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xml version 1.0 encoding UTF-8 transcript segment idx 0 time 00:00:0.5 text May Macdonald Horton: Oh, hello! 1 00:00:1.3 Michael Hirsh: How are you? 2 00:00:2.2 MMH: I am fine, thank you. I was expecting your call; your wife was talking to me for a few moments yesterday or the day before. 3 00:00:10.1 MH: Right. 4 00:00:11.1 MMH: Yes. 5 00:00:11.9 MH: I wondered if I could ask you a few questions about your time with the 120th Evac [120th Evacuation Hospital]? 6 00:00:15.2 MMH: Oh, yes, that will be fine. 7 00:00:16.7 MH: Okay. Im turning a recorder on. 8 00:00:19.4 MMH: All right. 9 00:00:20.1 MH: Would you spell your name for me? 10 00:00:22.1 MMH: My last name isI went by Macdonald. I was May, M-a-y, Macdonald, M-a-c-d-o-n-a-l-d all run together, small letters. My last name now, my married name for fifty-three years, is Horton, H-o-r-t-o-n. 11 00:00:42.2 MH: And your address, please? 12 00:00:43.8 MMH: and you have my phone number 13 00:00:46.9 MH: Whats your date of birth? 14 00:00:48.7 MMH: Its April 20, 1915. 15 00:00:51.8 MH: Oh, happy birthday. 16 00:00:53.4 MMH: Ninety-four the other day. 17 00:00:55.3 MH: Tell me, where did you grow up? 18 00:00:58.8 MMH: I grew up in California. Actually, I was born in Montana. My mother and father were Scottish, so they came over from Scotland. They had a relationship in the family, because both their grandmothers were sisters, so they knew each other very well over there through the years. My father wanted to come to America to become a citizen, which he did in 1913, in another short period of time after he had been here and become a homesteader, which was common at that time there in Montana. I dont know the reason for Montana, because I had never asked them why they chose Montana. 19 00:01:44.7 But anyway, when they got to Montanahe got to Montanaand he had himself established with a big homestead there of 10,000 acres and cattle and sheep, he wrote to my mother, not his wife yet, and asked her to come over here and be his bride and come to America and live with him. So, she arrived, and then in 1915 I was born. The winters were very severe, so they tried to move from there to get to a warmer climate after the sheep and everythingin the cold winters, they just were dying off, and his bronchitis was so bad that they moved to warmer climates and tried Washington Stateit didnt work out, because it was colder thereand then went on into California. Why they chose Pomona I dont know; maybe he knew somebody in business or anything. My father was a rancher, actually, in Inverness, Scotland. My mother was in the nursing field in Killin, Perthshire, Scotland. 20 00:02:56.6 MH: Where did you go to nursing school? 21 00:03:0.2 MMH: I went to nursing school in Santa Barbara at the Cottage Hospital, and I attended a school that was there present at the time, the Knapp College of Nursing, K-n-a-p-p; it was called the College of Nursing. It was in a big dormitory, which was across the street from the emergency room in Santa Barbara, California. 22 00:03:25.6 MH: And what made you decide to go in the army? 23 00:03:27.9 MMH: What made me decide? 24 00:03:29.8 MH: Mm-hm. 25 00:03:30.3 MMH: Well, Ill tell you. I had gone through school, gotten my education, went on to nursing school, did my post-graduate work, and was living in Pasadena by this time, in California. The reason I went to Pasadena was that they had an opening for me in the administration department of the hospital on a floor, a big medical surgical floor, because I had been there for my post-graduate work. I came back at their invitation to take over a big floor there that wasI could be on the staff there. This was about in 1939. 26 00:04:12.4 I was there at the hospital and was getting along very well, and was thinking of going into med school, pre-med. Until one daythis was in probably 1940, or maybe later 1940. I received a letter from the Red Cross saying that they were establishing a hospital for the military and that I had been assigned to Camp Callan, California. I was to be having my tour of duty as an officer in the Army Nurse Corps. 27 00:04:52.2 MH: You mean they drafted you, or you volunteered? 28 00:04:55.5 MMH: It was a matter of I was in the Red Cross and they needed nurses. 29 00:04:58.9 MH: Oh! Okay. 30 00:05:0.4 MMH: And so, thats how I got into the fact that I waswell, I guess I really volunteered, because I knew the world was in kind of an uprest at the time in 1940. So, anyway, I did get the letter saying I was an officer in the army. So, I arrived at Camp Callan, and that was near San Diego and La Jolla at the intersection there, which is now Torrey Pines Golf Course. The hospital no longer exists. But I was there in the beginning of the war in May of 1941. 31 00:05:36.6 MH: And you got assigned to the 120th Evac when they were organizing? 32 00:05:40.6 MMH: It was a matter of a period of time there. And no, it wasnt there that I was assigned there. Ill go maybe a little quicker here. I was at Camp Callan in the operating rooms. I went from there to Port McArthur, which is in the [South] Bay of Los Angeles area: Long Beach and so forth. I was there, and I also was in charge of all the operating rooms. From there, I went to Camp Cookethat is up further in northern Californiaand it was a matter of, at that point in timeit has changed to the Vandenberg Air Force Base; maybe you would remember it by that. 33 00:06:22.6 MH: Right. 34 00:06:23.4 MMH: Camp Cooke was my stop. At that time is where they were beginning to send out notices for units that were going to be sent overseas. So, one day, a letter came, and it was a matter of I had been assigned to the 120th Evacuation Hospital and I would be leaving San Diego andno, I beg your pardon. I didnt leave San Diego; I left Camp Cooke area. 35 00:06:52.6 MH: Right. 36 00:06:53.7 MMH: And then we went to Hattiesburg, Mississippi, where we started our hospital. 37 00:06:59.6 MH: And your job with the 120th was what? 38 00:07:2.4 MMH: Administration. I was one of the chief nurses. Artie May Ussery was the head chief. She was a regular army lady: very, very wonderful and very nice. There were 40 nurses, 40 doctors, and 250 enlisted men in our unit. They chose me as the one that would be in charge of the operating rooms, and the other chief nurse was in charge of the patients. 39 00:07:30.3 MH: And your rank at the time was what? 40 00:07:32.0 MMH: I was a second lieutenant. 41 00:07:33.6 MH: Okay. 42 00:07:34.7 MMH: And the interesting part about this, when you mentioned a rank: there was notafter all we had gone through and the war was over, it was a matter of there was not one promotion made to any of the nurses in that unit. Which I thought was pretty difficult to swallow, because I know that there were some of the people that were doing way beyond their duty. 43 00:08:1.4 MH: So, you stayed as a second lieutenant the whole time? 44 00:08:4.4 MMH: Mm-hm. No, I beg your pardon. I was a first lieutenant, but I never got my captaincy, as I wanted. However, I could have gotten the captaincy at the end of the war, if I was to go on in the regular army. I had a choice to make: go on in the regular army, and that would have been a promotion; the other thing was I had the option of going back and being a civilian. I chose the civilian. And the reason I did: I did not feel fair, after my mother had been helping at the hospitals in Pasadenaand she was a widow from the time she was forty-nine. I lost my father when I wasI was an only child, and I lost my father when I was fifteen. She had done a wonderful job through the war, helping and everything, and I would have been not able to have gone on in the army and leave her again. 45 00:09:0.6 So, I came home to Pasadena, and from there I got a very fine position with the hospital there where Id done my post-graduate work: the Huntington Hospital, Collis P. and Howard Huntington Hospital. I was there as head of their social service department. It wasnt exactly a nursing job, but it wasit was putting out monies to help people to pay their bills. 46 00:09:26.1 MH: Right. 47 00:09:26.7 MMH: I was the one that had to make those decisions. So then, after a couple years, I found a very nice gentleman that I married, and we moved north, nearer San Francisco. My husband was a colonel in the army, and he kept that up until he was not able to go out in the field with the enlisted men anymore; he had arthritis so bad. So, okay? 48 00:09:54.2 MH: Now, lets talk about going to Buchenwald. 49 00:09:57.3 MMH: Oh, okay. When I had my orders to go overseas, the six of us were in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. We set up our hospital. We went to Camp Kilmer, New Jersey, where we were going to be leaving the dock there. We were assigned to the Queen Elizabeth, which had been stripped, and it was one of the ships that had all the military on it. And there werelets see, Im trying to think. Anyway, the morning we left, I remember particularly that I wentwe werent supposed to be out on the decks, but I saw one of the officers there at one of the doors, and I said, Can I just take a look out and see the Statue of Liberty? and he said, Yes, you can. So, anyway, I did see that while I was just sailing out. We landed in Greenock, Scotland near midnight on the 22nd of December. And Im trying to think of the year. 50 00:11:11.0 MH: That would have been forty-four , I assume. 51 00:11:13.7 MMH: I think ityes, it was. It wasnt such a longI was in the army about five years, but Im trying to figure out how that was so late. Well, I was in the different hospitals, of course. 52 00:11:25.8 But anyway, we landed in Greenock, Scotland. We boarded a train that took us downor wherever down isto Tenby, Wales, where the enlisted men also had their big hotel and where the nurses had a hotel, right on the coast there. We were there and were getting our things together to go across the Channel, which we did. We went across the Channel and landed in Le Havre, France. And from Le Havre, France, which had been almost demolished with the war and the bombs, we got into trucks. They were divided: there were twenty nurses in one truck and twenty in the other. The assumption was that if one truck got through and the other didnt, well, we could still set up the hospital. 53 00:12:20.3 So, from there our hospital moved. We stopped at different places and got intoheading up into Germany and heading for, I would say, Berlin. About the point where we could hear the guns going off in Berlin, General [George S.] Pattons army had decided, or they had orders, to stop there and head towards the Czechoslovakia area, principally Weimar, Germany, which was the home of the SS troops and all the things there that were necessary to take care of the political prisoners that were in Buchenwald concentration camp. 54 00:13:13.9 The day before we arrived, there was a unit of the military, American military, that had their tanks, and they broke down the gates at the Buchenwald and all the people were released, many of them dying. But I have pictures, wonderful pictures here that I took. I say wonderful because they are not to be ever repeated again as far as whats going on there. A lot of people dont believe that ever happened. Well, I have the proof of it. Okay? 55 00:13:47.2 MH: Yeah. Your unit was in Frankfurt when you got the call to go to Buchenwald. I was told you were at a racetrack. 56 00:13:56.9 MMH: Oh, yes, that was along the way. Frankfurt, yes. 57 00:13:59.8 MH: Tell me what you recall about your first sight of Buchenwald. 58 00:14:5.1 MMH: My first sight at Buchenwald? 59 00:14:7.3 MH: Yeah. 60 00:14:8.5 MMH: We did not go in, the nurses. We arrived at the SS troops headquarters, which was outside of Weimar, and also a distance, short distance, from Buchenwald. We were, probably the next morning, were getting organized and everything. The enlisted men were allowed to go in, because it was perfectly horrible. The first sight that I saw of Buchenwald was going up a hill, up from a walk with some of my friends. We were walking along and there were people on the side of the road, and one man came over to me and said, Thank you, and he bent down and kissed my boot. Which it was kind of an emotional thing, because I said, Well, were happy that were here to help you. 61 00:15:5.3 So, anyway, Buchenwald had a wonderful entrance to it. It was veryit was just a great big front to it, a faade that was there. And I cannot remember all the details, because its kind of hard to remember all that. But I do know that in a very short couple of days, the nurses were assigned to be taking all these people that were in these rooms in these shelves; they were maybe four deep and eight foot shelves of wood that these people were sleeping in. And most of themand their potties were out in the area, and they were just holes in the ground, so there was a great deal of odor that was very bad. And then, all these people, not having had any healthcare, were in bad shape. Also, the dying were put onto trucks before they were sent over to the crematories. And I have those pictures. 62 00:16:12.2 MH: Ill ask about the pictures in a minute. But how did you deal with seeing that sort of thing? 63 00:16:17.8 MMH: You know, as I wasat my age now, I would look at it a great deal differently. But at the time, I had a job to do, and we got organized to do that job. The things that I remember were the fact that the officers and the enlisted men were just a wonderful unit that had always worked together, and there were never any hitches. The tents were up; the stoves were put in the middle of the tents, so we were comfortable and so forth. 64 00:16:53.6 It was a matter, also, that they had a big dry goods store in Cham, Germany, where we finally ended, in a great big auditorium that was set up for cots. As the people from that terrible situation that were able were brought over, they were de-loused and showered and given some clothing. And those details I just cant go [into], because I cant remember exactly all about that. But I do know that the room was filled with cots, and I would say there were hundreds of cots. 65 00:17:35.6 MH: Was there a point at Buchenwald where the commanding officer of your unit sent the female nurses away, saying 66 00:17:41.2 MMH: Yes, he did. He said it was too bad, and thats when we moved on to this big auditorium. Colonel [William E.] Williams: he sent us on. And it was one period of time, back, if we go back, that Colonel Williamsyou know, there was not supposed to be at any time just the red crosses to indicate that we were a hospital. There were planes that went over would have liked to have gotten down to us, but they didnt because of that. But Colonel Williams had also ordered that each one of our men out on the field at night would have a .45 on them. This is good, because at one time there weresome Germans had gotten through somehow, and they were about ready to throw it into our areas. So, the guns did come in handy. 67 00:18:30.1 But he did feel as you were saying. He did feel it was too terrible for the nurses to have to go into. I know it was bad for the enlisted men, and I never heard anybody ever really say anything, cause I guess I wasnt in the areas where Id be hearing the enlisted men particularly talking about it. But the unit was a whole, and it was done beautifully and it all worked smoothly. You know, Im sure there were glitches, but that is true in life. 68 00:19:0.9 MH: Aside from the man who you said kissed your boot, were there other interactions with the survivors? 69 00:19:6.4 MMH: Oh, they were mingling. They were mingling amongst all of the staff. I have some pictures of the military in their uniforms walking amongst these people, and during the time that it got cleaned up to the point where General [Dwight D.] Eisenhower came with dignitaries. I never saw him, but that was just the way it was. Im sure some of the men probably saw him. It was written up in Time magazine, and it was the only time that my mother would have ever been able to know where I was; thats what I found out later. But anyway, thats how she found out where I was located. 70 00:19:44.4 MH: I see. You have pictures of the American nurses and the medical people with the survivors? 71 00:19:52.5 MMH: I have some pictures of that. And I was going to say to youIm going to be giving a little talk at our Episcopal church here, because somebody heard that I had an interesting 1945 experience. So, as soon as thats overdo I have your address? And I would be happy to send them to you. 72 00:20:19.8 MH: Id really appreciate that. I mean, Ill copy them and then send them back to you. 73 00:20:23.6 MMH: Yes. Okay. 74 00:20:24.6 MH: Because there may be one or two that are different than the pictures that a lot of people have seen of the camps. 75 00:20:32.4 MMH: I have lots of interestinghave you the letters that some of our men wrote? How much do you have of the things? I have quite a number of things that I could send to you. 76 00:20:46.5 MH: Okay. I mean, I have quite a bit. Ive interviewed a number of soldiers who were at Buchenwald. 77 00:20:53.2 MMH: Okay. 78 00:20:55.2 MH: From theI talked todo you know Warren Priest? 79 00:20:59.8 MMH: I know the name. 80 00:21:2.0 MH: Yeah. Ive talked to 81 00:21:2.5 MMH: And I have been in touch with him years ago, because they used to have, and still are having, reunions. I went to the fiftieth reunion, and theres been a lot of changes, because so manyI dont think theres any doctors living anymore. When you get to be ninety-four, theres an awful lot of people gone. 82 00:21:21.5 MH: Right. 83 00:21:22.4 MMH: And Im sure that there was an age difference between some of the enlisted men, and Im sure there would be a few left. Milt Silva was one of them. 84 00:21:30.5 MH: Right, Ive talked to Milt. 85 00:21:31.9 MMH: Now, Milts a wonderful contact. 86 00:21:33.9 MH: Ive talked to Leonard Herzmark. Prist, Silva, and Herzmark were also interviewed for the Concentration Camp Liberators Oral History Project. The DOIs for their interviews are C65-00109, C65-00127, and C65-00058, respectively. 87 00:21:36.0 MMH: Yes, I know him well. Hes in Arizona, I believe. 88 00:21:38.8 MH: Right. Ive talked toI guess you called her Willie? Rosella Willits [Lane]. 89 00:21:46.1 MMH: Oh, yes. Did you talk to her? 90 00:21:48.1 MH: I talked to her the other day. 91 00:21:49.1 MMH: Oh, you did? 92 00:21:50.1 MH: Yes. 93 00:21:50.3 MMH: Whereabouts is she? 94 00:21:51.7 MH: Shes in San Clemente. 95 00:21:52.6 MMH: San Clemente? 96 00:21:55.0 MH: Yes. 97 00:21:55.2 MMH: Oh, how interesting. Id be glad if, when you return the papers that Ill send to you and the pictures, maybe then you could just give me her address. 98 00:22:6.0 MH: Id be happy to do that. 99 00:22:7.3 MMH: Now, your addressI talked to your wife, Karen, and I do have yourof course, I have your phone number. 100 00:22:13.4 MH: Right. 101 00:22:14.4 MMH: What is your address? 102 00:22:15.7 MH: My address is 103 00:22:17.1 MMH: Yes, right. Ive got it. 104 00:22:18.2 MH: Okay. 105 00:22:19.1 MMH: All right. I will send this, and itll probably be after this week. 106 00:22:24.4 MH: Okay. 107 00:22:26.5 MMH: Is there anything else youd like to know? 108 00:22:28.5 MH: How do you getdo you drive? 109 00:22:30.2 MMH: I was driving until my little carmy husband, Sam, was an invalid for ten years before he died. He had had some strokes, and he wasnt able to sit up in the bed, even. Being a nurse, of course, I kept him at home and did all the nursing till he died. That was a period of time that I just didnt get into any of the reunions or any of that kind of thing. And you asked me a question? 110 00:23:3.2 MH: I asked you if you drove, because I was going to say if you wanted to send it by Federal Express, I couldyou know 111 00:23:10.3 MMH: Well, thats a possibility, yes. I could maybe do that. They have that here, yes. Whatever works out. But it would come to you with the mail, wouldnt it? 112 00:23:19.1 MH: Yeah, itll come to me with the mail. 113 00:23:21.5 MMH: Okay. Well, Ill get it ready, and Ill just send it on. 114 00:23:24.5 MH: Okay. Just make sure you put it in something so the photos dont get bent and that sort of thing. 115 00:23:28.6 MMH: I will. Ill see to that. I have those bubbled big sheets, those big brown envelopes 116 00:23:34.3 MH: Okay. 117 00:23:35.5 MMH: And Ill take care of it that way. 118 00:23:36.6 MH: And mark it Photosdo not bend. 119 00:23:38.5 MMH: Is there anything else youd like to know? 120 00:23:40.3 MH: Not right now. 121 00:23:43.0 MMH: Now, tell me about you. Are youis this something that you have decided recently? 122 00:23:48.4 MH: No, Ive actually been working on this for a year and a half. 123 00:23:51.4 MMH: Okay. 124 00:23:52.3 MH: Ive interviewed about 150 veterans, five nurses, and the restmost of the rest were soldiers who liberated camps starting with Ohrdruf on April 4, 1945 and going all the way through Mauthausen just before V-E Day. 125 00:24:12.8 MMH: Oh, for goodness sakes. 126 00:24:14.1 MH: The book is gonna be published by the Bantam-Dell division of Random House. 127 00:24:18.5 MMH: And when do you expect that? 128 00:24:20.6 MH: Itll be next March, just before Holocaust 129 00:24:22.6 MMH: Next March? 130 00:24:23.5 MH: Just before Holocaust Remembrance Day. 131 00:24:25.1 MMH: Oh, isnt that interesting? 132 00:24:26.7 MH: So. 133 00:24:27.5 MMH: Yes. Well, Ill tell you, you can put me on the list, and I will send you a check as soon as you mail it to me. 134 00:24:34.3 MH: No, youll get a book. 135 00:24:35.7 MMH: (laughs) 136 00:24:36.7 MH: Dont worry about it. Okay? 137 00:24:39.4 MMH: Okay. 138 00:24:39.7 MH: All right. Well, I really look forward to seeing the pictures, and Ill call you when I get them, cause Im sure Ill have questions. 139 00:24:44.0 MMH: You ever go to the reunions? 140 00:24:45.9 MH: I had gonewhen I was researching the book, I had gone toI went to the 42nd [Infantry] Division reunion and I went to the 80th [Infantry] Division reunion and I went to the 69th [Infantry] Division reunion. But most of the interviews I did were over the phone. 141 00:25:0.1 MMH: I see. Well, thats goodthats a good way to do it, you know. 142 00:25:3.2 MH: Yeah. 143 00:25:3.8 MMH: Thats great. 144 00:25:4.5 MH: So, I 145 00:25:5.5 MMH: Were you part of the 120th? 146 00:25:8.7 MH: No, no. 147 00:25:9.9 MMH: Thats what I was gathering. 148 00:25:10.8 MH: Im a little younger. Im sixty-six. 149 00:25:14.2 MMH: I see. 150 00:25:15.2 MH: I was an army combat correspondent in Vietnam. I was with the 25th [Infantry] Division. 151 00:25:18.3 MMH: Oh, is that right? Well, you knowcan I just tell you that I was so lucky. One time when I was at Tenby, we were given a week off, and I went up to London and went back into Glasgow, Scotland, where I had an aunt and an uncle. And the night I arrived, it was black out, of course, and it was about eleven at night; how I got there that late Ill never know. But, anyway, I was alone and it was dark, and I looked over and I saw a truck: an army truck, which just looked like heaven to me at that moment. And the person that was in it was a correspondent. I cant remember his name now; I have it written somewhere but I dont know it right now. But that was wonderful. Well, thats an interesting thing youre doing, and Ill be happy to help you if I can anymore. 152 00:26:7.7 MH: I sure appreciate it. Thank you very, very much. 153 00:26:9.7 MMH: Okay, and say hello to 154 00:26:11.0 MH: You want me to just give you Willies phone number? 155 00:26:14.2 MMH: Oh, you could. That would be fine. Ill just have a piece of paper here ready in about one minute to turn the page here. Okay. 156 00:26:21.9 MH: 157 00:26:22.6 MMH: Okay, Ive got it. And thats her phone number? 158 00:26:24.2 MH: Thats her phone number. 159 00:26:25.2 MMH: Okay, fine. 160 00:26:26.2 MH: Okay. 161 00:26:27.0 MMH: Thats good. Thank you. 162 00:26:27.8 MH: Take care. Bye-bye. 163 00:26:29.1 MMH: All right. Bye-bye.
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Horton, May Macdonald,
May Macdonald Horton oral history interview
h [electronic resource] /
interviewed by Michael Hirsh.
Tampa, Fla. :
University of South Florida Tampa Library,
1 sound file (27 min.) :
digital, MPEG4 file +
e 1 transcript (16 p.)
Concentration camp liberators oral history project
This interview was conducted as research for The Liberators: America's Witnesses to the Holocaust / Michael Hirsch (New York: Bantam Books, 2010).
Interview conducted April 29, 2009.
The Liberators: America's Witnesses to the Holocaust (New York: Bantam Books, 2010) and Concentration Camp Liberators Oral History Project, University of South Florida Libraries, 2010 Michael Hirsh.
Transcripts, excerpts, or any component of this interview may be used without the author's express written permission only for educational or research purposes. No portion of the interview audio or text may be broadcast, cablecast, webcast, or distributed without the author's express written permission.
This is an oral history interview with Holocaust concentration camp liberator May Macdonald Horton. Horton was a nurse with the 120th Evacuation Hospital, which was one of the units sent to Buchenwald after its liberation on April 11, 1945. She was one of the chief nurses in charge of the operating rooms. The nurses did not go into the camp itself, since their commanding officer thought it was too horrible for them; instead, prisoners were brought to the field hospital, where they were treated. In this interview, Horton recounts her experiences at Buchenwald and also discusses how she became an army nurse.
Horton, May Macdonald,
Army Nurse Corps.
Evacuation Hospital, 120th.
Evacuation Hospital, 120th
v Personal narratives.
Buchenwald (Concentration camp)
World War, 1939-1945
World War, 1939-1945
World War, 1939-1945
World War, 1939-1945
Personal narratives, American.
World War, 1939-1945
World War, 1939-1945
World War, 1939-1945
Crimes against humanity.
University of South Florida Libraries.
Holocaust & Genocide Studies Center.
University of South Florida.
Special & Digital Collections.
Oral History Program.
Holocaust & genocide studies oral history projects.
Concentration camp liberators oral history project.
y USF ONLINE ACCESS
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