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“[At Anzio] once in awhile some new recruit would come in and we would tell him, don’t be so particular; wait until dark. Don’t throw your urine or defecation away in the day, but you put your arm out there or stick your head up, you’re going to get killed.” (Audio Interview, 20:59)

   Harold Conan Hammil
Collection image
Harold Hammil, 2002
War: World War, 1939-1945
Branch: Army
Unit: 34th Infantry Division, 135th Regiment, 3rd Battalion, Headquarters Company
Service Location: Anzio, Rome, Florence and Po Valley, Italy; Alps Mountains
Rank: Private First Class
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Harold Hammil’s experience of Anzio was much like that of other soldiers there: he spent almost four months in a foxhole, never coming out during daylight hours. However, Hammil’s depiction of the feelings and actions of the ordinary combat soldier offer some surprising insights into the mental state of men at war. Hammil tells of the inhumanity of living in a foxhole, where even bowel movements must be postponed, if possible, until after dark; and he tells of the gruesomeness of the euphemistically named “clean up” detail. A story notably lacking in tales of heroics, Hammil instead tells us of deserters, suicides, and men who attempt to wound themselves in the hopes of escaping combat. This is war as it was experienced by an observant and sensitive twenty-year old man who recognizes that people are not natural born killers.

Interview (Audio)
»Interview Highlights  (4 clips)
»Complete Interview 
Download: audio (42 min.)
»Photo Album  (1 photo)
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»The War
 Audio (Interview Excerpts) (4 items)
“Clean up” detail in Africa: “I would just as soon go in combat and fight as to carry dead GIs…” (03:36) Life in a foxhole on Anzio; friendly fire deaths. (05:06) Untold stories of WWII: suicides, deserters, and self-inflicted wounds. (02:30)
Reflections on combat: “You don’t live like a human being.” (04:06)  

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  October 26, 2011
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