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Interview with George Hadley [9/19/2002]

Alan P. Pendergast:

Okay. It is the 19th of September, 2002. We're at the Veterans Administration in El Paso, Texas, and I'm talking to Chief Warrant Officer fully retired George William Hadley. Hi, George. Nice to see you. George, I see that you were born in Woodstock, Ontario. Could you explain the circumstances around you being born in Canada and joining the U.S. Army?

George Hadley:

Easy. My father married -- was a U.S. citizen, married my mother, who was a Canadian citizen, in 1918 in -- in -- anyway, in France.

Alan P. Pendergast:

Okay.

George Hadley:

And she automatically became a citizen, but every time she got pregnant, was going to have a kid, she'd run back to Canada to her parents' house, and so we were born in Canada even though she and dad were both citizens.

Alan P. Pendergast:

Okay.

George Hadley:

And a sideline on that is I went down to vouch for a guy to adopt two German children, and the judge that was taking the statement asked me the same question, "Where were you born?", and I told him, and he said, "Well, can you prove you're a citizen?" And I said, "Yeah. I've been in the Army 22 years." He said, "Well, that's -- an alien can join the Army." And I said, "I have a secret clearance, top secret clearance." And he said, "Well, so did Wernher von Braun, but he was never an American citizen." And so, anyway, to make a long story short, now I have a derivative certificate that says I'm a U.S. citizen, looks like a $10 bill, certificate.

Alan P. Pendergast:

Wow. So you were in the Army from 11 February '43 to about October '72, which is almost 30 years.

George Hadley:

Yeah. Been in 29, six and eleven days.

Alan P. Pendergast:

Wow. And you achieved the rank of Chief Warrant Officer 4.

George Hadley:

Yep.

Alan P. Pendergast:

What wars did you -- you were obviously serving during World War II, Korea and Vietnam during that time frame. Where were you during World War II?

George Hadley:

Started at Camp Jordon, Georgia, with the 3rd Calvary, was a cook, started off as a third cook, second cook, first cook, mess sergeant. Got into a discussion with the troop commander. He won, and Private Hadley was then transferred to the infantry up in Fort Jackson.

Alan P. Pendergast:

What unit in Fort Jackson were you assigned to?

George Hadley:

Let's see. Came in in '43. It would be '44, joined the infantry. Went overseas with the 87th and was captured. And when we were liberated, we went back -- these are some of the things that really stand out in my mind. Was in the 100th General Hospital in Barlington (ph), France, and I had a broken tooth, plus another one that was kind of messed up. And nothing to do with being a POW. Just happened. Anyway, I went down to the dental clinic there in the hospital, and there was a T5. I don't know whether you were familiar with those. It's corporal status with a T underneath it. Now I think they're Specialist 4 or something. Anyway, he was sitting there reading a funny book and I see -- he said, "yeah, can I help you?", because I was in a hospital gown. And I said, "yeah. I got a broken tooth here. I'd like to have a dentist look at it." So he laid his funny book down and he went through his appointment book. Now, this is in May -- no. March. And so he says, "Well, I can give you an appointment on the 12th of August." I said, "Man, I'll be long gone by then." He said, "Well, that's the way it is, you know. We're busy in here." Okay. So I went back to the ward and the ward nurse asked me how I made out. I told her that I got an appointment for August. She said, "Oh, that won't work." She says, "I'll take care of it for you." Okay. So when they were changing shifts that afternoon, the nurse came out and she says, you know, you know that Sergeant _______ over there?" "Yeah. What about it?" "Well, you know he's an ex-POW. And his father is a brigadier general down in _______." "Oh, yeah?" And she said, "Yeah. But he didn't want to be an officer. He just was content to be an enlisted man." So she left. Next morning, make a short story, the same T5 from the dental clinic was up, says "Sergeant Hadley, we have an appointment for you, come on down." And I said it was hilarious, because the whole time the dentist was in my mouth looking he says, "And how's your father doing down in Italy?" and so forth. So I knew how --

Alan P. Pendergast:

She worked the system for you.

George Hadley:

Yeah. She worked the system for me.

Alan P. Pendergast:

That's good.

George Hadley:

And of course we came back for a lucky strike and came back to the states, had a beautiful two weeks at Lake Placid Country Club, what they call the RAMP camp, recovered allied military personnel. They were scattered all over the U.S. The one I went to was at Lake Placid Country Club, run by the Army. You checked in at the front desk with your wife or whatever, and there was a PFC behind the desk. There was -- a PFC took my luggage up to the little cottage they had for us, and the mess hall was run by the GI cooks and so forth, excellent job. They processed you back into the system, complete physical, financial, whatever. And then from there I went to Fort Knox, was with the _______ forces board there, which is armour, and stayed there until -- got there in '45 and stayed there until '52, came down to Fort Bliss in '52, went to guided missile school, and from '53 to '56 -- '54 I taught school. After I graduated, stayed there and taught classes one, two and three. They took the students they wanted out of that class and brought them into the school to be instructors, and the rest were shipped out to be cadre for their defense units, 19 Ajax at that time being deployed throughout the U.S. Put in for war. Made it. And so it wound up I had 11 years as enlisted and 19 years, give or take.

Alan P. Pendergast:

What was your rank when you went to war?

George Hadley:

I was an E7.

Alan P. Pendergast:

Okay. You were a POW from approximately 3 February 1945 until the 5th of March, 1945 in Limburg, Germany. What were the circumstances surrounding your capture?

George Hadley:

We were out on patrol. Commander asks us to find out what was on the other side of these woods that were in front of us. And we had just passed through Bastone. Our whole division was moved up there to relieve the 101st, along with a bunch of other people.

Alan P. Pendergast:

That's the 87th ID, infantry division?

George Hadley:

Yeah. Yeah. And we had passed through them and were well on our way, had just crossed the Belgium/German border and were in Germany. We got into the woods, and our platoon sergeant radioed back that we had spotted an infantry company, Germans, on our left flank. And battalion said that's great, but what's on the other side of the woods? We went a little further, and he radioed back there was an infantry company on our right. They said that's great, we're glad to know that, but what's in front of you? And as we moved on, they encircled us and opened fire and we had two killed, three wounded and that's when Schotzel (ph) said forget it. There was nine of us --

Alan P. Pendergast:

The platoon sergeant?

George Hadley:

Yes. There were nine of us versus two companies. Figured the odds weren't very good.

Alan P. Pendergast:

So that's a couple hundred people that had you circled.

George Hadley:

Yeah. So we took our M1s and pulled the trigger group out and slung the stuff so they couldn't use them against us or somebody later on in life. And from there they just marched us back. While we were prisoners, one of the things that stands out in my mind is we get -- we were being interrogated, and the guy that was interrogating us spoke English better than I do, and he had a big notebook full of cellophane pages. Now we have them. I had never seen those before. And he flipped through, he came to our division patch. And he says, "Oh, yeah, okay. You were G Company, 345th Infantry, part of the 87th Division." He says, "I don't need to ask you anything. We know all about you." He closed the book and told me to leave. And as I was going out, he said, "You know, it's tremendously difficult for us in German intelligence to know what's going on in your Army because you don't know yourselves." That I remember.

Alan P. Pendergast:

So what were -- what kind of -- where did you -- when you were a POW, what was your cell like? Who were you living with?

George Hadley:

We were in a barracks in the camp itself. They had piles of straw that you could push together to make a bed out of. And that was it. We got a cup of broth, a canteen cup of broth and a slice of bread once a day.

Alan P. Pendergast:

That's it? Any water?

George Hadley:

Yeah. You could have water. I don't know where it came from or what it was, but we drank it.

Alan P. Pendergast:

So a canteen cup. That's about two cups of broth a day.

George Hadley:

Yeah. Yeah.

Alan P. Pendergast:

And a slice of bread.

George Hadley:

You remember the old canteen cups?

Alan P. Pendergast:

Sure. And a slice of bread.

George Hadley:

Yeah.

Alan P. Pendergast:

Wow.

George Hadley:

And the Red Cross packages that we got gave us some more chow. That was the biggest thing. You were hungry constantly. And then of course the allies started moving, and they moved us, first by train, load us into boxcars.

Alan P. Pendergast:

When you were freed, what were the circumstances there? Did the Germans abandon the camp because they were being overrun?

George Hadley:

No. We had left the camp and were moving further inland, further into Germany, and our Air Force shot off two engines off our train. They shot one and they replaced it with another and moved us about ten miles. We were only moving at night. And our night fighters would come down, wouldn't touch the cars, but would take the engines out. And they finally put us in a little village that was in a quadrangle type affair, and the barn they put us in was -- you could see through the slats. And all of a sudden we noticed the guards were throwing their rifles in a big pile in the middle of this compound, and we could see the village outside of this compound. They were hanging sheets out the windows. So we knew that things were going to change drastically. And an armoured car pulled in, this little second lieutenant pops up and said to our commander, who was a British lieutenant colonel chaplain, he was in charge of the 1200 prisoners that were in this group that they were moving, and he said, "You have a few troops in here, colonel." He said, "Yes. There's 1200 of us." And he said, "Whoa," and he disappeared. And we assumed he got on the radio because about an hour later a convoy of trucks showed up to move us to the rear.

Alan P. Pendergast:

Wow.

George Hadley:

And then from then on we were all in American hands.

Alan P. Pendergast:

How did you feel when you saw those trucks coming?

George Hadley:

Pretty good. Pretty good.

Alan P. Pendergast:

It must have been very emotional for a lot of people.

George Hadley:

Really -- yeah. I don't remember being -- I remember being excited, but I don't -- you know. I just figured, you know, that that was my -- as far as I was concerned, I was done. As soon as they got us back somewhere, I could go home.

Alan P. Pendergast:

Okay.

George Hadley:

That was the first thought in my mind. I never thought much more about it after that.

Alan P. Pendergast:

Wow.

George Hadley:

One of the things I did want to tell you, before we got captured, we were going through the sick leave line, which you know was a thing of -- what would you call them? They're things they set down to --

Alan P. Pendergast:

Those like cross hatchet kind of things?

George Hadley:

They were cement barriers to keep tanks out.

Alan P. Pendergast:

Right.

George Hadley:

And then pill boxes were in there, too, and they had had them arranged so they'd be able to fire. This pill box could cover all that one and that one, and this one could cover this one and so forth. Anyway, we came out of this big pill box and we walked inside. We threw a hand grenade in first and nothing happened, so then we went in to check it out. We walked in. Right as you walked in the door, there was a phone hanging on the wall where about 12 of us had got into the pill box. And the phone rang. And you should have seen the 12 of us evacuate. You ever see 12 guys go through a single door at one time? (Laughter) I think we were a quarter of a mile down the road before we realized, hey, you know, -- but I remember Schotzel (ph) and I, the last reunion we went to with the division, we talked about that, and we're still laughing about it now. My job in the platoon was platoon runner, platoon flunky, and actually I kind of appointed myself as Schotzel's (ph) bodyguard.

Alan P. Pendergast:

Okay.

George Hadley:

I walked along behind him, and I had appropriated a carbine from somebody, had gotten rid of my M1, and then I traded the carbine for a sub Thompson.

Alan P. Pendergast:

Wow.

George Hadley:

So I just -- so I just kind of walked behind him and looked to make sure that nobody was going to sneak up on him.

Alan P. Pendergast:

So he was like your best buddy pretty much through those times.

George Hadley:

Oh, yeah. We kept together 55, 56 years. We're still together today.

Alan P. Pendergast:

What's your friendship like with him as compared to other friends you have? Something special there?

George Hadley:

Oh, yeah. Yeah. 'Cuz when we were taken prisoner, of course, he was tech sergeant at that time, and he was separated from us because they kept the first three graders. They had the officers compound, the first two graders compound and then us.

Alan P. Pendergast:

Okay.

George Hadley:

So I didn't see him much after we got in. Found out later on that when we got home, I got to talking to Joe after the war was over. He was liberated, went back to the hospital, went AWOL from the hospital and joined the outfit and got a field commission as a lieutenant and mustered out of the Army after World War II as a first lieutenant.

Alan P. Pendergast:

Wow. He went AWOL from the hospital and then they turned around and field commissioned him, huh?

George Hadley:

Yeah. Well, --

Alan P. Pendergast:

That's incredible.

George Hadley:

-- they could care less. Those days a lot of guys did that. They were gung ho, you know. They couldn't see any sense of staying in the hospital with say a broken wrist when they could join their unit.

Alan P. Pendergast:

Right. Stand by their brothers, huh?

George Hadley:

Yeah. So they'd go back. But by the time we were liberated, by the time they got through processing us, the war was just about over.

Alan P. Pendergast:

So then after you were released, you already explained some of the other places you'd been, and you were in Germany during the Korean War; is that correct? You were stationed in Germany?

George Hadley:

Let's see. Korean War, what was it, '50 to '55? No. I was at Fort Knox '51, '52, and I was here at Bliss '52, '53, '54.

Alan P. Pendergast:

And then the next conflict you ended up in Vietnam; is that correct?

George Hadley:

Yeah. Yeah.

Alan P. Pendergast:

When did you go to Vietnam?

George Hadley:

Let's see. I have to tell you in just a minute. Got remarried December -- June of '66. First wife died January, '66. Went over in May of '66, came home -- no. Went over in May of '67, came home in May of '68.

Alan P. Pendergast:

Where were you at in Vietnam?

George Hadley:

Saigon.

Alan P. Pendergast:

Saigon.

George Hadley:

Our group, 94th group.

Alan P. Pendergast:

94th group? What -- was that a --

George Hadley:

88th.

Alan P. Pendergast:

Air defense artillery?

George Hadley:

Yeah. We had Hawk units at Bien Wa (ph), Tan Salute, Cam Rahn Bay and Nha Trang.

Alan P. Pendergast:

What were your living conditions like there?

George Hadley:

We lived high on the hog.

Alan P. Pendergast:

Yeah. I guess you saw a lot of guys coming in from the bush who were envious.

George Hadley:

My son-in-law was with a Twin 40 outfit out at Bien Wa (ph), and he came in to visit me one day. I knew he was nuts on ice cream. We had a big refrigerator in our room. Four W4s in one room. I said, "There's ice cream in the refrigerator there if you want it, in the freezer compartment," and he opened the door and we had like chocolate, strawberry, vanilla, banana nut, so forth. We had a variety. The Army opened like a 31 Flavors up in Cam Rahn Bay, and our crew had a buddy over at Tan Salute that would fly up there and pick us up two and a half gallon containers of ice cream and bring them back.

Alan P. Pendergast:

Wow.

George Hadley:

We had our own mess in this villa we were living in, so we had lots of freezer space with freezers we had absconded from the Navy and whatever. So --

Alan P. Pendergast:

It was only the Navy, right?

George Hadley:

Huh?

Alan P. Pendergast:

It was only the Navy.

George Hadley:

Yeah. (Laughter) And Steve -- I asked Steve if he wanted to take a shower, because I knew hot water out in his camp was far and between, and he said, "Oh, yeah." So I told him just to go down this hall and you'll run right into the shower. And the four of us were sitting there playing penuchle. We heard this God awful scream, and we knew it came from him. We go out. He's standing there stark naked in the middle of the hall. "You SOB, you didn't tell me you had hot water." (Laughter) _________. Yeah. I lived good in Saigon. My mother and wife both -- all these bylines that came out of Vietnam said Saigon. Something could happen up on the DMZ and --

Alan P. Pendergast:

But all the news was from Saigon.

George Hadley:

But all the news said it was in Saigon. 10,000 troops killed in Da Nang or whatever, you know, but they -- all they saw was Saigon, the byline. We lived good. I had no complaints.

Alan P. Pendergast:

What did you think of -- could you explain the difference in attitudes when you came back from World War II and when you came back from Vietnam?

George Hadley:

(Laughter) Oh, yeah. When you came out of World War II, everybody was glad to see you and they went out of their way to take care of you and so forth. I came back. Rationing was still going on. And even the ration ward would give me extra gas stamps and so forth. And come out of Vietnam and people weren't too happy. We hit Travis Air Force base, and when we were being debriefed there, they suggested that if we had civilian clothes, put them on to go into San Francisco to go wherever you were going to go because they said a uniform wasn't too welcome.

Alan P. Pendergast:

Wow.

George Hadley:

Even though they issued you a brand new in our case -- I got a brand new case of TWs. They were all tailored for me.

Alan P. Pendergast:

TWs are -- what are those?

George Hadley:

Tropical worstits (ph).

Alan P. Pendergast:

Okay.

George Hadley:

Yeah. And -- but I happened to have a cotton shirt and a pair of slacks, which was hilarious, because when I got into San Francisco, people could see my haircut. They knew what I was.

Alan P. Pendergast:

Right.

George Hadley:

But, anyway, that was -- it wasn't very nice. I was glad to get back to El Paso, which was a military town, and people here looked at it differently than they did in some of the other places.

Alan P. Pendergast:

They didn't blame the individual soldiers. They may not have liked the war itself, but they understood a soldier is a soldier.

George Hadley:

I blame the U.S. government for a lot of mistakes in Vietnam. One -- I'll give you a classic example. The Air Force used to once a month have what they called officers call, and we were invited to come and sit in because we were air defense, and this colonel got up and he said, "I want to give you an overview of one of the problems we're fighting here in Vietnam as far as the Air Force is concerned." He said, "We find a target from our fighters, so forth, come back and tell us that there's five barges of ammunition going down a river in North Vietnam, and we would immediately set up to where our gas stations were going to be or our bombers, so forth, collate it with the B36s, and put this all in a package, put it in a briefcase, lock it on a lieutenant's arm and fly him back to the joint chiefs. They would look at it and okay it. He would fly back. We'd put the plan into action. Our planes would take off and get up there. And of course a barge on a river is going to move. And they would get to the corner of Main and Night Street, and of course there's nothing there. But that was their target. So they'd drop their bombs on nothing and come home because they weren't allowed like we were in World War II to take a target of opportunity. If they're not there, you're going to look for them. You know they're going to be downriver or upriver.

Alan P. Pendergast:

Right.

George Hadley:

And it was that way all the way through.

Alan P. Pendergast:

The constraints were kind of frustrating.

George Hadley:

Another time I was duty officer in our CDC -- no. COC. And came over the radio -- we had radio nets with the units around Saigon. This guy came on and says this is Tiger 6 calling somebody and request permission to fire on this village. And came back wait one. Came back, said permission denied. That's a friendly village. This is Tiger 6. We're getting hostile fire from this friendly village. Request permission to return fire. And came back said Tiger 6. We're told that's a friendly village. Permission denied. Tiger 6 said okay and went dead. And pretty soon we heard Tiger 6, Tiger 6, this is whatever this other outfit was, come in Tiger 6. Are you firing on such and such a village, Tiger 6? Permission was denied for that. Are you firing on it? And colonel from the attic came down a little while later, our boss. Guy turned around ___________+ and they returned the fire. And he said, "How can you fight a war when you got to ask someone can you shoot?"

Alan P. Pendergast:

Can you defend yourself.

George Hadley:

Yeah.

Alan P. Pendergast:

So the whole thing was --

George Hadley:

As far as I was concerned, it was a political war. There was no way in hell we were going to win that war. We could have put 8 million troops in there and it wouldn't have made any difference. Politicians weren't going to let us win it. Probably go to jail for it.

Alan P. Pendergast:

So you've done a lot in the military. Like I said, served almost 30 years, received a Bronze Star, five Army Commendation Medals, a Combat Infantry Badge, an European Theater of Operations Medal with three Battle Stars, and somehow you managed a Good Conduct Medal in there too.

George Hadley:

Yeah. Well, they passed those out. Seems to me about every year they'd hand you one. I know I've got three knots on mine. Somewhere in them there's quarters to back it up.

Alan P. Pendergast:

Well, that's -- is there anything that you'd like to add or any -- just any memory that you have that might be of interest to future generations concerning what things were like during World War II, Korea and Vietnam and about being a soldier?

George Hadley:

Oh, I don't know _______+.

Alan P. Pendergast:

The Army has changed. You're right.

George Hadley:

Yes. You can turn that thing off.

Alan P. Pendergast:

Okay. [The tape recorder was turned off.]

 
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