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Interview with Merwin Edwin Andrews [Undated]

Bob Weisel:

This is Bob Weisel. I am interviewing Merwin Edwin Andrews, better known as Andy. His address is 102 Hedgehog Road, West Simsbury, Connecticut 06092. He's a veteran of the U.S. Army, and we will begin with the telling of his story: Why don't we start with where you first--where was your training?

Merwin Edwin Andrews:

Well, we were--we had--we had basic training and I don't know where the heck that was because I--you just dropped something.

Bob Weisel:

Oh, that...

Merwin Edwin Andrews:

I'll tell you it was--it was--that was just basic training 13 weeks, I think it was. And then we had to go for para--parachute training, and that was for--for three months I think, yeah. That--that was down in Fort Bragg. So, that's where you--you've got--we--we qualified to be a paratrooper, and the reason I got into the paratroopers to begin with, because at the end of the--the beginning of the war and when we got into it--I got into it--the Army was paying 21 dollars a month. And by being a paratrooper you got 50 bucks extra, see. So that's--that--now you've got to remember this was all during the Depression, 'cause I went all through the Depression. And a--a family man, if you made 15 dollars a week was big pay. So, here I'm going to make 21 on top of 50, so that's--that was one of the main reasons I got into the paratroopers. So I qualified it--I qualified that, we got our jobs, we had to do five in order to get our wings, and all through there we--we were very new in the paratroopers and we were just starting, and we started by training Canadian troopers that wanted to be Airborne, and then some other people that we never--we never could get in contact with. We didn't know who they were, it was absolutely off limits to even talk to them. It was some--some country that was--that was definitely on our side, and we were--we were training them, but we had to train them by, yeah--we couldn't talk to them, they couldn't talk to us. And so--so...

Bob Weisel:

Do you remember when you got your wings, your parachute wings? Was it '43?

Merwin Edwin Andrews:

Yeah, that's--see, up there's--is my--is my--I got my wings, I got a little furlow and I went home to see my mother and my sister and that...

Bob Weisel:

That was 1943 when you were doing this.

Merwin Edwin Andrews:

Yeah, '40--yeah. Jesus. See, I--I'm--I'm not that--I'm not that sure on a lot of dates. See, what--what I have to do is I'll tell you things, but they're not necessarily in--in--lined up, see. And--and the reason for that is, I can't remember.

Bob Weisel:

Sure--

Merwin Edwin Andrews:

--See, this is over 65 years ago, and...

Bob Weisel:

Okay. So you finished--you finished training these other troops and then when did you...

Merwin Edwin Andrews:

Well, we kept training, from Bragg we went to Benning, and we were training, and we went around for--for a different--like down in Tennessee, maneuvers, and getting mainly ready. And then we got shipped over to England, but halfway there we had--we were on an English ship and it--outside of Newfoundland--the motors that they had two--two--one of them went off and so they pulled into St. Johns, and we were there for another 30 days until another ship could come back--American--resupply, pick us up, and take us into--into England. And we were in England for about 10 months, and then we--we made our jump into--when the war started. June sixth, was it?

Bob Weisel:

June--June fifth, I think. D-Day, yeah.

Merwin Edwin Andrews:

Yeah. And--

Bob Weisel:

So you jumped in the day before D-Day?

Merwin Edwin Andrews:

Day before, yeah. In the night, it was in the--in the--I remember, they had a--a thing on the--on the recruiting and on the T.V. that be us An Army Of One. That was me because I come down in the complete dark, nobody around me. So, now here I am, I'm the army of one. And we had the clicker system, have you heard of that?

Bob Weisel:

Yep.

Merwin Edwin Andrews:

And we couldn't use our--our side arms or our pistol until daylight. The only thing we could use was our knife and our--and our grenades. And so it was click-click, click-click. And so--so that's--so finally, a--a day--it was--it was daylight before I started meeting anybody, and the guys were scattered. See, what happened was--don't put this down 'cause it embarrasses people. But see, when you got into the service, if you wanted to be a pilot--at first everybody wanted to be a fighter pilot--couldn't make it, so they made them a bomber pilot, couldn't make 'em. Now you're into C-47s, see. And that's where we ended up with jumping, see. And so when they--now this is the first--when we jumped in that night, that was the first time a lot of these guys had been anywhere near--combat--any fighting. So, they--they--we were getting a lot of flak from the ground, they took off. Now, see, when you jump--now first of all, we were--we had about 80 pounds worth of equipment, I showed you my--my thing, loaded with grenades, with food, with everything that--that we were going to need on our own, which--'cause that's how we're gonna be, we're gonna be on our own. And we're not gonna have any aid, any connection with anybody until--from the--until the people from the shore--the fellas that break through and come up and - and relieve us. That was--that was one of the reasons why we couldn't take prisoners--because we had no place to put 'em. And, so--so we had the guys were scattered all over, and to--to get us back into my own outfit took two days--to find out, you know--get 101st 'cause 82nd jumped at the same time, and so we were intermingled which was all right, 'cause that 82nd was a good outfit. And, it was that--that's when we started, and our--and our deal was that the reason we went there--that we jumped in there was because we were gonna disrupt communications, we were gonna take over, and if they had to be destroyed--bridges, so tanks and other equipment couldn't get through to the shore to stop the thing, and we--we done all that. If you read--there was--there was--101st was “The Longest Day” (the movie), “Saving Private Ryan”, “A Bridge Too Far”, and there's one more. And we--we did that. I think it was--I don't know, one of the things showed where the 101st wiped out four artillery guns that were shootin' on the shore. And so that's why we didn't have that many casualties--coming in on our--on our... And--but we did have a lot of casualties by the time--'cause we were in Normandy for 30 days, and then we went back to England, got resupplied, got replaced, and that's the time I started taking--because I had my section--I had 13 men, including myself, and our wire section. And now I'm smart. Now we've got a whole--we've got a whole--a place full of--hangar full of recruits. So, I--first of all, I went in and asked left-handers “Anybody left-handed? and they put up their hand. And I said, “Oh, well, line up over there.” And then I would get a strong, tough--I mean--because what we had to do--we had--we had a small 24-drop switchboard that we carried with us. We had wire, rolls of wire, and so now we needed--not smart, but strong, and the reason for the left-handed--because if you ever see guys right-handed are--they're all marching like this. A left-handed guy is like this. 'Cause now, when we go out to lay wire to listening posts, which is generally beyond the--the--the front line or the mortar observation man, we had to lead to him, so going out we would have what we called the diamond formation. I would be first, there would be a man in the middle, there would be a man here, a man here, and a man back. And so--so that's where--and the reason I got that was because I was raised up in the Catskill Mountains and I knew--I knew woods very well. I knew how to look, 'cause I could--I could tell if the--like if they had a--cut down a lot of branches to make a little hide place. I could tell by the difference between the leafs, had they been cut, and a lot of things and how it was made up, and, I mean, this come natural. And so whenever I saw that, I would give this guy and this guy that (gesturing), and that meant they're gonna have to sneak around the back 'end--blow. And--and so that--that was--that was tough. At one time in Holland, I--I got out with my guys, we were laying wire, and that morning got daylight and--and it was so flat that we could only work at night. And we--we were disoriented, we didn't know where the hell we were, and so it got light, so we headed down in a ditch--three of us, and we were there all that day until the following--following night. And, see, what happens is the password changes every night, so now we don't know what the next password is. So now we've got to get back through our lines, but--and that--that's one of the joys of being a soldier.

Bob Weisel:

Do you--who was the commanding officer of the 101st? Was that General Gavin?

Merwin Edwin Andrews:

Gavin, yeah. And--but he wasn't with us in the 101st, see. That's all downstairs.

Bob Weisel:

Okay. How many of your men--how many of the guys you jumped with into Normandy--

Merwin Edwin Andrews:

I like to find out--see, here's--here is one of the only reasons I'm doing this. Hopin', see, I jumped in Normandy, I jumped in Holland, we did Holland and the Belgium, we did Bastogne, we did all the way up to Hitler's Hideout up in Berchtesgaden.

Bob Weisel:

Mm-hm.

Merwin Edwin Andrews:

And I'm rare. See, I am. Because of that, and I'd like to know if there's anybody else from--from the 82nd, I mean 101st Airborne Division--had made that--all of 'em. Because, see, we had a lot of casualties, and so by the time we--we got up to Berchtesgaden, I didn't even know half my people, because we were all (gesturing)--and I didn't know the guys from Message Center, I didn't know the guys from A Company, B Company, C Company. I used to know everybody 'cause two years in England you get to know 'em. We played football together, we went... And, so I don't know if there's anybody--anybody like me left. Today, looking through the--through the obituaries, I found one. I told you I--from the 82nd. That--I don't know who he was of course, but every day I look, I can't find anybody from the 101st or 82nd, I mean, this is the first one in--in years--that I found. See, now the 101st is--is into--they're all modern with their helicopters and that stuff, and they don't fight the wars like we fought 'em. I mean, you know, the front line trenches and so forth, and getting shelled, and...

Bob Weisel:

When--when you jumped in, you went in with a--with a platoon. Is that correct?

Merwin Edwin Andrews:

Well, you go in with a company, and, yeah.

Bob Weisel:

How many of that company survived the first--survived D-Day? Do you have an idea?

Merwin Edwin Andrews:

When I went back to England, I had Snuffy Smith and myself.

Bob Weisel:

Snuffy?

Merwin Edwin Andrews:

Snuffy Smith. He was--the reason he survived is because he lied his age and got into the Airborne. And we--and the time we spent in Bragg and Benning - he was from the South, his mother came to visit. And she got to know me and she kept saying “Andy please, take care of my boy,” see. And so when we went there, I used to keep him back, either on the--on the switchboard--if we didn't have a switchboard setup, I'd still have him back--'cause we would go--be going on--in fact--you can't put this down. On the bridge--on Carrington, we were going up this causeway, and we were being strafed by the Stukas--this was at night. Because in the day time, we had to air our superiority, and the Stukas would come out at night. Well, if--if they had sirens on their wheels--landing wheels, plus the noise they made when they went down, there was--Beechum said, “You couldn't drive a needle up my ass with a sledge hammer.” 'Course they'd have--and, another thing that you can't put in there is that the--about the 10 months we spent in England, we were out in the country and we--we, generally every company would go to a--a--a nice place where you could put up Quonset huts, and that's what we had. And they had--from England, from London, and the big cities, they would send the girls that were around 15-16 out, and they were called the land army girls. They were supposed to work with the family that took 'em to, you know, to work there. And they were there until, I think 17, and then they could join the--or let's see, we had to WAVES and WACS. They had--they had another thing. For they could join at--but, what happened--we had--that's--this is one of the times that I got broke down from sergeant--sergeant--after we came back from--I was putting--sending my guys out to lay wire--I give 'em, you know, you go here and here, and then I--I would have the centerfold, and I go to sleep under the jeep. And I guy caught, so this is--this is one of the times I got (gestures), but this happened quite often. But anyway, what--what had happened was, two of my guys--they had haystacks out there. If you've--if you've ever been in--they have four posts, they have a roof that they can raise up, and it's to take the hay down. What they had done, they had made a little room in there, and they had two Land Army girls that were--that were in business. And--and they knew that I knew, but that was--that was--we'll delete that. I mean...

Bob Weisel:

So you--you--you left--you left Normandy, went back to England, got refitted--

Merwin Edwin Andrews:

Yeah

Bob Weisel:

--and then where did you go?

Merwin Edwin Andrews:

Then we jumped in Holland. That was a day jump.

Bob Weisel:

And this was the “Bridge Too Far” time?

Merwin Edwin Andrews:

Yeah. Yeah. That was there. And see what we did, we held--we held the--the--the car door open for Dempsey's 8th Army, which was in Africa and the desert, so forth, to come through, relieve the Red Devils, which were the British paratroopers that had gone up there on the Bridge Too Far, see. And so we would push back every--every morning so he--they could come through and they had a lot of trouble. We couldn't get 'em. They were blowing 'em up and all that stuff, and they couldn't get there that fast, so the Red Devils took a hell of a beatin'. And so when they came back, it was getting onto--the weather was cold. They--we were going--we were being relieved and so we--whatever we did have, like long underwear and so forth we gave to them because they were gonna--pretty sad situation. And there were so many things that I--I can't help remembering because they impressed me to the point--the Eighth Army dropped off a tank because her could only do five miles an hour, so they left that and--where we were, and we were guarding a bridge and so forth. And so when we were going to push 'em back, now we had a tank. This was the first time we ever had a tank. It was--it was just do what you can. And I heard--I was--we were going along and I heard this b-r-r-r-t and that was--so the guy in the tank was up there with a machine gun. These two kids, now we--we--we fought and we killed some awful young kids, and when we got up to maybe a hundred yards up, you saw what the b-r-r-r-t was. Two kids had stayed into a--a--a bridge when going from the road to the fields and everyplace and there was a big ditch. And they had this pipe. It was a two-foot pipe and two kids must have come in at night and some way got disconnected from their--with their bunch and so if they'd have stayed in the--in the pipe, they'd have been all right. But they--they panicked and they started to run out just as the tank was going over. Now I can remember seeing this--two blond-headed kids, real young. I mean, and this--one--the one in the back is pushing the other like--it was like a statue. It was like--it shouldn't be, but it was, and here they are b-r-r-r-t. they got 'em right across the--and of course they died instantly. It's snowin'--.

Bob Weisel:

Yes, it is.

Merwin Edwin Andrews:

--and something like that--and then another time in Holland--in Belgium, to be in--battalion fire chief--B Company, which was out on the line, needed more wire because they allow--they had their own people that they had lay wire to, and so there was a dis--well from here to the main road out there. I had had a bike, I had a bike that--a German bike 'cause they had a lot 'em. So we put a half a mile of wire on the back of the bike and the guys gave me a push and I--going through. Well, I been shot at a lot of times. I--you know, you hear a click, click, click. And I could hear 'em because they could see me--I mean--because I'm very, very--this exposed. And so when I got there I--I kept feeling something hitting the bike--when I got there, now the wire--a tube of wire was about --a roll about that big, about that thick. When I got there, I took it off and the guys looked at it. The bullets had gone through there and pieces of wire--now--now I had to stay there until things quieted down so I could get back. Because I had spokes gone and--but see, this is the thing that amazed me: I was so lucky so many times. There was one time we were advancing up the road and there was a tank, a German tank, the airplanes had destroyed and there was a German guy hangin' out. And the place--the place was smoke--smokin', so up ahead they had a stop for some reason, so when they stopped we sat down. Well, I sat--I was--I was closer than I am to you, and the tank blew up, and a piece of the--of the--of the armor went right between the two of us. I mean a piece, big piece, and there I am. I'm a--and I mean that's just one of several things that--that made me feel so lucky, and that's been happening all my life, all my life. And I--I--I--I can't--I don't know how.

Bob Weisel:

No explanation for it.

Merwin Edwin Andrews:

Yeah. No explanation. Right, just--just luck. We had--when we drove to Normandy--here we go back again. The British had developed some kind of explosive that was--it was a sock about this long and on the end of it was the thing that looked like a--the top of a catsup thing. And then you had a stick of this--a, explosive that when you wanted it, you would shove it into this sock. Now this here--a--thing was a ball bearing, and when you threw it like that, the ball bearing would--would--would ignite the explosion, and it was a fabulous explosion. We tried it out on--on a training, but we didn't get a hell of a lot of training on it. And if you put, like we would get into a situation where we would take over the guys that--the enemy would be in--stone, everything is stone there, there's no wood. And they would be in there--had all the--the windows with tables and so couldn't threw grenades in. But if you put--threw one of those things against that, I could be this far away from you, throw it, all the explosion went that way. And when you went in to look, the stones and--wiped out everything. I mean, it was a great--but it had--it had--the guys would just arm it--and--and they knew--because they knew that was for tanks, see. And--that's another story. The tanks were--they showed us on an old tank in England where you could hit it and it would blow up all the treads and--and--and you were completely safe, but the guys that would--would arm it and there--now there's no need to loot it--need it, here they are now with this loaded thing on their person, and they didn't know how to unload it. I mean, 'cause they never told us that. And so a couple of the guys got killed because of that, so they stopped us from using them. Now, talking about tanks and--and--and bombs--this is in the Battle of the Bulge, Bastogne. I had my wire section and see, if you notice the houses in these countries were right up close to the road, there's no lawns, because they wanted the--the thing for hay or for--no, not for hay, but for whatever else they used. Because for--for--for the cattle--because they were so limited with pasture land and so forth, they couldn't grow hay, but what they did grow was a--a type of--of beet, beets. The used that, and then when they would dig 'em up, they would put 'em in a pile like this and cover 'em up with grass and so forth. And so we--we--we got into that in Bastogne and gave everybody diarrhea because it was so frozen--we didn't--it was partly frozen. But anyway, the city--town of Rachamps--I was in the second floor with my people and we had our--a--the switchboard there, and what we did was--is because a lot of times tanks would go in, German tanks, and they'd come back. They'd go out and look around, and so what we would do, we would put a tank mine in the middle of the road, and we would put a wire--one of my wires--from that, about a hundred foot that way and another hundred foot that way. So the reason for that is if a tank, one tank came through, we would pull it so they were going to hit it with a tread. And if more than one, they would pull it completely over because if one got hurt then the other two--other one or other two would know something's going on up there and all hell breaks loose. So that's--that was our defense of the--but, I'll tell you, here's my luck again. The--the second--the second tank parked right under the window where we were. Now, you've got--you know a tank is pretty high and here we are. We're almost looking at him, but we can hear them talking, had to be quiet. But the motor from the--from the tank--and--and--and if they had been any smarts at all, we had had a lot of our wire coming in through that window there, see. They would--they would suspect, but they didn't. And there was my luck again.

Bob Weisel:

So, where did you get wounded?

Merwin Edwin Andrews:

In--I got wounded in, let's see. The first--I--I got wounded twice. I got shrapnel in my--here to here. That was--I don't remember--I don't remember. I'll--it'll come to me. The second time I was with BB Gun. Now, the BB Gun was our communications officer, see. Now he was a 90-day wonder because in order--at the--when I joined up you had to have an IQ that would equal--you could also go to Officers Candidate School, so some of the guys went. But he went and he came back to us, so now we're in Holland and we're--we're--we're running out of wire, so we--we go off to no man's land, and--'cause where we were before we had laid wire because we had come back. We pushed and came back. And so--so we went out to retrieve some of the wire we knew was out there. Well, they saw us, the Germans saw us and they started Lobbing mortars, so you could tell by the sound that the--you're gonna get nailed if you don't get the hell out of there. Well, in Holland there's no--there's no cellars because of the water, but they have a, like a crawl space and windows, or a place to get in under there if you want to. Well, I dove for that, and when I did, I cut up my face, and so that was that. And then I heard BB hollering, “Andy, Andy.” Now, the worst thing is that the--when your buddy gets hurt. What are you gonna do? Like that was in--on this bridge up in Holland where we were kind of in the woods and this shell hit and we were laying down but it was--it hit up in the woods, in the trees, and the exposure was down. You hear guys callin' and you go over there and here the blood is coming out. There's nothing you're gonna do--there's nothin'. And so this--this--a lot of guys wouldn't even go--and go see 'em. They'd just ignore 'em, because... And so anyway, BB was callin' me and I just didn't do anything and he come around the building and I'm. Now, there's nothing wrong with me, see. So he picks me up, puts me on his shoulder, and taking me back. Now, at night we got back to--from where we left from, I jumped off and said, “Thanks BB!” Now, see that was--that was another--that was my second--either the second or first. I think I got--I got.

Bob Weisel:

The shrapnel wound?

Merwin Edwin Andrews:

Yeah.

Bob Weisel:

Was that in Holland or France?

Merwin Edwin Andrews:

I can't remember. Well, it was after this. It was after this thing here. And it had to be after that when I got hit with shrapnel. And it--and it went in, but it didn't--it didn't bother me too much. But the bleeding before--so I had to go to the Aid Station to have them--they could pass it out and then they put me in the hospital for a while. And that had--that had--yeah. Because in Bastogne our--our--our hospital, field hospital was wiped out, was captured, see. So we had, no--nothing there, and I had--I had dropped, I think it was a roll of wire on my foot and--and we had--well, I've got frostbite now on my feet, ears, and nose. And, so I didn't realize I was hurt because my feet were so cold. And I--up in my--my groin, something started swelling up. So when they--when--when Patton broke through to us, no one could get out and go to a field hospital, so I went there and that was another sad situation. There was two--two young kids, the frostbite had just--'cause they had those big boots on. And so I got in--I was in the ambulance with them and they were down on the bottom and I was up at the top. There was four people in the ambulance, and smelled terrible. And we got--we got to the aid station, they had me on the table and they took--and--and these two kids. They had to cut their legs off because that gangrene had set in. Now, the trouble in Bastogne--the Battle of the Bulge--was we were in the hilly position and there was a field down there and the woods, and what the Germans would do--we would get all together--and then they would start sending guys over that field. We were shooting 'em like fish in a barrel, and then it would snow just like this. There was snow during the night. Now, when you left, when it got dark, the place was almost covered with gray--with uniforms. But in the morning when you went back, it was perfect--the scene--they were all covered with snow. But what they were sending at us was cooks, office people, old men, young men, sailors who never--they never-had no idea, and their stupid officers are--doing like when World War I. If you read that book, you'll see. Pushing them into machine gun fire and--and you could pick 'em off as you--at leisure. And, well, that-that was, that was that.

Bob Weisel:

So, what--what kind of food did you have most of the time. Was it C-rations?

Merwin Edwin Andrews:

Yeah, in the box--which we saved. The chocolate was so bad that--well, I'll tell you, Christmas Eve, we hadn't eaten--so, for a long time. And the backpack that everybody had, which you could put in your cigarettes, your socks, your underwear, and whatever. And it had a little pocket on the side where everybody would--the bouillon for making soup was in a package, and a lot of guys would put it in there and forget about it. And--and--and in Bastogne we couldn't have a fire because there was--so we couldn't heat up water to make that soup. So, when finally we were back far enough, and the wind was--and everything was in our favor, I went through all the guy's things and found three--three things of bouillon. So we made that in a helmet--cook it. And that was Christmas Eve dinner.

Bob Weisel:

So that would have been Christmas Eve '44.

Merwin Edwin Andrews:

Yeah, yeah. And then--and then we finished there. We were--we were all the way up to Berchtesgaden and my deal was once a week, I would take my crew out because SS troops that were up-billeted in there--that's all they were, around Hitler's--were taking off because they had--they knew that we would kill 'em. Because that was--they all were told propaganda that we would kill 'em. So we had to go--what we would do, we would get a--a German from one of the villages. I showed you the picture of that down there. The German person that spoke English, we would go out and we'd get when--somebody, we knew everybody. She would holler “You'll be safe, they won't hurt you,” such a, such a, such a, and we could take 'em in. And that was--we took in quite a few. So this one situation that you shouldn't even put this on the thing, that one of the guys who went out the week before told me about this place--chateau up in the--up in the woods. It was a building maybe 40 by 10 or 12, was like an apartment house here, apartment house there, all on one floor. And in the middle was where you had the wood stored, and you took off your boots and so forth, and kept your skis or whatever you had. And so he said the one of the left, there was a woman there, and she had--when he was looking through her stuff, she had a lot of American money. And--but he was--his name was Don Rooden. Don't put his name down.

Bob Weisel:

What was it?

Merwin Edwin Andrews:

So he told me where it was so I went up there. What had happened, I had--in this village I showed you--these--my Lieutenant BB, I let him put all this stuff there and in my room. So when I went up, I took his--I made myself a captain, see, and a hat. So I went up there and I went in, and I had a stick, just like a crop like in the movies and I went through the stove and everything and I--and Rooden had told me that it was in a shoe box up over a bunk, so I took it and it was in--I was so surprised. So I took it, I made a thing, and all that bullshit. And there was 1,100 dollars. So, in order to get it home, I had to rip it in half and said, you know, in the letter I would say, “I'm lucky, I found this half as a memento. I got the whole 1,100 to a friend, because both my sisters were--one was 16, one was 13. They're trying to make it on their own in--in New York City. And so I sent it to my buddy that I knew forever and so he ended up with all--with all the money. So when I come back, I went to get it. And--but while I told her, I said, “Stay right there, if you try to leave we'll shoot ya.” So I went back and--and I was up in my room and I looked down the street and here she--here she comes with two guys--SS. She's gonna complain, so she went right up to Headquarters and complained. Now I got a--I got a switchboard up in Headquarters, so I got a man on the switchboard that hears everything that goes on and she told--she told them--that their guys were giving up--they were all right, but she wanted her money back. And--well, you know who took it, and she said, “Him.” Our S2 officer, who had the captains... Now there's my luck again. So I had to--I had to stay out of the picture for a while. Oh, well.

Bob Weisel:

Okay, after the Battle of the Bulge, where--where did--you were up--

Merwin Edwin Andrews:

--we went right on up through--all the way up into Berchtesgaden.

Bob Weisel:

Mm-hm.

Merwin Edwin Andrews:

Yeah.

Bob Weisel:

Is that where you were when the war--when--

Merwin Edwin Andrews:

--hm?

Bob Weisel:

Was that where you were on VE Day?

Merwin Edwin Andrews:

Yeah. Yeah. I--oh, that's right. That's where I got--because I was in the hospital. And when I got out I had to sign myself out, but I was in Paris--in France, and the guys were up in Muchen--Munchen. And so I had to get--get to an airport and--and--and find our plane that was going up that way and I hitchhiked up and, oh, I reported in, and the war was over. So that was that.

Bob Weisel:

And--and what happened after that? What--where--what did you do after that?

Merwin Edwin Andrews:

Well, then we went--that picture there.

Bob Weisel:

Mm-hm.

Merwin Edwin Andrews:

Where we were in Bavaria. That's when we started gettin' into--gettin' our points home--to go home, and that's where I was offered a good--anything, just about anything to stay, but like I say, I had two sisters and--to get off, and here you have eight--eight million guys being relieved from the service. Try to find a job. So the bus job I had, that I could find in New York City was--I don't know if you ever--in college, what they were doing in college, if you had a son or something, you would send him a bar of--a basket of food or somethin'. I got a job in that place putting the--making up the baskets of food. Here I am--but, I couldn't keep with that. And that--that went...

Bob Weisel:

So, after--after you were discharged, you went to New York City and--

Merwin Edwin Andrews:

Yeah.

Bob Weisel:

--and then what did you--after the fruit packing job what did you do after that?

Merwin Edwin Andrews:

Well, I went--went back up to Newburgh. Well, I had gotten married, but that's a whole different piece of business. I don't know how it happened, but I was writing this lady that was a friend of my sisters and she assumed that we were engaged, but that's--that--that's all right. And I got a job at this--in Newburgh where they made the gas for cooking, and so--so what my worst job was when it was freezing. Now, you've seen these gas things that go up? Well--and they've got water in them all the way? Well, see, when they got gas in 'em, they'll go up, and so when there was--when they--as they use the gas, they would go down. So, they're big round things. My job was the first week--was walking around that with a stick to make sure the ice didn't freeze--the water didn't freeze. Because if it froze, the thing would stay up there and then when it melted, it would come down there and ruin the whole thing. So, the second week, now here I am, I don't know nothing. They put me in charge of--this is at night--of--now the gas went to Newburgh, Peekskill, Poughkeepsie, West Point. And each one, was outside, had weights, so you had to watch the--the--how much is going--you couldn't let 'em get too full--too much, you couldn't let 'em get too little, so you had a thing in there. So you watch it, and if it started you either go out and take off weights or put the weights on. This is--this is... Okay, I survived that. Then they put me on days. Now this--now here they are--now this is an old--this is an old piece of business. This--this really--I had--in fact, I had--the elevator was so bad, that I had to get charcoal and put it in a cart, put it in the elevator, start it up, and run around because they wouldn't let people get on it because it was so old. And then they would pour that in, and back and forth. And they would make--and--and if you ever seen a--a gas place where they make it, all the bid--they've got sheets of metal and they're all on--so when they purge it, “foo.” I mean all--that's why--that's why--these things will flap up--scared us--scary. And they...

Bob Weisel:

Did you--did you think about going to college on the GI Bill?

Merwin Edwin Andrews:

In fact, when I--when I got married, we--we did get married, 'cause I had no place to go. I had no business getting married, but I had no place to--I was sleeping on the floor. My--my sister--my sisters--and so--but getting married--and I had a place. And, she was--I was going to an auxiliary school to get the points for college, 'cause I didn't have 'em because, ya. But that way--and she became pregnant, so I wouldn't have a baby in New York, so I went back up to--to--to Newburgh, and that's where I had the job, and that's why I say you're going to have to put that together--everything. And, okay, what else?

Bob Weisel:

What metals did you win? Purple Heart. What else?

Merwin Edwin Andrews:

I got a Presidential Citation, I got a Unit Citation for--from President--we got--we got two--two Presidential--the Division got two Presidential Citations. I got a Cit--Personal Citation, I think it's downstairs--for continuous wire service. And we got--I don't know what the hell these all things are for. I had a list what they're for, but I don't have the slightest idea. But we--a lot of them were--Bronze Star, Purple Heart, the ones--the only things that--that I think anything of was the blue one up there, the infantry. That's where--and then--and then--yeah, the blue one, the infantry one, the Purple Heart, and what the hell else was there--yeah, my parachute wings. That's the only I--I ever would wear. The rest--and--and--and I feel guilty wearing the Purple Heart because you could be dead, you could have two legs missing, you could have two arms missing, you could be--and you still get the same thing.

Bob Weisel:

But you got shot.

Merwin Edwin Andrews:

That--that--it's--I mean.

Bob Weisel:

I understand.

Merwin Edwin Andrews:

It's not fair. I mean, here I am, and so many of the guys I trained with for--for years are no longer here and so it's--I feel guilty. But that's the way it is. Yeah, that there, yeah, that one there I had--I was--they put me in the thing for the parade up here, and--in town. They have it once a year. And what it is--Dave Frink, who was the captain and not the--not the First War, but what was the next one?

Bob Weisel:

Korea? Vietnam?

Merwin Edwin Andrews:

Korea, yeah. He was the captain there, and we're very good friends. And he--he has--he has trouble walking. His knees are bad. He would be here today, but--but he had to go to the hospital and...

Bob Weisel:

Well, maybe I should interview him.

Merwin Edwin Andrews:

Yeah.

Bob Weisel:

Did you have any trouble adjusting after you got back? Did you have nightmares?

Merwin Edwin Andrews:

With what?

Bob Weisel:

With nightmares or anything like that?

Merwin Edwin Andrews:

Well, I stuttered. I had--I had a problem getting rid of that. I had to concentrate every time I said anything. I had to think about how I'm going to say it, and then say it. But if I ba-da-da-dat--if I shot it out, I--I would stutter. But, oh yeah, I still do. When I watch these stupid things, these war things, I don't sleep at night. And--and--and--and--that's not like me. I mean, things don't bother me. I--I--in--in this here jumping--jumping in Normand--I mean, in Holland, I went all summer to qualify and--for the 45th, and then--then for the 50th Anniversary I--I qualify, went through it, and I won it when I was on my 75th birthday. I jumped for--'cause I'm 75--on birthday. So, I'm 90, in fact I worked--she doesn't know it, but I tried--I've got a--I had plane lined up from New York that I could exit from the back, see. Before the ones that on my 75th, you had to get out on the wing. It was a little plane and hang onto this strut and go. And--which was very--because my legs aren't that strong, I'm not that strong anymore, and so I wanted to go off the back--had it all set, had the jumpmaster. And so I had to get a--a thing from the doctor. I got a pacemaker here, and they--he said--he said the--the strap for the parachute goes right up there, and it'd pull it right out of my body. So, I'm glad I didn't say anything to her, because she--she--oh, she... See, we're not married. We've been shackin' up for 33 years. When things were slow, I would work across the street for a metal place, so I became a metal banger, and I found out that the guy that I worked for, the sign guy, was a crook. What he would do, he would take your money for a sign and then--then you would say--he'd say well it'll take a month to get it, and you would say ___+ all had winter clothes. We didn't have none of that, that's why everybody, like I got--like frostbite on my feet and my hands. And when I read a book, I mean, when I--when I try to go from page to page, I am--I gotta have my eyes tell my fingers what to do. Okay, that was a good one. But if I get a double, I'm in trouble. I blow on it and--and. No, you--if you--you gotta read that book. You--you'll get a big charge out of it.

Bob Weisel:

Okay, well I want to thank you for your time.

Merwin Edwin Andrews:

Mm-hm.

 
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  October 26, 2011
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