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Pierro, Aurio J.,
Aurio J. Pierro oral history interview
h [electronic resource] /
interviewed by Michael Hirsh.
Tampa, Fla. :
University of South Florida Tampa Library,
1 sound file (50 min.) :
digital, MPEG4 file +
e 1 transcript (21 p.)
Concentration camp liberators oral history project
This interview was conducted as research for The Liberators: America's Witnesses to the Holocaust / Michael Hirsh (New York: Bantam Books, 2010).
Interview conducted June 30, 2008.
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 Aurio J. Pierro. Pierro was a tank commander in the 3rd Armored Division, which liberated Dora-Mittelbau on April 11, 1945. His platoon found a fence with a gate and a barracks on the other side of the fence, which turned out to be the concentration camp. They went through the gate and the prisoners came out; when they realized that the soldiers were Americans, they started jumping for joy. Some of Pierro's men wandered around on foot and directed him to look in a particular building, which contained several dead prisoners. The next day, they left the camp to continue on their mission; that was the only camp they saw. In this interview, Pierro also recounts some other stories from his arrival at Normandy two weeks after D-Day and from the Battle of the Bulge.
Pierro, Aurio J.,
Armored Division, 3rd.
Armored Division, 3rd
v Personal narratives.
Dora (Concentration camp)
Ardennes, Battle of the, 1944-1945
World War, 1939-1945
World War, 1939-1945
World War, 1939-1945
World War, 1939-1945
Personal narratives, American.
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
xml version 1.0 encoding UTF-8 transcript segment idx 0 time 00:00:0.4 text Michael Hirsh: How do you pronounce your name? 1 00:00:1.8 Aurio J. Pierro: My first name? 2 00:00:3.1 MH: Yes. 3 00:00:3.7 AP: Aurio, A-u-r-i-o. 4 00:00:5.7 MH: Aurio J. Pierro. P-i-e-r-r-o? 5 00:00:9.5 AP: Yeah. Some Italians pronounce it Pierro, but I say Pierro. (pronounced differently) 6 00:00:14.1 MH: Pierro. And you live inand your phone number isWhats your date of birth? 7 00:00:19.6 AP: 3-1-17 [March 1, 1917]. 8 00:00:22.0 MH: 3-1-17, making you ninety-one years old? 9 00:00:25.2 AP: Ninety-one, yeah. Young guy. 10 00:00:27.6 MH: Congratulations, man. Youre not the oldest person Ive interviewed; the oldest person Ive interviewed was ninety-six. 11 00:00:33.6 AP: Pardon? 12 00:00:34.2 MH: The oldest person I interviewed was ninety-six. 13 00:00:37.3 AP: Is that right? 14 00:00:37.8 MH: Yeah. Can you tell me, where did you grow up? 15 00:00:42.8 AP: I was born herein this house. I still live here. Went to the local school; I graduated from Lexington High School in 1934. In those days I could go directly to law school, which I did, and graduated from Suffolk Law School in 1938. Didnt pass the bar, was in the Selective Service before Pearl Harbor, and when Pearl Harbor happened, I got my orders to report to Fort Devon, Massachusetts, and was inducted on January 15, 1942. Want me to go on? 16 00:01:33.2 MH: Keep going. 17 00:01:34.5 AP: Okay. I took myat Fort Devon, I was assigned to Fort Knox, Kentucky, went down there for my eight weeks basic training. From Fort Knox, I went down to 3rd Armored Division, was assigned with B Company, and I remained with B Company all the way until the end of the war. 18 00:01:58.5 MH: Okay. When did youso, were you an enlisted man or an officer, considering you were a lawyer? 19 00:02:7.0 AP: No, I was enlisted. They didnt seem to have much need for any lawyer-trained people, or many of them. 20 00:02:16.5 MH: Okay. When did you go overseas? 21 00:02:21.8 AP: Septemberwell, we took our training at Camp Polk, and we had desert training in the Mojave Desert. Came back from there, went to [Fort] Indiantown Gap, Pennsylvania, and in September we went overseas to England. September forty-three . 22 00:02:42.0 MH: And how long were you in England? 23 00:02:45.2 AP: Well, we were there until the invasion. And we wereour tanks were ready to make wet landings, and our mission as a so-called heavy armored division was to move in after the initial landing. And we landedI landed at D+17.Â D-Day, June 6, 1944, plus seventeen days, i.e. June 18, 1944. 24 00:03:5.1 MH: When you say wet landings, tell me what that means? 25 00:03:9.1 AP: Well, to me it means that our tanks were equipped with waterproof material so we could get into water up to the top of the turret. In other words, they waterproofed the tanks and there was a duct at the back for the exhaust and everything else, which extended up to the top of the turret, so we could get in water up to the top of the turret. 26 00:03:36.1 MH: So, its actually rolling on the bottom, on the sand. 27 00:03:39.3 AP: Yeah. And we made a wet landing. We did not land on dry ground. The ramp was off, and we were in the water. The drivers reallyonce they get off the ramp in the water, they couldnt see anything, but the tank commander, being up abovethat was the whole idea of the tank commander, being able to observe more than the crew inside down below. 28 00:04:12.0 MH: That would have to be terrifying, wouldnt it? 29 00:04:14.6 AP: For those inside? 30 00:04:16.7 MH: Yeah. 31 00:04:17.6 AP: Oh, yeah. And initiallythe initial combat of course, everyone and the tank commander had heads down. But you couldnt be a good survivor if the tank commander had his head inside and couldnt look over too good. We had periscopes we could maneuver, but that was not the best. So, if you could have your eyeballs hanging over the top of the tank, you can observe 360 degrees, if necessary, and see where the enemy was. It was much better, and thats the way it developed with us. Under circumstances where we were under heavy bombardment, shelling, I closed the hatch a few times. 32 00:05:8.9 MH: That was D+17, so there was no fire on the beach at that point, was there? 33 00:05:16.0 AP: No fire at the beach? There was no fire at the beach, but we moved in just a short wayit was in the afternoonand we started pass the burning buildings, it wasnt very far inland. And we moved to our bivouac area. 34 00:05:30.3 MH: Which beach did you land at? 35 00:05:31.4 AP: Omaha. 36 00:05:32.7 MH: Omaha Beach, okay. 37 00:05:33.8 AP: Thats where they took us. 38 00:05:36.7 MH: So, buildings were burning still when you got inland. 39 00:05:42.3 AP: Oh, yes. It was afternoon, and we didnt go very far before buildings were burning. That first night wasone of the things I remember (inaudible) was hearing the German machine guns. They had a different sound than ours, quite distinguishable from ours. So, that was one of the memories I have. (inaudible) and to hear that German fire that first night. 40 00:06:18.7 MH: You were older than most of the guys. 41 00:06:21.1 AP: Well, not in my division. 42 00:06:23.3 MH: Ah. Okay. 43 00:06:24.8 AP: In my division, I was one of the Selective Service. When I went in the service there were guys from all over the country, and some of them ten years older than I was. They had beensome of them had been in the CCC [Civilian Conservation Corps] already. But the average age was, I think, about my age when I went in. Anyone who came in afterwards when we were getting ready to go in overseas, they were the kids, eighteen or nineteen years old. They were the kids. 44 00:06:57.8 MH: Right. So, do you get sort of treated like a father figure by those people? 45 00:07:1.7 AP: Pardon? 46 00:07:3.6 MH: Do those kids who were around sort of treat you like a father figure, or an older brother? 47 00:07:10.9 AP: By that time when we went overseas, they were the younger group, to replace some of the members who had done all the training beforehand. But they just werentwell, they culled them out. Not everyone that trained in this country went overseas. 48 00:07:37.3 MH: At this point, had they told you anything about concentration camps? Did you know anything about them? 49 00:07:45.5 AP: No, not a word. No, never even heard of them. 50 00:07:51.6 MH: Okay. What about as you moved into Germany? 51 00:07:57.8 AP: Say again? 52 00:07:59.9 MH: As you moved into Germany, did anything filter up to the troops about those things? 53 00:08:5.8 AP: No, no. We were the first to penetrate Germany around Stolberg and Breinig, the little town there by the German border there. And no, weno. The concentration [camps], didnt hear anything about that. We were too busy doing other things. 54 00:08:36.8 MH: What was the first heavy combat you were in? 55 00:08:39.3 AP: The first combat? 56 00:08:40.3 MH: Yeah. 57 00:08:40.9 AP: In Normandy, just as we moved in the Normandy area, and thats where they set up the task forces. In training up until that point, I was in B Company 1st Battalion, and 1st Battalion was three companies of light tanks, headquarters, and that was 1st Battalion. 2nd Battalion was three companies of medium tanks. We called them medium; they were referred to as Shermans, but they were medium tanks. And the 3rd Battalion consisted of three companies of medium tanks. 58 00:09:26.1 Once we got into Normandy there, they started to put the task forces together, and they broke up the battalions. A Company stayed with the 1st Battalion, and they brought in two of the medium companies. B Company went to 2nd Battalion, so we were a light tank company and two medium tank companies. And the 3rd Battalion was the same way. And of course, at that time, when they set up the task forces, there was really a complete fighting force. The tanks and theninitially, in the campaign in France, they had considered the infantry working with the tanks, and they had the infantry leader, whoever that was, as the one in command of the unit. But that didnt work out. So, once they changed it to have whoever was the tank leader took over the operations, thats when we really started to move. He could command the tanks, and the infantry rode on the tanks and they were part of themost of the assaults. 59 00:10:45.7 MH: And which armored division were you in, again? 60 00:10:48.5 AP: 3rd Armored Division. 61 00:10:49.7 MH: 3rd Armored Division. 62 00:10:50.5 AP: The Spearhead Division. We got that nickname by being the spearhead of the 1st Army. And when I mention tanks, all I get from civilians is, Oh, Patton. 63 00:11:6.4 MH: Where did you go into Germany? You had mentioned a city before. 64 00:11:16.4 AP: Around Breinig in Germany; it was around Stolberg. Its south of Aachen. 65 00:11:22.9 MH: And your first combat in Germany was what? 66 00:11:30.3 AP: In Germany? 67 00:11:31.2 MH: Yeah. 68 00:11:31.8 AP: Actually, that was just when we penetratedwent across the German lines there. We had some of the most terrific bombardments of artillery that we ever had, and it was very touch and go there. That was a penetration: the Germans brought out all of their big guns and artillery and other forces. The Siegfried Line there was protected with their pillboxes, and that was touch-and-go there. 69 00:12:17.7 MH: I was in the Army; I was in the infantry. I just cant imagine what combat is like in a tank where you realize if the tank gets hit, your chances of getting out are not real good. 70 00:12:32.9 AP: Yeah. Well, we called them tinderboxes, or there was another term: the cigarette lighter. And thatyou talk about the fact when we first entered Germany, the other side of the (inaudible) at the time was just forests. There were no names as far as we were concerned. I recall my platoon was being pushed around to take a defensive position anywhere that was needed. 71 00:13:5.0 I remember that at one point there, we went to an area that needed help, and I could see that their platoonthe platoon sergeants tank was about seventy-five yards where I could see, and it had been hit, burnt up. At that point, the tollI think the (inaudible) tank commander in there was supposed to be the only survivor of the tank. And the driver, (inaudible), who was a German immigrant, he washis tank was hit, he was in the tank, and the tank burned up. They just couldnt get to him to take the remainder of his body out of there. That was the type of situation there at that point, when we first pushed into Germany proper. 72 00:13:58.5 MH: There was one point at which your own tank got hit? 73 00:14:2.3 AP: Oh, yeah, more than once. Most of the times, though, they missed it, cause the bazookas were one of the problems. It seemed like every German infantry had a bazooka. 74 00:14:17.7 MH: You mean the Panzerfaust? 75 00:14:19.9 AP: Panzerfaust, yeah. But their most reliablereally, bazookawas a stovepipe type. And I could see that guy, nearing the end of the war, when he raised out of his foxhole. I could see that the bazooka was pointed at me and it was too late to do anything until he fired, and no one got out of that foxhole. After thatand that was the experience during the initial assault part in Normandy, the first time we saw the Germans. They were very, very bold; and of course, by that time they were well trained, experienced troops. To see a German infantryonce I saw the procedure. He kneels down, points his bazooka and let go. And I was to see that many times after that. So, that was the way they fired the Panzerfaust. But their most accurate one was the longer one that was really like our bazooka. 76 00:15:43.8 MH: I guess they kept improving them as the war went on. 77 00:15:47.8 AP: I dont know that. All I know is that at the endthats what got my tank, right there at the end. But, before that, they had had a lot of Panzerfaust bazookas. 78 00:16:9.7 MH: You got the Purple Heart? 79 00:16:12.4 AP: Yeah, the Purple Heart, yeah. 80 00:16:14.5 MH: More than one? 81 00:16:17.0 AP: No, no, that was at the Bulge. And I got the Silver Star there, also. 82 00:16:20.6 MH: Tell me about the Silver Star. 83 00:16:22.6 AP: Well, when those guys, we came downhave you seen anything of mine on the Internet? 84 00:16:33.1 MH: Ive read a little bit about you on the Internet, yes. 85 00:16:35.1 AP: Did you see the onetheres part of my story about me at Petit Coo. Have you seen that? 86 00:16:43.5 MH: No, I havent, but Ill look for it. 87 00:16:46.3 AP: Just a suggestion. Theres quite a bitI was interviewed many times, and one of our members had the foresight, many years ago, to video interviews that we had. And the National Museum person also did it, so there are some out there. Its a good thing, because as time goes on, people forget, or theyre not around. So, that would be interesting, to see it. And also, if you just type in my name, theres a lot of it there: my first and last name. 88 00:17:40.3 MH: Okay. 89 00:17:41.8 AP: But that was when wewe were at Scherpenseel in Germany, which isnt too far inland from our original entry, when the Bulge started. We came down and were part of Task Force Lovelady, and we cut in behind Colonel [Joachim] Peiper, who was really an outstanding German tank leader. I dont know if you heard of him or not. Peiper? 90 00:18:14.1 MH: No, but Ill find it. 91 00:18:16.7 AP: Anyway, he had made the furthest penetration down near Belgium. We came down from Germany to cut in behind him. As the tank force got down into this Coo area, Tango area, my platoon was dropped off to guard the task force thatthe first aid station, and the rest of the task force went down to Trois-Ponts, which was in the southerly direction where that main road and the railroad tracks were. But we were left behind. There were a couple knocked out vehicles in front of the building, and dead Germans in the back by the railroad tracks, and it was calm for a while. 92 00:19:12.3 That afternoon, we could see some Germans coming over the hill to us, on the hills and to our left. We were surprised to see them come over that hill and just simply moved up a little bit. And then, the mortars started to come down. We were firing there and moving closer to where we actually had come over the river and the bridge. It turns out later that that was the point that they tried to get over; because that was the only way in that whole area they could cross the river. There was a mountain on the other side, and there was a tunnel right at the bridge over the railroad track by the river. And that was their apparent objective, to get, as Ive heardthereve been other writers that talk about it, and they said there were three companies of Germans coming over there, whats left of them anyway. And that was their objective. 93 00:20:19.2 Well, we moved back and were firing. There had been five tanks, and we had four tanks; I dont know what happened to the fourth [sic] tank. We got back on the bridge and set up a division moving forward to attack. I called headquarters and told them what was going on, and I was told, Well, hold the position; were sending up the infantry. And a couple hours laterI dont know what time of night it wasthe infantry came up, and they got on the tanks and we started to move forward, retrace our steps, firing as we went. 94 00:20:59.0 Came up to the first aid station there, and I got out of the tank to go in the building. The infantry, once we got up there, had gone into the building. I got out of my tank and went into the building, and the platoon sergeant, who had been wounded, was there and greeted me. And about that moment, a bazooka hit, hit the tank in back of my tank. I was knocked to the ground, helmet flew off, and I could feel something in the back. I went back into the tank and started to fire back. The other two tanks, I guess, had gone around the other side, but I was up forward for many hours after that, firing back. Theyd come up with a bazooka, and I could see the bazooka go off; it was in the front. However, the bow gunner managed to fire, and it was turned to the left because they turned the gun to that side, and had it in file. 95 00:22:6.4 We were hit, and had sparks and smoke and everything come into the tank. They hit on the left side, and my gunner (inaudible), and I grabbed him and held him in and we fired until we ran out of ammunition. They wouldevery once in a while, when they thought they had a free chance, they would sneak up in the dark and fire the bazooka. The fire went into the building there and surrounded it, and we had shells coming into the building. One particular shell came in through the brick wall there, and I remember stepping on it, idly thinking I could put it out. But the top was burning, we had to go down in the cellar, and there was a big furnace down there. So, the infantry and I set up position behind that furnace there, watching the back door. 96 00:22:56.2 During the night, the Germans hollered for us to surrender; we didnt. There was some firing. We hung on and the building started burning down (inaudible). Next morning, next day, there was one attack from around the back. I radioed, Bring the tank, and crawled out there. The radio was gone. Called headquarters, told em what was happening, so (inaudible). In the afternoon, the guys just didnt want to stay there any longerit was hopelessso I went back out and contacted headquarters and told them what had happened. I got authorization for us to go back on foot. 97 00:23:37.4 As soon as they came into the building, some of the guys went out and started to go for the railroad tracks by the river. Unfortunately, there were tanks on that bridge looking down that railroad tracks, and they were firing. I dont know how many were killed there. My gunner and I were one of the last ones out, and right in front of us, there was a guy firing. I guess it was some of the infantryhad to be; I didnt know him. He started to fall down, so we carried him up to the bridge. By that time the firing on the bridge had stopped. We got up there, and there was a medium tank up on the bridge. My driver had been hit in the toe. I was fortunate, didnt get any more but one, but that one that hit the guy in front of me could have been me. He stopped it. 98 00:24:38.2 So, we get back there and back to headquarters; I dont know what time that was. We got back there and they worked on my back, took out some shrapnel, one of my friends who was filling in. And then, the rockets started going over, and planes, German planes, were flying around. I went out in a half-track and manned a .50 caliber machine gun, and saw one of the rockets come over. It was just at housetop level, but a bit further awaydidnt come right over where I wasnot too far, heading towards the Channel, Antwerp or someplace, that rocket. That was theI guess that was Christmas Eve, Christmas night, Christmas Day, we were told. 99 00:25:50.6 I got another tank and we had a meal in the woods there, and then I was ordered to go down to set up a defensive position. It was an area that the dozers [bulldozers] had dug out a hole in the ground, and he had put the tanks in that, waiting to attack the Germans, and they didnt materialize. And after a day or soI guess maybe a couple of daysit didnt happen. So, on to something else. 100 00:26:27.7 MH: I didnt ask you before: what was your crew position on the tank? What did you do? 101 00:26:32.6 AP: Pardon? 102 00:26:33.4 MH: What was your job on the tank? 103 00:26:35.2 AP: I was the tank commander. 104 00:26:36.0 MH: The tank commander, okay. And what was your rank at that point? 105 00:26:38.6 AP: Buck sergeant. 106 00:26:40.2 MH: Buck sergeant, okay. So, tell me about getting to Dora. 107 00:26:44.7 AP: Okay, Dora. By the time we got that far into Germany, we had different missions. In other words, we would have missions, like my platoon attackedwould have a mission to attack a town. At that point, my platoonI took over the platoon and I had been put in for a direct commission. Anyway, I was moving the platoon in an area there, and I came to a fence. I didnt know what it was, but there was a gate, and there was a barracks just on the other side of the fence. And I didnt have any idea what it was. No idea at all. 108 00:27:37.2 We waited, and all of a sudden, the prisoners started to come out of the barracks, opened the gates, and when they realized who we were, they started jumping for joy. But my crew stayed in their tank; they didnt know what was happening, what was gonna happen, what could happen. I remember one individual there; he was hopping around on one foot, hopping on one foot: he was just as happy as the others. So, that was the point where we were, and then a little time in that day passed. 109 00:28:16.4 My guys were wandering around on foot there, and they came back and said, You gotta look in that building over there. It was a brick building. I went in, and there was like an operating table, and there were dead prisoners, emaciated bodies there, tied hand and foot. On the floor, on the tablelike an operating table, whatever it was. But that wasand then the 110 00:28:47.8 MH: How do you react to something like that? 111 00:28:49.5 AP: Huh? 112 00:28:50.2 MH: How do you react to something like that? 113 00:28:52.1 AP: Well, by that point, you know, you really didnt feel it any more. We had a lot of casualties by that time. I still, you know, think about those emaciated bodies there, tied hand and foot. Why tied hand and foot? No clothes on: they were naked bodies. 114 00:29:29.9 MH: Was it apparent how they died? 115 00:29:31.8 AP: No, no. I just didnt know, you know, what was going on there. 116 00:29:40.6 MH: Did the other prisoners tell you anything, the other inmates? 117 00:29:42.9 AP: Pardon? 118 00:29:43.6 MH: Did the other inmates tell you anything about it? 119 00:29:46.3 AP: No, no. I didnt see any of those. We had to stay with the tanks. If you were out of the tank, all you had was your sidearm. And you never knew what was going to happen. A crew outside the tank is defenseless, really. So, thatI dont know if it was that night or what. We moved again down into the building part of someplace down there, Nordhausen. I remember there was somebody [who] had found a warehouse with eggs or something like that, and they were making good on those. And then, I guess it was the next day we were off again to another mission. And we were on our way. 120 00:30:39.4 MH: You didnt see any of the underground factories? 121 00:30:42.0 AP: No, no. We didntsee, we didnt have that mission. Our mission was to move, and once we took ground, we moved on. And we were really moving. There wasthe next larger place there waswell, there were events going on all the time. Our mission was to move on. The people that came up behind us were able to explore all that stuff, but we didnt. We wereI dont know how far we were when they were doing that. 122 00:31:19.0 MH: Was the camp you first came to, was that Dora or was that the big Nordhausen camp? 123 00:31:24.2 AP: Well, I really dont know. Ive talked with a lot of peoplejournaliststhat have asked me about it. And really, at the time, I wouldnt know one from the other. 124 00:31:39.2 MH: Okay. Did you havewere you able to have conversations with these people that survived, while you were outside of your tank? 125 00:31:49.8 AP: No, no, no. We stayed in the tanks. 126 00:31:54.1 MH: But, I mean, when you walked into that building, the one time you went in the building. 127 00:31:57.2 AP: Oh, there? No, I dont remember talking with anyone there. 128 00:32:1.1 MH: How did your guys react? I mean, youre the tank commander, theyre looking to you. And youre confronted with this horror. 129 00:32:9.1 AP: Well, you know, its not like it was something new, something that was a new type. But at the time, wed seen a lot of dead people and a lot of hurt people, so by that timeand we had a mission: to move forward as long as we were able. We took casualties, and those that were casualties stayed behind and the rest of the crews moved forward. We had casualties, we got replacements, and we went forward. 130 00:32:51.9 MH: Did you see any other camps? 131 00:32:54.0 AP: No. No, that was, I guess, in our area. And afteryou know, a long time afterwe went back. We were invited by the German government to go back. Im trying to think of when that was, 2006? I dont know. Back when they hadI had been back on other trips, too. One of the men in our division, John OBrien, was in the tourist business, and of course he conducted tours of Europe after the war, every time we could get a group together. I went back with him maybe starting in 1990 or ninety-two . And I have been back several times. 132 00:33:54.2 The last one was when the German government hadwell, I guess it was the purpose of the prisoners meeting the liberators or something. I guess that was the theme of it. And that wasand I have been back to somewhat that area on previous trips, but that was the most extensive one. The German government had gone all out to enlarge the opening in the tunnels so you could get further into the tunnels; you couldnt before. And also, I think it was Buchenwald. Have you heard of Buchenwald? 133 00:34:34.2 MH: Of course. 134 00:34:34.8 AP: That was inI think that was in 3rd Army area. And on that trip back they had people invited from not only 3rd Armored, but also I think it was the 80thI dont remember now, but one of the infantry divisions. Yeah, he and his wife, and their first names both Jean. Ive been thinking about going back in my records to renew my memory of his last name. I think he was from one of the Carolinas, either North or South Carolina. 135 00:35:18.4 MH: Did the experience you hadwell, years later, after the war, how much of this stuff comes back to you? Or are you able to put it aside? I mean, you had a long career as an attorney, I understand. 136 00:35:35.3 AP: Yeah. When I came backmy mission in life was to become a lawyer. And I had trouble passing the bar in Massachusetts. Where are you from? 137 00:35:47.7 MH: Well, originally, Chicago. My brothers-in-law are lawyers in Chicago. But now I live in Punta Gorda, Florida. 138 00:35:54.5 AP: Well, when I was growing up in an Italian immigrant family, there was no help out there. You had to do it yourself. Tuition my first semester, it was 140 dollars; that came from moneyI sold blueberries and worked on a farm. Anyway, thats another story. But when I came back, my ambition was to become a lawyer, and I passed the bar, Massachusetts bar, in 1947. Yeah, 1947. And I still have my ticket for practicing law. I still renew it. 139 00:36:34.1 MH: You still have your ticket. 140 00:36:35.0 AP: Yup. 141 00:36:35.8 MH: What kind of law did you practice? 142 00:36:38.7 AP: Well, initially I was with an insurance company, claims, and then I became head of the fidelity and surety bond claim section. And I retired: mandatory retirement age, when youre sixty-five. They were easing people out before it, same old way of saving money, you know: getting younger people for less money. But thats what II was the supervising attorney for the fidelity and surety bond claim section. After I retired from there, I went to work part-time for a law firm, with a friend of mine who (inaudible). He was partnered with other people and went there for a while, and then they wanted to go to a larger firm, and we went there, and they were breaking up; it was a time when the big firms were breaking up. And we went downhe and I went down to Quincy, and he wanted to give up. Then I was doing some claims work for another insurance company and they decided they were going to close out the business in Massachusetts, so I decided it was time for me to take a vacation. So I did. 143 00:37:59.7 MH: Did your war experiences come back to you? Did you have nightmares? Did you ever have to deal with that sort of thing? 144 00:38:6.2 AP: No, no. What I found happened was that when I started talking to my friendsmy service friendsand wed talk about it, it got me thinking about it. And Id do a lot of thinking, remembering about it. Normally, you talk to other people that were not in the service with you. You probably hear the stories that the veterans never did talk too much about it. 145 00:38:34.7 MH: Right. 146 00:38:35.7 AP: And so, I guess I was the same way. I talk more about it now than I ever did, I guess, and Im kind of thankful for it. Well, Charlie Corbin was the one; he was in the same task force, Task Force Lovelady, and had interesting stories. And he was the one that started this interviewing at the reunions. And then, like I said, the 3rd Armored museum hadthey came back from Germany. I guess he did it a couple of times at the reunion. Its good that he did, because most of those guys that took part in that with me are no longer around. Theyre no longer around. 147 00:39:25.4 MH: Right. Im looking at a website, and there are several pictures of you. Theres a picture of you standing in front of a concealed 88. 148 00:39:35.2 AP: Oh, yeah. 149 00:39:36.1 MH: Do you have that picture? 150 00:39:38.6 AP: Yeah. 151 00:39:40.3 MH: Is it possible to get a copy to use? 152 00:39:42.1 AP: You cant use what you saw? 153 00:39:47.0 MH: Um, I dont know whether the quality will reprint. Thats the only question I have. 154 00:39:55.3 AP: See, that picture, you can see two versions of that. One is the original, when I had my gunner standing next to me. And when Vic Damon, who put together the 3rds website, he wantedwhen he was talking about me, he wanted something so he brushed out my gunner. My gunner was killed. Anyway, that wasthat anti-tank gun, a lot of the GIs talk about the 88. The Germans didnt have that many 88s. Their 75 high-powered, high-velocity gun was their main event, really, even the Panzer tank and anti-tank guns. And that was there when we first covered that minefield on the coast (inaudible). 155 00:41:4.7 When we went through that minefield, my company wasthe objective was, as soon as we come through the minefield, to move to the left, to make contact with the 1st Battalion task forces coming up, going through that same minefield, extended minefield, to our left. So our mission was going, but we had such heavy artillery and direct fire there. At that one point there, I was in my tank, and I get this fire. I get hit just over the top of the tank and the tank behind me. It was a good thing I was in sort of a lowered position there; otherwise, I wouldnt be here. And it was coming from the area where the Germans were. They had the most elaborate defensive position we ever sawthat I ever saw over therein that area, with the minefields and the underground quarters of them. 156 00:42:17.7 MH: This was the Siegfried Line? 157 00:42:19.3 AP: Twenty, thirty feet down. 158 00:42:20.4 MH: This is the Siegfried Line? 159 00:42:21.9 AP: They hadand my idea of having him get that picture was to demonstrate the size of that 35mm shell and our 37mm shell. If you look at that picture, youll see, in the lower part, the shells. Well, our 37mm, which had a pretty high velocity, 2650 [feet per second]; that was as much as an M1 rifle. And to show the comparison of the anti-tank shell and our cannon shell, that was the whole idea at the time. That was in the German defensive position, facing, protecting, backing up the minefield. And, like I said, the original picture has my gunner in it. 160 00:43:19.8 MH: Well, theres another picture underneath it with your whole crew, with three guys plus you. 161 00:43:25.9 AP: As I tell people, I could tell where I was by the crew I had, quite a bit. And that was at Marburg, on the approach to Marburg, in Germany. 162 00:43:44.8 MH: So, would it be possible to borrow a couple of these photos? I can scan them and send them back to you. 163 00:43:51.4 AP: Yeah. 164 00:43:53.0 MH: Do you have an e-mail address? 165 00:43:54.2 AP: Huh? 166 00:43:55.0 MH: Do you have e-mail? 167 00:43:56.4 AP: Yeah. 168 00:43:57.0 MH: Whats your e-mail address? 169 00:43:59.4 AP: I have two. 170 00:44:3.4 MH: Okay. Do you want me to send you an envelope for photos, or should I just send you my address? Whatever works best for you. 171 00:44:13.9 AP: Why dont you send me something so I can send to you? 172 00:44:18.0 MH: Okay. I will do that. 173 00:44:20.1 AP: Now, I probably haveIm trying to think now whether I made copies of those pictures. Im not sure right now about that. 174 00:44:37.9 MH: Well, Ill put something in the mail to you tomorrow. 175 00:44:39.9 AP: Yeah. 176 00:44:40.9 MH: If you could send me any of the war pictures; and if you have a current picture of yourself, that would be great, too. I see one of you here in a yellow hat. 177 00:44:48.1 AP: Pardon? 178 00:44:49.9 MH: I see a picture here of you in a yellow hat. 179 00:44:52.1 AP: Oh, the yellow cap? Yeah. 180 00:44:54.2 MH: How long ago was that taken? 181 00:44:56.5 AP: That wasthats when our General [Maurice] Rose was killed. He was killed in a combat situation, on the way towe were at Marburg, going up to another point. He was following the troops up, and he was killed by a German tanker. But he was born in Middleton, Connecticut, and this Vic Damon and others had put together information as to where he was born, and it was quite a ceremony in Middleton, Connecticut. Have you seen that? 182 00:45:44.0 MH: Uh, no. 183 00:45:47.8 AP: Yeah. Anyway, Middleton, Connecticut. I dont know how many years ago that was. But it was a very interesting time down there with the ceremony. The political representatives of Connecticut and our representative went down, and a local veterans group was there, commemorating the birthplace of General Rose, who was born on the second floor over a store down on Middletons main street. And a lot of that is on the computer. 184 00:46:37.3 MH: Okay. Ive found a number of things while we were talking on the computer about you. So, Ill read all that. I have one other question about Dora. Did you ever hear a story about a lone guy from the 80thIm sorry, from the 104th Timberwolveslocating Dora? 185 00:46:57.1 AP: Yeah. Ive had that, and had some correspondence from another fellow from the 104th. And he claims to have been the first one there. 186 00:47:10.7 MH: Yeah, or his daughter claims he says that. 187 00:47:13.9 AP: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Frankly, I was getting e-mails from another fellow, Gilbert, Milt Gilbert. 188 00:47:24.2 MH: Milt Gilbert, okay. Yeah, I know who he is. 189 00:47:26.5 AP: He seemed to be a reasonable guy; but, frankly, I was getting this mail and e-mails and stuff from the family of that guy. It just turned me off. 190 00:47:35.4 MH: Yeah. She got me on the phone the other day and went on and on and on, and you know, I listened to her and Im going, About 90 percent of what youre telling me, lady, doesnt make any sense. 191 00:47:48.2 AP: Yeah. Like I said, they sent me big packets of stuff. I didnt even open em up. I got the feeling that, you know, they thought I was a liar or something, you know? And boy, when anybody says that, watch out. 192 00:48:2.6 MH: Well, you know, one of the things Ive run intoIve interviewed dozens of people by now, and every so often you get intoyou talk to somebody who seems to want to convince you that he won the war single-handled. 193 00:48:18.8 AP: (laughs) Yeah. 194 00:48:21.0 MH: Youve run into people like that? 195 00:48:22.8 AP: Yeah, theyre the ones who do all the talkin. 196 00:48:26.1 MH: Yeah. So, okay, I was just wondering if you had heard of that guy. 197 00:48:30.5 AP: Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah. And, you know, it was a big area, and different places. But when I got the impression that they were trying to question that I was where I was, that just turned me off. Yeah. 198 00:48:53.7 MH: All right. Well, I thank you for your time, and Ill put an envelope in the mail to you tomorrow. I sure appreciate it. Thank you very much, sir. 199 00:49:0.7 AP: But like I said, a lot of that stuff about me is connected with my nameand also the 3rd Armored. Are you aware of that one, of that e-mail addressor website? 3ad? 200 00:49:23.8 MH: Yes. 201 00:49:24.8 AP: You are. Theres the newer 3rd Armored, which iswell, it can be made up of both World War II and later veterans. But theres a little rivalry going there between the two. But the one that I like the best is by Vic Damon: thats the 3ad.com. 202 00:49:49.4 MH: 3ad.com. Okay. All right. Thank you very much, sir, I sure appreciate your time. 203 00:49:54.1 AP: All right. 204 00:49:54.6 MH: All right. Bye-bye.
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