of Robert Deadrick, by James Triesler, conducted at
the Virginia War Memorial on
Deadrick: My name is Bob Deadrick and I live in
Triesler: How old were you and in what year did you go into the service?
Deadrick: I went in 1944. Well, actually it was more like 1942, and two years
of training in the states. And I went to
several camps in different states in the
Triesler: Now were you always part of the 7th Armored? Did you know you were going to be in the Armored Division when you entered the army?
Deadrick: Well, I was at VMI and graduated in 1940 and on graduation we knew we were going to be going, because the war had already started, but they did not call me to come and go in [the army] until two years later. And in the meantime, I worked for the TVA (Tennessee Valley Authority) as an engineer and got a sort of a toehold before I had to go in. In 1942 I went in.
Now when you were serving in
Deadrick: A couple of times. Once was
when we were in England for a few weeks before crossing the Channel, General
Patton spoke to the entire assembled Division.
And he was a character, gave a lot of practical tips on what to do and
what not to do. For instance, on a trip
Triesler: Did you have to move artillery with the armored division?
Deadrick: The artillery with an armored division was light artillery, 105 Howitzer mounted on tank chassis. And there were 6 guns to a battery and 3 batteries to a battalion and there were 3 battalions of artillery, which is 18 guns, 3 battalions of infantry and 3 battalions of tanks, plus the supporting units.
Triesler: And did you say that you had seen Patton at other times also?
Deadrick: Well I almost saw him one time. We were crossing the
Triesler: What was your job with the 7th Armored?
Deaderick: The Division was split into three units. And each of the three units formed a column
Triesler: Did you have certain places you would try to go to that would help you observe? By that I mean, in your daily routine did you look for certain things to help you see better?
Deadrick: Well there was two different kinds of wars was fought. Going through
Triesler: Would you yourself have to go up to church steeples to be an observer or trees or steeples, or what would you do?
Deadrick: In this last half of the war in
Triesler: Did you have to worry about snipers or did you have much encounter with them?
Deadrick: Very occasionally. On two occasions we lost two or three men and that’s all. It wasn’t a really big thing.
Triesler: Would someone be with you to help protect you while you were observing?
Deadrick: No, I had a radio operator and a jeep driver that we went together as sort of a team and I had 5 or 6 men in a half track who would usually be a half mile behind the lead elements. And they would be a relay station. I would give my orders, they would pick it up, the small radios that I had would not reach all the way back to the battalion. They would relay team. And in stable conditions they were also a survey team, we surveyed a lot of the targets.
Now where were you during the
Deadrick: I was in
Triesler: Did you encounter a lot of German tanks in this time period?
Deadrick: Not as many as I thought I would. From time to time they would attack or defend themselves using tanks. But it was usually infantry and small mounted field guns, antitank weapons, and of course they had a few of the great big 88 millimeter German 88’s, famous for being such a high velocity gun.
Triesler: Were you in foxholes a lot at this time? What protection did you have?
Deadrick: Very seldom because it was a moving division. It went all the way through
Deadrick: Yeah, right at the point where they had the Remagen Bridge and from then on it was sort of a break through and [we would] stop and fight and break through again.
I know a man who lives in
Deadrick: I think it was the 9th Armored that actually retook that bridge and sent people across at great risk.
Triesler: Yes, that’s what Mr. Paris told me. They were there and they were the first group to take the bridge.
Deadrick: I think we came in a day after they took the bridge. My Division arrived and we were there probably three or four days waiting until they could build pontoon bridges across.
Triesler: Do you remember where you were when the war ended?
Deadrick: Actually, I was on the shores of the
Triesler: So it was a German ship?
Deadrick: It was a German Tanker. The war ended a very few days after that.
Triesler: Did you get to meet any of the Russian soldiers after the war?
Deadrick: I did. We were held up in a
small town in
Triesler: So you did get to meet some of the Germans at the end of the war?
Deadrick: Yes, I did, and we were there for three or four weeks after the war, waiting for transportation home.
Triesler: Did you take many prisoners near the end of the war?
Deadrick: Personally no, that was not my business. I saw many, many hundreds of them and I picked up some of the things that they discarded [that] they knew they wouldn’t need. For instance a real nice knife, a camera, things like that. They were off to a prison camp. They just threw their personal belongings aside rather than carry them.
Triesler: Were you able to bring those things home?
Deadrick: This particular knife I brought home and I use it in my shop. I took it on a Sunday School picnic once, after the war, and some boys were throwing the knife at a tree to see if they could stick it in, and broke it in half. That was the end of that particular souvenir.
Triesler: Did you write a lot of, and receive a lot of letters, after the war?
Deadrick: I received [mail] very frequently, yes I did. But, I didn’t get to write much. For instance I was wounded and I was in the hospital and it was weeks before I was able to write. Of course the folks back home didn’t know [I was wounded].
Triesler: Were you married during the war?
Deadrick: Yes, I was married a year before I went overseas. So, during this time I was in the hospital and I couldn’t write. I was shot in the backside and had to lie on my stomach. Wasn’t a good situation; I couldn’t write.
Triesler: What happened the day that you got wounded?
Deadrick: It’s too much of a story to tell the whole thing.
Triesler: Were you awarded any medals for your service?
Deadrick: Yes, twice I got the Bronze Star award and I was awarded the Purple Heart for the wounds I received.
Triesler: When you wrote home did you have any kind of a code to get around the censors?
Deadrick: Oh no, we didn’t try to do that. It didn’t seem important really, and my letters were not long and detailed. I was told after the war, and it was during the war too, to act as a…to check the letters that were going out. What did we call that?
Triesler: A censor.
Deadrick: A censor. So, all the letters that my men wrote, I had to go through them. And they didn’t try to sneak any information out. But, if they were we just took a big black ink [pen] and marked out what they were trying to send.
Triesler: What was your rank? You mentioned “your men.”
Deadrick: Well, I was a lieutenant. I never got to be a captain ‘til the very end of the war.
Do you recall when you left the
Deadrick: Our division, 15 or 16 thousand went on one ship, the Queen Mary, and instead of it going in a convoy this ship was so fast it could take a zig zag trip and made it real fast.
Triesler: So you weren’t worried about submarines?
Deadrick: We were worried. We were real worried. And of course being packed in like that if a sub had attacked it would have been a horrible, horrible loss. The first day out of NY they test fired a cannon that they had up on the deck. And everybody below deck, the whole ship shook, thought we had been attacked
Triesler: Did you have many men per room or what was it like on the boat?
Deadrick: Well it was like a big auditorium. Each deck, several decks down. And they were stacked 3 or 4 high, I don’t know what you call them beds or bunk beds.
Triesler: Were they more solid beds or were they like a canvas hammock almost?
Deadrick: I can’t remember.
Triesler: Did you get seasick or anything?
Deadrick: No, I didn’t at least. I guess some did.
So you went over to
Deadrick: Went to
Triesler: Were they nice, the English people?
Deadrick: They were very nice. We were paying them for everything we did, every
time we went out the
Could you listen to radio and be entertained when you were in
Deadrick: Yes, in training we could.
Triesler: It wasn’t American radio though was it?
Deadrick: No it was typical English radio, morning broadcasts. On the continent we couldn’t do that because I think it was a security thing that it gave away your position.
Did you have any problems with German planes when you were on the continent or
Deadrick: They were a constant nuisance, but that’s all. They weren’t a real hazard to constantly being attacked. They would have 2 or 3 planes come over and attack real quick and fast as they could fly away because the air was dominated by the American Air Force.
Triesler: Did you have air raid sirens you’d worry about?
Deadrick: They had that in
Triesler: When you went across the Channel what kind of boat would that have been?
Deadrick: Uh, I think it was an LST tank carrying ship. Of course the whole division couldn’t go on the ship but this ship could come right on up to the beach and unload right on the beach. We wouldn’t have to wade through the water like D-day people did.
Triesler: So how long after D-day was it when you went over?
Deadrick: We left NY harbor on June the 6th, day of the Invasion. It was a big relief to know that the Invasion had already happened and we would not be in that. Of course we should have known that an armored division would not be used for that.
Triesler: What did you end up doing for your career after the war?
Deadrick: When I got out of the service I went back to
Were you born in the
Deadrick: I was born in
Triesler: May we use this interview as part of our project?
Deadrick: I’d be happy to have you do that. I’d be proud.
Triesler: Is there anything else you’d like to share about the war?
Deadrick: I don’t think so. I try not to think about it too much. Some incidents were very harrowing that I find hard to talk about. [I am] going to try to dodge those.