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Interview with Melvin Earl Biddle [n.d.]

Unidentified interviewer:

I'm terribly sorry. Pronounce your name for me in full. What's your name?

Melvin Earl Biddle:

Melvin E. Biddle. B-i-d-d-l-e.

Unidentified interviewer:

Okay. Melvin, tell me a little bit about your childhood; what that was like during those, those years, the '30s? A little bit about your family life, a little bit about school, sports and hobbies.

Melvin Earl Biddle:

We lived on a little place that is about five acres. It had a pond though in it. I liked to climb trees. [LAUGHS] I -- we also had a brick yard--that used [ ? ]. And--we'd make brick houses out of the bricks. We didn't -- I really enjoyed my--childhood, that--I could go fishing on our pond or climb the trees that I liked to climb. It, it's-- [OFF-MIKE/OFF-TOPIC]

Unidentified interviewer:

Melvin let's do it from the top.

Melvin Earl Biddle:

All right.

Unidentified interviewer:

About your childhood, thank you.

Melvin Earl Biddle:

Yeah, I was born on a little farm, five acres, at Daleville, Indiana on November 28, 1923. And our place had a pond on it. It had all kinds of--produce--garden stuff, a little barn and the -- it was a, just an ideal place for a child to grow up.

Unidentified interviewer:

What about school?

Melvin Earl Biddle:

I went to a, a--si--si--through the sixth grade at Daleville. My mother had lung problems and the doctor recommended that she go to Arizona so we moved to Arizona for 18 months. I lived out there in that wonderfully hot sun. Got to go out on the desert, rode horses. Attended school and did quite well in the, the si--seventh and eighth grade out there.

Unidentified interviewer:

What was it like during the Depression for your family?

Melvin Earl Biddle:

Well, I remember that we ate beans [LAUGHS] quite a bit. And my brother said, "Oh no, not beans again." He got sick of them. But I kinda liked them. [LAUGHS]

Unidentified interviewer:

Was your brother older than you?

Melvin Earl Biddle:

Yes. I had two brothers. One was several years older. He was in college when I was born. And then the next oldest brother --let's see. He was born in 1915 and I was born in '23 so he is eight years older. I had three sisters and they were all older than me. I was the baby of the family and they all liked to say "he was the baby of the family".

Unidentified interviewer:

In high school I imagine were your brothers called up for the war?

Melvin Earl Biddle:

Both my brothers were in service. The older brother was a colonel, the next brother was a sergeant and I was a PFC.

Unidentified interviewer:

Oh! What made you enlist or weren't you enlisted?

Melvin Earl Biddle:

I, I was drafted.

Unidentified interviewer:

When was that and what was that like?

Melvin Earl Biddle:

They brou--took me to Fort--Benjamin Harris in, in Indiana in December of 1942 and it was toward the end of the month so they said come back in a week. And so I was enlisted Feb--February the 2nd, 1943.

Unidentified interviewer:

So your brothers were already in--

Melvin Earl Biddle:

Yes, both of them. A--brother is just a, a few years older, he went in, in December of '42. And my serial number is 35584196 and his was 35580103. [LAUGHS] So that just that many had been enlisted between when he went in and I did.

Unidentified interviewer:

What was it like getting a draft notice during the war? How, how did that make you feel?

Melvin Earl Biddle:

Oh, good and bad. It -- I was working in a factory, working a lot of overtime making very good wages and but I knew that I would be drafted after the war continued. And I was pleased when it come about actually.

Unidentified interviewer:

I imagine your mother wasn't too happy to have three boys in?

Melvin Earl Biddle:

No. She was scared to death. She, as were all my parents, my relations [LAUGHS] were all scared that I'd get killed. Specially when I got in the paratroops. That, that really worried them.

Unidentified interviewer:

Why, why were your pleased to be drafted?

Melvin Earl Biddle:

Well, as everyone was and you felt you'd be left out [LAUGHS] if you didn't go. And that the ones that get accepted they were very depressed and they -- most people wanted to serve.

Unidentified interviewer:

First [ ? ] what was boot like?

Melvin Earl Biddle:

The first five days I was very unhappy. I was there and they put me on every detail there was: guard duty, latrine duty. Just on and on. And I thought, "Boy, this army is not gonna [LAUGHS] be for me." But the reason was my name being at the top of the alphabet they always chose the top of the alphabet.

Unidentified interviewer:

Yeah, I know that. So, how many weeks of boot did you do?

Melvin Earl Biddle:

Oh, the--the basic training we had was I think about 15 weeks and it is paratroop basic training and where we got up every morning and run five miles and then we did an hour of calisthenics. I went from 155 pounds to under 133 pounds.

Unidentified interviewer:

So you, you'll be -- you were being trained at the time to go to war?

Melvin Earl Biddle:

Yes.

Unidentified interviewer:

Obviously you knew you were gonna go to action?

Melvin Earl Biddle:

Yeah and the, the paratroops they have to have you physically fit. And they put a lot of emphasis on your neck. You have to exercise your neck. You can see how large my [LAUGHS] neck is. I wear size 18 and I wore a 14 when I went in the service.

Unidentified interviewer:

So when you first, first strapped up and left that C-47 what was that like?

Melvin Earl Biddle:

Scared to death. When I, I -- I'm not sure whether I passed out or whether a riser hit me in the head. [LAUGHS] I had kind of a headache so that might have been it. But I came to and looked up at the beautiful silk chute. [LAUGHS] The first five were jump silk chutes and from then on they were nylon.

Unidentified interviewer:

So hooking up to the rip cord and looking out, do you remember that feeling at all?

Melvin Earl Biddle:

No. I -- not the first jump. All since yes but not that one. [LAUGHS] That wa--it's a good thing it was a static line [LAUGHS] or I wouldn't a been there to open the chute I think.

Unidentified interviewer:

Yeah. So you go through basic and you go home for a little bit before they pack you up, so when did you find out where you were going and how were you gonna get there?

Melvin Earl Biddle:

I was -- I trained with "D" Company of the 511th Parachute Infantry and I was transferred overseas to the 517th. And that was in March of '44. They didn't tell me where I was going. It took 28 days to go across the Atlantic and into the Mediterranean. Landing at Naples was quite a deal.

Unidentified interviewer:

How was it landing at Naples cause it, you know, at the time Naples was fairly just let's say won that battle? So what was Naples like when you first--

Melvin Earl Biddle:

Oh it was terribly dirty. The people you feel so sorry for them because they, they didn't have enough to eat. And it--it, it just wasn't a pleasant experience going through there but it was an education of how war affects nations.

Unidentified interviewer:

Cause that would have been, that would be the first time you would have seen the destruction of--

Melvin Earl Biddle:

Yes. Uh huh.

Unidentified interviewer:

--[ ? ] the first time you landed. So how was that impression on a young man to, to see the people of Naples who obviously welcomed you and the destruction at the same time? How did that affect you?

Melvin Earl Biddle:

Well it -- I guess we were so young that we --it didn't make a, a big impression--except that you feel sorry for them.

Unidentified interviewer:

When was your first action?

Melvin Earl Biddle:

As in the--

Unidentified interviewer:

In the Army?

Melvin Earl Biddle:

In the last of May, end of -- we were in combat when Normandy occurred and they came over and dropped the "Stars and Stripes" to us that said "Invasion". Told all about it. That--the--we were ten days fighting in Italy. We fought above Cidiabecci [sp?]. That's where they had that huge artillery pieces on railroad. I think it was like 270 millimeters. [LAUGHS] It was two--cars' long, two box cars long? [OFF-MIKE/OFF-TOPIC]

Unidentified interviewer:

What we're talking about is an auxiliary piece that the Germans had.

Melvin Earl Biddle:

Yes, uh huh. They called it "Anzio Annie". [LAUGHS]

Unidentified interviewer:

Let, let's put that in your answer to me that it was a piece that the German artillery.

Melvin Earl Biddle:

Yeah. It's a German artillery piece, huge, two box cars' long. They backed it out of a cave when they fired it and then they put it back in the cave so they -- we couldn't bomb it.

Unidentified interviewer:

How big were the shells?

Melvin Earl Biddle:

Oh it's, it sound like a bath tub [LAUGHS] coming through the air it's that large. Then they fired that at Anzio Beach. That was a terrible place for American troops. They had severe casualties there.

Unidentified interviewer:

Did you take part in--

Melvin Earl Biddle:

No. No, not Anzio. We came right after Anzio.

Unidentified interviewer:

So when was your first combat where, where you had fire from the Germans at you?

Melvin Earl Biddle:

It was in May of '44.

Unidentified interviewer:

Tell me-- [OFF-MIKE/OFF-TOPIC]

Unidentified interviewer:

Could you incorporate that cause I'm gonna ask you to repeat that but more so. Tell what [ ? ] is like, when that day was and what your mission was.

Melvin Earl Biddle:

Oh. The first day in combat we had a sergeant shot through the middle of his head. It's a -- and blood spurting 20, 30 feet high and our medic ran out there to try to save him. Nicest guy. I had just cim--come to the outfit as a replacement and as we were going up to combat he had a package from home, passed it around the truck and I was amazed that he wanted me to have some of the goodies from home. And they just took me in like a long lost brother. They -- most replacements they, they kinda avoid being friendly with them. They know they're gonna get killed or injured and they just don't want to [LAUGHS] become acquainted real close. But they were really nice to me in my outfit. And this was a horrible shock with him getting killed like that. The kid next to me was a Mexican and he had slept next to me in the barracks and he -- when he'd come in drunk he'd wake me up. [LAUGHS] He'd come right to the place I was gonna hit. Him and he -- then he'd let up [LAUGHS] let me go to sleep. He got hit the first day there and he kept saying, "I'm hit". And I said, "Where at?" And he said, "Well, I think in my legs." And I looked all up and down his legs -- we were hiding behind a huge rock -- and I said, "You're not hit in the legs." And he said, "Well, maybe by my feet." Looked all over his feet nothing. And he said, "Well, I'm hit." And I said, "Well, go ahead and crawl back to medic." "No, I'm not gonna do that." Then I finally looked at the bottom of his shoe and it had a little place in the leather sole raised up and a bullet had gone through his big toe. [LAUGHS] So I says call a medic. He said, "Well, I'm not gon' get those medics killed." And I said, "Well, go on back." And he said, "Okay", and never saw him again. [LAUGHS] That was amazing. He was sent home cause they had to amputate his big toe.

Unidentified interviewer:

So besides the people next to you how was it generally in battle to be young, see, see what you have seen so far through [ ? ] and being shot at?

Melvin Earl Biddle:

It was very, very shocking. It is just horrible. The captain could see how scared I was and he had me t--take the prisoners back that we had captured. We got back there, the lieutenant says, "We don't take prisoners". [LAUGHS] He said, "You shoot 'em next time you bring some back." Darned if they didn't send me back [LAUGHS] with another bunch and the same officer said, "I told you." I said, "Sir, if you want them killed you could kill 'em." And he shut up and walked away. But it, it is a, you know, a tragic situation. Damned if you do and damned if you don't but it, it worked out well.

Unidentified interviewer:

Let's, let's move along to, to the day that --the first day that you were honored with a medal and a citation. What -- waking up and give me as much detail as you can about that day and what took place?

Melvin Earl Biddle:

About the action for the medal? The [PAUSE] -- we had one incident before we went to the Battle of the Bulge. And it -- we were up on a mountaintop about Sus--Sauspel [sp?], Italy and the -- one of our guys got captured. He'd stopped [LAUGHS] to -- for an act of nature. They caught him with his pants down and they took him prisoner. One guy was a friend of his and he says, "Biddle, let's go down there and get him back." And I said, "You're outta your mind." He said, "No. I want to go get him." He's from Indiana and you ought to go with me. I said, "The Captain won't let us go down there." And he said, "Ask him." So I did and he said, "Yes, we're going down there anyhow." [LAUGHS] So we went on a patrol down there and the--fellow that wanted to go get him was a elite scout and then he had the second scout in front of him, or in back of him. And then the lieutenant had been hit in fra--Italy and he was scared. So he put out three scouts. [LAUGHS] I was the third one. And the second one stepped on a mine and blew him up in the air and lost his foot and put mud in his eyes and he's bleeding out of his ears and I thought he was dead. He came to a little bit and said, "Give me some morphine", and I did. And the other fellow said, "I'm hit too." And I said, "Oh, where at?" And he says, "Under my -- around my belt." [LAUGHS] I picked his shirt up and saw his ribs. Oh my, it was shocking to me. It -- I just wasn't expecting him to be hit. So he got some morphine too. So after that incident, when we got to the Battle of the Bulge up by Soy they said Biddle out front and I didn't [LAUGHS] know I would be the lead scout. But that's, that's what they had me do is be the lead scout. There's underbrush and cold, snowy and they had three Germans on an outpost. And I walked up to the outpost -- it wasn't from me to you from them -- and they didn't see me. And I stood there for a second and I said well, should I shoot them or take them prisoner and I decided to shoot him. So I shot the first one and hit him in the right shoulder and knocked him down so he [PAUSE] said, "Comrade" and he wanted to be taken prisoner. Not three or four feet further the, the 'nother German and he looked just like me. He is blond-haired, blue-eyed, short-cropped hair and I thought well now the first guy I could have taken prisoner, I'll take him prisoner. And he tried to get his rifle off his shoulder to shoot me and I had to shoot him. He probably died. I hit him twice and it knocked him down. And the -- he was--going for his belt as if it hurt him so we took his belt off and it was one of those that said got me [ ? ]. [LAUGHS] A big old buckle. Then right away--

Unidentified interviewer:

Hold on, one second. [SOUND CUT] END OF SIDE A START SIDE B INTERVIEW WITH MELVIN BIDDLE (CONT'D) [OFF-MIKE/OFF-TOPIC]

Unidentified interviewer:

What, if you can, Battle of the Bulge? Battle of the Bulge was the last major battle and if you could tell me that it [ ? ] December, we thought we were winning a war. So you had that feeling. Most of the troops did. The war was going our way and then it came. Can you set that up. [OFF-MIKE/OFF-TOPIC]

Unidentified interviewer:

So if you, if you could just set that arena because -- and, and as Karen said people don't realize what that was, that feeling prior to that that we were going to win this thing. And then it happened.

Melvin Earl Biddle:

After Southern France they decided they were going to send us back to the United States and further train us and send us to the Japanese theatre. So they send us to Soissons, France and we were doing close order drill, polishing our boots and shaping up as it were to come back to the United States. On December the 16th, we had a radio broadcast from Berlin Sally that said you fellows in the 517th are not going back to the States because you will be fighting. And she was right. This was the 16th that the Bulge started and by the 22nd we were on our way to Belgium to stop the Ardennes campaign. And they not only sent our outfit they sent the 82nd, the 101st. Everybody was sent, plugged into the Battle of the Bulge. And it was chaotic. They had every--thing they could use. They used dummy paratroopers, they used actual paratroopers. They had people who could speak, speak English and just cause all kinda havoc behind the lines. So they just threw everything we had in there to stop that. And our outfit was part of stopping.

Unidentified interviewer:

So let's talk about you again. Now we know what's going on. We know what's taking place. We know that United States and our Allies had to suck it up. So what did you do?

Melvin Earl Biddle:

We -- the outfit they took our machine guns and rifles and--for use in the 82nd Airborne and they went into combat before we did. And then they gave us all new [LAUGHS] weapons. We had to clean the cosmoline off of them and get prepared to go into combat. And we started up there on the 22nd and arrived at Soy, Belgium in the late evening of the 22nd. As -- when we pulled up there there's a jeep that had been backed over by a tank. Apparently this tank was in front of the jeep and they wanted out of there [LAUGHS] so the people on the jeep got in the tank and they backed it right over the jeep. And they had a, a fifth of whisky in there so the fellows got that. And I wouldn't drink it. I thought it might impair my ability and I wasn't gonna do it. But it was cold and they liked it.

Unidentified interviewer:

Tell me about your action again.

Melvin Earl Biddle:

Well, after -- the, the next day was the 23rd and that's when the -- they gave us seven tanks and then we were supposed to protect the tanks. And we thought they were there to protect us but it was vice versa. And we got five of the tanks knocked out in about three minutes so they took the other two [LAUGHS] away from us [LAUGHS] and told us to continue on through the area there. And that's when I came up--this small German outpost with the three guys. I shot the first one and then the second one tried to shoot me and I had to shoot him. The third one ran from me and I shot him in the shoulder and he kept going. And I shot him again in the shoulder and he still kept going. [LAUGHS] And then they -- all hell broke loose. Their machine guns and their mortars started firing at us. And they continued oh, I suppose for an hour and then all of a sudden they stop. Well, we didn't anybody injured from all that firing and all that shooting. The Lieutenant next to me decided he'd have a cigarette [LAUGHS] laying prone on the ground and he started to light a cigarette. And there was a, a limb about two inches from his nose. [LAUGHS] Boy he clipped it. The --oh, he turned white. He didn't smoke. [LAUGHS] After the firing stopped the Captain said that he liked me to take the two guys with me and take a prisoner. And I said, "Sir, I saw some vehicles out there with white stars on them." And he said, "Well, you go see if they're Americans." So I got out there and three German [LAUGHS] soldiers were walking down the road and one of them said, "Ja" [LAUGHS] and [ ? ] they weren't American. So I come back and told him that it's a German outfit and it looked like Berlin. They were just running up and down the road with tanks and half tracks and just everything. They really had the equipment. So he said, "Well, you go on further down the road and try to capture one of 'em." And I, I neh--in my mind I look back on that and I'm wondering why. [LAUGHS] I already had, had this one, first guy I met, I found. He was injured. He coulda been talked to. Anyhow, he said go ahead and do that. And one guy volunteered to go with me. A real, real good friend. And another--the other guy was my second scout. He's an excellent rifleman but he didn't like to fire [LAUGHS] on the -- in combat. He had a problem. He let me go ahead and fire all the time. But we went out there to take a prisoner and we were laying alongside the road and here come a German officer all decked out like he was parading. Had a long grey overcoat on and the typical Nazi cap. And my friend fired at him. He said oh twice so quiet I could hardly hear him and I know the German didn't. And he fired at him and missed him. [LAUGHS] And I was just flabbergasted that the [LAUGHS] German officer come around just at dark and he pulled his pistol out and fired at us and missed us. He fired twice and then he said hey Johnny. And we took off. Instead of being killed, they might have stood there like a fool but I was just so amazed that my friend had missed him twice. Move - shooting up off the ground. And he was a pretty good shot. Just couldn't believe it. Well, I went the wrong way. I didn't go back to my - our line, I went back in the German lines. As I got in there, I decided I'd lay there and try not to be captured. And the Germans were - had a password. One of them would say alt and the other would say ottentot. And that was their password for that evening. The - they kept saying that. My bands got real cold. I didn't think I could pull the trigger on the rifle. But I decided I'm gonna stick the fingers in and pull it with his hand if it came to that. They walked right past me just a few inches from my hand. They had these hobnailed boots, you could hear them as you could hear them talking. And they finally moved back a ways. And they - - our machine guns were firing, then theirs were firing. You could tell which - where my outfit was. So finally about 3 or 4 o'clock in the morning, I started back to our line. And ordinarily at night, you'd shoot and say wonder what that was. And somebody in there said, is that you, Biddle? [LAUGHS] That was so fortunate that they were looking for me. And I said yes. They said, come on in. They had changed the password during the night and I'd have been out of luck if I just - - someone knew me and I never did find out who it was. So we laid there that night. A German plane came over and one of our Black Widows, that P38 was back of it, gave it about 4 rounds and blooey, just burst into all kinds of pieces. And landed right across the field from us. Next morning there was two German pilots out there stiff attention in black gear. They wore beautiful outfits but they were really stiff. So one of them had a P38 on him, a pistol and the other one had a Luger. And somebody got a souvenir out of that. So we - it was oh maybe 8 or 9 o'clock by that time and the company commander says, Biddle out front? [LAUGHS] I thought after all that the day before, they wouldn't put me out front again. But they did. And he said you were so lucky yesterday, we're gonna use you again today. So we moved out and come on a German that I didn't see. And my sergeant back of me saw him. And he motioned me down and fired. And got him right between the eyes. When he fell, he was pointing straight at me. And I never did see him. So he saved my life there. We moved a little further and there was a little kid chained to a tree. He's a German about 15 or 14 years old. Tow headed kid. And everybody said shoot him, shoot him. And I says I don't think we need to. And we took him prisoner. So we moved on and the captain said, I want you to move out to the left flank and protect our left flank. So I'm moving along out there and here, here come a bunch of Germans in front of me just marching along. And I started firing at them and I must have run two clips of ammunition through the rifle and got every one of them. And they said they were all hit in the head. They were - about all I could see was their heads. There was underbrush enough that I had to fire from a kneeling or a sitting position. And in training I thought, we'll never use any sitting position. There's no way you'd need that in combat. And that's exactly what I needed is the type where you could get your elbow and your knee and lock that rifle in place. And it - like I said, I got every one of them. And I think there was 14 in that group. And the other guys went over and looked at them and I was always appreciative that I didn't go because it would have been a horrible memory for the rest of my life. So that was about the end of the situation. The incident. IT's kind of cute afterwards. There was a Polish guy giving the German the devil for fighting for Hitler. And I walked up, he had his hands up in the air, his arms in the air. And I looked at his watch and he took it off and gave it to me. And that Polish guy said you SOB, why didn't you give me that watch? I, I sold it back when I was in the hospital for entertainment purposes. That's quite a deal. After we went through the fighting there between Soy and [ ? ], the - there was a river and it curved through Haten[?]. And there was a 50 caliber - no, I think it was a 30 caliber water cooled machine gun that had the hose in the river and they just left it there. [ ? ] a picture I had in my mind of Haten. The fellow from home that was in another outfit said he came in about a half hour after we were there. And he liked Haten so well that when he married his Dutch wife, they came there for their honeymoon. So ironic.

Unidentified interviewer:

The battle was [ ? ] How did you guys feel when you realized that the - you defeated many of the GErmans in the withdrawal - tell me about that.

Melvin Earl Biddle:

Well it was terrific that they ran out of gas because that was a key to them not fighting anymore. They couldn't use their tanks because they didn't have gas. And that was a good thing. We - we lost this fella that went out with me. Got killed later and then a kid from home got killed. And it was just ter - terrible. That's - that's all you can describe it.

Unidentified interviewer:

When did you find out, that you were going to be put in for the medal?

Melvin Earl Biddle:

That was kind of nice. They had sent me to - I got hit January 3rd in a place called Saint Jacques and that's where my good friend got killed. And they, they sent me back to a hospital in Liege and I've always said everything happened to me. They sent a buzz bomb over and hit in the hospital where I was. A little nurse there come around and said you'll be all right, you'll be all right. I said lady, if you could put up with this, I - you'll have no problem with me. But she was brave enough to come around there and say you'll be all right. I thought it would scare the devil out of her. But it was quite amazing. [OFF-MIKE OFF TOPIC]

Unidentified interviewer:

Fire team - tell us what a fire team is and how it relates to a squad. And your position within that fire team.

Melvin Earl Biddle:

We didn't have those expressions back in World War II but the, my job was just root out the enemy and locate them so everybody else could fire at them. And it was so unusual that it would happen that I had to fire myself. Nobody fired on those - - when those 14 people went past. The guy -real good friend was the BAR man. He said I did pull the trigger. I heard it go clunk. It wouldn't fire because it was so cold. And he said you're probably lucky that it wasn't too far from your head. I said I lucked out on - in every way I guess. You asked about when I was notified about it. After I was treated in the hospital then they sent me to England for a little rest. So I was over there about a week and then they sent us back to replacement depots. They called them repo depos. And in that replacement depot, this guy from my outfit said, did you hear about that fellow that killed all those Germans up there. And I said no. And he says they put him in for the medal of honor. And I said oh, they did? So when I got back to the outfit, they told me they'd put me in. I went in to see the captain and I told him [ ? ]. And he said who's running this company Biddle, you or me? Get out of here. He - he proved his point.

Unidentified interviewer:

When did you receive it?

Melvin Earl Biddle:

October the 12th 1945.

Unidentified interviewer:

Tell me about the ceremony.

Melvin Earl Biddle:

It was, it was just a dream of. They had my entire family. MOther, father, one brother, one brother was still overseas and two sisters and their husbands all went to Washington. In our local paper - paper they said, Biddles go to Washington. There was a ceremony in the Rose Garden. And 15 of us received the medal that day. There's 3 of us left Oresco[?] says. He was there that day.

Unidentified interviewer:

Who presented it to you?

Melvin Earl Biddle:

Harry Truman. And he was a cocky little guy. I really liked him. He was in World War I and he knew what was what. And he said I'd rather have this medal than be president. He says people don't believe me. And I wanted to say I'll trade places. And still in service and didn't want court martial so I kept my mouth shut. [OFF-MIKE OFF TOPIC]

Melvin Earl Biddle:

You were asking about the ceremony. Just lovely out in the Rose Garden and the 15 people there and all their families and all. And all the high ranking officers. Omar Bradley was there. Marshall was in one of my pictures. The admirals - all the fleet admirals were there. It was just outstanding. And they -like hosiery was hard to get back there and my sisters didn't haVE any. And they went and brought them some. It - we ate at the finest places up there. And then it was an exciting time. I didn't realize how it would affect my life but it certainly has.

Unidentified interviewer:

Let's talk about what it means to you wearing that.

Melvin Earl Biddle:

I'll tell you some of the perks of it. Jake Lindsay was a recipient. He got his in August of 1945. And Harry was, Harry Truman was asking him what he wanted to do after the war. And he said well I'd like to work at the Veterans Administration. They have a position called contact representative. But I'm not sure I could pass the test. Harry says, you just did. He wrote out an executive order that anyone receiving the medal could have that job. It paid $3000 a year. And it was pretty good pay back then. So there were 32 I think World War II guys that became contact representatives. Nice gesture. So it gave me a job. A permanent job. And it also - everywhere you go, everybody treats you so wonderfully. And it - back, after World War II there wasn't that much of a display of patriotism. Everybody had been in service. The ones that worked in the war production and they had all been a part of the war. And we didn't want any particular recognition anyhow. It - so the World War II is just, it's amazing now the recognition is just as - almost too much. IT's, it's - you feel good because you know what the medal is and you feel good that people in the country recognize it. And they're becoming - - more and more they recognize it. And it -it's good for the people coming out - [OFF-MIKE OFF TOPIC]

Melvin Earl Biddle:

I wear it when I'm asked to. Never otherwise. I always understood that it was never to be worn except at parades. That's what it said in the army regulations way back when.

Unidentified interviewer:

What does it mean to you, the medal itself?

Melvin Earl Biddle:

It - it means that I was terribly lucky to be awarded it. And I didn't know it at the time. And didn't really want to be given it. BUt it, it sets you for life. It - you just can't imagine what it does for you. I don't know whether you know it or not but there's a payment from the government for the medal. A monthly payment which I never agreed with. I didn't think you could buy courage. And you shouldn't be associated with money. But I wasn't financially able to say keep it. I didn't, I took it. [OFF-MIKE OFF TOPIC]

Unidentified interviewer:

Being a member of this society, besides the perks, what's the emotional attachment to it?

Melvin Earl Biddle:

Oh it, it gives you a good feeling to be associated with people that are recognized as heroes as it were. Imagine being with Jimmy Doolittle or General Johnson, Leon Johnson, people of that character. And it's, it's wonderful to be associated with them. [OFF-MIKE OFF TOPIC]

Melvin Earl Biddle:

It was training, it was reaction. Training like sitting down in a sitting position. I just couldn't believe that I would ever use that position. So it had to be training. There's some instinct there too. Like deciding whether to shoot the first one. And then trying to take the second one prisoner. It - it - the instinct in the evening we - I didn't shoot that German officer. That was something. I don't know what that was. Just being so flabbergasted that my friend missed him. [OFF-MIKE OFF TOPIC]

Melvin Earl Biddle:

Oh yeah, doing your job. We had - at our last meeting, General Schwarzkopf was the speaker and he said like many others have said, they were only doing their duty. And I feel that's all I was doing. It's what I'm supposed to do.

Unidentified interviewer:

When you look back, would you do it again.

Melvin Earl Biddle:

Yeah, I couldn't do it again. It - I wouldn't change my life. Everything has been satisfactory. But I suppose I would get in the paratroops again. I suppose that - I, I've always had a feeling that I couldn't let my friends down. And right away these guys in B company, the 517th were my friends and of course this one guy saved my life. And just - you just can't let those kind of people down. [OFF-MIKE OFF TOPIC] BEGIN TAPE 15, BIDDLE CONTINUED [OFF-MIKE OFF TOPIC]

Unidentified interviewer:

HAVe you read the citation.

Melvin Earl Biddle:

Hundreds of times, yes.

Unidentified interviewer:

Hundreds.

Melvin Earl Biddle:

It's not the way I would have written but I'm not a writer and I don't think the lieutenant that wrote it was either. There's a kind of incident about that. He came to a reunion oh maybe 6, 7 years, maybe 10 years after the war. At the time I got the medal, he sent me a telegram and said this is a personal - how did he phrase that - it's a personal gratification to him because he wrote the citation. And I kind of resented that when I got the telegram. And didn't reply to him. And then we saw him later and he was a real nice guy. He's from Texas. And he later committed suicide. And I just [MAKES NOISE]. But his love life was - but he destroyed himself.

Unidentified interviewer:

The actions in this citation are extraordinary. Do you remember the motivation especially with the bunker and grenades, he didn't mention that.

Melvin Earl Biddle:

No he just - actually everybody threw grenades. And everybody in this first incident where they were firing machine guns at us, everybody threw grenades. And I -that's like I say, I would have written it a little different. But it - and I don't know that I would suppose that they gave me credit for everyone killed there. That the officers tend to stay back a bit from the actual contact of firing and all. But you don't quarrel with what they say. [OFF-MIKE OFF TOPIC]

Melvin Earl Biddle:

No, no, it - like everyone says, it's just doing our duty. I figure the guys that got killed are the heroes.

Unidentified interviewer:

And what's the message to the people who see and hear your story and the other stories -

Melvin Earl Biddle:

War is horrible. Don't have any more. STop the killing. It - oh it's. it's awful to have a war. It - you can't think of anything more horrific - just - the poor devils that got killed back then, that didn't get to live their lives. Whew. We don't need any wars that aren't absolutely necessary. I did feel that World War II was absolutely necessary. It - we would have been living as slaves I think if they hadn't stopped Hitler. But the others, I was a little disappointed in Harry not using the atomic bomb in Korea but I guess they were afraid to.

Unidentified interviewer:

So this is the price for freedom.

Melvin Earl Biddle:

Yeah it - when you get the nations that want to rule the world, you do have to stop them.

Unidentified interviewer:

Is there anything that we haven't asked that you want to talk about?

Melvin Earl Biddle:

No. My wife and children maybe. And 11 grandkids. I helped build a house for both my daughters. And that was a real labor of love. I think that's about it.

Unidentified interviewer:

Did you talk to your children about this.

Melvin Earl Biddle:

No, I went to - they, they like people to go to schools and speak. And I went to my daughter's school. When I came home that evening, she said daddy, I didn't know that guy down there. So I didn't, I don't like to talk to schools. That - they're too young to hear about killing people. And that - I just don't like that. [OFF-MIKE OFF TOPIC] [SOUND CUT]

Melvin Earl Biddle:

Beliefs and the - Dick Bucius here, went with him to school. I told him I didn't want to go to schools and the scheduled me to go anyhow. And I went with Dick Buch. And I was amazed. He had 200 and some shrapnel wounds in his body. He lost his eye. HE lost a part of his hand. And years and years later, shrapnel's still working out of his body. He - he's - wasn't able to come to this one or Shreveport, the last one. But he's a terrific guy. [End of Interview]

 
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  October 26, 2011
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