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 Interview






Title: Interview with Dorman Clayton
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Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00072035/00001
 Material Information
Title: Interview with Dorman Clayton
Physical Description: Book
Publication Date: September 28, 2005
 Subjects
Subject: Second World War, 1939-1945
World War II, 1939-1945
WW II
WWII
Temporal Coverage: World War II ( 1939 - 1945 )
 Notes
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: UF00072035
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 29

Table of Contents
    Copyright
        Copyright
    Interview
        Page 1
        Page 2
        Page 3
        Page 4
        Page 5
        Page 6
        Page 7
        Page 8
        Page 9
        Page 10
        Page 11
        Page 12
        Page 13
        Page 14
        Page 15
        Page 16
        Page 17
        Page 18
        Page 19
        Page 20
        Page 21
        Page 22
        Page 23
        Page 24
        Page 25
        Page 26
        Page 27
        Page 28
        Page 29
        Page 30
Full Text



COPYRIGHT NOTICE


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
Florida.

Copyright, 2005, University of Florida.
All rights, reserved.

This oral history may be used for research,
instruction, and private study under the provisions
of Fair Use. Fair Use is a provision of United States
Copyright Law (United States Code, Title 17, section
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Fair use limts the amount of material that may be
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For all other permissions and requests, contact the
SAMUEL PROCTOR ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at
the University of Florida









P: This is Julian Pleasants and I'm with Dorman Clayton. I'm in Lake City, Florida,
and this is the September 28, 2005. Tell me when and where you were born.

C: I was born in Portersville, Alabama.

P: In what year?

C: February 8, 1922.

P: Talk a little bit about your growing up. Did you grow up in Alabama and spend
most of your childhood there?

C: I grew up in the same house. My daddy had built this house, and we never
moved around. I went to school and I thought I knew everything. I quit school
with a bunch of other guys and joined the Alabama National Guard and went to
Camp Blanding [Starke, Florida] in 1940. We were supposed to be in a year of
active duty and two years of inactive duty. Well, we stayed the year and the war
broke out. The Japs bombed Pearl Harbor and we moved from Camp Blanding to
Camp Bowie, [Brownwood] Texas. We did two maneuvers in Louisiana and on
the last day of the last maneuver in 1942 I was pulled out of my original outfit,
which was the 167th Infantry, and shipped to Fort Ethan Allen, Vermont, just out
of Burlington into a 155 [mm] Howitzer field artillery outfit. This was in October
1942.

P: Did they tell you why you had been shifted from infantry to artillery?

C: They did not.

P: How did you feel about that?

C: I didn't like it.

P: You didn't?

C: No, because I knew all the guys in my outfit and most of the guys I was shipped
in to were from Brooklyn and I had to learn to speak "Brooklyn." Looking back, it
was a blessing because my original outfit went to the Pacific and got shot all to
pieces. I went to Europe and made the invasion of France and came home in
one piece, with one little scratch you might say. I was wounded in the Battle of
the Bulge. [It was] not very serious. I got over it, and I thank God for that. These
people from Brooklyn live in a different world, and some of them are hard to get
along with. They're hard-headed, and some of the guys from Alabama's hard
headed, too. Looking back it was a blessing that I was sent to Europe, and sent
to the field artillery in Vermont.

P: Talk about your training in field artillery. You were with a 155 millimeter Howitzer









WWllII-29, Clayton, Page 2


unit, right?

C: Right, 155.

P: You had what, eight people on the gun?

C: No, it took about eleven people if you had a full crew. That included your driver of
your vehicle and your sergeant who was in charge of the group. There was about
eleven people.

P: Tell me what each person did and then what you did.

C: Normally if you have a full crew, the sergeant, who was in charge [and] was the
chief of section, of course gives the orders for what to do. We had telephones to
each gun section. We got our orders from the Fire Direction Center [FDC] that
told us what to do, what to set the elevation, and also the traversing of the guns
in order to hit the target that they wanted to hit. Most of the time we had a man
up front to see where we fired.

P: Like a forward observer?

C: Yes, a forward observer. A lot of times we had the little L4 Piper Cub airplane
that our forward observer was in looking down.

P: They'd fly over the target area.

C: Right. We most always had somebody up front.

P: The shells weighed what, about a hundred pounds?

C: Ninety-four pounds.

P: Then two people would put them on the little loader, right?

C: [They] called it a loading barrel. Two people, with one on each side with the
handles on this loading barrel, and they put it up to the breech of the gun. A third
man had a rammer who pushed it off of the loading barrel. One man dropped one
side and laid it aside, and then they all three rammed that shell into the chamber
as hard as they could. Then another man threw the powder charge in behind
that. The number one man closed the ridge block and had a little mechanism
they put in there, they called it a "primer," it looked like about a forty-five cartridge
with no bullet in the end. When he got the order to fire, he pulled the lanyard, a
hammer come up and hit that cartridge, that primer, and that set things on the
way.









WWllII-29, Clayton, Page 3


P: How long would it take you from the time you got the order to load and fire?

C: Supposedly you could fire three rounds a minute, but sometimes we fired more
than that. Your gun barrel, your Howitzer barrel would get hot, and they didn't
want you to fire over three rounds a minute. That was our orders, but sometimes
we'd fire four or five. Our crew was one of the best crews I ever seen in artillery.
They'd have the shell round done and the powder charge in and the breech
closed before the barrel got back into battery. You had to wait 'til it'd get back into
the battery before you'd fired again. Of course, me being the gunner, I had to see
the sights, see if I was on target before they could fire. I'd give them the motion to
fire.

P: What you did, in essence, was to line up the gun. As the gunner you targeted the
mission, right?

C: Right.

P: You already had your information from the Fire Direction Center [FDC].

C: Right.

P: They would give you a certain latitude, longitude? How did they give you that?

C: They called it "deflection." These guns, when you pulled them into gun position,
they were, what they called "laid," by an instrument. All guns were parallel. If you
fired the guns, all of them together, the shells out here would hit the same as the
guns out back here.

P: How many guns?

C: [There were] four guns in a battery.

P: How many batteries in the regiment?

C: I believe it was three firing batteries to a regiment, I can't remember that.

P: That sounds about right. What was the range on these shells?

C: We could fire up to about nine miles pretty accurate and the long Tom Gun,
which fired the same shell with a heavier powder charge and the barrel was
longer, they could fire up to about fifteen miles.

P: You were on the 155, not the "Long Tom"? The Long Tom just had a longer
barrel, right, and a bigger charge?









WWllII-29, Clayton, Page 4


C: Yep, [it] had a longer barrel and could fire further and so forth. It fired the same
shell. They used the same shell that we did.

P: The guns looked pretty much the same, didn't they? One just had a different
barrel.

C: Well, of course the whole outfit on a Long Tom was bigger.

P: It was the same kind of mechanism. When you fired you would, say fire one for
effect, and then you would determine whether you needed to bracket the target?

C: The way this operated, I'm number two gun. The number two gun nearly always
did what they call "register." Number two gun, they'd give you the information.
You fired a round out there and an observer would see where it hit, and then he'd
make corrections in yards. He'd say, well, you're 200 yards over and 100 yards
right. He'd send that information back to the FDC and they'd change them yards
into mills. Then they'd give you the correction and you'd have to shift and so forth
and fire another round.

P: This is still the number two gun?

C: [This is] still number two gun. When the number two gun got in on the target,
they'd call the whole battery out.

P: As you go through this training, did you get pretty proficient before you went to
Europe?

C: Oh, yes.

P: You knew exactly what you were doing and you kept the same crew the whole
time?

C: Yes, we kept the same crew.

P: I would think that makes a lot of difference, to have the same group working
together the whole time.

C: Yes.

P: What happens if somebody got sick or got injured?

C: You could operate with less men. If somebody got hurt or sick or whatever and
had to leave, you could still operate. To operate at your most efficient would be
ten to eleven men. You've got to have a man cleaning that ammunition cause it
may have mud or dirt or whatever on it. You've got to have a man that knows the









WWllII-29, Clayton, Page 5


fuses cause they come with just a eye-lifting plug in them. You got to take that
out and put in the right fuse. They always give you all this information from the
Fire Direction Center.

P: This is before you had proximity fuses?

C: Yes. We got the radio-controlled fuse after we had got into combat. We had the
old time fuse which had partial seconds. Of course, they did away with that with
this new [fuse].

P: That new fuse made it more accurate.

C: Oh yes.

P: [It was] a lot easier to deal with.

C: Oh yeah, you didn't have anything to set. The centripetal force of that shell
leaving the gun put that fuse into action. Up until then it was dead.

P: It was certainly a lot easier and the more effective in hitting the target, right?

C: Right. Well I don't know, it didn't make it hit the target, but they wanted the shell
to explode fifty feet above the ground. These radio controlled fuses, when it
come down and it got, I think, within fifty feet, that radio was sending out waves
and they come back to that and exploded it.

P: Talk about your first shipment overseas. When did you first leave Vermont and
go overseas, or where did you go from Vermont?

C: We left Vermont and came down to AP Hill Military Reservation in Virginia, just
out of, I think about forty miles outside of Richmond. We lived in the woods for
about three months. Then we came to Tennessee and did a Tennessee
maneuver. After this maneuver we went back to Fort Dix, New Jersey. The guys
that lived in the South were given fifteen-day furloughs, either thirteen or fifteen
days, and you could go home and then report back to Fort Dix. Well, me being
from the South, I got a furlough and then I went back to Fort Dix, and they re-
clothed you out and out. They gave you new clothing from one end to the other,
including underwear and socks and shoes and everything. We stayed there a
couple of weeks then went to Camp Joyce Kilmer [New Brunswick, New Jersey]
and we stayed there, I don't know, ten days or so.

P: Did you go by railroad most of the time?

C: Yes, railroad because we had all this heavy equipment to move. Of course, we
got to Fort Dix, let me see, we lost our equipment. I don't know where it went, but









WWllII-29, Clayton, Page 6


we drew new equipment when we got to England, or different equipment I guess
it would be. We went to Joyce Kilmer and then from there we crossed, I'm
guessing it was nighttime, into the Brooklyn Navy Yards and loaded on a ship at
night. We pulled out at night and shortly after we got going the ships began to
gather and we were in a convoy.

P: What year was this?

C: This was in October 1943. We went through the North Atlantic, went through
some terrible bad weather and all of the U-boats were after us. We landed in
Liverpool, England, about fourteen days later. While we was in Liverpool the fog
was so thick you couldn't see your hand before you almost. There was other
ships waiting I'm sure to be unloaded because we didn't see them because of so
much fog, but you could hear their fog horn. [Made horn noises] I think we sat in
the harbor there for a couple days before it come our turn to unload.

P: On the way over did you do that zig-zag maneuver?

C: Zig-zag, right.

P: You had a destroyer escort?

C: I don't know, it looked like there was hundreds of ships everywhere.

P: I'm sure there must have been. They were armed with depth charges and sonar.

C: The ship I was on had these barrels of depth charges, they rolled them over into
the ocean. You could look back in a few seconds.

P: You could see them go off.

C: Yes.

P: Were you attacked at all by a U-boat?

C: I really don't know. I know they put over depth charges, so maybe.

P: There was somebody around.

C: Somebody got suspicious or something.

P: When you got to your final destination, how long did you stay there before you
moved to your embarkation site?

C: We got there in the latter part of October, got to England. We unloaded at night









WWllII-29, Clayton, Page 7


and got on some sort of train and rode the rest of the night and wound up in a
little camp they called St. Audra's. It was right on Bristol Bay. You could walk
from our quarters down to Bristol Bay and go in swimming if you wanted to. We
stayed there until the next year in, I want to say sometime maybe the first of May.
We moved in the Southampton area, another staging area. We just kind of lazed
around for a few days, and they take you by groups. They had a big tent on the
sand-table in the Omaha Beach. Everything that was on Omaha Beach was on
this sand-table. They'd take a small group in there and the officer would talk to
you, or the powers to be. This is where you're going to land, see. Now you get up
through here and you go on up here and you're gonna move this and if
everything goes right. We were supposed to land D-Day. As I remember we
actually did land, but we didn't unload. We was on [an] LST [landing ship tank].
We pulled up on the sand.

P: Do you remember what wave you would have been in?

C: It was about twenty-three hours after the initial raid, it was the next morning.

P: Okay.

C: The powers to be, pretty soon we was backing out in the [English] channel. Of
course, we didn't know what had happened until some time later when the word
got out that the beachhead was not established well enough for the big guns.
They backed us out in the English Channel and there we sit two days right
beside the battleship Texas. Of course, the Germans were trying to get in to sink
the Texas and they damn near got us. We actually landed and unloaded on June
8. We actually drove off on wet sand and no water was involved and on up and
beside a hedgerow and our guns and equipment were waterproof in Cosmoline
[corrosion-preventing petroleum jelly]. We had to clean some of that off and get
ready for business.

P: What did the beach look like when you got there?

C: There was still a lot of this stuff.

P: All the defensive fortifications.

C: Yes. There was still some dead laying around.

P: How did you feel about that as you went into combat and you saw dead
Americans lying around?

C: It wasn't Americans.


P: Oh they weren't?









WWllII-29, Clayton, Page 8


C: The Americans had done a good job. They cleaned up the dead quick.

P: These were Germans?

C: They were Germans. You could see the pillboxes in the sides of the cliffs. I went
back to some of them when I went back last year. Of course, they've got the big
cemetery there and that's very touching to me. I lost buddies there.

P: It's a powerful experience, isn't it? It's a beautiful cemetery, isn't it?

C: Very well kept.

P: Yes. To see all those white crosses, all of the sacrifices that were made. It's a
pretty powerful experience, even for people who weren't there, let alone the
people who had to be there.

C: Yes.

P: Let me go back to the process of preparing you for the landing. Did you know
early on that this was going to be the big landing in Europe?

C: Yeah, we did.

P: They had told you a couple of weeks ahead of time probably?

C: Yes.

P: I know they cautioned everybody against not saying anything, not divulging any
information.

C: When you went under that tent where the sand table was, when you come out
you didn't talk. You didn't talk about that to your best buddy. You just didn't talk.

P: Well, you had to because if that information had gotten out, the surprise would
not have been effective.

C: That's right. They told us twenty-four hours after we got aboard the LST we'd be
in France. Well, that didn't happen. We was on that LST and it's crude facilities
for living. It wasn't made to live on, but we was on it about, I guess, three days.

P: How did you feel when the invasion was postponed one day from the fifth to the
sixth of June, 1944?

C: I guess you felt like it was just a little bit a letdown. Of course, the weather was
terrible, terrible, terrible. I'm sure it was the right thing to have done.









WWllII-29, Clayton, Page 9


P: Did a lot of people get seasick?

C: Some, but I can't remember, not a whole lot. I never got seasick. I don't know
why, but I didn't.

P: It's all about living in north Alabama, right?

C: [Laughter].

P: What happens when you're on the big ships and then you have to be loaded on
to the LSTs [landing ship tanks]. How did you do that? Did you go down the side
of the ships with the little nets?

C: Oh no. [The] LST we loaded, of course we had big, heavy equipment.

P: You loaded that ahead of time?

C: Yes. Big doors hang open and this thing ....

P: You just drive it right up.

C: You drive right on that.

P: Did they give you this little packet they gave everybody that had some French
francs and a map and some food and some medical supplies? Did you get that?

C: I don't think so.

P: That would have been the infantry, people going in the first day I guess, in the
first wave. So now you're on shore and you're right on Omaha Beach. Where did
you go from there?

C: They had this ravine up the cliff. We went up the cliff and got on topside and got
close to a hedgerow and we de-waterproofed our equipment. We moved a little
ways and set our guns up [into] what we call going into gun position, getting
ready for whatever they needed. One of the first commands that I remember was
come back, it said, the Germans are about to push the British back into the
channel and they need help. Well, I'd say my gun was pointed this way and we
had to shift trails around to point them this way so we could fire and help the
British out. I guess they stopped to get a spot of tea. We fired, I don't know, a
good many shells to help them out.

P: How difficult was it to change the trajectory of the guns?

C: Not very difficult if you haven't got your gun dug in. If it's dug in then it'd be









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difficult.

P: Explain the process of digging in those 155 millimeters. They were pretty heavy.
How much did they weigh?

C: [They weighed] six-and-a-half tons.

P: A deuce-and-a -half wouldn't pull them. You'd have to have a five ton.

C: Yea, we had in the staging area we had the five-ton Diamond-T big trucks that
pulled them, six by sixes. We got to England, we got the new type gun and this
M-5 tank chassis, which was an endless track machine that pulled them. It could
pull them at a speed, well, one time we was on the Autobahn and I asked the
driver how fast we were going and he said about forty, so you could run up to
forty miles an hour which is pretty fast for a heavy gun. Of course, it's highly
maneuverable.

P: If you were, let's say, in a situation where you were completely set up, dug in,
and you got orders to move up, how long would it take you to get that gun up and
moving?

C: Probably twenty minutes.

P: That's pretty fast.

C: Of course, you've got to get it in travel position. You've got to let the barrel down
and you've got a sock that goes over that machine's bore, and it's got a big jack
on the front that lifts the big rubber off the ground so when you fire it, it don't
bounce. You've got to let the jack down and it's a split trailer deal. You close the
trailer together, buckle them together, and by that time the men are there with the
tractor. Three or four men pick it up, he backs into it and you drop it on down.

P: Just like a regular trailer hitch.

C : The gun has a ring on it about so big around and the piece of steel is bigger than
my thumb that makes a circle. This trailer hitch on the tank is dropped right into
that and you pull this down and over and it latches and you've got it.

P: Good. Talk about what you did after helping the British, that's your first
assignment. Take me through the progression as you went all the way into
Czechoslovakia.

C: We helped the British out, but I can't give you any length of time. Some time after
that we made two or three moves and then we kind of set up, I say, semi-
permanently because we were on the north side of the line between France and









WWllII-29, Clayton, Page 11


the Cherbourg Peninsula. We cut that peninsula off and they cleaned that
peninsula up and got Cherbourg. I guess they wanted that as a deep water port
to get in supplies and build up a lot of supplies before they started to make the
push across France. When they did we was out of St-Lo, right out of St-Lo.

P: St-Lo had just been captured?

C: Yes. Well, I don't know whether it had been captured or not, but we fired into St-
Lo. We fired a lot of time fire, and that was when we had everybody that could
bring ammunition to us carrying ammunition; lieutenants, cooks, everybody who
could carry a shell from wherever they were to us, and we were putting them out
and gradually raising the elevation and going a little further on every shell.

P: One of the problems is the troops were advancing. You want to fire ahead of
them and you worry that you don't want to drop shells on your own troops.

C: Right.

P: Do you know that you did that at all? Did you ever do that?

C: If we did we didn't know it. I hope we didn't, but they don't tell you everything, I
guess. Then we moved up and moved up on the side of a hill. They first told us to
sleep in the daytime all you could because you were gonna be up most of the
nights because the Germans were gonna have air superiority, and we'd have to
move at night and so forth. Well, that wasn't true. We had air superiority from the
word go, I reckon.

P: It was total?

C: Yes. So we moved this night up on a hillside and so we got set up and ready to
fire and everything and they said well let's bed down and we'll put up the
camouflage net in the morning. So that's what we did. We was all give out and
just got bedded down good. Of course, the German planes were flying around
and they sounded different from our planes. You could tell one just as far as you
could hear him. A Bed Check Charlie, you could tell him all the time, but anyway,
the plane flew over and dropped flares, and you think a bright, sunny day is
bright. It ain't bright at all if they drop flares over you. In a matter of a minute or
two here come the bombers. They bombed the heck out of us and never hit a
thing. [They] didn't do a dime's worth of damage. You don't think that would
make you nervous? They never did us a dime's worth of damage. I'm sure they
lost one plane in this deal. One bomber somebody shot it down.

P: These would have been Hinkle bombers?

C: Yes, I remember the name but I don't know what kind of [plane it was]. I was in a









WWllII-29, Clayton, Page 12


hole.

P: You didn't care, you just didn't want to get hit. Did you ever target German
artillery specifically? Did you try to knock out their artillery and would they try to
knock out your artillery?

C: Once or twice. We were being shelled by their artillery and you could hear the
German artillery power. You could hear, it sounded like you pulled a cork out of a
jug, and it'd take several seconds for that shell to get to you. Our lieutenant, after
it was over they never did hit anything, but that lieutenant went out there with an
estimate, of course, some of the shells had hit, and I guess he could figure the
angle that it hit the dirt and all this kind of stuff. I don't have enough upstairs to
understand, but in a few minutes we got orders, we fired on the German guns,
and we must have knocked them out. They didn't fire on us anymore.

P: Would you have any sense of whether their artillery was more accurate than
ours?

C: I don't think so. Most all their stuff, according to the books I've read, was inferior
to our equipment. Maybe one or two of their airplanes were superior and maybe
one or two of their tanks.

P: The Tiger Tank was better than the Sherman [tank] and the Messerschmidts
[German fighter planes] were better than most of our planes.

C: Right. They were running out of equipment, men, and ammunition. I read a book
on our Air Force trying to knock out this ball -earing plant wherever it was.

P: Stuttgart.

C: Yes, and how difficult it was to get to it. They still had to get a lot of ack-ack [anti-
aircraft fire], but according to what I've read, most everything we had was
superior to them.

P: Take me now from the point where you have been bombed, you're just at St-Lo.
Where do you go from there?

C: After the breakthrough I can't tell you. If I had my other papers I could.

P: One thing that I know that was difficult that nobody thought about was the
hedgerows. They must have been tough to get through.

C: Yes. Somebody come up with the idea to put a dozer blade on the tank and then
bust right through. Otherwise you couldn't [get through]. Some of them, I guess
the hedgerows of dirt was this high.









WWllII-29, Clayton, Page 13


P: [As] high as your waist.

C: With trees on them.

P: They're very thick, so it was hard to get through even if you were an individual it
was hard to get through.

C: That's right.

P: That's an example of American ingenuity, isn't it? They had not planned for that,
but somebody figured out if we do this, this works, and we'll be able to move on.

C: Yes.

P: When you were going in the early periods were the raids pretty good? Could you
maneuver, could you get your artillery pieces ahead?

C: Yes. We didn't have any, far as I can remember, no problems with getting to
where we wanted to go. Course we didn't bust any hedgerows or we went on
already French-made roads. Of course, we'd get off and try to hide. We'd get in a
timber line or something to hide our equipment as best we could.

P: Did you fire mostly daytime or nighttime?

C: Mostly daytime. We did what they call "harassing fire." We don't know whether
that did any good or not, but they'd set us up to fire on a crossroads four or five
miles out from us. They used maps to get all of their data down and they'd give
you a reading. You'd fire four or five shells during the night at random times and
hopefully you were hitting that crossroads or right close. They call that harassing
fire. Of course, there was no hurry up, you knew you was going to fire one at
1:06 or something and you knew you was gonna do that. Three men could
operate the gun. So we kept three men up all night, not the same three, but two
or three shifts.

P: One of the things that did, it always kept them awake. It was hard to sleep and
you already had this anxiety. It really was, and it had an effect because a lot of
people, as you know, you can hear that artillery coming [and] it was terrifying.

C: It was demoralizing.

P: It was demoralizing absolutely. The people, as you know, broke down. In the
middle of an artillery barrage people would jump out of their foxholes and go
running.


C: We had one in my outfit that did. He shot himself in the foot.









WWII-29, Clayton, Page 14


P: Just to get out of it?

C: Yes. They tried to pin it on him and he was in my gun section. They investigated
him and he claimed he was cleaning his gun and it accidently went off. I don't
know whether they ever proved it. They took him back to the hospital
somewhere. I don't know whether they ever proved it or not, but people would
come up and talk to you.

P: Did you ever know anybody with what they call "battle fatigue"?

C: I don't guess we had any battle fatigue people.

P: More likely for infantry than for artillery, I guess. When you were back in your
location, did you dig foxholes at night?

C: Dig a foxhole, that's the second thing I done was dig a hole. Me and my buddy
dug a hole if you wasn't gonna be there but thirty minutes. Of course, you didn't
know how long you was gonna be there, but we dug a hole, we started on one
anyway. We had one guy that would not dig a hole. He never dug a hole, I don't
think, in the whole deal. I tried to get him to come get in the hole with me, he
said, no, I want to see where the shells are hitting.

P: Everybody hit him, that's the whole idea of being in the hole. Later on when you
get into the Ardennes, it's going be a real job digging a foxhole, isn't it?

C: Yes.

P: Because the ground was frozen, literally.

C: Maybe two foot deep, who knows.

P: Really. Some people said that they would dig a little place out and put in
explosives and blow out a hole and then start digging under the frozen ground. It
must have been tough to get a foxhole dug under those conditions.

C: I remember during the Battle of the Bulge [December 1944 to January 1945], we
were actually ahead of the infantry when the Battle of the Bulge started. The
infantryman got on to our commanding officer about bringing the big guns ahead
of infantry. He said, didn't you know it'd draw fire? It did, big time. I believe, I
want to say, on December 13, we were shelled for one solid hour from five
o'clock till six o'clock [in the morning].

P: Never stopped?

C: Never stopped. They threw those Screaming Mimi's at you. They could see us,









WWllII-29, Clayton, Page 15


we was down in the flat. They had seen us, I don't know how, but they were on a
hill over and they lobbed that stuff and there again they put some shrapnel
through side of a cab of a truck. [That] was all the damage it done. I think it was
the thirteenth, if I had my papers I could be sure, but that afternoon or evening,
early evening, of course, snow was on the ground, and the order came down to
march, to move out when ready when you get your stuff. Some of the guns got
ahead of us and we got up there to a fork road and it was dark enough you
couldn't tell which way to go, you know to follow the other. We took the left and
went down there a mile or so, and here come a Jeep. [It] passed us up and told
us to stop, told us to stop, and he went on to the head of the column, got
everybody stopped. Then he told us that if you'd have went just a little further,
you'd have went right into their hands. So we had to turn around and come back
and take that other fork, and as far as I'm concerned that was the beginning of
the Battle of the Bulge. I'm thinking the sixteenth was the official [December 16,
1944-January 25, 1945].

P: At that point you realized that they were massing troops, getting ready to attack.

C: Right. If they had a followed through that morning after they shelled us, of
course, they had to stand down, they could have walked in and took us single-
handed almost. But they didn't. We got word that they couldn't get them drunk
enough to follow through with it. Now whether that's true or not, you hear a lot of
stuff.

P: Did you ever have any problems with the V-1 or V-2 rockets?

C: No, we never did have any problems. We were in their path as they come over, I
don't know how high, 400 or 500 feet high. When they first started, our anti-
aircraft got to shoot them down. They didn't have much success at that, and they
finally pulled out the order, don't shoot at them anymore. They'd come sputtering
over and that was the first jet-propelled. You could see what was the V-2, you
could see the white streak as they fired it, but it never come close to us.

P: Did you have much conflict with the German Tiger tanks? Did you have armor-
piercing shells, did you have black phosphorus, what did you have?

C: We had white phosphorus and armor-piercing fuses. The only time that we got a
tank scare was at the Falaise Gap. We had encircled a bunch of German troops.

P: Which is in the Ardennes.

C: Yes. They put out the order to get ready to do some direct fire because we were
afraid that the German tanks were gonna try to break through in this area, but
they never materialized. I'm number two gun as always, all the way through the
war I was number two gun, and we had done the registering. We got a order that









WWllII-29, Clayton, Page 16


there was a German truck under a tree loaded with ammunition and German GIs
piled up on it, and they thought they were hid. They called on number two gun to
fire a round of white phosphorus. We loaded and told them we was ready to fire
and we fired the round out there. A minute or two or three the order come back,
cease fire, end of mission, direct hit.

P: It probably blew the whole thing up.

C: Once in the whole war that happened.

P: One of the things that the infantry was concerned about was the Germans would
fire from a position, and then they would withdraw, and then they would bracket
the area they'd just withdrawn from. When the American troops came in, as soon
as they got there, they already had their fire bracketed on that area. Did you do
some of that as well?

C: As far as I know [we didn't]. I don't think so.

P: It was a pretty effective tactic to withdraw and the enemy sees the advance of the
allied troops into the vacated area.

C: We didn't do a whole lot of withdrawal.

P: No, that's right. That would explain that, wouldn't it. Did you always have enough
shells, enough ammunition?

C: As far as I know, yes.

P: You didn't run out?

C: No.

P: That was a major factor in winning the war because they were running out toward
the end. How did you rate your officers, NCOs, the Fire Direction Center? Did
you feel like they were always giving you good directions and good commands?

C: Yep. I always felt comfortable with that.

P: You didn't feel like you were wasting your ammunition?

C: No. I really didn't.

P: How did you get through the war in terms of your crew? Did you have much
turnover? You had one guy who shot himself.









WWllII-29, Clayton, Page 17


C: We had one officer, well, he wasn't in our crew, but he was a forward observer
who got killed. We had eighteen men that were hit with shrapnel, including
myself, just a day or two before the Battle of the Bulge. We were going to the
mess in an old house where the kitchen was set up. The Germans started up and
began to put the mortars to us. It was seventeen or eighteen men that got hit that
day, including myself. One was serious. I guess [it was] serious enough that they
took him to the rear to the hospital and we never did see him again, so I don't
know whatever happened to him.

P: What about replacements? I hear all this information about the replacements at
the end of the war were brought in had no experience, no training.

C: We didn't have any replacements.

P: None? You just went through the whole war without that?

C: Yep. We didn't have a man killed, accept the officer.

P: Where were you wounded? The shrapnel, where did that hit you?

C: In the hand.

P: Did that bother you?

C: Well, it did at first till I saw it wasn't very serious.

P: Scared you a little, I guess.

C: Yes. I ran around this house and got in a ditch and was, of course, scared to
death. The lieutenant, our officer, he came around there and said somebody
says you was hit. I said yep, but I done wiped the blood off, and I said I'm alright.
He said we're gonna take you to the medics anyway. He said, my driver will take
you to the medic. I got in the Jeep and he took me to the medical station and the
doctor, first thing he done was open a footlocker and got out a bottle of whiskey,
poured me shot and said, drink this. I'm not a whiskey drinker, but I drank it. Of
course, that'll calm you down. He looked at that and washed it off and put a
bandage on it. He said sit down a few minutes and tell me about it, he was very
sociable. About that time the phone rang and he answered the phone. He said,
oh you've got seventeen more men coming out of your outfit that's been hit by
shrapnel. This driver said, well, we'd better go then because they may need me.
We jumped in the Jeep and was gone. We met the truck with these men on it
coming and this one man had, according to what we heard, had a big piece of
shrapnel in his butt. They took him to the rear and I don't know what they done.


P: So the medical teams were pretty good?









WWllII-29, Clayton, Page 18


C: Yes. He got that whiskey out.

P: That's the best thing. One of the advantages you would have had is with air
superiority, these P-47's could do a lot of damage to the enemy artillery. In fact,
the Germans were terrified of those planes. That would have given you a distinct
advantage, would it not?

C: Yes. I heard that the Germans said that if you moved in the daytime, the planes
would get you, and if you moved at nighttime, the artillery would get you.

P: That's how you win a war, isn't it? Now, when you were in the Falaise pocket, tell
me what happened in that. Let me go back a little bit. When the Battle of the
Bulge started, was everybody totally surprised by the German attack? You'd had
a little warning.

C: See it had gotten [to be] wintertime, and I thought we was just bogged down for
the winter. With those tank chassis and those tracks you can't move much cause
they had rubber treads and the ground froze. They didn't have much traction and
you'd slip and slide. I figured we was just bogged down for the winter. We were
just going to have to make the best of it right here. Well, that wasn't necessarily
right because we'd been shelled, like I told you, on December 13. We backed up
about five miles and set up. I remember we stayed right there for the duration.
We got the ships trailed from here to here. This new type of gun you could
traverse a good bit without shifting trails. We pretty much stayed there for I don't
know how long, until the Bulge was cleaned up. We fired many a round of
ammunition. The day we left that gun position, we was in the edge of the woods,
we pulled out and got up on the road, was gonna move forward, like I say, our
gun had been dug in. We pulled up on the road, and as you know you pull up and
stop, pull up and stop. Well, there was a bunch of bombers coming back--I don't
know if they were 17's or 24's [B-17s, B-24s]--coming back from a raid into
Germany. As the main bunch got back, there was a straggler coming along, he
was down low. About that time we pulled up, and he went out of sight. We knew
he hit the ground. The next day we didn't pick up all of our equipment, we
couldn't bring it all, some ammunition I think it was. We sent men back in the
truck. All the gun section left and stuff. We sent men back to pick this stuff up,
and that bomber had hit out in front of where we had been and slid right across at
where we had been, that bank where the gun had been dug in and into the
timber. That's how close we come on that deal.

P: Yes. Did everybody in the bomber die?

C: I think they got out, I believe that was the report. They bailed out before they hit
the ground.

P: Now you're in December. Talk about how cold it was and the conditions while









WWllII-29, Clayton, Page 19


you were in the Bulge. People talk about it being below zero.

C: I wondered how cold it was. I knew it was cold. I may have made mentioned to
you the other day that I read in one of the books I've been reading that it was
near zero. I knew it had to be cold when the ground froze two foot deep.

P: And weapons froze?

C: No. We didn't have any problems with our weapons. We kept them dry.

P: What about food? What did you eat during all that time?

C: We were very fortunate in our food, our kitchen. Most of the time we was set up.
Most of the time you got your food and got a place to eat it and it's cold. You
didn't have a steam-heated dining room to get in, but I remember at Christmas of
1944 we had a good meal. By the time you got your turkey and dressing and
whatever you had, cranberry sauce, or got around somewhere to sit your mess
kit down on some snow, your food was cold.

P: [It was] a lot better than C-rations and K-rations. At least you had some hot food.

C: We had a kitchen that was pretty efficient. During the invasion we had what they
call a ten-in-one ration. It was a box about so long, and about that wide, and
maybe that thick. There was supposed to be enough food in there for ten men for
one day, three meals. You had to prepare that yourself, whichever way you
could. I don't think anybody in my outfit could say that they were hungry at any
time. You might have thought you was a little hungry, but you weren't that
hungry.

P: What were your thoughts on Christmas Day, 1944?

C: I really don't remember. I wasn't a church-going boy at that time, but I think it was
Christmas [that] I went to church. The church was in the attic of a house that was
floored. The chaplain was up making the talk and there were several of us men
there, and Germans began to shell us. Shells were coming around close, and
that man didn't flinch. He just kept on talking. I got so nervous I couldn't hardly
stand it, but he just kept on talking. He didn't flinch.

P: Did you think about being home Christmas?

C: Oh yes, you always thought about what's going on back home, and I'd like to be
home, and I'd like to see my mother and this sort of thing. I had a mother, I didn't
have a momma. She trained us to say mother. She wanted to be called mother.

P: At some point in the Battle of the Bulge you break through and I presume that









WWllII-29, Clayton, Page 20

Patton's tanks were critical in turning the tide of the Battle of the Bulge.

C: I guess it was, yeah.

P: You were aware of the fact that at one point you were close to being
surrounded?

C: That's right.

P: In fact, if you were in Bastogne you would have been surrounded.

C: Right.

P: You never did get to Bastogne?

C: We went from the Battle of the Bulge, I think, to the Remagen Bridge.

P: Do you remember the Siegfried Line?

C: Oh yeah.

P: Tell me what that was like. They had these big dragon's teeth and that sort of
thing.

C: Yes. It wasn't a problem for us. Somebody had cleared the way.

P: Some of them just went around it. You got through the Siegfried Line. Was the
fighting difficult at this point?

C: We had fired on the Siegfried Line [also called "Westwall" which stretched 392
mils and contained bunkers, tunnels and tank traps] from back, and we fired on
some pillboxes.

P: They had several pillboxes there, yes.

C: They said we was wasting our ammunition.

P: [You] couldn't destroy them.

C: We could hit them, but it would bounce off.

P: Wouldn't do any damage.

C: They had to get around the infantry, or somebody had to get around and get
something inside.









WWllII-29, Clayton, Page 21


P: They had to put grenades in or bazookas or something.

C: Right.

P: Now you're through that part, the Siegfried Line, and are moving toward the
Rhine River. Tell me about the bridge at Remagen. When you got there was the
bridge still there?

C: We got to the Remagen Bridge. I guess the reason we went to the Remagen
Bridge was to try to protect it. There was a lot of men that got across and
established the bridge head over in Germany. Of course, the Germans wanted to
knock it out. They had wired it and put in the stuff to blow it up, but something
happened that it didn't blow. I've read about this, but I can't remember what it
says. They put us upriver from the bridge, us and other outfits, and they had
floodlights that generated at night. They didn't want anything floating down that
river.

P: Because the Germans were floating down bombs and such.

C: Anything that we saw floating we'd diffuse it. As I remember we never seen
anything. The bridge eventually fell.

P: By that time they had put up some pontoon bridges.

C: Yes, we crossed a pontoon bridge downriver a little ways from the Remagen
Bridge.

P: Hitler decided that he was going to defend that area. He didn't want Americans
crossing because once you cross the Rhine River then it was pretty much open
territory from there on. When you crossed the bridge, what was your next
assignment at that time? You don't go to Berlin, you go back south at some point.

C: Yes. It was just mainly moving on.

P: You were doing pretty good. You were making ten or twelve kilometers a day
after that?

C: Or more. They'd leave one or two men to protect a crossroads. What's one or
two men to protect a crossroads with a bunch of tanks coming? The timber
around those crossroads was cut off up about twenty or thirty feet above the
ground just like it was mowed off.

P: Did you go into any German villages?


C: I went through them.









WWllII-29, Clayton, Page 22

P: What was the reaction from the German people in the villages?

C: They had the white flags out and waving.

P: Were they friendly as opposed to being enemies?

C: Well, I think so, but we were not allowed to talk to them, non-fraternization.

P: Which, by the way, is kind of a silly rule, isn't it?

C: Yes. The day I left Germany they lifted that, and you could talk to them. Of
course we'd talked to them before. A lot of them could speak English.

P: How would you enforce something like that? You couldn't. You had to talk to
them.

C: You would see a German girl and an American GI with a blanket under his arm
headed to the woods.

P: I guess that was fraternization.

C: They wasn't gonna talk things over. [Laughter]

P: That's really what they were they were trying to prevent. As a rule they prevented
people from talking and getting information. That was where you could benefit
because a lot of the Germans, at this point I think, were glad to get rid of Hitler,
and saw the Americans, to some degree, as liberators. Then there were the
hardcore, the SS, the Hitler Youth. I guess they fought to the very end.

C: After we crossed the Rhine River, the German GIs began to give up by the
thousands. You could see a group of German soldiers marching to the rear, the
front man with a white flag, and three or four abreast for maybe a quarter of a
mile. I mean they was ready to give up.

P: Well, the war was really over at that point.

C: Yes. We'd move and set up maybe to fire if needed, and maybe you wouldn't
stay there fifteen minutes and move again.

P: Did you see any German POWs shot? Did the Americans shoot any of them?

C: No.

P: [You] didn't see that?









WWII-29, Clayton, Page 23


C: Somewhere in Germany, not too long after we had crossed the Rhine River, we
come up on this forced labor camp. It was fenced and I don't remember what
they had been making, but they had a lot of forced labor. We, my outfit, freed
them. Then we set up a kitchen. There were a lot of American pilots in this group
and some other nationalities, I can't remember, Polish maybe. We set up a
kitchen and these people were almost starved to death, I mean they were skin
and bones. I don't know where they got the food, but they got extra. Maybe we
wasn't the only ones who had the kitchen. Maybe two or three outfits set up
kitchens. They had food. These people that were freed, I don't remember what
kind of mess kit they had, but they had something to put the food in. I remember I
was serving something and of course they wanted more. More, more! There'd
be a doctor or an officer behind you [telling you that] you can't have more.
Tomorrow you'll have a little more, and the next day, and they'd explain to them
pretty quick.

P: Your body couldn't take all that food.

C: We don't want you to be sick. If you eat too much you'll be sick and you'll lose it
all and this kind of thing. We did that for two or three days and we was gone, and
I couldn't tell you what happened.

P: It must have been a pretty traumatic experience to come on a group of people
like that.

C: It was. And some of your own people.

P: I know they were glad to see American troops and food.

C: They were and they thanked us.

P: Somebody told me that one of the biggest problems in World War II was trench
foot. A lot of people got trench foot and couldn't walk and lost their limbs. Did you
have problems with trench foot?

C: No.

P: How about frostbite? Did you have anything like that?

C: I seen some people with frost bite, but as far as I know none of the men in my
outfit had frostbite.

P: When you were in the military you were probably like all soldiers. Soldiers always
complain about something. What did you all complain about?

C: I don't remember everything. They said that in the Army if you don't hear a rumor









WWllII-29, Clayton, Page 24


by about nine o'clock, start one.

P: It was always something, wasn't it?

C: Yes.

P: Did you ever hear Axis Sally?

C: Oh yes.

P: What was that like?

C: She tried to demoralize you to the very end. She said you know your girlfriend
back home is sleeping with Joe Blow or somebody, and your wife is running
around on you and all this kind of stuff. Of course, she was educated in the
United States, wasn't she?

P: Yes.

C: Axis Sally. She spoke perfect English and she played good music. We had a little
radio and we could pick up BBC in Berlin.

P: You had a pretty good idea of how the war was going, right?

C: Yes.

P: Axis Sally, I think a lot of people listened to her just for the music, and didn't pay
attention to the propaganda.

C: No. If you paid any attention to her, she'd run you crazy, if you believe all that
stuff.

P: Did you sleep pretty well at night?

C: If Bed Check Charlie stayed at home I could do pretty good. About eleven
o'clock, Bed Check Charlie would be out riding around, and I could not stay in my
bed sack I'd get so nervous. My buddies, I'd be getting up, they said, What are
you getting up for? I'd say, I don't know. I can't stay in this bed sack. Bed Check
Charlie's worrying me to death. He said, You know that plane has got to be at a
certain place up there if he drops a bomb to hit you. I said, I know that but I don't
know when he's in that certain place, and I got to get up. I'd get up, put my shoes
and get outside and I don't know what I'd do, but I couldn't stay in the bed sack.

P: Just lack of control of your environment. At least when you're up walking around,
of course, you could get up and walk into where he was dropping the bomb. That









WWllII-29, Clayton, Page 25


probably happened to some people. Other than say, the B-17 bombers, did you
ever come close to getting killed?

C: I guess so. I remember one time we had moved at night to this place. It was
along a deep ravine, and we had moved in at night. They said you put your gun
here and you stagger. We got our gun set up and everything, and we were just
out in the open terrain. We hadn't got our gun set up good 'till we heard one
airplane coming, Bed Check Charlie. He came right toward us, you could tell he
was coming directly toward us. When he got out there three or four miles [away],
he backed off to his right and made a circle and came around and got lined up
with us. He dropped four bombs. The first one almost got number one gun, the
second one was off a little bit more, the third a little bit more, and the fourth a little
bit more. If he'd have been twisted just a little bit, he would have wiped us out,
everyone one of them. He had them spaced just right.

P: That's the random violence of war.

C: Somebody, when we turned off that road, saw us and saw what they done and
sent that information to the Air Force and here they come. This was at night.
Nobody could see you, unless you had to be right there. That was close, and we
had two or three close encounters with bombing. We were bombed several
times.

P: Did you always expect that you were going survive the war?

C: I had that belief. I made the remark, when I got on that ship in New York, that I
had a round-trip ticket. I believed I was gonna survive. I believe you've gotta
have confidence in your Maker, if you want to be that way, and I believe that.

P: Some soldiers were pretty superstitious. The longer the war went on and they
hadn't gotten hurt, they were really nervous because they thought that their time
would be up. Some people were kind of fatalistic about it. So many people were
dying they thought well, it'd be my turn.

C: This one boy that wouldn't dig a hole, he said, If it's got your name on it, it'll come
in that hole and get you. I said, "Yeah, but the Lord give me enough sense to dig
one to try and protect myself.

P: Well, you should do everything you can. If you leave it to chance, of course, you
might be lucky, but you might not. It's better to have protection than luck.

C: This old boy was lucky he never got hit. He went back home, he was from Iowa,
and was killed in a car wreck.


P: Amazing. What about the status of segregation in the military?









WWllII-29, Clayton, Page 26


C: We was segregated. After the war was over and I was on my way home, I was in
a group of men that was discharged under the point system. Men from, I don't
know where all [of them] came together, maybe fifty of us in a group and
somebody [was] in charge. We had two or three black boys in our group. That
was the first integration that I [had] seen in the military.

P: But not while you were fighting in the battle zone?

C: No, not while we were fighting.

P: You ended up in Czechoslovakia, near Pilsen?

C: Right.

P: What did you do at that portion of the war?

C: A while before the war was over, our officer and some sergeants found some
schnapps in a warehouse somewhere. I don't know where they got it, but they
got a good bit of it. The lieutenant had a six by six truck that was where he
carried his equipment, and he had a lockbox on there. They got, I don't know
how much of this schnapps, and put it in this box and locked it up. He made the
remark, ain't nobody getting none of this whiskey 'till the day the war's over. He
says when the war's over, I'll unlock it and we'll celebrate, and that he did. Of
course, this was in Czechoslovakia. I guess we all got pretty well lit up.

After the war we really didn't do anything. We kept our gun clean and we stayed
in houses, not necessarily in beds, but we had a roof over us. The people in this
little town of, I think they call it Pilsen, really enjoyed us. They gave us a party
every Saturday night down at the town hall. Of course, they didn't have much to
eat, but they shared what they had. We had more to eat than they did. They
danced and they had on their native costumes and all this, and we had a good
time. They showed you a good time. This one girl I showed you a picture of, she
was a good-looking girl, and of course everybody wanted to, but to my
knowledge nobody did. That included me.

P: When and how did you find out about the end of the war?

C: How did we find out?

P: Yes.

C: I don' t know whether I can tell you or not.


P: Was there a general announcement or just a rumor?









WWllII-29, Clayton, Page 27


C: Yes, well, we knew.

P: You knew it was close.

C: Yes. We knew it was close. The word got to us that the war was over maybe on
the [May] 6th or 7th, but it wasn't officially over until May 8. Of course, that's
when we had the celebration.

P: At that point did you expect to come back to the States or did you expect to be
sent to the Pacific?

C: Like I said, I was discharged on the point system, and I knew that I was coming
right to the States coming home. People with less points, I don't remember what
the break-off point was, was coming back to the States for maybe thirty days,
and then on to the Pacific. The group I was with was coming home to be
discharged, and we were France, when they dropped that [atomic] bomb
[August 6, 1945]. I showed you the Stars and Stripes [World War II newspaper
that was circulated and published by the military].

P: Right.

C: We went to Le Havre and one of the cigarette camps. We were in Camp Wings,
and there's two halves to the camp. We had one half and a tank destroyer outfit
had the other half. They were scheduled to catch the next ship to come back to
the States, and then on to Japan, or wherever. They changed all that. We caught
their ship, and they had to stay until, I don't know when they got back home.
They didn't like that. They wanted to get back home.

P: Everybody wanted to be home. Where did you come in to?

C: Boston.

P: How long did it take you to be completely discharged and get home?

C: I sailed from Le Havre on September 7th.

P: That was pretty early.

C: I landed in Boston on the 14th. I was discharged from Fort MacPherson, Georgia,
on September 21 st.

P: That's pretty fast. You got home ahead of a lot of other troops.


C: Yes.









WWllII-29, Clayton, Page 28


P: How did you feel about your experience in World War II?

C: I wouldn't take anything for my experience, but I don't want to do it again.

P: Nobody does. How did it impact your life, do you think?

C: I guess I grew up. I was only nineteen when I went in. I hadn't finished school. I
dropped out. By the way, I got my [high school] diploma last year.

P: You told me that.

C: I come home and laid around, and I said I'm gonna lay around for a month and
do nothing, spend this mustering out pay. A friend of mine had health problems,
and he was an electrician for the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company. The
doctor advised him to go to south Florida to get out of the cold weather. He had
come home for Christmas to get his wife and little girl. He got after me to go back
with him. He said you ain't doing nothing here. I've got a house ready, it's got
plenty of room, come on let's go. So I got my two pair of underwear and a pair of
pants, and away I went. He had rented this house in a little place they call Lake
Harbor, Florida, which is on the south side of Lake Okeechobee. They were
building an ice plant there, a big, hundred and fifty-ton ice plant. We both got jobs
at the ice plant [doing] construction. When it got warmer, he had to go back to his
job in Gadsden, and I stayed on. I got in pretty tight with the powers to be. They
liked me for some reason or other, and I stayed with the company six years. I got
blowed up one day and quit. My boss-man worked on a little while longer, and he
blowed up and quit. He went to work for Anheuser-Busch, and we was in Miami
at the time. He went to work for Anheuser-Busch as a refrigeration engineer. I
went back to Alabama and got a job with the Southern Railroad as a
communication man. They sent me to Lake City, Florida. I got sick, and
somebody said I went to Lake Shore Hospital, which was a civilian hospital, and
an old boy there said you need to go to the VA. I said VA, what's that? He said
that's a hospital here, but it won't cost you anything. I said well, that's the place
for me, I don't have any money anyway. I toughed it out till daylight and went to
the VA. They took me in and examined me, and I met my wife. Four months later
we was married, and that's been fifty-three years ago.

P: You worked at the VA eventually?

C: I eventually quit the railroad three years later. I quit the railroad, and with her
help, and with what little I know, got a job at the VA. I worked twenty four years
there.

P: That was good that Veterans end up working in the Veteran's Administration,
wasn't it?









WWllII-29, Clayton, Page 29


C: Yes.

P: Tom Brokow said about your generation, you were the "greatest generation."
What is your reaction to that?

C: I think he might be right. I saw Tom in New Orleans one year. He dedicated that
museum [National D-Day Museum in New Orleans].

P: Yes.

C: Tom and what was the other guy's name?

P: Tom Hanks was there, Brokaw, Steven Spielberg.

C: The other man that initiated it, what was his name?

P: Steve Ambrose.

C: Yes. He was there.

P: Talk about your visit last year back to Normandy for the anniversary of D-Day.
Why did you decide to go, and what was that experience like?

C: As you know, I belong to this D-Day club, and through our administrator he's
been in touch with some people from the 29th Division. They had a group to go
and they had some vacancies. I talked to my wife about it, and I felt that we was
in good enough health and financially able to go, and I would like to go. She said,
Well, you think you can make it. And I said, Yeah, I think I can make it. We began
to make preparations to go. I'm not sorry I went, but being with the 29th Division,
they went the way that they did from D-Day. They took their course, and we went
to their little towns and crossroads where they fought. I never went to one where I
was. That's the only thing that I didn't like about it. We was gone from early to
late every day, didn't hardly rest. The French need to go a long ways in their
hotel and motel accommodations.

P: Did you run into any of your old buddies?

C: Never saw one, not one. And I looked. We all got old, and I might have seen one
but didn't recognize him or something. I'd be looking for a man that's twenty-two
or twenty-three years old, and it's been sixty years.

P: Sure. People change.


C: I never seen anybody that I thought I knew.









WWllII-29, Clayton, Page 30


P: What was your reaction to the whole ceremony when President Bush was there
and they were honoring all the troops.

C: My reaction to that, I was disappointed in the seating arrangement that they had
at the speaking. We were there to celebrate D-Day, the men that did this. That
was my thinking. There was a bunch of politicians that came with the President
and his group. From the podium where they spoke, the first group of men was
the politicians. The next group, which you was back aways, was the men of D-
Day. I didn't like that. I thought one time I would compose a letter if I could and
send it to the President. Of course, he probably never would have saw it. I
thought about doing it, but I never did. The men that did the D-Day--that survived
D-Day--should have been the first group.

P: Absolutely. No question about it. That's what it was about.

C: Right. The politicians should have been out yonder in Timbuktu, but they were
first.

P: Do you think the American people understand the sacrifice that American troops
made in World War II?

C: I'm sure some do, but some don't. Just like at the VA. You go in there and
they've got Cubans and Puerto Ricans, and other nationalities; they have got
Indians that are doctors. In my experience, they, I don't know, are not
considerate of us GIs, or soldier GIs. I told one of the Cuban doctors one day, I
said, if it wasn't for men like me you wouldn't have a job. He couldn't speak
English hardly. They could make you so mad you could spit. When I went to the
VA, they was all Americans, white doctors, and was considerate of their patients.
Some of them would go that extra mile to try to help you. For instance, today I
went to see a doctor. She never touched me, she never listened to my heart, she
never done nothing accept talk to me a little bit, says, you're free to go.

P: Is there anything that we haven't talked about that you'd like to talk about you
think you want to bring up?

C: It seems like we pretty well covered it.

P: On that note I want to end the interview, and thanks very much for your time.


[End of Interview.]




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