John McAuliffe Interview

By James Triesler

Louisville, Kentucky

October 2006

 

McAuliffe: So it was something youíd get used to, during basic training.Anyway I was there 17 weeks. I particularly specified in the heavy weapons.The 30-caliber machine gun and the 81-millimeter mortar, our particular group was trained in.Others were trained in infantry, weapons, and rifles.Training lasted for 17 weeks, so it was pretty interesting.It didnít bother me so much because I was kind of athletically inclined.I was in boarding schools for ten years and I knew what living in boarding school was like.The meals in those days [at boarding school], in the 30ís, I mean, [were not so great.]Some fellas came from rich families and they were affluent and they were complaining about the meals, but I thought the meals were great.It was stuff that we didnít have in boarding schools you know and I didnít mind that. It was a piece of cake going through the training because we had a lot of discipline in those Catholic schools from the nuns and from the brothers and it didnít bother me one bit.So we were told we were going overseas.We didnít know if we were going to the Pacific Theatre or the European.So after the basic training they gave us a few weeks furlough.I went back home to Massachusetts and I was reading the newspapers, and I was reading the troubles and the situation of our troops in Europe.December came and the headlines were that the German Nazis turned about and they were in the Battle of the Bulge.The Americans were pushed back and it kind of scared me because I knew I was going overseas.Well sure enough, on January 1st 1945 I was on the Queen Mary with 18 thousand troops and we were all heading for England.The trip over was very easy cause the ship was so fast it didnít need a convoy cause it zigzagged back and forth to avoid any submarines.I think we went over there in 5 or 6 days and we landed in the Fifth of Clide up in Scotland.We took a train down to South Hampton, England and we got on the LSTís over to France, in Le Havre.We had all this new equipment on the ship and it had a very vigorous aroma to it, because it was chemically impregnated to be waterproof and it was gagging us and we were all crowded in.So I went up top onto the top deck because I wanted to get some fresh air and I laid out on the deck with my overcoat over me and I was trying to sleep and all of a sudden my overcoat disappears. Some guy came along and took it.Why?I never know.Just took it off.So we were down in the stateroom which we converted into rooms with beds and we were packing up to leave the ship and all of a sudden my blanket was gone.I didnít have a blanket.So I got off the ship and I was freezing cold.It was in the winter, January, and we got on the boxcars in Le Havre.It was a three days trip across France.There were maybe 40 or 50 guys in a boxcar crammed in and it only stopped so people could relieve themselves or to get a meal.All of a sudden my helmet was gone.Where the hell did my helmet go?They were building a fire in the middle of the boxcar to keep warm so maybe they were using it for something, I donít know.So we got to the depot where the troops came to be sent out into the various divisions.I think it was a cavalry school in Metz, France and we got there and we stayed there for one night and at that point we went through what they call the repple depple replacement depot.So they furnished me with my missing blanket, my overcoat, a new helmet, and I got my weapon and my ammunition and then they shipped us off to the various divisions as replacements.At that time my division had fought up at Belgium and in Marci, Talay, St. Jubere, and Bonaru.They had some tough fighting right outside of Baston and one of our men won the Medal of Honor up there.When that was done they were sent down to Luxembourg and thatís where I met my division, down in Luxembourg along the Shure River.The sour river they called it, and we were there maybe on a defensive position.We replaced the 4th Infantry Division.Well it was down there where they sent several of us to the M company, 347th regiment and a bunch of us came into a barn which was used as the headquarters for M company.Captain K sat us down with all the new arrivals and he interviewed us individually and he was a big fellow, 6 foot 3, from Georgia.He was a football player for the University of Georgia and I told him I was from Holy Cross College and we had a good team and we beat Boston College, who was headed for the Cotton Bowl, in December of í42.Thatís the night of the Coconut Grove Fire.I saw that game and it was the greatest upset in football history.Holy Cross beat Boston College, 55 to 12, and Boston College was going to the Cotton Bowl!They were undefeated and they were going to go to the Coconut Grove to celebrate the victory but, because they lost, they didnít go and 400 people lost their lives in the Coconut Grove fire that night, the night of the game.I didnít go because I went to a movie that night and strangely enough the movie was about a fire.When I came out of the movie, at midnight, I went to South Station in Boston to get the train back to Worchester and I see these sailors coming in with their girlfriends and they each had their petty coats on and I said whatís going on here?Someone said there was a big fire in Boston.I was glad I wasnít there.I got home all right and the papers the next morning were full of news of this awful fire. 400 people lost their lives.They were bunched up at the exits.Buck Jones, the famous cowboy, lost his life.A Holy Cross fullback lost his life, [and so did] a lot of prominent people.One of the nurses, who later was in my Central Mass Chapter in Worchester, was at the Regimen Womenís Hospital, training that night, and they were bringing in all the fire victims and she helped treat those fire victims.She eventually ended up as a nurse in the Battle of the Bulge, one of the nurses at one of the general hospitals.So thatís a little side element from my training.Anyway, when I was talking to the Captain down in Luxembourg, at M Company (he interviewed all the new replacements), I heard something from the command post.I heard a telephone ring and this guy was talking on the telephone and they was saying that some group from L Company was getting bothered by a machine gun from the Germans and right then all the reality set in.You know, the fun and games were over for me.When youíre a soldier on leave and youíre going downtown with your uniform, you like the girls to look at you and all that stuff but, as soon as I heard that word machine gun, German machine gun, uh-oh, the fun and games were over and reality set in.So he interviewed a bunch of us he said ok McAuliffe, youíre going in the mortars and this guy is going in the machine guns, and so forth.So, the next day, the First Sergeant took us out into the woods where the troops were and I get out there and we went up to Sergeant Kelly, who was the first section mortar Sergeant and said okay Kelly.There were four of us, Manley, McAuliffe, Marini and Labelle, and he said okay Kelly, take two.He said, Iíll take Manley and McAuliffe and Manley was a big 6-footer and the Sergeant says it wonít be hard to remember this guyís name, Manley, the big fella.So he took me and my other friend Marini, who was my best friend later on in the war.He went to the other Sergeant.Well that night the Sergeant told us the situation.We were holding a defensive position along the Sauer River.The Germans were on the other side and we were on this side.He said, ďOk Mac thereís your hole.Ē It was dug by someone else.Iím glad I didnít have to dig it, the ground was brick hard.I think that we went into the 4th Division holes because we relieved them and those holes were already made.So, I got in there that night and he gave me guard duty for the night and told me what time to get up.I got up at that hour and there was a foot of snow on the ground and a lot of snow in the trees and Iím standing guard in the wee hours of the morning. Iím all alone and I got to be careful for Nazi patrols coming through.There I am all alone and all my men were down in the hole covered with snow and I said ďwhat the hell am I doing out here, My God.ĒI start thinking of my brothers and sisters Iím thinking of the good times I had in high school, you know, going to football games.I said, ďGod what the hell am I doing in this position out here, doing this all alone in the snow, at night with Nazi patrols coming through.It was the loneliest day of my life.You know, thatís how I felt.Well things got better, I guess.You got to know the guys and they told you the ropes and what to do and all that sorts of stuff.So, we were there for a few weeks and then we went back into Belgium.So, that was my indoctrination into the war.

 

Triesler: Did any patrols ever come along while you were there?

 

McAuliffe: No, they were supposed to but, there were no patrols.The other squad from my section met patrols down by the river, the Sauer River.They could see the Germans across the river but, maybe they were making patrols at us too but, I was never aware of it.When we got back into Belgium, thatís when we boarded trucks and we got up on the truck convoy.I wanted to sit on the end of the truck.It was a 2 and a half ton with a cover over it.I wanted to sit on the end because I said to myself ďI want to see some of the countryside.ĒIt was a stupid idea.So, Iím sitting on the end of the truck and the trip may have only been 40 miles, but it took 14 hours to get back into Belgium where we were going.The truck only stopped for piss call and I saw one town and in about 2 and a half hours I said, ďThis place looks familiar to me.ĒOur truck got lost.We came back into the same town again and we saw the same place again and by the time we got to our destination it was late and dark at night and the mess hall was closed.We didnít have any supper and we had to wait till the next morning to eat.One strange thing happened when I was getting on the truck.This young fellow says to me, ďMac,Ē he had what he called a dope kit.It contained your shaving kit and your personal things.He said ďMac, will you mind this for me?ĒI donít know why he wanted me to mind it I mean, I was in the same situation as him.I said okay and I put it under the seat and when I got off the truck, after 15 hours, I forgot all about it.He said ďMac whereís myĒ [kit?]Oh, I said I forgot it and the truck had gone.He was so mad at me.He had all his personal items in it the little kit, but I never saw him again.You know, it was a funny incident.So we got up into Belgium.

 

Triesler: What ever happened to your coat and your helmet that they took?Did you ever find out?

 

McAuliffe: I never found out what happened to them.They were just gone, but I got all replacements at the depot where they supplied us with weapons or anything we needed.

 

Triesler: If you have the time, I have a few more questions for you.

 

McAuliffe: Iíd like to contact you by email, because I wrote a story of my friend Adam Marini and myself and Iíll send you that booklet and I also wrote a book of poems that Iíd like to send you sometime.

 

Triesler: I would like to see that. Did he survive the war okay?

 

McAuliffe: Yes he did, but he died last year.

 

Triesler: Oh Iím sorry to hear that.When is your birthday?

McAuliffe: October 6th I just had my birthday. 1923.

 

Triesler: How did they decide, when you were at Camp Wheeler, if you were going to be in the infantry or going to be in mortars?Did you have any say in that decision, or was that totally up to them?

 

McAuliffe: No, I think it was just what they needed.We all went through the same basic 17 weeks infantry training.It was just basic, we didnít really have a lot of training.In 17 weeks they couldnít do much, just a sample of this and a sample of that.The troops that went in during the early years, Ď41 and í42, had training and then they were sent to camps where they acted as actual divisions and they had more training.Like the 87th Division was at Camp McCaine, Mississippi (my Division) and they went on the Louisiana maneuvers.They had the red army and the blue army and they went all through basic.They had a regular war with each other.

 

Triesler: In some of the letters I have read, they talk about that.One guy said, ďIím a prisoner of warĒ and he mentioned the blue and red armies.

 

McAuliffe: Yeah they did things and they had referees who knew who was winning.They didnít have the tanks, they had a truck and on it that had a sign ďTank,Ē so that was a tank.In the early days they didnít have enough weapons, like M1ís.They had broomsticks to train with and stuff like that.My friend George Watson, who I came to this reunion with, was in M Company, 346th Division and I was in the 347th.He lives in New York.We go to all these things together, we drive.He went to the maneuvers in Mississippi and he can tell you just what it was like.He said it rained like hell, it rained and rained and rained.They were soaking wet, everything was wet.

 

Triesler: You mentioned Metz and that you had to spend the night there that first night.What were the conditions like?Would you camp outside when you first headed over to Europe at Metz?

 

McAuliffe: When I got into Metz, it was already in American hands.There was something like a big cavalry school there, but whatever it was, it was empty.It was just a place where they put us up for the night on various floors until they gave us our equipment and sent us off to the various divisions as replacements.Metz was a big fort and the 26th Division fought there and they had heavy casualties.When our division came, the 87th, we replaced the 26th at Metz.There were several forts there and it was never really taken, the Germans eventually gave up.It was [a group of] very, very fortified, old forts.A friend of mine back home was in the 26th Division and he says you know I got wounded at Metz and there were German foxholes there and American.He said when we went in there, the 26th Division, they wouldnít let us use the German foxholes because they knew where they were and they could bomb them and everything.He says I always blame you guys, the 87th, for my wounds because they told us you were coming and I didnít dig a foxhole.He says, I didnít dig a foxhole and thatís how I got wounded because you guys were supposed to replace us.

 

Triesler: I wanted to ask about M company. What does M company mean?Didnít different companies have different designations or duties?

 

McAuliffe: Yeah, well the structure of a division is division, regiment, battalion, company.Now you had three regiments, in our case it was 345th 6th and 7th.Now each regiment had three battalions, first, second, and third battalions.And you had the letter companies A through M so A, B, C, D was first battalion and E, F, G, H was second battalion. There was no J Company.It went I, K, L, and M, but no J.Why?I donít know.Maybe it looked too much like the letter I or something like that.So it was I, K, L, and M company in the third battalion.Now the fourth one of each battalion was heavy weapons.D was heavy weapons, H was heavy weapons, and M was heavy weapons.Heavy weapons was the 81 mm mortar and the 30-caliber machine gun.We supported the other three companies, which were rifle companies.Thatís the structure.††

 

Triesler: Thank you.What does the acorn on your shirt stand for?

 

McAuliffe: The acorn is the logo of the 87th Division.It was made up from many states it wasnít a particular National Guard, like the 26th division in Massachusetts was the National Guard and it became activated as the 26th division. During the war you had a lot of other people, many of the members of the 26th division went into other divisions like the 90th division and other divisions, they broke it up. Then they had the Americal division, which was broken up in that way into the Pacific. The acorn I think originated out in the Midwest, but most of our members came from all over the country. The acorn division the 87th participated in WWI and only one regiment participated my 347 the other two were not active. Then after the War WWI they became inactive until WWI (I think he means WWII) when they became activated again. They started down at camp McCain, Mississippi where they trained.

 

Triesler: So for you, you were in Luxembourg and then you had to move back into Belgium. Is the battle of the Bulge still going on when you moved back into Belgium?

 

McAuliffe: Yes it was

 

Triesler: So what was that like for you?

 

McAuliffe: Well that was really my indoctrination into it. We came back into Belgium and we went up to a town called Mandafeld. It was in Belgium and I remember we got off the trucks and we were living here and there. Finally we came to the edge of the woods. The Aden forest was made up of clumps of woods, trees huge clumps of trees divided by streams, meandering streams and hills and valleys and swamps and in between these huge clumps were open areas of snow. We were coming up to the edge of the woods and there was a lieutenant and I came up to him. I was carrying six rounds of HE light mortar rounds each one weighed about 6.7 pounds. I had 42 pounds of ammunition on my shoulder besides my pack my helmet my carbine my belt my gasmask my goulashes and I had two layers of ODís on two layers of shirts I had two pairs of wool stockings my combat boots and overshoes. We walked through a foot of snow. I weighed about 150 pounds. I came up to him and he looked at me and said thatís too much. He said okay now go, we were sending them out 25 yards apart into the field cause we were crossing over to another clump of trees. Well we got out about a hundred yards and some ADH started coming in and I fell flat on my face. They were going off around us and pretty soon I feel a tap on my shoulder ďOkay Mac get moving get movingĒ it was Sergeant Kelly ďGet movingĒ. So I got up and started moving. We reached the other clump of woods and then the tree bursts started coming in. The ADH started hitting the trees. The tree burst is worse than anything because it hits and it scatters the shrapnel down. The safest way to do is to stand up along side the tree cause itís going to come down. If youíre laying this way it might hit you. So my buddy and I we hid under a log it was a big tree that was fallen, we hid underneath it because bursts were coming down on us. When it was over we get out and the guy next to me had his knee blown open, he didnít seek shelter he just stood up. His knee was wide open and we saw him and we started calling for the medics and they came or whatever. Finally I looked around and I said where is everybody I didnít see anybody around, and the guy says their down in the bunker. I says what bunker? We were up in the Zigfried line itís where the Germans had their bunkers, and this bunker was not an active gunnery it was a bunker where they slept. So I went back around to this camouflaged area, sure enough there were stairs going down into the bunker, and there were cots down there and air conditioning whatever. So we slept in the bunker that night it was better than being outside. So this was the first time I took my boots and shoes off in a couple of weeks cause we never took them off cause we never knew when we were going to move out. Well we were safe we slept in a cot. So the next morning we get up and the sergeant says okay Mac your going on a detail so I want you to get out okay. So I started to put my boots and overshoes back on and my hands were all numb and cold. I couldnít use my fingers I was like a little kid in Kindergarten trying to buckle my goulashes. Reminded me of the kids in Kindergarten when the teachers had to buckle their goulashes. I was just like a little kid my fingers were so frozen, it took me about a half an hour to buckle them. ďWhat are you doing Mac. Come on get movingĒ. So finally I got them on and I went out on the detail. So thatís what I remember about that. You know you forget a lot of things but you remember funny things like that. Up in Belgium we were going down a road one day we were heading for the front. Coming against us were the civilians and they were pushing wheelbarrows and baby carriages full of their belongings. They were getting out of harms way they were moving back and we were moving up to the front. I remember one that came nighttime and we were gonna move in and take relief. So it happened to be a catholic church a little church and of course I was brought up strictly in catholic church by the sisters and the brothers. I was really indoctrinated into rigid Catholicism and things to do and what not to do. So I got inside the church and, these guys are pushing the pews away against the wall and talking and throwing their stuff. Then my mentality is saying gee were desecrating godís church what are we doing here? You know what I mean I had this mentality? So pretty soon I said all right we have to do this this is war this is necessary. So anyway the guys were bending down on the floor and it was this lonely church cause the pulpit was right there and the people were there. So I went up to the altar and being regimented and religious I put my hand on the altar and I said a prayer for the group. In the middle of the altar they have a relic you know in the Catholic church I just put my hand on it and said a few prayers and then I sat down and I lay down on the floor for the rest of the night. The next day we went out and we were on the road again and we really started to get shelled, shells were coming in on us. Being religious I was yelling god and all this stuff, fortunately none of us got hit but I saw five dead soldiers over in the ditch over there. So those are the things that you remember.

 

Triesler: Were they American soldiers or German soldiers?

 

McAuliffe: Yeah American, five Americans. They called it mortar corner because the troops that were going up there were really getting hit. So that was my first indoctrination into being shelled and it was very scary you know? Thereís nothing like being under an artillery attack or whatever. Somebody has asked me if my religion ever played a part in my service. I said yeah it was. In my pocket I carried a little of the core fatherís statements Sunday missal I picked it up in basic training in one of the chapels and I kept it and stuck it in my pocket, and I used to read from that, scriptures. I carried also my knife I had my spoon and fork, a little pack of cigarettes I learned to smoke in the service like we all did when you get shipped out and youíre nervous and cold you start smoking, it gave you some feeling of security. I had also the little packet of toilet tissue and we used all of them everyday I carried that throughout the war in my little pocket. So that was some of the things youíll remember, but anyway I got through it and I got assimilated into the squad with the regular guys, became part of the unit. We did what we had to do, fired the mortar now and then dig the hole and find a place to live in a house or a barn now and then. Some guys wanted to get a bed the rest of us slept on the floor other times you were out in the hole. Wherever you went you had to dig a hole for the mortar, which had to be pretty big and deep, but the ground was hard sometimes we didnít dig it as it shouldíve been, then you had to dig your own foxhole beside. In the winter the ground was very, very hard and I heard that some of the infantry men used to use hand grenades. They dig a little hole then put the grenade in and get away to dig the hole for them to explode the dirt away. I never did that. So we got through the war and it had other problems after the Bulge we went through Germany and we crossed the Rhine River which was pretty bad because we were crossing the Rhine River and it was the last natural barrier the Germans had. They took us out to the woods and they trained us in little metal boats we had to carry them and learn how to paddle, in the woods. Then when it came time to cross the river, they actually, not me the rifle troops. They had to paddle their way across the river and Germans were in the hills with 20mm shooting down and a lot of them were shot up and floating down the river. The night I got there, there was a machinegun shooting at us from across the river and my friend Danny and I were in this hole and we escaped from that. Then it was our night to cross the river we went a mile down river but when we got there low and behold they had these landing barges which they used in D-Day. Now years later I read in General Eisenhowerís book, The Crusade In Europe, that they raced these barges across France in three days for the troops to cross the Rhine River. Being in the mortars I was not the first we had the rifle troops that would go first. So they went out and they really got hit really bad but when I crossed at two o clock in the morning we didnít have any opposition. So we went the next day through the night into the early morning back down the river from where we crossed, we came down, over, and back and I looked down the hull. The German machineguns were shooting at us and I looked up and there was a P-51, we had twelve P-51ís supporting us crossing the river and I saw this P-51 attacking. He made two dives out of it and knocked him out. So the next day when we went back up the river I looked down the road and that gunner, I saw him in the road you know dead with the gun busted. So we got to where we were supposed to go and the order came down and the Lieutenant says Sergeant Kelly I want three men. He picked me and Jenadin and Mcapee. Mcapee had the big radio on his back and we were gonna climb up the river. He didnít tell us why I guess we were looking for mortar targets. We climbed up the vineyards on the Rhine River, a very steep hill and we get up to the top and he says ok take a break. So I lean against a tree and I had a K ration and I pulled it out and started eating. I looked down on the centuries old Rhine River and I remember this it was so peaceful there was not a boat in sight, not a boat. Well we went back there in 96 on a tour and there were all kinds of boats you never knew, pleasure boats, barges, carrying all kinds of machinery and equipment, sail boats there were all so many boats it looked like the expressway. That day I looked down and there was not a boat in sight because it was the war. So he said okay were going now and we went up through the woods creeping and crawling for about a half hour. Then he says ok were going back now. So were on our way back and all of a sudden this machinegun opens up and boy were we terrified. It was our own, it was another platoon coming up the same way. What they were doing there I donít know and we all dove for cover and we were down behind a ledge and we were yelling at them and screaming at them we says Mike company cut out the fire and I looked back and I saw a building the brickwork was picked off with bullets and everything. So finally we got them to stop he says Mike company cut out that fire, you know. So we got out and it was like from here across the wall that gun was setup. Why it didnít get us I donít know, we were safe. Those guys behind the machinegun, if I ever found their leader Iíd, I donít know what. So they contained it up the hill and we went back down the hill where they had come up. So we were going out of the woods and I was the last man and we walked across a dead German who was on his back and being trained as a catholic I hung back. I looked right over his face and I said this prayer they call it an act of contrition. The things they taught us to do when we were sick or dieing and I said it for that dead German you know asking for forgiveness for his sins or whatever. Then I followed and caught up with them and we got back to the squad room and we tried to tell them what happened to us. They didnít pay any attention to us itís just a novel thing that happened in the war, all the troops were moving out. Itís a funny thing we were moving out to the next town and the town was called Badems and Badems means resort, recreation in German. Itís a health resort and the order came down for the troops to get haircuts and get shaven and freshened up cause we looked like hell with our whiskers and long hair. We cut each others hair and my buddy gave me an awful haircut he was from Baltimore I remember him Yuwa from Baltimore, he just chopped the hell out of me and I said it was bad cuts and bad Mís. Thatís more or less a story I had to tell. So after that we went into Germany and things started to ease up. We were still fighting and we went through the town of Plowen, it was a big city, Plowen. It was a manufacturers city and a week before we went in the American Air Force bombed it to hell. It was still burning when we went in. There were poor people in there piling up the bricks you know the civilians and trying to get it tidied up. That was one of the big cities we went into. Most of the places we went through were small towns in the country, but we remember that town of Plowen. Other people know more about it than I do there was a big hospital there the Germans were using for their wounded. A few weeks later the war ended we were four miles from Czechoslovakia and the day before the war ended a lot of Germans were surrendering to us. They were retreating from the Germans (I think he means Americans) and this one my friend Danny Mariney he went down and he got maybe 20 rolls of film and a camera and he went down and he was taking all kinds of pictures of everything. He took a picture of our division commander with his foot up on the jeep posing like that I have it in my book downstairs. After the war he brought those home and Iíve got copies of them and fortunately I still have those their souvenirs of the war. Shows us in our tents, shows us cleaning weapons things like that their in the book downstairs, no upstairs. Oh yeah so we were in this little house and they said ok were moving out on a taskforce to support and the word came down that its over, its over. So we set up our tents on a hill a hillside and we have nothing to do so a few of us, there was a little pond down in the town. So yeah lets go down and have a swim, it was a warm day. So I went down I took my clothes off I cut the legs off my long johns it was May and I was still wearing long johns. So we went in for a swim and we get down there, itís a little pond about half the size of a hockey rink you might say and the Germans were on that side and they were washing up and they were singing Lilly Molly that great song of the war. They were happy as clams the war was over just like us we didnít bother them and they didnít pay attention to us. It was a nice warm day we had a nice swim and we went back to camp and that night somebody had a bottle of cognac, and they opened it up thatís how we celebrated May 8th. In Paris and New York City and Chicago and London everybody was celebrating they were going wild all the lights were on again people in those squares celebrating, and we just took it back to our camp, got back and had a drink because it was over.

 

Triesler: Now you were worried about going to Japan at that point then?

 

McAuliffe: Oh yeah. We went to Camp Lucky Strike, these were camps where they assembled troops to send them back. We went to Camp Oklahoma and then Lucky Strike. Lucky Strike was a cigarette so it was a lucky strike we were going home and then they put us on the boat at Leharv to Westpoint, on July 4th we got into New York on July 11th. We had a steak dinner at midnight at Camp Mead and I went back to Fort Devans. We had a thirty day furlough and then the camp the boys were supposed to report back at, the famous airborne camp I cant remember, and then they were gonna be sent to Japan for one of the divisions. We were gonna prepare for the invasion of Japan, and I think they had it all figured out that the 87th was going to invade in March of 46 unfortunately I had a problem with my hearing I couldnít hear, because in basic training I was a coach on the rifle range. It was all day long on the rifle range and when I got back to the barracks I couldnít hear. They didnít give us earplugs or protection in those days we were right up next to the guy and it was very bad but I stayed in the service anyway. Then firing the mortar was even worse because I mean the mouth of a mortar is about the height of your camera there and the explosion, when you fired thirty rounds it was painful. So I had a hearing defect and during my stay, my furlough I went back to the hospital up in Fort Devans, Worth Global Hospital and the doctor sent me down to Deshawn Hospital Pennsylvania and down there they had boys coming in from the Navy, the big battleships, the airforce, the infantry and they all had hearing defects in varying degrees. So we were there for four months and they gave you lip reading courses, they gave you hearing tests and theyíd discharge you with hearing aids if your problem was serious. I was one of them and in those days the hearing aids were bigger than this and you wore it here and you had a battery here with pink flashlight batteries and you were wired up like a switchboard but thatís what happened.

 

Triesler: Did they work fairly well?

 

McAuliffe: So it worked well it helps Iíve been wearing them ever since but then I went to the behind the ear type and now this small type but now every guy my age today who comes to these reunions, their all wearing hearing aids.

 

Triesler: Now what did you end up doing for your career after the war? Did you go back to school?

 

McAuliffe: Yeah I graduated Holy Cross in three years I had a B.S. in biology and since I couldnít hear I knew I wasnít going to get accepted into med school because you had to use a stethoscope and all that. So I applied to dental school and I went to Georgetown University dental school and I graduated in 1950 and all my class were veterans. 99 percent of them we had guys from the Air Force, the Navy, and Marines, and the Army. I have one story I probably donít have enough time for it but Iíll tell you later.

 

Triesler: So were you a dentist for your career though

 

McAuliffe: Yes I was for thirty-six years I served in my home town.

 

Triesler: Yeah, wow I had know idea. I just read the book Company Commander and I donít know if youíve ever read that or not.

 

McAuliffe: McDonald?

 

Triesler: Yeah, yeah.

 

McAuliffe: I didnít read it but I read his Time for Trumpets.

 

Triesler: Did you? I havenít seen that one.

 

McAuliffe: That is the book on The Bulge he was a great writer he had more information on it and John Tolim his story and wrote The Battle that was about the Battle of the Bulge and General Eisenhowerís son John Eisenhower he wroteÖ

 

Triesler: I can picture the book.

 

McAuliffe: I canít remember his book. Anyway.

 

Triesler: I know what you mean I have that book at home.†††

 

McAuliffe: I had the book I sent it to him and he autographed it for me.

 

Triesler: Really? Thatís fantastic.

 

McAuliffe: His was a good book too.

 

Triesler: What I was curious about in McDonaldís book he describes that the Army would approach a town, it seemed like certain towns were your objective for the day.

 

McAuliffe: What?

 

Triesler: That certain towns would be the objective everyday or at least thatís how his booked seemed that they were constantly moving to a new town as they worked their way into Germany and then through Germany and depending on the town or the situation, you know you might need artillery or mortars to hit the town and then the infantry might try and go in. I just wondered if the way that you were used if there was a pattern like when you approached a town how were you as a soldier used was it pretty much the same every town you went into or was it different or what was one example?

 

McAuliffe: It was different. You know when I got there we were on the offensive they were not coming at us we were going at them but we were still getting fire. So our mortars were not used so much if the infantry was going well. They got support from machineguns, but in my division, in my unit particularly third battalion we. There were two other mortar groups and maybe they were supporting but I donít remember firing it so much. We did go on one night detail I remember in the middle of the night we took the Jeep out and laid out some place and we laid down a fire pattern. It must have been a night attack by one of the companies you know, but we didnít fire our mortars so much.

 

Triesler: So you were used as an infantry soldier more?

 

McAuliffe: I was an infantry soldier yes.

 

Triesler: So when you would approach a town you know what would you wait for I mean had the probably already pulled out or did you have to go in house by house and sort of search?

 

McAuliffe: Well the infantry, the rifleman went house by house in the early part of the war but near the end you know from February on I donít think they saw much house to house fighting cause they were retreating they were getting out before they were getting hit but there were still small skirmishes now and then between the troops. Yeah we had to get them out house by house but I donít think so much as early in the war you know. I mean just in the big cities maybe in Italy and places like that, Rome or places like that. Big cities in Saint Lowe early and right after D-Day there was Saint Lowe and places like that but that was before I got there, they had the 110th fighting in there, but the Bulge was intense because theyíd come right back at you, you know.

 

Triesler: Right trying to get those supplies I guess. Do you think the Germans were just spread out too thin? Iíve heard of Europe, wasnít it called fortress Europe and the Germans had sort of fortified everything. I was wondering if they were just, you know, in too many countries. You think that was one of the problems?

 

McAuliffe: Yeah they were spread out. We thought the Battle of the Bulge was bad but Leningrad, Stalingrad that must have been horrible up in 1940. The Germans were outside the gates of Stalingrad and those Russians put up a terrific fight. They were starving they had no food and they pushed the Germans back. That was terrible up there they lost more than we did in the Bulge, I think. You read that sometimes, the battle of Stalingrad, and thatís how they were thinned out. If it werenít for them we might have had a hell of a lot tougher time in the Bulge, you know because they would have had more people, more resources, more tanks, and younger men fighting. Of course when we were fighting them they had older men and young boys 14, 15 in defense of Berlin. In defense of Berlin they were young boys fighting against the Russians near the end of the war.

 

Triesler: Did you ever see General Patton?

 

McAuliffe: No, but my battalion commander, 3rd battalion, was a friend of his in stateside before the war. They lived together in the same fort or base wherever they were. At one of the reunions I went to, I saw this Lieutenant I think it was L company and he knew General Patton, he knew this Colonel and he gave me his name and I used to write a few poems. He lived in Arkansas and he was 91 years old at the time after the war and I wrote him a letter and I wrote him some poems and I just wanted to thank him for his service and all that, and he wrote back to me in longhand. He said Iím 91 and my wife is 87 and we were friends of General Patton and my wife used to go horseback riding with B, her name was Beatrice Patton, Pattonís wife and he said you know when we were over there in the war General Patton visited me at my battalion headquarters and I took him out up to the line and he crept up to these two soldiers in foxholes. He said to them you know boys you have to stay here you gotta to hold here but its gonna be your ass, thatís what he said to those two soldiers. I guess that let them know.

 

Triesler: Yeah thatís great, he was quite a soldier wasnít he.

 

McAuliffe: Yeah he was quite a soldier.

 

Triesler: We were lucky to have him.

 

McAuliffe: Some of the guys met him; they talk about it. This battalion commander he didnít get wounded but he was out of action, I guess he came down with some kind of a sickness or something.

 

Triesler: Well when you were telling me you didnít take your boots off until you got into that bunker. I was wondering if you found that your, you know, like the skin on your feet was it peeling away or caliced?

 

McAuliffe: No, no.

 

Triesler: You werenít having any problems?

 

McAuliffe: No I was fortunate when I got there they gave me goulashes and I kept them on. I had two pairs of wool socks the boots and the goulashes. I didnít have to stand much in the foxholes as long as some of the others did. Like up in the Horken Forest those soldiers, they were in those foxholes and it was rainy season in November and those holes were full of water and they got their feet wet and thatís when gang-green set in, you know and their feet got blue and swelled up. Some of them had them amputated but fortunately I kept my feet dry and I never had that problem but if we went in a room or a house at night I didnít dare take them off because sometimes you had to move out in a hurry and you wanted to keep your boots on. So your feet were numb, my feet were really numb all through January and February, I had no feeling in here but I never got really frozen.

 

Triesler: And they recovered fully after?

 

McAuliffe: They recovered, and the gloves I had, you wore holes in them cause you were always doing something with your hands setting up the equipment or carrying and you wore holes in your gloves and your fingertips were numb, you know, numb it was hard, I couldnít buckle the shoes. Things like that.

 

Triesler: When you were in that bunker that first time you got to spend the night in there with everybody, you know, were there signs of the Germans having been in there?

 

McAuliffe: No I donít rememberÖ

 

Triesler: Did you see German things or graffiti or signs or paintings?

 

McAuliffe: I donít remember seeing anything in there, it was in the Zigfried Line, but later on when we moved from Mandefeld across the Belgium-German line we went into a town called Almont and there was a hill there. It had a number, they all had numbers, but we called it Goldbrick hill. Now our 347th regiment was supposed to take the hill but they switched over 346 took it. 347 took Almont, and I was in a farmyard which the Germans had been pushed out of and I saw the hill. It had a big hill and a slow slope and before I even knew what it was I heard the artillery going off in the back. It came right over our heads ďshoomĒ you could hear the ďburr burrĒ and I could see it exploding on the face of this bald hill with rounds and rounds and rounds. It was only years later when I read the historyÖ I wrote a letter home to my uncle telling about that experience. It was only years later that I read from my history book that it was Goldbrick hill and the 346th took the hill and there were bunkers up there ten or twelve bunkers and at one of the reunions in West Virginia we visited the statehouse and I met my Captain Ketler up there. Captain Ketler was wounded in Omar and this kid McAbee who had the radio used to go with him all the time, and Captain Ketler was wounded at Omar and at the statehouse in West Virginia I met him and said hey Captain what happened to you howíd you get wounded. He pulled back his shirt and showed me where he caught a piece of shell through his clavicle and he got a bullet in his leg. He was the guy that was six foot three and the football player you know. So he was wounded there at Omar, and at that reunion I sat down on the bus and this man sat next to me and I was asking his experience. He said he was in M 346 and he was wounded on Goldbrick hill. I said whereíd you get wounded and he said right through the gut here. We became very good friends with him he lived in Graham, North Carolina, and I got his picture downstairs in my book. He was from Baltimore, before the war he worked in a B-26 bomber plant, I donít know what he did, and he finally got inducted into the infantry and he lived with his wife May Bavia, and I visited his house several times even though Iím from Massachusetts. Heís a great man and his wife knows more about the war than I do she has a great interest in the history and sheís talked to many veterans she knows so much of what went on and through Joe Bavia too. The biggest thing Joe doesnít remember, the guy next to him who got blown to pieces, thatís what he claims, and no one seems to know who the other fella was and ever since the war heís been trying to find out who that fella was, no one seems to know he keeps questioning people and talking to people. Anyway Joe died about two years ago heís buried in Arlington, Virginia in the cemetery and we still visit May I still talk to her on the telephone, we still write letters to each other and he had upstairs in his room in his house what he called the war room. He had more tapes and more books on the war and history, you know, and his friends would visit there, they would go up in that room and theyíd talk about the war and different things that happened and everything like that, so he was quite an interesting fellow. One of his great friends was Les Atwell he was in G company 345 he lived to be 91 years old. He was born in Brooklyn near me. I didnít know him then, but we found out we lived near each other. He was older than the rest of us and he was a writer, and he wrote a book about his family growing up in Brooklyn. He wrote another book, which became the basis for the musical Flora in which Liza Minelli, the actress Judy Garlandís daughter, played in, he wrote that play, great writer. He was thirty-five years old and in a rifle company and they said this guy is doing more harm than good, he canít keep up with us. So they put him in the medics. He was in the medical unit and he began to take notes and wrote a book called Private. It was published in 1959 by Simon and Schuschler Books, and it was the best book ever written on the life of an infantry man up until that time. The book was Private by Lester Atwell and it tells a lot about the war and experiences, first hand experiences of soldiers you know. This guy is the most descriptive writer he almost wrote it from memory you know everything is in detail when you get the book. So a few years ago we had a reunion down in Alabama and his nephew republished the book, so he got so many books. My friend George Watson, who is here with me, he and I left from his home and we met Lesterís nephew at route 95, a specific place, and we picked up all these books the new edition of private and we brought them down to the reunion down in Alabama, Burmingham. Lester came and he sat at a desk and he sold his book, now the people who were running the reunion didnít like that they wanted to control everything, but we said no were going to sell Lesterís book. You know how it is a little friction sometimes, jealousy between groups, but anyway we sold copies of his book and Lester was very pleased about that. Joe Bavia was a great friend of his because Lester moved from Virginia to his nephewís in North Carolina near where Joe lived in Grayham. He lived there with his nephew he was going blind he couldnít see, so he was a guest and Joe Baviaís house many many times. When George and I went there we had a nice supper. He recalled everything what a memory he had if you asked for something he could almost describe it almost perfectly, but he died a few years ago.

 

Triesler: The fella that was wounded on the hillÖ

 

McAuliffe: Joe Bavia

 

Triesler: Do you think that it was friendly fired that wounded him?

 

McAuliffe: No, no it was artillery from German artillery, shouldnít have brought that up. There were twelve pill boxes up there, but there was not much confrontation because Mike Petrick who was a lieutenant in the mortars who was Joe Baviaís lieutenant and Georgeís, George is here with me, he was a surveyor, an instrument surveyor he told them where to set up the guns and stuff. Heís here he was in M company 346. The German lieutenant, I donít know the full story, he came out of the bunker and they were waving the flags to surrender and Mike went in that bunker. They had more equipment in there, brand new unused machineguns and everything, and why they didnít use them against us I donít know, he doesnít know he says they could have shot us up to pieces but they decided to surrender rather than have a confrontation. I think George Watson will tell you more about that than I know because he was his company commander. They gave up they had all the equipment all the munitions but they just gave up.

 

Triesler: Do you think they stopped believing in whatever cause it was that they were fighting for?

 

McAuliffe: Yeah it was a losing cause they didnít want to fight.You know a funny thing, the next town after the Almont was static hillÖ

 

Triesler: (pause) Okay.

 

McAuliffe: I went back to Europe in Belgium in 1994 with a group called The Galaxy Tour. I was put together Stan Wautosik and a bunch from Philadelphia. Bil Tayman who was in our division was the president of the Battle of the Bulge group that year, and he ran the tour and my friend Danny Mariny was on the tour, from Newtonville Mass one of my best friends who died last year. Well we had a day off and they had men from Belgium who volunteered to drive the veterans to wherever they wanted to go, and I met up with a man named Stanley Bellins, he was from Liege and he volunteered to drive me wherever I wanted to go, so I said lets go back to Mandefeld, where I told you about. We went to Mandefeld and we went to the other town nearby, thatís the one where I told you where I went into the bunker, and he drove back to Omatt Gold Brick Hill. So were coming up the rode and it said Omatt and I started to get a chill. So I said stop here I said thatís Gold Brick Hill isnít it he says yes, but he said only part of its there because the German government was taking the hill down to use that gravel to make roads, build roads. There was a lot of good gravel you could break up the granite. So I said okay take me up there anyway so he took me up and I said stop here I want to go up. There was no reminiscence of anything, I was looking for bunkers and things but there was nothing up there that resembled that there was a war going on. Now a couple of years before that Joe Bavia went back with his wife May and they went up on Goldbrick Hill and they met a farmer and they told him who they were and he says yes come up, come with me Iíll show you the top of the hill where the war was. They saw something they remembered but when Joe Bavia was wounded they had a couple of German soldiers who were captured and who was put on a stretcher between two tanks and the tanks started up and he got awful scared because he thought he was going to get ground to pieces, the tanks were gonna move, they didnít see him. So he got moved and they had two Germans take him. They were starting to take him down the hill and they were opposite the opening of one bunker and some more artillery came in and blew them into the bunker, so he was wounded twice. So finally they got him part way down the hill and they met a farmer with an ox cart and they placed him on the cart and they eventually got him down to the bottom of the hill where at eleven o clock at night he was able to get in an ambulance to take him to the aid station where he was operated on. We were talking to some Vietnam veterans and they had helicopters ready to take them out, well thatís alright but poor Joe it took him all day long he could have been bleeding to death. Some farmer with an ox cart put him on it like a stretcher and later on in the very late hours of the night he was able to get to an ambulance and take him to the aid station, and Joe sent me a diagram of that whole situation. A nice elaborate drawing, where he was hit, where the bunker was, where he was blown in, where he met the ox cart, he wrote up that whole story and sent it to his friends.

 

Triesler: Did you take that with you when you went over, did you have his map?

 

McAuliffe: No, I didnít have it when I went over there, I got that later on.

 

Triesler: Yeah, huh.

 

McAuliffe: But when I got there, there was not much left of the hill because I was looking for blockhouses and bunkers but I didnít find any.

 

Triesler: Wow thatís great that you went over and got to see it though, and the people treated you well didnít they?

 

McAuliffe: You never get treated so much as you do when you go back to Belgium and Luxembourg. Iíve been back five times and they had wine receptions and we went back on the 60th anniversary. Everything was setup beautifully with the different towns, the turnout with the little children and they sing to you, and they take you into the churches where they have a religious ceremony, they take you into school auditoriums where they have bands and orchestras and they have wine receptions and they really do it up great its marvelous. They never forget their liberators; you know they still remember they never forget.