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Interview with Orville J. Jackson [11/26/2002]

Richard McGaughy:

Okay. Today is November 26th, 2002. This recording is taking place in the reading room of the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library in West Branch, Iowa. Today I am interviewing Orville Joseph Jackson. He was born on May 11th, 1922. His current address is 47184 161st Street, Preston, Iowa. My name is Richard McGaughy, and I am the interviewer. I am a docent at the Hoover Presidential Library. Mr. Jackson, would you please state for the recording what outfit you were with?

Orville J. Jackson:

I was with 103rd Division from the start of my service until the end. I was in Company B, 409 Infantry. I ended up, I was the armorer-artificer of the whole company, of about 250 people. I kept all the small arms in firing order. And they're all listed: machine guns, rifles, mortars, and so on like that.

Richard McGaughy:

Good. About when did you first join the Army?

Orville J. Jackson:

I joined the Army the 6th of October in 1942.

Richard McGaughy:

Did you enlist, or were you drafted?

Orville J. Jackson:

I was drafted.

Richard McGaughy:

So you didn't have any choice as to what branch of service you went into?

Orville J. Jackson:

No. I -- I had gotten a letter of recommendation to be in the -- in the -- well, kind of a -- kind of like the armorer-artificer stuff, the ordnance work, I'm trying to think of.

Richard McGaughy:

Uh-huh.

Orville J. Jackson:

That's how I ended up in that.

Richard McGaughy:

I see. Do you recall your first days when you first were inducted into the Army?

Orville J. Jackson:

Yeah. We were getting all processed and everything. Oh, then --

Richard McGaughy:

Where was that?

Orville J. Jackson:

That was in Fort -- you know, Camp Dodge, Des Moines. And then from there we took a train down to Louisiana, and we were there for, I'd say, about nine months in training. And then we were moved to Camp Howze, Texas. And we were there for a year or more before I was shipped overseas. It was many guys that had went as replacements overseas; they were taken out of our company, but I stayed with the company all the while, and went over there into Europe.

Richard McGaughy:

Can you recount any of your experience during that training in either or both of those places?

Orville J. Jackson:

Well, yes. I remember when we -- we got processed at Camp Lucky Strike in New York there, and then when we went over, we went over on the -- on the Monticello boat. It took us about two weeks to sail over there. And we landed in Marseille, France, about a little after dark, and over in the war country, like that.

Richard McGaughy:

Do you remember approximately when that was that you landed over there?

Orville J. Jackson:

Well, I would -- I would say it was probably around 7:00 or 8 o'clock in the evening.

Richard McGaughy:

Okay. Was the -- what date?

Orville J. Jackson:

Oh, that would have been the 20th of October that year of '44.

Richard McGaughy:

So you have it exactly. Good.

Orville J. Jackson:

Yeah. Uh-huh. And then when we landed, there was only little dim lights that were lit, and there was a bus came along from the -- it was their civilian bus, and they had the dome light on just briefly, and, oh, quite a few people on the bus, but then, of course, we had to walk, and we walked for about an hour or so. Then we pitched a tent and stayed there overnight just outside of Marseille, France. And we left there early in the morning. After we had a little breakfast, we left on trucks. And we rode most of the day up to the -- closer to the lines. And my truck, the one that I was in, we were the ones to mark for the rest -- where the convoy was supposed to go, so they let us off where -- to make sure that they wouldn't go on a side road somewhere, so they'd go straight through. And, then, of course, when we got up on lines -- on the line, we were pretty close to -- we could hear firing, shooting and that, and bombs going off. So that's about the way that was.

Richard McGaughy:

I see. And so you were right in the thick of the combat, then, almost right then --

Orville J. Jackson:

Yeah.

Richard McGaughy:

-- then and there. Can you tell a little more about how that went on then?

Orville J. Jackson:

The first day that I remember in the combat, we were -- it was pretty nice weather, really, but then there was a lot of shooting up in front and way ahead of where I was, but then when we finally walked up through there -- see, we were all scattered out quite a bit. Well, there was a few German bodies laying in this little timber like, and that was the first ones that we saw -- seen lay in there dead, you know. And it sure wasn't a very good feeling. So, but we -- we went on, and there was different times we was into pretty rough battles, and we did an awful lot of shooting. That's when I lost part of my hearing for a short while, and then we'd take these towns. And the captain says whenever we take a town and get it under control, that means we can stay inside at night, but we'd all be scattered out, because the weather was getting quite cold. And then, finally -- well, there was a lot of towns that were bombed quite a bit. And there was this here one town when we -- we was all around in it. There was some civilians laid there, dead, and -- and there was even, you know, a head laying here and the rest of the body in other places. And then we'd be on our way through the fields and through the Vosges Mountains. We walked through the Vosges Mountains.

Richard McGaughy:

Now, you were carrying -- using what weapons? You had rifles or things?

Orville J. Jackson:

I had an M1, and there was some Browning automatics in the -- in each one of the platoons, but I carried an M1.

Richard McGaughy:

Now, you mentioned your hearing was affected. Was this from the M1 or from artillery or --

Orville J. Jackson:

Yeah. In this one -- one town that we were supposed to go through, we were taking the Germans by surprise, and we had -- we had came up on top of this hill, and the town was way down in this valley, and we all started the firing at once at this town. And then while we were firing, certain portion of the men, they would go under it all with fire. And, well, then when we would get down there and start firing, and then these other ones behind us would quit firing, and they'd come in, and then we'd just be firing over one another all the time. And it was really a rough place that night. There a lot of shooting with the -- with the M1s and that, no booming, but a lot of shooting. And next morning, there must have been a thousand Germans that were trying to withdraw through there, but instead of that, the Americans took them cap- -- they captured them, and so they -- that was good to see them all coming up through town there all in formation. Then, of course, we went on again. And then we'd get through a rest area where the trucks would catch up and give us something to eat. But I'll never forget on Thanksgiving Day, back in '44, we -- we were walking through the mountains. It seems funny. We could get through there faster than the trucks could, the kitchen trucks, because the Germans had trees cut down across the -- the only road that was going through there. And so the Americans had to cut those trees all the way for the truck to get through, but we got it through it, and on Thanksgiving Day, we were without any food at all. There was four days in a line there we didn't have anything to eat. Now, I sure missed the food the first couple of days, but after that, I guess my stomach got kind of used to it, but then they, the kitchen trucks, they -- they arrived, and then we got a warm meal. But the rations that we missed out on for those four days, we had big arms' full of them, and then, of course, we would just take the -- the good things out of them and throw the boxes with the other food that was in them on a big pile. And -- because we weren't about to carry that along, but there was a big Hershey bar in there. And I don't remember if there was any cigarettes in it, but I never did smoke all my life, so if there was any cigarettes, the other guys would have gotten them divided up. It seems to me there was possibly -- but there was a little can of Spam and some crackers and stuff like that, really.

Richard McGaughy:

Uh-huh. Uh-huh. So you were very successful in capturing the Germans there. Did you move on then after that?

Orville J. Jackson:

Yes. We moved on. And, well, let's see. The night that I was -- there were probably more, but I can't think of it right now, but that night when we -- when we were captured and a whole bunch of them were killed in my company and other companies, quite a few killed, we -- we had about 30 Germans in this here basement. It was a walk-out basement, and I with a bunch of -- with a -- probably a dozen other guys from the company was up in the upstairs. Then the German tanks came in. There was a kind of a half-moon road that came down from the hill there. And the three German tanks came down partway. And the one shot into the house, into the upstairs where I was. And we could hear them coming. Well, one person says, one of our men says "I hear tanks coming," and another one says, he said "I wonder if they are the Germans or ours." And then another one says "I don't know, but we'll soon find out." And as soon as he said that, a tank shot into the place where I was. And --

Richard McGaughy:

Were you injured, Jack?

Orville J. Jackson:

I was wounded, and another -- see, it was pitch dark. We didn't dare have any lights on, but there was a little fire, possibly about six inches high, started in a room, that we got that put out right away. And I -- I was down, crouched down, on my hands and knees next to a wall. Well, then another guy fell against me, and he says, "Oh, Jack," he says, "I'm -- I guess I'm done for." Now, you see they usually call us, in the Army, by our last name or shorten it up, so mine was from Jackson, just to Jack, you know.

Richard McGaughy:

Uh-huh.

Orville J. Jackson:

So, and then pretty quick the Germans hollered for us to come out. And one of the sergeants says "What are we going to do, walk out," and another one said "We've only got two choices; either get shot or walk out," so we said "We better walk out." So the ones that were able walked out, and the other ones, they stayed laying there, naturally. And I had left my -- my weapon stand there. And there was also left about 64 rounds of ammunition with it. And everybody left their rifles there. And we walked out in formation.

Richard McGaughy:

Uh-huh.

Orville J. Jackson:

And then we went out. We walked about a block or so away. And there was a white picket fence around this house, and a little bank going down to it. The Germans said those that are wounded, they should fall out and sit on that bank. And so I wasn't going to, because I wanted to stay with the bunch, but they says, "No, you go ahead." They could see that I had been hit too. So, but here, leading up to this here, we walked a long ways around the Sarre highway. And the orders was not to do any firing at -- at anybody that passed with a car. We don't want our position given away, but there was one car. Somebody shot at it. And then he ran off the road and upset. And then we were only supposed to go to the Sarre River. It was a pretty swift river, but not too deep. I got to walk across on the bridge. And this was probably around, somewhere around midnight, I suppose. But then someone walked across, and they lost their bazookas to fight tanks. So the captain had radioed to tell his officer where we were. He says, "Oh, you weren't supposed to go across the river. You were supposed to stay on this side," on the other side. So he says "Can you hold your position." "Sure," he said "we can," because everything was pretty quiet then. But then about 3:00 in the morning is when these tanks came in and -- and raised the devil with us. So that's how come I got to be a prisoner.

Richard McGaughy:

And you were captured?

Orville J. Jackson:

Yeah.

Richard McGaughy:

I see.

Orville J. Jackson:

And then I rode for about four days before I got to -- before I got to any hospital. And I walked over. I was walking in a stooped-over position, because I had been hit all in the back, on the left side too. And we rode, in those four days, rode in kind of an ambulance. I rode in a -- in a bus. The first thing I rode in was a bus, a big, kind of a Trailway bus, something like that. And there was a Frenchman ahead of me, and so he got on the bus first, and then I got on. And then they cut us off, because there was only room for two people on this bus. And here I was taken away from all the guys.

Richard McGaughy:

All the people you had been with?

Orville J. Jackson:

Yeah. So there I was on a bus and nobody to talk to, because there was no Americans on that bus.

Richard McGaughy:

On that.

Orville J. Jackson:

And then -- and then, of course, some of the guys that there was going to be on there, they was probably from another company or from mine, but there wasn't another one that got on the bus with me. So then they took us with this here bus, and then we changed over to something kind of like an ambulance. There was just three or four of them on that. And then they took us into a -- down a stairs into a big tunnel. And the dim lights were on in there, and all closed up. You couldn't see outside, naturally, no windows or anything. So you didn't know how long you were there, no -- no watch or no clock.

Richard McGaughy:

Uh-huh.

Orville J. Jackson:

You didn't really know if it was night or day or how long you were there.

Richard McGaughy:

Yeah. Pretty distressing. Yeah.

Orville J. Jackson:

But when I got out of there, then we rode on a train, kind of in the -- in the caboose. And the guard -- well, the guard that was over me -- well, anyway, he'd -- I asked him where the toilet was, and he showed me where it was. And I wanted to see in the mirror just where I was hit, because I -- my shoulder bothering. And it's kind of surprising. That lapel on my shoulder was cut in two with shrapnel. And there was that piece of shrapnel just about as -- about half as big as a walnut, and I picked that out of there, and -- and then when I walked out, I showed it to the guard. That's really the first that I knew that he could speak English. And he said "Where did you get that?" And I told him. And he said, "Well, I can't believe it." So when the train finally stopped, there was a sidewalk about up this high from the train that along there. And he told me to wait there, and he told somebody else to watch me. And he got off of that car and he ran up around to the front. And, anyway, a couple of officers came around there, and then they -- maybe about the only English they could say is "How are you," and, of course, I'd say "Good." And, anyway, then one of them could speak English, and he says "Now we can give you medical attention here, but we're going to be only riding a couple more hours." Then he says "We'll have you to a hospital," so whichever you'd like. Well, I says "I rode for a few days already. I can stand another couple hours." So, but it was -- instead of that, it was probably about another half a day, really, before we got to a -- to Ulm, Germany -- no, Rottweiler, Villingen VB. So we'd went there and had -- there was a little hospital there. And I -- I didn't get any bath or anything, but they sort of, more or less, just talked to me. But they did not interrogate me or anything like that, like they did to some of them. But then I was there for about a week. And then I was -- they told -- they came in that one morning, and they -- they said that I'd be going on out, and they -- the orderly or whoever he was out in the hallway of the hospital, he threw my clothes out on a hanger, and the guard picked them up, took them off of the hanger and rolled them up and stuck them up under my arm. And I thought, well, I guess maybe I'm just going to get some X-rays or something, so I didn't bother putting my -- my coat on or anything. I was just in my German underwear. And there was about two inches of snow on the ground. It was raining a little. Then we walked on down to the -- to the depot, probably about a mile walk. And people, civilians, walking along with umbrellas, and they would -- they would turn around and look at me in my German underwear, or maybe it was American underwear, but it was real thin, but I think they had given me some clean underwear to wear, so it wouldn't be bloody and that.

Richard McGaughy:

Uh-huh.

Orville J. Jackson:

So evidently, the train had been gone, so back we went. But going down there, this guard, he didn't know that I -- where I'd been hit. Once in a while, he'd poke me in the back so I would go a little faster. And this here -- this here Frenchman, or maybe a Polish, that was along with me, from all the way from that bus ride on, they -- they had him standing at attention and was asking him questions. And then they didn't ask me any, because I couldn't -- they found out I couldn't speak any German or understand it. So back we went again. And then they told me there that the next morning I'd be leaving there real early, that I should have my clothes on then. So my feet had been getting kind of sore because the shoe packs, I hadn't laced them up, so I was barefoot and shuffling along the walk, about a mile walk there, back and forth, but I was dressed for the next morning okay. And then when I got they -- then is when I went to Ulm. And the guys out in the yard, in the fenced-in yard, and first thing they asked me, how the war was going and where I got captured and everything about the war. And I told them it's good to talk to somebody.

Richard McGaughy:

They had been there longer than you had then?

Orville J. Jackson:

Yeah. They said "You'll be treated real good here, and you" -- they said "You'll be getting the Red Cross parcels." They would split a Red Cross parcel between four guys. And it was about the size of a shoe box. And they said "There is four cigarettes in it for you too." Well, I say "You guys can have the cigarettes because I -- I don't smoke." "Oh, no. Don't give them away like that," they said. "We use those for money, two cigarettes to buy a half a can of this, four cigarettes to buy this." And soon you was trading your cigarettes off for something to eat. Some of the guys would prefer a smoke rather than to eat. Then they would shave --

Richard McGaughy:

Trade with the other prisoners for the --

Orville J. Jackson:

Yeah.

Richard McGaughy:

-- food.

Orville J. Jackson:

And some of the guys would shave the bark off of the -- of a bench and roll it up any kind of paper to smoke it. They was really hard up for a smoke. But I was in this hospital for -- well, oh, I gather I was in the hospital two months. I got out on the 2nd of --

Richard McGaughy:

Did the hospital treat you pretty well?

Orville J. Jackson:

Yeah. And it was an Australian doctor that took care of me, a Captain Kevin Priddis. And then there was an English doctor that took care of me along with him. Then after I got care and that and the shrapnel taken out of one lung -- it pretty well embedded in there. And, anyway, what was I -- I kind of lose my train once in a while.

Richard McGaughy:

Yeah. Well, you were just trying to -- you were just leaving the hospital, I think you said.

Orville J. Jackson:

Yeah. Now, at night when I was just laying in my bed there, we didn't dare have any lights on in the hospital. You could hear our bombers going over, and you could see the flash of light come around the shades that were on the windows. And we were always hoping they wouldn't hit that place, but the Americans knew where that was, so we weren't really in danger like we thought. So, but anyway -- anyway, then we finally got out of there. It was kind of a good thing I was in the hospital in that coldest part of the weather, because some of the guys said that they -- they didn't have much, much of the blankets, and they slept on frozen straw and that. And now the -- I slept in a bunk outside probably about waist high, and there was some beds down below me and some more up above me. And when a guy would -- this was out of the hospital now. When a guy would think, well, he'll get to smoke a cigarette early in the morning, like around 2:00, 3 o'clock when everybody is sleeping, well, he was only smoking a couple of minutes and there was about six guys in line. One of them would -- the one that -- that puff on his cigarette. One would say "Can I have a drag," and another one would say "Can I have butts on it? When you decide to throw it away, can I have it?" Another one would say "Can I have a puff on it?" They all had a different way of putting it, you know. And so the guy that owned the cigarette probably only got a couple of puffs on it. It was divided up between everybody else.

Richard McGaughy:

Were there many people in the hospital you were in? Was it very large?

Orville J. Jackson:

Yes. It was a real big hospital. And they had -- they had a lot of Englishmen in there, and they had Polish. They had Frenchmen in it, in there. And some -- a couple of the Frenchmen -- I have their names there -- they were wanting to learn more English, and they was wanting to come over here someday, they said. And, of course, I tried to learn a little French, but I didn't do too good at it, really, but I think French would have been easier for me to pick up than German, really.

Richard McGaughy:

And you mentioned another a doctor that was English, you said, and another Australian. Were they prisoners also, or --

Orville J. Jackson:

Yes. They were prisoners too. So then after I got up, so I wasn't really a bed patient anymore, I would volunteer to help them in the -- in their operating room. If a guy would come in and had been shot in the arm and the bullet was still in there, while they were trying to get that bullet out of him, I'd hold his arm in a certain position for them to work on. And then I would mop the floor, you know, clean up the mess and everything. Then I know once I was about ready to pass out and they says "You sit down there. That will be okay. We'll take care of it," but then I didn't help out much anymore after that.

Richard McGaughy:

All right. Now, I think you said, started to say that then after you left the hospital, you -- you were at Ulm, and you went someplace else, then, did you?

Orville J. Jackson:

Yeah. We -- when we were -- when we were lib- -- yes. We went in a place in a -- I exactly forgot, but I think there was between 5- and 10,000 prisoners in this here stockade and the high wire fence, and they had all this sort of barbed wire around it. They had a double fence there. We could walk out around it, on the inside, that is. And we didn't know it until then that there was a -- well, there was a big potato field there. And they had windrows of potatoes all covered up with, I suppose, straw or something. And then the last two weeks of being a prisoner, a guy would -- I found out that they'd throw a couple of cigarettes over to the German guard that had a police dog with him, and he would, in turn, throw a little sack of potatoes back for us. And then we'd make these little blowers like from a gallon bucket if we could -- a gallon bucket or some tin cans we thought more of than if we really got another present, because we can make a little blower and put a shoe string on it, so it'd fan a little bit, you know, so you didn't -- and we'd take the -- find some sticks from somewhere and put a little fire in there and warm up whatever we had or boil some potatoes, so --

Richard McGaughy:

It sounds like they didn't provide very much food for you then, and --

Orville J. Jackson:

No. They sure didn't. You could see down in the bottle of the barrel that a couple of them would bring in full of water and that you -- it was pretty, pretty clear, really. And then -- then they had -- those barrels were cut in two and then a hole drilled in them, so they had a boom handle through it and one guy on each side carrying it.

Richard McGaughy:

Uh-huh.

Orville J. Jackson:

And so -- I kind of forgot what else I was going to say, really.

Richard McGaughy:

Well, you -- it sounded like you said that there was only a couple of weeks more that you were at that prison camp, then?

Orville J. Jackson:

Yeah. The last -- the last two weeks that I was there at the prison camp, they put us out in tents. And there was one -- see, by not having a bath -- now, we didn't have a change of clothes all the six months, really. We were in our old clothes. We didn't take a shower. There was no bathtubs or anything. And we had lice. We all had lice. And one good thing about sleeping on the gravel out in this big tent was -- it was cold all right, and we only had a little blanket, about as wide as this here and be lucky if it was this long. We had two of those little blankets per person. So and it was cold out in that tent, but the lice left us. They either couldn't stand the cold or stand us. So when it came finally that we were liberated, there was an airplane flew over real low, one of our planes, and he had a white flag out. There was only one guy in this plane. He had -- that's when the cockpit was above the wings. And then we heard some -- something like maybe shots from tanks out there a ways. And then somebody else, the German that was walking the dog said that -- he motioned the Americans were all over around on all four sides, so that was good news to us. And about 9 o'clock that morning, a tank drove right on up -- one of our tanks drove right up to the gate. They were going to knock it down, but then they got orders not to the knock any fence down, because we would be getting out of there and the Germans were going to be kept in there. So -- so then we -- we did get out of there. And then we went -- we were trucked to a -- we were trucked to an Ingolstadt, Germany. And then we waited for planes to come in. Now, the first couple of planes that came in, they said the English was the first ones there, and they got on first and left.

Richard McGaughy:

There was a lot of you, several thousand of you, waiting?

Orville J. Jackson:

Yeah, lots of us. And so then we finally got on a plane, a C-47. And as I -- as I remember, there was only 31 on. Now, they had wooden seats down each side, and that's what we sat on. And we were flew from -- we flew from Ingolstadt, Germany, to Reims, France, where we were processed -- processed there. And then we were shipped back to the States again.

Richard McGaughy:

Did somebody check your wounds and so forth there to make sure you were okay?

Orville J. Jackson:

Yeah. We went to a -- well, we -- yeah, we had to go on -- on sick call or whatever. I -- I don't know. I don't remember exactly how that was, really.

Richard McGaughy:

Uh-huh.

Orville J. Jackson:

But, anyway --

Richard McGaughy:

They were taking pretty good care of you?

Orville J. Jackson:

Yeah --

Richard McGaughy:

-- as well as they could. Probably hard with some of the people.

Orville J. Jackson:

Now, some of the guys, when we would stand up and eat under this here tent, and then as the planes would come in, you know, a couple of planes are coming in to some other place besides our place, two or three guys, there would be nothing for two or three guys to pass out, scared.

Richard McGaughy:

Wow.

Orville J. Jackson:

And, well, then they'd give us orders not to -- certain stuff not to eat. I don't think we were allowed any fried stuff, like doughnuts or stuff like that, since we were pretty much starved, you know. We had kind of a special diet, you know.

Richard McGaughy:

You probably lost a lot of weight, I suppose, while you were prisoners?

Orville J. Jackson:

Yeah. Yeah, we did. We all lost a lot of weight. And but then when we got back to the States, I had a 71-day furlough. I went home. And then when I went back, I went back to Hot Springs, Arkansas, which was a very nice place. And they had me in the hospital there for a little while. And they thought it was best if I wouldn't be in the hospital, so then I could -- I could go anywheres I really wanted to, as long as they'd know where I was going. I'd just let them know where I was going, and they could give me a three-day pass. So I usually go down in the Hot Springs, I'd do a lot of walking. And I wasn't much of a hand -- I never did smoke, and very little -- and not very much to drink. Maybe drink a beer once in a while, but, so I didn't hang around any bars. I'd go to the, what they called the New Southern Grill, right on Main Street, drink a few coffees, have lunch, that and then go back. I stayed at the Arlington Hotel. And so that's it, really.

Richard McGaughy:

Now, you didn't mention how you got back to the United States. Did you come -- did they fly you back or come back on a ship or --

Orville J. Jackson:

Yeah. I came back on the Sea Robin, went over on the Monticello, but I came back on a Sea Robin.

Richard McGaughy:

Uh-huh.

Orville J. Jackson:

And then we -- we took a -- took a -- a -- we went by rail, then, to get on home.

Richard McGaughy:

I see. The -- so then after you got back to Hot -- Hot Springs, you were in the hospital there. Were you then discharged from the Army or what?

Orville J. Jackson:

Yeah. That's where I got my honorable medical discharge.

Richard McGaughy:

And you received some medals, did you?

Orville J. Jackson:

Yes, I got -- I got a lot of medals, before I -- before I got my discharge, they had me scheduled to go to Vancouver Barracks, Washington, to help train soldiers up there, like whether it's the armorer-artificer business, but then I -- I told them that I didn't know if I'd like to travel like that with my back in the condition it was for -- and all my mail had been forwarded up there and everything. And the major says to me -- see, I was a sergeant then. He says "Sergeant," he says, "I'll do whatever you want me to do. I'm here to help you." He said "What would you like?" He said "Would you like to get out of the service rather than to go up there?" I said "Yes, sir, I really would." He said "I'll have you out of here in three days' time." And he did. I was so happy. But I -- I never was treated so good, and I wasn't used to that, really, you know.

Richard McGaughy:

You mentioned, you talked about your mail being forwarded. That reminded me, while you were prisoner, were you able to get any mail or send any letters or --

Orville J. Jackson:

I didn't get any mail at all. Well, let's see. Yes, I did -- no. No, I didn't get any mail. And my folks got a -- got a German card from me, and on that card I -- I finally got it someplace, yes. But I mentioned on the card that I was doing very good. I was getting along fine. And wherever it went through some mail carrier's hand, he put on, a notation on the bottom, he says "We only wish they could all be good like this here." And --

Richard McGaughy:

So your family knew where you were, then --

Orville J. Jackson:

Yeah.

Richard McGaughy:

-- at this time?

Orville J. Jackson:

I called them from New York, too.

Richard McGaughy:

I see.

Orville J. Jackson:

And, okay, when they talked about -- I heard -- had heard from the folks. I'd gotten a letter like on the 28th day of -- of November, before I was captured, that was -- I was captured actually the 2nd of December. And I didn't hear from the folks again until -- until I got home or got to New York, and that was from the 28th day of November to the last -- well, I was liberated on the 29th of April of '44. And then from there on, I heard from the folks. But it keeps you wondering how your folks are. And there was, of course, people that you knew had died during that time, too. And so I begin to kind of first find out, before I asked about any certain person, if he was still living, I'd ask somebody, "How's he doing?" I didn't want be asking how the guy is doing if he happened to die, you know.

Richard McGaughy:

I bet your --

Orville J. Jackson:

I felt bad about that.

Richard McGaughy:

I bet your folks were pretty worried about you during that time you were a prisoner?

Orville J. Jackson:

They were. Yeah.

Richard McGaughy:

Well, all right. Well, you got out of the service, then, in Hot Springs?

Orville J. Jackson:

Yeah.

Richard McGaughy:

And what did you do then after you got out of the service? Where --

Orville J. Jackson:

I went back and helped my folks on the farm, and I stayed with the folks all the while. And I got on the list, waiting list, to be a barber. And I had taken an aptitude test at a college, and they -- in Dubuque, and they said according to that aptitude test, I would make a good salesman. Now, I said, "Gee, I don't think I'd like to be a salesman, really." Well, they said you can be in a clothing store somewhere. But I said "I'd like to really be outside like a farmer is, but I don't know what to do." But I got on the barber list, and I told them, I says, "You know, I'm signed up for barber college. As soon as they have an opening there, that's what I'm going to start in at." And so I didn't see this here guy for six months or longer than that. I met him on the street one time, and he said -- he shook my hand and he said "What are you doing now?" I said "I'm barbering." "You are," he said. "Well, I never thought you'd ever make it." See, you got to learn a lot of things in barbering. It's not just cutting hair. You got to learn the names of the muscles, nerves, and the bones of the head, face, and neck. And you got to know something about mixing formulas. And you have to know about electricity. I don't know why, but it's just to keep a guy from coming in off the street barbering.

Richard McGaughy:

Now, where you learn all this? Where did you --

Orville J. Jackson:

At Palmer School out -- not a chiropractor. It was out there in the barber college in Cedar Rapids.

Richard McGaughy:

Cedar Rapids.

Orville J. Jackson:

Yeah.

Richard McGaughy:

Did the GI Bill pay for this, or --

Orville J. Jackson:

The GI Bill was going to pay for it, but they had a little misunderstanding. They didn't want to pay for this here, because they figured it was not enough hours for the amount of money that they were charging. So barber college was -- was a six-month training. And I paid for my own three months, the first three months. And then they got together. The GI Bill paid for that. And that was Public Law 16. Now, there was another Public Law 346, since I had been wounded and that I could have gotten another four years of training in something. And I had planned on going to chiropractor school at Palmers down in Davenport, but, then, because I figured I'd be having a jump start knowing the bones and muscles and all that might help me a lot where I was going, but then I changed my mind and turned my key back in. I had my locker key, and they had my certificate of eligibility and everything already.

Richard McGaughy:

So you went into barbering, then?

Orville J. Jackson:

Yeah. And I barbered for 20 years.

Richard McGaughy:

I see.

Orville J. Jackson:

And then I -- from there I went back to the Savannah Army Depot where I was working when I was taken into the service, and then I was a security guard there.

Richard McGaughy:

Did you make any close friends while you were in the service that you kept track of, contact with later?

Orville J. Jackson:

Yes. We all keep in touch with one another. There's only probably about six of the original guys that are left. Most of them got killed that night of the capturing. And, yeah, we -- we are just like one close-knit family.

Richard McGaughy:

I see. Do any of them live near, or do you keep in contact by telephone, by letter and --

Orville J. Jackson:

We call, and we write, and we see each other on this here day when we have our reunion with 103rd Division reunion. Every year it's at a different place, and so --

Richard McGaughy:

And you attend those regularly?

Orville J. Jackson:

Pardon?

Richard McGaughy:

And you attend those reunions?

Orville J. Jackson:

Oh, yes. I -- there was only one out at Pennsylvania that I wasn't able to attend, because I was pretty sick that time. And that probably would have been around 12, 15 years ago. But next year the reunion will be at Denver. Now, and then, let's see, I believe -- I'm not sure, but I think the next one is going to be possibly Kansas City, but I'm not sure.

Richard McGaughy:

I see. Are you a member of any other veterans organizations?

Orville J. Jackson:

I'm a lifetime member of the American Legion, the VFW, the ex-POW, and, well, let's see. I'm a -- I got to look at my cards to make sure. I kind of -- yeah, here we are. Yeah, the VFW, and the Legion, American Ex-Prisoner of War, DAV, 103rd Division. And that's it, really.

Richard McGaughy:

Are any of those other -- any of those organizations other than the 103rd Division, are they activities you participate in regularly?

Orville J. Jackson:

I'm a poor hand to do that, because that's getting around a lot of people like that, and I -- I'm a very poor one to be going to meetings and all, but I'll go to their suppers. They have a supper every so often, fish supper, chicken supper; anything like that, I'll attend. And then they have parades, but, you know, it's only the ones that are -- the certain ones that are in the parade. You know, like the cemeteries for burials and that, so, but one year I think I was in the parade. When they had a lot of us, everybody that could walk, they was in it, so, yeah, and they're -- the legion is doing quite well. They're --

Richard McGaughy:

Good.

Orville J. Jackson:

They're all in.

Richard McGaughy:

Good. We mentioned before your medals. And I know we have the paperwork accompanying this. You listed all the medals you had. I think I noted the Bronze Star in there as of the medals. That's probably the highest medal you received, was it?

Orville J. Jackson:

They claim the highest is the ex-prisoner of war.

Richard McGaughy:

Ex-prisoner of war.

Orville J. Jackson:

That should be the number one ahead of all the rest, but then they tell which ones should follow that.

Richard McGaughy:

I see. Very good. I think we have covered everything I can think of. What else can you think of that you'd like to -- to add to this, anything about what has happened, about friends, about this program, anything you'd like?

Orville J. Jackson:

Well, it's very, very nice to keep in touch with your buddies, and they all, like I say, are just like a close family. They are very happy to, we are, to see one another. And some of these people that don't go to these reunions, I always said if they just meet one person that they was with, it's just well worth it to go, you know.

Richard McGaughy:

Yes.

Orville J. Jackson:

It's great. Now, our colonel and a captain, they said, you know, they made the remark from the start. They said, "You know, we didn't think it was going to be as nice as what it has. We thought it would be just one big party where people get drunk and everything." And they said "We have not seen one person out of line yet."

Richard McGaughy:

Very good.

Orville J. Jackson:

Yeah.

Richard McGaughy:

That's excellent. Well, I think this does it. I'd like to thank you very much for sharing this with us, and that's very valuable. And I have enjoyed meeting with you, and thank you so much.

Orville J. Jackson:

You are very welcome. I'm sure happy to do this for you. I usually was very poor to talk about it to anybody, but I -- I enjoyed it really, too, to tell somebody, you know. There's probably only part of what actually went on, you know, but it's nice to let you know about some of that stuff here.

Richard McGaughy:

Thank you.

Orville J. Jackson:

You bet you.

Richard McGaughy:

Okay. We'll stop the tapes here.

Orville J. Jackson:

Thank you.

 
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  October 26, 2011
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