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Interview with James Parker [05/21/2002]

Alice Healy:

Today is May 21st, 2002, and we're interviewing James Parker at the Lyons Veterans Hospital. James served in the Army in the European Theater in World War II. Attending are Alice Healy and Claire Honeker. Okay. James, would you like to tell us a little bit about your background?

James Parker:

All right. I was born in Plainfield, New Jersey, July 29, 1924. My family were very old American families. In fact, I had ancestors that came over on the Mayflower. The original Parker came to this country in 1635. They settled in, in Lexington, Massachusetts; therefore, they started the American Revolution. Captain John Parker, the Captain of the Minutemen, was a collateral ancestor of mine. When my -- in my youth was the Depression. My father was out of work for seven years. We were in bad shape. Fortunately, my grandfather had a small farm in Plainfield, and we had vegetables and managed to eek out an existence. The World War II started actually in 1939, and I remembered a lot about it. I was active in the America First Committee. We were -- I and these under America First Committee, like Charles Lindbergh, Senator Burton Wheeler, Colonel McCormick, also who is a Congressional Medal of Honor winner, were violently opposed to our getting involved in World War II. I felt that the last thing I wanted to do was fight to save that cursed British Empire. However, when Pearl Harbor Day arrived, I knew that I would become involved. So that was the end of the America First Committee as, as such. I was graduated from high school in Plainfield High School in June of 1942. Our high school was a very distinguished high school. In fact, I applied, although I didn't have the money to go, all of the Ivy League schools without ever, ever test. In those days they didn't have the -- they had College Entrance Boards. I never took any of those tests, and yet I was admitted to every one because I went to Plainfield High School. Plainfield High School was considered the best in New Jersey with the possible exception of Montclair. None of the others were close. So what money I had, I went over to Rutgers University. When I got there, they said that if I enlisted I could stay until December; otherwise, I might very well be drafted right away. The benefit of having until December was that I would have one-quarter of a year's work to come back -- so I could get back to college after the war, which we didn't know whether it was possible at that time. So on December 11th I was called up, but actually did not go to Fort Dix until March of 1943. The second day I was at Fort Dix, very cold, miserable weather, I had heavy woolen clothing on. I took off the shirt. I had nothing but red spots. I figured I'm quite allergic to this wool. Was not true. I had German measles. So I went to the hospital at Fort Dix, and I went there twice again because I had pneumonia. I was there quite a, quite a long time. I was in the band barracks. The Colonel loved the band, so we got treated pretty well. We never had any bad inspections. And we had one fellow that was in the band whose mother was a Motion Picture actress, Joe Kennedy's girlfriend. Do you remember the name?

Alice Healy:

Gloria Swanson.

James Parker:

Gloria Swanson, and her, her son was in our, in our organization. Every week she would arrive to visit him and bringing lots of gifts and food and so forth. She was quite popular with us. In May after I got out of the hospital I went down to Camp Cross, South Carolina, for infantry basic training. I got through the infantry basic training, and the day I was supposed to be shipped out I came down with pneumonia. I was running a fever of 105, so I went to the hospital. All of the other fellows went over to Anzio with tremendous casualties. I headed to basic training all over again. I completed basic training a second time in, oh, September or October, and I went to STAR Unit in Statesboro, Georgia. There we were assigned to various ASTP programs, Army Specialized Training Program, which was organized to keep the colleges in existence as near as I could tell. They had two programs; one, language, and one, engineering. The language I could have done very well; but as far as the engineering was concerned, I might have done well except that I could not pass math, physics or chemistry. So that was out.

My mother died very suddenly in November, and I was stationed at City College of New York at the time. The Colonel was very nice. He let me have as much time off as I wanted to. My mother had died suddenly, my kid brother was only five years old, and the Colonel finally said to me, "Don't worry about it. Stay off as much as you want because they're going to cut down the program anyway." Well, in March of 1943 they folded up the ASTP program and I went down to Camp Polk, Louisiana, where we had maneuvers.

The maneuvers were pretty rugged. They were very cold, very nasty, and somehow or other when we left there and went to Camp Breckinridge, Kentucky, a -- one of the 155 millimeter cannons was missing. Nobody could ever figure out why, but it was. One of the difficult things down there in Louisiana was that we ran across the Sabine or Sabine River, which ran between Texas and Louisiana. Even to, even to this day, I think of Texas as one huge swamp. But at any rate, we ran across this Sabine River and the bridge collapsed, not when I was on it, but there were 90 or 100 men that just sank to the bottom of that, of the, of the river.

So we went up to Camp Breckinridge, Kentucky, for additional training, and we headed for Europe in -- from, from Camp Shanks in New York in October of 1944 by this time. We landed in Swansee, South Wales. It was -- of course, I was very surprised. I remembered that the British had started the Industrial Revolution, but Britain reminded me of what the United States may have been about 1880. Everything was very antiquated. They didn't have any central heating. There was no refrigeration. Just very, very, very backward.

We wound up for a while in the St. Donats Castle, that's D-O-N-A-T-S, Donats Castle in South Wales. When we marched into St. Donats Castle, we saw a huge American flag and another gigantic flag, red, white and blue, with the letters "William Randolph Hearst." This was Mr. Hearst's castle which he had rebuilt from complete ruins and used to go there once or twice a year in which he would hold court as a lord of the manor. The people in this town thought Mr. Hearst was the greatest man on earth because he paid them a princely sum, even though they only had to wait on him twice a year, to be his servants and his knights and all when he would play, play lord of the manor.

We enlisted people stayed in the pigpens for the, for the castle. And the weekend -- the week of Thanksgiving of 1944 we had a week off in London, which was fascinating. The first day I went with a fellow and we took a taxi ride, and the taxi driver says, "Oh, you want to see the American Embassy." I couldn't care less about the American Embassy. But he took us to all of the interesting points there, the Buckingham Palace, the Tower of London, Westminster Abbey, so forth. That afternoon, which I think was a Tuesday, I got on the Underground and went to all these places. I went through -- must have spent at least two hours in Westminster Abbey all by myself going through. Very, very fascinating because I'm a -- I was a history major in college. And I also went to the Tower of London and so forth. All, all very, very, very, very fascinating.

Thanksgiving Day they turned Westminster Abbey over to the Americans. We went to the services. The American Ambassador was there and a lot of American officials, and we had a service in the Abbey. At -- for lunch I went to a restaurant on Piccadilly Circus and had a Thanksgiving dinner. In fact, two years ago when I was in Europe we were going around in London and I pointed to my son, I said, "See that over there, that says Siamese Restaurant?" I said, "That was a U.S.O. in those days and," I said, "that's where I had Thanksgiving dinner in 1944."

So we stayed in Europe quite a -- in England quite a while, but the reason being that our artillery went to Scotland when the rest of us went to South Wales. And we finally shipped out of England and of -- out of Southampton to go to Le Havre in early December of 1944. We were supposed to go on a three-hour trip, but this was very much like that Gilligan's Island program because it took us three days. We hit tremendous storms. We ran out of food. We ran out of the -- We were in the bottom part. The water was up there. It was filled up as far as our necks when we lay down. We had to fight for a place -- I managed to fight and get a place to stay in a bed.

The next day we had -- we run out of the beans and pork that the British had to serve us, and we were starving. But the British managed to sell us food. We paid two dollars a can for sardines that was then leased from America. All the other food we got was from America to the British, and we had to pay through the nose for it. You may think I'm anti-British. I am. So we, we, we landed in, in Le Havre; I think it was December 15th. We came in on the LSTs and had to wade ashore, and it was pretty blame cold in December.

We got in there, and near the channel we set up camp with our, with our tents. They told us we could go down to eat and we went down to eat, and we looked back where our tents were. The French civilians were stealing everything that we had in our tents, so we became bitterly anti-French and we continued anti-French even to this day. At -- the next day was December 16th, and they said that, well, there was a lot of trouble in Belgium and that we had to get on these Forty and Eight rail cars to go up to Belgium. The Forty and Eight cars, in case you don't know, are for forty men or eight horses; and they have Forty and Eight Associations even for World War I people because they, they rode in those, in those things. They put straw in them, and I'm telling you, they all smelled as if they had been the horses, but we, we went up to them.

We, of course, didn't know what was going on. Everything was totally disorganized. We would go through a town, then all of a sudden we'd have to back out because it was in German occupation. We'd see these motorcycle cyclists that were German soldiers going down the street, so we had to quickly go backwards. Well, we finally disembarked from the train, and we were moving around in trucks and walking around in different places before we actually got into combat.

We had a Lieutenant whose name I will not give who when we were in Camp Breckinridge was in the Headquarters Company. He -- we, we got very few passes when we were there because the way the roster ran for us to pull fire duty and guard duty and so forth, there was only three possibilities during the entire summer that we could go in to town. On two of those occasions this particular Lieutenant from Headquarters Company came down to our company after we had had our passes, took them away from us and went back. Naturally, we were not too well inclined toward this particular Lieutenant; and much to his dismay, he was assigned to our outfit as executive officer when we went to Europe.

He tried his best by bringing bottles across on the ship and so forth, but I don't think he ever won the favor of our people. We had one man, 44 years old, eight children, who nevertheless was drafted. He was from West Virginia. We found out later the reason he was drafted was he fought with everybody in town and they wanted to get rid of him, so they shipped him to us. We didn't know what to do with him because all of us were about 18 or 19, so we made him a Jeep runner.

Well, while we were up there in Belgium waiting to go on the line, the Colonel decided that we should have a check-out, go, go look around, see, see, see what, what you can find. So they went off on this expedition in the Jeep. It was cold. They had all the curtains closed, and they were out on this patrol. And when they came back, there was the Lieutenant with a bullet hole right through the middle of his head and the -- was no hole in the curtains of the Jeep. There was no real explanation as to what had happened.

Of course, the next day we went into combat and nothing ever was done about it. If we hadn't gone into combat, I'm sure there would have been careful investigation. Well, now, I certainly wouldn't have done anything like that; however, I will say that most of us felt if somebody had to be the first one to be killed, this particular Lieutenant was a good candidate.

So we, we actually went into combat the -- Christmas Eve, December 24th of 1944, where we were in a town called Hotton, H-O-T-T-O-N. K and L Company had attacked a hill at Werpin, that's W-E-R-P-I-N, Christmas Eve. They were repulsed. The hill was defended by SS troops, very well dug in. In fact, our Lieutenant Colonel who was in charge of the battalion was telling his men to go up to attack. A full Colonel, Colonel Governor who had been a mess sergeant in World War I came up and said to this popinjay Lieutenant Colonel who was a West Point graduate, "What are you doing here?" And he said, "This is my headquarters." "No, it's not your headquarters. You leave your men." So the Lieutenant Colonel got in the Jeep. He started up the hill. He had a 50 caliber. He froze on the 50 caliber and killed several of his own men. Well, he was sent back to Paris and was in charge of court-martials in Paris for the rest of the war.

The next day our group went out. We went, I forget, it was either up or down the l'Ourthe River for maybe two or three miles. The civilians came out and gave us some cider to drink as we were marching along. It was a very cold day, but bright and sunny. We came to a road, turned left toward Brapare (ph), crossed the bridge over the, over the river and went up toward the hill that we were to attack. The only reason I'm still alive is that I was a machine gunner. The Captain said the machine gun was an excellent defense weapon but not good on offense going up the hill, which was densely wooded.

So we were left in the rear, and they went up the hill. They say it was a bright, sunny day. I looked up the hill. It looked like the Pocono's a bit with all the big pine trees, and I saw this what looked to me like a statue of Jesus on top of the mountain. I found out two years ago it wasn't true. There was a church there with a hundred and fifty foot cross with I guess it was -- this was not on top of the mountain. It was right by this church, which is down at the bottom. But it just seemed so incongruous that here Christmas Day we're killing each other and hard to get, hard, very hard to get used to.

Well, I don't know how long they were fighting, but all of a sudden it started clouding up, it started getting dark, because Belgium is very far north of here and this was December 25th, and the shooting stopped. The snow started coming down. Well, after a few minutes, why, a fellow named ______ from Cleveland went up the hill and he came back, and it was dusk at this point. He said, "There's nobody still alive up there. They're all nothing but dead Americans and dead Germans." So he said, "Well, we ought to get back across the bridge."

We went back to the bridge, and it had been knocked out with artillery. There was no way we could get across. So in what was about a dozen houses and the one tiny church, we stayed for ten days. That night I had my machine gun. I sat in front of a barn door aimed toward the hill. My hands shook. My knees shook. There was no way I could have fired anything at that point. I was in a bad state.

A shell lit near me, blew off my helmet and blew off the hands in my watch so they just rattled around in the case. I could never tell what time it was war -- for the rest of the war. It was probably the longest day of my life, and it's probably the one thing I'll remember the last day I'm alive if it's -- if I'm still capable of understanding anything because all these fellows were all about the same age. We were all young college fellows, maybe within a couple of months of each other, and that, that they were all dead was just absolutely inconceivable. Just too -- just hard for me.

After, afterwards -- of course, I was in combat a great deal afterwards where we'd take objectives and so forth, we'd lose people, but never to that extent. Finally, you actually got inured to it. You got used to it, which is a horrible thing to say, but you do. So anyway, we were -- as I say, we were there for ten days. There were only two civilians there, an old lady in her 90s and her daughter. She was -- the old lady was bedridden, and I talked to her. I spoke French quite well in those days, and she told me that she remembered the Germans coming through in 1870 in the Franco-Prussian War, coming through in 1914 in World War I, coming through in 1940, and that -- because the Ardennes there is a natural area for invading France. It's heavily wooded and you could move troops, tanks and so forth through there very easily without being observed, and -- but it was used so many times. We were all city boys and we had -- there were cows, there were pigs, there were -- we tried to do what we could with them. We learned to milk cows even. We didn't know what to feed pigs, but we found some rutabagas. We -- they -- pigs we found out ate everything. And New Years, New Years Eve we were there.

They threw some letters across there, because the British were on the other side, artillery, and we told -- we threw a Veri, Veri pistol shot up and told them that we were there, and they said that the Germans attacked. We would shoot another one up, and they would cover the hill, which they did every, every night the Germans attacked, but every night they were thrust back by the, by the British artillery. So at the end of -- No. On New Years Eve they threw letters across. Now, I had three letters. One was from my father, one from the Veterans Administration, and one from the U.S. District Court. Of course, the one from my father was naturally. The one from the Veterans Administration the fellows would ask, "What's that for?" I said, "Oh, we're just working out the details of my discharge." Actually, what it was, since my mother had died I was changing my beneficiary to my father. The letter from the Veterans -- from the U.S. District Court was another matter. I was being charged with evasion of -- from service. I had never registered for the Draft. I didn't think I had to since I had enlisted; however, this was the days before the computer. So I was summoned to appear in the U.S. District Court in Newark on I think it was maybe January 21st. So I sat down and I wrote a letter, "Somewhere in Belgium. I should be delighted to participate. I had a defense I wished to present, and I would love to be in court in, in Newark on the 21st. There was one difficulty, transportation. If they could just arrange the transportation, I certainly would be there." So that was the last I heard of them.

The British finally came through to "relieve us." The British used us as a point. There were about ten of us. They put us out, oh, about 300 yards in front of the British troops to draw fire. The -- we looked back, and all these animals that we tried to save the British soldiers were killing. It didn't make us, didn't make us too happy. We got back to our outfit, and there weren't many left. Actually, what we -- we were operating as a company with less than a platoon. We kept getting replacements, but they, they didn't last long. We went down through Houffalize and finally down towards St. Vith.

There was the film on the Battle of the Bulge. It was on the night before last on the television. My wife saw it for the first time. She was amazed because it was horrible. The weather was down below zero. The, the snow was about three feet deep. We were never inside. The only food we had was frozen C rations, which really tasted better frozen unless they were cooked. We were in bad shape. Kept getting -- going further and further, and my thoughts were the Lord had treated me pretty badly. I knew I was going to die in this war, why couldn't I have died the first day instead of suffering on and on and on? Well, I didn't get any answer, of course.

We finally got through with the Bulge. Now, as I, as I look at it now and see the movie, I couldn't have done it now, but there's a difference between being 19 and being past 70.

So we and the -- our division, the 75th Division and the 28th Division, were sent down to Alsace in Eastern France where the Germans had crossed the line and taken the city of Colmar and other adjoining cities and farm country. We got down there. I guess it was maybe the second or third day. There was a young fellow I knew from Kandin (ph) about my age. Very nice fellow. I got well acquainted with him. And he was a very good soldier for the first two days. The third day he didn't want to go out or do anything. We were running in dense woods. All of a sudden the artillery started coming in. It was white phosphorous. It was not German stuff. It was American. And there's nothing worse than tree bursts because the, the, the wood splinters and it chops you up as well as the, as the shrapnel, and it was a horrible thing.

And it's, it's pretty depressing to know that you're being blasted by your own troops, you know, what they now call friendly fire. I really couldn't blame the forward observers, though, because what they would -- every morning they would tell us whether we were going to face opposition or not. Usually they were wrong. That particular day they told us there was going to be fierce opposition. There wasn't. The Germans had gone somewhere else. We went through very fast. Therefore, I'm sure the forward observers thought we were Germans retreating, and that's why they blasted us.

There's no way of telling -- I mean, everybody was dirty and filthy. You can't tell one uniform from another, so -- But this young fellow was behind a tree and he got hit badly, so I went back and I picked him up and I carried him. He lost one eye, he lost his jaw, his tongue was cut so that what was left of it hung down, and his chest bleeding. I picked him up. I carried him to where we had an aid station set up, and there they had Jeeps and they took him away. I heard later that he did survive. I never had the guts to go to see him. I should have, but I never did.

We were stuck in the aid station because the chaplain grabbed a pistol and said he was going to shoot everybody, and I had to wait an hour or so, maybe two hours, before somebody managed to sneak behind him and grab the pistol away from him. And then I went to reach the outfit again. I knew where they were going. So I arrived there, and it was getting toward dusk. So I reported in to somebody and I said, "This is Parker, I'm arriving." And he said, "Oh, we got some replacements. There's a fellow over there," and he gave me the name, and he said, "he's dug a hole, and why don't you go with him in his foxhole." And I said, "Okay." So I went over there and I said, "I'm Jim Parker. I was held up in taking a wounded man back." And so he said, "Well, they're going to give food." Now, this was the first time they had served food. So he said, "Now, you go, because it's getting dusk. You can go over and get your food and find your way here, but after it's dark you won't be able to because I've been here long." I said, "Okay." So I went, I got my food -- you know, shells were coming in -- and I got my food and I went back to the -- By this time it was dark, totally dark. So I said his name, no answer, no answer. I reached down in the foxhole, but I hit the top of his neck. An 88 had come in and taken his head off, and what I was hitting was the blood coagulated on, on the top of his shoulders and neck. So I never got to know him at all.

What I did, I just took the body out of the foxhole, laid it aside and went on. In fact, there were some things, like even in Belgium when we had to cross a canal and it was very, very cold, we had nothing to cross the canal with. What we did was take bodies and put them in the canal and -- so that you could drive the tanks and the trucks over them. I remember one time that -- it was just before the Lieutenant was killed, that nut from West Virginia, was out of his Jeep and he was over -- It was getting dark. He was hacking away, and we said to him, "What are you doing?" "Well," he said, "I'm getting some rings." And I said, "What, are you taking them off the dead Germans?" "No, some dead American officer." But this is the way things, things went in those days.

So we finally got over to the Rhine River in the Colmar area, and the last town we captured was right on the Rhine. In fact, right along the Rhine was -- it's the main street, Main, and there was a, oh, maybe a dozen houses or something. That was all there was to it. The road went down into this tiny village. So our replacement said, "Oh, oh, we can -- we'll stay in the houses tonight." I said, "Oh, no. No. Never." I said, "We'll pull back about a half a mile and dig in," which, of course, we did. The road we were on went down until it made a fork in the road, made a fork to the right and the left, and then it met in the middle of this town.

So it was maybe about 2:00 in the morning, I guess. I was walking guard duty, this other fellow was with me, and we heard this noise coming along, a lot of big racket, singing, flashlights, tanks, so forth, waving flags. What was it? The Free French Army. So we saw them. We watched them go. We watched them go down. We watched them go to the fork in the road. Some of the tanks went one way, some went the other way. What a fight they had in the middle of that town. They knocked each other out. They had a lot of casualties. They were so drunk they didn't know that they were shooting at each other. I remember telling this fellow, I said, "You know, I hope that after the war is over the French don't insult Luxembourg too much or they'll get the bejesus beaten out of them."

Lately -- recently, the French government has given Liberation Medals to all who participated in the liberation of France. Our division was not given one even though we liberated Alsace, the reason being that we served under the 1st French Army. When we went down there, the 1st French Army was so bad that Eisenhower said, "Unless you shape up, I'm pulling the 75th and 28th Divisions out." So I don't get a, I don't get a French medal. That's the way, that's the way things go.

So we went then north again through the Siegfried Line and on into Belgium and Holland. I think we were in Maastricht. We were there for a couple of days. When we arrived, this -- the, the Canadian troops had been there before. The last fighting they had had there was in November, and, of course, this was now early March. So they said it will be -- as they marched out they said it's going to be very quiet. Well, it was quiet. The Germans were on their side of the river, we were on our side of the river. And, however, the Colonel got impatient as in colonels are -- like to do, so he decided that he would send the patrol across the river, capture a German, and bring him back and question him.

So it was midnight, full moon, got the rubber boat, and they started to cross the river, and the Germans weren't paying attention. They landed. They grabbed a German. They put him in the boat, and they started back. He started making a racket, and they hit him over the head. Well, they hit him too hard. He was dead when they arrived back.

Colonel then was chasing around the next day looking for somebody else to do the same thing the next night. Well, I was not volunteering for that, that effort. Of course, same thing happened. They got halfway across the river, and then everybody was killed. The Germans killed everybody. But that's, that's the way some of these military operations are.

After that we, we crossed the Rhine at Basel. We were then part of the, I think it was the 9th Army under General Simpson, who I thought was the greatest General over there mainly because he was a great artillery man and he saw to it that he had the least casualties. The one we didn't want to be with was Patton because he didn't care how many casualties he had. But we crossed, we went across the -- in fact, the night before -- or the day before we'd driven cows back that were in the line of fire. We drove them back into Holland, and then we started -- we were supposed to dig foxholes. Well, you dig, the Rhine came right up to you because we were right along the Rhine River, and we found 88s that had been abandoned by the Germans. So they had the greatest artillery barrage in the history of the world when we, when we crossed the Rhine there. Well, we, we became little artillery men, too. We, we fired our 88s and we went, we went across.

Oh, I should tell you about Mendone (ph) and American France the first time I was wounded. We were in this little village ready to attack, as we did every afternoon. We were behind a stone wall. There was a stone wall on either side of this little road. So we were waiting for L Company. Always you had to wait for L. They were falling behind. So we were, we were in houses. I put -- I had an extra blanket that I had put on my belt, and all of a sudden something hit me. It was as if somebody took a baseball bat and hit me as hard as they could right in the middle of my back, knocked the wind out of me, and I fell forward into the ditch. I couldn't breathe. I managed to look down, and I expected to see my guts coming out. Then I finally got my wind back and then I, I felt my rear was hurting, and I looked down. I had fallen on the face of a dead German. So I'm the only one that was bitten in the rear by a dead German in the whole war. I, I got my, I got my wind back, and so I went to the aid station and took all my clothes off. Well, the, the blanket I had on the back was ripped to shreds, my overcoat was ripped, but nothing else. It hit me sideways. It was mortar, part of a mortar shell product. So the doctor said, "Boy, you are lucky." He said, "I, I can't feel a single, even a broken bone in your spine here," which is where it hit. "But," he says, "you're going to, you're going to be pretty sore for a while, so you better go to the hospital." I said, "What are they going to do for me at the hospital?" He said, "Nothing." I said, "Okay. I'll go back with the outfit." And, of course, I couldn't sleep on my back for a while, but I managed to, managed to get over that.

Well, we went to, we went into, into Germany. From Basel we went southeast, I guess, into, into the rural area. It was Essen, Dusseldorf, Dortmund, all the, the great industrial cities of Germany. This was quite a, quite a hectic affair. It was the one time during the war when I felt like shooting German prisoners because what we would do, we would be attacking and the Germans would be in a farmhouse with big walls on the outside, big, and they would shoot at us and kill us until we came close and they would surrender. And, of course, we had casualties, they had none. They just came out and surrendered. That, that didn't, didn't feel very good; however, didn't do anything about it.

And we went down into -- we were -- the last day, which was Friday, the 13th of April -- because the day before we heard on the radio that Franklin Roosevelt had died. Well, that didn't bother me because I would never have voted for the man anyway. I was happy that I -- I was, I was mad that I had to be serving over there and being shot at and so forth, but I couldn't vote. But anyway, he was, he was -- everybody thought Dewey was the president. I said, "No, no, no, no." I said, "There's some guy named Truman," I said, "who was a senator" -- of course, I was a history and political science major -- "who's now the president."

So the 13th we were going to attack down toward Herdecker (ph), which was right on the Ruhr River. We started off and there was a new Lieutenant that arrived, little, short, stocky guy whose father was the mayor of some town in New -- upper state -- up -- New York State, and I remember I saw what looked to me like somebody up in a church depo. So I poured a couple of rounds up into the church depo. Well, he fell down and he fell with his face on a cow pie and he started rubbing his face, "Why didn't you tell somebody you're going to shoot?" I said, "I can't. Can't tell everybody when I'm going to shoot."

Anyway, we went on and he was fumbling along in the, in the rear. Well, we got up to within sight of Herdecker, and I got hit again. This was the third time I was hit and it was in the arm, and it was bleeding quite a bit. So an aid man came over and said -- he wrapped something around it and he said, "You better go back and they'll stop the bleeding back at the aid station." I said, "Okay." And somebody said "Here, here's a prisoner to take back." I said, "Okay." So I got my prisoner, and I started back. I got partway back past a tank and some shells started coming in, and the fellow hollered out at me from under the tank, "Hey, I got another prisoner for you." I said, "I got one already." "Won't you take him?" I said, "Why?" "Look, if you take him, I'll give you a watch." I said, "Does it run?" Because mine, you remember, the hands were off. "Yes, it runs." Well, it was a cheap German pocket watch I looked at. It ran after a fashion, so I said, "Okay."

Well, I had two prisoners. So I went back into kind of a little town, and the shells started coming in very hard at this point. So I saw a -- like, into a cellar door, so I took my prisoners and we went down in there. It was a rathaus (ph), you know, ______ _____. Went in there and opened the door. It was dark in there. All of a sudden these people grabbed me. They grabbed me by both arms. Oh, did it hurt, the arm that was wounded. Well, in there were a hundred Germans. So I was a prisoner of war. And, you know, and finally I got my thing and I, I fooled the place.

I spoke German after a fashion in those days, too. So I said, "Now, wait a minute," I says, "what do you, what do you mean I'm their prisoner?" I said, "Do you see those tanks out there?" I said, "Where are they going?" They were heading east, and they were all American tanks. And I said, "You know, the Russians are nearby." I said, "You," I said, "you have your choice. You can surrender to me or surrender to the Russians this afternoon. They'll be here." Of course, they, they had no idea the Russians were hundreds of miles away. But the officers had a consultation, came over and said, "We surrender to you."

So I took my -- I was -- felt like the pied piper. I went back. I went to the cage, and the fellow at the cage, I handed him a sheet of paper. He says, he says, "One prisoner?" He says, "I counted. There's a hundred and five." I said, I said, "They're like rabbits, they multiply."

So he took them. And, of course, this, this was in the war when the, the, the jig was up. The Germans were not going to win, and this was, you know, back at the end of the war. So I had the arm. They patched it up together and they said, "Well, we'll send somebody to do a better job on this arm," which was full of shrapnel, "tonight down at Herdecker." I said, "Okay. I'll make it down to Herdecker." So I went out. Then they had a fellow to go with me, and he was a fellow from -- I don't remember him too well now. He was much older. He was about 33 or 34. His brother had been killed over in the Pacific Theater, and all he wanted to do was kill a German. That was -- he kept talking he was going to kill Germans.

Well, we went a ways and we came to a small farm with an orchard in front, and all of a sudden a young German jumped up, who knows, maybe he was 15 years old, because at that point they were using the young people and the very old, the 70s, they were _____ because Germans were running out of, of young soldiers. So he got his rifle and I went, whoom, shoved it up in the air, and it went off. He started yelling at me, "What's the matter? You see these Germans? Kill 'em." I said, "Look, this guy surrendered." I said, "Look, he's only a kid." I said, "You're, you're crazy."

We went on about 10 yards through the woods there. So then you saw a white flag coming out, and over a hundred Germans came out with their heavy machine guns on their backs surrendering. Well, he turned as white as that sheet of paper. "My God," he said, "they could have killed us." I said, "You're right." I said, "They would have killed us. They would have surrendered to the next Americans that came along, and they wouldn't know anything about these two dead Americans that were there. They wouldn't understand what had happened to them."

Every year from then on until maybe about three years ago I used to get a Christmas card from him -- he's probably gone now -- but recognizing that if, if it hadn't been for my deflecting that shot, why, that would have been the end of us.

There was one time that I can say something -- it wasn't -- that was a little better about the war. We were in München-Gladbach, which is part of Germany to the, the other side of the Rhine, and we came around a corner. There was heavy, heavy smoke from the artillery and so forth. We came across a group, I don't know, maybe 40 or 50 young Germans with 88 anti-aircraft guns. They were in uniforms, ill-fitting, maybe 14 or 15 year olds. The shells that were coming in were anti-personnel. These anti-personnel would explode about six feet off the ground and then go sideways. If you were standing, that was the end of you. If you were down on the ground, nothing would happen. All of a sudden each one of us quickly grabbed a couple of these young Germans and pulled them down to the ground. They were just milling around like cows. They didn't know what to do.

And when that shelling was over, we were very pleased that none of them were injured. We went into that town, and one place we went into there was a little, a little boy, maybe about five years old, standing in front. So we went over to him. He had his hands up. He was trying to hide his pet rabbit who he was afraid we were going to kill. So we gave him some, you know, candy and talked and said, "Where are your parents?" Well, they were hiding in the basement. They didn't know where he was.

But it was such a, such a pathetic thing.[break in tape]

... bayonet, rather rusty looking, and he said, "I'll get rid of that shrapnel for you." So he had a bottle of cognac, so he put the bottle of cognac, he rubbed it on the -- on his knife and he said, "This is going to hurt a little, so have some cognac." So he started a big woomp and you'd hear the metal clank in the water and he says, "Does it hurt still?" I says, "Yeah, more cognac," and the guy _____. So we, we finished that up. Well, that little Lieutenant that had arrived in the morning got there actually before we did. He got there when it was getting dark. He looked at a house where there were people moving around. In his own infantile mind, he thought it was Germans. He blasted away. He killed one fellow who had been in on the invasion of North Africa, who had been wounded two or three times and finally sent with our outfit when he -- Well, our outfit knew about this. He would not have survived. They flew him home that very night because what he done with, with infantrymen he would have had a very difficult time of living through it.

So that was the last war. Now, we were -- A few days later they put us in, in trucks and we went up as far as Brunswick in Germany. They told us we were going to capture Berlin. Well, we got to Brunswick. They said, "No, no, no, you're going back. It's been decided on higher authority that the Russians are going to capture Berlin." Did we care? No, not a bit. We, we, we had been fumbling around. We didn't -- I didn't realize until, of course, much later what a significant thing that was. It probably was a great error of judgment on Eisenhower's part that the Americans were not permitted to capture Berlin because he had already given in and let the French capture Paris, well, with a lot of American help. The French couldn't possibly have done it by themselves. So we went back. We went into occupation, and I was in occupation in a town called Menden, which was a little -- a suburb of Dortmund.

It was a little, a little tiny, tiny village, and I lived in a rathaus. I was the police chief, even though I was only a PSE, because there were too few of -- there were not many that's in occupation there. And so my headquarters were rathaus, and above the camp -- above the town was a Polish camp. Now, the Germans had their prisoner of war camps distributed around these different towns and villages by nationality. There was an English camp, the American camp, the Polish, you had the Russian camp and so forth. Now, we went into the rural area. Of course, as I said, the Germans knew the jig was up. There were many hundreds of thousands of them, but they were not going to be successful. And everybody was starving. There was no food for the civilians, for the German soldiers, for the prisoners of war, for anybody, and we had food with us.

So what we did, we went in there, opened up the prison camps and started feeding everybody and doing what we could for them. A very fine thing to do; however, we omitted one thing that was very significant. We did not go through the Germans' houses and pick up their arms. The chief German preoccupation even now is hunting. They love to hunt, boar, deer, that sort of thing, so they had plenty of that type of, of -- you know, geeses, of rifles and shotguns. So we never picked them up. However, there was one group that did, and those were the Russian prisoners of war.

Well, the first day I was police chief there there was shooting up in the Polish camp. I went up there with my four German policemen who were all bald in my two Mercedes touring cars, and the Russians were there slaughtering the Poles. So we shot around, and they went away.

The second day one of our men was killed up there with the Poles. Now, it was a rather obvious reason he was there because in Europe there were only four armies that did not have women camp followers with them, the American, the German, the Canadian and the British. All the rest had women camp followers. And, of course, the Polish had these women. And this fellow I'm sure was up, you know, in the favors of the Polish women, and he got shot because the Russians thought he was Polish.

So this was the M Company commander, which is a heavy weapons company, and he said, "We have plenty of ammunition." So the next time there was shooting up there, why, there were a lot of volunteers, and these volunteers went up and were killing the Russians. Well, what few Polish men were left grabbed shovels and started bashing in the skulls of the dead Russians. This was at the time they were setting up the United Nations in San Francisco, and all I could think of was good luck, boys. I'm sure that the Poles and the Russians had been killing each other for at least 3,000 years. Of course, it was worse after World War I because Poland defeated the Soviet Union in, in the Polish-Russian War after that and there was very, very poor relations between Poland and Russia; and, of course, since then, you know, not surprising what goes on in the Balkans.

It's just normal for, for these sort of things, the same things. There's the Jews and the Arabs and Northern Ireland and so on. And the, the strangest thing about these, they're identical people that are killing each other. Ireland, it's the Scottish and the Irish because the Scottish were moved over to Ireland by Queen Elizabeth and King James I in order to solidify Britain's hold on Ireland. And in the, in the Balkans, well, Serbia was the only country that was against Hitler. All the rest of them were in favor of Hitler in the, in the Yugoslav area. So they remember the bitterness that went on. And the Jews and the Arab, they're identical, identical people. They all came originally from Arabia. It's just that they had different, different religious backgrounds. Their customs were the same. The only people in the world that don't eat pork are the Jews and the Arabs. The only ones that have enforced circumcision, the Jews and the Arabs. The only ones that separate the women and the men in their religious services, the Jews and the Arabs. I mean, so they're identical in, in so many ways, but different, different background. And they still for some reason want to kill each other, and I guess it will be going on until the end of time.

So there was one interesting thing that happened there while I was in occupation. There was a woman, let's say she was kind of a prostitute. She had several children, the last two of which were born after her so-called husband had died on the Eastern Front, and she tried to make friends with me. Well, I wouldn't want nothing to do with an old tramp like her. But she finally tormented me so much, she wanted to get rid of her two young daughters, who were age about three and five. I think they were interference with her and her plying her trade. So she said she knew just where to get rid of them. And I said, "What do you mean?" So I went with her, went up on the hill, and there was an old household Victorian type of home. So we went to the door and knocked on the door, and there were two elderly spinsters there, probably in their 70s or late 60s. They looked like out of the 1880s. They had these round collars, dressed as if they had been in the 1890s. So they greeted us at the door not too well. They knew this woman, and they wanted no part of it. I went in there anyway, and they said, "What do you want?" And I said, "This woman says that she is unable to take care of these two little girls and thought that you would do it." "No, we'll have nothing to do with that trash, that scum of nowhere, that hard prostitute," everything, you know. So I said, "All right, all right," and I walked over to what looked like a secretary. All of a sudden I picked up a pen, German National -- National Socialist German Worker's Party. It's a Nazi party, the official name of it. Here's a pen. Well, believe me, they turned pale. I said, "Aha," I said, "you are members." "Yes." "That's not good."

And finally we worked out a deal. They would take care of these two little girls if I would not divulge that they were members of the National Socialist German Worker's Party. They told me that their tork -- their taxes would have been exorbitant if they had not been members of the party. It was a big difference between those who paid taxes -- or members of the party and those who weren't, and they couldn't afford not to.

Well, be that as it may, I went there. Well, we were there maybe, oh, a month or so and we were, we were relieved by the British who took occupation in that area. So one of the last things I did before I left was I went up to this house with the old ladies, and I knocked on the door. Well, they were just as cool as they were before. "What are you here for?" I said, "I just wanted to see what was going on." I saw the two little girls come out beautifully dressed, clean and neat, their hair, everything great. So I said, "Well," I said, "you're getting along all right?" "Yes." But they were still nervous. And they said, "What are you here?" I said, "Nothing, just to find out." Well, they were afraid I was there to take the children away.

So they said, "Do you think we can keep the children?" I said, "Look, I have no idea what's going to happen." I said, "I'm sure within a couple of years the German Civil Authorities will be here and," I said, "you'll just have to present your case at this, at the" -- and I said, "The mother probably won't even want them then, either, and," I said, "they very well may let you keep them." Well, they had grown very attached to the girls. So see, I guess -- Oh, yes.

We went -- and we went down to near Paris in the Ras (ph) or Reims area, and there we were in Camp Philadelphia. These were camps that were set up to process the troops coming in from the east heading west to be shipped back to this country. Now, before I went there I had high points because I had been wounded a number of times, I had been in Europe a long time. I had a hundred and twenty-something points. So we in the high points were going to go home first. So we were put on a list, and we were assigned to an outfit to go to Marseilles and to sail out of Marseilles on the aircraft carrier Lake Champagne on May 30th of 1945.

Well, we got on the trains. We went as far as Nancy, which is a large railroad hub. There they told us to change trains at Acnure (ph) guarding German prisoners again. In fact, I remember that afternoon there was an American General came up to me, he was a pretty good Air General, his flag flying and everything, and he came over to the cage and I was there and he -- somebody gave me a name. So I hollered the name out, and then finally this draggle little fellow came out.

This was the General's own brother, one in the American Army and this other was a Volksgrenadier. He was too old ____ ____ ____. They were, they were full brothers, which was, you know, interesting. But one thing that made me mad there when we were in occupation. Our Generals and Colonels entertained the German Generals who had been captured and Colonels, and we had to wait on them as we were -- they were fed fancy drinks and seafood. I wasn't too happy about that. Well, anyway, I made up my mind to find out how come I was shoved back into nonentity when I was supposed to go home. Well, it seems that the outfit that we were assigned to, it was unfortunate we were assigned to that outfit.

It was National Guard that had just arrived in Europe a couple of weeks before. The bad thing for us was it was Missouri National Guard. So Harry Truman, may he rot, put the, all the original ones back and shipped them home. They had a parade in New York. They all went to Washington, the Rose Garden. He got on his World War I uniform, pranced around, they were all discharged.

Meanwhile, we were forgotten. We were totally forgotten until December. I'll bring that up later. Anyway, I was in, in this Camp Philadelphia where we processed the troops. I had about a hundred Germans in my battalion area, and they would keep the place clean. And the troops would come through from the east, and they had to go down to T.O. equipment and whatever they could carry in their duffel bag. Now, it's absolutely astounding what American soldiers can steal, refrigerators, Oriental rugs, all kinds of -- well, you name it and they stole it, table lamps, a lot of bedding, overstuffed furniture, vast amounts of liquor, big boxes of cigars, so -- and the tent was filled with that sort, with that sort of thing. So I was there. I was given a furlough. I went to England. I had a wonderful time in England. And most of the soldiers wanted to look at the cowboy movies in London, and I wasn't interested in that at all. I went to the theater in the west end of London, and they have excellent theater and it's much cheaper. And they had some -- actually, there were sometimes when there were free seats for troops, and so I went, I went there and enjoyed that. And, and I was there at the time of the election where Churchill was defeated and, what was his name, Labour Party, Labour Party came into office. And I -- in fact, I was at Buckingham Palace and I watched Churchill lead his cabinet in to meet with the King, and then the, the Labour leader with Ernie Bevin right behind him.

Alice Healy:

At- -- At- --

James Parker:

Atlee, Clement Atlee. Atlee lead his group and all the high seal cats in to see the King, and then they marched out. It was, it was fascinating to watch that. I also saw the Rolls Royce coming out of Buckingham Palace with the two princesses in it, the one that is now the queen and the one that just recently died, Princess, Princess Margaret. So I saw a lot of things when I was there. And I went up to Edinburgh, which I found a fascinating place, wonderful city, and I was there and I went on a tour of the castle. And I was listening -- there was a history professor from the University of Edinburgh giving us a lecture. He went on and on. Finally at the end I walked over to him and I said, "I've been listening to your lecture on the history and," I said, "you were wrong on a few items." He looked horrified. "You know?" he said. I says, "Yes." He said, "They don't teach British history in the U.S." I said, "No, but," I said, "my father learned it and," I said, "I read Chinese history and I've been a history major." And I said, "Since my people all came from England and Scotland," I said, "I was interested in what happened to them, what, what they lived in."

And I -- well, he said, "I, I admit I was wrong and," he said, "you were right, and," he says, "I did gild it in favor of the Scottish as against the English." You know, that's what I told him. I says, "So what difference?" I said, "I had English ancestors and Scottish ancestors, both of them, and, in fact, my Scottish ancestors came from the Battle of Worcester where he later became King Charles II of Fort Cromwell. They lost. They were fighting on the King's side. They lost to Cromwell, who never lost a battle in his entire life, and they were -- came over to this country as indentured servants, the same as slaves, only -- the only difference being that if they behaved and did well for seven years, then they became free. I don't know what happened, if they didn't behave. But anyway, these two brothers behaved and they became, and they became free. They worked for a merchant in Maine, and they went down to Lexington, Massachusetts, where the Parkers were. So they intermarried a great deal down there."

So then this professor said, "But you're only a Private." I said, "Yes." "Well," he said, "had you been an officer I would have thought maybe you would have known history better." I said, "Look," I said, "you don't understand the U.S." I says, "I'm only a Private, but," I said, "the guys that are Majors and Colonels may be working for me in ten or fifteen years." "What?" I says, "We don't have the class system in the U.S. that you have there," which, of course, they did. And, and you remember that in World -- in -- like even in World War II, who was the leader of the British? The first cousin of the Duke of Marlboro, Winston Churchill. Who was the leader of the, of their troops? Viscount Montgomery, whose ancestor fought for King William the Conqueror. So, you know, that, that's the way they operated. So they did, they didn't quite understand the way, the way we function here in the U.S.

So eventually we did get out of, out of there. We went to the channel ports. We came, we, we came home. Before we came home there was one young fellow, young German about my age I guess, who had a letter he wanted to send to his aunt in Long Island, and I said, "Sure, I'll take it." Didn't realize that it was going to be quite a while before I would be able to deliver the letter. Anyway, we finally after a lot of difficulty, which I won't mention because this is going to the Library of Congress, anyway, we, we got on and we come over on the Brazil, which is a very nice liner which was between South America and New York.

So we were going home and we went -- and we went down and we got on the gangplank to go on the Argentina, which was a sister ship to the Brazil which had came over. Nice-looking ship. We got down to that gangplank and they said, "Column right." Column right? We went down to this miserable old scow that looked like it was sinking and it was called the General Anderson. It was a Navy troop ship. I think it brought the boys back from Manila or Havana in the Spanish War it was so old.

We got on the ship and I was put in the bottom, the -- what do you call it, steerage, I guess. The next morning we were -- I was supposed to serve breakfast. So I got up, and then -- We were out in the channel in a tremendous storm. So I went up. I was walking around and didn't see anybody. So finally somebody hollered, "Hey, soldier, what are you doing?" I said, "I'm supposed to serve food." He said, "Oh, you won't be serving food," he says, "everybody is seasick." And I said, "Yeah?" So he said, "Are you hungry?" I said, "Yes, I'm hungry." "Well, how would you like a nice steak and fried potatoes?" And I go, "Oh, boy, that sounds good." So I got a nice big steak and five potatoes, and I armed that down. I said, "That was very good."

I went down below. Well, everybody -- he was right. Everybody was seasick. I knew if I stayed down there I'd get sick, too. I went up. I sat up by headquarters right behind the smokestack for the rest of the trip, which was another ten or twelve days, and I'll tell you, I had never had better food in my life because I ate the Navy food and there was plenty of it because most of the sailors were seasick even.

We hit three bad storms going over crossing the channel -- crossing the Atlantic. The Atlantic in December is a rough, rough thing. So we got about halfway across. All of a around, so I went up to the radio shack and I said, "What's that over there?" "Oh," he says, "that's the Argentina." I said, "Oh?" I said, "What's the matter with that?" They said, "In the storm they lost their propeller." I said, "Well, what's going to happen?" "Well," they said, "they are one nautical mile closer to Liverpool than to St. Johns Newfoundland, so that means that they're getting a new propeller from Liverpool that they're going to bring out. Then they have to wait for all the storms to stop, and then they'll put the propeller on and then they'll continue." Well, maybe it was better to be on this old crate.

So we finally got across, and they had to carry most of the people off because they were dehydrated. They were in terrible shape. Of course, I wallowed down the gangplank. I'm sure I must have gained at least 50 pounds on that trip. Going back, got on the train and they said, "Going to give you a big turkey dinner at Camp Miles Standish," so -- and I'd been eating much better than that. So I, I, I got into Camp Miles Standish and then where they, they sent us out to be discharged. So I went to Fort Monmouth and the day I was discharged, why, the fellow doctor looked me over and he wrote out a lot of stuff and, "Well," he says, "I'll set you up for your disability." I said, "How long is it going to take?" "Well, at least three days." I said, "I haven't got three days. I want out. I've had my bellyful of this."

And so he wrote out all that was wrong with me, that -- so, so then he said, "Most of these things will be better in six months." I, I had no hearing at all in my left ear, none, I, I had no feeling in my feet, it was like walking on air, and I had, I had a lot of shrapnel in my arm -- well, that came out over 15 years, I think it's mostly all gone now -- and other problems. But around six months everything was all right, so I, so I never did anything.

But the day I was discharged I got on the train and I went to Elizabeth Port. Elizabeth Port I could either -- it was on the Jersey side. I could either go to Plainfield, or I could go to New York. And it was in the afternoon, I guess maybe 1:00 or something, so I said, well, I'll go see my father in New York State. He worked at 50 Church Street. So I walked into the office, in his office, and I talked to his secretary. So finally he came out. He didn't recognize me at all because when I went in I was six foot one, I weighed a rousing hundred and twenty-five pounds, my feet were the biggest part of me. In fact, I don't think they'd have taken me except for the, the fact that the war was going on.

When I came out, why, I was about my approximate size now, about two hundred and fifteen pounds, and, of course, he didn't recognize me at all. So, "Well," he said, "you're discharged." I said, "Yep, I'm out." "Well," he says, "your -- none of your clothes will fit anymore." I said, "Nope, nothing." So we went over to Rogers Peet, which is a clothing store in New York, went in there. This old fellow was waiting on me and fitting me and so forth and he says, "Your name is Parker." He says, "You know, I, I used to have a customer named Parker." He says, "I haven't seen him lately." My father turned pale like that, and I couldn't -- I knew nothing about what he meant. He was talking about my grandfather. He hadn't seen him lately. My grandfather died in 1909.

So, so I -- and I went back to the office and then I called the, the relatives of this young German, Wolfgang, Wolfgang Fuchs (ph) was his name, and it was his aunt who lived in Syosset, Long Island. So I called her and I said I wanted to speak about Wolfgang Fuchs, and, well, she fainted dead away. She had no -- she and her husband had no children. They were bakers that lived in Syosset, and -- however, she had eight nephews, four nephews in the German Army and four nephews in the American Army. Now, this boy was her favorite because he'd come over in, I don't know, maybe '37 or something like that and stayed with her until maybe 1940 and went back to Germany at that time; and, of course, she hadn't known, known what happened to him. She had the American nephews check around to find out about the German nephews, and they had found out about everyone but him. They couldn't find out about him. And very fortunately, all three of the other nephews were, were alive.

And, of course, when her husband talked, why, I told him, I said, "You're very fortunate," I said, "he's in fine shape, but," I said, "he's -- he looks healthy, he's well-fed and," I said, "every -- everything, everything is good with him and I'm sure he'll be let out very shortly and everything," and this was, of course, just a few days before Christmas. The main reason I wanted to get out was I had three younger siblings and my father, of course, had been a widower and he was very poor with children, very poor, and I thought if I got out and was able to buy a few Christmas presents and things like that and have a nice Christmas for them it would help him out because I knew things were not going well between him and them, and -- which is one main reason I, I wanted, I wanted to be discharged early. But I guess it was a couple of days later, my God, there was a huge box on the front porch and this was all kinds of famous German baked goods that had been sent by this baker and his wife who were so happy to know -- to hear about their nephew.

Alice Healy:

That's nice.

James Parker:

So I was, I was discharged, and I did go and register for the Draft the day after I was discharged.

Alice Healy:

Did you take -- did you use the GI Bill?

James Parker:

Yes. Yes. I finished up college at Rutgers, and I actually got all but one semester of law school at the Columbia University Law School afterwards. And I never would have gotten to finish college because we didn't have enough money. I certainly never would have gotten to law school. So the GI Bill I think is a wonderful thing. It is the one thing that has not been followed through on with, with everybody, because that's the one thing I admired Herbert Hoover for, because his one program that he wanted was to have, like, the GI Bill for all young people in the country, that they could go as far education as they wanted to on a, on a free basis. That hasn't happened, but I think it would be a good thing. I think it would improve our, our people a great deal because the people that went through on the GI Bill became very good students, of course. I went back to Rutgers. I mean, they, they talk about fraternity, they talk about living in a -- Did I want to be in, in a room with a -- sleep with other men and paying for it? You know, no. I, I want my own room and nothing, nothing else. And, and, of course, we all studied very hard. I got through with just another two years by going summers and so forth. One thing got me mad, though. I was in New Brunswick at the corner tavern and I was in there having lunch, and I ordered a beer. The waitress refused to serve me because she thought I was not of age, not 21. Well, of course, at that time I was 21. I was ready to kill her. I mean, here I had been -- I had served over three years in the service, I had been wounded three times, and she was turning me down for a glass of beer. So I finally had to bring my discharge out and show that I was of age. Well, now, I was insulted then. Now, of course now if I go into a store and they say, "Well, we don't -- we're not sure you're a senior citizen," I'm ready to kiss the girl.

Alice Healy:

You said -- you mentioned you were wounded three times.

James Parker:


Alice Healy:

Well, we know one in the back and in the arm. Where is the third wound?

James Parker:

I really don't recall it too much. I think it was, I think it was, it was just, it was just some, some shrapnel I got that was -- that knocked me around. That was the least of the three of them. That one I recall less than the others. I'm -- I was only hospitalized once.

In fact, once I got -- it was in I guess toward the end of Belgium. I got so exhausted because you, you got constant diarrhea. You couldn't eat. You couldn't -- it was a terrible trip. I finally just collapsed when we were going along the road, and I couldn't go any further. So they sent an ambulance and they picked me up, and they took me into a place which was old Belgium barracks for Belgium soldiers. In fact, I went there two years ago, too. I went in there, and they had American Hospital Installation there. They also had one of these huge cannons that would go off every half-hour and shoot 30-something miles. They aimed it at the bridges on the Rhine. Well, I was in there and I guess I -- I didn't know what was going on and they talked to me and they says, "Do you have battle fatigue?" Well, I didn't know what battle fatigue was at that time.

So I said, "Yes, I, I'm exhausted," you know. Well, I was in there. Well, the next thing when I woke up finally, I was, I was out maybe for 20 hours or something, _____. It's got every type of people that were screaming and maybe climbing the walls and everything. I was like, my God, I'm in with a bunch of nuts. So I, I went to the guy at the, at the door who was a guard, and I talked to him. I said -- I, I started talking to him. Come to find out he came from Paterson, New Jersey, so we, we got friendly right away. I said, "Look, I want to get out of here." And he said, "Well, you can't get out unless the Major says you can get out." "Well," I said, "look," I said, "I'm not like these birds." I said, "I, I want, I want to get out and get back." So he said, "All right," he said, "I'll arrange for you to see the Major this afternoon."

So I went to see the Major in the afternoon. He had his feet up on a radiator, which they had in Belgium. So I sat down, and he was a, he was a psychiatrist and I guess German-Jewish. He had an accent almost like Kissinger's, you know? I thought, he better not get captured. Anyway, he started questioning me. He says -- he started these questions. "You're Parker?" "Yeah, yeah." He says, "What do you want?" I said, "I want to get out." "Why do you want to get out?" I said, "I'm not nuts like these other birds you got." I said, "I, I was exhausted and," I said, "I, I feel energetic enough and I want to get out." "Well," he says, "do you like the war?" I said, "No." "What do you dislike most about it?" I said, "All of it. There's nothing about the war that I like." "Well, you know, but you have to pick out something you really don't like. What don't you like?" I said, "Okay, I don't like the artillery." "Okay. Great. Don't like the artillery. What else don't you like?" I says, "I don't like the weather." You know, it was full of snow, down to zero and stuff. "Well, you don't like the weather. What else?" I says, "Everything else." So after a couple more which I thought were crazy questions, "Well, Parker," he says, "you know, I think things will be better." He said, "You know," he says, "Spring is coming. The birds will be in the trees, the blossoms will be out, the flowers will be out, the Germans will run out of ammunition, and it will be fine." And I thought, "You're as nutty as they are." So anyway, he sent me out. When I got back, my outfit was totally gone. So I was grave registration for a couple of days. Now, that's, that's, that's messy business. You pick up the bodies, you take up the dog tags, you put them in the bags and so forth, not, not, not a good, good duty.

Well, finally they got a bunch of us together, maybe a dozen or something. They called us a company, and so I, I joined that and was there for the rest of the war. Well, it was in, in fact, the day that they had -- there was a couple of days before V.E. Day in May that I came down with hepatitis. It was bad. You know, my eyeballs were yellow, every -- my skin was terrible, eyes terrible, you couldn't eat, couldn't drink, so they took me to the hospital. I went to the hospital. I couldn't even keep water down. It was -- I, I felt worse and worse and worse. Finally, the doctor came around. He talked to me. And I said, "Well, Doctor, what can you do about this?" He says, "Really, nothing." He said, "You're either going to live or you won't live." That was cheering. So -- and then they had a, they had a nice big luncheon, meal, you know, for -- to celebrate V.E. Day. So I went. I sat at the table. I couldn't eat anything. I couldn't drink anything. They had, they had nice wine and beer and all kinds of good food. I couldn't, I couldn't touch a thing. Went back.

Finally I decided, well, if I'm going to die, I'd rather die with the outfit rather than in this hospital. So I went to one of the orderlies and I says, "I want to get out of here." He says, "Why?" I said, "Look," I says, "they said they can't do anything for me, I'll either live or die. I'd rather die with the guys I know than in this place." "Well," he said, "you're going to have to go see the Major." You know it was the same Major? "Parker," he said -- he remembered me -- "didn't I tell you, didn't I tell you Spring would come, the blossoms would come out, the birds would be in the trees, the Germans would run out of ammunition?" "Yeah, yeah, yeah, you told me all this stuff." "And it happened and you lived through it, didn't you, Parker?" I said, "Well, sort of." "What do you want?" I says, "I want to leave the hospital." "Well, what's the trouble?" I said, "I've got hepatitis and the doctor says that they can't really do anything about it, that either I will live or die, and if I'm going to die, I'd rather die with my outfit." "Every time I see you, Parker, you want to get out of my hospital." Well, I, I managed to get back.

We were in the house of the president of one of the German railroads, a big brick house, big iron shutters on it, and I went up the staircase, dragged myself. They had a huge mirror. When I saw that mirror and saw what I looked like, I must have been down to about a hundred pounds, I almost fell down the stairs again, because that hepatitis is bad. But I went up there and I got to a chaise lounge and I stayed there for a while, and there were two old German women that took care of us, got us food and everything. They say the worst thing to give people with hepatitis is beer, but they gave us plenty of beer, der wunder beer, and chicken soup, and somehow I survived. They -- what they say, it's -- it, it must be Hepatitis B or something like that because otherwise I would be dead by now with, with the taverns. But anyway, I, I manage, I managed, I managed, I managed to survive that.

Alice Healy:

Well, you've had some experience.

James Parker:

I had lots of experiences.

Alice Healy:

You really did, yeah. Very interesting. Very interesting.

James Parker:

Some I just figured better not talk, talk about some of them.

Alice Healy:

A very --

James Parker:


Alice Healy:

You know, is there anything else you could think of? Otherwise, we really appreciate everything.

James Parker:

Well, nothing, nothing, nothing in particular. I mean, sure, things, things come back to you --

Alice Healy:


James Parker:

-- occasionally. And --

Alice Healy:

And if you have anything or you want to --

James Parker:


Alice Healy:

-- add --

James Parker:


Alice Healy:

-- or anything, we'd be happy --

James Parker:

Well, now, of course, as I said, I, I hope that I can forget the whole thing. You can't. I wouldn't join the Veterans Organization. Neither did my father. My father was a pilot in World War I. He never would. And I thought, nah, these guys are out to gyp the government. I didn't want any part of it. But my daughter came back from Desert Storm. Then I -- and they gave her a year's membership in the Legion. Then I, then I joined the Legion since then. They find a new victim. She was in the Second Armored Division. She was in charge of maintaining the tanks for the Tiger Brigade.

One day I was pretty upset because they said that a woman driver -- a woman officer, their driver, had been captured in the desert. Now, I knew she went across the desert a great deal because the -- you know, they were over there quite a while before the ground war started, and the sand is not good on tanks. So in order to keep them up in good shape, why, she had to have lots of parts. And what she would do, she'd order the parts and then when she heard a ship came in to the port, why, she would go across the desert with her driver, check, see if her stuff was there. If the stuff was there, they'd go back and get trucks and get it. If it wasn't, there was no reason to send trucks. So she made many trips back and forth across the desert.

So I, I mentioned that to her at the end -- you know, when she came home from the war and she says, "Nothing to worry about, dad." She said, "Three days before the ground war started 37 Iraqi soldiers came and surrendered themselves to my driver and me." I said, "Well, I can tell you one thing, you weren't fighting the German Army."

And the funniest thing was she was the first one in Kuwait City. Now, you remember Kuwait City. That was that road of death where all those trucks with the dead bodies, the burned-out bodies were lying around. It was horrible, you know. They, they apparently -- I don't know what they used on them, but they had all these Iraqi trucks and their soldiers. They were all dead, body burned and everything, and she went in there.

Well, she was supposed to follow the Marine Division, I think it was the 3rd Marine Division, and she was -- she and her driver go along behind them. They came to a fork in the road and so the Marines went this way, went to the left, and she looked at her map and Kuwait City was to the right, so she was the first one in Kuwait City. And every time she hears some of the other Marine windbags, why, she calms them down. She says, "Maybe you guys can fight, but you can't read maps worth anything." She -- in fact, she's gone back to Korea for her second, second tour.

Alice Healy:


James Parker:

This was me. I was a, I was a Private. My son was a Lieutenant Commander in the Navy, and she's a Major in the Army. In fact, we, we -- it was one of the, the judges in Somerset County, we gave him his -- our Purple Heart Organization gave him his medals, and I went over to -- he's a year older than I am, and I walked over to him and he went through it. He was a Private, and I was a PFC. So I mentioned, I says, "Judge, I can't understand this." I said, "Look, all these guys are Lieutenants, Sergeants, this sort of thing and," I said, "you and I, we're still Privates." He goes, "Jim," he says, "there's an easy answer to that. They liked the Army, and we didn't." I says, "You're right."

Alice Healy:

Well, thank you again.

James Parker:

Okay. Okay. Now you got plenty of ammunition.

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  October 26, 2011
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