Albion Central School Veterans History Project – Interview Transcript

Interviewee: David George Newman 
Interviewer: Brad Bidell
Place of Birth: Lyndonville, New York 
Date of Interview: June 14, 2004
Date of Birth: May 10, 1922
Place of Residence: Albion, New York

War(s) in which Interviewee Served: World War II
Branch of Service or Wartime Activity: Army
Battalion, Regiment, Division, Unit, Ship, etc.: 22nd Infantry, Company 6
Method of Induction: Drafted
Service Dates: June 27, 1944 – October 18, 1945
Location of Military or civilian service: France; Germany
Other information: Veteran sustained combat/service-related injuries; rank: Private First Class

Transcript

Bidell: [I am Brad] Bidell, with David Newman [at] Oak Orchard Estates, Albion, New York. June 14th, 2004. All right, what did you do before you joined the service?

Newman: I was a farmer.

Bidell: Can you elaborate? Did you work…

Newman: Worked with my father on a farm.

Bidell: Where were you living?

Newman: Alps Road, in Lyndonville.

Bidell: Did you enlist or were you drafted?

Newman: I was drafted.

Bidell: Why did you choose your branch of service?

Newman: That was the one they put me in.

Bidell: Did you want to fight for your country?

Newman: Yes.

Bidell: Can you tell me about your first days in the service, or how did you… your first few days or months or so?

Newman: First mix-ups? Fort Dix, basic training, rifle practice, stuff like that. Marches down in South Carolina at the red sand.

Bidell: What exactly did you have to do for basic training?

Newman: Just march, and learned how to take a rifle apart and put it back together.

Bidell: What did you like about the training?

Newman: I didn’t…

Bidell: You didn’t?

Newman: No, it was fun in a way…different people.

Bidell: So you got to meet people?

Newman: From all over. I was friends with a Newman from Massachusetts.

Bidell: Where were you on December 7th, 1941, during the attack on Pearl Harbor?

Newman: Somewhere in Germany. That was the first part, wasn’t it?

Bidell: Yeah.

Newman: That was before I went in. I was home, then.

Bidell: How old were you when the war started?

Newman: Twenty. Nineteen or twenty.

Bidell: So you probably were like about 22 when you went in.

Newman: I guess. That was a long time ago.

Bidell: Do you remember where abouts in Germany?

Newman: We went in through France. I think it was France. Went up through the Hurtgen Forest, that’s where they was fighting at that time.

Bidell: Can you describe your experiences in Germany?

Newman: I woke up one morning, there was a dead soldier right pretty near in front of me.

Bidell: What was your first job assignment? Or any job assignment?

Newman: Wasn’t KP, I don’t think. I don’t remember, Brad, what it was.

Bidell: What’s KP?

Newman: Kitchen duty. Peel potatoes and that kind of stuff.

Bidell: Were you involved in combat?

Newman: Very much so. I was shot at, too.

Bidell: Were you ever…at any point were you ever fearful?

Newman: Well, yeah. We had to cross, they called them rivers over there but it was like a creek to me. I couldn’t swim, but I swam that day.

Bidell: Did you witness many casualties in your unit?

Newman: Once in a while you’d see one. Not very often.

Bidell: Can you tell me about the food and the different activities that went on while you were outside of fighting…when you weren’t fighting?

Newman: Activities was nothing.

Bidell: What about the food?

Newman: Army food. [chuckle] It wasn’t much. Lived out of army tin cans and stuff like that…what you could carry in your bag.

Bidell: So how did you pass time if there weren’t any activities?

Newman: Time just went, that’s all.

Bidell: Did you like…?

Newman: You laid in the barracks, something like that. Tents.

Bidell: How did you keep in touch with the people at home?

Newman: Wrote letters…when we could.

Bidell: Did you receive anything from anybody at home?

Newman: Got packages once in a while.

Bidell: Like what kind of packages?

Newman: Different kind of food and stuff. Stuff that would keep. Cookies and crackers and stuff like that. They gave us our cigarettes. Everybody learned to smoke in the army.

Bidell: How did you celebrate holidays?

Newman: I don’t remember how we did celebrate it. We had the day off, probably. Otherwise, we kept right on fighting, marching, or something.

Bidell: Can you tell me about like, one of your most memorable experiences?

Newman: Well, I met your grandmother, I guess.

Bidell: How did you meet her?

Newman: A bunch of us took off and went to Hendersonville, North Carolina. Drank all the beer they had in the place.

Bidell: And she was just there?

Newman: She came down with two or three of her cousins, I guess it was…nieces or something.

Bidell: Do you know what she was doing during the war?

Newman: She worked in a factory making…I don’t know if it was parachutes or something she sewed on.

Bidell: So was this before you went over to Germany?

Newman: Yeah [?]

Bidell: What skills or lessons did you learn?

Newman: How to carry a rifle. That’s about it.

Bidell: Did you learn any life lessons?

Newman: No.

Bidell: If you could talk to a soldier from present times, right now, what kind of advice would you give him?

Newman: Keep his head down. Keep out of the way of the bullets, if you can.

Bidell: Do you have any memorable experiences in Germany?

Newman: Not that I can recall now. If you had done this about 20 years ago, I might have remembered some. You wasn’t there then, was you?

Bidell: Do you recall the day you left the service?

Newman: Yeah, that was a good day.

Bidell: What did you do afterwards?

Newman: Went to Harrison’s to work.

Bidell: While you were still in Germany, what did you do in the last couple months or weeks while you were there?

Newman: We moved around, but I can’t remember where we went. They brought us back and gave us leave to get ready to come back across the ocean.

Bidell: How did you find out?

Newman: When they told us the war ended and we didn’t have to go any further. I came home and I was on leave when the war ended. In Japan, that’s where I was supposed to go when I came back from Germany. Twenty-second infantry was going to Japan.

Bidell: What was your reaction to the war being over?

Newman: Great. I couldn’t have been happier.

Bidell: Did you form any close friendships while you were in the war?

Newman: Several. I’ve lost contact with all of them now. Last one I had was from Massachusetts. He went to Florida and I heard from him for a few years and now I don’t hear from him. There was one out in Michigan, but I lost track of him right away. One in Buffalo, I lost track of him. When you get old, nobody wants to know you anyway.

Bidell: Were any of your high school friends in the war with you?

Newman: One of my buddies lived on Lake Road, went into the service with me. He came out with me, too. He wasn’t right with me, but he was discharged about the same time.

Bidell: What was your career after the war?

Newman: Factory worker, I guess. I went to work to Harrison’s.

Bidell: What did you do?

Newman: What did I do there? Tried to get out of work, most of the time. No, I packed radiators and stuff like that for two or three years and then I started driving …and done that the rest of my life up there.

Bidell: Did your wartime career contribute to it?

Newman: No

Bidell: How did your experiences contribute to your thinking about war and military service.

Newman: That they should stop it. They don’t need to be fighting all the time. They don’t need to be over there fighting somebody that [isn’t] interested in what we’re doing.

Bidell: So how do you feel about the war in Iraq right now?

Newman: The same way. They don’t want us over there, why not leave them there? Let them kill themselves if they want to.

Bidell: So if you could go back in time and you had a chance to do things over again, what would you do the same and what would you do differently?

Newman: That’s a good question. I don’t know. I don’t know what you’d do.

Bidell: Do you regret what you did?

Newman: No, not really. It was necessary.

Bidell: Are you a member of any veteran’s or other organizations related to your service?

Newman: DAV, VFW, American Legion.

Bidell: What do you do in these groups?

Newman: DAV I’m a commander of a post.

Bidell: Can you elaborate on that? Like, what are your tasks for DAV?

Newman: Make sure everything gets done that we’re doing. Play bingo at Vet’s Hospital in Batavia. We used to, anyway. Take flowers over there for Memorial Day.

Bidell: Do you attend reunions?

Newman: No. They’re too far away. Cost too much money for an old man.

Bidell: What kind of cultural obstacles did you face while you were in Germany?

Newman: I don’t…I guess their farming was different than ours. They lived in the house and the barn was probably in the front part. The cattle was in the barn and manure piles were piled up right outside the living room.

Bidell: What was your favorite part about being in Germany?

Newman: It was a nice country…what was left of it. Most of it was blown to pieces.

Bidell: What was your least favorite part about being there?

Newman: Couldn’t understand the people for one thing. I don’t know what else was wrong with it…something was, probably.

Bidell: How did you overcome some of these differences?

Newman: I don’t know. I can’t remember how we got rid of them, got over them or something. My memory’s pretty shot.

Bidell: That’s all right. What was it like coming home?

Newman: Oh, it was interesting. Everybody was trying to throw up all the time. Trying to get on deck so they could get fresh air.

Bidell: So were the living conditions on the boat…how were they?

Newman: They were all right if you could keep in a clean place. They weren’t very clean on a boat. The water was different. It made you sticky when you washed your face. Salt water, I guess.

Bidell: Going back to Germany. How were the living conditions over there?

Newman: They lived pretty good.

Bidell: How about for the American soldiers?

Newman: The ones that lived in the houses and stuff that they took…captured…well they were all right. The rest of us lived out in tents. Gave them hovels…

Bidell: How did your family react when you came home.

Newman: They were happy.

Bidell: Did they do anything to celebrate?

Newman: I don’t remember. I don’t think so. We didn’t have any big parties.

Bidell: How about your friends. How did they react?

Newman: Some of us went out. Out nightclubbing or something. Things we weren’t supposed to do.

Bidell: How did you get back into a normal routine once you returned to America?

Newman: That was easy. Getting back to farming and working and doing whatever come natural, I guess.

Bidell: Did you ever talk to anybody about the war…like, did you ever share war stories with anybody?

Newman: No. I tried to forget it. And I forgot it, I guess.

Bidell: Did anyone ask you about your time over in Germany?

Newman: No. Not that I remember, anyway.

Bidell: Do you have anything else you can tell me about, like before, during, or after the war?

Newman: I went on, what’s that called, a break of some kind, went back to England. We was in Germany. I went back there for a rest period.

Bidell: Like a leave?

Newman: Leave, like. And I met my cousin there from Buffalo. He was on leave, too. We stayed there probably a week. I met some English relatives. Some that come…grandfather’s relatives that lived over there. I’ve even lost track of them, now. They’re probably dead, too.

Bidell: Did you have any experience with any part of the Holocaust, at all? Or do you remember…?

Newman: I don’t remember what it was. What was it?

Bidell: It was with the Jewish people. Hitler…?

Newman: No, we didn’t have no part of that. What else you got?

Bidell: I guess, for my final question, can you tell me who the president was at that time?

Newman: Eisenhower was part of the army, I think. I was under Patton when he was one of the leaders of the army.

Bidell: All right. Well, once again, I thank you for your time and I appreciate this very much.

Newman: If I could remember something, I could tell you a story last week, probably, but I can’t think of…

Bidell: That’s all right. Once again, this was Brad Bidell, with David Newman, in Oak Orchard Estates, Albion.