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Interview with Floyd Harry Erickson [3/7/2009]

Paul H. Nordeen:

OK. Today is Saturday, March 7, 2009, and we're interviewing Floyd Harry Erickson at his home. Mr. Erickson is 87 years old, having been born on January 28, 1922. My name is Paul Nordeen and I'll be the interviewer. Floyd Erickson is my uncle. Uncle Floyd, could you state for the recording what war and branch of service you served in?

Floyd Harry Erickson:

I served in World War II, and the branch was the army, and we were actually called a glorified infantry, because we were ski troops. And we used snowshoes and skis. I myself used snowshoes more than skis because I was in machine guns.

Paul H. Nordeen:

Could I just backtrack a little bit, Uncle Floyd, just to stay on this schedule. We want to ask some questions about before the war.

Floyd Harry Erickson:

Yes.

Paul H. Nordeen:

So you grew up in Gwinn, Michigan?

Floyd Harry Erickson:

Yes, right.

Paul H. Nordeen:

And here it lists some other questions. Could you tell us what your families'-no-your parents' occupations were?

Floyd Harry Erickson:

My dad had several. He was connected to-well he did carpenter work. But he worked for the State of Michigan, as a game warden, fire warden, mostly fire warden. And he did that back in the Depression years in the thirties, but later on in the forties, he did contracting small jobs after the war and had his sons-not me included, because I was in Lansing-had his sons working with him, and other men. That was in the Depression years, as I have said.

Paul H. Nordeen:

And your mom was a housewife?

Floyd Harry Erickson:

Yes, she was mainly a housewife; she did some work, but very little outside of the home.

Paul H. Nordeen:

How many brothers and sisters did you have?

Floyd Harry Erickson:

Actually there were 12 of us. One died at, well, practically at birth, lived maybe three days. She was what they called a blue baby back in those days. Anyway, there were 11 of us really. And at this present time, why, there are two others that have passed away, so there's really nine of us now.

Paul H. Nordeen:

OK. Could you tell us what it was like in Gwinn during the Depression?

Floyd Harry Erickson:

Oh boy!

Paul H. Nordeen:

Or is that hard to talk about?

Floyd Harry Erickson:

That was rough. Even at my age in the thirties, where I was just a teenager, and even before a teenager, I realized how really rough it was. We picked a lot of blueberries, raspberries, anything to be able to store away for the winter. And we cut all our own wood, cut it and split it, sawed it and chopped it. And we loaded the basement and had dry wood in the basement, of course, and then we had a lot of wood outside lined up on the fence for the winter. It was rough. I could see my mother yet just trying to get enough food on the table for that size family. It wasn't easy, I can repeat that a good many times. It just Transcript of Veterans History Project interview of Floyd Harry Erickson~ recorded on: 7 March 2009, 21 March 2009 and 11 April 2009 wasn't easy. And I compare that with what's going on today, and-my land-were rich compared to--even with all the difficulties going on, people being laid off by the thousands, there seems to be enough places to get enough to eat. And there wasn't any jobs back in those days; we made our jobs just by getting all this stuff done ahead of time for long, hard winters. It was no picnic, I'll tell you; the Depression years were rough.

Paul H. Nordeen:

Did your dad serve in the army?

Floyd Harry Erickson:

Yes, my dad served in World War I, and he was in the navy. And it was mainly transporting troops across the ocean. And I understand that he made something like 20 trips or more across the ocean. The German submarines were in the waters in a lot of places, and they were shot at a good many times. But as far as I know, the ship he was on was never hit, so he was lucky.

Paul H. Nordeen:

Did they have a movie theater in Gwinn?

Floyd Harry Erickson:

A movie theater?

Paul H. Nordeen:

Yes.

Floyd Harry Erickson:

Oh, yes.

Paul H. Nordeen:

Before Pearl Harbor, the Finnish ski troops fought against the Russians in 1939. Did people talk about that?

Floyd Harry Erickson:

Yes, I knew about that. Yes, even back in my high school days I remember. In 1939 I was still in high school. I've read all about it in books in recent years.

Paul H. Nordeen:

In the theaters, did they have newsreels that showed the war in Europe before Pearl Harbor?

Floyd Harry Erickson:

Well, I can't remember that kind of thing where the war was shown in detail in the movies. I can't remember that exactly, but I think it was there; it had to be. Now we were talking about the Finnish Russian war, I don't remember seeing that in the movies, but I'm sure it was there.

Paul H. Nordeen:

OK. Did you learn to ski in Gwinn?

Floyd Harry Erickson:

Oh, yes. We did a lot of jumping and cross country. We had to cross country to get to the hills where we made jumps. Where we made up the hills so we could jump. We did a lot of jumping.

Paul H. Nordeen:

OK. Do you remember the day of Pearl Harbor?

Floyd Harry Erickson:

Oh, yes. I was coming out of the Fox Theater in downtown Detroit. And it was in the afternoon, and we came out of the theater, and they were selling extras. "Read all about it 'Japs bomb Pearl Harbor.'" Yes, I remember it vividly, and I was with a couple of Gwinn guys, but to this day, I can't remember who they were. I kind of think that Ed Bond was one of them, but I can't remember the other one or two. I can't remember: its been too long ago. Anyway, I sure remember when the war started. And that was, of course, December 1941.

Paul H. Nordeen:

Yes. You enlisted?

Floyd Harry Erickson:

No, I didn't enlist: we waited to be called. And I first heard about it in 1942-December-where they were calling us up. But I didn't have to go until the end of January 1943. Anyway, I came back from Detroit-I had worked in Detroit at Excello making airplane parts. And they were going to try and freeze us there. I had been there about a year, and I said; "Oh no, you can't freeze me because I know I'm going to be called, so I want to go home and spend a few months with my family." So I got away; they just tried to scare us not to leave.

Paul H. Nordeen:

I've read where people had to submit three letters of recommendation.

Floyd Harry Erickson:

Yes. I got into the 10th Mountain Division. There were an awful lot of us that were from Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Dakotas-up in the northern part where people were born and raised in the snow country. And we served; we did our basic training in Camp Roberts, California. And the first thing I know, we were through with basic in the spring of 1943. And they wanted a bunch of guys from that class that I went through from that group of men with all those northern states; they wanted them in the 87th Infantry at Fort Ord, California. So they transferred us up there to Fort Ord, put us in the 87th Regiment, and we trained for a landing on Kiska in the Aleutian Islands.

Paul H. Nordeen:

This was before Camp Hale?

Floyd Harry Erickson:

This was before Camp Hale. I had never been to Camp Hale yet. And they wanted us in there to fill out the regiment. Now I don't know how many men, but I would say probably a couple of hundred of us went from Camp Roberts to Fort Ord, California, and were in the 87th Regiment of what became the 10th Mountain Division later. We went to the Aleutians, and I don't know if you want me to elaborate ...

Paul H. Nordeen:

Oh, yes! I want to know all about this. So when you first joined the army, you took a train from Marquette to California?

Floyd Harry Erickson:

When I first went in, we went first of all to the Chicago area, the Great Lakes Training Station there, and put us through whatever they did there, I can't remember exactly, all the kinds of things we went through there, but we were already in; when we were there, we were in the service, in the army.

Paul H. Nordeen:

Did you have a serial number and so on?

Floyd Harry Erickson:

Yes. I got a serial number: 36451659. That was how you were identified-either by that number or by ....I was identified; they gave me the name Eric right off the bat, because that's short for Erickson, so all the guys in company H, that's all I was known of was Eric. Eric Erickson. [Laughs].

Paul H. Nordeen:

OK. So then from the Great Lakes Training Center ...

Floyd Harry Erickson:

Yes, Naval Training Center. Anyway, we went through some tests there.

Paul H. Nordeen:

Vaccinations and things?

Floyd Harry Erickson:

Yes. And not only that-mental things, too. They wanted to know, well, for instance, I was really raised, being half Finnish, why, I knew how to speak Finnish very fluently, because I was around my grandparents all the time. In fact, we lived with them for a few years there in Gwinn when I was just a youngster, so I learned it in the years that you really absorbed it. Back in those years, that was before I was even a teenager. And then I told them that I knew how to speak Finnish. Well, they right away they tested me on that, and I didn't know what the heck that would tum into at all. For whatever good it was, why, they knew I came from a Finnish background.

Paul H. Nordeen:

I'd just like to interrupt for a second and say-I should have said this at the start-I was planning on talking at most two hours today, but if the story goes over, I'll come back for another two hours. I'll come back another 10 times if that's what it takes. I'm not trying to race .... So as much detail as you want to provide. I like detail myself.

Floyd Harry Erickson:

OK, I've got a long story. [Laughs].

Paul H. Nordeen:

What was the training like at ... ?

Floyd Harry Erickson:

At Camp Roberts?

Paul H. Nordeen:

At Camp Roberts, yes.

Floyd Harry Erickson:

Yes.

Paul H. Nordeen:

Did you have firearm training?

Floyd Harry Erickson:

Yes, they wanted to find out if you were a good shot; I wasn't the best shot, shooting a rifle. Maybe that's why I ended up in machine guns. [Laughs]. Anyway, basic training was basic; everybody went through what we went through. Everybody did. I always remember when we were crawling on our bellies, and there was a lieutenant there that was overseeing all this stuff, and he was running around, and he asked one of my buddies, Bill Eslien, who we went through the whole war together. Anyway, the lieutenant asked that guy, "What would you do now if all of a sudden you had some shells or artillery coming in on you and you were crawling on your face?" And Bill said right off the bat, he said, "Well, I'd get up and probably start shooting at someplace." [Laughs] Bill, he was kind of a smarty. Bill was very outspoken, when we were going through almost three years together. And then Fred Anetsberger also, who was my really my best buddy, he was killed before the war was ended. He was a machine gunner too. But anyway, I don't want to get to that part yet, that's way down the road.

Paul H. Nordeen:

So basic training was basic. In basic training did you train with grenades and things like that?

Floyd Harry Erickson:

Yes. I probably threw one or two grenades during that time. But when you pull the pin, you got to know what you're going to be doing with it because it's pretty hard to put the pin back in there. They tell you to heave it over. Well being the baseball player that I was, I figured I could throw the thing as far as. . .. [Laughs] Anyway, I threw it out there quite a ways. It didn't make any difference how far you could throw it; it was how accurate you were with putting the grenade where it belonged. That was one of the parts of basic training, and rifle shooting was a big part of it. And we did some maneuvering around in small groups. And we did some crawling under fire with live machine guns going over your head. You were crawling on your face, on your stomach, and doing what they told you to do. It was something else to know that live stuff was going over your head. And maybe a year later I did some of that myself, only turned around; I was behind a machine gun firing over the top, and I can't remember exactly where that was, I think it probably was at Camp Hale.

Paul H. Nordeen:

Could I ask; the grenades-what was the fuse timing on them? I mean, how many seconds?

Floyd Harry Erickson:

I think it's probably five seconds, maybe six. And I think there's times when they have them longer too. At night they could have them longer, because they couldn't find it and throw it back. And a lot of grenades, German grenades, had a bar, a stick that you grabbed and threw, and the grenade was on the end of the stick. Well, I could see where at nighttime you could have it set for 10 seconds, because they couldn't find the thing.

Paul H. Nordeen:

So, before you went up to the Aleutians, you were at Fort Ord?

Floyd Harry Erickson:

Fort Ord, California, which is now all done; it's not there anymore. And, of course, Camp Hale isn't there anymore, either.

Paul H. Nordeen:

At Fort Ord, did you have amphibious landing training?

Floyd Harry Erickson:

Yes. At Fort Ord, we had a lot of amphibious training. We went from San Francisco down to San Diego in a boat and did some right there in beautiful country, on beautiful beaches. Yes, we had amphibious training there in the San Diego area, landing on these beaches.

Paul H. Nordeen:

On the amphibious landing training, you had to go down rope ladders to a landing craft?

Floyd Harry Erickson:

Yes, into an assault boat, and then they maneuver around to get everybody into the boats, and then all the boats go in together. And we did the same thing on Kiska, only Kiska was horrible, because there were no beaches to speak of, and the weather was terrible-but that's down the line.

Paul H. Nordeen:

When you went to the Aleutians, do you remember the name of the ship you were on?

Floyd Harry Erickson:

We went to the Aleutians on the-I think it was the USS Harris, as I remember. I'm pretty sure that was the name of the ship. Coming back it was the Yukon.

Paul H. Nordeen:

What was that like? You went from San Francisco to Adak?

Floyd Harry Erickson:

Yes, to Adak.

Paul H. Nordeen:

What was that trip like?

Floyd Harry Erickson:

Well we just-oh, it was horrible. And, of course, I'm the worst sailor. I was the last guy in the latrine at four o'clock in the morning, five o'clock, and a guy came down and said, "Eric, you're on gun guard." And I as much as told him you might just as well throw me overboard, because I'm not going to be worth a dang on a gun. [Laughs] I'm just sicker than a dog. Oh, I was sick. Getting out in that northern Pacific out there, it was just too choppy for me; I couldn't stand it. Oh, I was sick. I mean, I was so sick I didn't care what happened. Anyway, they put us on 20 millimeter guns for whatever reason, up there, but there wasn't anything to fire at.

Paul H. Nordeen:

Oh, you mean at Kiska or Adak?

Floyd Harry Erickson:

On the way to Adak.

Paul H. Nordeen:

Oh, I see.

Floyd Harry Erickson:

And then we stayed at Adak for about a week to get acclimatized to the area. Fred and I-Fred was the one who was taken before he left Italy-him and I was roommates up there on Adak. We put a pup tent over the top of a creek. It was a ravine there and we cut ourselves some of that muck out of there and put the pup tent over that so we had a little head room. That first night we were there, we got all set up and left our sleeping bags in there, and we went to the canteen there and got some candy and ice cream and stufflike that. And we came back; it was about midnight, and we finally found our place. We got in that little bedroom that we made up for ourselves to sleep in, and it was slopping wet, and the walls and the water was coming in all over the place and it was coming down from up above also. We looked at each other on our hands and knees and we started laughing, and I swear we laughed for two hours. Oh, I'm telling you, we just were absolutely so miserable we couldn't get into our sleeping bags because it was just slopping wet. But we had rain suits up there. The Aleutians in summertime it just rains and it rains. And it doesn't come down straight; it rains sideways, and it's blowing. Oh, it's just a miserable part of the world. And we were there for a week, and we improved; [Laughs] we made better sleeping quarters. But boy, that was terrible. I'll never forget that, what with Fred and I laughing there at that, about the whole thing. You got to learn to laugh when you're miserable. [Laughs] There wasn't any bullets flying, so that was the big difference; I guess that's the reason why we laughed. And also, I remember sitting there on the ship before we hit the land on Adak, before they took us off the ship, there was an airplane up there-it was a fighter and I could see he was coming down awful straight. He must have been in trouble, and all of a sudden, he just hit a cove, why, less than a mile away from the ship that I was on. I don't see how he could ever have got out of that alive, but he went down right in the ocean right there. Gosh, that was the first one of the things that we saw there at that time. That was just another experience there.

Paul H. Nordeen:

So, from there the 87th went to Kiska. Where you in company H at that time?

Floyd Harry Erickson:

Yes, I was in company H at that time. It was heavy weapons, and we had heavy 50s, light 50s, they weren't water cooled, in other words. And I think it was split up into three men to carry the pieces. We had to climb this volcano when we landed, and we were 12 hours getting up there to where we dug in. But you would step maybe two steps forward and one back. The shale, it just kept slipping. And I had a boil on my left knee, and I worked that thing all day long. And the last 50 or 100 yards that I couldn't quite make it, that knee was just killing me; it worked that boil up to the point where it was almost ready to bust. And Fred took my part of the gun along with what he was carrying; he was a stocky, strong guy. He carried it up a little further, and I made it OK. And we called the medic over, and he came over and looked at that thing, and he just pushed on it a little bit, and it just went like that. That just draineddid that feel good to get rid of that thing. Well, the guys were getting off before we started climbing. There was no beach; you get off [the landing craft] and you were in three feet of water, boom, just like that. One guy was up almost to his neck, so he had a hard day ahead of him. Slopping wet, and cold; that water up there is a little different than down in sunny San Diego. But anyway, that was rough for him.

Paul H. Nordeen:

And that was when?

Floyd Harry Erickson:

That was August, the middle of August 1943.

Paul H. Nordeen:

And how long were you on Kiska?

Floyd Harry Erickson:

How long on that ship?

Paul H. Nordeen:

On the island?

Floyd Harry Erickson:

On the island? We left there December 1, 1943. So August 15 to December 1.

Paul H. Nordeen:

Oh. So quite a while.

Floyd Harry Erickson:

It was snowing when we left.

Paul H. Nordeen:

So you were there during Thanksgiving then?

Floyd Harry Erickson:

Oh, yes. We didn't eat bread for a whole week so we could have stuffing. Yes, we had turkey.

Paul H. Nordeen:

So during the first few days, was there friendly fire?

Floyd Harry Erickson:

During the first three days we set our machine gun up there on the side of this volcano. And during the first three days, riflemen were off wandering around trying to find the laps. And they came back. And, of course up there in August you could hardly see your hand in front of your face, the fog was so thick most of the time. My gun never shot, we didn't do any shooting, but some ofthe guys in the regiment were shooting at some of our own troops. You see we landed up there with what I thought was 40,000 men in '43, but later I later heard it was 30,000. Nonetheless, it was a lot of men, up there on that island. But the 87th was the lead outfit on the island; we were on there first except for a few rangers that got on there-I don't know what they were doing. But, anyway, there was three days that we didn't know if there was laps on that island or not. But it turns out they had left about 10 days before that. And how they got out of there on ships is beyond me, because we had ships all around there. But in the fog I suppose smaller ships were able to maneuver and get away. Now, Paul, I don't know how many men we killed by our own troops, but I had a first thought it was 17, and then somebody said there was more than that, up in the twenties that were killed. But then I found out later that the navy lost more men than we did. The navy lost men there in the harbor-I don't know how-I don't know what happened; I can't tell you that. But maybe their ship was hit, some ship that was sunk there; there was some sunken ships that we had knocked out there. You know we did a lot of bombing there, an awful lot of bombing, from Dutch Harbor and Adak and from other islands that were part of where the landing fields were. Attu was a little bit beyond Kiska, towards Russia. Anyway, that was a horrible thing, to be shooting your own men. Guys got jumpy, and were people that were friendly forces. There was supposed to have been 6,500 Japs on that island, and had they stayed there, it wouldn't have been a picnic, I tell you. It would have been another Attu. Attu was a horrible thing; they killed practically every Jap on that island. Very few of them gave up; they just fought to the bitter end. And what made them get off of Kiska, I don't know, but I'm glad they weren't there.

Paul H. Nordeen:

Did you see the little mini submarines that were there on the island?

Floyd Harry Erickson:

Yes. There were mini submarines. They had a couple of them right there in there littleewhat would you call them-garages maybe, right off of the Kiska harbor. Yes, the mini two-man submarines.

Paul H. Nordeen:

Now, there were tunnels, I've heard.

Floyd Harry Erickson:

Yes, the island was laced with tunnels, and a hospital even, where they did operating right in the underground.

Paul H. Nordeen:

Did you go into the tunnels at all?

Floyd Harry Erickson:

Well, I didn't go in, but a lot of guys did. I didn't go really into the tunnels, but I could see where the openings were; I just kept away from that kind of thing. Guys were looking for spirits, drinks, sake I think they called it. I always remember Bill, he found some stuff, and he said, "Oh, I got it, Eric," he said, "I got some sake." And it turns out it was creosote. [Laughs].

Paul H. Nordeen:

What is creosote?

Floyd Harry Erickson:

It's some kind of a black-really, I don't know what creosote is.

Paul H. Nordeen:

Some kind of industrial solvent?

Floyd Harry Erickson:

But it's everything but a drink. [Laughs].

Paul H. Nordeen:

So you left on December the first '43, from Kiska to Dutch Harbor, on the way back?

Floyd Harry Erickson:

We didn't stop anyplace on the way back. After we left Kiska, we got on this "Yukon"-I think was a Canadian ship--I don't know for sure now. It was a lot smaller than the "Harris", an awful lot smaller, to say the least. We all got sick, more guys than you can ever imagine. Oh boy, it was hard to go down to the kitchen and smell. I think what kept me alive was candy bars. I'd lay in the bunk there and just eat candy, and forget going to the mess hall. Oh man, some of the stories that came out of that mess hall-tum your stomach inside out on that trip. It was just choppier in December month. I think we traveled in some part of the Bering Sea, which is on the north side of the Kiska. And of course, the northern Pacific and the Bering Sea are, in the wintertime especially, very choppy. Oh! Somebody said there's waves out there 50 feet, and I believe it. I didn't go out to see. [Laughs] I just stayed in my bunk as long as I could. We landed at Fort Lauton, Washington. And there were German prisoners serving in the mess halls. I couldn't believe that. We'd already taken prisoners in Europe and sent them to our country, and they were already doing that kind of thing.

Paul H. Nordeen:

Amazing.

Floyd Harry Erickson:

That was December '43. A long way from the other war.

Paul H. Nordeen:

What was the troop's attitude toward these German prisoners?

Floyd Harry Erickson:

It wasn't good to say the least. I didn't see any fights, but I knew there was over the years in different places that I heard later. Places that we never got to, I mean camps. But they were all over, and I'm told that they were allowed to go in officers' places where they serve drinks, in these camps all over the country. And the blacks were not allowed in the places were the German prisoners were allowed. You talk about crazy things going on. Man, that was terrible. It made me cringe when I heard about these things like that.

Paul H. Nordeen:

Before I forget, is there more you want to tell us about Kiska, before we move on?

Floyd Harry Erickson:

Well, coming back we hit the mainland-we hit Alaska first, and we stayed one night at a fishing town; I can't remember the name. We sailed down the next day in that; it's just like a big river we were between the islands off of the mainland and mainland, and the ship sailed right in there. And seagulls galore. We were on our way down to Seattle-Fort Lauton. I was on deck, and seagulls were flying around looking for handouts. And all of a sudden, I had my liner on-you put the metal part over this plastic part-I had the plastic part on my head. And all of a sudden, boom! And I was dizzy, I'm telling you, going on for a minute. But I took my helmet off, and there was a big drip of seagull crap. Oh, man. I'm telling you, they had a laugh on me. But anyway, I came out of that OK. [Laughs] Now, we left Kiska December 1. December 25 I was on the front porch of my parents' home.

Paul H. Nordeen:

On Christmas.

Floyd Harry Erickson:

A short furlough--10 days, I guess. But it took all that time, December 1 to 25, to get home. It seemed like it was buses, trains, bumming. And get to Escanaba, and the train wasn't running on a Sunday. Anyway, I wasn't sure of a ride, and all of a sudden, a mailman. He said, "I'll see that you get to Gwinn." And he took me to Gwinn eventually, in his work; he was delivering some mail. He took me right downtown; I could see my dad's car there. My brother was in the drugstore buying something. He came out, and I was sitting in the back seat with my duffel bag; he didn't even know I was in town. He says, "I'm going to go around the back and tell mom that she's got a Christmas present on the front porch." And my mother came to the door; she didn't even know I was in the country. And she came to the door, and she almost fainted she almost went down. She couldn't believe it. Now, that was a wonderful Christmas to say the least. And Elizabeth came from Lansing, came home when I told her I was there. She didn't know where I was, either. We weren't married yet, but we were very bent on getting married after the war. We didn't want to get married while the war was going on. That was a great Christmas, to say the least.

Paul H. Nordeen:

That was December '43? Christmas of '43?

Floyd Harry Erickson:

That was Christmas '43, yes.

Paul H. Nordeen:

Did you send letters from the Aleutians and other places?

Floyd Harry Erickson:

I had all kinds of letters and stuff that I pretty much thrown those things away a long time ago. And I've heard about it a good many times. Elizabeth was very disappointed that I got rid of all that stuff. But there is a point after the war that I don't care; I didn't want to have any kind of thing left around. I wished I had them today.

Paul H. Nordeen:

Okay. So that was Christmas of'43.

Floyd Harry Erickson:

You know, I really didn't tell you about Thanksgiving '43 up there. I told you we saved bread for weeks; we didn't eat any bread. We had a terrific meal; I'm telling you, that was something. Those cooks really put themselves out to put that meal out. But getting away from Thanksgiving now, I didn't tell you these things. There was a time up there where the humpback salmon were running for about two weeks, and they were getting up in creeks on the island. And all we did was stand in a little creek and throw the dang things out of the water. Grab a hold of them-a lot of them you couldn't catch, but you couldn't miss some of them-and throw them out of the water. And in about half an hour you had all you could carry; you couldn't carry anymore. Some of those would run 10 pounds. Anyway, we had a great time getting salmon, so we ate salmon for two weeks. Just coming out of our ears, there was so many of them. That was a great time; it was delicious. And the cooks were making that stuff up, salmon galore. And then another time up there-these are just experiences on the island.

Paul H. Nordeen:

Oh. Great. Yes.

Floyd Harry Erickson:

And Fred Anetsberger said, "Eric, have you ever cut any hair?" And I told him, "Well yes, Fred, I've cut a lot of hair." Heck, I'd never cut a head of hair in my life. Anyway, he had some tools there, just hand clippers, and scissors and a comb. And I went at his head. He had a beautiful head of hair, he was almost a blond guy. German fella, he was German background. And we were in the tent, and the deeper I got into that haircut, the more trouble I could see. I couldn't straighten out what I had. And I just got to the point where I got to stop. [Laughs] And I put the stuff down and said, "Fred, I'm all done." I got out of there as quick as I could. He obviously had looked at himself in the mirror. And I was outside, and I could run faster than him. He hollered out, "Eric if! get a hold of you I'm going to kill you!" [Laughs] Oh, I'm telling you, he had a horrible-looking head. Well, that was the worst head I could have tackled; there would have been a lot easier heads to give haircuts to. But here was my best buddy, and he was taken in Italy. Before the war was over, he was gone. Oh, I tell you, Fred was a wonderful guy.

Paul H. Nordeen:

Are there other things that happened on Kiska?

Floyd Harry Erickson:

Yes, there was one more thing. And this here is a little smelly. [Laughs] We had dysentery in the company. We had a latrine there, and you could probably put 15 men in it, and it was adequate. But having dysentery, it was far from adequate. Oh, gosh, all night long, guys coming over there. I just had the runs something horrible. I couldn't make it on the way. We had some messes, I'll tell you. It wasn't funny at first; guys were sick. But after awhile we were talking about some of the things that took place during that time and having some good laughs. I mean really good laughs. Anyway, that was just another time on the island.

Paul H. Nordeen:

It was something in the food that ... ?

Floyd Harry Erickson:

It was probably something in the food or the water. Maybe the doctors among us knew. And of course, we weren't the only company on the island, either; there were just a lot of men on that island. The 87th Regiment was probably only about 2,500 men. That's a lot of men compared to a company. Company H is a small company; that's a heavy weapons company, and probably less than 200 men, maybe only 180 men. A rifle company is more like, well, over 300, maybe even 350. Just to give you an idea of what we're talking about in numbers.

Paul H. Nordeen:

When you were up in the Aleutians, what was your rank then? Was it private?

Floyd Harry Erickson:

I was a private, yes. I went from private to three-pronged sergeant, an ordinary sergeant. I didn't get there until I was in Italy. Then I became a staff sergeant just before the war ended. And that was because of replacements; you moved up when somebody else was knocked out that had a higher grade than you. And I got moved up to a staff sergeant. That was in Italy, so that's a long ways down the road, too.

Paul H. Nordeen:

So after Christmas 1943, you go back?

Floyd Harry Erickson:

Yes. I went back to Camp Hale, Colorado. And the 86th and 85th were already organizing, and they were skiing. So we became the 10th Mountain Division at that time, because the 87th joined the 85th and the 86th.

Paul H. Nordeen:

Did you get a shoulder patch at that time?

Floyd Harry Erickson:

You want to see the shoulder patch?

Paul H. Nordeen:

Okay. So you took a train from Marquette to Camp Hale?

Floyd Harry Erickson:

Camp Hale wasn't quite done yet when we got there. They were still working on the north end of it. Some of the buildings weren't quite complete.

Paul H. Nordeen:

So what time did you arrive at Camp Hale?

Floyd Harry Erickson:

Well, that would have to be January '44.

Paul H. Nordeen:

What was your first impression of Camp Hale?

Floyd Harry Erickson:

My first impression of Camp Hale was a positive one. I was really raring to go to become a ski trooper. Of course, I was proud to be serving my country, and I always had that in the back of my mind that I was there for a purpose and I wanted to do what I had to do. And really very proud to have ended up in the ski troops. The 10th Mountain Division was a darned good division, They proved that in Italy.

Paul H. Nordeen:

But what was your first impression of Camp Hale?

Floyd Harry Erickson:

My first impression of the camp was "a beautiful spot." It was very, very nice. I couldn't get over it. Accommodations were very good, camps were warm enough, and the only negative thing was the dang train that was up on the mountains there going over the divide, and down into the Denver area. There was four engines pulling those cars, and black smoke coming out of there; they were coal driven. And that made the valley-Camp Hale was in a valley-and that stuff just hung in there. And a lot of guys got-I didn't get that way-but a lot of guys got what they called the Pando Hack. Pando, Colorado was right there; just a train stop was all it was. A lot of guys had to go back for health reasons; they had to get back out of the mountains. I was able to go through that. We had training.

Paul H. Nordeen:

Could I ask about the altitude, which was 9,400 feet at Camp Hale. So, was that hard to adjust to that high altitude?

Floyd Harry Erickson:

At first it was a little bit hard. But of course, we trained at almost 11,000 feet, so we were way up above Camp Hale. Camp Hale was 9,600, I think it was exactly; less than 10,000 feet. But our training was way up in the mountains, a lot of it. And we trained up there like three weeks. Thirty-nine below one morning.

Paul H. Nordeen:

In the D Series?

Floyd Harry Erickson:

D Series, that was not easy. That was a rough time. That proved out "Are you able to take care of yourself in that kind of conditions?" And that's why they wanted people from the snow country. You couldn't take a guy from the South; it would be a little bit too much for him. [Laughs] Although, a lot of them got into the 10th Mountain Division later.

Paul H. Nordeen:

Did you have ski training at Camp Hale?

Floyd Harry Erickson:

I didn't get any ski training, because I was a snowshoer, because I had machine guns.

Paul H. Nordeen:

Oh, you trained with snowshoes?

Floyd Harry Erickson:

We had to use snowshoes carrying that heavy equipment. We didn't have rifles, we had little rifles, a carbine sometimes, but most of the time we were using a 45, a small personal weapon.

Paul H. Nordeen:

That's a pistol?

Floyd Harry Erickson:

Yes. And a carbine came in, too, but that was a lot lighter than aMI. M 1 was just heavy: well, it proved out to be the best rifle in the war, on both sides. But the carbine was our mainstay along with the 45.

Paul H. Nordeen:

The carbine, was that a bolt action?

Floyd Harry Erickson:

Yes, just a small rifle. It wasn't the killing weapon that the Ml was. That Ml was a terrific weapon, semiautomatic.

Paul H. Nordeen:

So you just used snowshoes, and not much skis at all? i2

Floyd Harry Erickson:

No. We could ski anytime on weekends all we wanted to. If you wanted to go skiing, the hill was right there and instructors there to help you out if you have any problem. I never found myself to go to that because I had done a lot of skiing as a kid. I just took it that that's where I was put and I didn't rebel in any way, being a machine gunner.

Paul H. Nordeen:

At Camp Hale, did you train at rock climbing at all?

Floyd Harry Erickson:

Oh, yes. We had rock climbing. I got scared to death one day. I was coming down; evidently, they had left a little slack up there. I don't know how many feet of slack, but boy, I had a jolt there when I pulled it out, here I was over the edge already, and I kind of went down.

Paul H. Nordeen:

Oh, you were rappelling down the cliff?

Floyd Harry Erickson:

Rappelling down the cliff, yes.

Paul H. Nordeen:

And that's when you had the slack?

Floyd Harry Erickson:

Yes, it probably wasn't more than a couple of feet, but it felt like a lot more than that. Anyway, I got to the bottom fine. We didn't do a lot of that, but there were some men in the outfit who were experts. That was their thing; they'd done more of that than they did skiing. So they were teaching it, they had ratings; they had commissioned officer ratings even, because they were experts at it.

Paul H. Nordeen:

Now, there were a lot of mules and horses at Camp Hale?

Floyd Harry Erickson:

Yes, we had a lot of mules. And there were a lot of guys who lived with mules before they ever came in the army became mule skinners. And then again ratings were-if you could teach that stuff that you'd learned while you were a civilian, you got the rating. I'll never forget this one guy, I can't remember his name right now, but he was from Washington, and he was a mule man from the word go. And, of course, he got a high rating, a tech sergeant. Oh, what a character. These mule people were characters. [Laughs]. I got a book on a mule skinner, he wrote about his experiences. If you want to read it, you're welcome.

Paul H. Nordeen:

Sure. Now, did the mules carry machine guns and ammo?

Floyd Harry Erickson:

Yes, they carried a lot of stuff. And they were good in the mountains; they went places that jeeps could never go.

Paul H. Nordeen:

Were there military dogs that the 10th used?

Floyd Harry Erickson:

Paul, I never seen any dogs. I understand that there was some in the outfit someplace. But the 10th Mountain Division was 13,500 men; they could have dogs in there someplace, some specialized outfit.

Paul H. Nordeen:

At Camp Hale, what was the food like?

Floyd Harry Erickson:

It was army food, and to me it was delicious, because I had come from a humble background, and we never had caviar or things like that in our home. [Laughs]. A long way from it, and you never did, either.

Paul H. Nordeen:

At Camp Hale were there churches or chapels?

Floyd Harry Erickson:

Oh, yes. At that stage of the game, I never got to a church. At Camp Hale, I can't remember going to church at Camp Hale. And I really didn't leave Camp Hale to go on weekends, and get drunk like a lot of guys. But I do remember going down to Grand Junction, which was 150 to 200 miles away. It took us till midnight to get there leaving at about 5:30 in the afternoon, and then running to get a hotel. That wasn't that big of a town; at that time probably was only five, six, seven thousand people, maybe a town the size of Mason. Anyway, we'd go in and h~ve our share of beer, and a lot of guys would get girlfriends.

Paul H. Nordeen:

Were there theaters at Camp Hale?

Floyd Harry Erickson:

Oh, yes. They had movie theaters there. My buddy Bill Eslien was able to get money anytime he wanted it from home. With me, it was the opposite; I was a hardship case. What the army paid me, I sent half of my money home, and the government sent another half. What I paid, the government sent, too. So it cost the government a little bit more to keep me in the service. I was providing-well, all the while I worked in Detroit before the war and even a little bit during the war, I sent money home every week. I sent some amount of money home. My dad wasn't working all that much; I mean, we wasn't making all that much. And of course a big family, and I was the oldest in the family, so I provided what I thought was a good amount of money, and I was proud to be able to do it. It didn't take very much to satisfy me. I couldn't go to shows like I wanted to, but Bill Eslien would take me. He was a friend of mine, so I got to do things that I ordinarily wouldn't be able to do. We'd be at some place-not necessarily Camp Hale only, it was a lot of places, and Bill would take me here and there, because he had the money to be able to do it. His dad had a factory in Milwaukee-employed somewhere between 1,000 and 2,000 men. It was a big factory, so his money was no problem for him; he got all he wanted.

Paul H. Nordeen:

I've hcard that the soldiers sang songs in the 10th.

Floyd Harry Erickson:

What? I couldn't hear you.

Paul H. Nordeen:

Did the soldiers in the 10th sing songs?

Floyd Harry Erickson:

Oh, yes. A lot of songs. All kinds of them. And they were ski trooper songs: "Never trust a skier an inch above your knee, I trusted one and now look at me. I've got a bastard now in the mountain infantry." [Laughs]. Some of the words ofthat-crazy. Yes, I've got them someplace, Paul. I've got all that stuff, I'll dig some of that up because I can see that this is going to run into more than one time.

Paul H. Nordeen:

Could I ask about the D Series?

Floyd Harry Erickson:

The D Series now?

Paul H. Nordeen:

Yes. Was there a rule where no fires were permitted during the D Series?

Floyd Harry Erickson:

Yes, I'm sure there was. And I can't remember if that was right off the bat or not, I don't think so. The D Series was-well, like I say, one morning it was 39 below zero, and a hot cup of coffee never tasted so good. But you had to be darned good and careful that your cup was right, because-that cup had to be heated up a little bit from the drink that was in there or you could have problems.

Paul H. Nordeen:

Yes.

Floyd Harry Erickson:

At 39 degrees below zero, buddy, it was. Oh, man, that was hard. Just think of your efficiency under those conditions. You slept in a pup tent, a mountain tent; it had a vent on each end, a two man tent. You slept with all your clothes on, in a three-piece sleeping bag, and it's a darn good bag for back in those days. You had to put your boots on your chest, more or less, to keep them warm. We had those felt boots that you could put on to keep your feet warm. And they had a little mountain stove in the tent to heat up water and stuff to melt the snow. Anyway, the inner half of that sleeping bag was more or less a body form; it was snug, in other words. The other part of it was a zip-up-that first part was a zip-up also. But the other part was a zip-up on the side, and it had a lot more room in it. Then they had a water repellent skin/cloth outfit that went over that yet. So, you had all your clothes on in that thing, and you slept pretty snug, I'll tell you. I slept very good. But getting out of that, and getting into battle, ready to fight, can you imagine how? I'm telling you, it would be terribly hard to get an outfit on line, or getting battle-ready to fight. Your efficiency is down, way down. I would imagine the Finns during the Russian [Finnish Russian War]; the Finns were all dressed and on skis, caught the Russians in predicaments there. They had lined up tanks and trucks, setting there snug in there inside of their vehicles. The Finns chewed them up. They just chewed them up. And when I think about laying there in that pup tent, that mountain tent, it would be slow going getting out of there and ready to do something. Maybe you'd get out of there to save your life, move a lot faster than you think you would. [Laughs].

Paul H. Nordeen:

Did you have goggles? Ski goggles?

Floyd Harry Erickson:

The skiers had the goggles when they were skiing, against the wind and the snow. We had a skin that you could put on your face, sort of a chamois kind of a skin. I can't remember wearing that thing though. Anyway, in the cold weather I seemed to have gotten along, probably better than most other guys.

Paul H. Nordeen:

What kind of gloves did they give you?

Floyd Harry Erickson:

Oh, they had a good [glove] , several. And a lot of this stuff was in the experimental stage. And we used a lot of them; a lot of them were mittens with inner sort of a woolen thing that was in leather kind of outer part. In other words, a four piece glove-two pieces on each hand.

Paul H. Nordeen:

And you had a pack that you carried?

Floyd Harry Erickson:

We had a rucksack.

Paul H. Nordeen:

And that had everything that you needed?

Floyd Harry Erickson:

Yes, pretty much everything that you needed. It's in the song: "Ninety pounds of rucksack, a pound of grub or two, he'll schuss the mountains like his daddy used to do." I'll get these songs out so you can look them up. I'll find them someplace.

Paul H. Nordeen:

In the D Series, did you make snow caves, or just tents?

Floyd Harry Erickson:

Yes, they showed how to do that. I remember sleeping right out in the open, and having six inches of snow on my sleeping bag in the morning. And slept snug. I never laid awake nights, I'll tell you that. You always have somebody on watch. Even in training you did it the way you think it's done in combat. But I remember that six inches of snow on my sleeping bag when I got up. It was that waterrrepellant bag, and that kept the snow from getting into your sleeping bag.

Paul H. Nordeen:

And what kind of boots did you have? They're just regular leather boots? is

Floyd Harry Erickson:

Yes, it was a shoepack. Well, that's what we called it, I think it was shoepack. Boots that were good; they were warm. Now the skiers had a little different kind of boot, but it was far from what the skiers use nowadays, a long way from it. And we had our skis white, to blend in with the snow. And we had all white uniforms too. It just went over the top of your warmer clothes. And it had an outfit that you pulled up over your-so you blended in with the snow.

Paul H. Nordeen:

Did you have glove covers that were white?

Floyd Harry Erickson:

I can't remember the white gloves. I can't remember that, if we had something like that. I feel like there probably was.

Paul H. Nordeen:

But the gloves and the boots were good? You didn't get frozen fingers or toes?

Floyd Harry Erickson:

No. And there again, knowing what you know from cold weather before you ever got in there made a lot of difference. One heck of a lot of difference. We've had 40 below in the D.P.

Paul H. Nordeen:

At this time your commanding officer for the whole division was General Jones?

Floyd Harry Erickson:

General Jones?

Paul H. Nordeen:

Yes.

Floyd Harry Erickson:

Over the 10th Mountain Division?

Paul H. Nordeen:

Yes, at that time, before Camp Swift.

Floyd Harry Erickson:

I know someplace in all the stuff I've got it gives all this information. I remember a General Jones, yes. The one that was there in Camp Hale, Colorado, I can't remember the top man. General Hays became our leader, and he was a Medal of Honor winner [in] World War 1. Great guy, wonderful, terrific guy. And he was tickled to death to get the 10th Mountain Division.

Paul H. Nordeen:

At Camp Hale were there German POWs?

Floyd Harry Erickson:

There?

Paul H. Nordeen:

At Camp Hale?

Floyd Harry Erickson:

I think before we left there was. I think there was. But right off hand I can't swear, I can't remember that exactly.

Paul H. Nordeen:

After Camp Hale, was it in June of '44 that the 10th moved from Camp Hale to Camp Swift?

Floyd Harry Erickson:

I can't remember there exactly when that took place. I was thinking it was more like July, but that's documented in a lot of places, so I'm sure that June is probably it.

Paul H. Nordeen:

Did the troops take trains?

Floyd Harry Erickson:

We boarded trains; we left, yes. And there again, I think we stopped in Camp Carson, Colorado, which is down in the flats there. Close to Colorado Springs, very close to Colorado Springs. And they sent us to Camp Swift, Texas. Acclimatize us-that's what they called it. And the morale went down something fierce; the guys just couldn't stand it. Some guys got out; they insisted on transferring someplace. Because they could see we were losing our mountain status. The fact that we fought in the mountains meant a lot to all of us. We were there for-I don't know how long exactly. It had to be something like four or five months. A lot longer than I ever thought we'd be at that place. A lot of things happened there that guys didn't like at all. You could see that the outfit was going to be busted up; they thought that's what would happen. But it didn't.

Paul H. Nordeen:

Was it extremely hot?

Floyd Harry Erickson:

Oh, we got down there, and they were just dropping over like flies out on the parade field. Oh, it was terrible. I was just like-well, you're taking people from snow to boiling water. It was just terrible.

Paul H. Nordeen:

Just too hot, you mean. Too hot and humid-is that what you mean?

Floyd Harry Erickson:

It was horribly hot, and humid. Just terrible.

Paul H. Nordeen:

And were there bugs and snakes, and scorpions and things like this?

Floyd Harry Erickson:

Oh yes, scorpions. We were looking for things in our barracks. I didn't like sounds of that dang stuff that guys were saying. Some of the guys that were there were saying that-and of course they put it on thick so that they'd scare the crap out of us. [Laughs]. I forgot one little story from Camp Hale.

Paul H. Nordeen:

Sure. Yes.

Floyd Harry Erickson:

Fred and I were great for. This one guy Thomson, his name was, he'd go out every Saturday night, and he'd get tanked. And he'd come ill, and he wobbled, and finally got upstairs, walked the full length of the barracks. He'd come in one door and walk the full length and then go upstairs to his bunk upstairs. Fred and I set him up. We had foot lockers at the end of the beds, and we set up about a dozen of them out in the middle of the barracks walk-through. There were beds over here and beds over here, and then a big area that you could walk through. We set that thing up for him, and we got in our bunks there downstairs. And Thomson came in sometime along midnight; this was Saturday night. You could come in anytime on a Saturday night. And he came in staggering and he started hitting foot lockers, and everyone he'd hit he'd be swearing. [Laughs]. And he'd get up and no sooner get up. He couldn't see good enough; there was a little bit of light. Oh my gosh, before he finally got up, got through there, I swear he hit eight out of twelve. And Fred and I were under our covers just absolutely blowing our brains out with laughter. Years later, at a reunion, Thomson was there; Elizabeth was with me, at that reunion. And I told Elizabeth, I said, "I'm going to tell Thomson; I'm going to tell him about that incident." And I said, "Thomson, do you remember at Camp Hale hitting a lot of foot lockers before you got to your bunk?" "Yes," he said, "I remember that; I often wondered who the heck set that up." I said, "Well, you're looking at one of them right here." [Laughs]. He was an older man at that time, I figured an older man five years older than I was at that time. Maybe I was only 22. By this time at the reunion he was a lot older, and I was too. I said, "Thomson, you're looking at one of the guys, but the other one was killed during the war in Italy-Fred Anetsberger." Oh gosh, I'm telling you, Fred and I had a laugh there that just. And it was easy to get Fred to laugh. Oh gosh, we just roared under those covers. [Laughs]. There were a lot of other things that happened, but I can't remember everything.

Paul H. Nordeen:

At Camp Swift, did you train with any other weapons?

Floyd Harry Erickson:

Yes, we did some training with weapons, and as I remember it, we did some live ammunition stuff there. It seems like I remember our guns being used. So, I would have been shooting with all that stuff, being a machine gunner. It seems like we had some kind of a mount out in front of us to keep the gun from going down.

Paul H. Nordeen:

A safety device?

Floyd Harry Erickson:

I'll tell you a story when we get to Italy about that. About that kind of thing.

Paul H. Nordeen:

So, morale was low at that point?

Floyd Harry Erickson:

It was terrible in Camp Swift until our general was assigned to us, General Hays. Things picked up then because we kept our status as the 10th Mountain. Kept that thing right up there on top. [Points to MOUNTAIN patch on uniform]. That wasn't taken away from us. And we were getting ready to go overseas again. So, for us, for the 87th, it would have been the second trip over. The other guys had never been over yet, the 85th and the 86th, of course, because they were at Camp Hale when we were at Kiska.

Paul H. Nordeen:

Is there anything else you want to mention about Camp Swift?

Floyd Harry Erickson:

There again, if you didn't like it, you don't remember a lot of it. In fact, when they had a reunion at Camp Swift, I didn't even go to that reunion. And that was one of the only reunions I missed.

Paul H. Nordeen:

Oh, because of the bad memories there?

Floyd Harry Erickson:

Went to a lot of reunions all over the country, Idaho. We went to ski resorts all over the place. Lake Placid, Sun Valley in Idaho. A lot of places. Went to Washington. Went to Fort Lewis where the 87th started. That's where the 87th started, at Fort Lewis, Washington. That's where the ski troops really started to originate then. And they trained on Mount Rainier. I wasn't in that part, I appeared with the 87th at Ford Ord, California.

Paul H. Nordeen:

At Camp Swift, were there rumors that the 10th was going to go to Burma?

Floyd Harry Erickson:

There were rumors that we were going to go in that direction. And I can't remember it being Burma or what, but it could very easily be, because there were mountains there in that area. But when we heard it was Italy, we were pretty darn tickled. I should mention this now: General Marshall was trying to sell us to Eisenhower in Europe. And Eisenhower looked over what the 10th Mountain was all about and he said, "It's too light; I don't want that outfit." "Mules," he said, "I don't care about that; they're just too light." So Marshall called [General] Clark in Italy, and got together with him, and Clark said, "I'll take the 10th Mountain." Later I found out we could have just as well have been in that part of the war where they were caught in the snow, what in the heck was that?

Paul H. Nordeen:

Battle of the Bulge?

Floyd Harry Erickson:

Battle of the Bulge. Eisenhower called up Marshall and said, "You still got that cold weather outfit?" He said, "No, they're gone to Italy." So we could have been in the Battle of the Bulge very easily. But it turns out; I think that Clark really hit it on the head when he took us because we're the ones who busted through first. And there was no stop, and we paid the price; we paid a big price. There were a couple of German generals that said the 1 Oth Mountain was best outfit they ever were against. They just never gave up. That was good to hear, but we paid the price that first night, that first night and day. i8

Paul H. Nordeen:

Could I ask about, the 10th took a train from Camp Swift to Camp Patrick Henry? To ship over [seas]?

Floyd Harry Erickson:

Camp Patrick Henry was the outgoing for Europe and the war over there. Camp Patrick Henry was the Newport News area, I think.

Paul H. Nordeen:

Yes.

Floyd Harry Erickson:

Yes, Newport News, on the East Coast.

Paul H. Nordeen:

Yes, and do you remember the ship?

Floyd Harry Erickson:

Yes, it was the USS America we sailed on. It was our biggest ship, and they made it into a troop ship. And I guess it was converted back after the war to what it was originally. Beautiful ship, and there was ten thousand of us on it. I mean really a horribly big, big ship. We had a lot of US Os going over there to Europe, too. There was a Jenks Volcanberg, who was a model-type entertainer, Miss America woman. I remember her being on there. But they didn't put any show on when we were going over. But that ship traveled alone, because it could a lot faster than the ordinary troop ships. They figured that the subs couldn't catch up to them. But that was a horribly big target, a big ship, just under 1,000 feet long.

Paul H. Nordeen:

What was that like?

Floyd Harry Erickson:

Oh, that was like traveling first class, boy, I'll tell you. Even though it was troop ship conditions, you're lined up there four bunks high. If you waited long enough you could get ice cream on there, and of course that was like gold, having a dish of ice cream with some chocolate on it. When you're that age, you're just above a kid, learning how to be an adult. In combat you grow up overnight.

Paul H. Nordeen:

So the food on the ship was really good?

Floyd Harry Erickson:

Oh yes, as far as I was concerned. To a lot of people coming from richer backgrounds, it probably wouldn't be adequate; it wouldn't be up to their standards by a long shot. When I was in the service, I got to be in good shape, around 165, close to 170 pounds, but that was all working muscle. Climb-you could climb all day long, but during combat I lost quite a little bit of weight.

Paul H. Nordeen:

Was the weather on that trip good?

Floyd Harry Erickson:

Yes, it was good weather.

Paul H. Nordeen:

So there was no sickness like on the other trip?

Floyd Harry Erickson:

There wasn't anywhere near the sickness. I never did feel right until I had two feet on the ground. When I was on a ship, I always just didn't feel right. I'm no sailor like my dad was.

Paul H. Nordeen:

Oh yes, your dad was in the navy. Did they have Italian language lessons on loudspeakers when you were aboard that ship? I've read that; I don't know if that's true.

Floyd Harry Erickson:

I think there was some Italian stuff spoken to us on the way. We were mostly 10th Mountain on that ship; there was some Marines on there were connected with the ship. And one of them was a guy from Lansing. I hadn't lived in Lansing yet, but I knew I was going end up in Lansing, because that's where Elizabeth was, your aunt. She was going to school here, and becoming a secretary. That guy's name now-I can't spit his name out, but it's was a familiar name here in Lansing-oh, Rennaker, that was a construction company. And this was Harold Rennaker's son, and I worked for Harold Rennaker, when I got back to Lansing, after the war. I worked for Rennaker Construction Company, and that young fellow was with his dad working. So we got to talk about that we had met each other on that USS America. That was a little connection with going over there.

Paul H. Nordeen:

Do you remember going through the Straits of Gibraltar?

Floyd Harry Erickson:

Yes. I remember that vividly. That rock, up there a big rock. Yes, I remember going through that area.

Paul H. Nordeen:

Was that good weather that day? Or clear weather?

Floyd Harry Erickson:

Well, it seems like it was pretty decent, because you could see the whole thing. The big rock there that's used as an insurance symbol for so many years, and I still think it's probably being used. I can't remember the name of the company. Yes, that's a very famous spot there. And of course the Mediterranean was a lot smoother, too, going in there on the way to Naples.

Paul H. Nordeen:

We're at two hours so far. Does it seem like two hours?

Floyd Harry Erickson:

Right now? Oh my gosh, two hours. No it doesn't. But we left a good two hours to go.

Paul H. Nordeen:

That's what I was thinking. Could I come back in a week from now?

Floyd Harry Erickson:

I think you can. I'll let you know. End of First VHP Interview session. Saturday 7 March 2009. Start of Second VHP Interview session. Saturday 21 March 2009.

Paul H. Nordeen:

OK, so you were going past the rock of Gibraltar?

Floyd Harry Erickson:

Headed for Naples. And when we reached Naples Harbor, they had to do a lot of maneuvering because of the sunken ships all over the place. But they got that big ship in there. And I remember when we were docked, and walking on the gangplank to the dock at Naples. One of my men, Sidney Gaubert, he was actually in my squad. He swung his duffel bag over his shoulder, and it spun him around and he fell in the bay. [Laughs]. So, he had a wet entrance into Italy. He got kidded about that a lot. But he didn't freeze to death because that was southern Italy, way down in the flatlands. So we fished him out, of course, and he was all right after a little bit. Naples was a war town; it was bombed badly. And shortly after they had a train waiting for us to get into-box cars. It was sort of like cattle cars, but they were halfway cleaned out, and it wasn't all that bad. But they slowly made their way up the line north. And you've got to realize that those railroad tracks were bombed right and left, so they had to work like crazy to keep them so they would be able to travel on them. We stopped once in a while for a pee call. I can't remember if we got into any trucks up the line, that we ended up in trucks. I kind of think there was, that we ended up in trucks and went to Pisa. The Leaning Tower of Pi sa. We bivouacked there; that wasn't very far from where we started. I can't remember how many miles that was, but actually we could see the Leaning Tower of Pis a from where we were at if you walked to that spot. And of course, we had all heard about the Leaning Tower. After the war we were there, and got to really see it for a little bit. From that bivouac area, I don't know how long we stayed there, but it had to be a couple, three, maybe four, days. And I'm sure we went in trucks from there to north and west of Florence. Now this was like the first of the year. I don't know exactly what dates we were-that's the kind of stuff most of us GIs never kept track of. I think that was documented in the company records, and battalion records, and regimental records. We were quite a long time before we got into any type of combat, because this was January, and we actually relieved some Brazilian troops. And we had to have people that could communicate with them, so we could know what was gomg on.

Paul H. Nordeen:

Was there snow on the ground?

Floyd Harry Erickson:

Oh yes. Yes, there was snow. Now we weren't up into the mountains yet but there was already snow. Of course the further we got up into the mountains the more snow there was. And it just so happens-and this is documented, I guess, in some places, in books-that Italy had less snow that year in the mountains, under average. So that helped actually, because we didn't have our whites, and we didn't have skis, and we didn't have snow shoes. All that stuff was left behind someplace, another ship, I don't know. It's crazy, here's the ski troops, we're in Italy with no, with nothing that they're noted for and trained with. And I can't tell you how long we sat in those places where we relieved the Brazilian troops. But we took over there positions, and nothing really got going until the 18th and 19th of February. The 86th took over on the 18th. They took this mountain that had to be taken care of.

Paul H. Nordeen:

Riva Ridge?

Floyd Harry Erickson:

Riva Ridge.

Paul H. Nordeen:

Could I ask, at that point you were still a private?

Floyd Harry Erickson:

No I was a sergeant by then I think. Just an ordinary sergeant.

Paul H. Nordeen:

Were you in charge of the squad?

Floyd Harry Erickson:

Yes, was in charge of a squad.

Paul H. Nordeen:

And how many men were in the squad?

Floyd Harry Erickson:

There was probably around 10, I guess.

Paul H. Nordeen:

Do you remember their names?

Floyd Harry Erickson:

I can remember some of their names. Sidney Gaubert was one of them. Oh I just can't remember all; Ijust can't come up with these names. If! went down through some of the pictures I got I'm sure that I can come up with a lot more. Al Greenleaf was my superior; he had the 2nd platoon of the machine guns. And he was a great guy, I admired him. He was 10 years older than I am. He skied until he was 91 years old, he died at 92. Yes, Al Greenleaf was a great guy. Let's see now.

Paul H. Nordeen:

Back to February the 18th.

Floyd Harry Erickson:

February 19th. Our Lieutenant would be the head man connection with the company as we were going forward, and he chickened out. We were going up the mountain, and he-it was Lieutenant Richardson-and he sort of, well, combat was too much for him evidently. It was too much for a lot of us, but the alternative was that you were going to turn and go back. But he did go back for a couple of days. I don't know what happened to him, maybe doctors talked to him, maybe superior officers talked to him, but he did come back, and he did alright after that.

Paul H. Nordeen:

When you went up the mountain, this is Belvedere?

Floyd Harry Erickson:

This was Mount Belvedere, and we were for the most part crawling up this creek bed.

Paul H. Nordeen:

Was that at night or in the morning?

Floyd Harry Erickson:

We started at midnight.

Paul H. Nordeen:

Midnight.

Floyd Harry Erickson:

That would be the 19th coming up. And actually, I had to pull my squad back and reset, and we set up our machine guns there. That was kind of a lonely situation for us, with all the fighting going on up ahead of us. But that next day we hooked up with another company, as I remember, and we went on up, and we got into a real skirmish. It was shooting all over the place. When I was there in 2000, visited that mountain, we were all over that mountain at that time in 2000 looking over the situation. They had concrete machine gun bunkers all around that mountain, it seemed. And they looked good yet, I mean the concrete was still good, and that was after 2000, that was about 45 years later. No, 55 years later.

Paul H. Nordeen:

Could I ask, you were using 50 caliber?

Floyd Harry Erickson:

No, it wasn't 50 caliber, it was 30, heavy 30s.

Paul H. Nordeen:

30 was water cooled?

Floyd Harry Erickson:

Water cooled.

Paul H. Nordeen:

And in your squad, how many machine guns did you have?

Floyd Harry Erickson:

Just one machine gun in a squad. But a section was two machine guns, and maybe 22 men, something like that.

Paul H. Nordeen:

What was your job in the squad? Did you operate the gun?

Floyd Harry Erickson:

No, I didn't operate the gun. You had a first and second gunner, and then you had ammunition carriers. They all had weapons of some kind, mostly carbines and revolvers, and I guess even some guys carried a Ml. Anyway, we had to go through all that, oh it was horrible. Blood on the ground you can hardly see, but blood on the snow-that's a whole other ball game. That's just like a neon sign, you can't miss it. It was horrible. We didn't get a chance to set up the machine gun all that much, but we did a lot of firing. At least on Mount Belvedere, that's the way it was with us. I guess we did get set up to some point in a couple of spots there. But they'd already gotten through the line ahead of us. And that was the big part of the whole deal is to get through that line, the Gothic Line. And it wasn't pretty, I'm telling you. It was horrible. They were saying that there was close to 200 men were killed that night and day. So we're talking maybe 30 hours of just plain slaughter. And the Germans really got cut up too, no question about it. They knew that they were beaten when we got through there, I think, because a lot of them, some of them were already giving up. As I remember, we already took prisoners there at Belvedere, and that was just the start of it. So it was one mountain after another, after that. It was just all kinds of mountains. You had to get all these peaks; the high ground was the best ground. You're looking down on somebody; you're looking down on your enemy. This was in a lot of small towns. Castel d' Aiano was one of the most prominent spots, and the spot that was talked about most. [Looking at map]. There's Bologna, and Florence. And Lizzano-holy catfish, that was another spot in 2000; we spent a lot of time in Lizzano. People were very graceful. [Looking at map]. And Gaggio Montano, and Mount della Torraccia, and Pietra Colora. [Looking at Map]. I had a different map; it was easier to pick out where we were going.

Paul H. Nordeen:

So Mount Belvedere was a one- or two- or three-day battle?

Floyd Harry Erickson:

Well, it turned out to be, I think, a full two days. I don't know if it got into a third day on Mount Belvedere, but it could have. Just being what we were, you just take care of your own little spot, and you do the best you can at that.

Paul H. Nordeen:

So the battle went on through the day, and through the night?

Floyd Harry Erickson:

It started through the night and all the next day. And I'd say we pretty well wiped them out by that time on Belvedere.

Paul H. Nordeen:

But no one slept during the night?

Floyd Harry Erickson:

No, heck no. That first night there wasn't any sleep, nothing. No, heck, we were up all night. We hooked up with G company, I think it was, but that's just because somebody lost track of the guy in front of him. I think we were part of company F, and we lost our connection for the night. But we got hooked up again before daybreak, and got into some hellish skirmishes then. Like I said, that mountain was just full of machine gun nests, pointing south and pointing west and pointing east, I guess. The north side of that mountain, there wasn't any need for machine guns on the north side of that mountain. They were all on the south side mainly.

Paul H. Nordeen:

During the battles, did you have to dig foxholes?

Floyd Harry Erickson:

Yes, Paul, that is number one. If you were stopped any length of time, you were digging. Get yourself in the ground as far as you could. It's surprising; you could dig yourself into some even rocky places. If you could get down even two, three, four inches maybe six inches. But ideally the best would be to get down three feet, but on a mountainside, so much rock. A terrible amount of rock, and maybe you could use that to your advantage; if the rock were big enough, you could get behind them.

Paul H. Nordeen:

Was that mainly because of artillery bursts, or was it everything?

Floyd Harry Erickson:

Everything. Everything; artillery bursts was one of them for sure. Later on I'll have to tell you about an artillery burst where I had my foot practically in the hole of one artillery shell that hit. But that's further down the line. All these mountains one after another had numbers. Now we got to get 801 over there. There was a matter of going over there and getting them off that high ground. The 10th Mountain had so many disappointments before. Especially at Camp Swift they were even trying to make us regular infantry troops, and the guys didn't want to lose that mountain training that we all went through. It was on the patch, and they were talking about taking that MOUNTAIN off of there. It was a very sad situation for us, and it seemed like nobody wanted us. Did I tell you about Marshall and Eisenhower?

Paul H. Nordeen:

Yes; they didn't want the mules.

Floyd Harry Erickson:

Marshall called up Eisenhower and said, "We got a winterized outfit and you can have them if you want them-the 10th Mountain Division." Eisenhower looked over what we had in our outfit; we had mules instead of tanks or trucks. And we were light; you can't travel with heavy stuff in the mountains. The heaviest we had was the heavy machine guns. Anyway, Eisenhower decided that he didn't want the 10th Mountain Division; that's what it boiled down to. But two weeks later, he saw what was happening over there: the Germans were making a big push in that Battle of the Bulge. And that was winter there at that time. Eisenhower called up--we found this out after the war. Evidently, Eisenhower had different thoughts about the 10th Mountain Division. So he said, "If you still have that division," he said, "I could use it right now," from what I was told. Anyway, Marshall said that there're already committed to Clark in Italy in the mountains. So we could have been in the Battle of the Bulge, too. So Clark got a good deal as it proved out.

Paul H. Nordeen:

There was a tram that went up to Riva Ridge; did you see that?

Floyd Harry Erickson:

Yes, and they took men down off of that mountain, wounded men, and took a lot of medical stuff up that tram, and food, and what have you. Our engineers in the 10th Mountain Division built that thing, and built it very quickly. And it turned out to be a real very good piece of work. That was the 10th Mountain engineers that did that.

Paul H. Nordeen:

Did you see yourself, the tram?

Floyd Harry Erickson:

Paul, I can't say that I truly really seen it, but I seen so dam many pictures of that thing. I can't remember, I truly can't tell you that I seen it with my own eyes. But I sure as heck could have, because I was on top of Belvedere, and they had that thing going up to Riva Ridge, which was just to the west of us and a little bit south. I could have seen it from up there easily. Paul, I forgot so dam many things and a lot of stuff you just wash it out of your sight; you don't remember it. I can't remember a lot of things. And I've spoke with a lot of my buddies, and they remember some things that I never even when I was there. And I remember some things that they don't.

Paul H. Nordeen:

So the battle at Belvedere lasted a few days?

Floyd Harry Erickson:

It lasted at least a couple of days. And we were going as fast as we could, north. And there were probably some skirmishes after we were out of the Belvedere area and to the next mountain. I can't remember a lot of these names of these mountains. I can remember most of the towns, the little towns, like Castel d' Aiano and Gaggio Montano and Lizzano and Pietra Colora.

Paul H. Nordeen:

When you entered these towns during the war, were they damaged?

Floyd Harry Erickson:

Some of the little towns were damaged, yes. Germans didn't waste their ammunition on a lot of these smaller places. Even their artillery was directed mainly to hit troop concentrations, I think. I shouldn't say what I just said, because Castel d' Aiano was bombed like crazy. Probably for good reason, because they knew exactly that we had a big contingent in that area, a lot of men. Lieutenant Dole was wounded badly in that area, and that's just north and west of Castel d' Aiano. Castel d' Aiano in 2000 when I was there was just a beautiful little retirement community, beautiful town. It had the old part and the newer part, apartments. And it's a beautiful area; man, that's a beautiful area. And it was tom up badly in the war-Castel d' Aiano. And I remember seeing an old man in this area; he could have been the only guy in the town, the only person. But he was staggering around, and he seemed just disoriented-he didn't know what was what. I don't think he knew that we were Americans even. And I'm sure he had a lot to do with the Germans, because the Germans had just left that community. He was really in bad shape, little Italian guy. I remember finding an egg in that town. And I boiled it, I might have eaten it shell and all, I don't know. [Laughs]. That sure tasted good, put a little salt on it. So there had to be chickens someplace, if you got a hold ofa chicken, he would have been done for, too. [Laughs]. We were there long enough to even try to pack something up and send it back so that eventually it would go home. But our captain said, you can't do that, because the Italians are on our side now. They were on our side shortly after the Germans left. The Italians naturally came over to our side. A lot of Italian people hated the Germans, hated them bad. And they hated their own dictator, Mussolini. And a lot these people became the underground fighters; they took care of a lot of situations. And I'm trying to think of what they called themselves.

Paul H. Nordeen:

Partisans?

Floyd Harry Erickson:

There's a group of them in Windsor, Canada.

Paul H. Nordeen:

The Italian Alpini?

Floyd Harry Erickson:

Alpini, yes. They met with us quite often at Frankenmuth, Michigan. There's a museum there of all the services, and the 10th Mountain Division has a display in there, too. We go there every Memorial Day. We have been and still are; we're still going there. But there's only-well, I think there was 10 of us at our last meeting. Be interesting to see what's going to be this coming year. I think that there has shrunk down to something maybe less than eight by now. Now we're in the area of what I'm talking about to describe a spot in the mountains where three things happened on this day. And I don't know what date it is, but three things happened there within 24 hours that I'll never forget. Did I tell you about them?

Paul H. Nordeen:

I don't think so. Was this the spring offensive in April?

Floyd Harry Erickson:

I would say that this was probably in March. Because we were on a ridge of mountains, and there was snow all over, but you could walk in it. We were there for four days at least, because we had a darn nice foxhole. And they kept bringing blankets up to us from the rear. My buddy and I had seven blankets in that foxhole. One guy on guard and the other one resting. Pretty comfortable; it was down in the ground a good three feet at least, and looking down the mountain. And here's the things that happened on that day. I saw this little guy; it was dusk, on one of the days that we were there. But like I say, these three things happened in about 24 hours. I saw this little guy, and the more I looked at him, he was stringing wire coming from my left and in back of me. He was down lower than I was, and I was looking at him. My gosh, I know that guy. And I got up out of my foxhole; it was dusk. The Germans were watching for movements, but at dusk they can't see very good, so there wasn't any incoming artillery. During the day you wouldn't be lazily walking around. Anyway, this little guy-I got out of the foxhole, and I knew who he was-Spike Garrett. We had graduated together a couple of years before that. This was in '45, so we had graduated five years before that.

Paul H. Nordeen:

From Gwinn?

Floyd Harry Erickson:

Gwinn High School. My neighbor right across the street. He was our "mailman" in school passing notes. He'd pick one up from Elizabeth and bring it over to Floyd. [Laughs]. Take one from Floyd and bring it back to Elizabeth. He was my buddy, and here he was in the 10th Mountain Division. Oh, I couldn't believe it. I didn't have more idea that he was with the 10th Mountain Division than the man in the moon. But there was Spike Garrett. We talked momentarily, and he had ajob to do, and I had ajob to do, so we couldn't spend hours talking. We could have spent hours talking, but there was no way we could do it there. Anyway, we got together later on. He was in another regiment; he was in the 86th. We got together there; I don't know where it was in Italy, but we had a few beers. [Laughs]. Spike was a great guy, and I've got his picture in there. We used to jump together on hills.

Paul H. Nordeen:

Ski jump?

Floyd Harry Erickson:

In the Gwinn area. We loved skiing, Spike and I both. And my cousin Kayo, who was my first cousin, both of these guys are passed on. And he was a great guy, too; he wasn't in the 10th Mountain Division, but he could have been. That was one thing that happened. The next thing that happened was down that mountain about a mile away, maybe a little more, early in the morning about 7:00, I happened to be awake and I could hear. He was just singing up a storm. He'd evidently come back to his farm house, and was happy to see his place there yet. It wasn't bombed, the Germans had just left the place. They were on the next mountain over, which is probably three miles away from us. He was just happy as a lark and singing opera music like the Italians sing-a lot of opera, of course; there're noted for that. And happiness to no end. Twenty four hours later he evidently went back and got his family. From what we could see and hear, we've come up with this story, and it made sense. He took his family back, and they got into the house, of course, and he had some kids, and they evidently got into booby traps the Germans had put there. And there was screaming and hollering and-oh. And I don't know if our command did anything about that at all; I have no idea. All I know is that I was doing what I was told, to stay there and be on guard. But that was a horrible thing to experience, happiness and grief no end the next 24 hours away. And the last thing that happened during that period of time was a man by the name of Lieutenant Musick from F Company. I think it was on our left and maybe a couple of hundred yards away. He had been back for about three weeks, I understand, and got mended. He had been injured bad and was OK, and he wanted to go back to his outfit. That's the way it was; these guys wanted to go back with their outfit and finish the war. I guess a lot of them did that. And a lot them didn't; they got a cut, and they got a shrapnel piece or something; they call that a million dollar wound. But anyway, this guy came back, and he no sooner got back, he got hit again-killed. And that was another story from that about 24-hour experience that I had, sitting in a foxhole observing all of this stuff.

Paul H. Nordeen:

And the lieutenant was in company F?

Floyd Harry Erickson:

It was either ForE; I could look it up and find out for sure.

Paul H. Nordeen:

But what company were you in at this time?

Floyd Harry Erickson:

I was H Company. That's heavy weapons. And we were always attached, some part of us. We were mortars and heavy machine guns. 81 [mm] mortars and we'd be attached to E, F, and G.

Paul H. Nordeen:

Which was the second battalion?

Floyd Harry Erickson:

Second battalion. We were second battalion of the 87th Regiment.

Paul H. Nordeen:

Did you have to worry about mines?

Floyd Harry Erickson:

Yes. And there was another time we ran into a spot where there was, for whatever reason, there were a lot of mines. And the first thing you know, I see a guy down in a, it was almost like a bowl. The Germans had that place mined horribly. I suppose they figured we'd put a artillery piece down in there, it would be low, and we'd fire out of that. But there was a guy down there and being taken care of by a medic. First thing I know, all of a sudden there was a couple other guys going down to help, stepped on mines and became victims that were going to be helping out the situation. That was a horrible spot of mines, I remember that. And I can't tell you where that was; I don't know. All I remember is that we were going by this spot and told where to walk. There's a unit in our outfit that just cleared out mines, and took care of that kind of situation.

Paul H. Nordeen:

The engineers?

Floyd Harry Erickson:

Yes, and now that I'm talking about this kind of thing, we had a guy that came to us at night. He was attached to the 10th Mountain Division, and all he did was set up booby traps in front of machine guns as he told me. And he needed a volunteer to go out in front of our guns to set up some booby traps. I went out there with him and observed him doing what he does best. I didn't do any of it; I was just observing where they were. When he got done we came back in, and about half an hour later one of them went off. I would say probably a cat got into it or something. Well, we were in an area where there was very little snow at that time. I'm thinking it probably was a cat or something like that. But for the most part, that's all he did. He must have had nerves of steel, I think. That was something I'll never forget, too. I don't know why I would be out there, though. What the heck would I have to be there for, but I was chosen to go out there with him. I don't know, probably felt better with somebody else there, too. Maybe I could have helped him ifhe got hurt or something. Anyway, I was chosen to go out there. I was a sergeant at that time. I never was a corporal; I can't figure that one out. I was a private first class and then bumped up to a sergeant. But I replaced somebody that was knocked out, and I replaced somebody when I became a staff sergeant, too. If a guy had any kind of a wound at all, he was gone back. Some of these things that go over and over in your mind and you try to remember where they happened approximately. But we're talking 64 years ago.

Paul H. Nordeen:

Yes, I understand.

Floyd Harry Erickson:

Well, as I go along here, I don't know if you've got a question or not there, Paul. Maybe that will trigger something in that area that we're talking about, coming down into the Po Valley after all of these mountains.

Paul H. Nordeen:

00 you remember when FOR died?

Floyd Harry Erickson:

Yes, and I picked a paper off of the ground, and I don't even remember if it was an Italian paper or a German paper. Ijust looked at "FOR died," "FOR dead," I don't know exactly. But that's the way I found out, picked a paper off of the ground. I should have saved that.

Paul H. Nordeen:

Were you shocked when you found out he was dead?

Floyd Harry Erickson:

I'm sure I was. I served my country and proud as all get-out to have served my country, so I had feeling for FOR. No question about that. By the way, my son-in-law is going to have a book out on FOR very shortly. It should be out this year for sure, and it's going to be a big book. Hard cover, it's a long book all about FOR's younger years before he had polio and after he had polio. So, Jim [Tobin] will have that out and hopefully it will go over.

Paul H. Nordeen:

00 you remember the spring offensive? In April, the 14th of April?

Floyd Harry Erickson:

The 14th of April? I don't.

Paul H. Nordeen:

It was the day after, two days after FOR died.

Floyd Harry Erickson:

Yes, and this was in April. Well, we're talking now in the foothills of the Apennines. That's where I had my closest call. I remember that particular time very vividly. Yes, now that you speak of it. We were coming down the face of this mountain, the foothills of the Apennines actually, not in the mountains anymore. And it was wooded, and there wasn't any snow to speak of-just spots. And this shell came in, it had to be an artillery piece; it wasn't an 88, the famous 88 that you hear after it hits. And if it hits you, why, you don't hear it. [Laughs]. This was a big shell-a pretty good size shell evidently, because it made .. .I'm judging the hole that it made in the ground. But I was the closest man to that shell, and I was knocked out for about 15-20 minutes. And when they finally checked me over, I didn't have any wounds to speak of, just my ears were blown out. I couldn't hear nothing. Nothing! And it came back about three hours later where I could hear good enough. But I wanted to stay with the outfit; I could have gotten back. But I helped. Five guys got it. Two litter cases and three walk-out cases. I don't know if I carried a litter out of there or if I helped carry a litter case out or helped one of the walk-out cases. But anyway, just to get them back to the medics as quick as they could. But there I was laying on the ground; the guys assumed that I was probably dead. But I didn't have one drop of blood drawn out of me, knocked out of me. Ijust lost my hearing, and to this day, my hearing has never been right.

Paul H. Nordeen:

Were both ears damaged?

Floyd Harry Erickson:

Both. Both ears.

Paul H. Nordeen:

One more than another?

Floyd Harry Erickson:

No, they were both. Oh, I'm telling you, that's been a horrible thing all my life. I've had hearing aids and these are 7,500 bucks, and they're not doing the job. And I'm hoping that they can come up with something better yet. There's a lot of hearing outfits out there. There's dozens of them that have different kinds of hearing aids. But I've had about six different companies, Bell Tone and Sonus. These here are Fluke Hearing. He's a German guy, that's a terrible name, Fluke. But he's got ads in the paper; he's got eight different cities in Lower Michigan. He's got an office, so he spent a lot oftime with me to get my hearing, but he's never got it to where I feel comfortable. I've got to have the TV up higher and Elizabeth gets blown out with her good hearing. So that was my closest call, but I had another close call that was by a German sniper that wasn't a very good shot because he missed me by about six inches. One shot was probably a foot high, and the second shot was about, it wasn't low enough, it was about I'd say about six inches. I was coming out of this building here with a door in the back.

Paul H. Nordeen:

Do you remember what village this was?

Floyd Harry Erickson:

I can't remember the area.

Paul H. Nordeen:

Was this Torre Iussi?

Floyd Harry Erickson:

No. It was a house that we took over before we got out of the mountains. It was very close to the Po Valley. We were getting close to the Po Valley already. There's a door right here, window on the house here. [Points to sketch]. And I came out here. German sniper was over here someplace. And he shot and he hit the window lintel, spot above the window. It seems like it was concrete or stone; I don't know. You could see the bullet marks there. But I wasn't looking around long; I was back in, in a hurry. [Laughs]. But the Germans were great for shooting our men in the head. That's what they wanted; it was the ultimate shot to hit a guy in the skull. Anyway, I was back in the house very shortly. I didn't waste any time getting back. I don't know why I was going out there for whatever reason; I can't remember anymore. And I can't remember what place that was near, what little town.

Paul H. Nordeen:

Here's something I have. [Shows letter Paul received from John Imbrie about Floyd H. Erickson's service record].

Floyd Harry Erickson:

Oh, yes. Yes, this guy is good. I've met him. [Reads above letter which mentions village of Torre Iussi]. That town I can't even remember, I can't even remember that. And to this day, I don't know exactly what I did for that Bronze Star.

Paul H. Nordeen:

Oh, you had a Bronze Star?

Floyd Harry Erickson:

Yes. But guys do things sometimes just automatically and don't even remember them. I think that there was a lot of guys that did a lot of stuff that never got recorded in any way. But you're always looking out after your buddy, and your buddies were all around you. The guys you fought with knew them within your own platoon, you know your own squad the best, but your platoon is the unit that is tightly knit. All these guys in that platoon, over the years I've watched one-by-one drop off. These were real buddies in the platoon, because you were closest to them. Company was pretty close, but the platoon was. Al Greenleaf was my platoon leader; I had a lot of respect for AI. Being 10 years older it's just like your dad, practically. One heck of a big difference in age, me 23, him 33. Or 24 and 34. Oh, Al was a great guy. He could fall asleep at the drop of a hat, I'm telling you. We'd stop someplace, and he'd sit down and lean over all relaxed. You relaxed any chance you could get. Well, he relaxed to the point where he [mimics snoring sounds]. [Laughs]. Al was great, and one day we put an orange in his mouth when he was snoring. [Laughs]. I don't know where we got the orange from. I've often wondered about that. Well, let's see, where were we at here, now. We were getting down into the Po Valley, and the general keeps saying, "Go as fast as you can go any way you can get north of here." And you know you're going to have a lot oflittle skirmishes, but just go. We were headed for the Brenner Pass to block off the escape route for the Germans. Before we go any further, if you could give me a copy of that sometime. [Refers to above letter]. My daughter would love to have one of them.

Paul H. Nordeen:

I've made a copy. You can have that one.

Floyd Harry Erickson:

Lisa would really appreciate that. And we were actually picking up German cars and trucks and even motorcycles from what I understand and just heading north. The darndest thing you could ever imagine. But he said, "Just keep going as fast as you can go." I remember walking at night all night long. All night. You're in a stupor when you're in the black, and every once in awhile there were a few gunshots you would hear. Well, we just keep on going. And then in the morning daybreak, trucks come along, pick us up, drive as fast as they can for about 25-30 miles and drop us off, as I remember. And then they'd go back and they'd pick up more guys. Oh man, you talk about being exhausted. I don't think anything can compare with that kind of exhaustion. And prisoners by the thousands, just giving up right and left, they knew they were beat. This was getting close to the end. In Bologna I remember being in this big hotel, and Bill Eslien, who was the first gunner in my squad, he found a stairway to the attic, and there were a bunch of German skis up there. A dozen or so pairs of them, white, beautiful skis. He took a couple of pairs and sent them back home to Milwaukee. I don't know how the heck he ever got them back. He sure as heck didn't carry them. But I don't know how we were in this hotel for a short time; I guess we were checking it out is what it amounted to. Anyway, we were on our way, we went right past Verona, which is south and a little bit east of Lake Garda. And of course when we got to Lake Garda, the end was right there. That's where we stopped at the north end of Lake Garda, which was Riva. Riva, Italy was right there, a little resort town on the end of Garda. On the east side of the lake you had to go through these tunnels that went through this mountain. This was a mountain lake, and of course there was no beach, no beach at all. The mountain just went right down into the lake. And here is where we had a disaster. We had one of those, what do they call them, they're a boat and they still travel on land.

Paul H. Nordeen:

Amphibious?

Floyd Harry Erickson:

They had a name for them.

Paul H. Nordeen:

A DUKW? [Amphibious 2 112-ton truck, pronounced "Duck"].

Floyd Harry Erickson:

DUKW, that's what it was. They put I think something like 25 men in there with the gear. Too much, it went right down. I think there was only two guys that escaped out of that. I don't know what prompted them to make such a horrible mistake.

Paul H. Nordeen:

Did you see this?

Floyd Harry Erickson:

I didn't see that, no. But our men are still over there trying to salvage some of that stuff. I don't know if they got any bones or not from the guys that went down with that thing. That was a horrible thing. But we had a company of men that got across there. And the Germans were over there on the other side, and I think they cleaned out the best way they could and went north from there. And probably met some of us coming up from the other side, and Riva was right on the tip. So eventually we would meet. But over there it was the same thing; it was tunneled out into the mountains, because that mountainside went right down into the lake. But Riva, there was beach up in that area, some nice beach and that's the north end of Lake Garda. Mussolini had a home on Lake Garda on the southern part of it. And a lot of mansions along there, and some were dug right into the side of the mountain. This is where Colonel Darby got it; he was in one of these openings of these mountain tunnels on the east side, the side that I was on. And him and his top sergeant, as I remember, were standing talking. And the Germans were over there on the other side, the west side. They saw evidently with telescopes across that lake; it's 5 to 10 miles across, something like that. But they shot that 88, it's just like a rifle, that 88, but the shell is four or five feet long. They shot that thing into the opening of that mountain road on the east side tunnel, and they killed him and his sergeant and I think another couple of guys got hurt. But anyway, Colonel Darby got I, and he was elevated to a general after a few months. But they've got his memorial setting there in Riva, and I had pictures taken by that memorial. Colonel Darby was the head of Darby Rangers in World War II, and they did away with that outfit. And he said, "I want to go with the 10th Mountain Division." So he came into the 10th Mountain Division, and I guess he was with us for all the campaign that the 10th Mountain had in Italy. That was end of the proceedings there for us. Eventually we were called down to a town by the name ofUdine. The Czechoslovakian dictator, I can't spit his name out now.

Paul H. Nordeen:

Tito?

Floyd Harry Erickson:

Tito. Was that it?

Paul H. Nordeen:

Yugoslavian dictator?

Floyd Harry Erickson:

Yes. I should remember that, but anyway, he was acting up; he was trying to take a chunk of Italy. I think Italy got it from them sometime years previous to that. He was acting up, and the 10th Mountain Division was sent down there along with some other troops, and show some strength and trying to tell him that he was playing with fire ifhe tried to do anything. We sat there for a week or two. And I don't know, Paul, ifthere's anything more that I can tell you.

Paul H. Nordeen:

How did Fred [Anetsberger] die?

Floyd Harry Erickson:

Fred was in his machine gun ...

Paul H. Nordeen:

Was he in your squad?

Floyd Harry Erickson:

He was out connected with another company at that time, and we could have just as well been out there. But they were out there; he was there with his second gunner, Cook. Fred was the first gunner on a heavy 30. And they tell me he had gotten about 10 krauts on a hedgerow, and he was firing in that hedgerow and he got about 10 krauts before he got it. But he got a mortar shell, practically landed in their foxhole. And Cook, his leg had to be amputated up beyond the knee, so it was up there pretty high. And Fred said to work on him first, he told the medic take care of him. But Fred didn't know that he was full of shrapnel in his guts area. He only lived for a very short time when they were able to get to him. And Fred was a real close buddy, and he was from Park Falls, Wisconsin. I guess I told you I cut his hair that one time, and made such a horrible mess out of it. [Laughs]. He had a beautiful head of hair, blond guy, German. He was a German boy. Here he was killing Germans. But anyway, his folks were from Germany. But they were American people, and we visited them ctfler the war. I'll never forget that, either. She had a hard time talking to me because Fred obviously told her a lot that Floyd was one of my buddies. I don't know if I was the only one that ever went to them after the war or not. They had a closed tavern party in town at Park Falls. They lived just outside of town, a spot called Sugerbush where they made maple syrup in that area. I met the girl he was going to marry; she was a Dutch girl. And they proceeded to get me so dang tanked that I didn't know what end was up. [Laughs]. The next day, we were on our way back to the-now I got to think about this. Did we go back up to Gwinn, or did we go back to Lansing? Because Park Falls, Wisconsin is only about 25 miles south and west oflronwood in the U.P. It would be a lot closer to Gwinn from there then it is to go to Lansing from there. We made so many trips after the war to Gwinn.

Paul H. Nordeen:

After Lake Garda, where did you go?

Floyd Harry Erickson:

Where did we go from there?

Paul H. Nordeen:

Yes.

Floyd Harry Erickson:

Well for the most part, down to Undine in that trouble spot there. Because that happened shortly after the war ended. But there could have been a couple of weeks there that I can't remember exactly. Oh yes, we did go to a resort hotel on what they call the Marmalota; this is up in the Italian Alps. And what a beautiful spot.

Paul H. Nordeen:

Was this after the war?

Floyd Harry Erickson:

Yes. Oh, what a beautiful spot. As I remember, we slept in sheets. This was a resort hotel, and we took it over. And I can't tell you if it was just a company or if it was more than a company. I can't imagine it being more than a company, because it would be too many people. But what a beautiful spot. There was even some farmland, sort of mountain farmland. You'd see all of the beautiful Alps there to the North. This was now ... the war was over the first week in May, probably in June sometime. We were there for probably just four or five days. But we got a good rest and a good look at those Italian mountains. Some of our guys went up on the glacier in the morning about 7:00 and skied, stripped to the waist by noon time. Had a chance to ski on .. .I didn't go up, but. ..

Paul H. Nordeen:

What was the name of the resort?

Floyd Harry Erickson:

I don't remember the name of the resort. I've got postcards, and I should remember that But this was the Marmalota. A very beautiful spot. And I think this was a spot close to where the Italians had Olympic skiing there. Anyway, that wasn't too far from where we were. That was a beautiful spot.

Paul H. Nordeen:

I forgot to ask about the end of the war. Do you remember when the news came that the Germans surrendered?

Floyd Harry Erickson:

Oh, yes. Yes, I remember vividly. And for some reason or another, it didn't take us long to really start celebrating. I'm telling you, after the war, it was something else. We captured this German depot; it belonged to the 10th Mountain Division. General Hays said, "The men are going to have that; they deserve it." We had 16 trucks loaded up with everything you could imagine: German drinks, even champagne. And they were passing it out; I can't remember for sure if it was two bottles a week or one bottle a week for each man. That's a lot ofliquor. There was everything, I mean, some of the best stuff you could ever drink. These guys that drink, they would classify it as A-I stuff. I remember drinking some of that, and it just takes your legs from out under you. I mean, your legs are gone. We had a bivouac area in the mountains there, after the war, near Lake Garda. And we were sleeping right by this stream coming out of the mountains, ice cold water. And I had beer, no end. A lot of guys didn't drink beer; they liked the wine and all the other stuff. So I would trade my cigarettes for their beer, or candy for their beer. At one time, I had 92 cans of beer, at one time, sitting in a mountain stream, ice cold. [Laughs]. I just drank beer after the war at home. But 1971, I quit it all. I haven't drank any beer since 1971. That's 38 years ago. But I used to love beer. Anyway, I think the good Lord took that away from me. And I don't miss it one bit. I know the good Lord took it away from me. But getting back to those truckloads of liquor, it only took two weeks, and the general said; "It's got to stop." Too many guys out of control; this is after the war.

Paul H. Nordeen:

How did you get back to the States? Did you take a train down to Naples again?

Floyd Harry Erickson:

You mean in Italy?

Paul H. Nordeen:

Yes.

Floyd Harry Erickson:

You mean to move out?

Paul H. Nordeen:

Yes, to ship back to the U.S.

Floyd Harry Erickson:

We left Naples; I can't remember the name of that ship. When we went over, it was the USS America that was made into a troop ship. I can't tell what the name ofthe ...

Paul H. Nordeen:

Was it the Mount Vernon?

Floyd Harry Erickson:

Yes, it seems like that rings a bell with me. Yes, a pretty good size ship. We were supposed to go to New York first; they went to Newport News. We were all disappointed; we wanted to be in on that area there where you could see the Statue of Liberty. And they'd be out there, the firemen with their hoses and stuff on these ships that had these big hoses squirting the stuff. And we were thinking we'd be in on a big celebration there. But the dang ship was rerouted down to Newport News.

Paul H. Nordeen:

Do you remember when you heard the news about the atomic bombs?

Floyd Harry Erickson:

Yes. This has been very confusing to me. You've probably got more information from [John] Imbrie. He's got all that information, I'm sure. But I think we were slated to go to Italy [misspoke, meant to say Japan] coming back. And I can't remember exactly if the first bomb dropped before we landed or after we landed. I can't remember exactly. All I know is we knew that the end was. Even after the first bomb we knew, we figured, boy we don't have to go to Japan. That would have been the third time over the 87th. After the war, of course, I had three furloughs in a row. They couldn't handle us. I could have stayed in camp and got bumped up to a tech sergeant and helped out with all the stuff that to be taken care of before a guy could get discharged. And sometimes I think that would have been a good thing because they would have honored my ear problems a lot more. It would have been a good thing for that part of it. But anyway, I got home, and of course, I got married. That's what we were looking forward to; never even made a proposal, because that was understood. We'd been going together for a good many years. We could have gotten married before I left, but I guess I had brains enough to know that things happen in war that makes those kinds of things impossible.

Paul H. Nordeen:

When were you discharged from the army?

Floyd Harry Erickson:

I was discharged in the first week of November 1945. Like I said, I had three furloughs; the last furlough I couldn't afford because I was spending money back and forth on trains. And Elizabeth was working.

Paul H. Nordeen:

Where were you furloughed from? Where were you based?

Floyd Harry Erickson:

We were furloughed from Camp Carson, Colorado. Camp Hale was being dismantled, and Camp Carson was a nice place there to be. Even in the winter time, the Camp Carson area gets snow, but you're out on the flat ground. It's not too far from Colorado Springs-nice town. I spent a lot of time in Colorado Springs.

Paul H. Nordeen:

Could I ask about the heavy 30 calibers-did you have tracers on those?

Floyd Harry Erickson:

Y es. Yes, we had tracers and I can't remember how close they were together. I'd say every fifth shell was a tracer. I can't remember that, either. To get that thing fire-ready and keep it that way was kind of tricky. You had to pack this fireproof stuff to take care of the heat and take care of the water so that the water isn't going out all over the place. It was a fireproof material, something like an asbestos. And you packed it in-it's funny how quick you forget. I don't know if! could take a heavy 30 apart now and put it back together. [Laughs]. But back in those days, you had to be able to do that blindfolded.

Paul H. Nordeen:

So they actually did put a blindfold on you?

Floyd Harry Erickson:

Yes. Oh, yes. If I can think of other things, I'll make notes of it and see that you get them. You've got the most of it, that's for sure.

Paul H. Nordeen:

Could I ask one last thing? What lesson do you think that you learned from the war that perhaps other people who haven't been through it need to know?

Floyd Harry Erickson:

Paul, describing combat to somebody is horribly hard to do. Just terribly. You can't imagine what. You wonder at times how anything could come out of your plan. It seems like there's times when everything is so muddled up, but you hold together and you work together in your little corner, and things get done. And after a time, you come out feeling good about it. I think being in combat made a better man out of me without a shadow of a doubt. And to develop relationships with guys that you loved, they were there for you and you were there for them. I think the relationships that came out of that war were invaluable. We made relationships one with another that were real. We hugged each other. War is horrible, terrible, terrible. We were four months, [in combat] we could have been a year and four months if somebody would have taken us. So we were pretty well trained. Somebody said over trained, but I don't know as we were over trained. I think all the training we had was invaluable in combat. But taking care of yourself in the mountain troops was number one. If you didn't take care of yourself, you weren't worth a crap to your outfit as far as I was concerned. Because then you become somebody that somebody else is going to have to take care of. Or look after you. With all the other stuff that's going on in war, you shouldn't have that. You should have all your buddies going forward; they're looking out after you, and you're looking out after them. And you're doing your job, and he's doing his job. And ifit comes to where you're looking out after somebody that's out of condition [with] frozen feet. You got to be able to take care of yourself in that cold weather, and if you don't, you're in real trouble. We had a lot of guys that had to leave the mountains at 11,000 feet because they didn't take care of themselves. Well, they didn't know how, some of them. That was a big part of our outfit getting in conditioning and knowing how to stay there. When you get to the point to where you figure you can walk all day long or you can ski all day long or snowshoe all day long-and you did. Well, then you were in shape. We had the best dang skiers this country had, plus a lot of Finns, Norwegians, and Swedes, and Austrians that came over. Well Paul, if you think you've got some ideas for another time, it will probably be a short time, but we'll leave that up to you.

Paul H. Nordeen:

OK.

Floyd Harry Erickson:

And if I think of some things, maybe we ought to get together again.

Paul H. Nordeen:

OK.

Floyd Harry Erickson:

But I've got a lot of time. End of Second VHP Interview session. Saturday 21 March 2009. Start of Third VHP Interview session. Saturday 11 April 2009.

Paul H. Nordeen:

This is the final interview for the Veterans History Project of Floyd Harry Erickson, who was in the 10th Mountain Division, 87th Regiment, Company H. Currently it's the Saturday, the 11th of April, 2009.

Floyd Harry Erickson:

We had been going all day, I mean it just was just move forward continually. Skirmishes here and skirmishes there all along the way. And we were dog tired when it was about dusk. We got to this Italian home, and we wanted to stop for the day, and maybe even get a little rest. We asked the Italian people if we could use their loft up above. They had a door that faced north in this loft, so we had a place to set up the machine gun. They gave us permission to go up there, and there was a lot of hay up there bundled so we had a pretty good place to have a nap. And we set up the machine gun, but the door was up off of the floor about I'd say 15-16 inches, maybe even a little higher than that. But the door was about three feet or four feet wide, and maybe about five or six feet high. And it swung open inside so that we could have the door in there and have it wide open for the gun to be able to see out north, which is where the Germans were. So we had a couple men on the gun, and we were all relaxing. And it was about two 0' clock in the morning. I was awoken by one of the guys on the gun, [and he] said "Eric, I can't depress the gnn down. There's a couple ofkrauts out there (Germans) and we can't get the gun down because the door, that parapet there, the door being about 15-16 inches off the floor keeps us from being able to shoot down low." But there's at least two Germans out there, and, of course, its pitch black. I had to make a decision, what do we do? Do we try to shoot them? We're up above; we're in a home; the Italians are right down below us-a family. What do we do? We know darn well that they can throw one of those grenades they have with the handles on them. They could throw that through that door just like nothing and ruin the whole thing-kill us and maybe the family down below. Like I say, I had to make a decision, and it wasn't easy. But as it proved out, I think it was the right decision. I said, "Let's just hold tight here. They're trying to feel out where we're at." They were on night patrol to find out where our line was. Anyway, a little time went by, and they just scooted around and started back north, the last I saw of them. I didn't hear any rifle fire for a long time, maybe half an hour later. But as it turned out, I didn't know that anybody was hurt, wounded, or killed by that patrol that the Germans had out. So I thank God that it turned out as well as it did. Anyway, we lived for another day to keep going north. But I learned one thing: you don't set up a gun and know exactly what you're going to be able to do with it. We were just too darned tired, I guess, to know that the gun operating there was almost worthless; with as close as they were to the house, we couldn't get the gun down. I suppose I could have shot my little carbine rifle, but there again, I didn't know how many of them there was. There was two that I saw, that we saw, I guess, because I think that the other guys said it was two, and that was it. But I'm sure that further back there was probably more than that. Anyway, I think I made the right decision, and that was a big one. Elizabeth Erickson: Can I interrupt?

Paul H. Nordeen:

Sure. Elizabeth Erickson: This is that citation. [Citation for Bronze Star medal] This is a copy but it's a horrible copy. Lisa's [Floyd and Elizabeth's daughter] got the article that was in the Mining Journal up in Gwinn. It's a pretty nice article. But you can have this one.

Paul H. Nordeen:

Thank you. Elizabeth Erickson: If you can read it.

Paul H. Nordeen:

Oh, yes. So you don't know who this man is? [Referring to the man that Floyd rescued during the incident mentioned in the Bronze Star citation].

Floyd Harry Erickson:

That I helped? No. I don't know him from Adam. I think it was somebody in another company or squad because I would have known; I would remember that.

Paul H. Nordeen:

If he lived, he probably remembers you.

Floyd Harry Erickson:

When you're on line, I don't think you really know what happens, because medics take them right back immediately; in back of the line there are doctors. Like our [Albert H., Jr.] Meinke who just died who wrote that book. He was right in back of the line directing. If he could take care of it right there, he would. But ifhe couldn't, he'd be sending them back further. There's something here on dive bombers. [Referring to prepared topic notes]. Did I ever tell you anything about dive bombers?

Paul H. Nordeen:

No, you didn't.

Floyd Harry Erickson:

There were a lot of haystacks when we were starting to get down into the Po Valley where the haystacks were more prominent. At a company level we could call back and ask for dive bombers to blast these haystacks because we think machine guns are in there. Well, it doesn't necessarily have to be a haystack; it could have been a building or whatever. They'd come around there and just blast; oh, man, they just plastered everything. We had so much firepower in the air. We just ruled the skies. They [the Germans] didn't dare put a plane up, especially a spotter or something like that for there artillery. They really got blasted. In a lot of ways, I can see where after having been blasted a few times with those kinds of weapons that you would lose faith and want to give up. I had a chance to get in back of the line one time, and you can't even imagine how much artillery ammunition was back there. It was piled I'd say about four feet high all along the road. And I swear it went a mile back. I couldn't imagine we had all that artillery. We had artillery to just burn. So as we got down closer to the flat area out of the Apennines, I think the artillery, well, they were very prominent in the mountains, too. But my land, when we got down closer to where they could move around better, they just blasted everything they could get their eyes on. So we had a lot of support as the infantry moved forward. But then it got to the Po Valley, the Po River, and then some more flatland. It just seemed like everything moved so fast there; we were just go go go all day long. I don't know if I mentioned it before, but there was one night that we walked all night long, just all night. Maybe even half asleep. Very few skirmishes; you could hear shell fires here and there all around. But we just kept going forward. And then about dawn I remember one morning they picked us up and moved us forward about 25 miles or so towards Lake Garda, Verona area. And got out of the trucks and did what we had to do where we were dropped off. I think I missed here on the trip up to Kiska in the Aleutians. We had "Weasels" [snowmobile prototype] that were good in the snow. They were very good in the snow; you could go like crazy with those things. It seemed like 25 miles an hour. But up there in the Aleutians, that was a whole different ball game for those things. Those tracks on there were so light. These things were built by Studebaker before the war and during the war. But they were built for snow, and that's all; they weren't built for mud. Up there on Kiska they were worthless, just throwing their tracks off all the time. The only thing that could move up there was those real tractors-D8s. They were heavy, real heavy. [Laughs]. That was the form of transportation up on that island, tractors pulling a trailer. It was comical. But that mud was--oh, man, all those trucks and jeeps trying to get around. Well, they got around, but they had to go through mud something fierce. Oh, it was terrible, sometimes as much as two feet deep. And yet off the roads it was all tundra, bushy, low bushes maybe a foot high or so. It made it a little rough to walk in, but it was spongy. And of course, in the summertime it just rained all the time, just pouring. The rain was parallel instead of vertical, blowing all the time. That was some kind oftransportation up there. So Paul, I can't think of anything else at this time.

Paul H. Nordeen:

One last thing-did they have church field services in the Apennines?

Floyd Harry Erickson:

Yes, they had services. Even up on the island they had services to some extent. Of course, it was for the most part it was open air, when they could have it if it wasn't too miserable.

Paul H. Nordeen:

Did they have field church services in Italy?

Floyd Harry Erickson:

Yes. We had services, short services, sometimes in a building. Of course, Dan Coley was a medic in our section, and I told you about his saving a couple of men in the Po River. He was a strong swimmer, and guys were dropping off when we got off of the boats. I told you about this, I'm sure, didn't I?

Paul H. Nordeen:

I don't think so.

Floyd Harry Erickson:

We were crossing the Po, and we hit these sand bars. And we'd get out and walk a couple of steps, and all of a sudden, just a drop off going down about 20 feet. All these heavy packs on your back, why, guys couldn't get the darn things off. And several of them drowned. Dan went down and loosened the packs off a couple of guys and saved their lives, and he was awarded couple of silver stars. He was a medic, and he was a Christian man. He tried to get us in his little tent many times and wanted to give us a sermon on the Lord. And he was persistent, but he didn't drag you into his tent or anything. But he was especially after me, because I was his superior. After the war, he came to my house from Georgia. He was a southerner and got into our outfit in Italy. He wasn't in our outfit in Colorado that I can remember. He came here, and he was still hoping that I would become a Christian. And I told him I haven't done that. But I was tickled to be able to tell him a few years later in a letter that I'd finally tumbled. And he told me, he said "I knew one day, Eric, you would tumble." [Laughs]. He was a great guy. Well, I did become a Christian, and I'm what they call a "born again" Christian. And I've accepted him 100%. He is Lord of my life and hope that you can claim that someday. I swear by this man Jesus, and of course we're in the Holy Week right now. And we need to get to know Him; a personal relationship with Him is the best. Can't beat it. [End of Third VHP Interview session. Saturday 11 April 2009.]

 
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