the treatment of the Japanese Americans on the
brink of war? Do you think that was right or wrong?

K: Yeah, even though they were American Japanese, they still had some
Japanese in them. You didn't know whether [they were] saboteurs or any
thing like that. I think that they should be compensated for the time that
they did. They had nothing to do with it. I fought right alongside Nisi
[children of first generation Japanese American immigrants] who
considered themselves to be Americans] boys. They came from out of
California; they were Japanese Americans. These are like people, human
beings but they always say you don't know who is who. They could have
been the enemy. Who knows? They always said back in World War II,
"loose lips sink ships." That was the big thing. Because we had a lot of
ships torpedoed. There are all kinds of spies and saboteurs.

T: What was your rank when you got out?

K: I was in the Army for twnety-seven years. The highest rank I held was E-
7, which is a tank sergeant. I ended up as an E-6. The reason that I
didn't get the E-7 because when I was a tank commander, the rank never
held up. They said that was too high of a rating for a tank commander.

T: Were you awarded any medals for your duty in World War II?

K: Yes.

VWVII-25: Jim Koltz, Page -16-

T: What were they?

K: I have a Silver Star, I have a Bronze Star with a "V" for valor, three Purple
Hearts. I also have a commendation from General MacArthur that I
proudly [wear] on my uniform. All it is is just the braid he wears on his hat.
Oh God, there is so many. [Listed several from Korea and Vietnam]

T: If you had it to do all over again, would you do it?

K: Yes, I would. For the simple reason I would not want to see any of my
children, great-grandchildren, anybody else to have to go through what the
hell we had to go through. And I'm sure every veteran would tell you the
same thing.

T: Did you believe and agree with the politics of the war coming from the

K: I don't really know. Some of the commanders that you had like Patton,
George Patton-he is one of the greatest strategists, I guess, they say
when it comes to tank commanders or running a tank outfit. But,
goddamn, I didn't really like him because he didn't care who he sent into
battle. He's like the damn Chinese. He would send 500 people in there
just to get killed, just to take over one little place. [He went on to talk about
the other commanders and what he liked about them.]

T: I think that's all the questions that I have. Are there any last sentiments or
thoughts or stories you would like to share?

K: I was in Tokyo one time and it was the first time we got any kind liberty.
We weren't allowed to fraternize, and I would run like hell every time the
MPs would pick me up. But I went down to the this little cathouse one
time, and, man, we had them old combat boots on and we would just go in
there and strip everything off and go in there to get laid and pretty soon
here comes the damn siren and they would say "MPs! MPs!" So I grabbed
all my clothes and ran through a damn little hole and I ran for everything I
had--bare-ass naked--and I fell into a big ole barrel they called the "honey
bucket." Do you know what the honey bucket is? It's where they crap. I
fell in that damn thing. I was spitting up all that, and I can remember that
today and them son of a bitches said, "Let him go." [the rest is him talking
about sporadic events and details that do not have any logical place or

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