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Interview with Thomas Hickman [Undated]

Thomas Healy:

This isn't going to hurt at all. It's going to be pretty much straightforward. And we can start. Are we okay?

Unidentified Speaker:

Yeah.

Thomas Healy:

Okay. Just state your whole name and spell your last name.

Thomas Hickman:

Okay.

Thomas Healy:

Go ahead.

Thomas Hickman:

Thomas W. Hickman, H-I-C-K-M-A-N.

Thomas Healy:

Okay. Did your family have a business down here?

Thomas Hickman:

There is a lot of Hickmans in here.

Thomas Healy:

A lot of-- In fact, the last guy that left, well, maybe it was his wife ____+.

Thomas Hickman:

Hickman is a very common name down here.

Thomas Healy:

That's what it was. Now, I'm going to ask you, now, when you see the final cut of this, the only thing people are going to see is you and your voice. They are not going to hear what I'm asking at all.

Thomas Hickman:

Okay.

Thomas Healy:

Okay. So when I ask you a question, try to get that question in there someplace so people know really what the question was or what you are really talking about.

Thomas Hickman:

Okay.

Thomas Healy:

So I'm going to -- there's -- the three first questions are where did you grow up, who were your parents and what did they do, and if you had any brothers or sisters and who they were. And you can just tell me a whole story about that, so you don't need to answer each one at a time.

Thomas Hickman:

I grew up in Philadelphia, and I have two brothers and one sister. And I lived there until I went in the Army and then came down here.

Thomas Healy:

What did your -- what did your -- what did your -- who were your parents and what did they--

Thomas Hickman:

Oh, okay. My father was Thomas W. Hickman, Sr., and my mother was Mae Morgan. Of course, she would be Mae Morgan Hickman, but that was her maiden name.

Thomas Healy:

And what did your dad do?

Thomas Hickman:

Well, he left down -- he was from down here, and he left during the height of the depression to go up there and just get a job, and he just got a job shoveling coal out of a railroad car, but he stayed there, and they eventually moved up, not that he owned a business, but he had a much better job by the time he stopped.

Thomas Healy:

Okay. Tell me a little bit from there of how you grew up as far as -- when were you born?

Thomas Hickman:

January 14th, 1922.

Thomas Healy:

Okay. So tell me a little bit about -- well, let me ask you a question first about Pearl Harbor. Do you remember, and I want you to say "December 7th, 1941, I remember because I was here or I was there." So go ahead and just--

Thomas Hickman:

December 7th, 1941, I remember very well. I was -- excuse me -- I guess a first semester student at West Chester State -- what was then West Chester State Teacher's College, and it was big news because, well, we were all the right age, but it was -- instead of being a terrible thing, it wasn't looked at that way. It was looked at as the beginning of a great crusade or something, I mean. It was really ridiculous. We had a parade with broomsticks and stuff like that, and everybody thought this is going to be great, but we found out that it wasn't great.

Thomas Healy:

Did -- do you remember -- do you remember when you heard about it and where you were when you heard about it?

Thomas Hickman:

Well, I was right there at West Chester. I was -- as I recall, it was midafternoon when I heard it.

Thomas Healy:

Did you even know what Pearl Harbor was?

Thomas Hickman:

Not really. I think I learned about it after, you know. I don't -- when the news hit, it didn't bother me as much then as it does now. So it was -- it was a rather peculiar situation, but, of course, we weren't in the war and -- at least the people I associated with. Just weren't -- you know, it was somebody else's war, but all of a sudden it became ours, that's all.

Thomas Healy:

Okay. So that was December '41. You were still in -- you were at college at West Chester, and then just go on, take me through college and then why did you go in, how did you go in, where did you go in. Take me out to before you went overseas, basically, from college.

Thomas Hickman:

Well, shortly after Pearl Harbor I began to think that maybe it was serious, and I was -- I enlisted, and that in itself was a long story. Another fella and I from West Chester, we went down to the Customs House in Philadelphia, and we enlisted, and we came back, and they said you will be called in a couple weeks, and we weren't called. And we went back again, went through the whole process again. They said, well, you will be called in two or three weeks. We went back, and we weren't. So we went back a third time, and we didn't get anymore satisfaction, and we left there and we hitchhiked to Baltimore to the Third Service Command. And we got down there and told them what the story was, and the guy said, "Well, you are damn fools." He said, "The draft board has released you, and there is no record here. I mean, you don't exist. Go on home." But we didn't want to go home, so we enlisted right there, and I can remember we were happy. We danced around there. Great, you know, we're in here. I thought of it a lot of times in later years, but that's the way it was.

Thomas Healy:

So then you were involved -- did you finish school? I mean, did you have -- I mean, from what I have learned of these interviews, the colleges were on sort of a year program. I mean, there was sort of a quick deal, like you had three semesters within one year. Did you finish up any earlier, or did you just leave?

Thomas Hickman:

No, I didn't finish any earlier. I just left college when -- after that and went in the Army.

Thomas Healy:

And where did you start from? Tell me all that. You got ____+.

Thomas Hickman:

Went from New Cumberland to -- I mean, went from Philadelphia to New Cumberland, Pennsylvania. Went from New Cumberland to Camp Croft, South Carolina. From Camp South -- from Camp Croft, South Carolina, to Camp Pickett, Virginia. From Camp Pickett, Virginia, to, I guess, Myles Standish in Massachusetts, and then overseas, and we landed in Scotland. But we got on trains, and they took us to Wales, and I was in Wales for nine months rehearsing or preparing for the invasion. And it was very similar. I mean, we were -- we were getting ready for D-day. That's all there was to it.

Thomas Healy:

You didn't know that, though?

Thomas Hickman:

Well, I knew it in the latter stages, didn't know it in the beginning, but as time wore on and we did more and more things like that, it became pretty evident. And then I guess the latter part of May or maybe a little bit before, we moved out from where we were. We were at a place called Pencoed, which is near Swansea, and we went to -- we didn't go to South Hampton, but we went to a little place right close to South Hampton, the embarcation point. And we thought -- I mean, we knew then that the invasion was coming, and we thought that we were going, but all of a sudden, you know, the planes started going across, and they went across for 24 straight hours. You couldn't look up without seeing planes. But all of a sudden we realized that we weren't going, and the intelligent people, the older people, were tickled to death, but I was quite disappointed because I wanted to go, and my closest friend felt the same way, and we were -- we were real disappointed that we didn't go. But as it worked out, we were in reserve to the 29th Division, which took an awful bad beating at Omaha. And we got in there. I got enough combat to last most anybody for a lifetime. Without bragging I can say that I don't think you are going to find another man, period, not in Delaware, period, who has as much frontline combat as I did and came out alive. Now, you can find plenty of guys who will tell you they had a lot of combat, but I'm talking about combat in a line company with the infantry. I'm not talking about five, six miles back or 50 miles back. I'm talking about you are here, and the other guy is right there. And I did that for, oh, practically a year. And I was a scout, and there wasn't anybody in front of me but the other guys. So I got a good look at what war is like, and it's a nasty business, believe me.

Thomas Healy:

Now, I want to back you up for a second. Tell me about why did you go into the infantry? There has got to be some story about that.

Thomas Hickman:

I wanted to go in the infantry.

Thomas Healy:

You were in college.

Thomas Hickman:

Yeah.

Thomas Healy:

You were going to be a teacher?

Thomas Hickman:

Yeah. Coach. I wanted to be a coach.

Thomas Healy:

Coach. So you played football in high school. Where did you go to high school?

Thomas Hickman:

Springfield, Delaware County.

Thomas Healy:

I was arrested at Springfield High School one day.

Thomas Hickman:

At Springfield High School?

Thomas Healy:

Yes, I was. We went up to -- we went up to have a chat with a friend -- with a guy that was dating one of our guy's girlfriend's, and he found out about it, so we took off. In fact, that's a very funny story. That's how I got in the reserve, Navy Reserve.

Thomas Hickman:

Yeah.

Thomas Healy:

Because we came back, it was either -- we had to come up with a story because we got -- the police arrested us. We were held in a cell, you know, and they were just screwing with us, and off we went. But we had to come up with a story, so we went out to the Navy Reserve that night. And so it was Springfield High School.

Thomas Hickman:

Yeah, right.

Thomas Healy:

So, anyways, you went to Springfield High School. You were, like, football, basketball?

Thomas Hickman:

Yeah. Track.

Thomas Healy:

Athlete?

Thomas Hickman:

I was pretty active.

Thomas Healy:

So you really wanted to go into--

Thomas Hickman:

Well, when I went in, yeah, I wanted to go in. Actually, you know, we could have gone in the -- oh, they had a lot of programs, naval -- naval programs, and I can't think of the names of them now, but you could have stayed in college. In fact, I could have stayed at West Chester and got a commission and gone from there, or could have gone to -- if you were in the Navy Air Corps, preflight school in North Carolina, or what have you, and there were places like this all over. But I was young and stupid. I thought I wanted to go -- I thought I wanted combat, so I did. I mean, I didn't do that. I went specifically because I thought I wanted combat.

Thomas Healy:

Do they say -- does that follow the old line: You have to be careful what you wish for because you might get what you wish for?

Thomas Hickman:

Well, that's right. And what happened was when I went down to Camp Croft, at the end of my training, they did what they call fell out a certain number of people. They called out 10 people, and the rest of the people went in. And the first sergeant came out there and he said, "You guys are going to OCS." And I said, "I don't want to go to OCS," and I didn't, not because I was afraid of being an officer or anything, but because the -- all the fellas that I trained with were going to 45th Division, which was going to North Africa, and I didn't want to go to Fort Benning. I wanted to go to North Africa. I guess I'm not making myself look very smart. But, anyhow, he put me on permanent KP and permanent fireman for three months because I wouldn't go. And the fireman lasted till 2:30, and at 3:30 I started on KP, so I had a pretty rugged three months there. But then I was eventually sent to the 28th Division, which was the Pennsylvania National Guard, and a lot of those guys, you know, they were in the National Guard, and they were on maneuvers down in Virginia when Pearl Harbor started, and they went to bed as National Guardsmen, and they woke up as regular Army men because they federalized them overnight. But when I first got there, we walked in, there were about 10 guys, and I digress a little bit for a minute. I knew one other fella that was there, and he had entered the military the same day I did at New Cumberland, and we had gone through basic training together and all that, but he went to OCS. And we came back to Pickett, and the first sergeant -- there were about 10 of us -- the first sergeant said, Well, we need this, that, and the other. He said, "I don't know of anybody here wants to be a scout, do I?" That was the second big mistake I made. But I started on this other fella. I'm going to an Army reunion just next week, and he'll be there, and he stayed in, and he retired as a major general, and he didn't see nearly the combat I did, so I made a bad decision. But then, of course, we did more training at Pickett, maneuvers in West Virginia and so on, and then we shipped to -- we went over to Wales, and that in itself was a sort of strange thing. We left from Boston, and we went out one day, and we turned around and came back again in this troop ship, and all the old guys from Pennsylvania said, "I knew it. We are a white gloves outfit. We are going to Washington for guard duty. General Martin will never let us to go to combat." And Martin was -- he -- well, he was governor of Pennsylvania, but he was also a senator. He was a United States senator from Pennsylvania. So they were convinced we weren't, but we got on a train, and we rode for what seemed about five days. I don't know how long it was, but it was a long train ride through -- and it was almost all through forest, or the forest. And we dis -- we left -- got off the train about two o'clock in the morning, walked up the gangplank at Halifax, Canada, and got on the Aquitania, which at that time if it wasn't the largest ship afloat, it was one of the largest. And there were -- they had 11,000 troops on there at that time, and I was about six floors below the deck, and I never saw the ocean the whole time I went over. And, well, I didn't really care because we had two meals. It was a pretty ship. Mutton stew and hot tea, and I wasn't fond of either one, so I didn't -- I wasn't jumping around hollering how glad I was that I was there. But then when we got to Wales, Wales was great. We did a lot of hard training, but the people there were very friendly. I made a lot of friends there. And I had a background in Welsh, which was a little ridiculous. My mother's maiden name was Morgan, and the Morgans in Wales are like the Hickmans around here. And I kept writing home to my father and my sister trying to tell them that I was -- where I was so they could tell me where my great-grandparents had come from. But either I didn't do a very good job or they weren't as smart as I thought they were because we never got together. But when I got home, I was right there where my grandparents came from. I was, as I say, a little place called Pencoed, which was about 10 miles the other side of Swansea, and my grandparents, my great-grandparents were all born in Neath, which is right there by Swansea, so I could have seen them. I mean, I could have found the place where they were with no problem at all because as a scout we were -- we were trained, you know, you're -- I don't know how you say -- the eyes and ears of the infantry, basically. But we were freelancers, and we had a -- there was a staff sergeant in charge, and he and I were bosom buddies, and he was a free spirit. I mean, nothing bothered him. We could do what we wanted. And we were sent out every day on problems. You know, find the easiest way to so and so, you know. And you are doing this with a compass. You are not doing it with a map. All you have is a compass. I used to say when I was young and foolish after I got out, after I had had enough beer, that you are talking to the man that led the First Army across Europe without a map -- without a map or a compass. And that's really not too far wrong because when we went -- started across France, there were only -- there were six scouts in each battalion, and this battalion -- you know, we were talking about real combat. I'm not talking about way back there or anywhere but the line company because the war is where the infantry line companies are. Now, all the other guys are necessary. I'm not saying that. But the war is where the line companies are, and if they weren't there, they didn't find out what the war was like. But, anyhow, going across France we would be the guys that were in front of the main body of troops, and, you know, we are not dancing around playing music or anything, but we are in front of them to find out where the Germans were in that case. And in specific cases, one I can think of was in a place called Le Neubourg. This is all in Normandy. We were sent up there to find out where the Germans were, and, well, in this particular case I did a lousy job because the Germans were -- I didn't find any Germans, and I came back and told the colonel that there wasn't anybody up there. But there was somebody up there, and they had a man in the top of the church, the cupola, and he saw us, and he -- when we went back, he alerted them, and they got in the ditches on either side of the road, and when we came up there -- the rest of the people came up there, they just opened up the machine guns and everything else, and it was a bad scene, and it -- it was my fault. But I did get a little relief because I went back there 15 years ago, I guess, and retraced my steps, which I could do because I was the guy that was telling them where to go. I mean, I didn't have any credentials or anything, but that's what it amounted to. There was a colonel who would have been in charge of the battalion who happened to become lieutenant governor of Pennsylvania. You may have heard of him, Daniel B. Strickler. And, anyhow, he would tell us, one or two of us, because we would go by twos, what he wanted to see or what he wanted to know, and we would go up there, and if we didn't come back, he would know that they better be careful because we didn't come back. And I was extremely fortunate because we had 35 guys go through this thing, this section, which is -- six scouts were in, and I was the only one that came through. Everybody else was wiped out. So I was very lucky. They weren't all wiped out, but they were severely wounded or what have you. But, anyhow, the thing about this place I said, about Le Neubourg, when we went back up, I again was in front of everything, but I wasn't -- when I went the first time, it was like going by myself from here -- when I say "by myself," there were two of us on either side of the road -- going by myself from here to this next road down here that turns to the left, but this time since supposedly we told them everything was clear, I wasn't much further in front than, oh, I don't know, from here to that wall, I guess, a little more. And when they opened up with the machine guns and mortars and finally airplanes to strike the ditches, they killed a man that was behind me who happened to be a friend of mine. His name was Sergeant Pete Muto. And when I went back whenever it was, 15 years ago, I went to the cemetary in Normandy, and the very first grave that I came to was Sergeant Pete Muto. I mean, it was -- made the hair stand up on the back of your neck. It did that to me. But as a scout, well, going across France, you know, you were -- well, you were the first guys. There wasn't anybody in front of you.

Thomas Healy:

This is after D-day?

Thomas Hickman:

Yeah, this is Normandy.

Thomas Healy:

Okay. So after D-day?

Thomas Hickman:

Well, yeah. Yeah.

Thomas Healy:

Okay.

Thomas Hickman:

But it's the same thing.

Thomas Healy:

Did you go on the beach at Normandy -- I mean at D-day?

Thomas Hickman:

No. We were in reserve to the 29th. And when the 29th moved far enough ahead, then we came up and relieved them and--

Thomas Healy:

Now, how did you get there, LSTs, or, I mean, did you go on a--

Thomas Hickman:

An LST to an LCVP, which is a 21-man landing barge.

Thomas Healy:

So you hit the beach there, basically?

Thomas Hickman:

Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah.

Thomas Healy:

But there was -- I mean, it was already taken then, right? It was already--

Thomas Hickman:

Yeah, it was taken, but, you know, there were plenty of 29 guys laying around there. I mean, it was a bad scene. But then--

Thomas Healy:

That was D-plus?

Thomas Hickman:

Well, I don't know what the thing was. Everybody lost track of everything because we were just at embarcation point, and you didn't know what was going on.

Thomas Healy:

So, anyway, so you get up, so you are now going through France?

Thomas Hickman:

Yeah, we are going through France, St. Lo; and so on, you know. And I had a lot of exciting experiences. I couldn't begin to go into all of them, but there were a lot. Now, I did have another thing that happened in Belgium which might be interesting too. Again, I was a scout, and there were two of us, and we were about a half mile from a small town, and we were sent up to see what was in the town. And I was over here, and the other guy was over here on the other side of the road. There was a woods on both sides. And as we were going up there, concealed, of course. You know, you are not marching up there. You are creeping, crawling, doing whatever it takes. The other guy, who was just a new replacement -- and let me say now that if there was -- if there were any heroes in the war, it was the replacements in the infantry. Some of those guys didn't last -- I started to say five minutes. Some of them didn't last two minutes. I mean, that was hell. But, anyhow, he had just come in, and he stood up, and I saw him and I hollered, "Jim, get down." Before that happened, a sniper got him right between the eyes and down he went. Well, I couldn't go to him because I couldn't cross that road. I couldn't do anything. So I stayed low where I was, and about a half an hour, I guess, four nuns came down the road, and they picked this guy up that was dead and carried him back to this little town. And when they did that, I -- there wasn't anything I could do but try to crawl back to my outfit, which was a half mile back, I guess. But the next day we came up there-- Well, I told them, you know, that, obviously, somebody was in town there. So the next day we came up and had a -- what I guess the general public would call a battle skirmish with these people and cleared them out of town. But, again, as I say, since I was sort of a freelancer, I left the outfit as they kept going, and I went over to the church to the rectory, and I found one of these nuns, and, of course, I couldn't -- the only German or Flemish that I can speak you can't use in polite society. But, anyhow, I -- she knew what I wanted, and she took me, and here this -- here was this grave on the side of the church, right next to it. She said, "This is where your friend is." And, well, you know, I thought of that for 45 years or whatever, but there wasn't anything I could do about it. But when I went back, I found this town, which wasn't easy because, you know, we weren't going down a road. We were going through the woods and so on. And they had a small circle in the middle of the town, and when I came in there, well, I had a couple guys with me. I had my son with me. And as I tried to explain to the first person I met what happened, all these people started coming out, and they had surrounded -- they had the circle surrounded. And I honestly believed that they hadn't seen -- I started to say an American, but they probably hadn't seen an outsider since we were there. And I -- the adults, you know, you couldn't communicate with them, but the kids all speak English. Their English was as good as mine. So this one kid finally came along there, and I told him what I was looking for, and he passed this on to the guy over here, and this guy said to the other guy, and so on. They got down the line here, and all of a sudden this guy jumped up, he said, "James T. Kozey, Jr.," and talking about the hair standing up on the back of your neck. It stood up on the back of my neck then. And this was the guy's name. And this guy that -- I thought -- I said this old man -- this guy was seven years old at the time this happened. He witnessed the whole thing. They had taken the guy. When they buried the guy, they kept his dog tags, prayed for him every day -- or every Sunday in church, and so on. So, actually, he got a better deal in death than most of the other guys did, even though their cemetaries are beautiful. But this guy got a little more loving care, I imagine, than most of them did.

Thomas Healy:

So he was buried right there still to this day?

Thomas Hickman:

Yeah, he is still there. He is listed missing in action.

Thomas Healy:

Still?

Thomas Hickman:

Yeah, because they never found him, and I'm not going to tell them where he is.

Thomas Healy:

Really?

Thomas Hickman:

Yeah.

Thomas Healy:

We better take this out of the tape.

Thomas Hickman:

They'll have me in jail here.

Thomas Healy:

So how -- how did that work? Did they usually pick the bodies up and take them to -- I mean, how did that -- how does someone in the military -- like droves and droves and droves and droves of the crosses. Are they just the crosses, or is there actually anybody buried there, or is there--

Thomas Hickman:

Well, I don't know. I do know that -- well, you said the Bulge. I was right in the middle of the Bulge. Couldn't see anything more of it than I did, but the Bulge wasn't the worst thing I saw. The worst place I was was Hurtgen Forest, and we just -- we were slaughtered, and not only us, they sent a couple other divisions in there, and they were slaughtered. But when I left Hurtgen Forest, you couldn't have stepped -- you couldn't have stepped in any direction without stepping on a dead American or a dead German or at least a piece of equipment. You just couldn't have done it. And they -- I don't know if you want this in there or not, but we went back -- we went to Hurtgen Forest, and then we -- the breakthrough was supposed to be a rest area. See, that's where we were sent supposedly to rest and regroup, but it didn't work that way. But we went back up there. Well, I was in there in November, and we went back, I suppose, in March, and those bodies were still there stacked up like cordwood as high as two men could put them and as far as your eye could see, just frozen corpses. And the cemetaries are beautiful, but, you know, I -- I myself -- and you can take all this out, can you?

Thomas Healy:

Yeah, but it's--

Thomas Hickman:

If I had -- if I had -- well, I had a son in Vietnam, but if he had been killed like that, he'd still be in Vietnam. I would never try to bring him home because I don't think -- well, I know that you can't -- you know, human bodies are like dogs or cats or anything else. You leave them out in the sun like they were in France, and they rot. Buzzards and everything else. When they are frozen when they are killed in the wintertime and they can't move them, see, if you are moving like we were moving across France, they can pick them up, you know, and take them back maybe for a decent burial. But when you are in a place like Hurtgen Forest and you don't move -- and we didn't move. We attacked every day for 21 days, and I don't think we went from here to the wall. When you don't move, the guys die, they just lay there. It got cold enough so that most of them were preserved, but -- well, I hope I'm not -- I shouldn't have said this, but I hope I'm not telling you anything where you had anybody close that was there.

Thomas Healy:

No.

Thomas Hickman:

It's a bad scene, believe me. I mean, they have a -- what they call--

Thomas Healy:

A unit that--

Thomas Hickman:

Yeah, there is a special unit, and I can't think of it.

Thomas Healy:

Graves and--

Thomas Hickman:

Graves Registration.

Thomas Healy:

Right.

Thomas Hickman:

Yeah, they come and pick them up, but they can't pick them up when you are still there. They don't come up there then.

Thomas Healy:

[Interview interrupted by a message regarding next interview.] Okay. We'll be a few minutes. Thanks.

Thomas Hickman:

They can't pick them up when you are in a stationery, a static position. They can pick them up when you are moving, see, but many times you are not moving, you know.

Thomas Healy:

Did the other side have their graves and registration or--

Thomas Hickman:

I guess they had the same thing. Now, I don't know much about that except at Hurtgen I know when I went back -- well, I got two stories there. When I went back to Hurtgen -- well, first of all -- oh, I'm getting tangled here. I took my son and a -- my -- a good friend of mine who lost a leg in Guam and another young fella that had all the money. I mean, he -- he took us. And, anyhow, they wanted -- they wanted -- I -- the only way I wanted to go back was to retrace my steps, start in Omaha and go, and I could do it because I -- you know, the average guy wouldn't know where we were, but I knew where we were. Because the night before if you were stopped -- you are in a hole, but you got -- you look at the map with a flashlight or something so you can see, but you can't take the map with you. The only thing you got with you is a compass, I mean, to help where you are going. But I knew where we had been, so I wanted to go back exactly where we had been, and I was able to do that, but somewhere -- I don't know where I was now. But, anyhow, at Hurtgen we didn't go anywhere, and everything laid there. And maybe I will come back to that. We went down to the Bulge. They sent us down there, and, well, of course, at Hurtgen it was not only the battle, it was trench foot because, you know -- and this is -- this is the hell of the infantry. I went that whole year, I didn't have a bath. I don't think I combed my hair. Well, I didn't have a comb. Didn't brush my teeth. I never slept inside, and that was a cold winter. Believe me, that was a cold winter. And food-wise, we lived on K rations. I don't know if you've ever seen one.

Thomas Healy:

No.

Thomas Hickman:

But what would happen is that somewhere between the port and when it got up where we were, all the cured pork and all the bacon and eggs and all the coffee would be out. It seems unbelievable, but basically all winter anybody that was there any length of time, you lived on lemonade and cheese, and that's all you got. I mean, the other stuff wasn't there. No coffee, you know. But, in retrospect, it wasn't too bad because you were scared shitless, and the cheese kept you bound up. {Laughter.} But, anyhow, when the Bulge came, we were in a place called Diekirch, which is right around the Our River but in Luxembourg, and we had an OP. Now, when we were in a stationery position, the scouts would have an OP, an observation post, and we had an observation post up there, and you could see and we could hear -- you couldn't see all the time because it was foggy coming up from the water, but we could hear the Germans coming in. You could hear the trains coming in. You could hear the guys getting instructions and everything else. And we -- we watched that for three or four days. And we went back, and every night -- and every time when we went back, because this was supposed to be a rest area, it was 12 hours up there and 12 hours back where it was a little safer, we told them the Germans are getting ready for an attack. They are amassing their troops and everything, and they wouldn't believe us. And finally the man directly in charge of us, the battalion commander, thought, well, you know, I know a couple of these guys, and they are pretty reliable, I will send it back. It went all the way back to SHAFE headquarters, and the answer was "Impossible. They are not strong enough to do it." Well, they were strong enough to do it, but if they had listened to us, we would have been a little prepared, but they didn't listen to us. And when they hit -- it's always amazed me. In this town of Diekirch when they started to shell, they only shelled five places. They shelled the -- the four company headquarters command post and the battalion command post. They never hit another thing in that town, and the reason they didn't is because they had some real inside information. They knew exactly what they were going to do, and they did it. And the Bulge was a bad scene, but, like I say, nothing that I saw compares with Hurtgen. That's all there was to it. And in the Bulge it was cold. I mean -- well, it was cold in Hurtgen, but, you know, there was snow up to your belly button all through the Bulge.

Thomas Healy:

One of the guys who was just -- was talking to us said that it was probably -- it's on record someplace that it was probably the worst winter ever in their history.

Thomas Hickman:

I have read that, yeah. And if you are outside all the time, it's cold, believe me, because all -- I had a field jacket. And another thing, you know, I didn't tell you this, but when we were in Hurtgen, we had a forward observer. The artillery has forward observers, and those guys are every bit as much combat men as the guys in the infantry because he's right there. You know, if your line is going across here, he's in a hole here, and there's an infantryman here and an infantryman there, but this guy's in the artillery, but he is directing the fire. And we had a guy named Captain Lynch, and he was a great guy, and he stayed there, and he should have been evacuated because he got trench foot, and he didn't. He wouldn't let them -- he wouldn't go back because he knew if he left there wasn't going to be anything at all for us. He was the only thing keeping us alive. And when he went back, he lost his -- he might have -- he might have lost both feet. I don't know. But I know he lost one foot, and he got a -- he didn't get a dishonorable discharge. He got a discharge without honor because he didn't change his shoes and socks every day. I never had any shoes and socks to change, but I think that's indicative of what I have tried to say. The infantry -- the line companies in the infantry, it's another world. The generals probably -- Eisenhower didn't know. He had never been there. I mean, you know, I'm not criticizing him. He did a good job running the war, but most of the generals don't -- or anybody that hadn't been there doesn't understand what happens. But here they took this guy's foot off, and he should have gotten a medal of honor because he saved a lot of lives by staying there, but, unfortunately, that's what happens. And after the war Strickler became the adjutant general. And another very good friend of mine, who lost both legs, became a United States senator from Michigan, and they tried to open this up, but they couldn't do anything. They couldn't do anything at all for -- to alter what happened. And then I guess after the Bulge -- and, incidentally, where I was, the part of the 28th Division that I was in, we never got back as far as Bastogne. Bastogne gets all the -- all the ink, and, undoubtedly, those guys did a good job of holding it, but we were still in front of them. I mean, we never got back that far. But they sent us down to a place called Colmar in the southern part of France. I guess it's the Alsace. And it was cold there. I mean, it was bitter cold there, even colder than the Bulge. Ground frozen so solid you couldn't dig holes, couldn't do anything. And they had to get Moroccans to come in there with mules to haul supplies and all. Couldn't do anything. But an ironic thing that -- I don't know whether you can understand what I'm trying to say, but we finally -- we took Colmar, but before we did, the -- I guess it was the night we took it, and the Germans had retreated a little bit, and this staff sergeant that I'm talking about, this buddy of mine who was a free spirit, he said -- he called me "Sack." He said, "Sack, you know, we better go into Colmar and make sure everything's okay." I mean, this is strictly -- nobody has told him this. So we went in there, and, of course, already they had a few places with signs on them "Officers only, no enlisted men" or anything, and we are looking in this cafe, and there are two guys sitting over here, and they looked at each other, and they got up, and they walked out to us, and they never said a word. And the one guy was a captain, the other was a first lieutenant. The first lieutenant is the guy that I said lost both legs, the senator from Michigan. Anyhow, I don't know what I became, but one of us became a captain, and one of us became a first lieutenant. "Come on back in," so we went back in, sat down, and there was a colonel over here in the corner. And after we had been there just a couple minutes, he came over and he said, "I would like to see your ID cards" to the two of us. And this one guy, Max Whitetree, was a big Indian. I mean, he was big in those days. He wouldn't be so big today. He was six three, 220 or 30. He took this colonel, and he picked him up and held him out here. He said, "Look, you back ass son of a bitch, go back there and sit in that corner. These are the guys that are fighting your war, and I don't want to hear anymore from you." Of course, we were messing in our pants, but the guy went back and sat there. He didn't do anything. So that's how I got my commission in the field. But the thing is that we went through Colmar, and we went on out -- Colmar wasn't too far from the Rhine, 20 miles, I guess. And we went out there, and I didn't know until I read a book 10 years ago that there had been a parade in Colmar, but the line companies weren't parading. These were all guys that came up from the rear that got all the credit. They're the guys that get all the booze and all the girls and everything else, not the guys in the line companies. But if you look at casualties, you can't believe what the casualty rate is in a line company. You just can't believe it. I read somewhere that of all the casualties -- that 14 percent of the casualties in World War II were infantry. No. Fourteen percent of the Army was infantry. Eighty-seven percent of the casualties were infantry. And that's line company, you know. And, you know, everything I said, I keep saying line company. I'm talking about right there where the next guy is. Everything else is behind you.

Thomas Healy:

Were the airborne, the paratroopers, were they line?

Thomas Hickman:

No. No. The air corps, sure, they -- I wouldn't want to be shot out up there either.

Thomas Healy:

No, no. I'm talking about the paratroopers, the 101st that jumped in, are they-- [Talking over each other.]

Thomas Hickman:

Well, yeah. Well, sure, they became line companies guys, yeah, sure. The only difference in them was that they went out to jump another day if they lived, you know. I don't know that -- that wasn't a good thing. I'm not saying -- I don't mean to imply--

Thomas Healy:

No, no.

Thomas Hickman:

--that nobody else did anything, no, no, no.

Thomas Healy:

No, I understand. Just for my understanding. That's all.

Thomas Hickman:

But the trouble, like I say, if there's a real replacement in the war, and somebody ought to do this, is to -- I mean, if there is a real hero, it's the replacement, because he comes in there, you know, he doesn't know a soul. And I have taken guys from Hurtgen. Because when we were stopped, one of my jobs would be to go back and get replacements and bring them up. I would bring them up, and you are the colonel -- or not the colonel, the sergeant or the corporal or something, and I give you this guy. And you take this guy over, and you put him in this hole, and you say, "The Germans are out there. We are jumping off at daybreak" or something like that. He doesn't know the guy over here. He doesn't know the guy over here. He can't see 10 feet in front of him. Stands up in the morning, he is probably dead. And it's that brutal and that simple. Even though I went the whole nine yards, and, like I say, I don't think you will find anybody that had anymore actual combat than I did. They will say they had combat, but check them and see if they were in a line company. If they weren't, they don't know what combat is. But, you know, at least I knew some guys when they went in there, you know. And even though most of them were gone, I still was sort of secure. It was my outfit. I had a guy from New Jersey call me not too long ago and ask me about -- he said, "Have you been in Hurtgen?" In fact, I have had a number of calls from that. I guess it's the Internet. I don't know. And I told him I had been, and he said his father was killed -- well, he told me when his father was killed, November 11th, 1944, and I knew where we were then, so I told him that. And I looked it up later. I took his father in there on the night of the 10th and put him in there, and he was killed on the 11th, and he was probably killed the first thing in the morning. He didn't even know what outfit he was in. He didn't know he was in the 28th Division. He didn't know anything. And this is -- you know, it would be scary and terrifying enough if you walked through that woods because this was -- Hurtgen was a big woods, a gigantic woods, fir trees. You couldn't see a thing in there when we went in there. And he -- he didn't last a day, and a lot of guys didn't last a day, you know. It just -- it's hell, war is, you know.

Thomas Healy:

Did you -- were you injured?

Thomas Hickman:

Yeah. Yeah, I got a couple ____, but fortunately not enough to make me so I'm a hopeless cripple now.

Thomas Healy:

Did you get a purple heart?

Thomas Hickman:

Yeah. Yeah, I got a few medals.

Thomas Healy:

Let's see--

Thomas Hickman:

I got a silver star. I got two bronze stars. I got the French Croix de guerre. But the best one of all is the combat infantry badge. They ruined it later on, but when it was originally put out, you had to be a combat infantryman. But they diluted it by letting a lot of other -- ____ it for the backs. Even if you were 50 miles back you could probably get a combat infantry badge.

Thomas Healy:

What was -- what was -- I see about the victory parade down in Champs Elysees in Paris.

Thomas Hickman:

Yeah.

Thomas Healy:

Okay. So we're okay. Let's keep on going. We passed the Bulge, the Hurtgen--

Thomas Hickman:

Hurtgen.

Thomas Healy:

--or the Hurtgen Forest was after the Bulge.

Thomas Hickman:

No. Hurtgen was before the Bulge.

Thomas Healy:

Before the Bulge. Then the Bulge.

Thomas Hickman:

The parade in Paris was before Hurtgen.

Thomas Healy:

Oh, it was?

Thomas Hickman:

Yeah, yeah. The parade in Paris was August.

Thomas Healy:

Before -- before they marched into Germany, basically?

Thomas Hickman:

Oh, yeah. Hell, yeah.

Thomas Healy:

Oh, okay. I learn something new every day.

Thomas Hickman:

Well, that was political, political good for me. But we had been fighting through Normandy, and we were about 50 miles north of Paris at a place called Evreux, and all of a sudden -- there was a river there, the Seine, I guess, and we were getting ready to cross it, and they changed it and sent us down to Paris, and we spent the night at Versailles, the palace, you know, and it poured rain, but everybody -- I said I didn't change my shoes and socks, but that's a lie because everybody got clean clothes. They were soaking wet, but we got clean clothes. And we paraded through Paris. I mean, I've got a picture, a blown-up picture of it. I know all the guys in the front line. And we got all the credit, but we didn't do it. I mean, we didn't take Paris. I don't think we fired a shot. That was just political. Somebody with enough politics to get the 28th Division in there did it. But it was quite an experience, believe me. I mean, it was an exciting time. But it was -- we just marched through and out and back into combat, that's all. I mean, we didn't -- I didn't -- well, some guys, in fact the guy right next to me got a bottle of booze, but that wasn't because he went in the store or something. That was because somebody standing over here on the side put it in his hand. But other than the thrill of the parade and seeing the -- well, I know de Gaulle was there and Bradley on the ____ stand. That, you know, it -- it wasn't any hardship for us. It was easy. I mean, we get the credit for it, but we didn't do anything.

Thomas Healy:

So now you go back -- I mean, you go through the Bulge -- now, were you into Belgium and then Germany? Did you end up -- how did you -- did you end up in Germany?

Thomas Hickman:

Yeah. But, see, you don't go straight. I went from -- well, Normandy's France. But we went through France. We went into Belgium, through Belgium into Luxembourg, and then into Germany, and that was a bad scene too that could have been corrected. When we got to Luxembourg, we kept on going until we got to the Our River, and another fella and I were sent across the river to find out what was over there, and what was over there was the Siegfried Line, but -- and the Siegfried Line was tough. You couldn't even see those pillboxes half the time. But we went through there and up the hill to a little town called Sevenich, and there wasn't anybody there except an old couple, and I took the man back to be interrogated, and he thought I was going to kill him. I met his son when I went back this time. But, anyhow, there wasn't anybody in the Siegfried Line, and we told them, come on, let's go. Now is the time to go. There's nobody there. We didn't. We sat there for three days. When we went, there was somebody in that Siegfried Line, and it was murder getting through there, and we just walked through there the first time. So there's -- there's a lot of foul-ups in the Army, but I guess they are honest, but they cost a lot of men's lives too.

Thomas Healy:

Did you get into Berlin?

Thomas Hickman:

No. Actually, my war basically ended when -- across the river, but that was about it. But that was about the end of the war, really. I mean, as far as casualties go.

Thomas Healy:

Is that where you got hurt?

Thomas Hickman:

No, no, no, no. I got hit at a place called Hellenthal, which was not too far in Germany. And I got hit at Hurtgen. I was just fortunate that I -- you know, the one time in Hurtgen, it was a stupid thing, stupid mistake on my part. I just had been issued a pair of spy glasses, and then I had to go up -- we were in a woods, and the battalion was on the reverse slope of the woods, and I was sent up to see, you know, what was up there when you got to the top of the hill, and I got to the top of the hill, and I'm in the edge of the woods, and like a jerk, I told myself before I did it, I said, don't put those glasses on, the sun is going to hit them and somebody is going to see them. But, you know, I was -- it was about the only new thing I saw in a year, and I put them up there, and I saw these Germans come out of this pillbox half a mile away, I guess, and they came out, and they set up a mortar. I saw them put the mortar in the tube. I heard the mortar go off, and the next thing I knew, I was flat on my back, and I -- well, I still got a little piece of shrapnel in there from that. But if I had had my chinstrap buckled, I wouldn't be here. I'd be dead. I would have gotten killed there. But fortunately I didn't have the chinstrap buckled, and I just got a little shrapnel, but I was very fortunate that I wasn't killed right there. I should have been. I mean, it was a dumb thing on my part, especially after having been there as long as I had been there.

Thomas Healy:

Uh-huh.

Thomas Hickman:

But getting back to the pillboxes a little bit, that was a well designed plan they had, you know, and those pillboxes were so camouflaged you couldn't even see them, and they covered each other. They had two pillboxes here and one here so that you couldn't walk in between there without getting shot. It was bad. But I want to tell you one other thing before I forget. You asked about the cemetaries. Well, when I went back, I wanted to go to a German cemetary in Bitburg because we had had quite a battle in Bitburg. And we were in -- we had been in a pub or a cafe, had a beer or what have you, and came out, and there was a guy there, and I asked this guy in my German where the German cemetary was, and he told me, and I started away. And he said, "When you are finished, come back here." So I went -- we went to the German cemetary and came back, and here this guy was there, and he said, "Come with me," or what have you, and he took us to his house, and his wife and daughter had laid out a -- with two tables about the, you know, the length of that thing there with all kinds of food on it and beer and wine and everything else. And, of course, they insisted that we stay there and eat and all that. And then one of my friends -- with the pillboxes, when we went back, most of them had been dynamited. You couldn't really see them. But he wanted to see a big pillbox, and I told this guy, and this guy said, okay, so he got his wife and his daughter and drove his car, and he took us about 25 miles to a place where they had a pillbox large enough for 280 men to live in. Had its own water supply. The railroad ran into it. Everything was -- you couldn't have had anything else. These big 240s, I guess, guns that they could rotate and shoot out there, and they are on the top of a hill, and when you are up there you can understand why you had trouble coming across there because they are looking right at you. But the thing I want to say is that this guy was a German soldier, and he had been -- you know, he had seen what the war was like, yet when we went back, he befriended us. And, to me, the moral of the story is people are people. I don't -- I make no bones about this war. I don't think we have any damn business there, and you can put that in there if you want. But if you just try to reason with people, you can do it. I mean, even the German prisoners that I came in contact, not all of them -- now, the SS guys were pretty tough customers, but a lot of these guys were young kids, younger than I were -- was.

Thomas Healy:

What -- what do you think history books have left out about World War II? That's a pretty general question.

Thomas Hickman:

Well, I think they left out the fact that the breakthrough should have never happened. I think they left out the fact that we could have gone into Germany with a lot less casualties if we would have gone when we first got there. I don't think you will find that written up too many places, but it's fact.

Thomas Healy:

You are saying going in earlier?

Thomas Hickman:

Well, I'm saying -- like I say, when we first got to the German border, which was the Our River, another scout and I were sent across the river to find out what was there, and there was a hill there, called a mountain here in Sussex County, but we went through there and up to this little town of Sevenich, and we had to go right through the Siegfried. It was all there. But there was nobody in there, and if we had kept going that day, we would have been through the Siegfried Line. We might have been stopped before we got to the Rhine, but it wouldn't have been by the Siegfried Line. As it was, we were stopped for five, six months because of it.

Thomas Healy:

Oh.

Thomas Hickman:

But we didn't have -- if we'd have gone, we could have gone right through it that day.

Thomas Healy:

What do you want generations to come and know and remember about World War II?

Thomas Hickman:

I just want people to know that war is hell. General Sherman was right. And I think that's -- one thing, I don't want America to be involved in a war that comes to our shores, but I think, and I thought before, you know, when everybody was calling France and Germany all those nasty names because they didn't want to jump into Iraq, they know what war is like. They weren't nearly as anxious to get in there as we were. And I don't think we'd be anxious to get in there if we really -- well, look at the civil war, look at the south. People complain about the south never getting over the civil war, but the civil war was in the south. That's why they didn't get over it. I'd just like people to realize there has got to be a better way than war. There has to be. That's all there is. You can't -- can't possibly justify. I could justify it if they attacked us and came over here and you are defending, but I can't justify it any other way.

Thomas Healy:

And this is a general message, whatever you want to say. What major message would you leave for the generations to come?

Thomas Hickman:

Well, basically the same thing, to try every method possible to avoid war. I mean, reason with people, you know, and I don't think we've done that. But, like I say, I found, now, not always, you know, I met some pretty nasty people there, but I also met some kids that were just as scared as I was because of the situation we were in who, you know, were -- well, I use the term good kids. I don't know that that's what I want to say, but they were just people. They were people just like the two of you, but the war throws you together and makes you hate everybody and try to do that. I just think we could do a better job -- we should -- well, not World War II because I don't think we had a great deal of choice. That's the difference. Now, I wonder about these guys today. It was bad enough in Vietnam, but I wonder about the guys that feel like I do about war that are over there now in Iraq. It never crossed my mind. Yes, I was miserable, and I cussed and did a lot of things condemning the people higher than me, but I never once doubted that we were doing the right thing. I mean, it never crossed my mind that we were wrong now.

Thomas Healy:

Don't you think those guys -- when I went through Vietnam, I wasn't an infantryman by any means, but I went through that whole era and was in where it was -- I wasn't drafted. I was -- went in only because of Springfield High School, but there are no draftees there now -- here now, and the guys that I've been around, he knows more about it than I do because he was over there, but the guys that I have been around, even from the Guard and stuff, are guys who are there because they want to be there. You know, it's like you ask these guys that have been hurt, been wounded in World War II that ____+, you ask them, and you go, "You could have gone home." "No, I didn't want to go home. I wanted to go back into the war." It's--

Thomas Hickman:

Well, right.

Thomas Healy:

I mean, don't you find that different than Vietnam or anything in between there?

Thomas Hickman:

Well, I do, but I also have learned in my old age that propaganda is a tremendous weapon. It all depends on who you ask.

Thomas Healy:

Uh-huh.

Thomas Hickman:

Now, I just read the other day that they are having trouble getting the reservists to go back that they furloughed to the United States. They don't want to -- they don't report back on time a lot of times. It's true in a sense they weren't drafted, but they really didn't -- the guardsmen or the reservists didn't expect to be where they are.

Thomas Healy:

Oh, no. I know that.

Thomas Hickman:

And I'm sure what you say is true. In fact, I've got a nephew who's there, and he feels that way, just like you are saying.

Thomas Healy:

Well, so many guardsmen, I went through that when I was -- I was regular Navy with -- I was regular Navy full-time, I mean when I was in, but I was in during the Pueblo Crisis too, right on the tail end of Vietnam or right towards the end. And when they called up a bunch of the Marine and Navy air fighter squadrons, reservists from Andrews, from Willow Grove, which I -- which they needed regular full-time guys to go and be with, which I did, and they were the whole Pennsylvania guys that had Schweicher then and all those guys, and they were ticked. Not the young guys. The young guys were -- but our -- our XO of the squadron -- our CO of the squadron was a vice president for IBM, fighter pilot.

Thomas Hickman:

Yeah.

Thomas Healy:

And it was like, What the hell am I doing here? Why am I here? Well, you know, it's not to just have good times flying up and down the east coast and going over to, you know, _____, and I think a lot of reservists have that, but the full-time guys that I know that have been in, the guys that are actually joined up and went, it's their career or whatever. I don't know whether it's that we're now playing real war. I mean, those guys just can't wait to get into it.

Thomas Hickman:

Yeah, well, I couldn't wait either.

Thomas Healy:

Now, would you -- that's your sort of final question. Would you do it all over?

Thomas Hickman:

Well, I might do it all over, but I wouldn't have been so anxious to not have -- I don't regret not having gone to OCS. In fact, I would have been better off -- I wouldn't have been better off. If I had been a second lieutenant in the infantry, I wouldn't be talking to you because they were expendable. I mean, they came and went just "schoo." But I -- I probably would have been a little more selective in what I did. I don't think I'd have volunteered to become a scout, and I don't think I -- I know I wouldn't have been nearly as anxious to get to combat as I was, you know. It only took me about two days to realize that I made a mistake there. So -- but as far as the cause goes, like I say, it never entered my mind that we weren't doing the right thing, you know. Of course, I was young, naive, I didn't realize that politics had a lot to do with war and stuff like that. But I think Vietnam and this war are different. They are with me anyhow. Maybe because of my own experiences, and I've got two grandchildren that are ready to go if they have a draft. I'm just a little more -- well, I guess, cynical or bitter, I don't know, but I'm -- I'm none too happy with -- I think we could do a better job than we're doing.

Thomas Healy:

You know, it's funny, after Vietnam, only because I was in and out of there maybe, it was like I always swore to God that my sons, and I have two of them, if -- now that wasn't until about a year after -- after I was out, and I was a photographer and -- for Associated Press, and I was going around to all these campuses and stuff, and I was involved with all these, and I was really -- I was really bothered because these kids were so stupid. They didn't understand what we were really doing over there and all that. I would say within a year I was photographing their side. I mean, it was like, oh, yeah, well, we were really stupid, and they were really stupid. And I always swore then after that, not whenever I got back, but that I would never send my kids -- if I take them -- I would drive them to Canada.

Thomas Hickman:

Yeah.

Thomas Healy:

This time -- I still have a 17-year-old, and my oldest son could probably get called up. He is in his late 30s, but my youngest son is, and I don't have that same feeling about -- about what's going on now. It's not that I want anybody to go to war, but I feel stronger. Maybe it's because of being involved with September 11th and the Pentagon and all that. Maybe that's -- you know, there is something there that I can still see and feel.

Thomas Hickman:

Well, I don't -- I don't see it there because I don't think -- the war in Iraq had little, if anything, to do with September 11th, you know. [Interruption.] If it -- you know, we were going to capture bin Laden two days after September 11th. We still don't have him because--

Thomas Healy:

When do you think we're going to have him? Are we going to have him, like, in October?

Thomas Hickman:

If they are going to have him, it's going to be before the election, yeah.

Thomas Healy:

Don't you think they've got him? Don't you think -- I mean, you were in. See, I just can't believe with all the counter-intelligence and intelligence and the cash and everything that's out there right now that they can't find a seven-foot tall Mideastern, if ever we want to call him that, unless he is sitting in the stands at the Lakers games out in L.A. or hanging around those guys playing basketball someplace. Where the hell is he?

Thomas Hickman:

Well, I--

Thomas Healy:

Is he dead?

Thomas Hickman:

I don't have -- no. I don't have a bit of trouble believing they can't find him, and I thought that way the night the President came on there and announced it or whatever, and he said we were going to have him right away. If you are in the infantry, you learn that it's not that simple. I mean, you just don't march down the road and knock on a door or knock the door down and catch the guy. And the same situation I think existed probably in Vietnam, and it exists now, I would guess. But I know as a scout if I was sent to the front entrance here--

Thomas Healy:

Right.

Thomas Hickman:

--and the people in this building were on the side of the Iraqis or the Vietnamese, and the people in those cars out there were on the -- well, we wouldn't even have to have those guys, but if they were on the -- their sides, there is no way in God's world I could go through there. But if the people here are sympathetic to my side, and the people there are sympathetic to my side, I could probably get through. I could probably get through if one side or the other was clear, but you can't do it when the whole -- there had to be, and there has to be in Iraq, I don't care what they tell me on television, a lot of those people have to be sympathetic. Have to be. That's all there is to it.

Thomas Healy:

You can talk to -- Paschal (ph) was a -- he was an insert cameraman over there for the first six months. Well, there's battles going on. It's just like I tell everybody, it's almost like Los Angeles. Like if we went -- if we went and attacked Los Angeles--

Thomas Hickman:

Yeah.

Thomas Healy:

--okay, you could go in and take the government of Los Angeles, the mayor and whatever else, but then you've got the street gangs, the east side guys, the west side guys that are still fighting within each other, and that's what you got going on there. You got a whole lot of stuff going on.

Thomas Hickman:

Well, that's why I think that bin Laden -- well, in the first place, with all those caves up there in the mountains, you can't walk up there. You are going to get shot there. You know, you are out -- you are out in the open, they are in concealment, and that's the same thing they had the other day -- you may have seen it on television -- these street fighting -- well, I knew when we went into wherever we were going and there was going to be street fighting, it was going to be hell because I had a little of that experience, and, you know, you can't see from here to that wall. The guy back there sees you, you are in trouble. The only good thing about Iraq from an infantryman's standpoint is they did not -- don't use much artillery or mortars, and that's where most of your casualties come. But, no, I don't think they have bin Laden. I think they are busting their ass to do everything they possibly can to get him before the election, and I don't blame them for that, but I don't -- I can easily understand how they don't have him.

Thomas Healy:

Of course, now the major -- the major domeaux of those guys now is that -- is that clown that's running around over there that's sacking people's heads off.

Thomas Hickman:

Yeah.

Thomas Healy:

You know, and I think the reason Blair wants them to contact him is so that they've got some sort of communication. Right now they are floating around from TV station to whatever to whatever to whatever doing this stuff, and it's just -- I don't know.

Thomas Hickman:

Well, the problem is even if we, you know, say we -- whatever means or way we successfully complete the war, there is going to be a civil war over there--

Thomas Healy:

Absolutely.

Thomas Hickman:

--whether we pull out anyhow.

Thomas Healy:

See, I contend they need to be more like the Romans, that the Romans -- if -- if the Romans -- if they were being screwed with, okay, let's go, send the troops out. They'd put acid or whatever the hell they did in the fields and the crops and the water wells and everything else, and they'd say, okay, we're leaving. Now, you either get your act straight now, but don't come back and see us again.

Thomas Hickman:

Yeah.

Thomas Healy:

And if they did, they'd kick their ass again.

Thomas Hickman:

Right.

Thomas Healy:

But it was like, boom, in, boom, out.

Thomas Hickman:

Sure. But, see, that's one of our problems. We don't have the -- another reason -- I didn't think we should have gone anyhow. I thought we were wrong. But we didn't have the manpower to go. What would happen if something happened in North Korea now? What are we going to do? We are stretched thinner than we need to be over there. I mean, we don't have enough guys in Iraq.

Thomas Healy:

Well, let me put it this way. The way I feel about it is, every fight that I ever started myself, I lost every fight. Every fight that I didn't start, I won.

Thomas Hickman:

Uh-huh.

Thomas Healy:

And that's what scares me about over there, and that's what I don't like. And like you say, if they're -- if they're rolling up our rivers and rolling up our shores, I'll be there, you'll be there, we'll all be there, but I think, though, from the patriotic standpoint, from World War II to September 11th, there wasn't really anything. I think that was the first big patriotic thing--

Thomas Hickman:

Yeah.

Thomas Healy:

--God forbid, but I think -- I mean, I can see -- it depends, you know, it depends, and it depends on what you watch and -- and -- and -- and what you are watching on TV now. That's the problem.

Thomas Hickman:

Yeah.

Thomas Healy:

But I was up in Gloucester, Massachusetts, 24,000 people that really haven't gotten out of the 1960s or 70s. I mean, you might have thought you went back to Main Street USA during World War II someplace. I mean, they're there, they're doing stuff. And I think that state -- that state's a lot different than Wilmington, Delaware --

Thomas Hickman:

Oh, yeah.

Thomas Healy:

-- with -- with -- with what goes on down here and behind your troops and whatever, and I think you get a lot of those little pockets, and you have TV telling you, no, this, that.

Thomas Hickman:

Well, the thing that bothers me is, you know, I'm -- I'm behind the troops. I mean, there's nobody that wants anybody killed less than I do because I know what it's like. I mean, I have been through it. But I don't like, and I don't consider it patriotic, I don't like the idea that I can't say anything without being a -- unpatriotic.

Thomas Healy:

Oh, yeah.

Thomas Hickman:

In fact--

Thomas Healy:

I mean, I think you -- but just the hour I have been with you, I think that you will probably say whatever you want to say, and I'm the same way.

Thomas Hickman:

Yeah.

Thomas Healy:

Now, one thing I didn't ask you, and we are still rolling, when you got back, where did you pick up your school? Did you pick up your school after that? Where did you move back to? What do you do -- you know, what did you do when you got back? Did you get married? How many kids did you have? That kind of stuff.

Thomas Hickman:

Well, I was -- I was lucky. When the war ended, you needed 85 points to get out, and I had 84. Well, the high point men were all married and had kids and all, and they should have gotten more points. I mean -- [phone ringing] -- I felt sorry for this guy. In fact, if I were ever a man in charge of a war and I could pick my own soldiers, they would all be under 20. I mean, they're the guys that were jerks like I was and wanted to go there. But, anyhow, I had 84 points, so I was sent out to Camp Lucky Strike in France, and from there sent back -- and this is early. This is August, and the war ended in May. And I was sent back to the United States, but I was sent back to go to Fort Rutger, Alabama, to train guys and lead them in the invasion of Japan. But I was fortunate. I got back, I suppose, the 10th or 11th of August, and -- well, I guess, no. I guess I got back on the 13th. Anyhow, I had a three-day delay en route from -- we landed at Orangeburg, New York, up the Hudson. I had a three-day delay en route to go from there to Fort Rutger. So, naturally, of course, it was train travel in those days, as you know, I stopped in Philadelphia, and I had had a girlfriend at West Chester, so -- and I went to her house and I -- I had been to her house, and I threw some pebbles up there, and they had changed bedrooms, and I woke her father up. But, anyhow, that was the 13th, I guess. The 14th, the -- V-J Day was -- I mean, the war in Japan ended. Well, I was still young and foolish in spite of all that combat. I better cut that out before my wife reads it. And, anyhow, we were married that day. And the reason we got married that day is because one of their very good friends had a pretty good job at City Hall, and he got -- ordinarily you had to wait three days, you know, for the thing, but, anyhow, he got the okay, and we were married 14th of August, 1945, I guess.

Thomas Healy:

Now, you had to have been communicating with her?

Thomas Hickman:

Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah.

Thomas Healy:

So you had her-- She was--

Thomas Hickman:

Yeah. Yeah.

Thomas Healy:

Okay. Well, I don't know. You could have done that.

Thomas Hickman:

Yeah. But then I went back to college. [Interruption.]

Unidentified Speaker:

Our next gentleman -- there is two gentlemen waiting now.

Thomas Healy:

Okay.

Unidentified Speaker:

I'm going to have one --

Thomas Healy:

One second. One second. One second.

Unidentified Speaker:

Are you still rolling?

Thomas Healy:

Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Unidentified Speaker:

Okay.

Thomas Hickman:

I went back to college and managed to get out -- well, I was a sophomore when I had gone in, and I -- there were -- I could have had some pretty good jobs. If you are familiar with Philadelphia, one I really would have liked to have kept was Gerard College, but I also had one at Northeast High School because a friend of mine knew a big honcho in the Philadelphia school system. In those days Philadelphia school system was a plum, you know. But there was no housing. You couldn't get a house to live in. And I came down here because the principal of the school that I ended up with promised me he would have a place for me to live. So I came down here, and I was going to stay a year, and by the day after I got started, I was going to stay six months, and I guess it's quite a few years more now, and I'm still here.

Thomas Healy:

How long did you stay in the school system?

Thomas Hickman:

Well, I stayed a long time. I coached for -- coached for 42 years.

Thomas Healy:

What school?

Thomas Hickman:

Well, I started at Lord Baltimore, which is part of the Indian River District now, and I ended up at Cape Henlopen. Well, I didn't, because I came back and did a couple more years at Indian River, but the bulk of the time I spent at Cape.

Thomas Healy:

So when did you retire from Cape?

Thomas Hickman:

When?

Thomas Healy:

Yeah.

Thomas Hickman:

Now you are asking me tough questions. I can remember about the war. I can't tell you then. Ten, 12 years ago, something like that.

Thomas Healy:

Now, I'm just -- I'm thinking because a lot of -- I do a lot of marketing for Grotto Pizza, and a lot of the guys that are in the-- [END OF DVD.]

 
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  October 26, 2011
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