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I was just a girl of 10 or 11 in Eldora, Iowa. But I do remember the German POW's getting their exercise by marching up to and around the town square in Eldora and back to their CCC camp. They would be singing their German songs. I really enjoyed it. I also remember walking past their barracks when I was on the way to the state park. They tried to get me to come over to the fence but I was afraid to. I loved listening to their songs. I don't remember what they were but I did enjoy them.
My memories of wartime are quite vivid, although I was very young. I was born in 1934 and my first memory of the war was December 7, 1941. It was a crisply cold Sunday in Devils Lake, North Dakota. I was outside with my dad after breakfast helping him clean the leaves from the back yard. He had put the radio on the kitchen window sill to listen to the news when the announcement of the attack on Pearl Harbour came. I had just started second grade a few months earlier. That news broadcast triggered a blurred sequence of events which had me in three different schools by the time I finished second grade.
My mom and I went to Williston North Dakota to stay with my dads parents while he closed up his appliance business for the "duration". As soon as he was done, we travelled to Edmonds Washington where he went to work for Pointer-Wilamette building oil barges for the war effort. Because housing was so hard to find, we stayed with my mothers parents in Edmonds in their house in a hillside orchard overlooking the Puget Sound. I remember watching the war ships silently cruising to and from the Bremerton Navy shipyards under leaden skies as they passed between Edmonds and Kingston.
I remember my grandfather sitting at his card table, playing solitaire endlessly while he listened to the radio news broadcasts. We were all intensely proud, my uncle was a pilot in the Eighth Air Corps flying a fighter in North Africa and my grandfather had a map on the wall of the European theatre of operations which he followed my uncles activities as closely as he could.
I remember how concerned everyone was with the possibility of attack by Japanese aircraft on the defence plants in the Puget Sound area. There was an anti-aircraft gun near the Pointer-Wilamette plant, and about once a month, a lone AT-6 aircraft towing a windsock target would drone by for an hour or so while the gunnery crew manned the barking guns.
My cousin Donald, a little older than I, would go around picking up brass cartridge casings and clips after the crew left. I envied him... he had assembled an impressively long belt of spent 50 calibre cartridge cases.
I remember our rare trips to see my aunt and uncle in Tacoma. We would drive by the Boeing Aircraft plant just south of Seattle. As we passed, there were row upon row of new B-17 bombers waiting to be dispatched to Europe or the Pacific. The whole plant was camouflaged so well it never ceased to amaze me when I looked out the rear window of the car when we got a quarter of a mile past and all I could see was a hillside with a few houses where the plant should have been. I also remember the highway billboards with patriotic propaganda, "Loose Lips Sink Ships" and many with derogatory caricatures of the Axis foes.
I remember stopping at my grandparents house on my way home from school on a cold rainy day in April, 1943. Parked in front was an olive drab ford sedan, an army car. Two officers were just about to leave and were talking to my grandmother in front of the house. My uncle had been killed in Sicily. My grandfather was inside, seated at his card table, crying.
It was on a later trip home from school I remember his footlocker and personal effects being delivered to the front porch and the family silently unpacking them and holding each article as they did.
I remember trying to build model airplanes. My cousin Donald did, and his were perfect. Mine, the wings flopped and they somehow never looked like the real thing, but I tried.
I remember getting off the train in Devils Lake North Dakota again at the precise moment the was was officially over. Every church bell and siren in town sounded as my foot touched the ground as I stepped off the train. Instead of being in the second grade as I was when last there, I would start the fifth grade that fall.
The following is but one of my memories.
I was in the 87th Division. The division left Ft. Jackson in South Carolina, where we trained, went by rail to Camp Kilmer in New Jersey on our way overseas.
This was October, 1944. It was dark when we moved to a pier on the Hudson River. I was astonished at the size of the ship we were about to board, and for good reason: it was the Queen Elizabeth, converted from a luxury liner to a troopship.
The entire division, less an advance party, was accommodated, but not in staterooms. It was very crowded below decks, as you might imagine, and they kept us below until we arrived in Scotland. We crossed unescorted because by that time the U-boats had been pretty much defeated and the Queen was faster than the subs. We went in a zig-zag pattern.
When about a week later we dropped anchor at Gourock in Scotland, we were allowed on deck. I clearly remember a very green hill, on which the morning sun was falling, with what appeared to be a castle along the top. It seemed stunning to me. When I turned to look fore and aft it looked like the entire US and British fleets were riding at anchor!
It impressed this barely 19 year old who had never been away from New York City until he went into the army.
We then boarded trains headed south. My company was stationed in Knutsford, formerly Patton's HQ before he went to France to command the newly formed 3d Army.
We remained a month. It was a lovely place, but I was preconditioned to like it anyway. In my early teens I discovered King Arthur and after that everything British appealed to me, although my own ancestry has nothing to do with Britain. (In 1985, my last time in Britain, I visited Manchester medical school and then took the train to Knutsford for a sentimental journey. It looked about the same as I remembered it, but I was unable to find the area my company occupied).
Finally, the division moved to Southampton in November to embark for Normandy and the war which by that time had reached the German border.
I was a driver for a heavy machine gun squad; the jeeps and trailers were put on LSTs for the crossing, disembarking further up the Seine than the non-motorized troops.
From there to entering combat in the Saar, when a few weeks later Patton moved the 87th into the southern flank of the Bulge about New Years day. But that is another story.
I said I became an anglophile, extending that to the UK in general. After the war, I earned a PhD in biology, taught at a university for about 41 years until I retired about two years ago. I returned to Britain for three sabbatical years at the University College, Swansea in South Wales. One the close friends I made earlier was a professor at Liverpool. He had been in the RAF, a bomber I believe, and was shot down over the Channel and rescued. When we visited him on the Wirral in 1971, the weather was very cold. My wife and I bundled up in blankets. He had no central heating! I thought he would have been converted to the idea when he was in New York. Never gets cold enough, he said. Sadly, he died a few years ago.
This is a memory without the terror of battles to come. At V-E day, my division had crossed the Czech border on our way towards Karlsbad, but were halted and turned back into Germany. The Red Army was headed our way and we were in territory that was to become part of East Germany.
I was born in 1938 but I still remember things about the war time. I remember being very frightened that the war would come to this country. There were "black outs"; curtains drawn, no lights, air raid warnings. Then there was the adult talk which was not directed in children's terms so the little minds took facts and distorted them or added to them.
My brother was 21 and a pilot in the Air Force. He was killed in 1944 and I remember when the telegram came and Daddy read it and ran out the front door into the front yard and there he ran in circles until our minister came and was able to calm him.
Harry, my brother, volunteered for the service, he was exempt. He had a wife, small son and a daughter on the way. I can see him now walking down the walk coming from training wearing his uniform looking so tall and handsome. I would run to meet him and he would throw me up on his shoulder and would carry me home.
I was in the first grade at school. There was a sense of community and helping I have never experienced again. We packed shoe boxes for children in war torn countries, bought Savings Stamps with our change. Our family purchased WAR BONDS and collected items for the war effort.
Sugar and gasoline were among the rationed items. We had stamps for gas and sugar. Daddy had certain days to purchase gas and we parked in a long line to get it.
That period was very difficult emotionally although I lived in the "safe" United States
Barbara Sayle DeLee
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