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Interview with Mike Colalillo [n.d.]

Mike Colalillo:

[ANSWERS ONLY; QUESTIONS NOT RECORDED] My parents were from Italy. And, uh, my father first, uh, he had four children. And he came over to the United States first, and worked over here at the mines up in Hibbing until he had enough money for my three, uh, four children - um, or their four children - to come over here. After he got that, they came over to the Ellis Island first. And one of my sisters Mary, she wouldn't talk. But if you don't talk when you get in there and move around or something, or there is something wrong with you, they won't let you in Ellis Island. And my mother had a picture on a button. And she hollered and everything, so. And then they let her in. But it...well, we all moved up to Hibbing and that's where we were for I don't know how many years because we had more...my mother had more family then.

Yeah. In the mines. Oh, in the mines. All mines up in Hibbing. Uh, yeah. He... Oh, oh, well, he was, uh... And you have to have a sponsor, you know? And we had, uh, he...friends from the same location in Italy and they sponsored him to come over here in Janoosee's [PH] . And, uh, and that's how we got over here, you know? And, uh, work was done up in, uh, Range [PH] and then they moved on to Duluth.

That, like I say, three years old. That's what they tell me anyway, so. [LAUGHS] And then, uh, we played and we went to school there for many, many, many years. And the neighborhood was really very rough neighborhood we grew up from it. We called it Raleigh Street [PH] . And they, and they all stuck together. We had different, uh, people, different denominations, like Italians and, uh, and we had Croatians and, and uh, and colored people, and we had some Finnish people, and we had some Norwegians and we had, uh, you know, all different kinds of... And it didn't make no difference, but it...and they all stuck together.

We all... You know, they all, uh... Nobody fought with each other to get better, whatever. But we all stuck together. That was one thing. All in the neighborhood. We never used to... Nobody hated to come down there, because we would fight with 'em, [LAUGHS] you know?

No. Heck no, we didn't. We all stuck together. Went to each other's houses. And you know, and we used to laugh, you know? And, uh, and we used to... Mothers... All of them. The mothers, you know, of us. And "Hey Mikey, come on home." Or "Johnny, come on home," or something like that. That's, that's the way it was there, you know? And you know, and we had a good time. We, we... It was rough, but we had a good time. Well, I had no complaints about the, the neighborhood that we lived in, you see?

No, I was born in Hibbing. When I was three years old, we left Hibbing. And came to Duluth. Hibbing is in Minnesota, up in the mining countries. That's about all I can tell you. The mining countries that surround Grand Rapids. It surround, uh, Nashwock [PH] , Chisholm [PH] , Hibbing. And all mining countries in there. And that's where Hibbing is. It's one of the biggest, uh, towns in there. All ore. Or now I see they are making techimate [PH] up there. So it's the little pellets that, um, better or whatever. They got more ore in 'em whatever, I don't know.

But we had, we had a good time. And after that went out, I was about oh, I see two 18 years old. And we wanted to go down... Two of us wanted to go down to Florida, just...I mean, California...and see what it was. Everybody was talking about, "Oh, the movie stars here, the movie stars there." So the three of us drove down there, California. Oh... And I just turned 18. And I get a call, a call home in the middle of December sometime, I don't know what it was. And, and my sisters. I lived with my sisters at that time.

And, and they says, uh, "Mike, you better get home. You got a letter from the, uh, Department of, uh...Army Department or some, what do you call it now." I said, "Why? What's the matter?" "Well, I think you are gonna go be in the service." "Oh, OK." [LAUGHS]

So we got a bus Minnesota guy. Took a bus back home. And sure enough, I had to go down to Fort, to Fort Stallion [PH] through, uh, uh uh, get inducted. And then they check you all over and everything. And he says, "OK, well, we are totally see what's going on, to see if anything is wrong with you." And nothing wrong with me. A good young skinny kid about 100...not even 145 pounds at that time. But, uh, anyway, it wasn't a month then they call me back and says, "You're in the service." So we all got together and we shipped, uh... We took a train from, uh, Hibbing...I mean from, um, the Cities, Minneapolis or St. Paul there. And we went down to Texas. Camp Fanning [PH], Texas.

That's where I took my training for, I don't know what it was, six something like that. And I was getting used to everything, getting picked on and whatever, because I am from the rough neighborhood, and I didn't get out of that neighborhood. Like a lot of people go to this town and this town and every town. I am... I never went no place, so, uh, that's where I used to... [LAUGHS] And I didn't know nothin' about what all these people did, you know? So anyway, I got used to that. And then playing cards. I got robbed.

They went, "Well, you didn't win. You didn't tell me what you had." You know? If I had a flush, hey, I said, "Well, here is a..." "Well, what is it?" "I don't know." You know? They win the pot. But that doesn't make no difference. A bit of learning. And a lot, a lot of digging. And then I got picked on a lot, because I was a little small. But that didn't bother me too much. I got KP a lot of times. But I had...I liked that, because of the eating. I could pretty much what I wanted there, you know, on KP. And anyway, we were shipped.

And after that training, we come home for a little while, then we were shipped back down to, uh, Fort, uh... North Carolina. Fort Bragg, North Carolina. And that's where we trained a little bit more. We went... Then we rolled the 100th Division. That's what the 100th Division was from. After we got there and started training and did different stuff and crawling in mud and, and sand. And underneath when they were shooting at us, you know, how they...enemy. And we went through that two or three times, until we got used to what we were doing. And everybody was... Some of the guys were sneaking off. And I didn't hardly did. But I didn't care anyway.

1925. December 1st, 1925. Well, uh, uh, I don't know. I, uh, uh... I don't know, to tell you the truth, 'cause, uh ,when the war broke out anyway, uh, and I was 16. Well, my mother passed away first, bless her soul. And, uh, she is always watching over me, because I was the youngest in the family, you know? Well, I had a sister younger but, uh... She has always watched me, because I always got in trouble, and I don't know why.

But, uh, my Dad didn't think much of it. He said, "Well..." I was 16 when my mother passed away and, and, uh, and here comes 17 and, uh, and the war was over - it started, you know? And, and, uh, I says, "Well, it's... I won't be going, Dad." I says, "Jeez, I am... It'll, it'll be over." I says, "We got so much power, it'll be over. The war'll be over." And he picked me out and they went...we got in the service. And my Dad says, "Well, you can't do nothing, but you have got to go." I said, "Well, that's where I am going, you know?"

And there is no... What else could I do? Oh, very nice. She didn't talk very good English, let's put it. Well, my Dad didn't either. But, uh, that's all...most of the immigrants did. They wanted to talk their own language, especially in the house. And we talked very little English in the house. Mostly, uh, Italian. And my sisters always got after... uh, well, got after my Dad and my mother, "You have got to learn how to talk, uh, American, because that's what they talk now here. You are, you are in America."

Well, it didn't make no difference to them. You know how stubborn Italians can be. And, and my mother was so good. She was, oh... Well, anyway. [CLAPS] Get back to...

And my Dad he, he was a, a husky, strong little guy. He was a bully. You know, like a bully and everything. And we had big gardens. And he had big, big gardens and everything. And we lived... We grew a lot of potatoes for the winter, it took us through. And we used to slaughter a pig. Two or three family used to get together and slaughter a pig about 500 pounds, you know? And we used everything on that pig. We even bought sausage, Italian sausage. We had pork steaks, and we had... We didn't throw nothin' away. And that's what they went. When they brought somethin', they never threw nothing away, I don't think. They got everything and, and there it was.

So we... My oldest brother Pat went down to Fort Snelling [PH]. And when they heard he had three children, and it was, "No, we don't want you." So they didn't want to take him, uh, in the service." But he was down to Fort Snelling, he...to get inducted. But when they looked at his background and three children, they said, "The government has gotta pay a lot of money for your [LAUGHS] children," well, you know what? So they didn't take him anyway, but...

But going back to my mother. She... Uh, uh, like, like I told you before. She was very nice and, uh, yeah, what else can I say? Well... Looked out for me many, many times. She, she used to worry that if it's late. Uh, we used to have a steel plant right next to us, not too far. And they used to have a whistle there. Nine o'clock, that whistle blew. And everybody used to run home at...that's the time. And if that... If we weren't home at nine o'clock, my mother used to come out on the front porch and "Mikey, Mikey." Well, you know, holler.

That's just about all she learned in English, is calling my name, [LAUGHS] you know? And so we, we, we finally got home. And it's just the idea that, uh, we were talking or playing someplace else. And, and that's how it went, you know? But anyway. We had, we had a good family. We all stuck together too. Like I said, that the whole neighborhood is... And there were no refrigerators, you know, in them days. And you bought some meat or anything, and you had to go to the store and get it that day. And every day was something different.

Mostly pasta. I ate more pasta than you got... Oh God... My Dad, that's all he wanted to eat is spaghetti and this and that and that and... Well, we maybe get... Once a week we'll get a break and have some pork chops or somethin' that's cheap in the meat department or something. [LAUGHS] But otherwise, you...every meal we had was... Uh, especially on Sunday, you... We used to have the...

All the family that was... Like my sister was... Three of 'em were married then, after that we moved. My oldest sister Concetta [PH]. My brother was next, Pat. And then my sister Nikki [PH] . They all would come over the house. Oh. And all were married then. And that's what we had, spaghetti. All the time, spaghetti. And then you... My mother used to buy the cheapest meat that you could find. Like sometime chicken in there, or ribs, spare ribs in there, or meatballs and sausage or whatever we had. [CLAPS]

But I ate a lot of that. And living was pretty good. I didn't mind. Until I went to the service. And that was a lot different situation then, I'll tell you. Where did this come from, where did that come from? I had milk in the morning. Jeez, that's great for me. I had coffee every time I was home, I would... [LAUGHS] But anyway... Yes, it, it... Uh, usually, we never... Nobody had a camera. Too poor. People were too poor to, to have cameras. And that one, where it came from, I have no idea.

But I got it from somebody, and took the picture and everything. "Get in there everybody, we'll take a picture of you," you know? And it, and it came out good. So we all got a picture of that. And we used to... We got a... Getting back a little bit further, uh... We still get together, OK? All the neighborhood still gets together - who are living. But mostly, we had children. That the, the fathers and...are, are not living anymore. But, uh, we have a breakfast party the first Monday...the first Wednesday of every month, we have a... Everybody comes to breakfast.

And we get, uh, at least maybe from 25 to 40 something people, you know, all grown up and...uh, been in the service and whatever, and all retired and everything like that. We still get together. Yeah, and we still talk about this, we talk about that. "Mike, you remember this, or you remember that," or whatever, you know? And it all comes back to you once in a while, when you think about it, you know?

"Oh, you had a fight with this guy, but you beat him, or you lost," or, uh, different, different things. But it turned out pretty good. No, we lived, we lived in Duluth here, you know? But just a neighborhood. It was a small little neighborhood. And you know, maybe two or three blocks, by four or five blocks, you know, just... That's all it was. Well, we'll go with Italian, like I am. The Croatian. We have, uh...uh, Finnish down there. And we had Norwegians down there. We had colored people down there.

The Slovakians [PH] and, uh, uh, well, uh, whatever we had... I can't remember any more. But we had a lot of 'em down there. We all lived together, you know, all like one big family, uh, mostly. And everybody was scared, because it's Raleigh Street. Well, it was nothing wrong with us. But you didn't notice... Getting, getting back to what, what you were talking about and everything.

We were all pretty well, like I say, mean kids, OK? But we held our own. After the service was over, we all come home. And I, I received a Medal. You would be surprised how many people, how many come out of that neighborhood, judges, lawyers, state troopers, cops, policemen, uh, what else can I say? All... A lot of 'em came outta there. And the Chief of Police was here not too long ago. Assistant Chief of Police. We had judges. We had lawyers. Still got lawyers there, you know? So what can you think? We were mean, but they all come out just fine. You know, all these people come out of terrific, uh, things that you couldn't believe. They thought we'd be nothing, you know? [LAUGHS]

Yeah. Tough. Yeah, that's a better word, I suppose. Yeah, tough. Tough neighborhood, right. I suppose I get stuff mixed up. But you are right. Yeah. [LAUGHS] It was tough. Yes. Very much so. Yeah. And no, and like to fightin'. Or like that there. And we, we were pretty, uh, you know, up to it, and... That there is all different things, when you got in the service. And you didn't pull any straight things outta there. You towed the line. Otherwise, like I told you before, [CLAPS] you got KP or you got, uh, duty in...patrol duty outside, or duty whatever it is. But, uh, you know, if you didn't tow the line, you had something to go for. And, uh, and I did pretty good, though. And we...

Well, uh, yes. And I always think, "Well, I ain't gonna go, because it was gonna be over." Well, like I told you before, we had a lot of power. You know, and we still, still have a lot of power. But I was thinking, "How fast can we get stuff over there to fight, you know?" But they did. They did get it. And I said, "Oh, it'll be over. Ahhh, [CLAPS] don't worry about it." And my Dad says, "Mikey, don't believe what you see. You wait. It's over before you start talking to anybody." Talk a lot of broken English, my Dad did. And he always smoked those Italian cigars crooked. They call 'em "crooks," I think. And he always... You could always tell him, oh, they are smoking and... And they stunk, is what they did, you know? [LAUGHS]

Like that, but... Camp Benning [PH] , Texas. We, we did our training there. And then from there, we went to, uh, North Carolina, South Carolina. Uh, Fort Bragg, North Carolina. And that's where we, we shipped out. Then from, uh, Camp Cameron [PH] , New Jersey. And we were overseas by November something out there in some... I don't know. And in '44, yeah. No, not 'til we got on the ship and we see we were all in. If we were...were going out from New York, we were gonna to go Europe, you know that. Because if we were someplace else, I think we'd go to Japan or whatever it was over there. But we in the first battle.

Like I told you, I got a friend that still lives in the Cities. And he got wounded the first battle we went in. We lost quite a few men there. And that's when I got ruptured. I had to carry about five, six BR's [PH] and guns down the hill. And, and I didn't know what was happening. I know we were shooting, shooting, shooting, [CLAPS] until we had to pull back. And when I got down below and got the guns back to him, and Jesus, I had felt my side, and I said, "Jesus, there is something wrong with me, you know?" I paid no attention 'til the next morning, and I had a big, big bump on my, uh, uh, side down there. And so I went and told the sergeant, and he goes, "Jeez, you better go to the...you know?" [SIGHS]

Yeah, that's right, the medics down there. And so I did go to the medics. They looked and checked. Oh God, they had to call a doctor over. And they says, "Well jeez, you gotta get operated on." Oh. "You mean, I have to leave?" The first battle I got in, I wanted to... I wanted to do something, you know? And then I am... I was all hepped up after that, [LAUGHS] you know? And so they finally brought me to a, uh, Epinol [PH], France, and they operated on me. And they said, "OK, well, you are healed up now." And I go back to my company. "But no, we gonna ship you to England for a month." And that's where I went.

[CLAPS] And all that time coming, you know? And by December, I was back in my company. [SIGHS] And what's going on, I don't know. And the sergeant was trying to clue me in and everything, and "OK." And I thought it was something... I didn't care, you know? [SIGHS] Well, he made a lot of...a lot of things together when we got over there, and a lot of things. And I got the Silver Star, me and this friend of mine who has passed away, and God bless the guy, he is a good friend of mine. Anyway, we got... And we had to crawl along these... All kept...all kept us pinned down. And we didn't know what to do. And then me...me and this, uh, other friend, uh, Clay his name was, was scout sitting there. So we were...crawled and walked all the way around. And there was two machine gun there stuck there. And then we had to find out where they were coming from, and we had to crawl way behind them.

Finally we got behind them, and we see them where they were firing from. And then we talked together. We said, "What should we do? Well, we have to... We can't take both of them." So we took one, and we fought with the other one, shot at them, and they raised the white flag up and they surrendered. And we took them back there to another company. But we had to take one man and take their... And he had, uh...this one man... Well, I went back...crawled back to the company and got the lieutenant, and I told him you have to have somebody that draws their attention. So we got this one man, he drove their attentions until we got around in back of 'em, and then we got the two machine guns that's up there. [SIGHS]

So then... And then we left them up there. And then they... We had another battle, and got a Bronze Star outta that one. And, and then they saw the big one. Came up with the, them... I don't know what medals. Medals are... Uh, I never got the Medal until the war was nearly over, because that's when they give it to me, in the war. Well, and I told this, uh, other friend of mine, I said, "What are we... What we are doing? What we are getting, you know, different medals." And I don't even know what the heck the Medal is.

Yes, yeah. And we went across the Rhine and everything, yeah. Yes, it was nearly over. Yeah. Mm-hmm. Well, we were pulling back. You could see lines of Germans giving up. All lines going back to our lines, going through there. And you were still going up to the front, because there was a lot of resistance up... That they weren't giving up, these people. Especially at the neck that we were. That's where we fought. We were all going up there this morning and the whole... our whole company. So we start going up this hill...like a little hill and not quite, but then we started going up this there.

And boom, we got pinned down, all of us laid down on the ground. And I didn't know what was happening. And I got scared a little bit and found out, and then here comes two little tanks. And I, uh, crazy Mike. I got up behind 'em, and I says, "Come on boys, let's get going and let's get up outta here." And sure enough, everybody got up and they got behind the tanks most of 'em, and we started going up and getting in there. And then this, uh, shrapnel, the gun shrapnel come and hit me. Good thing it hit me in the bum, otherwise it would have hit me in the...and I would have been gone, I suppose. And that was gone, so the tank there. And I jumped on the tank right away, and I...and it...and we pinned it with the captain, the tanks. It was, "What are you doing up here?" I said, "My gun shot out of my hand. I need a gun." He was, "Well, use the Tom... Use the machine gun up there first," he says. So that's what I used, and that's... Well, told, he told me where to shoot. He, he knew the...where the machine gun nests were shooting at us, and over here and over there and over there. I don't know who or how many I shot. But they all say out of 20, 20 or 30 men, I don't remember right offhand, but... And scared didn't even come to my mind. That that... Bullets rattling off the tank and, uh... And never occurred, occurred to me, uh, occurred to me that, uh, what was going on, to tell you the truth.

And then they got... Then the gun jammed, the machine gun jammed. I said, "The gun jammed, we gotta fix it," you know? And he says, "Then forget the gunners." "And well, we are nearly outta ammunition anyway," I said, "Well then, I have to have the gun." So I took the machine gun, a Thompson sub that he had. And he give me some ammunition. Well no, I had some ammunition. I said, "Well, give me some more." Because the same ammunition that I used was for my rear gun, "grease gun." They called it a "grease gun" at that time.

And I, uh, I took that there, and I got...and I jumped off the tank. And then it's my sergeant over there, "Mike, I am wounded, I am wounded. I can't walk." I says, "OK," and I ran over there and I grabbed him and put him on my shoulder and I took him down to my line. And then we dug foxholes in there, and then they started bombing us. A lot of us...a lot of them got shot and killed and, and wounded in there, in what we were doing. And that was... That happened that one day. And we stood there one day in the...in the foxholes. And after that then they...we went and took the town, next to road, on the underbrush in Germany. And we took... And that's where the Germans were, on the other side of the river. And after that, we couldn't... We stood there for a little while and then we got relief from the...another company took over. And that's when we went back to our company. And we didn't pay no attention to it, because we went back to Bidwack [PH] for about a day or somethin'. And then he says, "Well, we are going back up on the lines again." "Ahhh, that's fine." And this, uh... Getting...

Like you said, getting shot didn't occur to me, you know what I mean? But anyway, we went back up the lines again, and started on another position, I don't know where it was to tell you the truth at this time, until they come up the lines and, uh...the front lines. And it was a...there was a platoon there. And I mean, there was a runner from the headquarters - from our headquarters company. And two MP's, and I think it was two MP's come up to him. Says, "We gotta take you back to the company." I said, "Why is that?" "I don't know," but he says, "You gotta take...get back."

Well, what are you talking about? Medal of Honor? I don't know what a Medal of Honor was, you know? And like a Silver Star or...? I don't know. What the heck did I do wrong? You know, I didn't, I didn't... Well, anyway. I got back to the company. And it's, it's, it's the captain up there. And he is lookin' at me, and he says... Well, he says, "I know you were pretty good, but I didn't know you were that good," he says. I said, "What happened?"

[LAUGHS] He says, "Here. You are gonna go back for the Medal of Honor." I said, "What's that?" He said, "That's the highest award you can get." Oh man. [SIGHS] And that changed my eyes, like I nearly got here, but... [LAUGHS] And then they kept you there for, oh, I don't know how long, maybe a couple of weeks or a week or so. And then they said, "Well, we are gonna ship you back to headquarters. And that's where you'll be more safer, and everything like that," until this August, I think they sent me home. Took me and sent me home from there, and... But, uh, when he said "the Medal of Honor," I said, "What? And oh God, I don't know." It was. Oh, they says, "You won the Medal of Honor." "What?" Then a lot of the guys said, "Boy, you are gonna get a lot of money. You are gonna go down..." And they gave me nothing. And I didn't even get 10 dollars a month.

You had to be... At that time, you had to be, oh God, a certain age, and be in the service a long time, to get 10 dollars a month. Jeez. I never got it anyway. [SIGHS] Until they passed a law that you are 40 years old. You got 40 years old, you got 100 dollars a month, and that's how it went from then on. But that, the Medal was, uh... It was amazing that I got.

But how many people believe that...? How many people recognize you, that is? "Mike Colalillo?" Yeah. "And you won the Medal of Honor." And a lot of people thought you won it. I didn't "win" nothing, no. What did I "win"? I fought for that Medal. I didn't know I was gonna get it. But I fought for that Medal. And for the people that were with me, there coulda been... There coulda been any, anybody that was fightin' with me that got it, you know? But this one sergeant was very nice to me and when I got him back down to the lines, he says, "Oh Mike, thank you, thank you very much." He says, "Don't worry." He said, "Get, get going, you know?"

And, and then he... From then on, it's... We dug our foxhole. And then our company send up wheels for us to go. And they got captured. It's the lieutenant and two other fellas got captured up there. And we didn't see them for I don't know how long. But they got relieved, they were OK then after. But otherwise, we, uh, I, I can't say nothin' more. But, uh... Then I was scared. Because I didn't know what I was getting into. He said, "Well, uh ,we are gonna take this town over here, and we are gonna take this town over here." And, and that's this...

A fella there was a scout with me, Clay. He is...he got shot in the butt twice. We were going up this hill, and both of us got it, and the company was behind us. And, uh, [CLAPS] got shot right out, and he got shot. "Mike, I am hit, I am hit." "Well, where?" He says, "In the butt." Holy crap. And I kinda laughed a little bit, but I didn't. I felt sorry, because I got behind...I got behind the tree. And I says, "OK, I'll crawl over to you. I'll get the medicine, and I'll crawl over to you." And I hollered for the medics back there, you know they come up.

Boom, a shot rang out again, and he got hit again in the same place. Not the same place, but in [CLAPS] the butt. He says, "Mike, I am hit again." Oh man. I says, "Clay, I don't know what to do." I said, "If I crawl over there, I am gonna get hit." So I said, "Just stay where you are, I'll crawl back and we'll get going."

And when I crawled back, then the sergeant said, "No no, Mike. We are gonna go around. We are gonna get this town." And that's what we did. And then me and the sergeant and about four or five of us went around. And here we caught this German, one man up there was sniping at us. All young kids, just like I was anyway. And we got him, then the rest of the company turned up. And then this guy that got shot...I mean, he was in the tech when we got back there. And the lieutenant said, "You can go see him if you wanna. You know, he is OK."

Then he went back and we talked a little bit and we took him in the ambulance and went back to the... Yeah. Clay, yeah. Survived and back. And just passed away, I would say, a year or so ago. And he was a little older than me. And I would say two or three years older than I was.

No, no. He was from New York, yeah. For combat? It will, in a way. Uh, it will, in a way, because you don't know quite how to use your weapons at the time, or what's... Who is in there? Huh, you know? Is it...? I could use a...your, your rifle, you can use a gun, or you can...I mean, uh, uh, a knife or whatever. But, uh, in boot camp, brought you up to things that you would normally do, if you were up in the lines. And it did. It, it, it... And boot camp was, uh, uh, uh... You can tell anybody or tell it...that you will learn a lot in boot camp, that you would never learn by yourself, if you were up on the lines.

If you didn't have boot camp when you were up on the lines, you are gonna ask yourself, "What am I gonna do next?" Boot camp will tell you a little bit more what you are gonna do. And get to the point where you are gonna go. And that's the expression that we got when we...that I got myself when we went up there to fight. And I, uh... And it comes back to you, you know?

Uh, uh, no. These kids that are listening, maybe listening to me or something in school or whatever. You gotta listen. If you go to the service, and listen to your sergeant or, uh, lieutenant, whoever is instructing you. Because this is gonna come back to you later on. How to fight, how to get prepared for what you are gonna do. You don't know who you are gonna fight yet. But you'll know a little bit what they teached you in boot camp. And that came back to me. And that... And some of it you did on your own that you thought, "I did do better in boot camp."

Yeah. [LAUGHS] You would get...you would get a lot of these guys that would come to you and say, uh, "Mike, come on, let's do it that way, you know?" "Well, let's throw a couple of grenades first. Let's see what's going on, you know?" And that's...sometimes that's what we did, you know? And it helped out a lot, you know? And, and, uh, we got back pretty good that way. So boot camp was just wonderful, to teach anybody up on the lines. And you know, and you'll come back to that. And you'll, you'll do it your way mostly, and then do it a little bit the other way. And that's what I come out to do.

And, uh... That's the trouble. I was unafraid. I didn't know what I...what was gonna happen. And I didn't know if I was gonna get shot. What? Uh, I didn't know. Uh, well, a bullet coulda hit me any time, you know? Yeah, yeah. To me, I didn't even think of it, uh, let's put it that way. And you know, I, I should have. But after I jumped down off of the tank and carried the, uh, two on my back, and then it hit me, "What the heck did I do," you know? You know, it's all in your head. "What? Are you crazy or what?" But I wasn't crazy. Later on, I, I know that I did something right and I saved a lot of people. And that was the most important part that I, that I did. Yeah. So it came out pretty good. That I kinda... Huntergrisham [PH].

We were outside the town. We were in the town, and we left the town, and went up. We all got ready there to go up where, where this action took place, yes. But not exactly in the town fighting. The town...another town was up there, that's the name of it was Huntergrisham. And that's where we...most of the action took place. And the Metz River [PH] was there, and that's where the Germans were on top of the other side of the river, with their guns. Right. We were all pinned down, to two locations, we come up. And that's when I got up and hollered to 'em, "Come on, let's go." And we all got up, right behind the tank. A lot of 'em got shot. [SIGHS] Those little small tank. I couldn't tell you right offhand what the thing is, but... I was one of the lucky ones. And so were the rest of 'em. Because a lot of 'em got killed. A lot of 'em got, uh, yeah. Yes, yes. We, we all took care of ourselves. Took care of the next person.

Like I say, if you are going up like... There was Clay in there. And we were on the, on the front all the time. He watched me, I watched him. Who was ahead of us watched each other, 'cause I coulda got killed a lot of times. There was a, there was a guy sitting on that little hill, a German with his gun. I got by the guy, I couldn't see him, and...but Clay saw him. He says...he hollered to me, and I turned around, and there he was. The guy is giving up anyway. The Germans are giving up. And I said, "OK." So we took him, we took him back to the company. So they interrogated him, you know? And then we caught another German coming out of the woods. He gived himself up, and he says, "Well, our president... President, uh, Roosevelt died." "What?"

We never knew nothin' about it. But he did. And we couldn't figure that out, you know? The river was farther away, OK. But there was hills on both sides of us that had machine gun that's...German machine gun that's there. And that's what we were shooting at. And that's when the tanks came up. And then they told us where the machine guns were shooting from, and that's where we are. But those Germans still were throwing bombs at us. Oh, they were... We had a little whisk gun. No, it's a pistol with, uh... It's got a wire coming out the back to put on your shoulder. It slides in with the, uh... The stock would slide in and out. But it takes .45 ammunition. It isn't good for far away. It's for close, uh, action.

Like in one would be far away or, or he'll probably be in his, uh, next want to be, hmmm, you know? But the Thompson is close. If you want to get a lot of people and they are all in one spot, use a Thompson, because it'll spread out and just rattle off. There are 30 rounds. You have 30 16 rounds in your chambers. And, and, and it, and the chambers, you had two things that you could mix 'em up. Turn 'em upside down. I had 'em taped together, yeah, two things. And if there is... If one ran out, I tried to take it out round, and throw the other way and use it. But then I still had about four or five clips on me with ammunition that I could use for, uh, more.

But that's as good. I liked that because it was close. When I was in close action, that was the best thing I ever had. The Thompson. I could, I could spray anybody I had in front of me, 50 feet, 60, 75 feet then. Yeah. And don't worry about it, they are gone. Yeah. Oh, I don't know. We had the whole kazoom. It was four squads. One was a shooting squad. One had a...join the rest...uh, riflemen. We were all up there. And it was all set up their machine guns and that and... We were outside of town a little bit. And that's when they says we were gonna go up in front and take the town and...Huntergrisham, Germany. And our platoon started off first. It coulda been some of the other ones on the other side of us, and right now, uh, I don't know for sure.

The only thing I was worried about was our own company, our own men, because I know where they were...and I could depend upon 'em, you know, [CLAPS] like I could... Oh, that's right. [LAUGHS] Yeah. We, we got replacements but, uh, very few sometimes, and sometimes we'd get them. Maybe not [CLAPS], you know, just one or two. But, uh, we were up to this, like I told you before, up to this, uh, hill, and start climbing up on this hill, and that's when we got pinned down.

The whole company got pinned down. We didn't know what to do. And we couldn't get up, they would shoot us right away. [CLAPS] Yeah. No, no. And they were up on the hill there, yeah. And we had, we had more soldiers on both side of us. But going back farther and, and, uh... But they were all there. Our company was there, but we were all pinned down. [SIGHS] And that's when, I don't know who called the light tanks. They call 'em "light tanks" anyway. They called 'em up. And when we heard them tanks coming up, we thought first maybe they were Germans, but they weren't. And we got behind 'em and, and that's when we said...and I got up and said, "Come on boys, let's go." [LAUGHS]

Oh yeah. Nothing. My mind wasn't...was blank. Was... I was just thinking, "Let's get these outta here. And go. Go. Gettin'..." Uh, like I told you before, [CLAPS] uh, getting shot didn't...didn't occur to me. It didn't. I don't know, maybe it didn't. Well... No, no. No. Well, I coulda been thinking something else, too. "What the heck am I doing down there?" Or you know, uh... something. Yeah, because we were the platoon, the runners...you know, not runners, but the guys in the front...that we check out everything before the company'll come up ahead or something, you know? And that's, that's what happened, yes.

Yeah, grease, "grease gun" they called 'em, yeah. And that hit the, hit the side of me. That's about that wrong. And then we'll, uh, the little thing in the front like a, uh, uh, a rifle got me, you know, but shorter. [CLAPS] And that's where it hit, right in the middle of that thing. Knocked it out of my hand. And I didn't know what to do at the time. Told the tank on us, and right alongside of that tank. And I jumped on the tank, I don't know how I got on there.

I tell you the truth right now, I don't know how I got outta there, because those things are going around and around and... But I was small, and I was wiry. I could hit nearly every place you could go. And I musta jumped on there pretty good. When I...all I did was wanna...gun. And you just saw that, use the Thompson, use the machine gun first. Right. Mounted right on the turret, yeah. That's what I shot.

He says, "Go up here, and shoot there, and shoot there, and shoot there." And yeah, we could see, uh, uh, medics, German medics coming down to where they were. And we had to stop shooting there, and shoot someplace else, because we didn't want to shoot them medics when they were doing their, you know? And shootin' someplace else, and... And that's what we kept on, going forward and forward and forward, you know? And shoot rounds, I don't know how many rounds we shootin' gun on that belt, you know, on that little tin can on the side of us got...until got run off, and they told me. And he says, "Well, take the Thompson sub." And I said, "OK."

And, uh... Well, you don't kill, you don't kill medics. You don't kill anybody that's in the hospital there or anything like that. That was our...one of those things that we never did. Maybe the Germans did, but we never did. If we seen the medics up there going to...for one of their men to go to, we are gonna stop shooting there right away until they got out of the way. If they got out of the way, and if the Germans start shooting at us again from that spot, then we just...we shoot.

No, no. We always did that. We didn't... We never, uh, shot... Uh, because the Germans would shoot you like that there. We had the medics, they went down there to help one of the guys, and he, uh...the bullets come close to him, but he never shot...got shot, you know? But, uh, yeah, it, it's, uh, hmmm. It depends what kind of Germans are out there, too. It could be SS troops, it could be regular troops. Regular troops are better than the SS troops. But we wouldn't, you know, no.

Yes. Then the Thompson sub. Just like that one up there. Yeah. Uh, and that, I... And when I got done, I, I, uh, I, I, uh... [CLAPS] Well, we dug foxholes in there, and another corporal was sitting...was digging with me in the hole there. [CLAPS] And he says, "What's the matter with you?" I said, "Why?" He says, "What did you do that for?" "Do what?" And he caught on my tank there, and start, you know? And it never come in my mind. And what, what, what did you...what did you ask me that for? And my mind was sitting on something else, you know?

And then he said, "Yeah, you coulda got killed up there." "Well, you coulda got killed too, you know?" It's, it's, uh... But just, uh... [SIGHS] What could I tell you any more that, uh...that, uh... [SIGHS] It just gotta... It's had to be done. Something had to be. Like I wasn't standing there, and there was sit there, and, and let him shoot at me and and and and and... [CLAPS]

I don't know. Yeah. No, no. The guy in the tank, the officer in the tank, must have said something to the people down below. And he said, they must have... I don't know what they said to 'em. And the Medal wasn't even mentioned to me when we were fighting again. We were still fighting after the tanks left. Dug our holes and everything there. And they were still fighting. And Joe was just sitting, sitting down with us and everything, and landed in some of the guys' holes and they got blow up.

And [SIGHS] and we were here, me and the sergeant, and we were in this one hole, and we got shook back and forth, and then the bombs went out to the tank. And then we had a machine gun next to us, that...the .30-caliber. And that was shooting one round at a time because it was dirty. But otherwise, the next morning, we got up and stood there one day, I think it was the day before we went in the Metz to, to go. And we had some... They brought us up some food. And I told you about this other one that got captured. But they brought us some K rations up there, and we ate them. Then the next day we took...went out and [CLAPS] went towards the town again. Took the town. And all across there was...there were most of the Germans weren't shooting. And we took the town. Went down and checked it out.

All down the basement, there was all the people down there, "Don't shoot, don't shoot," you know? And we didn't do nothing to 'em. They were... We used to have somebody that used to come around and, and check these people after a while, and see if they were German soldiers that took their uniform out and put on civilian, civilian clothes or something and then go down with them. But we didn't know that at the time.

We just checked mostly for weapons down there, and if they didn't have no weapons we got out of there and... And they were glad. Some of 'em were glad that we come there, and some of 'em wouldn't say nothing, you know, they were stubborn Germans. But then, that's the thing. They have to. It's their country, you know?

Hmmm... Well, I didn't know until later on. And it must... I don't know how long. But, um... But I was still fighting up the lines. I went someplace else and was still fighting. And that's when they told you to come... Uh, the, the... The company runner come, it was these MPs, up to the front line, and told the sergeant they want to take me. They want Mike. Get outta here. Oh Christ, the other guys are afraid. What's going on? Clay and them was, "Well, what the heck happened?" I don't know. But anyway, they got me. And I still had my gun, you know? I still had the Thompson sub on my shoulder and everything else. And walked with them, and got in the jeep, went back to their headquarters.

Well, I had...'cause it's not the real headquarters...our own company headquarters. Yeah, and decided... And like I told you, the, the captain looked at me, "Well, I know you are tough, but [LAUGHS] ..." He said, "But you are going back home, for the Medal of Honor." And what the hell...? And then it hit me in my head, "What? The Medal of Honor? Well, who did that, you know?"

I wondered myself, who would turn me in for the Medal. And usually, "Well, it was the company or the captain that was in the tank, turned you in, 'cause of what you did." And then they come up to him then, after that. Then they turned me over to another guy, and they were taking down everything. And I started going here at now, and what I did, and whatever. Just on that...just on this occasion though. And I told 'em what happened and everything. And, and that's how it happened. And that's all I knew. I was gonna... But none, none of my company turned me in for that. It was the people in the tank that did that. [SIGHS]

So it was, it was... [LAUGHS] Yeah, like I said, the Medal of Honor never even occurred to me, but... [CLAPS] Oh it was, yeah. And I said, "Why me?" You know? [CLAPS] For myself was... "Why? Why did?" You know? And then you start thinking back to where I jumped on the tank and I went and did this, and do this, and had that, and... [CLAPS] And then I said, "Gee, anybody could do that. I, you know, I'm just one man, you know?" And that's what they put in the headlines in the Sarings Trib [PH], "One man," something, or "machine gun," or, or something like that. Oh it's hard, hard. Oh yeah.

And I can't remember everybody much. Many of them. Many of them soldiers, yes. Yeah, we, we, uh... Like me and...with the machine gun up there. I, I shot a lot of soldiers. I didn't see 'em go down exactly, but going back to what the...what I did, you know? They checked up on it. Because you don't go back to get a Medal of Honor, just out of the sky blue. And these people go around checking after, "this was done." They run around and up in these, where these Germans were, then found out if there was anybody were killed, or nobody was there, or blah blah blah that. But it was all true, you know?

And they had to send it in to [CLAPS] headquarters, and headquarters had to send the thing into Congress and the Senate to prove it. And I never knew nothing about that, you know? Who, who, you know? Why, until I got back and they said, "Well, they approved you for the Medal of Honor." "Approved me? Why approve me?" And you know? And I couldn't understand it, why somebody had to approve you for a Medal of Honor.

They could take anybody out of the...well, out of the 200 and said we are gonna put you in the Medal of Honor. OK, what did you do? Well, I have, I don't know. Not so, not too much so, no. But here, funny thinking, you know? This Clay that I was jus talking about. I was going to a convention. And which city it was, then I forgot. I get a call him, from him the day before. And he says, "Mike, this is so-and-so." Who is so? And I couldn't remember right away. Hmmm. But the man was in my head. "And I know who you are; I just can't place you, you know?" So I had to come to me, [SNAPS FINGERS] who it was.

I said, "Clay." He said, "Yeah Mike, this is... Well, this is the one that got shot in the butt, you know?" [LAUGHS] Yeah, well, I do. And then we talked for a long time. I said, "You gotta come to the convention, you know?" And he didn't come that year. He come the following year, and that's when I met him all together, me, him, and Sorenson from, uh, Minneapolis. And I had another friend in Duluth that's in the same 100th Division but a different company. And he come with us. And then I got down there and, uh, and that's when I met, um, uh, Kennedy his name is. And he was down there. And then Nelson. You know, you meet different people, different nationalities, [LAUGHS] every place there is.

And there is Nelson, who was one of my sergeants down there. And he says, "Mike, Jesus I haven't seen you for I don't know how long, you know?" And I never did go to any of these conventions. And mostly that, uh, after I retired, I start going to 'em more, more functions that there were there. And, uh, and then I met the, uh...two other guys down there. And they were in my same company, you know? And we talked, and we... I got their names and that upstairs. And then I... After this 9/11 we were talking about, we'll get back to this now. That my, uh... [SIGHS] I don't know, we were supposed to go to Boston. We were invited to Boston. We met a lot of... [SIGHS] OK, 9/11 come, when they bomb it and everything in New York. And they cut that out. And we had to wait a whole month in the...

It's what I told you, I went on the plane, and they took us off the plane, the sergeants and them and everything. And I got... And that was done anyway. They took us to the hotel and everything. And they had more security there than anything. But then they... We were going to one function that they had, and, and I got off the bus and I went in there, and saw the Medal of Honor guys that they were in this book that you got upstairs. And he says, "Mike, there is somebody looking for you over there." And who the heck could...? And here was one of the guys that I fought with over there. Didn't know him from Adam. And that's after nearly 60 years. And he had a big act, and we talked about different things, and what we did and everything. I have got it someplace here, but that pile 'em up and everything. [LAUGHS]

Well, we talked and talked and everything, and he was...he was another Medal. "You got the Medal," he says, "Boy oh boy, you must have really went to town on that." And oh, we talked of many things, me and him. And I called...uh, called up, hmmm, for...I met him there. And I called up the number, and his daughter says, uh... she says, "Well, who are you?" I said. "Oh just a minute," she said, "I'll get my Dad." And went and got his Dad, and we talked. And I said, "I'll be a certain," you know? He says, "Well, I'll be there." He says, "Well, I'll take the train there." And he lived about 30 miles away from Boston, so. But he got there. And me and his, his daughter and, and I don't know who else was with them, talked to me, had big... Even brought the guy from the newspaper there. And he made...took... And he was with us when we were talking and everything. And the next big headline in the newspaper, [LAUGHS] brought us too.

After so many years of the, we finally got together again. Oh God. It was wonderful. "You never thought about the Medal," he says. "Well, I didn't know you would get that Medal," he says. Mm-hmm. After the...they took me out of there, you mean? I went back to headquarters...our company headquarters. And they says, "Mike, you are gonna go back to headquarters and stay," because they didn't want nothin' to happen to me. So that's where I was for, oh I don't know, a long time. And I ate there, slept there, and I worked there. Uh, well, and we took care of, um, all the replacements that came in, housed them up there and everything, and we got 'em up in the morning, and got 'em to eat and everything, and assign 'em to what companies or what...where they were gonna go, OK. So I like that, because I had to have something to do. Heck, I just...

Yeah. In, uh, the White House. Yes, we got together. They, they wanted to know how many were coming. First there was just gonna be me and a couple other. And then my brother got on the telephone and called 'em and tell 'em, "Well, we have to, uh... We don't want, uh, Mike to get, you know, blah blah blah" and I don't know. "And we have to some more go on down there with you." Well, how many people do you think you want? Anyway, they are paid for. And bring some... [CLAPS]

So my brother says, "Well, my wife wants to come." And she wasn't on the first list. And, uh, she, she... And he says, um, "My, um... Mike, so far... You know, Dad has gotta be here." And he says, "Yeah, we know that, you know?" And, uh, two sisters wanted to come along. And one was, like I says, has passed away, and the other one is still living. Anyway. That my Dad, when he heard that we was going to the White House to, to, to, uh, you know, with us to... And he didn't... It didn't hit him because he was, uh... Well, he was, "Why am I going," you know? And, uh, my, you know, my brother had to explain to him, my sisters had to explain to him why I am, you know, blah blah, and all that stuff there that, "Because he got the Medal, and they wanted to give you the Medal. And, and you are invited down there." Hmmm. And then he says, uh, hmmm... He says, "Well, am I gonna meet the President?" "Yeah," he said, "You are gonna meet the President, too." "Holy man." [CLAPS]

Well, anyway. We used to hang around the Moose Club. I don't know if you knew a guy named the Moose Club. But anyway. He used to...he used to go down there. And he told everybody, "Ahhh, I am gonna go down and see the President." And go ahead. [LAUGHS] And they didn't believe him. And he says, "Ahhh, you are gonna see the President," he said. And sure enough, you know, we all went down there. There was one two, four five, uh, six with me anyway. And we got on a train here in Duluth. And went down to...

Well, we got stuck in a storm. And we had to stop. And this train got stuck in a storm. Oh God. [LAUGHS] No. No food... Nothing we had to eat, or nothing. So we had to walk about nearly a mile to a town there. And we had something to eat and drink and everything. And then they got the train going again, and we got on the train and went to Washington. Picked us up at the airport...I mean, at the station. And we had a big limousine and, and two servicemen, lieutenants and captain, I don't remember, remember their... Uh, picked us up there, brought us to the hotel. They told us, "We are in charge of you."

Hmmm, these guys two... They are... The officers were, "Wherever you go, we're going. And we'll take you where you want to go." So they pick us up in the morning, they had the car and everything. "And let's go down here. First we'll go have breakfast in the hotel. And you need to pay for it, because they had signed everything for it." And then we went with this guy who picked us up, and we went... And wasn't gonna get the Medal you had been. It was a couple of days that we spent that...just to look around, well OK, in Washington. Then they took us here, and took us to the Monument, like Abraham Lincoln and the other monuments that are on there, and my Dad is...

You know, uh, his eyes pop, pop up all the time, you know? "And oh my." And he didn't feel that good either, you know? And, and, uh, and he, he, he used to talk Italian mostly too... And my brothers and my sisters knew more than I did, but you know? And, uh, and he used to tell 'em back in Italian, you know, you speak back, "And what's going on, and what's going on?" [LAUGHS] But anyway. We, we... Uh, our father got the ready to go. Hmmm, and we... First we went to what... The night before that, we went to a big, a little hotel restaurant to eat. And oh, we had...well, all of us around the table with us.

And, and one of my sisters were pregnant. And the other one, hmmm, well, wasn't pregnant. But she was dancing up there with the lieutenant and with the guys. And I was holding martinis, you know? And everybody talked about martinis? God, yeah, I didn't know what the hell. And I says, "Give me a martini." And I said, "I want two olives in it, too." And what a goofy thing, I think. No. [LAUGHS]

But anyway, that's what they came. And I didn't feel any pain either. And I had about three of 'em, you know? And I didn't know... Uh, I didn't drink that much; I didn't drink at all hardly and everything. And I, and I better pass. Says, "Mike, I think you better quit." And I says, "Well, what's the matter?" He says, "Well, that's a lot... That ain't, uh, mixed. That's just about a drop of vermouth in here." And he says, "The rest is all booze." "What?"

Well, I didn't know what a martini is. So that's when I said, "OK, I quit." And I had three good ones anyway, and I... And then my Dad think...I think we had a beer or some wine. I think mostly wine. And he was...he was so happy. You couldn't believe it, you know? And he had a suit too. And went and bought him a suit and to go down to this occasion and everything like that. And me, me and him had a room together. And he just couldn't believe it, what we went, you know, all, all...

Oh, they took care of us. And he, and he was... And he always asked my brother or my sisters, "And who is gonna pay?" You know, they tell you, the people. "You know, somebody has gotta pay." "And don't worry about it. It's all taken care of." But he says, hmmm... What the heck did he say to my brother? Something, uh... Hmmm, money. "And Mikey ain't got that kinda money," you know? "Ahhh, don't worry about it, Dad. We'll take care of it, you know?" [CLAPS] And we didn't have no money, what the hell, you know? Poor ingrates anyway, I don't know.

Anyway, we... That was all the way. We got the... It was the day after, we had to go to the President to get the Medal. It was me and five other guys. Well, they got the picture up over here, I told you. I don't know if you seen it, but you are... And, and give us all a Medal, one by one, you know? "And they would rather have this Medal than be President." Well, if I had a drink or few in me, I woulda said, "I'll take your job." [LAUGHS] But no, I'm just kidding.

But anyway, and so... President Truman that give us the Medal, yeah. That was over there. And he was very nice. Oh, good man. He didn't take nothing. He just... Very, very good. And he had a lot of, what do you call it, things that, that you... That, uh... Well, OK, let's put it this way. He had a lot of class. And let's put it that way. He knew what to say, he knew what to do. "Mike, thank you for this country," and this and that. You know how they come out, all these guys. Then we all took a picture together up there. And he was...and he was...he was very, very impressed about the whole thing. And my, my Dad and my family stood behind there and just watching all like that. Like the other families would do that too, you know?

Whoever they hang us through was there, and their mothers or the fathers or... Uh, for him, uh, he wouldn't believe it. Even for me, you know? "Well, who, who am I to go see the President? Heck, I... He, he, he is the top dog, you know what I mean? And he is the..." Well, so. Anyway, my brother says to, to my Dad, he says, "Hey Pa," he says, "Don't worry about it. You'll meet the President. And you shook hands with him. And that's what you're gonna tell everybody [LAUGHS] when you get back." [LAUGHS] And that's what he did, you know? He...and he was so happy and it, and that... And his eyes pop out, you know, like "Oh God." And he said, "How the heck do you do that?" And you know? [LAUGHS]

But he had a good time. He had a wonderful time, you know? Background. That's right, yeah. What other one...? Who would...? What other immigrants would come out and meet the President, you know? Which way? It could be some way, but doing it that way, you know, of your... And you are something that you...come out to you. You know, get to them. You know, oh God. And he was so happy that you couldn't believe it. Yeah. Well, he was... Yeah. What do you say? And how would you say that, that, um... [CLAPS]

He was glad I come home in one piece anyway. And he was a... "Mike, you are alive." Yeah, you're right. Never said anything about the Medal. He didn't even know what a Medal was. Until we explained it to him, you know? And my sisters and, uh, brother would explain to him why and what, and what, you know, and where did it... [CRYING] But uh, he come around after a while, why... You know, while everything that happened. And he couldn't read that good. And the little bit what he could read and... But he got by, though. He was, he was good. Uh, the Medal and, um, hmmm.

He was a happy guy. Proud, he was. I'll tell you, he was. He, uh... [SIGHS] A lot of his friends, and like I said. Then when we went to this, I say, Moose Club. He used to go to that Moose Club every day and everything. 'Cause he had heart trouble too. And that's what he died from. But anyway, he would go to the Moose Club and he used to tell 'em, you know, this and that and everything, [LAUGHS] you know? And they... And some of them guys said, "Ahhh, you ain't goin' there. You ain't gonna go here."

Well, after you come back, then they knew I was in, and what was going on, and it was the...with the Moose and everything too. [CRYING] Now that's what happened. And if you know anything else, tell me. [LAUGHS] Well, I'll tell you. Well, one thing it says, you have, you have got this for doing something, Mike. What did you do? You know? I mean, you think back... Well, I saved a lot of people's lives, let's put it that way. And they wouldn't have given me an old Medal, unless I did something really good. And that's what I start thinking back.

I saved a lot of people, and I am glad I did save a lot of people. And a lot of soldiers, or whoever was around, knew the same thing. And when I got back home, when I got the Medal and everything, a lot of soldiers would come up to me and salute me and says, "Mike, thank you." And they said, "I am glad you did what you did, you know?" And it still goes on and on and this Medal. Then you realize that, why you got it, you know? Some people don't realize that. But now I know why I got it - for saving many people's lives. And I am glad of that. [CRYING]

You mean, to save people? Oh, sure. Oh, definitely. Oh, yes. And these people know that too. When you, when you try to tell 'em that, uh, "I am here to help you, like I helped my own friends when I was fighting." You know, that's, uh... And I understand that. Uh, I don't know if you... In my system, I got this for saving many lives. And if I have to do it again, I would maybe have to do it again. Well... A lot of people don't know what a Medal of Honor is. They still...some of them call it "win"; "win" the Medal of Honor. I didn't "win" nothing. And I had to tell some of the people that, too. I even told the pastor at the church. I went to that... I don't know if you got it on camera or not, I don't care. It don't make no difference to me.

I went to a funeral, a _____ funeral, in _____ Minnesota. From here it's about, uh...oh, a good 160 miles, somewhere out there. But anyway. Me and my wife... 'Cause me and Don was good friends. We used to go to these conventions together and everything. And him and his, uh, wife, Helen. And we... The pastor was...got up and started talking to...for Don. "And Don did this, Don did that. Don won, won, won the Medal of Honor." I said, "Won the Medal of Honor?" Well, that's all she would say, you know, "Win the Medal of Honor." [CRYING] Well, after she had her say and...she asked the people in the, uh, congregation there, "if you have anything to say about Don."

And this person got up, and some other person got up, and they... And I asked my wife, I said, "How do you...? And I can't take it anymore." I said, "I gotta tell him. I gotta tell her what she did wrong." And she said, "Tell, tell the pastor that?" I said, "Yes, I am gonna do that." And I did. And I got up, and I said, "Pastor," and she was a woman, a young woman. I said, "Don Rudolph did not win that Medal of Honor. Don Rudolph earned the Medal of Honor for saving many people's lives." I said, "He didn't win that Medal."

And I said something else, I don't know what it was about. Well, anyway, that was done. And I sat back down, and a few of the people... And when I got up and the thing was over, I got so many people that came up to me, and says, "Mike, you did the right thing. You said, Don did not win that Medal; he earned that Medal for saving people's lives." And that went on right there at the church, you know? And, and even in...you know, and how went then. Oh God. And a lot of people talk about "winning," you know? And you don't "win" things. God Almighty. You only win the lottery. But anyway, that's my...

Yes, yes I have. And I have talked to... I went to, hmmm, well, not many, but many schools over here. Homecraft. I knew the teacher very well. Used to come over to my house here, and "Mike, will you come and show the kids this and that, and talk to them a little bit?" "Yes I will." And I come. And I put my Medal of Honor, and they all come and look at it. Left it over, you know, see what's on the back and everything. Start asking me questions. [CRYING]

And then I go to some other school that, uh, up over that there. And they, uh... I read to 'em, and they read back to me in books. Teaches the second grade, you know? Third and first grade, you know? And then I go up to Escal [PH]. I don't know where... You know where Escal is, don't you? We had a teacher up there, Doug Johnson. And I go to his school all the time. Their kids are big, in the eleventh or eighth, tenth, eleventh grade there. And they are going to eleventh. And I had two classes. One day I had to stay for two hours, they had two classes they wanted me to stay at. [CLAPS] And I went there and I stood. And they wanted to offer me money. [CLAPS]

I said, "Not when I talk to school kids like that. And you don't want to... And I don't want no money." And I mean, and they were so grateful, you know, for me to come there, and ask them. And they may... That's like I told him. And I said, "No, ask me questions. What you want to know?" And I told 'em, what they asked me, and I, I tell 'em what this happened and what that happened and everything like that and... Well, that's a hard thing to say. And a lot of things I like to tell 'em too.

"Be brave. If you are gonna go in the service, make sure you know a friend next to you. And if you are in this fighting together, make sure you know him good, 'cause he is gonna take care of you, and you are gonna take care of him." That's how I feel. And that's how me and Clay felt in the service. We took care of each other. And if you don't do that, and then you are no good no more. But, uh, they gotta be true, they gotta be honest. They gotta look up to their sergeant or whoever that's taking care. And learn, learn what they can do. And, uh, and what he says, and what he tells you, make sure you get that in your mind. And it... And I would say, then you would get along pretty good. And a lot of these kids do that, too. If he asks you the same questions that you are asking me now. "And how was it over there? And were you scared?" Yes, I was scared. They never believe it, but I was scared. And especially after everything was over, [LAUGHS]

I was scared. You know? [CRYING] And they ask you a lot of different questions, that some of 'em I couldn't answer very clearly, but I, I did answer 'em, and told 'em things that thought were very important to, to them, and to the other kids that were around there. And they just loved it. They just stood there and, "Mike, I know you went through a lot of things, but we want to ask you this here, we want to ask you that there." And it, it's so...uh, coming, you know, for them to say that and everything. And I, I just loved it. [CRYING] I was born to a family that's immigrant, an Italian family that was immigrant, immigrant. Let me get that right. Uh, hmmm. And he didn't know, you know, much about American or anything like that. But he knew it was a free country, like all these other people. Uh, and that... I grew up in Omaha. And all my friends, uh... OK. God Almighty, I can't get everything straight.

My Dad was, uh, very, very strong headed man. But he was control, he was a controller from the kids and all. When my brother got, uh, older, like say 18, 16, 17, 18...well, my brother took over a little bit. He didn't want to take too much grief from my Dad, 'cause he told my Dad, I hear him, you know? "Dad, I am old. And don't give me that stuff," you know, and everything like that. Well, my Dad was still the boss. We grew up... Well, my sister, my brother, and then the rest of the sisters, and my brother Pat. And I always told my mother, "Ma, please bring me a boy." And then they had all girls, you know, five girls before a boy again. And then my brother Al come. And I come after my brother Al. So, uh, uh, my Dad was happy because he felt he has got some men in the family, you know? [LAUGHS] And he was so proud of that, you know, and everything like that. And he, he come home from work, and he would pat you on the head, and "Mikey," you know? And he would grab his lunch bucket. "Anything else left in there, Pa?" "What you say?" Can't even understand you because, because he want to talk Italian. And I don't want to talk to you, and I want him to talk and work, you know? [LAUGHS]

And it was something. He would always leave something in the, in the box, in his lunch box to eat, you know? And, uh, who got to the lunchbox first got what's left over. Anyway. But he was a proud old man. I'll tell you, he just, uh... For an immigrant, you know, and who could hardly talk American, well, he, he would, uh, he was...he was there. And that's, uh... I, I would... My mother was a quiet woman. She, she talk, talk mostly Italian. Very little English. She used to take my sisters on the side - and not all of 'em at one time, but one at a time - and she used to ask 'em, "How do you say," in Italian, "How do you say this word, how do you say that word?" She wanted to learn, you know? But the kids weren't around long enough to teach her and everything. But she had it down pretty good. She, she told them, in Italian, she says, "You know, I coulda say it, but you guys wouldn't understand me anyway. But I want you today, or tonight, it's your turn to teach me. Then it's your turn to teach me the next night," and then...so on and so forth. And then she got pretty good at it.

She, you know, knew what was going on. And then that's... And she was, uh, uh... Yes, she liked to learn English, yeah. Because she thought everybody around her...families around here were, were Croatians and, uh, Serbs. A lot of Serbs. Across the street from me was, um _____ . And then there is that two Italian families and, and, uh, uh, oh God, I can't remember now. Well, we had... Uh, we were all mixed up. But the whole street, our whole street, were Italians and Croatians. The next street were mixed up. Yeah, it's funny, you know how it is. But, uh... Oh yeah. Oh sure. But not very fluently, you know, but just enough to get by, because he would go out there and play cribbage, you know, and everything like that and, uh, yeah, they had a good time.

They, they... He learned pretty good. Yeah. Well, he had to go. When he went to work, you know, he had all these guys working with him. And they talked English, and yeah, he did. Oh, we all walked in, uh, walked in. And they had it... They got it filmed, just like they got in these airports, a scanner. You know, and you walk through it. If there is any metal or anything, they stop you. And they had guards all over that thing. And if it ring, then they'll search you. "What have you got there? What have you got there?" Then if you don't have anything that's dangerous, "OK, go ahead, go ahead."

All the way through in there, and they had big guys, big uh CIA's and Secret Service and everything over there guarding, guarding the President. And I felt good, you know? I am glad I am in the White House. The nice...to the Oval Room, you know? Yeah. Whoever goes in the Oval Room, you know? Dignitaries and people like that, that... Like other people allowed... Uh, people got their Medal of Honors overseas, you know? They got it from the, uh, the, uh, generals or something like that. But we come home and got it from there. And that's what...uh, that's where I wanted to go. They asked me if I wanted to get the Medal over here. I said, "No, I want to go home and get it." And that was the best thing I did, because my Dad come into that and he was proud. When I went through the door in the White House and they checked him over and everybody was checked over. And just like that. Had lined us up around the corner, you know? And there was the President sitting there, standing up, meeting them all. Shook hands with all of 'em, you know? And that was the best thing he ever did, is shook hands with 'em, you know? And the President... I'll tell you, he was happy, you know? [LAUGHS] [CLAPS] That happy as heck. [LAUGHS]

Yeah, and...nothing... And he couldn't believe it, you know? [CLAPS] A big grin on his face, and just, uh, amazing how he, yeah, hmmm. Yes, a little bit. I think, uh, yeah. And sometimes, you know, the... You, you got... You have some people that are jealous. And I don't know if you know that. But they are so jealous. Even when I am driving my car. Not lately; this is years now back. When I used to have my license plates on my cars, it's note, "Congressional Medal of Honor." And a lot of people used to come behind, you know, and look, back up, and go behind you. And come around you, and pass you, and stay in front of you. Yeah, I had a lot of them for a while coming, you know? And I just ignore 'em. You gotta ignore 'em. Otherwise you are gonna get in trouble. And that's what happened.

You know, I got a new license plate. I worked for a new license plate, and I got a new license plate now. And I don't know if you seen it on my car now. But it's, it's, it's a nice one. I got a good... Like I say, as time goes it's good now. It's pretty good. And very few people that don't know me. And, and we had a good Senate and Congress down there at the, at the White...or the State Capitol. And there is this one woman, with...who is a good woman...uh, well, one Senator, she is. Her husband used to be the Senator, and he pass away, and she took over, well, took over his job. And I called her up one day and I says, uh, "Yvonne," I says, "So-and-so." "OK Mike, what do you want," you know? I said, "I want a new license plate. What can you do for me," you know? "Oh, what do you want? Tell me what you want," you know and everything. I said, "OK." I had, uh... I got the thing, and we wrote down everything.

And I got some help from this guy in Milwaukee...not Milwaukee, something, uh... Green Bay. And he put down, uh, you know, the stuff and everything. And I put down what I wanted down there. OK, I sent it to her. And she goes, "Oh," she said, "call me up." Or insisted, insisted on calling me up and she says, "Mike, we got in process, going through the, you know?" She said, " _____ is gonna make it for you." I said, "What? Already?" "Oh yeah." Holy crap, it was in a month, you know? "And is that what you want _____ like that?" I said, "Yes." She says, "OK."

Well, within, uh...well, a month after that, it was... the license plates were done. And she says, "We are gonna have a ceremony, well, you know, down in the courthouse," or whatever you call it there. Because they got a bust down there; they made a bust for me in the, in the courthouse. Did you know that? Oh yeah, I got a bust in there, of me in there, and my picture and everything with, uh... And, uh, we were gonna get...we were gonna give me the license plates then. And I said, "Fine." And we went through a big ceremony down there. You should believe how many people come down there. There must have been about 100. Or even had the federal judge, and he did this... "You know, come on and eat. Come up there and talk to me" and everything. And it was very good. Oh, [CLAPS] good people. Yeah. I don't believe it. Yes, yeah. That's... I mostly did, yeah. And like I say, the war...

Growing up, the war wasn't on yet. So who were we...? Who were we think we are gonna be, you know? Unless we were gonna be one of the senators or the governor or something like that. But that would never happen. But anyway. When the war come on, yes, I thought I was gonna be macho. But what happened, I did. Some people, uh, just didn't, you know, uh, uh, go through their minds like, uh, I didn't...I didn't know. Uh, like I told you, the Medal of Honor didn't mean anything to me. You know what? I didn't even know what it was. That could be. That could be, yeah. And I didn't say it would be. But I think that could be as one of them, yes. And it was like I told you. Getting shot and that...it didn't even occur to me what... Yeah. No. This here I got in a different place in my arm. And I... A steel company, when I come home. But no, I didn't. Lucky. I was lucky that.

My old man was so good to me, looking down after me. I think that's... That's the deal, you know? That's what I felt all the time, because my mother was a church woman, Catholic. She is a Catholic, and she always went to church Sunday mornings. But my Dad never went. Very seldom my Dad went to church. But my mother went to church every Sunday morning regardless of anything. And we went with her. Yeah, we were there. Very good Catholics.

16. 16, yeah. When I was 16 years old, my mother passed away. And we were all alone in the house, me and my Dad, and two sisters, and another brother, lived together. We used to cook for each other, or I'd cook the meals. Like I learned, I had to cook _____ when there was...when she passed away. But I knew mostly what to cook, because I would watch her all the time cooking but mostly spaghetti, and uh, all this other stuff, pasta and everything else. But my, my Dad would be the one. He would go to the store and, and get the stuff. He wouldn't let us go, because he knew what he wanted to eat all the time, you know? [CLAPS] And if he wanted spaghetti and meatballs, that's what he got, or your different other stuff and what. And my sister used to be good at that too. But anyway, [CLAPS] but anyway. Everything turned out.

My Dad was a very... Man, after my mother died, he was really accommodating to all of us, you know? Uh, uh, in my mind I was, yes. I, I felt that in my mind. I said, "My mother is looking after me," you know? And I think she was, and to tell you the truth. Because you know, some guys would say, "Ahhh, you, you are full of it." But I said, you know, "I am telling you, somebody is looking after me." I said, "I would have been done a long time ago." And I says...

And you would have thought back here, when I am on that tank, you know, and them bullets are going around me, "Well, why didn't one of the bullets hit me," you know? And, uh, and I said to myself, "Well, if it would be one thing," I said, "She is still looking after me." And maybe, maybe I am right. Who knows, huh? I don't know.

Yeah, retreats... The tanks ran out of ammunition. So we retreated with them. They went back, I don't know, so far. The tanks went back and left. And you dug in your holes. You went in foxholes, and dug in the foxholes. And it was getting dark at that time then too. And... Oh, he was wounded, yes. You know, he was... The tank left. He was wounded, laying on the ground. And he says, "Mike, I want some help. I can't walk."

All right, I took him, I lifted him up, and I put him on my shoulder, my gun, the Thompson I had, and I carried him back. Well, I don't know how far, back to the lines that we dropped back to anyway. And, and you know, we had the medics there. And they put him on a stretcher, and they took him from there. And that's where we, we dug our foxholes, and put them in and dug our foxholes. And this, this sergeant, he was so glad that you...that I got him back there and... And it's kinda funny, and not funny. But it's really... You look back on something like that, you know? And see this guy that you carried back, that he is all right. He is the hands of... He is in the hands of the Americans...hands of the Americans, not the Germans, who would have been... The Germans would have left him there, you know? And he...

When I was walking back with him, and I had him on my shoulder, I coulda got shot too. Who knows? You know? And I always think of that, though. Like you were talking about. And I think my mother had a lot to do with it. Hmmm. And watch, watching over me, yeah. That...my feelings, you know? Hey, everybody has got their own feelings, what they gonna, you know? But that's the way I felt. Oh I suppose he would have. But, uh, the Germans woulda got him. Then who knows from then, you know? They could shoot him and say, "I don't want to carry you back or take you back." And cut it short, and shoot the guy, you know? Like they did to many of 'em.

But no, it was always good. I got him back and everything. Hmmm. Uh, no, no. We just pulled 'em back and put him aside, because the medics was right there with us, you know? Uh, there was no medics when I got this guy and pulled him back on my shoulder, you know, no medics around him. But there was, uh, say, "Mike, uh, help me." I said, "Well, the medics, the guys are here." Go ahead, you know? [CLAPS] And they, and they take care of you then. What could I say? Uh, the man is a wonderful man. Right. His name is very good. And he is very... Got a lot of sense and a lot of humor.

When we walked in his office, in the Oval Office, he was sitting down, and he stood up to us. Come around the desk, to the front of the desk, and stood there 'til we all got down. Then he shook hands with all the people all around there, you know? "Thank you for coming in here and seeing me," you know, and all these... And he was just like this here. [CLAPS] And like I said, my Dad's eyes opened up like a big, uh, [LAUGHS] flower pot or what the heck they call it and...

And it really turned out good and, you know? And well, my whole family there. And then these other people that had their wives or their father and mothers along with them that they had. And then they... And it, it just turned out just so wonderful. That Truman was a wonderful man. Wonderful, yeah. Wonderful president I know of. Yeah. One of the best that I know of. Yeah, and I can't, uh... Well, your country. That's what you gotta believe in, your own country. Uh, your country you grow up for. You believe in your country. Fight for your country. That's, uh, uh... We fought for your country. And that I think these children, and these people growing up now, should do the same thing. We have a good country here. It's free. And I think we should keep it free, and get rid of these other people that don't want to keep it free. And I think you know who I am talking about. But that's...my saying. Keep these people... And they are good people.

Yeah, on top of the turrets, yes. Yeah. No, no. Not...no. What they usually do, some of 'em usually do starting up with their machine gun when they are going. But now, that my, uh, opinion is. When they are going there like that, they have a machine gun that's still there all ready to go. But they gotta do what they gotta do - inside their tank. One has gotta load the gun, and one's gonna shoot, and one's gonna drive. So there is about three guys in that tank. Where the machine gun is there, it's for emergencies, that's I think. When I seen that, when that gun was knocked out of my hand, and I see that tank, tank with the gun up there and nobody is on it...and that's when I jumped up on that tank.

Like I said, I don't know how the hell I got up on the tank. Because the wheels... the turrets were going wrong, and I didn't know - I, I, I still don't know - how I got on there, to tell you the truth. And I didn't know I was gonna go on the tank to use the gun. And that's when I hollered down to the tank guys, and I said, um, "My gun is gone, I gotta use your machine gun." And he was, "Go right ahead, son." He called me "son," you know? [CLAPS] Well, I was a young kid, what the heck. And then, then I started using the machine gun then, you know? Until that ran out, and they ran out of ammunition, that's when we told the _____ and I, uh, uh, I said, "Well, I gotta have a gun." "Well OK, take the Thompson," he says, "And use that gun." And I got that and I dropped off, I jumped off the tank, and then they pulled back, you know, pulled back there. And saw this guy who was laying over there and, and couldn't believe it at first, and that's when I grabbed him and put him on my shoulder and I went. You know a guy like me, I didn't even know what... Hey, I got him down there. You know?

Heck, I didn't weigh no more than 135 pounds, 140 pounds. And I wasn't no...I wasn't no 150 pounds. [CLAPS] But when I weighed myself coming home, I was about 145. And then... Yeah. A sergeant, yeah. Yeah, I, uh, I didn't know. Uh, what went through me, to get up there, to just, uh, uh... I don't know. Something was in my mind to get up there, to get on that tank and, you know, and use that gun. And I couldn't go inside. I didn't stop. I was outside the tank and did it, on top of the turret there. Yeah, that little cartoon they got up there, yeah. I never seen that, until I went to these things, and I seen that there, yeah. And saw all of the books. I read two of the books. Now they have gotten two of 'em. And I don't even know where they went. And somebody borrowed 'em and oh...

Oh well, sorry. Yes, uh, uh, uh, uh, whoever would have thought of that? I would never think of that. I didn't even know I was gonna go to the White House to get the Medal. You, you know what I mean? And told us "You were gonna get the Medal of Honor. And you...where do you want to get it? Do you want to get it here, or in the, you know, Germany, or do you want to go home and get it?" I said, "I want to go home." I said, "I don't want to stick around here." And when I got... That's what I mean. That, uh, you wouldn't believe the smile on my Dad's face when I told him we are going to get the Medal up, uh, and, uh, and go to Washington and meet the President." He never believed it, you know? What immigrant would believe that? "So you are gonna go shake hands with the President." "What?" Holy crap.

And, and he was so... That's what I mean. When you asked me that, I said, "That's what he loved. He was so happy about that you, you wouldn't believe it." Yeah, he was. Oh, everybody. All my family was for me. My two sisters and my brother and, and my sister-in-law. They, they all... They all shook hands. And they were all wonderful. Yeah. In Duluth, yeah. Money. Money. We didn't know what money. We had to work for our money. We wanted some money to go to the store, to have a piece of candy or anything like that, we had to go to some rich people's houses and work, where there was a... Well, next to us, there was a railroad. And what the...

The train used to go by there all the time, with coal on it. And we used to jump that train and jump off coal. And we used to go sell that coal, for a sack of coal. Sell it for 25 cents. And some people used to buy it. First, but my Dad said, "You are gonna go steal coal. And you shouldn't do that." And my mother said, "No," because she was a strict Catholic. I said, "Ma," I said, "I know what you mean. But who is gonna buy our wintertime, and fire our... you know, stole it with," you know? And she just turned around and walked away because she didn't want to hear no more about anything about stealing. And... But we did. We threw the coal. We filled our, uh, our, uh, wood bin up there, what you were call it, coal bin up. And, and, and that's one thing my father says, "If you are gonna steal coal, you are gonna steal it for our house, not for selling it." And that's what we did. We filled the, the basement up. And after that, we threw some out for, uh, to have a 25 cents...and some corn or some candy or pop or what, and that's all. And we were poor as heck. And my Dad was working for WPA. I don't know if you know what WPA is. It's the Workmans, uh, Project... Yeah. And so that's where he worked for. And we didn't have no money, heck.

But it was... Yeah, we lived anyway. And the spaghetti was good. Yeah. [LAUGHS] My mother made good spaghetti. Ahhh, God, she made some good spaghetti. And you couldn't find it around here no more like that. [CLAPS] And my sisters, I... A few years ago, well, there... Well, like I say, most of 'em are gone now. And every one of 'em...five, six sisters I had...uh, I asked every one of 'em, I says, how to make spaghetti. The sauce, I am talking about. And they all had a different way to do it. And I said, you..."Well, Mom made it one way. And how come you guys...?" "And we add something different here, and we add something different." Oh, you...crap. So I made it...me and my wife made it ourselves. And it was damn good. Yeah. And so, that's all. [LAUGHS] And that's it, yeah. [CLAPS] [LAUGHS] [END INTERVIEW]

 
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  October 26, 2011
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