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Interview with Benjamin D. Cooper [6/30/2011]

Jamel Lyko:

Good morning. My name is Jamel Lyko. I'm here in West Hartford , Connecticut to interview Ben Cooper - a United States Army combat medic during World War II. Ben served in Europe in 1942 to 1945. I'm here for the Veteran's History Project at Central Connecticut State University, an archive partner of the Library of Congress. So with that, let's get to know Ben Cooper. So, Ben, would you please give me a little bit about where you grew up and brothers and sisters, family life, and let's hear about it?

Benjamin D. Cooper:

Sure Jim. Good morning. I was born in Avon, Connecticut, [birth date redacted]. But I've been a lifelong resident of West Hartford. I attended the local schools - elementary, junior school - and graduated from Hall High in 1940. In 1936, I must have been around 15 years old. I was at Ocean Beach, New London, and it __ beautiful, sunny day just like it is today. I was on the beach. And out of the clear, blue sky came the Hindenburg. Beautiful, beautiful dirigible. It was so low I could see the people in the gondola. And I waved to them; they waved back. And on the back of the dirigible on the fence were the swastikas. Now, this was in 1936. And I was an only child. So I used to keep a diary. And I wrote in my diary that I saw the Hindenburg, and I said, "The hell with it." Little did I realize a few years later I would be involved with it. And, of course, it landed at Lakehurst, New Jersey; and I think it blew up the following year at Lakehurst, New Jersey.

Jamel Lyko:

Okay. That wasn't the time it crashed.

Benjamin D. Cooper:

No. No. But apparently from what I found out, it made trips along the New England coast. And that was my first experience, December 7th, 1941. Well, I went to college for one year after Hall; George Washington University for one year; and, of course, the war broke out on December 7th, 1941. And that ended my college career. And I couldn't wait to get into the service to do something for - to stop Hitler. I had no idea, basically, about the atrocities that were going on; but he was really gobbling up a lot of countries, and I heard that he had to be stopped. And, of course, he was bombing England like there was no end to it. And so I waited until I was drafted. Until then, I worked at Colt's Firearms here in Hartford. And I got a job as testing machine guns - .30 caliber machine guns. I could take them apart - we used live ammunition - and we had to write down if we had a repair or if it had to be repaired. And I did that until I was drafted. I was drafted in September 1942. And I went to Fort Devens with a group of citizens here from West Hartford. And I had documents that showed that I was a machine gun tester for Colt's. And I thought maybe I'd get a job in the ordnance department. Well, it doesn't work that way. When I got there, apparently whatever they needed at that time for the war effort - if they needed riflemen, machine gunners, medics, ordnance men, whatever - that's what you were going to be trained for; and then, even medics, not to be doctors, but just to be first aid for soldiers and civilians. And so they sent me to Camp Barkeley, Texas right near Abilene, Texas. And I was there from 1942 until I went overseas. The training basically consisted of infantry and medical training. But we never carried a gun. We went on bivouacs. We had discussions about how to give first aid. It was basically - I mean, we used to go on what they call trips bivouacking overnight. And then we had long walks. They start you off with a five-mile walk. And eventually we worked up to a 25-mile walk. And I was on - we carried a pack on our back, all your belongings, your blankets, and your medical supplies, everything. And I was on this 25-mile hike, and I thought I stepped on a nail. And they took me out of the walk. And, apparently, I had a bone spur in one of my - my right foot. And so, they took me out of the medical corps. And they put me in the ordnance - in a (death) shop at Camp Barkeley. And I stayed there for quite a while. We used to get furloughs - time off for good behavior. And I used to come home. I lived here in West Hartford on the corner of New Park and Prospect Avenue in West Hartford. And I'd come home for six days or so and then go back to camp. In October of 1943, I came home for furlough. And I was walking along Albany Avenue in Hartford near Bluehills Avenue. There was a drugstore called Maxwell Drugs. It was a popular drugstore at that time. As I walked in the door, a friend of mine came out, an acquaintance. He said, "Oh, hi Ben," and I said, "Hi"; and I was in my uniform. And he said to me - he said, "Ben, how would you like to meet a nice tomato?", which meant a good-looking girl at that time. So I said, "Okay," because I used a trolley car to get around from my house to get in Hartford and so forth. I got in this car, went to Bluehills Avenue, went into his apartment, met his wife; I walked in the kitchen, and there was a girl ironing. And when I looked at her just for a few minutes, she literally knocked me off my feet. I just couldn't believe how beautiful she was. I sat there and talked to her for about a half hour. And then I took the trolley car and went home. And I told my folks I just met the girl I'm going to marry. [Chuckling] And my folks said, "You're nuts." I said, "No." I said I never felt that way about any girl. But I just felt that this was the girl I'm going to marry someday. So my father said, "Why don't you call her up for a date?" So I found out where she lived. Apparently, she was from Saco, Maine; and she was visiting her cousins here in Hartford. And I talked to her, and she says, "I'm sorry," she says, "I can't go out tonight. I'm going on another date." So I said, "All right. Some other time." She says, "Maybe some other time." I said, "Sure." I'm going back to Texas; who knows when I'll see her again. But when you're in the service, you could write all the letters you want. All you had to do is write "free" in the upper right-hand corner and mail it from the Army post. And being free, I used to write four or five letters a day to her. She'd answer me back. And she said, "Next time you get a furlough, come up to see me in Maine." And so, this went on for some time. And I did get another furlough in March of '44. I stopped in Hartford, told my folks I'm going up to Maine; and I said, "I'm going to bring her back with her parents, and we'll have an engagement at our house - an engagement." And they said, "How are you going to do it?" And I said, "I'll work it out." So I went up there, got off the train, met her and her parents in Saco, Maine - her father - went to her house; and they liked me. You know, I was in uniform and everything. And that night, she and I went to - her oldest brother took us to a movie in Portland. And on the way back, I said, "Let's exchange rings - class rings." And she gave me her ring, and I gave her mine. And we talked it over, and we said, "Let's get engaged," just from that short time. The next day we told her parents and her brother that we were, like, to be engaged. And they gave me the third degree because they said, "You don't know each other. This is crazy, you know, it's wartime." Well, and then after all that, I said, "I'd like you to come back to Hartford, West Hartford, so we can have an engagement party." And they were totally against it. It's a small town. They knew everybody. They knew them. And she finally convinced her parents to come. They didn't tell anybody they were leaving own. They were ashamed. And she had a sister - a younger sister - and she didn't like me at all. She said, "I don't know." It was one of those things, you know? Well, we became engaged. And we told her parents and my parents that we wouldn't get married till after the war. So that simmered things down, and things went along pretty good. Well, that was in '44. In June of '44, I got wind I was going overseas. They didn't care what your disability was or what, you're going over because things were pretty bad in the Pacific and in Europe. And I called her up from Texas. Took about six or seven hours to get a phone call at that time from Texas to Maine. And she said, "Come back with a number and you can talk." And I got a hold of her. Her nickname was (?"Copy"?) because she had auburn hair. I said, "Copy," I said, "let's get married." And she said, "Okay." And that was the last I heard. I said, "Okay, good-bye." And the communication was very slow and terrible. So on July - around the 13th of July, I came home. I got off the train in Hartford. My folks met me. And my first words were, "What's happening?" And my parents said, "What do you mean, 'what's happening'? You're getting married tomorrow." [Chuckling] So we took a train or a car - I can't remember which - and we went up to Saco, Maine; and there was a synagogue at (?Beach, Maine?) right at the beach. And we got married at the synagogue.

Jamel Lyko:

Wonderful.

Benjamin D. Cooper:

And we had maybe four days honeymoon, and then I went back to Texas. And then from then they sent us to Camp Pennsylvania - it was like a hush, hush camp. You couldn't talk. You couldn't call out or call in. They were getting us ready to go overseas. And finally came September 1st, 1944. We went to Norfolk, Virginia, and we boarded a liberty ship. A lot of fellows kissed the ground before we got out of the ship. They had a little band there playing for us, you know?

Jamel Lyko:

Do you remember the name of the liberty ship?

Benjamin D. Cooper:

Yes, I sure do because - I remember the ship because it was built from South Portland, Maine. And they have a plaque on the ship, you know, called the Walter E. Ranger.

Jamel Lyko:

Okay.

Benjamin D. Cooper:

And I have a picture of that in my Powerpoint talk, okay? And so we boarded the ship, and we left the harbor; and when we got out into the Atlantic Ocean, we joined a convoy of over 100 other liberty ships - all kinds of ships. Some carried tanks, some carried locomotives, some carried more soldiers. And also, there were some English - British soldiers and Wacs that were in another ship. We met them out in the Atlantic. It took us about 30 - exactly 30 days to cross the Atlantic. We had Navy destroyers that circled us and went around to make sure there were no - there were times when the Navy destroyers would use depth charges. They'd shoot tin cans up in the air, and go down, and shoot it. We didn't know if they were practicing or what it was. You don't know for nothing. But we had a radio aboard. And we had music - beautiful music from that day, "I'll be seeing you," "Don't sit under the apple tree," all these songs that from our time. The music was coming from Berlin, Germany from Axis Sally. And they would say to us, "We know where you're going. We know what you're going to do. Give yourself up. We'll treat you humanely." All that bunk. So we'd listen to that music, or we played checkers or chess. And there wasn't much more you could do. At night all the lights were out on the ship. Everything - an ocean view - you looked out, there was nothing there. But it took us 30 days. Halfway across the Atlantic, something happened to the rudder on the ship. All the other ships disappeared, and we were sitting there in the ocean. But they left the Navy destroyer that circled us from a distance - kept going around and around. And, finally, they got the rudder __+, so they got it repaired. And we went - finally - we had no idea where we were going. They gave us quinine pills during the day with our meal, so we thought we were going to the Pacific, you know? But we went through the Strait of Gibraltar into the Mediterranean Sea. And it was beautiful. There were dolphins there. And we ended up in Naples, Italy. Naples was already in the allied hands. They were still fighting (?*northern?) - in Rome. Well, this is - they took us off the ship, put us in trucks in Naples, and they took us to a town called Caserta a few miles outside of Naples. This was a town that was set up with circus tents, immense tents that would hold, I think, about 200 soldiers under each tent. And this was where I found out that I wasn't going to be a medic in the hospital, but I was going to be in the infantry. They had three infantry divisions they were getting replacements. This was called the Repo Depot by the way - replacement depots. And whatever you were trained for, that's where you were going to be assigned to the infantry outfit to serve them as a replacement. The 36th infantry, the 45th, and the 3rd infantry division. When you enter the the service you're given eight numbers to remember. When I first got my eight numbers, I said, "How in the hell am I going to remember them?" Now, I can't forget it: (?31189420?). You just - you never forget it. And while we were there, every day we got three things we enjoyed. We had to (?stand in?) formation. They gave us - after that they call your number off. If your number was called, you were being assigned to one of the infantry divisions as a replacement. And but while we were there - as I said, we got three things: mail from home, which was great; a pack of cigarettes - cigarettes were very popular. I never smoked, so I'd give my pack to - one pack of cigarettes - give it to a buddy, and he'd give me a bottle of Coca-Cola. We also received a bottle of Coca-Cola, the eight-ounce bottle. So I had two bottles of coke every day until my number was called. And the third thing - what was the third thing - mail, cigarettes, and - my mind went blank all of a sudden - and coke; that's it - yes. So, finally, my number came up and I was being assigned to the 45th infantry division. This outfit was made up of primarily of Native Americans when it was formed back in the 1930s. It was a National Guard outfit from Oklahoma. And the Native Americans were from Oklahoma, New Mexico, Arizona, and Colorado. And they invaded Sicily. They also trained at Camp Barkeley. And they were originally from Oklahoma. And they invaded Sicily in 1943. And then they fought in (Anshill) Salerno. And now they were fighting in the middle of France. They made the invasion in southern France, not northern, southern France - and they were fighting. And that's where I was going to join them.

Jamel Lyko:

Now these are - you say "Native Americans" in a very polite way, but these are Indians?

Benjamin D. Cooper:

Indians.

Jamel Lyko:

So they could be - do you remember what tribes they __+?

Benjamin D. Cooper:

No, I don't know. No, I think it was a mixture of all different tribes.

Jamel Lyko:

But they were Native -

Benjamin D. Cooper:

They were Native Americans - yes.

Jamel Lyko:

Isn't that great? And that's the Thunderbirds?

Benjamin D. Cooper:

That was the - called the Thunderbirds - the 45th - the Thunderbird division; that's correct. But in 1930, they had a different emblem. It was the swastika. Because that's a Native American emblem.

Jamel Lyko:

It is __+

Benjamin D. Cooper:

In fact, it's an emblem used all over the world. In India they use it a lot, okay, in India. But this was a Native American emblem. But when Hitler came into power in1933, they had discarded it and used the Thunderbird instead. It was supposed to be an emblem for good luck. The eyes are supposed to be like lightening and give you rain and all, you know, all that stuff. So I was I assigned to the 45th. And then from there they put us on a Navy ship called the USS Thomas Jefferson. This was a big Navy ship. And there were about a few thousand of us on that ship. And they took us to southern France, to Marseille. When we got to Marseille, the harbor was bombed out. So we were a little distance from the shore. We climbed over the side - down the side to what they called duck boats, metal boats. And they took us ashore. But we had duffel bags. The duffel bag was issued to me before I went overseas. We carried all our belongings in it. And they took the duffel bags - on the duffel bags, they all had your name, your serial number, and that was it; that was your identification. They took thousands of these from the ship; they dumped them onto the shore. And we had to go pick our own duffel bag. And not too far away was the railroad station in Marseille. They said, "You're going to board a train, and they'll take you up to the outfit." So I found my bag - the duffel bag - went up to the railroad station with my buddies, the rest of us, and we boarded a freight train. This was called the 40 and 8th - freight trains in France. The reason there was 40 and 8 is because these were the same freight cars they used in World War I. 40 men or 8 horses - ([Chuckling]) that's why they were called 40 and 8. They had (no) trains, just a plain freight car. And so it took us about five days to get up to the middle of France. And the reason it took five days - we were side - they put a side track __ all the time. Ammunition going to the front was priority number one. And they'd put us on a side track. And all of a sudden, you'd see a freight train going by with huge artillery shells. I mean tremendous. It scared the hell out of you just looking at them. And what was very embarrassing was, we went through a lot of small towns in France - railroad stations. And if you had to go to the bathroom, you had to go between the freight cars. So you work your way to the freight car, and we'd go right through the (?passes?). People would be standing - this would be in the southern part of France - people would be standing up there, and the fellas are doing what they had to do while we were going. It was embarrassing, but what else could you do? There was no way.

Jamel Lyko:

Five days of that, huh?

Benjamin D. Cooper:

Five days - once in a while they'd stop and let everybody off, but not too often. We finally got to a place called __ville in France. We got off the train, and they broke us up into small groups - I think about 40 in a group approximately. And they sent us to different farms in the area just to get acclimated before they sent us to the front lines. I was at this farmhouse. They had a big barn in the backyard. And for supper I think I remember once we had rabbit, which I didn't particularly care for. I couldn't think of eating a rabbit, but that's what they did. But at night we had movies in the barn. I think it was - I forgot, it was 35 milimeter - whatever it was. But we had real movies from home. And we watched this every night. We were there maybe for three or four nights. And while I was there - you say hello to the other fellows, "Where are you from?" and one was from (?New England?), Newington, Connecticut. Boy, I thought, like, I found a lost brother or something. His name was Tim Cane. And his parents owned the Cane Brick Company here in Hartford not too far from where I lived in West Hartford. And he was 18 years old. And he volunteered to get into the service. And he was being assigned to this outfit. He was a rifleman, a real sharp shooter. He used to practice. Boy, he was great at it. And so we became acquainted. And the night before they shipped us up to the front, they told us that we couldn't sleep on the ground floor of the barn anymore. They wanted to sleep in the loft. And we had no idea why. But we found out the next morning. When we woke up in the morning, we looked on the floor, and the floor was filled with American soldiers that had just been killed in combat. In every infantry - almost every infantry outfit there was a group of soldiers known as (?"graves register."?) These soldiers go out into the field when the shooting has stopped, pick up the American soldiers, and bring them back to one particular spot. They could be anywhere, but this happened to be the spot they brought them to this time. When you enter the service you're given two dog tags. And on it, it had your name, your serial number, the last time you had your tetanus shot; and in the lower right- hand corner it had the letters: C, H, or P - C for Catholic, H for Hebrew, and P for Protestant. The soldier from the (?grave register?) would take one tag and tie it to the soldier; take the other tag with all his belongings and send it to the nearest of kin. And that was a traumatic effect, because we hadn't seen anything like this. Well, shortly thereafter we boarded trucks, and they took us up closer to the front. Being a medic, I was assigned to an aid station. An aid station could be in a room, it could be out in the field, it could be under a tent. We followed the front line as they advanced or retreated - whatever it was - but most of the time it was advancing. And we had maybe 12 or 13 medics. I was issued an arm band with a cross. On my helmet I had a cross I made out of Band-Aid like a cross, a white cross. And I was issued a canvas medical bag which had all my belongings - just a plain canvas bag. And I was issued that. And I was at the aid station - there were about 13 of us in the aid station. And we had telephones that were wired, not cordless phones , but wired from the Signal Corps, which was part of the infantry. They wired up the phones for us. And these phones would go to the front lines that were - we had different companies fighting in the front - the A company, B company, C company; Able Company, Baker Company, Charlie company; and once the shooting started, the phones would ring off the wall because if there was somebody wounded, they needed medics to go up there. We had a jeep, and we had a (?river bearer?), and we'd hop in the jeep - maybe three or four of us would hop in the jeep - sometimes two of us, depending on how many of us there were available; and the fellow knew exactly which company to go to. And when we got there, the shooting was still going on, they're firing back and forth; and there would be somebody, an officer or somebody, saying, "Yes, he's lying over there , or over there," and you just walk by. You forget what's going on. You walk out there right in the action, and you try to give first aid to the soldier. He would be lying or sitting up - whatever. And if it was very bad - if it was very severely bad - we'd bring him back to the jeep, take him to the aid station, and then he would be evaluated. If it was really bad, he'd be sent behind the lines to a hospital way behind the lines. We had an ambulance that would come out and pick him up. If he wasn't, he'd be patched up and back to the front he would go again. So I did this for a few days until one day I got a call that there was a wounded soldier there. I went out in the field, and I found it was one of my buddies that was on the ship with me. And he was a medic. He had his arm band and he was just lying there. I checked him over and I looked over, and I found some blood behind his ear. And apparently when an artillery shell explodes, a million pieces, very small pieces - a lot of times you can get just a sliver -

Jamel Lyko:

Shrapnel __

Benjamin D. Cooper:

- Shrapnel it's called, right; but apparently it hit him there, and it killed him. And I felt a traumatic effect for me. So anyway - and another time - a few instances I remember. A lot of things I can't remember. But I remember once we went out to pick up a soldier, and they said, "Yes, he's out in the woods there. You'll see him near a fence." So we went into this woods. There was no one around, and we came to the fence; and sure enough, he was lying there. So my buddy and I picked him up, and we took him on the shoulder; and we started to walk away. And all of a sudden, we heard a voice say, "Where the hell are you going?" We looked around, we didn't see anybody. But we spotted a camouflage tank - one of our tanks was camouflaged. There was soldier sitting on top, and he said, "Where are you going?" I said, "We're going back to the aid station." He says, "No, you're not." He said, "You're heading for the enemy line." There's no sign saying, "This way to the aid station." We had to use our own intuition. So thank God we found a way back to the jeep and got back to the aid station. It was a short time after that they took me out of the aid station, and they put me in the front line. Charlie - it was called Charlie company, C company. And I was the medic with the platoon of about - about 35, 40 men. I was their medic. And I stay with them from that time on until the end of the war. A lot of my buddies were Native Americans. And I noticed they didn't wear their helmets. And they told me they didn't like the helmet. They just felt very uncomfortable with it. They just liked the cap, the hats they wore, you know. And the captain - they said they talked to the captain, and the captain said, "The hell with it. Don't wear it - that's all." You know. So that's the way they were. But they were wonderful people. In Italy, they were known as the "wind talkers" because the Germans couldn't understand their language when they talked on the phone.

Jamel Lyko:

Well, they made a film __+, didn't they?

Benjamin D. Cooper:

Yes, in the Pacific I think this was a big film about the wind talking, yes. Code breakers - they could - they were great at that. So anyway, I stayed with Charlie company. And in France, as we progressed through France, we headed toward northern part of France, toward Alsace-Lorraine. We liberated towns. In Germany, we captured towns; big difference.

Jamel Lyko:

Um-huh.

Benjamin D. Cooper:

Very rarely did the Germans come out to say hello to us. In France, they were happy to see us.

Jamel Lyko:

So you got along well with the -

Benjamin D. Cooper:

Oh, yeah. I got along well. They were great fellas. They were my buddies really. And they used to watch out for you, because I never carried a gun. And we had - there were always snipers around. You never knew where they would come from. And they would watch out for me like a hawk, you know?

Jamel Lyko:

Isn't that good __ ?

Benjamin D. Cooper:

Yeah, they were great. They say in Alsace-Lorraine when you hit the northern part of France, we used the mountains to carry - to advance - the roads were mined a lot. So we used - we had donkeys that would carry the ammunition. We'd go through France. There was a town called Wingen, W-i-n-g-e-n, in Alsace-Lorraine. And we captured - we either captured - they spoke a lot of German there. It was on the border like, you know? And we captured the town or liberated the town - whichever - whatever you want to call it. And that night, they - all the medics - we were outside the town, maybe, let's say, a quarter of a mile - in a big barn we slept. And early in the morning, a rifleman came running in, and he says, "You better get the hell out of here," he says; "the Germans recaptured the town." And they captured part of our outfit - my outfit - the company that I was with. So we went along this road, and we met - we joined the rest of our outfit that wasn't captured; and the fighting went on for maybe a day or two. We had more reinforcements come in. We recaptured the town, and we freed the soldiers that were captured, our buddies that were captured in the town. There were a few casualties; I can't remember how many there were. But the town was recaptured. It was called Wingen, W-i-n-g-e-n. And one of the things we had to watch out for, especially in the wintertime, was trench foot. We had boots that kept the moisture in. And they told us at night to take our socks off just to dry them out, if you could, you know? There weren't places you could do it, but you tried to do it; because if your feet get infected, you get gangrene - it can turn into gangrene, and you have your foot amuputated, you know. Trench foot was really bad. But that was just one of the things. The - forgive me, sometimes my mind goes blank. I don't know where I am, you know.

Jamel Lyko:

Take your time, Ben.

Benjamin D. Cooper:

That was Wingen. We fought our way through Germany, and we came through a big city called Nuremburg. Nuremburg - very large. It was like (Metropolity). It had been bombed a lot. And there were three infantry outfits that were fighting to capture it - our outfit, the 45th, the 36th, and the 3rd. We were all trying to capture that. We finally did capture it. And I was - my platoon with about 40 men - we were about five miles inside Germany in the east - east of Nuremburg. There was a small bridge that we were guarding. They had a lot of canals in Germany. This was called the __ canal. And there was a small bridge that ran over it. And they sent us there to guard the bridge because the Nazis could escape from Nuremburg, come down this road to get further back into Germany, and get over the bridge. This was just one avenue for them. And so, we were all set up. We used to carry shovels with us. And we dug fox holes just so you could feel a little safer below the ground. Not much, but it gave you some. But we got all set up. And that night I was with the machine gunner. We were facing Nuremburg. And I had my medical bag, and I put it down next to me. And I was very comfortable. Everything was quiet. But around midnight all hell broke loose. Apparently, some Nazis escaped from Nuremburg, and they were coming down the road, and they were came across us. So the shooting went back and forth. It was pitch black. And it went on for some time. Then all of a sudden, everything got quiet. And the sergeant my group came up to me. In my outfit, they called me Doc. In my infantry outfit, they called them medics. But the Native Americans liked the word "Doc." So they called me Doc, although I was not a - nowhere like a doctor. But that's what they like. (?It was that?). So the sergeant came up to me; he says, "Doc, I want you to go back into town tell them we need some more support." And also, we had mortars coming in - mortars are what they shoot, you know, from a distance. And some of our mortars were coming in toward us instead of going out to the woods where the Germans could be. So he said, "Just give me information." I said, "How do you get there ?" And he said, "Well, you cross over the bridge and take a left." But he says, "You got to know the password that night." Because during the war, the Nazis used to capture Americans and put their uniform on and infiltrate our lines. The password that night was "arrow head"- two words. He said, "Just remember that." So I crossed over the bridge, and I walked down this road, pitch black, very quiet; and I kept walking. And I said the Lord's prayer - the 23rd Psalm to myself: "As I walk through the valley of the shadow of death," something like that.

Jamel Lyko:

And you're alone __.

Benjamin D. Cooper:

I'm alone. I was there alone. And all of a sudden, I heard the word "halt." And then I heard the word "arrow." And I said "head." He said, "Keep your hands up." I had my arm band on my shoulder. I had my helmet with the red cross on it. But, no, he said - I didn't have my medical - but he said, "Keep your hands up." So I did. And he marched me into town with my hands up. I went into headquarters and saw the captain there. His name was Captain White, I found out later. And he said, "Well, what's going on?" I said - I gave him the message from the sergeant. And within a couple of hours I went back with an American tank, a Sherman tank and more troops. We went back to the bridge, and by that time it was starting to get daylight. And the tank sat straight on top of the bridge. It was a very small bridge. And he shot straight into the woods. And when you got a tank shooting straight at you - boy, that firce fire. So the Nazis came running out of the woods. The ones that dropped their guns, we took as prisoners. The ones that didn't drop their guns, they were shot right there. And so - but when the shooting was over, I think we had about 50 or 60 prisoners; and they were sitting in a row. And I went through __ my medical kit, which was next to the foxhole. It was all shot up from the night before from the shooting. So as I'm looking at the group, there was a German medic there. He had the cross, and the arm band, but he had a beautiful leather case, which I'll show you - a beautiful leather case. So I walked up to him. Now, Jewish - I'm Jewish - Jewish and German in speaking is similar, except for the accent. The German has a heavy accent on the words. And I always - I use my Jewish to make it sound like German, but I always try to make it sound more German, because if I was ever captured, I'd make them think I was German, you know? So I said to him, "Ich brauche haben das," which means, "I need that medical kit." He said, "Nein, nein," which means "No." And I said, "Ya, ya." [Chuckling] And I took it. And I used that medical kit from that time on till the end of the war. I still have it. I'll show it to you after, okay? So it had everything in German written. It had a lot of medical supplies in there, more than what I had, okay? Ours was just a plain canvas that flipped over, you know? That was one time. Well, there were a few instances that I really - my mind goes blank. I treated a lot - I treated civilians in France and Germany. Because when the shooting was over, people would come out to you and say - they noticed I was a medic - "Come with me" in French or whatever - to help them, because someone was wounded. If I had time, I would do it, you know, and I'd bandage __ up. So a lot of times soldiers got just small fragments, and I'd pull out the shrapnel. You know, it was very simple. It wasn't serious. And so, that's what I did basically. Well, on April the 28th of 1945 - but before that, I know I left something out which was very important. In February of 1945 - even before that, there was the Battle of the Bulge in December - in January. They were fighting above us. And that's where Hitler made the Battle of the Bulge. That was in Patton's Third army. We were with the Seventh Army, which was just below Patton in the center. We didn't know what was going on. We had no idea. But we do know we had to pull back from Germany. And we didn't know why that was, but the reason was because of the Bulge - the Battle of the Bulge. If they had succeeded in the battle, they could have cut us off - the whole division - and we could have been captured. The whole division could have been captured. So that's why we were pulled back down was the Battle of the Bulge. But in February of 1945, they took a group of us off from the front lines. They had other soldiers come and take our place, put us in trucks, and they took us back to France for a three-day rest - three- or four-day rest, whatever it was. We stopped in a small town in Alsace-Lorraine called __, nice little town. I got off the truck, walked around, and I found a synagogue. The building was still standing, but the inside was gutted out - completely gutted. And as I was standing there, a Frenchman came up to me with three little girls. I carried a camera that I brought from home with me, and now and then, I would take pictures or have somebody take a picture. And the Frenchman came up with the three little girls - and he spoke French to me. And I took French in __ West Hartford for one year. And I asked him, [French], "Speak slowly, if you will," but he just rambled on. And I understood him to say those three girls were his daughters. The ages were six, eight, and ten. That's how young they were. And I asked him to take a picture with my camera of the three girls, in front of the __, which he did. All the pictures I took during the war were not developed until after the war when the war ended __+ in Munich. We were in Munich. One of our buddies found a camera store in Munich, and he developed pictures for anybody that wanted pictures developed. A lot of my pictures came out. So I met him - the father - I talked to him. And he gave me something to remember him by. As you probably know, when Hitler captured every - took over our country - every Jewish person had to wear the yellow star of David. And on the star of David, it would say, (?"Joif," for "Jewish"; in French, J-u-i-f; "Jude" in German, J-u-d-e?). And so, he gave me his that he had to wear when Hitler took over France. And I found out later - the whole story how that came about. But I carried it in my pocket. In fact, my buddies told me not to carry my dog tags on my neck like you normally do. They said, "If you're ever captured" - because on it it had the letters C, H, or P on the dog tag. It had your name, your serial number, and C, H, or P, showing what religion you were. And they said "If the Nazis ever capture you, they right away will tell them that you're Jewish." Especially if there was SS men in the group, they would torture you. So they said, "Keep everything in your pocket." So I kept everything, and I kept the star of David, everything that identified me. I also had a little card showing that if I was ever captured that I was a medic. And I would show that to the enemy and they're supposed to treat you humane. But even though I carried that in my pocket, the Germans never paid any attention to that anyway. So, as I say, I carried everything in my pocket. And, to make a long story short, when I came home, I tried to get in touch with the three little girls. I sent the picture to the town of (Luneville) - I had no response. But a few years ago I spoke in (?Suzbury High?), and the teacher - one of the teachers took it upon herself to send the picture of me with the three little girls to the town of Luneville. To make a long story short, I call one of the girls __+. Her name is Arlette. She's now 75 years old.

Jamel Lyko:

Oh, my God - how wonderful.

Benjamin D. Cooper:

And she didn't remember me from the picture. All she remembered was that she was with her sister and a friend of hers. And she remembered the picture, but she did not remember me. And I'm in the picture behind the three little girls. And I'll show you the picture after, you know? So - and I called see how she's doing. And she taught English in the town of Luneville - she taught English there. And she's retired now. So I just called __ see how she's doing, how her daughter's doing. She has a grandchild too, you know? And so that was one incident.

Jamel Lyko:

Oh, that's special, man.

Benjamin D. Cooper:

It is very special to me. It really is. Well, anyway, on April the 28th, 1945, the colonel from our outfit got orders to secure a camp. He had no idea what kind of camp it was, but the orders were, "Don't let anybody in; don't let anybody out." He took his two companies of men with tanks, support, whatever he needed, and they captured - captured the town of Dachau - Dachau concentration. They liberated it. There were other outfits that also joined in the outfit in liberating the camp. But our outfit was there. I think we were the first outfit there. What our men saw there was horrible. They cannot believe - they couldn't believe what they were looking at. First of all, the stench of burning flesh filled the whole area. There were about 36 freight cars - half in the camp and half out of the camp. Dachau was three miles square; that's how big the camp was - three miles square surrounded with barbed wire. Our Native American buddies, my buddies, they threw up. They could not believe - they vomited - they could not believe what they saw there. I read this in our history book. One of the Native Americans was guarding about 18 to 20 guards that had given up. And he had a machine gun, and he killed them all. And the colonel ran up to him and said, "What the hell are you doing?" He told him, "I lost my cool." He did. It was crazy. And so, this - I was not there the first day; I was there the second day. My outfit and I - we went on to Munich. We no sooner got to Munich, when the war was just about ending then. There were still snipers around, but the main part was really cooling down. General Eisenhower ordered as many troops to go back to the concentration camps to be a witness. And that's why on the second day I went back to Dachau to be a witness - not to give first aid, just to be a witness as to what happened there. I boarded a truck with some other buddies, and we went - we started - we had no idea what we were going to see. I didn't have my camera. Either I didn't have my camera or I didn't have film - I don't know what it was. But even as we neared the camp, the whole air was permeated- like a fog - of burning flesh. And we got to the main gate. On the gate it said "Arbeit macht frei." "Work will set you free," in German, which meant "Work will set you free." But crazy. The captain told us, "We're going to let you go into a big, open field. Those that could walk will come up and talk to you." Others, they can't even get up. The sick, the living, and the dying - there were about 36 barracks, __ single-story buildings there. The sick, the living, the dying - each building held about 1600. When it was built in 1933 - the camp - it was supposed to hold 400 people. It's holding 1600 men and women. Very little toilet facilities. Lot of typhus and dysentery. It was rampant. So we walked into this open field, and we stayed there a while. Eventually, I saw people coming up to us, hundreds of them. Gradually. Some were dressed - they could walk fairly well. Others - most were dressed in blue and white faded pajamas. That's what they wore. As they got closer, I couldn't believe it. I couldn't tell men from women. It was impossible. If they weighed 60 pounds or 70, it was a lot. It was crazy. That traumatized me; my buddies too. They came up to us; they hugged us. They gave us names of people they knew in the United States or elsewhere. They were just so happy to see us, you know? It was unbelievable. And we were just traumatized. The whole event. It bothers me to this day what those bastards did to innocent men and women.

Jamel Lyko:

Absolutely. Let me just put this mic back on. It slipped off. There you go.

Benjamin D. Cooper:

Got it. So I just couldn't believe -

Jamel Lyko:

That experience is just -

Benjamin D. Cooper:

It stays with me every day because it's something I just can't forget. I just can't forget. And the things I heard about the camp were just horrible, horrible. There were two types of camps in Germany and Poland: concentration camps and extermination camps. There's a difference. It made no difference where a person was sent to be an inmate, to be a prisoner. You go in through the main gate, and you're supposed to go out through the chimney for both camps. But the concentration camps, they used them for slave labor. If they died on a job, the hell with it. They had thousands more to replace them. The extermination camps? The men, women, babies - women with babies - the minute they got off the train, assigned to the gas chamber and cremated. They were burning - extermination - like Auschwitz, Treblinka, Sobibor. They were gassing and cremating 9 to 10,000 men, women, and children every day. It's crazy. They had most of the extermination camps in Poland because they didn't want the German people to know what was going on. But how could you not know? The town of Dachau is only a few miles from the camp. And from what I heard, the mayor - he used to call the commandant from the camp and say, "Please don't burn the bodies today; the stench is coming into town." I mean, how could you not know? It was a horrible, horrible thing. And they used to use this - Dachau - they had a medical experimentation camp. They had a big hospital. They'd take inmates, put them in the hospital, put different experiments, put gas in their veins, put all kinds of things. They died, of course. But they couldn't care less. They had so many more to replace them, you know? It was horrible. I understand also there was one big German officer that used to come down to check their skins. And, if the skin - the scalp - something was good - they'd use the scalp to make lamp shades out of them. I mean, it was crazy - horrible. People say, "You're nuts. This never happened." There's documentation that this went on. And it's just a horrible experience. I'll never, never forgive the Nazis what they did. I don't hold the Germans today for what went on. They had nothing to do with it. In fact, they're doing everything to show how bad it was. And they admit, you know, they do everything now for the survivors to show the world that this went on, but they're trying to make it - it was a horrible time. It was terrible. Hitler was just wiping out people - millions - innocent people for no reason at all, you know? Of course, there were six million Jews, but there were five million other people too. It was a combination of everything. And he needed a scapegoat, and he found the Jewish people to be a perfect scapegoat for it, you know?

Jamel Lyko:

But the fact he had so many soldiers and doctors and people carrying out his evil -

Benjamin D. Cooper:

Yes. And the thing is - there were intellectuals there. They were intellectual people. How is - yes - and he had certain groups of soldiers. They had a horrible name. I forgot what it was called. They would go into every place - country they went - they immediately killed all the Jewish people in that town, wipe them out completely. That's what their mission was: kill them, wipe them out. And it was just - the whole thing - it just blows my mind. I still can't get over it, just what went on over there. Well, anyway, the camp was liberated. We liberated, from what I understand, about 30,000 people - 30,000 liberated. Before we went into the open field, they told - the captain told us, "Don't give them any water and no food." You can talk to them but that's about it. And the reason for that was because when our soldiers first got there, they immediately - they started giving them food. Many of them were so emaciated they couldn't swallow. And they choked to death; they died right in front of them. In fact, even after the camp was liberated, they were dying at the rate of 200 a day. They couldn't stop them; it was impossible. Now, medical supplies came from everywhere to Dachau. And it took months - months before they could get it under control. But it was a horrible, horrible place. And so, anyway, I went back to Munich after being there for a few hours. And they were getting us ready to go to the Pacific war, because the war was still going on in the Pacific. It took - I was there from May, June, July, and almost August - stayed in Germany. I stayed with a private family in a town called Freising outside of Munich. I knew the family very well. And they had a boy and a girl. The name was Schindler; not related to "Schindler's List" I later found out. And I asked them one day what they thought of Hitler. And they told me they hated him. And I was so happy to hear that. And I said, "Why did you hate him?" And you know what the answer was? "Because he lost the war." Not for what he did, but because he lost the war. That sticks in my mind to this day. That was the thought at that time, you know? I think a lot of German people. Now I didn't have my camera at this instant. I wish I had, but I didn't. We watched thousands of German prisoners being marched through the streets of Munich. They were going from one camp to another. And among them was Goring, Hermann Goring. There he was with his uniform, but all his medals were gone. And a big, husky fellow. And the German people recognized him right off the bat. And they ran up to him, and tried to give him liquor or something with food or like that. And the soldiers who were guarding not just him but all the soldiers, smashed it on the ground, you know? But the people - oh, they supported - oh, you could see that, you know? It was unbelievable really. And we just stood there watched them go by, you know? It just shows you the mentality at that time. Now the swastika - they had banners hanging out - all the big buildings over there; the government building - big large building. There's a government building in Munich on the street called __ - right on a big, large building, a government building. Well, we got there. We go in the building and there was a government. You take anything you wanted. Everything was - just take - no one's questioning it, okay? And so I went into the building, and I found two books, one about Hitler and one about the German army. They were called "cigarette books." I'll show them to you after, okay? The photography is unbelievable; it's so sharp to this day. And these are called cigarette books. From 1933 to 1938, if you bought cigarettes in Germany, there was this picture - color picture or black and white picture - and in the back of the picture it had writing, tell you about the picture. And you put it into this album. That's why they're called "cigarette books." And I wanted to bring it home to show the people back home just what went on in Germany. Now, the banners they had there - they had several hanging out the building - they were about 12 feet long, and about 4 feet wide. And I said to one of my buddies - they didn't recognize it - I said, "You know what? I want to get one of those and bring them home." So we went up on the third floor, and they had big hooks holding them from the (weather) . We unhooked it. I rolled it up and put it in my duffel bag. I got my duffel bag back. While I was at the front line, I never had my duffel bag. But when the war ended, they gave us back our duffel bags. And I put all - I put the flag in there with the books, and I brought that home. And also I found this German weapon - this weapon in that building. Are you running out of time?

Jamel Lyko:

No, that's perfect. You're just holding it right in the middle of the camera.

Benjamin D. Cooper:

Yes, I found this weapon there.

Jamel Lyko:

Tell me about that.

Benjamin D. Cooper:

And this was sitting there on the table. And I took it. And in the back, "made in Germany." And I showed it to my captain. And he said, "This is what the officers use in the concentration camps." They used to walk around like this. See? Like that. And you wouldn't see the other end. Just a couple of swings from that could kill somebody, you know? Unbelievable.

Jamel Lyko:

Oh, that's frightening.

Benjamin D. Cooper:

Isn't that something? This is the medical kit that I carried. It's not the same one because mine was __. But it will give you an idea what it was like. You hooked right up __+ - sometimes there was a place to hook it onto your belt__+. That's how we used to carry it. All right? Now, I'll show you the one that I got from the German medic.

Jamel Lyko:

Oh, the one that you - yes.

Benjamin D. Cooper:

Look at the difference.

Jamel Lyko:

Sit down. Show me that one. That's awesome.

Benjamin D. Cooper:

Look at that. It opened up like this. And inside it had a lot of German medical equipment - and everything written in German right there.

Jamel Lyko:

I was going to say, there is writing there - yes. Wow.

Benjamin D. Cooper:

Isn't that something? And I'll show you what else I found. I found a German helmet.

Jamel Lyko:

Oh, my goodness.

Benjamin D. Cooper:

I brought that home too.

Jamel Lyko:

Sit down, Ben, and I'll come in on it.

Benjamin D. Cooper:

All right __.

Jamel Lyko:

Okay. Turn it there. Let's see that swastika on the right side there. Wow.

Benjamin D. Cooper:

__ now, the American helmets today aren't this shape.

Jamel Lyko:

Yes, I noticed - interesting the configuration.

Benjamin D. Cooper:

They give you more protection than the ones we had. I'll show you the one similar to the one that I wore, okay?

Jamel Lyko:

Yeah. Okay.

Benjamin D. Cooper:

__+ Ours consisted - this is not the one I had, but it will give you an idea of what it was like. Now, ours consisted of two parts: a liner, which was like this, very light; and then the metal part here.

Jamel Lyko:

Now was that your liner there or just a - because it's got the thunderbird on it.

Benjamin D. Cooper:

I put it on there. But this is not the one that I had. Now this here - we used in the wintertime to heat up our food, our shaving equipment, and we also used it for whatever we needed because there were no bathrooms around __ to use that __. That was it.

Jamel Lyko:

Put that on, please, if you would, Ben. Just perfect.

Benjamin D. Cooper:

Yeah. And this is basically how you wear it. Except my Native American buddies didn't want to wear their helmets. You'll see. I have pictures of them without the helmet.

Jamel Lyko:

Great shot. Great shot. Okay. All right.

Benjamin D. Cooper:

And luckily, in my outfit we never had a gas mask. But this is a German gas mask container with a filter there. And this - if you see pictures of the Germans.

Jamel Lyko:

Oh, they always have those hanging up. I wasn't sure what those were.

Benjamin D. Cooper:

Exactly, that was for the gas mask.

Jamel Lyko:

Oh, my goodness.

Benjamin D. Cooper:

Look - and we never had any like that. Look.

Jamel Lyko:

See they were sure they were going to be exposed to gas so they all had those canisters.

Benjamin D. Cooper:

Yes, yes, yes, yes - or maybe they were going to use those too.

Jamel Lyko:

__+ Isn't that interesting.

Benjamin D. Cooper:

Isn't that something. __ let me show you __ cigarette book here. This is one book here; it's called "Adolph Hitler."

Jamel Lyko:

Okay.

Benjamin D. Cooper:

And the pictures are phenomenal here. Just look - it's just filled with pictures you can see. You got it all right? Look at this. All about -

Jamel Lyko:

So as you bought cigarettes you got -

Benjamin D. Cooper:

There's a story behind each picture. And then you pasted them into the book.

Jamel Lyko:

Oh, my goodness.

Benjamin D. Cooper:

That's why they're called cigarette books. Now, by the way, very important - I want to tell you - all these artifacts that you see here are not at my home. I keep them at the state armory. I have a buddy that picks up all these things, takes it away, and then when I call, when I think I'm going to give a talk, and he'll bring it to me. Then he takes it back - back to the state armory because I don't keep them in my house. I don't want any of this in my house here at all.

Jamel Lyko:

So are they there for people to look at or do research?

Benjamin D. Cooper:

No. No, just to store them.

Jamel Lyko:

Just to store them. Okay. Very interesting. Yes.

Benjamin D. Cooper:

See. Look at this.

Jamel Lyko:

Oh, look at that one, yeah.

Benjamin D. Cooper:

Unbelievable. Now, let me show you - I want to show you the banner that I took - brought back, okay?

Jamel Lyko:

Okay - yes.

Benjamin D. Cooper:

Let's see. I don't know how you're going to take a picture of it.

Jamel Lyko:

Oh, boy. Hang it on the side of the house. No kidding.

Benjamin D. Cooper:

This is the actual banner. Take one - you take one end.

Jamel Lyko:

All right. Well, let's - oh, my God - this is -

Benjamin D. Cooper:

__ Can you hold one end? I want to see if my neighbor is home. Maybe he can hold the other end, okay? Hold on.

Jamel Lyko:

Yeah. This is a banner. Now tell me again where this came from?

Benjamin D. Cooper:

It was hanging on the government building in Munich, Germany where Hitler had an apartment. I didn't know it, but he had a apartment in that building.

Jamel Lyko:

Wow.

Benjamin D. Cooper:

That's why I don't keep these things at home. They are all at the state armory. Everything - all these artifacts are kept at the state armory. And these are the hooks by which it was hanging out the window.

Jamel Lyko:

Wow. That is amazing. That is amazing.

Benjamin D. Cooper:

And this is what I show. I tell the kids, "This is what Germany stood for from 1933 to 1945: legalized murder of men, women, children, and babies - legalized murder."

Jamel Lyko:

Wow. And it's a quality piece of cloth too. It's - oh, Ben, that is - this has got to be in a museum somewhere.

Benjamin D. Cooper:

I know. Some day, I don't know when, I'll probably leave it up to my children what they want to do. Now, this is the - this is __+ when I was in training, this is what we used to eat out of.

Jamel Lyko:

Okay.

Benjamin D. Cooper:

Very similar to this.

Jamel Lyko:

Very, yeah, basic.

Benjamin D. Cooper:

Very, very basic, you know? And, now, in Hartford when the war started, we had civil defense. Where I lived on New Park Avenue, we had air-raid wardens; and my uncle was an air-raid warden on New Park Avenue for the whole block. And it's very heavy. He wore this at night. People - he walked around the block. And people had to draw the shades down because we feared - and my father had a grocery store. And so, the light comes from there; you had to have shades in the window so the light wouldn't shine into the night. And not far from where I live on New Park Avenue - right on the corner of Flatbush and New Park - we had antiaircraft guns -

Jamel Lyko:

Oh, my goodness.

Benjamin D. Cooper:

- for a short time. And then we had the big search lights looking for airplanes.

Jamel Lyko:

Wow.

Benjamin D. Cooper:

Yeah, it was a big, old - it was a pipe company, and the water bureau used to have their pipes there. But there was room - they put a -

Jamel Lyko:

Wow.

Benjamin D. Cooper:

And let me see - what have I got here? And this is a hat similar to what I got married in.

Jamel Lyko:

Okay. That's what I want to see.

Benjamin D. Cooper:

Oh, I know, I got to show you something. In May - in May of - when the war ended, in honor of General Eisenhower, okay? Let me show you something. I'll be right back. Oh, I don't have it on me.

Jamel Lyko:

Just hold on to that microphone. Okay. We're now looking at Ben Cooper. Your rank, Ben, was what?

Benjamin D. Cooper:

Corporal, T/5 - T/5, technician fifth grade.

Jamel Lyko:

I'm going to back up.

Benjamin D. Cooper:

Equal to a corporal.

Jamel Lyko:

He's standing here in his Eisenhower jacket. And the Thunderbird logo. Looking as handsome as he did in 1945; right?

Benjamin D. Cooper:

That's a few years older.

Jamel Lyko:

Oh, that's pretty special, man. That's pretty special. All right. Looking good. Looking wonderful.

Benjamin D. Cooper:

Yeah, this here - what you see here - if you were in combat and you were a rifleman, you would have a rifle with a blue background showing that you were a combat infantryman, okay? But being I never carried a gun, so they issued us - which is similar to that - this __+, okay; shows you were in combat medic as distinguished from just being a medic.

Jamel Lyko:

Combat medic, right. Yes. There's a difference - yes.

Benjamin D. Cooper:

And these here - this is for one-year overseas, six months each. And this is for three years in service.

Jamel Lyko:

Wow, I never knew those had meaning before on a uniform. Yeah.

Benjamin D. Cooper:

And, of course, I got the good conduct medal, which is this one here. Where is it? This is a good conduct medal; you get if you're a good soldier, you know? And this one has the European theater war that I was in with two battles. And this one is the bronze star.

Jamel Lyko:

Well, sit down. And let's sum up your post -

Benjamin D. Cooper:

I got more to tell you, okay?

Jamel Lyko:

Yeah, we'll talk a little bit more about after the war and that sort of thing.

Benjamin D. Cooper:

Yeah. Let me show you, wait, I got more than that. They sent us - that's why the picture follows along this here - on the disk, okay?

Jamel Lyko:

Okay. Ben is showing me an item here.

Benjamin D. Cooper:

That's the actual Star of David that the Frenchman gave to me while we were taken for a three-day rest, or a four-day rest during the war.

Jamel Lyko:

And he was required to wear this, right?

Benjamin D. Cooper:

Yes, he was, yes; all the Jewish people had to wear it on their clothing. From children all the way up - made no difference. That was in France. In Germany it was called J-u-d-e, which means "Jude," J-u-d-e. Then, let me just show you something. This is what I was talking about - this is the emblem that they had.

Jamel Lyko:

Yes, isn't that something?

Benjamin D. Cooper:

[Chuckling] Isn't that amazing. Yeah. Then they changed it to the Thunderbirds. Yeah.

Jamel Lyko:

Wow.

Benjamin D. Cooper:

And this is what I was telling you - they issued - being a medic, a combat medic, they issued this to us from the War Department. And it had your name, your serial number, and the date you were born, and your fingerprints. And you're supposed to show this to them. And it's supposed to be from the Geneva Conference, way back in 19 - whenever it was - 1929.

Jamel Lyko:

Okay, so that's the Geneva Convention.

Benjamin D. Cooper:

The Geneva Convention - that's right.

Jamel Lyko:

To protect you from -

Benjamin D. Cooper:

Supposed to more or less. Yeah, and of course, this is what - this is one of my dog tags right here. And that's where you see it had your - can you see that all right?

Jamel Lyko:

I'm going to come in close. Get the actual text on it, but, okay. That's your -

Benjamin D. Cooper:

I had what is known as - some had crosses. I had a Mezuzah, which had a prayer in there for the Jewish people.

Jamel Lyko:

Okay.

Benjamin D. Cooper:

And I also found this in that building by the way. There were hundreds of these you could take. This showed you were a member of the Nazi party.

Jamel Lyko:

Oh, my goodness.

Benjamin D. Cooper:

If you saw "Schindler's List," that's what he wore at that time. But there were hundreds of them. I just took one of them to carry home.

Jamel Lyko:

Oh, my. What a memento. Bittersweet.

Benjamin D. Cooper:

Yep. And this, they issued us - if you didn't have a knife to open your can, your C rations or something, they issued us a little can opener. [Chuckling] Put it in. Of course, it did - sure. Yeah.

Jamel Lyko:

Is that your arm band there - the Red Cross?

Benjamin D. Cooper:

This is the band that was actually issued to me when I joined the medics. Yeah, a cross - not here in the United States.

Jamel Lyko:

Right. Did you wear that all day?

Benjamin D. Cooper:

All the time on my arm. Yep, yep, that's part of my uniform. Yep. And let me see what else are we skipping here? Oh, let me go on - I got more to tell you, okay?

Jamel Lyko:

Yeah, why don't you sit, and we'll talk about coming home and that sort of thing?

Benjamin D. Cooper:

Oh, yeah - wait - here. I can show you right here - I've got this book right here with the very similar pictures. Oh, if you can see this picture here - we were sent to cigarette - the cigarette camps in France were like Camp Lucky Strike, Camp Old Gold, Camp Phillip Morris, everything was cigarettes, okay? And this is the Camp Lucky Strike in Le Havre, France. We were shipped there to go overseas, okay? But thank God the war ended on August the 5th. Can you hear all right?

Jamel Lyko:

Is that you right there?

Benjamin D. Cooper:

That's me right here, okay?

Jamel Lyko:

Oh, boy.

Benjamin D. Cooper:

And there you see - now - you got it all right? Now, let me show you what that is, okay? There I have - can I take this off for a moment?

Jamel Lyko:

Yes, you can.

Benjamin D. Cooper:

Okay. Let me see if I can get it over that. __+ I still have it.

Jamel Lyko:

Stand there, because this matches the picture that you just showed me.

Benjamin D. Cooper:

Right, exactly.

Jamel Lyko:

This is Ben carrying his bag.

Benjamin D. Cooper:

Yeah, and my fatigue jacket that you see in the picture.

Jamel Lyko:

Oh, you look just like you did in that picture. Yeah. Oh, 1945 all over again. You look good, Ben. You look good. Excellent.

Benjamin D. Cooper:

Now, let me tell you a couple things here.

Jamel Lyko:

You can sit back down.

Benjamin D. Cooper:

Yep. I'm going to sit down here.

Jamel Lyko:

Okay.

Benjamin D. Cooper:

Are you thirsty at all?

Jamel Lyko:

No, I'm fine, my friend. No, no. We got to get this microphone here, but let me hook this on.

Benjamin D. Cooper:

Sure, go ahead. Oh, this is - this is the wedding picture. There we are with my hat. This is up in Saco, Maine. __+

Jamel Lyko:

This is before you went overseas, right? This is the wedding.

Benjamin D. Cooper:

Yes, yes. This is the wedding - July the 14th. Yeah. This is the building I was telling you about where - the government building - it's still there. Doesn't have the pictures of the banners, because I got this from a magazine, but this is where the banner was hanging from.

Jamel Lyko:

This is in Munich, Germany. __+

Benjamin D. Cooper:

Yep, from that building there.

Jamel Lyko:

Wow.

Benjamin D. Cooper:

Yep. And this is the actual liberty ship that I sailed on, the Walter E. Ranger made in South Portland, Maine. And when I saw South Portland, I said, "Wow, my wife is from Saco. This is right there, you know?" That's the actual liberty ship. And we had a gun in front and a gun in back. I think it's what they call "three-inch guns" - one in front and one in back.

Jamel Lyko:

That was a lot of equipment.

Benjamin D. Cooper:

Oh, yes - it could hold 500 troops or equipment. It was one or the other, you know? Oh, so much I wanted to tell you. After taking you back to February 1945, after I met the little girls with their father, they took us to another town for our rest - for a couple days' rest, okay? Nearby. And this was a small town in France called Ménil-sur-Belvitte. Poor town, okay? But what you see here - what you see here is - this is the schoolhouse there. That's their school. And this is one of my buddies. See how the __ hat. This is me here. This is during our rest, okay? And this is one of our 57 milimeter anti-tank guns right there. Now in this - this was a school. I was on the second floor. And I saw a man looking in the window. So I figured he must be on a ladder, you know? But he wasn't - he wasn't on a ladder. It was - let's see if I have the picture here. I've got it on documentation. Wait a second. How come I don't have it here? Well, you'll see it. I have it on the other. The tallest man in the world - eight and a half feet tall.

Jamel Lyko:

You're kidding -

Benjamin D. Cooper:

Yeah. And he was there at this place here, and he wasn't on a ladder; he was just looking in the window. I couldn't believe it. And we talked to him. And on his arm he had an armband called the FFI.

Jamel Lyko:

He was German?

Benjamin D. Cooper:

No, no - French. This was French. And he was with the FFI, which was the Free French Insurgents. Let me show you something here. Watch this. This is the dirigible that I saw - the Hindenburg - see with the swastikas. I got this out of a magazine. This is when I came home on furlough back in '42, okay? First time. Before I met my wife. This is again - look at the old-time cars there. This was my wife - that's where I met - (Copy). Yeah. And this is our engagement party. I was a high-ranking PFC.

Jamel Lyko:

Oh, how special is that, yeah.

Benjamin D. Cooper:

And this is the liberty ship you just saw. Yep, that's the Navy ship we went on. This is the freight cars that we road in from France. This is when we were going through the towns. There's my medical kit. This is me here and my buddies here. This is the - you can see my buddies not wearing any helmets. This is me here. This is during the break when there was no shooting going on. And this is the three little girls.

Jamel Lyko:

Oh, my God - look at that.

Benjamin D. Cooper:

And this is the one that is 75 - she's 75 years old now.

Jamel Lyko:

Still communicating.

Benjamin D. Cooper:

Yeah. I'm still communicating with her.

Jamel Lyko:

Isn't that wonderful.

Benjamin D. Cooper:

Yeah. And this is the synagogue that's still standing there. It was built in 1875, I think - something like that. This is one of the other little girls. She moved to Israel. She invited me to the wedding of her son, but I couldn't make it. This is the anti-tank gun, and now you'll see - watch this - this is the tallest man in the world. Look.

Jamel Lyko:

Oh, my goodness.

Benjamin D. Cooper:

And on his arm band it says, "FFI - Free French Insurgents." When the Nazis took over France, they formed groups to fight against the Nazis. And so the Free French Insurgents. They went around destroying all kinds of materials that the Germans - you know, when they took over France. This is - this is the way we sent V-mail, -V-mail, it's called. You fold it up. I forgot to tell you, but during the war, we came - in Germany, we came across a small town. And there was one house in particular, surrounded by barbed wire. Not the house, but around the area, you know? And so, we went through the barbed wire. We went through the house. And there was a man and a woman in there. One was Jewish; one was not Jewish. One was a doctor; one was a lawyer. And we asked them how come they stayed there. Apparently, they needed them in that town, okay. They were elderly people. And the husband took us down to the cellar and he opened a bottle of brandy - five-star brandy, which was - he was waiting for the day of liberation, okay? And so, that's what that was. And he told me they had relatives in the United States. Well, during the war, they couldn't write to them, but I could. So I wrote a letter to them in Philadelphia telling them I found their relatives. And this was their answer to me; they thanked me for finding them.

Jamel Lyko:

Isn't that great.

Benjamin D. Cooper:

Yeah. That's what that was. This is crossing the Rhine River. I took a picture when we crossed the Rhine River. This is behind us. The night before we went across the Rhine River, they had little airplanes coming over (?) bombs dropping over us to stop it. There were thousands of us, miles long, ready to cross the Rhine. So we did cross when it started to get dusk - it started to get daylight a little bit, you know? And that's where I lost my buddy Tim Cane from Newington.

Jamel Lyko:

You said that - yeah.

Benjamin D. Cooper:

He got hit by a sniper when we got near the shore. And he died as a result of that. Behind - this is another German town. You see (?they're?) building behind us? That was a shoe factory. And when we got into town, we found - we go inside, and there were Russian inmates there, you know, prisoners, dressed, no shoes; but they're making shoes for the German army. And they didn't know who we were. And they kept working. I said, "Free. __ Go out of . You're free." Finally they ran out, you know? By that time we were on our way to another -

Jamel Lyko:

That's a great picture of you.

Benjamin D. Cooper:

Yeah. See, no helmet. I look like (?sand sacked?) there. This is Dachau - three miles square. And these are the first aid - I didn't - my captain gave me a whole set of these little pictures of Dachau, because the signal corps took a lot of pictures there. The pictures, you know, were taken by part of our outfit. And the captain had - he gave me a whole set. These were first day of liberation you see there. These were German guards that were killed. These were soldiers from my outfit. These were the freight trains I was telling you about. Take a look.

Jamel Lyko:

Wow. Oh, my God.

Benjamin D. Cooper:

Just lying there - unreal. Look. On the ground. Look. These in the building next to the crematory stacked like corkwood, you know? Just ready to be cremated. Unbelievable. Look. These are the - the crematories were still going when our outfit liberated the camp. Can you believe it? And we had a newspaper - 47th Division - Dachau gives the answer to why we fought on. "War Ends" - I had a lot of my buddies sign the paper. That's how I got in touch with them after the war. This is the German - I took a picture in Munich - one of the German planes - the jet planes, you know. We went to the Munich airport. This is me in Munich. This is me going to the airport. These are the German prisoners being marched from the streets. I didn't have my camera for Goring, unfortunately. Oh, this is the building - I made these to show how they were hanging - to show how they were hanging - yeah. That's how they were hanging there.

Jamel Lyko:

Wow.

Benjamin D. Cooper:

And this is me here getting ready to come home. And this is the - we came home on a ship called the Aquitania. Yes, it was a luxury ship, and they made it into a troop ship. There was 7,000 just from my outfit.

Jamel Lyko:

Oh, I'm sure.

Benjamin D. Cooper:

We came into New York Harbor. This is the New York Times telling about us about coming home. And they had ships shooting water in the air welcoming us home, you know. Yeah. And then they let us send a telegram to our loved ones. And I wrote, I said, "Arrived safely. Expect to see you soon. Don't attempt to contact or write to me. Love, T/5 Ben Cooper."

Jamel Lyko:

Ah, how nice. How nice.

Benjamin D. Cooper:

And I took this picture. If you can imagine this - a big ship like this coming in sideways - I mean, listing sideways. You know why? All of us were on one side of the ship. And they kept saying on the loud speaker, "Please go back to the other side; we can't come into the harbor this way." But once we went by the Statue of Liberty, then we all went back to normal. And this - my wife came to New York later, and she met me. And this is the Café Zanzibar, which was a popular place in New York. And we're having Hungarian goulash. And this is me here and my wife at that time.

Jamel Lyko:

How wonderful.

Benjamin D. Cooper:

And this was - I was honorary grand marshal in 2004 for the Canadian Veteran's Day parade. And this was - we were celebrating here at the (Brituchis), I think it was. That was my wife at that time. Yep. That's it.

Jamel Lyko:

Oh, man - that's great.

Benjamin D. Cooper:

Now, I got one other thing to show you. We're getting there. We're getting there. Something here. Let me turn it this way. Take a look at the ship. All the fellows __+ big ship like that - they were all lined up on the - look - climbing up there. They couldn't wait to come home already, you know. These were more pictures of the ship on board the Aquitania. Yep. There's another picture of the Statue of Liberty. Now, let me tell you - I - during the war, I used to write to my wife - you know, send her mail to my folks. But somewhere along the line I stopped writing, because I used to see - being a medic, I see new replacements coming into the outfit. And when there's no shooting going on - there were times there was no shooting - they would sit down and write letters to their loved ones, and say I'm here somewhere. You couldn't say where you were, but you were somewhere in France, you were somewhere in Germany. And sometimes the same day a week later, they're gone. They're either killed or wounded, you know? So I became superstitious, and I said, "I'm not going to write anymore to my wife or my parents because it might be my last letter. I felt that way, you know? But I wrote one letter to my wife when the war ended. This was in Munich. I wanted her to know what I witnessed and what I saw. And I'm going to read it to you now, okay? [reading] "What can I say, my darling? When words I cannot find to express my love for you, my beloved darling wife. And though we're miles apart, you are and have always been right here inside my lonely aching heart. As I sailed across the ocean blue and through the straits on the Liberty to Italy. And there we see with so much glee your inspirational letters which meant so much to me. And then to France where I was given a job far different from the one I thought I would have found. Another fellow was doing his part till the fickle finger of fate had found his heart and now I was to carry on. I pray my darling that I may live to see Mother and Dad and you, my darling sweet. I pray that you and I may be one and have and own our own home. I pray each day in my own way. Sometimes in foxholes in the rain or covered with snow, oh, so cold. Or in a house where I'd feel a little safer from the snow and the rain and the cold. But most of all the hot shrapnel of bursting shells that knew no man - a father, an uncle, a brother, a cousin, an only son, one of a dozen, Catholic, Jew, Protestant, black, white, good, bad, carried a gun or a Red Cross armband. God, will this war ever end? Attack and attack the infantry right on into Germany but never knowing from where or when the enemy may try to strike back again and do the things that war is hated for. There were big towns and small towns, rivers and streams, roadblocks and trees, and so many things. The people seem friendly - at least so it seemed. What was happening to Hitler's dream? We traveled in convoys for miles at a stretch, dusty and dirty and tired and wet, searching for Jerries - another name for Nazis - and snipers - those rats! Houses were burning and cattle lie dead. Oops, be careful to see those mines up ahead. How could you hate such people as these who gave you their eggs and beer from the kegs? Every minute of the - you could hear them say, 'Nicht das,' which means 'I'm not a Nazi.' Oh, such nice people, I dare say. But then came the horror and cruelty beyond one's imagination could ponder upon. There was Dachau, Buchenwald, and more camps about where civilization was simply wiped out. This was our answer to why we fought on and how our hatred for the Germans was found. And as today I reminiscence of all the boys we're sure to miss, I cannot help but say a prayer for those who fell. May they rest in peace. Kohia, Keller, Cane, and Zales. And a prayer for those who lived. Oh, darling, I don't feel any smarter for all the things I've seen and done. I just feel, oh, so lonesome for you my dearest one and only one. And I hope and pray that some day I'll be sailing back across the ocean blue to you to live and love as time goes by in our own home for two or four or more and vanish the lonesomeness that's in my heart. For you, my sweetheart, my darling wife, till then God bless you every day and night. Sweet dreams, sweetheart. I love you with all my heart. Your hubby, Ben. May 8, 1945, Munich, Germany." That's the one letter I wrote to her.

Jamel Lyko:

Ben, you saved it all for the last letter. Lovely letter.

Benjamin D. Cooper:

That's basically what I wanted to do.

Jamel Lyko:

What a wonderful, wonderful piece of prose.

Benjamin D. Cooper:

This is the V-mail that we wrote. My buddy that was on the ship with me - he's in the same outfit. I mean that's how big the outfit was, you know. You never knew from one mile to the next. I sent them in the V-mail. And they came back and he was missing in action. And he was a combat medic too, but they never found him. He was missing in action. And what else is there? And when we came home, the governor from Connecticut sent reporters down to the ship to interview us - those from Connecticut. And I had the little book. And in it different fellas told what they saw and what they witnessed. If you read it, you'll find a lot of fellas that were not actually in the front lines, they said, "Italy was not that great. Germany was - France was kind of dirty. Germany was beautiful." Okay? This is what they witnessed. And this is what I had to say, "Benjamin Cooper 179th Infantry West Harbor. The only thought I have on my mind right now is to get home to be with my wife and my folks. As for the war, I'd rather not talk about it." And I didn't talk about it for 45 years. I just clammed right up.

Jamel Lyko:

Wow.

Benjamin D. Cooper:

And I think I covered just about everything. Yeah. This is the picture - we talked at Newington Middle School not too long ago. And this is what you see. They - on the screen in the back - the fellow gave me this picture because it was in the newspaper. This is the screen that you saw there and there. There it is, and there I am on the stage.

Jamel Lyko:

How wonderful. How wonderful.

Benjamin D. Cooper:

He took a picture of that.

Jamel Lyko:

Oh, man. Unbelievable. But I think the thing that makes me feel so good sitting here today is the fact that you're sharing this - not only with me and the Veteran's History Project, but young people, schools -

Benjamin D. Cooper:

Yeah, they have to know.

Jamel Lyko:

- churches, synagogues__

Benjamin D. Cooper:

Everywhere. Because they know so little about - and, as the years go by, it's even less. In fact, they're trying to change things around. You know, there are always people that change things around, you know? But I got to tell you - my wife and I had a wonderful marriage for 65 years. And in 2009, on July the 14th, we celebrated our 65th wedding anniversary. That was in July. In August, just a month later, 25th, she passed away. She was being - I was her caregiver for a year and a half. They were treating her for high anxiety. So what did they do? I went to different psychiatrists, you know, for a few months. And they'd give her a pill and say, "See if she can calm down" or whatever. It wasn't until a month before she passed away my primary doctor says, "You know what? Get a CAT scan of her." We did. And it showed she had a brain tumor. And they were treating her for the wrong thing. It was something that was inoperable. It was one of these horrible ones that had, like, octopus, you know. Big tentacles. They could take some out, but it would grow back again. And so, I lost her in July, the __. And I was really - well, for 65 years - I was in the dumps; I really was. A little over a year ago, I met someone from the Holocaust Memorial at the State Capitol here in Hartford. I forgot to go there, but there's a Jewish Federation for Greater Hartford, and there's one for the eastern part of Connecticut, okay? And this woman is part of the federation eastern part. And they were looking for a liberator. They didn't care who liberated. They wanted a liberator from the camp. The Holocaust they made up of a lot of survivors. They wanted someone who liberated the camp. So my name was given to them. And she had the name. And she looked for me. I was supposed to be at the meeting. And I forgot to mark it in my book. But we got together since then. And we give talks together. Her name is Henny Simon. She's from Colchester, Connecticut. She had a farm with her husband. She lived in Hanover, Germany with her parents. And she was only 16 years old when she was taken away by Hitler in Germany to a ghetto, concentration camp, and a death march. And she survived. And she wrote a book - a spiral book about it - her own book. And she got details, facts, and everything - pictures in it. So we give talks together now for the past year. This year we've talked to 13 different schools all over the eastern part and West Hartford, you know, all around. And the reception for the kids is phenomenal. The kids - I really feel - because her message is about perseverance. And we try to show what hatred did, what it can do, and what it will do - hatred and bullying - those two things, very important. So this is our message to get across to them. And she's a wonderful person, a very caring person; so we get along together great. We just hit it off, you know? And so, it's revived me. And we look forward to it. That's where I'm going to this. She's being awarded tonight from the federation for her help to children for 25 years. And so I'm going there tonight. She's going to get the award there for that. We just stopped talking just about a little over a month ago. I mean after a while you get exhausted - you know what I mean?

Jamel Lyko:

But these kids are hearing this from the people that were there.

Benjamin D. Cooper:

Yes.

Jamel Lyko:

They're not reading it. They're not being told by someone -

Benjamin D. Cooper:

Right.

Jamel Lyko:

- who read it. Who was there.

Benjamin D. Cooper:

They can ask any question they want, you know, and I'll answer it. If I don't know it, I'll just tell them I just don't know the answer, you know? You get all kinds of questions. Some will say, "Gee, maybe you knew my grandfather - he was over." So I try to make it as comfortable as I can. I say, "It's possible maybe I did see him, maybe I didn't. I can't remember names." You know. But you get all kinds of questions, you know. I went to (?Charter Oak School?). You know where Charter Oak School is?

Jamel Lyko:

Yes, I do.

Benjamin D. Cooper:

I went there. When I was - before the new building was built - right at the corner - you know where the Connecticut Veteran's is right on the corner?

Jamel Lyko:

Yes.

Benjamin D. Cooper:

Okay. The brick building there. There's a brick building. That used to be a drugstore. Before the drugstore years ago, that was a house. And that's where Charter Oak School was. That's where I went. My first day of school there. So I went to Charter Oak. And I go there for - they invited me to come back. They call me Benny. And I talk to the kids there. It's a wonderful school because they have - from all different countries, languages. And they're integrated like that. It's amazing how they get along. And it's a great school - Charter Oak School - it really is. It's a magnet school, now, you know. It's __ - it's like an academy. But I look forward to telling these kids. It's a good feeling, you know? We both feel like we're doing something to help humanity, you know? And I told the kids - this is very important - after my talk, I tell them a few things, "Freedom is not free; you have to fight for it." It's very important. And then I tell them, I says, "You know, I don't care what your religion is or what your background is or your culture." I says, "You know we all belong to the same race - the human race." We really do. When you stop to think about it. "Just think about it," I said. And I said the other thing, "If you want to feel good and make someone else feel even better - just think of this - no act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted. Think of that - try to do it every day - whether you open a door for someone, help someone across the street. And if you see someone in danger or needs help, as long as you don't get into harm's way yourself, try to help them. Do something to help them out." And I say, "Maybe in time it will promote peace and bring back some peace to the world if it catches on." You know? That's my message, you know? And so, at times I get letters from the kids. And sometimes they say, "I did an act of kindness today," you know? Which is great. At least it's getting through to some kids. It's very important. Life is so short, you know? And the one other thing I didn't tell you. Ten years ago - maybe around that - at the State Capitol, one of the talks - the memorial - an elderly man walked up to me, and he looked at the pin. And he says, "I remember that." I said, "Why? Were you there?" He says, "I was there with my wife." He was at the Capitol now with his wife, okay? For the memorial service. He was at Dachau when we liberated the camp. I don't remember him - not at all. But we are very good friends, okay? That was ten years ago. Four years ago I went to my cardiologist for a checkup. He said, "I'm putting you in the hospital." I said, "For what?" He said, "You have a blockage." "Okay," so I accepted it. I had an open heart surgery for two blockages. The surgeon that operated on me was their son.

Jamel Lyko:

Oh, my goodness.

Benjamin D. Cooper:

Now is that something? Just to show you Hitler was killing millions of people. And here this fellow - this couple, their son - they were in the camp, and their son saved my life.

Jamel Lyko:

Absolutely. They got through it and went on __+

Benjamin D. Cooper:

What goes around comes around.

Jamel Lyko:

Absolutely, oh, Ben.

Benjamin D. Cooper:

I think I've covered almost everything.

Jamel Lyko:

You've ended on a perfect note. Your - what is that? - one act of kindness -

Benjamin D. Cooper:

Yeah. No act of kindness no matter how small is ever wasted?

Jamel Lyko:

That is wonderful. Wonderful words.

Benjamin D. Cooper:

That's my motto. And that's - when I was the honorary marshal, that's what I told everybody. I said, "This is my motto." And I said, "I hope you'll live by something like that," you know? Now, I have been asked - one of the questions - very important, I think - I was asked, "How did you manage when you came home? What about combat fatigue and all that?" You know? Well, I said, "A lot of us came home with combat fatigue." You couldn't have but go through a war in the front lines but have something hit you like that. If you were behind the lines, it's a different story. You did hear shooting and __ you were shot at; but when you're in the front line, you just never know when your number is up - let's put it that way, you know. And I tell them, I say, "Well, you know, unfortunately, a lot of fellas - there weren't drugs around like there are now. But a lot of fellas took to drinking." I said, "I never took to drinking." And, luckily, I didn't. But they tried to overcome it by drinking, you know? And they got into deeper trouble with it, you know. But I had it hidden here. And it bothered me. It just, like, festered there all the time. And I couldn't talk to anybody about it. There was no one to talk to, you know. That's why I didn't talk for 45 years. I still have the little pictures of Dachau - small pictures that my captain gave me. When I came home and I showed them to some people - oh, you know - yeah, probably that happened. You know, you couldn't grasp it. And I couldn't talk about it, you know? But now I do. Now I want people to know it happened. There was a Holocaust. And even today - look what's going on - there's no respect for life. There's no respect for anybody's life. Because people either kill for drugs or they just kill if you say the wrong word, or they don't like the looks of your hair or the color or whatever; it's crazy.

Jamel Lyko:

Yes, it is.

Benjamin D. Cooper:

It is crazy, you know? And people in dire straits - they'll do anything. The people that are suicide bombers now - they're at the bottom of the ladder; what have they got to lose? They're told if they kill millions of people, they'll go to heaven and they will have virgins or something - all this crap, you know? It's terrible. That's why I say, "When you can spread a little peace around - true peace, you know? It's wonderful, you know?" And that's -

Jamel Lyko:

Ben, you're an amazing man.

Benjamin D. Cooper:

No, not really amazing.

Jamel Lyko:

I'm glad to have the opportunity to meet you.

Benjamin D. Cooper:

We finally met Jim.

Jamel Lyko:

Well, we did.

Benjamin D. Cooper:

I don't know what made me think you were from the town of West Hartford. I was all - I got to get a picture of you.

Jamel Lyko:

Sit. Sit. I just want to close.

Benjamin D. Cooper:

All right. Go ahead.

Jamel Lyko:

The Veteran's History Project at Central Connecticut State University thanks you, and the Library of Congress thanks you. And I thank you for a very special day meeting Ben Cooper. So thank you for the interview, Ben Cooper.

Benjamin D. Cooper:

Well, Jim, I thank you for the interview. And you're a great guy yourself, because I love the way you interview people you meet. I'm sure you do it with others. I felt very comfortable. And you have the ability to do this. You got something there. I'm not kidding you. You should write a book or something about your interviews or what you've done.

Jamel Lyko:

If I meet anybody else like you, my friend, there's a book in the future. So Ben, thank you very much.

Benjamin D. Cooper:

Thank you, and thank you (Eileen) too. Thank you all.

 
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  October 26, 2011
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